Author Topic: Combined musings on ebooks and publishing  (Read 74757 times)

charmed

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Combined musings on ebooks and publishing
« on: November 18, 2007, 10:54:56 am »
I came across this article on another forum. It's a thought provoking look at books going digital and the future of printed books. What do you think?

http://www.newsweek.com/id/70983/page/1

« Last Edit: December 28, 2008, 10:34:42 am by charmed »
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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2007, 11:19:20 am »
Well, it certainly has a certain appeal to it, but I think I'll stick to good ol' paperbacks. It's something to do with the feeling of paper under your hands, the way some books you love look like after you've read them so many times, the fact that sometimes you pass before your bookshelves and see a cover and you remember something that happened to you that's related to that book, things like these.
Call me a sentimentalist, but I need a book to be real in every way it can, for me to really enjoy it.  ;)
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jackie

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2007, 01:08:09 pm »
I just read the article, QC, and it's a reminder to all of us that we need to pay more attention to intellectual property law, digital standards, accessabilty, the dangers of privately owned, for profit, operating systems and standards that allow us access to our information.  The threat to the physical book (which I love too) is the least of our problems.  Talk about a brave new world.  Do we trust Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google with something so important to our world?
« Last Edit: November 18, 2007, 01:46:13 pm by jackie »

Mike Briggs

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2007, 09:30:27 am »
I was a pretty big nay-sayer on the whole idea of digital books.  From a usability standpoint, it's pretty hard to improve on a paperback!  However, due to Patty's rather voracious appetite for books (and the fact that my rather-small house can't accommodate her ever-growing collection) I just bought her the new Sony reader.   From a usability standpoint, it has several advantages: It's about the size of a paperback, and the cover opens and closes like one.  The display (electronic Ink) is very easy to read and consumes no energy except when turning pages.  With a two-gig memory card in place, she can carry several hundred books at one time, and place as many bookmarks as she wants.  This is the first time I've seen a reader that I think could replace a physical book.

RANT ON
The problem, naturally, is all the DRM (Digitial Rights Management) garbage that our corporate overlords see fit to shove into every possible offering.  I am a huge proponent of open standards.  The sony reader will read plain text, and pdf's (with a bit of coaxing, and if they're not too complex -- the computer inside this thing isn't very powerful).  But Sony's bookstore, which is the only place to get books in the preferred format for this reader, is slow, incomplete and fairly expensive.  I understand that we don't want the books to be uploaded and shared feely, but currently the trend is always to limit the consumer -- and in the end I'm never sure, with digital goods, just exactly what I've purchased.  Apparently the right to enjoy their material, for as long as they decide to let me, provided I never try to abandon their platform or do anything else that irritates "The Corporation".  That bothers me.
RANT OFF


On a gentler not, I also have some reservations about the way in which publishing firms are wording "digital rights" clauses in their contracts.  With paperback books, the author usually makes about 6% of the cover price.  That's not unreasonable, considering that the publisher bears the cost of actually producing the books, as well as all shipping, advertising and distribution, which ends up being a very large percentage of the final cost.

In digital contracts, many publishers are offering the author 10%, which seems generous until you realize that the production and distribution costs are essentially zero.  The do put some time into editing, and they may contract for cover art (though some purely-electronic editions don't even do that).  Essentially, the publisher is claiming that 90% of the value of the finished novel is due to their editing, which seems absurd.  We've met several editors, and have a good idea of how much they're not making.  Currently, the trend is for agents to tell authors, "Don't worry about digital rights -- they're such a small percentage of sales it's not worth fighting over them."  And, currently this is true, but every year digital sales get a little bigger.  The publishing companies are establishing a "standard" early, so that when the authors stand up and say, "It's not fair!", they can say "It's the industry standard, nothing we can do about it.  Take your 10% and be happy."  They'll be laughing all the way to the bank. This worries me.
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jackie

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2007, 11:43:35 am »
I too am worried about the pricing on digital books.  How come they still cost 75% of the cost of a MM paperback?   I don't think the cost of book prep, distribution and marketing is close to zero, but it's not 3 bucks per book either!  There should be room for everyone to make a bit more money and give the buyer a break as well.

Thank you for commenting on the Sony reader.  I am interested is getting something as well, but Sony is one of the more nutty about DRM and I'd rather avoid that if I can.  At least it will use plain text.  I have heard whispers from some librarian friends about archival digital storage standards being considered by public libraries and schools.  I hope something good comes of it.

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2007, 12:05:57 pm »
I'll keep my paper books....Thank-you very much!....for me the whole reading experiance includes turning actual physical pages myself, the texture of the pages and cover (whether they be Paper or hard back), and I even love the SMELL of books.  And for some reason I don't see myself getting that same warm, cozy feeling when I curl up with a computer as I do when I curl up with a book.  Call me crazy.  Why does everything have to be computerized?  Since I was a kid, I've dreamed of having one of those big old libraries full of books that you used to see in rich people's mansion and those old English manors.  (Takes a moment to drool over mental picture of wall to wall, floor to ceiling shelves full of books; and rich leather chairs and a big old oak desk.  And not a cumputer in sight....ahhhhhh)

To reiterate...I'll keep my paper books.
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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2007, 01:02:00 pm »
I am becoming more open about the idea of e-books especially about the convienice and space saving aspect. However I dont like any of the devices and until there is one that cheap and is not DRM protected then I am going to stick with paper books. Although I think that ebooks can never take over the real thing- the smell and feel of it and using a device somehow feels impersonal. And I also dont like the fact that with new media - corporations are trying to take advantage of the whole thing - its a similar situation with the whole writers strikes and the internet/webisodes/downloads. :(  They are saying they wont make any money but they are especially when more and more people are using the net and ebook devices.
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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2007, 02:56:11 pm »
Small confession here.   I'm really impressed with the hardware of the Sony reader.  It's also running a Linux kernel.  I'm predicting that my "band of brothers" (here's a shout-out to all you open-source code-monkeys out there!), will eventually work up a project to drop all of Sony's software and load it with something much more friendly. 

Hi, my name is Mike, and I've worked computer security for years.  I don't like secrets, I don't like DRM, and I don't much care for corporations telling me what I can do with the content I've purchased.  I DO believe in copyright, but I'll take all my content with a heaping helping of open standards please.   

Also, regarding DRM, there's always been a fly in that ointment.  In order for the product the work, the vendor has to supply both the lock (the drm'd content) and the key (a reader that can unlock it).  Any time you supply both the lock and the key, some genius is going to figure out how to duplicate the key, extract the content, and repackage it without the lock. . . and the Sony format looks pretty weak.  I had my hex editor running on it the day after Christmas, and it looks almost like  "pdf-light" with a simple encryption wrapper around it. 



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jackie

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2007, 09:01:36 am »
One of my favorite and important philosophic ideas was presented in an accounting class.  All trade is based on the belief we can trust who we trade with.  If by and large we couldn't do that we would not have human civilization.  The idea of ownership is one step behind that basic requirement of trust in the underpinning of commerce.  If we don't own something we can't give or recieve something.  All else are layers of complications based on the nature of things and the fact that we have a real hard time being civil human beings sometimes. 

But I think trust is required for all positive human interaction.  So, if we choose to be social human beings we need to be both trustworthy and trusting.

I wish the folks on some of these corporate boards would take a basic accounting class every once in a while!
And learn to be better humans rather than better owners.

Mike Briggs

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2007, 11:12:25 am »
One of my favorite and important philosophic ideas was presented in an accounting class.  All trade is based on the belief we can trust who we trade with.  If by and large we couldn't do that we would not have human civilization.  The idea of ownership is one step behind that basic requirement of trust in the underpinning of commerce.  If we don't own something we can't give or recieve something.  All else are layers of complications based on the nature of things and the fact that we have a real hard time being civil human beings sometimes. 

But I think trust is required for all positive human interaction.  So, if we choose to be social human beings we need to be both trustworthy and trusting.

I wish the folks on some of these corporate boards would take a basic accounting class every once in a while!
And learn to be better humans rather than better owners.

Wow -- that's a really elegant and easy to understand way of putting things.  Obviously, at least for me, trust in corporate America is breaking down.  Possibly because I've spent months of my life trying to rescue critical data stored in various "proprietary and secure" formats after the company that locked the data up went belly up, leaving the customer holding the bag.  But that's a much bigger problem than the future of reading.

Back to the topic -- I'm kind of excited about the potential for some of the newest technologies to actually improve on the paperback experience.  From a hardware standpoint, I think Sony's e-reader is the best I've seen so far.   The Kindle(sp) from Amazon, however, has some really nice ideas -- the embedded networking means that you can access a dictionary or thesaurus from anywhere, or even order new content.  I think the actual hardware looks kind of cheap and clunky, but they did put some good thought into it.

The Electronic Ink technology is just amazing -- I've seen reviewers complaining about the lack of a backlight and imperfect contrast, but the basic concept gets a huge thumbs up.  The display isn't a light-bulb (like most LCD screens) and can be viewed from any angle.  It's much easier on the eyes than LCD or CRT displays -- and the resolution is good enough that text looks crisp and clean.  Because it only uses energy when changing the display a modest battery can last for days of reading -- finally some independence from the electrical socket!  There's room for improvement, but this is really the first-generation release of this technology, and I'm pretty wowed.   Even better, this technology doesn't need to be embedded in a heavy, flat display (though the current models are), it can be deployed on a flexible plastic film. 

 I keep envisioning a small booklet of 20-30 pages of electronic paper, displaying a book a chapter or so at a time.  You could literally flip the pages back and forth just like a real book.  When you get to the end of the chapter, press a button, and the same pages hold the next chapter.

I don't know what the future will bring.  I do know that our personal library is several thousand volumes.  Every time we move I end up packing close to 200 very heavy book-boxes with us.  Storage space for that many books isn't free, and finding the one you want is sometimes a challenge.  I love books, but I look at that little Sony reader, and I think about the multiple 500 gig hard drives on my computer, and I can't help but think I'm looking at the future. ;D
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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2007, 12:07:30 pm »
What interesting posts. My book collection is beyond overwhelming (I used to be a librarian, we would get the wholesalers discount on personal orders) I tried downloading books on my laptop, but the snuggle/comfort factor just isn't there yet. Lounging on the couch reading a book off the laptop is NOT comfortable. I will have to look into getting a reader eventually.

jackie

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2007, 07:53:37 pm »
Thank you sincerely for your assessment of 2 of the first practical ereaders.  I too love books.  But I also love living more lightly on the Earth.  Most of my library is currently in storage in the basement (a full pallet of boxes).  I miss my books!  But they will stay there until my partner and I find a place of our own.   That space will be intentionally small.  I don't want all that much  house to care for and I don't want to spend an excess of my time, energy or resources on things that are just things.  I want room for only what I treasure and I think a smaller space helps encourage that type of living.  But I don't want to give up my fluff books either so it looks like I'll be getting some kind of reader soon. ;)

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2007, 09:12:56 pm »
But I also love living more lightly on the Earth.  Most of my library is currently in storage in the basement (a full pallet of boxes).

Ouch.  We're pretty "green" in most respects, but we're probably responsible for the deforestation of entire third-world countries when it comes to paper.  We leave a footprint like Godzilla.  I WISH we had a pallet of book boxes -- I've got three units of industrial shelving stacked floor to ceiling, two bookcases in the house, and Patty's office is stuffed full of bookcases and boxes that won't fit anywhere else. :(
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jackie

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2007, 09:29:02 pm »
Small confession here.   I'm really impressed with the hardware of the Sony reader.  It's also running a Linux kernel.  I'm predicting that my "band of brothers" (here's a shout-out to all you open-source code-monkeys out there!), will eventually work up a project to drop all of Sony's software and load it with something much more friendly. 

Hi, my name is Mike, and I've worked computer security for years.  I don't like secrets, I don't like DRM, and I don't much care for corporations telling me what I can do with the content I've purchased.  I DO believe in copyright, but I'll take all my content with a heaping helping of open standards please.   

Also, regarding DRM, there's always been a fly in that ointment.  In order for the product the work, the vendor has to supply both the lock (the drm'd content) and the key (a reader that can unlock it).  Any time you supply both the lock and the key, some genius is going to figure out how to duplicate the key, extract the content, and repackage it without the lock. . . and the Sony format looks pretty weak.  I had my hex editor running on it the day after Christmas, and it looks almost like  "pdf-light" with a simple encryption wrapper around it. 


Hi, my name is Jackie, and I've worked in computer security for a few years, too.  I think open, non-proprietary standards for information storage and exchange is key to keeping open electronic communication. And open electronic communication is a key to world peace and more prosperity for all of us. (I could support why I think so, but it would be at least a long essay  ;) ) I know security is necessary.  I know I want privacy and how far I can generally trust my fellow humans.  But the way DRM is being done now doesn't work.  We can and will do better with a nonproprietary solution.

Well, boys and girls, I hope you're out there coding, because I'm in here waiting for a new way to read a book!

jackie

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Re: Reinventig the Book:The Future of reading
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2007, 10:09:49 pm »
But I also love living more lightly on the Earth.  Most of my library is currently in storage in the basement (a full pallet of boxes).

Ouch.  We're pretty "green" in most respects, but we're probably responsible for the deforestation of entire third-world countries when it comes to paper.  We leave a footprint like Godzilla.  I WISH we had a pallet of book boxes -- I've got three units of industrial shelving stacked floor to ceiling, two bookcases in the house, and Patty's office is stuffed full of bookcases and boxes that won't fit anywhere else. :(

It used to be 2 pallets, but one was lost to a basement flood. :-[  I really want that reader so I can start replacing those books.

I hope we all choose to live in a more enviromentally aware way.  But I certainly don't want anyone telling me how I should live unless it is absolutely necessary. (ie no murdering other people, no starting fires, etc...)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2007, 06:34:43 am by jackie »