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The rising ebook wave [guest post]

Charlie is traveling for a couple of days so I'm dropping by for a quick post. Remember me from last April? Dracula-movie guy? Vaguely familiar?

Anyway, I wanted to kick around a few ideas about ebooks; authors (and some real people) have been talking this subject to death for years--decades, even--so what's new to say?

Well, my book is new. My latest novel came out yesterday and I've been surprised by the way sales are running on Amazon.com. It's a huge difference from last year when the early ebook and pbook sales were pretty much neck and neck.

This year it's not even close. Early orders for the Kindle edition of Circle of Enemies have been much, much higher than the physical book. The ebook cracked Amazon.com's Contemporary Fantasy bestseller list while sales rank for the mass market paperback barely moved out of five figures. A number of readers also told me that they ordered digital versions of the book after being unable to find it in a brick-and-mortar store on release day.

I realize this isn't anything like a complete picture of sales trends, but it is interesting in the same way Netflix is moving away from mailing DVDs. Amazon.com is so well positioned to sell digital files that one glance at their list of Contemporary Fantasy bestsellers shows one unsurprising fact: It's not dominated by books put out by New York publishers.

As I write this, the top three books are in the "Vampire for Hire" series, which are self-published, as are seven of the top ten. Amazon.com's digital customers appear to be moving toward self-published books and away from professionally-published ones.

What does that mean for the future? Well, we're no strangers to love. You know the rules and so do I. A full commitment's what I'm thinking of. You wouldn't get this from any other guy. I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling. Gotta make you understand.

Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry. Never gonna say goodbye. Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.

We've known each other for so long. Your heart's been aching but, you're too shy to say it...

Okay, yeah, that was a rickroll. Hopefully, you laughed, which is more than you would have gotten out of my predictions of the future. The truth is, I don't know if anyone is really capable of calling the score on this one. Yeah the "book stink" people (the folks who are always talking about the way books smell) are the minority most of us expected, and ebook sales are growing, but the picture is more complex than that. Ebooks seem to be hitting mass market originals (like my books) much harder than hardbacks and trade-sized paperbacks, but how much more of a bite can they take? What happened to windowing? If ebook readers buy even more self-published books, will Amazon.com be less of a problem for brick-and-mortar indie stores? And what about those readers who really make a book into a mega-hit, the casual, two-book-a-year, everyone-else-has-read-DaVinci-Code-so-I-should-too people?

It's fascinating (if slightly painful) and I'm curious to see if the market finds an equilibrium soon. I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling.

ObPlug: Here's a couple of links for those curious about my books: New book, which Charlie has very kindly blurbed | Sample chapter | Entire series.

Thanks for reading.

140 Comments

1:

I thought I'd try buying an ebook recently, for the experience as much as anything. But I discovered that ebooks are uniformly priced higher than the corresponding paperback version. In some cases (The Girl who Played With Fire in original Swedish) twice the cost of the paperback. This despite that a physical book has resale and lending value the ebook lacks.

My guess is that a fair bit of the market for ebooks right now is the same as for the initial hardcover version, bought by people who want to read a new novel now, not in six months or more, and don't mind paying a premium for it.

I wonder what the ebook/paperbook ratio is for older — but still in print — books is, and how different it is from new releases.

2:

Regarding "Circle of Enemies": I ordered the physical book from Amazon and they managed to ship it so it arrived on Tuesday. No difference from the digital version there.
And of course I already devoured it, having great fun in the process. Twenty Palaces FTW! :)

Self-publishing is a great chance for many authors but I imagine that it's not for everyone. Even with physical distribution out of the picture: having a publisher means having an experienced and professional editor, book cover designer and marketing department.
So I don't think that established publishing houses will disappear, but they of course have to adjust to a changing market, too.
As a consumer, I'm still not completely satisfied with the current available eBook readers. I tried an older Sony PRS-505, which only becomes usable with an alternative firmware. Then I recently got myself a new iPad (mostly for software development) but the active display is not for everyone, especially when reading in bed before going to sleep.

3:

This is one reason indie ebooks sell so much better, comparatively - it's normal for them to be $5 or under. Some, particularly those aimed at teenagers, are $1. Also, if you're in the UK, ebooks have VAT on them while paper books don't.

4:

Congratulations; you've just got away with Rick-rolling me, which is more than the last guy to do so did!

The big issue that I can see with e-book only publishing is that you're going to restrict your market to people who own $e-book_reader. I mean, if I own a "pile of small sticks used for firelighting" I'm not that likely to spend out on buying a jBook as well just so I can read the new Frederica Bloggs.

5:

Actually, there's an xkcd for this - http://xkcd.com/488/

6:

Well, you won't sell ebooks to the two-books-a-year crowd until the ebook readers are very, very cheap.

Oh. Yes, you can, actually. Oh, rats. One of those ideas that I wish I hadn't had, because even if I keep it quiet, someone else will think of it.

A lot of those low-volume readers have computers. There is free and offical Kindle reader software for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. But not Linux.

What Amazon need to do to skip to the next level is start paying Windows PC builders to ship Kindle software on PCs, in much the same way as companies that make anti-virus, CD-ROM burning and other kinds of utility software. They wouldn't have to pay very much to make this happen - Dell and company are keen to pick up extra money per shipment.

Then you can sell them e-books.

7:

My experience with eBooks so far isn't good. I don't have a Kindle reader, so I tried Amazon's Kindle for PC. Oddly enough, that thing won't allow me to read any books I buy, only free books. And their Hell desk couldn't figure out what was wrong, either. Totally pathetic, and it looks like I'm not the only person with the problem. Oddly enough, I'm less inclined to buy a Kindle now than I was before.

That said, I went by the local Barnes and Noble, which was another depressing experience. As my partner pointed out, there weren't even books on display in the window, the carpets were dirty, and there were fewer books on the shelves. The nook section still had shiny stuff, but it hasn't grown appreciably since the spring. Not a good vibe here, either.

Oh well, more road kill in the trip to the shiny future, I guess.

8:

Janne, it's true that ebooks can't be resold (although many allow limited forms of lending--all my self-pubbed short fiction does) but they do have benefits over paper books. They're extremely easy to buy and quick to receive, are very easy to carry, do not crowd out your shelves, and have scalable fonts for people with vision problems.

And yet consumers think all these benefits (benefits which drive them toward buying ebooks) mean they should cost less.

9:

Thanks, marcus. I'm glad you liked it.

There's definitely going to be further segmentation of the market, just as happened in other media. In 1988 "Frank's Place" was cancelled because it only brought in 15 million viewers. Now that would make it the top show on the schedule (America's Got Talent pulled in under 11 million last week). Unfortunately, books are already dividing a smaller pie.

Some time ago I did a post on my own blog embedding Malcolm Gladwell's TEDTalk about Howard Muskovitz (I am probably mispelling that) and the segmentation of the food market, which I tried to relate to the proliferation of subgenres. This is all playing out in a complicated way.

10:

Well, the possibility to resell or lend/gift to friends who in turn give you books back does mean the practical cost of a paperback is somewhat less than the purchace price.

And while there are benefits to ebooks, there are drawbacks too - a paper copy is rather more durable, easier on the eyes, and it does not need you to buy a separate device and keep it charged in order to enjoy it. I'd rather have a paper book on the beach than a book reader.

But in the end, the production cost of an ebook edition is same or slightly less than a paperback — same editing, typesetting and formatting, marketing and so on, but no printing, storage or physical distribution costs. Pricing them higher smacks of greed.

It's no skin off my back, as I find about the same value in either format for fiction, and a lot more value in the paper format for work-related nonfiction. Given equal price I'm more likely to pick the paper book in any case.

11:

heteromeles, my wife has an iPad and I've tried reading books on hers. As much as I love the giant font, it just isn't comfortable. Maybe a lighter ereader would be better, but I'm not going to spend the money when my to-read pile is towering over me.

12:

E-books have benefits over paper books. They're extremely easy to buy and quick to receive, are very easy to carry, do not crowd out your shelves, and have scalable fonts for people with vision problems.

And yet consumers think all these benefits (benefits which drive them toward buying ebooks) mean they should cost less.
All of which benefits except for scalable fonts are every bit as much an advantage for the publisher, wholesaler (if still exists; it now becomes much easier and cheaper for the publisher to cut out the wholesaler and deal directly with booksellers, or with e-tailing directly to the public) and retailer as for the customer. Accordingly, since supply chain costs in holding and moving dead trees are eliminated, why is is unreasonable to think that the supply chain can make as much money or more whilst offering a lower retail price?

Scalable fonts are a function of the reader, not the strings of 1s and 0s that contain the words, so they're an advantage of the hardware that I've already paid for, rather than of the e-book itself.

13:

That's true if you're talking about DRMed ebooks. Amazon and Apple and B&N take for granted that your ebooks are going to be DRMed, but not everyone does. Most of the ebooks I've paid for have had no DRM at all on them -- I tend to buy from Baen and O'Reilly. They also tend to be available in multiple formats. Those books have moved with me from device to device over many years at this point. The oldest of them, I first read on a Palm III!

14:

Fine if, like me, you like Baen and O'Reilly. Even then, not so hot if you want the new Harry Connolly or Charles Stross.
See the link on #5 for my feelings on DRM.

15:

The big news is the rumor that Amazon are to bring out their own Android tablet to compete with Apple, and it will be priced under $300. I am going to hold off buying a Kindle until then.

16:

I like the idea of e-books, however I've refused to buy quite a few as I won't do so until I own them outright rather than renting them. Until I know I can get a DRM free copy that I can move from device to device without jumping through multiple software hoops I just won't buy. The notion that a retailer can reach out and remotely remove books from a reader also put me off. Now I own a simple book reader with no wifi and just copy the books I own via USB. That I am happy with.

17:

I'm not in the book stink crowd, but I'm really holding out 'till book DRM goes the way of the dodo. Looks like I'll be waiting for a while.

18:

I'm intrigued by Amazon's tablet, but it will presumably have all the same issues as the iPad vs Kindle (i.e. weight and display type).

There's an intriguing Apple patent on having a display that contains passive (e-ink) and active (colour LCD/LED) as layers in the same display - which sounds like the holy grail, given the slow progress on colour e-ink.

Presumably by the time that arrives, tablet weight should have fallen to current Kindle levels (plus in itself it should allow for a smaller battery).

But back to the point in question - I'm intrigued as to what it means for the quality of books. Which sounds like snobbery against self-publishing or genre fiction, and it's not meant that way - the bestseller lists have long been home to bad writing.

Although it has generally been proof-read bad writing - and I've definitely noticed a tendency in recent years towards more typos in books (presumably a reflection of saving costs).

What the Kindle top 10 looks like to me is a return to the kind of titles that were popular in the 70s - when genre fiction was mostly pulp paperbacks, and sold outside the traditional bookstore network. Mills and Boon have reported a large increase in sales via e-book.

19:

If i was to buy an ebook reader it would have to be

1. be able to buy from muliple shops (not just one)
2. be usable with a public library
3. be able to ssh to the device (no apple lockdown/itunes transfer)
4. Not controlled by Sony.

No such device yet exists to my knowledge.

I did buy a technical book recently with a copy in pdf format that has my name and address on every page to have a look. I refer to the paper version than the pdf.

Ebooks are a good idea, current readers bad.

20:

I live in a non-English-speaking country and rely on my kindle as a means of getting cheap, contemporary reading material. Horray for ebooks!

That being said, I think there IS a place for publishers in a post-process-wood-pulp world. Authors write books, but I think there are some aspects of selling books that they would rather outsource. Things like:

Editing (both for technical mistakes and bad writing)

Advertising (promotional campaigns, cover art, out and out commercials etc. etc.)

Legal details (like getting an ISBN)

The weight of a big name behind the author (so people will buy the book thinking "aha, publisher-so-and-so backs good stuff.")

The thing is, can people do this stuff and make enough money to sustain themselves? I don't know.

21:

Does the author get anything of a better cut these days from Amazon? It seems everything I buy for my Kindle now is either more expensive, or else _way_ more expensive, than the dead tree editions - and that *includes* works like Pat Rothfuss's "Wise Man's Fear" in (brand new) hardback!

And Kindle editions don't bother with proofreaders - obvious when you've read a few. Clearly authors should be getting much more per Kindle sale than any other unit, if there's any justice in the world. I would be your man, You would be my girl. If i'd found you first you know its true, He would be alone, I would be with you.

22:

I recently purchased a Kobo Touch, and have successfully transfered several Kindle purchases to it. Of course, to make this work I had to install some DRM-stripping plugins to Calibre and run the ebooks through that (which is why I'm commenting anonymously for this one), but it's not too much work.

The only thing wrong with this setup is that Adobe Digital Editions (basically PDF+DRM) books are, for all practical purposes, unreadable on a six-inch e-ink screen. Even with a touchscreen UI, zooming is. horribly. painfully. slow.

(Well, that and the fact that I'm technically a criminal, per the XKCD strip linked above.)

But the fact that I'm currently carrying around half a dozen unread books (and a copy of Harry's "Children of Fire," which I greatly enjoyed) with no marginal encumbrance penalty is quite nice.

23:

Seventy percent of the sale price on a Kindle book goes to the publisher (if priced at over $2.99 - under that it's 30%). For a self-published author that's straight to her of course, but to an author with a publisher they'll get whatever cut their contract states (I think I read somewhere that a standard figure is 17.5%, but I've no idea right now where I read that).

As for DRM, not all Kindle books are DRMd. When uploading, they give you the option of DRM or not. Obviously the major publishers are currently all choosing to use it, for their own ridiculous reasons, but many smaller/indie publishers don't.

24:

Interesting dilemma for a small scale author like me.
I want to sell (non fiction) at $2.99
I don't like DRM, but I don't want people to pirate my book - I think its cheap enough anyway!
Opinions?

25:

'Piracy' isn't something to worry about. DRM certainly won't stop it - if someone wants to share your book they will.
My own experience has been that actually giving the content away stimulates demand - I write non-fiction too (mostly, I've done a few short stories too) and serialise my books on my blog, which builds up an interested readership for when I release them properly.

But the important thing to note re: DRM is that it puts people off buying your book. If you're looking at this from a business point of view, your lost sales through 'piracy' are going to be minimal, because no-one knows who you are (and people who download stuff illegally *tend* to have various codes of conduct and not like depriving indie creators of sales). On the other hand, your lost sales through having DRM might be much greater, because people are having to take a risk on an unknown author, and *anything* that is even slightly off-putting can tip the balance.

I hope this is appropriate, rather than spammy, but about a month ago I put together a list of tips for self-publishers, from my own experience publishing non-fiction. You might find it useful.

26:

SJWest: if that's the complete list of your requirements, any non-Sony Android device that has full access to the Android Market will satisfy you. For instance, a Nook Color with the CyanogenMod system installed; or any of the tablets, or a good secondhand Droid. You can load Google Books, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and any open formats you want.

27:

"My own experience has been that actually giving the content away stimulates demand"

It might do except that I do not intend to keep writing books. There will be no more product to demand.

28:

I am a 'book stink' person, but I support ebooks. I can fit forty gigs of ebooks on my hard drive, but not on my bookshelf (at least, not until I make my first million), and I can't do a text search (or pattern analysis, or markov models, or paragraph length graphs) on my bookshelf and have it run by itself while I go have a sandwich. Now, mind you, I can't do any of those things on DRM-wrapped ebooklet blobs either.

'Book stink' is one of those childhood imprinting things, less meaningful than the feel of the buckle-springs of the Model M (which is legitimately a good design for purely objective reasons). I suspect that children raised in families of readers who have moved to kindles will have imprints and pleasant memories that increase the likelihood of their collecting of antique epaper devices twenty years hence (and saying that we'll never move to these new-fangled heads-up interfaces because it's fundamental to the qualia of books that the buttons feel like decade-old gumballs and the display take a quarter of a second to wipe and redraw).

29:

Hi Harry,

Never heard of you before (small town, so no selection of new SF books; I only know what Amazon tells me I'll like.) But Charlie liked your book, so that's me sold.

Today the Kindle version of Child of Fire is 99 cents; boy, that makes it easy. Use your percentage of my 99 cents wisely! :-)

30:

I meant it stimulates demand for the book itself. A lot of people have told me they've bought my books after reading several chapters online.

31:

@Anonymous_Coward: Try landscape layout for PDFs.

You can loan or give away ebooks, provided you didn't buy a Kindle (Amazon's motto is, apparently, "Be Evil"). Kobo lets you download five copies of any ebook you've purchased, and doesn't much care what you do with those copies. My friends and I have given each other copies of the ebooks we've bought. Basically the only thing Kobo doesn't want you to do is make more copies and try to sell them.

Physical books are great for gifts, when an actual copy of the book carries more weight than the text itself would. And textbooks are still better than ebooks for studying, and likely will be for a long time. But for casual reading? Ebooks are fantastic.

32:

I think the reason you see ebooks priced higher than paperbacks is because the publishers haven't quite worked out how to lower the price over time properly.

The price of ebooks is uniformly less than the price of new hardback books. We're used to a system where if you wait, the price drops significantly as paperback versions come out and remaining hardback versions are discounted.

With ebooks, they don't drop the price or don't drop it that much.

Realistically, I think prices of ebooks should drop somewhat each year after they are published, until a floor is hit.

33:

Sjwest -- the Nook and the Kobo should fit your requirements. Both work with libraries, and with other book stores. They both read standard epub books fine, and can read any DRM books that use Adobe Digital Editions.

And, of course, if you don't mind an LCD screen any Android tablet or iPad works great. You can install any reader apps you want. I put Android on my Nook Color and loaded the Nook, Kindle, Google Books, and Kobo readers.

34:

"I meant it stimulates demand for the book itself. A lot of people have told me they've bought my books after reading several chapters online."

I don't see how my giving away my ebook will stimulate demand for my paid-for ebook. It's a one off and will not be printed in paper. As for sample chapters, no problem, as I already do that for TechnoMage (see my URL)

35:

I used to feel the same way about DRM and the possibility of books being removed from my "library". Then I realized that for the most part I don't read a book again after I've read it once, and I usually ended up selling my used books to make room for more later on.

So for books I don't get from a library, I have no problem buying as ebooks. They take up no space and I can read them on a device much lighter than the book would have been. For books I really like and want forever, I'll pick up a copy from the bargain table or online for a few bucks.

36:

Daniel @ 20

I don't think I've ever checked to see who the publisher is as a mark of potential quality.

The only exception is Baen - and that is based on the style of the cover art.

37:

Every once in a while, I try to buy an ebook. (Pbooks are just clutter at this point in my life.) When I find an ebook that looks interesting, I usually end up hunting around for a good 30 minutes before discovering that it's DRM-ware (that will only run on Windows, to boot) and head over to library.nu to pirate it. I read it. Then (if it was any good) I spend a while feeling really guilty about not having given the author and publisher any money, and I try to figure out what pbook I should buy and give to a library or something. That always fails to happen. Sometimes I get lucky and the author has a tip jar, but that doesn't result in the publisher getting their fair cut.

Where was I? Right. So, self-published authors are probably more likely to have tip jars or offer free or paid DRM-free downloads, so I'd be *thrilled* to see more self-publishing. I suppose we would also see a rise in editors, marketers, and formatters external to publishing houses.

38:

I don't bother to add DRM to my books. I figure, if someone wants to pirate it, they'll soon figure out a way to strip the DRM. Why inconvenience the people who want to purchase the books when you're not actually stopping anyone from pirating anything?

There is a related education factor - some people are genuinely unaware that mailing the ebook you just purchased to your 5000 friends is not the coolest move - and I've seen authors/publishers add some interesting warnings to the beginnings of their ebooks on the lines of "please don't steal this book". I've yet to find a way of wording that which I'm comfortable with.

I made the "almost entirely" switch to to ebooks several months ago. I buy paper if I can't get it in ebook format, or if it's an author I love so much I want the hard copy. Ebooks are fantastic for me because they don't take up space, I can buy-and-read without waiting (or paying ridiculous postage), and E-Ink makes them a lot easier to read than most paperbacks.

I don't think paper books will go away entirely. I do think mass market paperbacks will vanish, and we'll only have a choice of more expensive trade paperbacks and hard cover books.

39:

A couple questions for people without publishers:

1) Who do you use as a general editor and copy editor?

2) (About) how much do they charge? I assume this will vary by length, since it's hard to imagine a 60,000-word book costing as much as a 120,000-word book.

3) Who do you use for cover art and so forth?

I'm asking this primarily because Charlie has discussed the fact that everyone needs an editor, especially people who think they don't. But it's not easy to move from "everyone needs an editor," to "I should potentially spend thousands of dollars to make you in particular my editor."

40:

Me, me, me.
A total PITA and I would avoid it if I could afford to.

41:

I don't expect to buy an ebook reader. They're expensive, and I really don't think they'll be easy to read laying in the bed on my side.

(However, I did buy The Wooden Man, the omnibus of the Twenty Palaces books, from SFBC two days ago -- they'll ship mid-September.)

42:

Check J. A. Konrath's site. (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing) He has links to the cover artist and ebook designer he uses.
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

Also, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has lots of advice and information for writers. Check out her Freelancer's Survival Guide and Business Rusch.
http://kriswrites.com/


43:

I didn't really understand what was happening with the Kindle until my mother got one.

Now my mother is aggressively the last to any new technology, but she took to the Kindle. In the end I worked it out:

Many women of a certain age like reading some fiction as an escape. They go through books, like Catherine Cookson, at a rate of knots and tend to keep libraries afloat - as well as sharing between themselves.

They like the idea of having a stack of books, ready to read should the fancy take them and have no problem paying a small amount of money for a book, but NOT the usual bookstore levels. Cheap is the key, which is why you see them in second hand stores.

As such they will take onboard what is suggested to them, and will purchase if the price is low. If they like the author, they will go back again and again.

These are the types of people who have made the Kindle a success and will drive the marketplace in future. As such the lesson is, it's no good saying you need to pay £xxk for copy editor, or need the advance etc. All nice, but the market says it HAS to be cheap - so how are you going to deliver?

Also there is lots of scope to marry book and soap opera - setting up your fictional world and then allowing multiple authors to play in it, maybe under the guiding hand of one director (think of all those SF TV/film series tie in novels). That way you can keep the stream of fiction flowing at an appropriate rate, and give new authors room to learn.

Publishers WILL die, its only a matter of time. Or retrench back into sure things with spin offs into film and TV streams.

Lastly, being able to actively share in the group of friends, with recommendations, special deals for group reads, etc. etc. would be a real killer extension over the existing eReaders. Its not about DRM and eInk - it's about the sharing and group.

44:

Large corporate publishers haven't figured this out yet, but IMO ebooks are fundamentally replacements for mass market paperbacks -- cheap and disposable reading.

There are two kinds of book buyers -- those who keep a significant fraction of their books and accumulate a library, and those who read their purchases and then get rid of them. Part of the point of having bookshelves full of books is being able to look at them, have them as a presence in your living room, etc (the other part is being able to go back and re-read something, for which ebooks work just fine). Ebooks will never be able to take the place of paper books as *possessions* per se.

Likewise, a not-insignificant part of the book market is gift-giving, and here ebooks are also not going to be able to gain any traction, It's a little hard to wrap up an electronic file and put a ribbon on it.

Between people who enjoy possessing their books and people buying books to give as gifts, there's a limit to how much of the paper book market can be replaced by ebooks.

45:

I think the question is less "who has a dedicated ebook reader" and more "who has a phone that you can't read books on".

Harry Connolly And yet consumers think all these benefits mean they should cost less.

Those benefits also apply to the publisher so I tend to count them as pretty much even. But when it comes to buying that book second hand, or borrowing it from a library... I can't do that. And while I can sell it second hand, that's hard. My old habit of sharing dead tree bits with friends feels a bit wrong these days, because I still have a copy of the ebook that I share.

Of the last $1000 I spent buying books I think I've spent about $80 on dead tree editions. Not because I really wanted to, but because the pirate ebooks were so crappy. The legal ebooks? You jest. Actually, a month after emailing I did get a response from one author, which amusingly was a Word file of the book in question. No comment, just the attached file. Weird. I converted it to various useful formats and emailed them back, suggesting she put them on her website. She hasn't, but did reply thanking me for my donation to her preferred charity (she doesn't do tip jars).

I deal with musicians as well, and when I ran into a particular friend/musician recently they were still amused that a year ago I gave back not just every CD of theirs that I had bought, but a pile of other CDs. As a result of my unsubtle prompting they now sell a pile of FLAC files + scanned artwork called something like "everything worth having, 1852-2010". It's called that because it also has outtakes, demos, unreleased tracks and a couple of speeches they've given. They were shocked that people would pay $100 for it, especially as it's pay what you want. I think 18 albums for $100 is a bargain. Especially since buyers don't have to rip them all themselves. And no, I haven't seen it on torrent sites.

46:

Likewise, a not-insignificant part of the book market is gift-giving, and here ebooks are also not going to be able to gain any traction, It's a little hard to wrap up an electronic file and put a ribbon on it.

I'm not so sure. It certainly shouldn't be hard to add a dedication to the file even including bitmapped signature if you so desired. From the sales perspective it might be better bet than DRM in reducing lending/piracy (the hassle of finding and deleting 'To my darling xxxxx on her xxth birthday day/month/year' As would be the automated Tuckerisation of one of the characters)

47:

I started off with an ipad but I just cannot read books on it (manuals and computer text books aren't a problem, fiction books are).

I gave up a month ago and bought a "refurbished" Kindle for £80. Granted its clearly about to be replaced as mine was not a refurb but a brand new kindle at a discounted price but its already become my bed time companion.

I would admit that early access to Neal Stephenson's REAMDE is another advantage but I think that is a screw up rather than intentional plan.

@39 if you listened to Charles interview at Apple he mentioned a new business model from New York Agents. From memory the agents take a 15% cut in return for editing, upload facilities and a few other odds and ends. If that takes off successful authors may be a lot better off.

48:

Trish, that was pretty much my implied point in #16 too. With the exception of Baen, who often do publish "books I'll enjoy reading" and have a loyal band of authors who don't seem to have any contracts with other publishers (to the extent that you either buy imported Baen or don't read them here in the UK), I'll look for books written by $author rather than books published by $publisher.

49:

That's why it isn't a clear answer, but the DRM-encumbered ebook does have less value, because I can't sell it on. I don't think the numbers are that big, so the advantages could counter that drop in value.

Thing is, I'm not being allowed to decide, except in the crudest way. I can choose not to buy the ebook, that's all. What's the word? Fungible? That's what goods are in a proper free market, and that's not what books are. Harry Connolly is not Charlie Stross is not Barbara Cartland.

You have a natural monopoly on the supply of your product, and that screws up all the fashionable free-market theories. And then you have publishers and booksellers, and whatever Amazon is this week, all using monopolies.

50:

I've noticed that a couple of the non-Amazon ebook distributors still want something like first-publication rights, while allowing for samples. So that release via your blog might not be the best move. I've wondered how my fiction might work out for that: there's stuff out there on a web-page (and one where somebody else chose to have it so not quite the depths of fan-fiction).

There's a lot of stuff still changing, people having new ideas. I can see myself writing a story, and going straight to Amazon with it. But there are other ways of doing it, and I don't want to be locked into one choice.

51:

The band I work for give everything away free except the studio albums - and they'd probably give those away too if their label permitted. Acoustic sessions, monitor mixes, live recordings, fan-made rips of radio appearances etc.

What they lose from sales they make up in merch and ticket money from gigs, which are publicised on the same website fans get the free downloads from. They read and post on the fan BB and Twitter - they can decide to play a gig, book the venue and publicise it online well enough to only need 8 hours between deciding to do the show and doing it.

They do okay with cd sales (there's a good chance that you've heard of them) but the real money comes from merchandising and ticket sales, so they're not so bothered about losing revenue from the out-takes and live stuff they give free.

I'm not sure how much of that would work for a band without a large fanbase and sufficient fame to attract the walk-in crowd, and I'm not sure how much that translates to the career of a writer. I've worked with less well-known bands that really need the CD sales, and can't get large venues - for them it might make sense to do the gigs for free to boost cd sales.

Writers do get live appearances and sell merch, (mostly at book signings?) but nowhere near the amount a musician gets. A moderately sucessful band can easily raise half a million in a three month tour - once you're at that level it kinda makes sense to give everything free, even the studio albums, if it translates into bums on seats.

Now if everyone buys ebooks instead of ones from paper, the author better be getting a fee for appearances and have merchandise other than books to sell at those events, as they won't have quite the revenue stream from book signings etc that they do today?

unrelated to above thought (Another reason some people buy books is to leave them lying around in the hope that visitors will think they've read them - not everyone with a copy of A Brief istory of Time has even opened it. I know someone who has a copy of Gravity's Rainbow on her shelves simply because she thinks it's a big, impressive book to have around. She's got no intention of ever reading it)

52:

I'm afraid I use my wife as editor and principal proofreader - she's done it for a few other self-published authors too.

I also crowdsource it to an extent - I serialise my books on my blog in first draft form, and use the comments people have made to tighten them up and improve them. Then each time I try to send them out to be read by four or five people - two of them experts on the subject matter, the other two or three definitely not - and get feedback from them.

For cover design, I use public domain images for the most part (though for my books on the Beach Boys a friend was kind enough to provide me with original artwork). I then just add the title and the author name in a legible sans-serif font. It works surprisingly well.

53:

I think the reason you see ebooks priced higher than paperbacks is because the publishers haven't quite worked out how to lower the price over time properly.

It's worse than that.

When I sell the rights to publish a book to my publishers, I sign a contract. The contract conveys certain legal rights, and has been chewed over by generations of lawyers and literary agents.

Among other things the contract specifies the royalty I will be paid on each copy sold, using a variety of measures: a basic percentage that depends on the type of binding and/or sales channel (these are traditionally interchangable -- hardcover, trade paperback, paperback), an up escalator (I get a higher percentage rate if the book sells past certain targets indicating bestsellerdom), and a down escalator (the royalty is assessed againt a lower nominal retail price if the books are sold at a higher-than-normal discount).

As you can see, this legal boilerplate predates ebooks, which have been added in as another edition. And there's no machinery for accounting for or paying royalties at finer granularities.

Moreover there's a deeper underlying problem which is that, although books are sold at reverse auction (they start priced high, then get cheaper the longer you wait) the traditional mechanism of releasing cheaper editions in a cheaper binding has confused readers into thinking that they're buying the physical product, which is cheaper to manufacture. In reality, the difference in price between printing a hardback and a mass market paperback is a matter of double-digit cents.

But anyway ... to do ebook pricing right would require (a) new author-publisher contracts that everyone is happy to sign (good luck with that!), and (b) new accounting procedures (and good luck with that, too!), or (c) a new publisher, starting from scratch, without decades of legacy legal boilerplate and a back list.

And Amazon are a major obstacle to this because, with 80% of the US ebook market via Kindle, they insist that the Kindle is a publishing platform, not a wholesale distribution channel. As a publisher, they get to set the price on ebooks they "publish" rather than leaving it to the publisher (which is where the whole row over agency model pricing came from in 2009-10). Which in turn means that a major publisher, even if they had the will to redraft all their contracts, couldn't just throw a switch and start selling ebooks on a rational pricing model.

54:

Publishers WILL die, its only a matter of time. Or retrench back into sure things with spin offs into film and TV streams.

Wrong, except on an individual level. I can certainly see some publishers dying due to failure to adapt. But most of them will adapt to the new business model.

The real question right now seems to be whether Amazon will succeed in their goal of achieving monopoly ownership of a sales channel, thereby creating a supply-side monopsony that drives prices down to the point where suppliers (be they traditional publishers or traditional authors, with overheads like, oh, eating and sleeping and paying the rent) can't make ends meet.

55:

Large corporate publishers haven't figured this out yet, but IMO ebooks are fundamentally replacements for mass market paperbacks -- cheap and disposable reading.

They have figured this out, at least at levels up to publishing corp CEO. (Their parent conglomerates, at group board level, don't really get it -- but as far as they're concerned, the nature of the actual product is beneath notice: they're more interested in satisfying the shareholders.)

See, however, my comment #53 on the issue of existing publishing contracts and accounting requirements.

Now consider a company like Tor publishes around 300 new books a year, which means their 30-year backlist holds around 6000-9000 titles. In order to pivot to address the ebook market effectively with, for example, variable ebook pricing, they'd have to renegotiate the accounting boilerplate with either the author, the agent representing the author's works, or the heirs to the author [deceased] who wouldn't know a publishing contract from a post-hole ...

How much does your lawyer charge you for negotiating the deed of sale on a property potentially as valuable as a house? Now multiply by 6-9000, bearing in mind that some of the other parties to these contracts will be dead, untraceable, or insane!

56:

Nope, what will get squeezed is the copy editor, marketeer axis. They won't be able to sustain their slice of the pie. Oh, and the advance.

The question is less where the prices will have to end up, and more how the hell you make the resulting system work.

Amazon have already won.

57:

The economics of music and books are rather different.

Bands these days ('twas not ever so: this is the 21st century economic model) release new material and live albums for the fans, to keep them motivated and to draw them to gigs: they don't expect to make money on the deal because they know the albums will be bittorrented to hell within hours of release. At the gigs, they get to charge for entry, charge for souvenirs -- tee shirts and CDs -- and keep almost all the retail profits off that merchandise (undiscounted, to a captive market). So the profits come in from touring.

Authors ... mostly don't tour. We tend to be old compared to performing musicians[*]; your typical novelist is 50+ years old and a bit creaky from the desk job. Also, let's face it, we're mostly introverts and mostly have all the charisma of a banana slug, and very few of us are big enough that people will pay to see us. Even those of us who are charismatic and popular and funny enough to switch career track and become a successful stand-up comedian don't really pack the crowds in. And we don't get to sell tee-shirts and a live book-of-the-show.

I do not know of a solution to this problem.

[*] Yadda yadda what about The Who and David Bowie? Well, I'll tell you about The Who and David Bowie: they're exceptions, on account of them having been in the business continuously for the best part of forty-fifty years and having made such preposterously stupendous boatloads of money at it that they can afford to tour in comfort. The rest of their peers, even not counting the ones who died of a heroin overdose in 1968 ... not so much.

58:

I judge that ebooks are moving in on the mass-market paperback market, which itself moved in on the pulp magazine. They're the low-end, convenient choice, even if they are sometimes more expensive than paperbacks. People who value a book will then buy a trade or hardcover edition.

Ebooks also do well in technical areas where the books are primarily references of limited time-value: computing books, for instance. Very few people read through the massive tomes that computer book publishers offer. Instead, they find examples and reference data in such books. This makes them ideal choices for ebook publications, though these are often online through subscription services.

In terms of the long-term impact on publishing, I suspect getting people to buy their first printed book is going to be the big hurdle publishers and booksellers will face in the future.

59:

yeah. That's definitely true for premium acts. Demographics are a bit different for genre acts (but the pay is much lower) - folk, jazz and punk rock, the performers tend to be 30-50, with the headliners 50-70. The indie bands I've seen tend to be 25-35, at the top of their game at 27, and after that tend to get by on their existing fanbase. The "genre" acts tend to have day jobs to get by. Many ageing rockers go into managing younger acts, producing, and providing technical services as they get older. There's often a rise in interest around the ages 45 and 65, for acts that made their name aged 25, and you can get a couple of good tours at each of those points.

I suppose one way to get more income as a writer is to do workshops, seminars? - that's a good earner for folk musicians at festivals etc. Probably worth a couple of grand a go for an afternoon, could probably do half a dozen a year. I should expect that's already done by most writers.

60:

Ebooks also do well in technical areas where the books are primarily references of limited time-value: computing books, for instance. Very few people read through the massive tomes that computer book publishers offer. Instead, they find examples and reference data in such books. This makes them ideal choices for ebook publications, though these are often online through subscription services.
Ok, I'm a software engineer, so what I'm describing is my actual practice when I can.

I like the searchable e-book, but it would be better with a conventional contents and index using the "page numbers" as hyperlinks. Also, I want to be able to copy and paste code snippets, and print individual pages for situations where I've got e-book and development environment in separate windows on the same single monitor workstation, or the e-book computer is in a separate physical room to the development computer, and they're on separate networks (even using different DOS).

61:

Do all dedicated ebook readers have page turning? If I wanted the pages laid out continuously -- I just had to vertical scroll for a seamless reading experience -- could any of them accommodate me?

I occasionally use FBReader on my laptop for ebooks. There are no page turning effects, for which I am grateful. Such an effect takes me out of the story I'm reading more than physically turning a page on a pbook does.

Any of the dedicated readers that also fit the criteria #19 set out also allow for this? If so, I might be persuaded.

For the most part though, I'll stick to pbooks. They make take up space, but the batteries don't run out.

62:

The way the display works, I doubt they'll do that. It's paging, but it's not an animated page-turn. They're small pages, and because you have some control of font size, they're not a hard page-turn, except at breaks such as an end of chapter.

You're trading off increased battery life, using e-ink tech, against the flexible continuous display (that can also show video).

63:

OK - I'll release my $2.99 eBook without DRM.
I will probably also include a note suggesting that they visit my site and pay something into a tip jar if they have a pirate version and think its good enough.
Since I often rant about DRM, and have also pirated stuff, it would be a bit hypocritical of me to go the DRM route.

64:

Just for the record, to clear up a few comments, there is NO major eBook DRM scheme that can't be broken trivially.
Also, Calibre can convert between pretty much any formats of book, and will load them onto pretty much every reading device. (whilst removing the DRM).

These two things together, the only choice between reading devices comes down to hardware, not the book store it's attached to.

Personally I'm happy to pay about up to about £2 more for an eBook over a dead tree one, purely for the convenience of being able to read it there and then.
(so pre-ordering Rule 34 for kindle was a mistake then...)

65:

Er, wrong.

AFAIK, Apple's FairPlay hasn't been cracked recently (since the iBook store launched). And Calibre can't do any DRM stripping on its own. There are plugins you can add to Calibre to let it strip DRM off files, but that's not the same and Kovid doesn't distribute or discuss or otherwise support them (other than by providing a plugin API for third-party add-ons, of which there are many that exist for purposes other than stripping DRM).

66:

@48 "you either buy imported Baen or don't read them here in the UK"

Not so. Baen is the first publisher to really embrace ebooks. All Baen books (and a lot published by Night Shade Press) are available as ebooks from www.webscription.net. All, including current hardbacks, cost $6 as an ebook (some older backlist novels are $4) and can be downloaded without DRM in a variety of formats including for Kindle, Nook, Epub, Kobo, Apple Ios and RTF as well as read online in HTML.

In addition Baen provide upwards of 100 books in a Free Library. These ebooks can be downloaded free as samples of the author's work in the belief that if people like an author's book they will go back and buy more by that author. And that seems to hold true.

67:
Likewise, a not-insignificant part of the book market is gift-giving, and here ebooks are also not going to be able to gain any traction, It's a little hard to wrap up an electronic file and put a ribbon on it.

Case in point: my sister-in-law tried to buy my wife an e-book using WHSmith. They have a "Gift" option, which she used, without the website objecting.

The ebook ended up attached to SiL's WHSmith account. Customer services were no help at all.

Grrrr.

68:

Well, this will just become another anecdote, but I'll give you my story anyway.

So I got a Kindle 5-6 months ago, but wish I'd gotten one (or something like it) much sooner, for several reasons.

I used to be a proud collector/hoarder, but I've been living in Japan the last many years, and there's just not the space for that kind of behavior. I was having to get rid of my old books for pennies on the dollar (25 yen for a used paperback was the best the used-book store would give me for English language material). Normally not a problem, but sometimes there were books I really wish I could have back without having to pay (why the hell did I get rid of Halting State? I must have been mad, or desperate for 25 yen...). Well, Amazon will keep my library for me now (provided I bought the books from them, of course). I can't exactly show it off to others, but I no longer care about that kind of thing.

Second, OMG, cheap reading, on the fly! And I'm not talking about $0.99 cheap teen-vamp books. One of the first things I picked up after getting the Kindle was ALL of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories for $1.99. Never read any of it before, and never would have (having assumed it was dated, or cliche, or some such), if I had to pay for it in tree-space format. But shoot, it's not bad, and the price is certainly right for all that material (I still ain't finished with all of it).

And now I'm reading the oft-recommended-around-here Blindsight (I'm only 75% of the way through, so don't spoil it for me - BTW, having a percentage, but not a page number, is one thing that really does irritate me about Kindle!), and oh, it was free from the author's own site.

Thirdly, and speaking of cheap reads, folks above were talking about how low priced books might stimulate sales for the author. Well, since I'm liking Blindsight so far, you can bet I'll be checking out Peter Watts' other works.

And I took advantage of our thread-host's $0.99 Child of Fire (granted, it helped that this blog brought it to my attention) to get an introduction to his work, which I very much enjoyed. So he can count on me to pay regular price for one or more of his other works sometime soon (as opposed to nothing if I'd never heard of him, or if I'd had to plunk down a hard-earned $10 to get a first taste).

At this point, I'm thinking, despite the drawbacks of e-readers (and of course there are many, beside that whole %/lack of page number thing), I will try my best to never buy another pulp-space book again - save the trees, eh?

69:

One of the first things I picked up after getting the Kindle was ALL of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories for $1.99.

You were ripped off.

Those stories are out of copyright; a lot of folks make tidy money on Amazon by repackaging and reformatting out of copyright material and then selling it, but the Holmes books (and the rest of ACD's oeuvre -- Professor Challenger, for example) are all available for free, gratis, from Project Gutenberg.

70:

I know. There were free versions. But I paid two bucks to get a copy formatted for Kindle. Lots of horror stories out there about badly done "free" versions of no-copyright material. So it was worth it to get a 'readable' edition.

71:

How do authors feel about regional restrictions on e-Books? There's a large number of titles that Amazon will deliver to me in physical format but refuse to sell me in e-book format - "Rule 34" is a pertinent example.

I seem to recall this is to do with the idea that a Kindle is a publishing platform and contracts may prohibit that: Is that correct? Would it be different if they were merely a distribution channel? Or is the law more complex than that.

If so, surely this is against an author's best interests. You're losing out on a potential sale. Is there any room to change this? Do you want it changed? A mew contract selling e-books to all territories has to better. Delaying it for some odd reason will just annoy people who may look elsewhere for the title.

72:

Oh, and Charlie, while we're talking, I know you're not a fan of Amazon, but it proved my major conduit to your works. I've been living in Japan for the greatest part of your productive career (the last 10 years or so), and without Amazon to browse and research (OK, there may have been other ways via the itner-web, but I'm lazy like many a human), I may have never got past your first novel a friend recommended I read (Saturn's Children, btw, and you're lucky I trusted my friend, because your right, the American cover art nearly drove me off! ;) ).

There just aren't many/any of your books on the physical shelves out here. But Amazon.co.jp has access to most everything Amazon.com has (not that I care, now that I have the e-book), so after that gateway drug/book, I could get access to your other works (after reading the descriptions and reviews, etc., on regular Amazon) with no problem.

Granted, I'm almost certainly some kind of weird outlier among your regular readers (but I suppose my situation would apply for any English speaking ex-pat for any English writer, such as Mr. Connolly), but I'm at least one example of where Amazon has made you money you wouldn't have otherwise made.

(not sure if that outweighs how they may have cost you otherwise...)

73:

How do authors feel about regional restrictions on e-Books?

Speaking as a reader, I dislike them intensely.

Speaking as a writer, they're worth an extra 50% on my pay packet.

And while I could sell world rights as a lump (rather than divvying up territorial rights), my publishers wouldn't pay me a bent cent extra up front, and they would then divvy up overseas rights and sell them separately.

I agree the set-up is crazy. It dates back to an age when books didn't travel internationally other than as ballast on board freight ships, and we need to get past it. Alas, institutional inertia is king ....

74:

Professor Challenger ..is well worth the - non existent Price - not only for " Lost World " the original 1912 version ..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_World_%28Conan_Doyle_novel%29


..but also for ..


http://www.forgottenfutures.com/game/ff3/pbelt.htm


Though, e books aren't REAL books ..mumble, mumble ... When I were a Lad Books were Real BOOKS and made of shreaded rags and dead Trees just as Cthulhu did Intend...E publishers will be in SO much TROUBLE when The Ancient Old Ones do Return !!!!

75:

There was an item over on Kevin Drum's blog a few days ago about digital piracy. Along with the usual defensiveness of the practice in the comments, there seems to a sense that digital piracy is okay because a) the middlemen aren't passing any of the savings on to the consumer, and b) the middlemen aren't passing any of the savings on to the artist.

While I don't condone the practice itself, there seems to be a certain justice at work. If you can believe those particular commenters, they'd be happy to pay the Man if only the Man was charging a "fair" price. Since he isn't - and very obviously, outrageously so - and since it's easy to rip him off, they don't.

76:

I'm also replying to glaurung1 at #44.

You are so lucky! I see so many solutions to the "problem" related to the fact that most authors can't get money out of tours like music performance artists do, and the related problem of illegal copies.

There are several legal and potential software "solutions" to illegal copies. These require a certain finesse by the publisher (in doing things like consistently suing and/or legally attacking ISPs and other companies instead of the end user) and a deeper knowledge of software capabilities than they currently have. In addition to some kind of newer and less obtrusive DRM there is also the potential of using extremely stealthy Trojans and other non-illegal code creatures for non-destructive tracking of pirated copies. There's some serious programming investment to be made here. No single tracking strategy willl be 100% effective but together with other measures they will lessen the impact of pirating. This also requires changes in laws in order to make ISPs and other related companies liable for the pirating damage they cause.

Then, you have the extremely interesting topic of merchandise.

I find that most authors of novels underestimate grossly the amount of solid 3D and "2D" merchandise they could eventually sell through the Web, in addition to the surviving physical places now known as book stores. In fact most novel authors underestimate the importance of some "2D" merchandise they are already very close to: Their book covers. Authors usually don't go farther than complaining that the traditional book cover bears little relation to the actual action and/or characters and/or society and/or worlds in the story. The publishers are also extremely guilty in this. And let's throw in the blindness of the agents for good measure.

Right now, agents, authors, publishers don't see the potential fiscal returns in selling posters derived from the book covers or, from another viewpoint, the actual reality of the stories. The same is true with any 3D merchandise derived from the actual story.

So,

Authors: You don't like that silly cover? Well, it's made up only to attract attention in a physical bookstore and, more recently, (if you have a wise publisher and a genius art director working for him) to also get attention in a thumbnail version meant for eStores. It's made to SELL. You hate this twisted state of affairs? Get going then. Talk to your agent (to change your legal rights over visual reproductions) and talk to some freelance art directors and freelance artists to make some posters (and other types of art prints) that really do show correctly (in a realistic or abstract a way as you wish, in order not to give away plot points or just because you like more abstract stuff) your characters, your worlds, your stories.

Take a (somewhat partial) cue from webcomic authors. Most of them (there are exceptions) give away their webcomic free or partially free. They make most (the other part is through ads on their sites) of their money from merchandise sold through their web stores or through collective web stores or through small specialized companies like Topatoco. Some of them "tour" by going to general comics conventions or festivals, where they sign tons of books, the printed up versions of their webcomic. But others stay at home and sell signed prints (poster sized or smaller) at a premium. They also sell coffee mugs and other stuff with their characters or with related art designs on them. These go out through Web stores, mostly since they are harder to carry from one convention to another. And yes, they sell tons and tons of T-shirts with their characters on them or with their own new designs on them. Sometimes the "design" is just a spiffed up version of some text included in their webcomic, like the infamous "bacon is a vegetable".

But don't stop at the coffee mug! You are SF authors and you build entire universes, or wreck existing ones in fits of dystopian deconstruction. You do 3D without even realizing it sometimes. It's up to you (and your agent, etc.) to find out what parts of these universes will make interesting collectibles for your readers. Also, you'll have to figure out tons of absolutely fascinating things (for me) like who can build them in small runs (smaller runs mean more collectibles that in theory take greater value over time) and what are the shapes which are less likely to break when they get mailed out after Web purchase.

You have less than ten years to figure this out. Paper books are going to completely disappear within that time period, as the newer eBook displays reach the resolution of a printed page and their cost goes down to the current price of a hardcover book or even lower. This is a massive upheaval comparable to the disappearance of the extremely costly rag-paper based book 200 years ago. Publishing as an industry was born back then. It won't die with the transition to eBooks but there will be a lot of roasted chickens out there, a few phoenix types, and a great deal of freshly hatched companies. The big opportunistic media companies who bought up publishers will spin them off or sink them. New ePublishing companies will spring forth from all kinds of sources like grouped agents or author's colletives. Self-publishing by single individual authors will never be very important because too many different talents are involved in getting a novel out there. In addition to editors and copywriters there are art directors who know what visuals can SELL, cover designers with degrees in industrial design, cover artists with True Inspiration, etc.

I know I won't be buying your eBooks. Like glaurung1 I am deeply attached to paper books. I have more than 10,000 of them (with fiction arranged by author name and non-fiction arranged by Dewey classification numbers) in two (heated, insulated, and with proper finished interiors) purpose-built outbuildings next to my tiny house. But at the same time I happen to have a degree in Library Science. I studied eBooks when I did it. I'm studying eBooks now (the hardware and software) and also studying their actual and potential readers. That's how I can I realize that glaurung1 and myself are tiny exceptions. Nobody will want to go on making paper books just for the two of us, and a few others. The newer, future eBook readers will be simply too convenient for everybody else. They will run on sunlight or artificial light (which they will store for dark conditions) and they will be waterproof and tons of other things more. You'll be able to do everything with them that you can do now with a paperback and other things you can't, like surviving a drop in a swimming pool or being readable under bed sheets without a flashlight.

Yes, people will still want to own, to touch someting distinctive related to the story in that virtual book. It's up to you to decide if you want that something to be just a dull keychain fob or to be instead a smashing poster or a weird coffee mug or a stunning, tiny statuette. Or maybe it could be an interesting keychain fob.


77:

"If you can believe those particular commenters, they'd be happy to pay the Man if only the Man was charging a 'fair' price. Since he isn't - and very obviously, outrageously so - and since it's easy to rip him off, they don't."

These people's intuition of a fair price seems to be about 10% of the current cover price of a book, which doesn't cover any of the editorial or design work. So there's no way they can have books of the quality they are used to at the price they want. I expect that these same people, if they had their way, would then complain about the lowered quality of the very inexpensive books they would be getting!

Or, as creative people in many media complain, "Everyone wants us to work for free."

78:

What's a fair price for a book?
Assuming we are talking mass market fiction, I would be willing to pay no more than around $5 for an eBook

79:

This E-book business is nuts and a rip. I remeber what they were saying about it (many)years ago. No more printing books that did not sell, no more hauling back dud books and pulping them. Books would be much cheaper and everybody would make more money.
Look at how much fun it is to read on a computer. So buy a box to read a book, and know it will go bad. And eat what you put in it. Riiight.
It's as nuts as $9.00 paper backs. I still have a lot of books I paid $.75 for. And the binding is in better shape than the newer ones I paid 8 or 9 bucks for. The people who can't make $10 movies that people want to watch, own the book business. And look at what happened.

80:
"If you can believe those particular commenters, they'd be happy to pay the Man if only the Man was charging a 'fair' price. Since he isn't - and very obviously, outrageously so - and since it's easy to rip him off, they don't."
These people's intuition of a fair price seems to be about 10% of the current cover price of a book, which doesn't cover any of the editorial or design work.

Well, I dunno about that. I do know there seems to be a lot of righteous anger at the high cost of product. Anger which various middlemen have never taken the effort to defuse by an info campaign about the true costs of bringing a book or an album to market.

And as already noted above, most people are going to figure that when an ebook costs more than a paperback they're being ripped off by the publisher.

81:

If my current contract gets extended, or I get hired on full-time, it's time to get a library card. I already have enough hardbound/paperback books back at the homestead, and don't need to lug around anymore. The reason I don't like e-books is pretty much why I loathe the death of film photography. It's about permanence. Storing files electronically means bit rot. Just my two cents worth.

82:

These people's intuition of a fair price seems to be about 10% of the current cover price of a book, which doesn't cover any of the editorial or design work.

No. My intuition is something like 90-95% of the cost of a mass-market paperback. Same editorial, design and marketing work, less the cost of printing, storage and shipping.

But as long as the ebook costs more than the same book on paper I am not interested.

83:

The Kindle "cloud reader" app for Chromium works perfectly well on Linux. (See read.amazon.com.) If Amazon were willing to pay device manufacturers to pre-install Chromium and have a link to the app, I'm sure many device manufacturers would jump at the opportunity!

84:

Unfortunately the Chromium cloud reader only works on devices in the US (or did two weeks ago, when I last checked), so GNU/Linux users outside the US are still stuck, for now...

85:

No, it works fine for me in the UK. (And I didn't have to do anything special; the hardware Kindle I have is a UK one, all the books were bought through amazon.co.uk in GBP, and so on.)

86:

Yeah, the thing is, you have a hardware Kindle. If you *don't*, or don't have the Kindle program (which isn't available for GNU/Linux), you can't purchase books, because there's no Kindle device linked with your account. It *looks* like you can purchase books through read.amazon.com if you're in the US, but the store won't let you do that if you're in the UK, and the Kindle store for the UK won't let you purchase without a linked Kindle.

87:

So i have a couple of questions i don't recollect people already asking..

1: Any of you Author types had someone walk up to you to request that you sign their Kindle? (insert other e-reader type of choice here) (i'm thinking you could sell a reader device with the Author's back catalogue pre-purchased with a signiature sealed onto the back at quite a premium i would guess.. I'd certainly consider one if it was available..)

2: Why can't I just buy a reader license for an author's work? That is, if I buy the dead tree format copy of Halting State, say in hardback to optimise the value-chain, why can't that purchase cover an e-book copy generated from a 'one-time' code or somesuch tech doohickery? I'd get a copy for my shelf with all the lovely benefits that brings, and one to put on my reader so I can hold it and not break my shoulder (Mr Erikson, Mr Stephenson I'm looking at you).. (or at least a discount code for a second eBook purchase..?)

88:

Paper books have another advantage for me, my semi-literate co-workers are less likely to pinch a book than an e-reader. Eventually, I'll need to adjust to digital, since the dead tree books are declining, so it goes.

89:

Yes, but the cost of the product is negligible. Under a buck, in all likelihood. I used to work for a textbook publisher. A 2-color textbook, Chemistry specifically, retailed at 65, was sold to the bookseller for 47, and the cost for the physical book, glossy paper, hardback binding, etc, etc: 3.65. The only way it'll get cheaper is for it to be SO mass market, courtesy of smartphones, ereaders, etc, that the marginal cost of the editing/writing/administration drops.

And I don't see it happening, since people can/will play Angry Birds on all of those devices instead.

Reading, sad to say, will stay niche. I personally watch about 6 hours of TV a week, am currently gaming about 10 hours a week (DXHR), and finding a few hours to read novels in amongst the blogs, iPad games, etc. And I'd consider myself a fairly big reader - usually 1 every week or two (two if not gaming).

90:

I am in the process of purging every book in my house that I can get electronically. I used to think, oh, I bought the book already, why would I want it again in an ebook format? For me the answer is two-fold, space and mass.

I've run out of bookshelf space and however much I want to line all of the walls in the house with bookshelves, there are a few others in my family who don't look fondly and that ambition.

And mass. I travel a lot, for long periods, and used to carry a wholly separate suitcase full of books. The ebook has removed that limit. I travel with dozens of books, non-fiction, and fiction, that I know I will read, and I can always buy more.

The tricky part for me, honestly, is when I want to read a book that isn't an ebook, one that I have in my physical library, but want to re-read in another country. And while I philosophically disagree with stealing, I'd really like to read Zelazny's "Doorways in the Sand" tonight. I have purchased the book before, I have it in my house, I'd gladly pay for an e-copy, but it simply isn't available to me in another country. So, I pirate it, and feel slightly guilty (and slightly pleased given the estate's approval of the Betancourt Amber novels) but I think that there has to be a change to a place where I buy a text and I am able to read it in any format I please...my problem is that most books published in the past 50 years simply aren't available legally. I want to give authors money for their talent, but many of them won't let me.

So, besides the current issues, (and Harry I ordered your book months ago, and loved it when I stayed up far too late reading it the other night) how do we handle books that are out of print but have no electronic life whatsoever besides piracy?

91:

I think the switch to e-books will, if anything, accelerate.

Most arguments I have seen against e-readers (including those in this thread) are misinformed, I have seen very very few reports from people who have actually used a current generation e-reader (aka NOT an iPad or a kindle/sony reader which is older than 09/2010) who went back to paper books.

Basically, once you switch to a proper one, you rarely go back. People just need to be motivated to try one.
The usage of e-readers has, at least in the US, reached such levels that we got the "so many people use one, maybe I should try it" effect in action now. Which will accelerate itself.

Personally I switched to a Kindle 3 about a year ago and greatly prefer to read on it. In the last year the only paper books (well, paper novels, there were a few educational paper books) I've read were a series from 2000 which wasn't available as e-book (mortal engines, nice steampunk).

I got the kindle mainly because I was sick of having to throw away books due to space issues. However, I also found that for general reading a e-reader is better than a p-book for 2 simple reasons - it is lighter and you do not have to hold it to stop pages from flipping.

As regular reader you might roll your eyes on the "pages flipping", but that is because you are used to it (as I was). It is a small comfort, but it really adds up over time.
I myself am rolling my eyes at the "run out of battery" comments when I have to charge my kindle for a few hours after I have read through 2000 hardcover sized pages with it :p ;)

I only have 2 issues with it (which were mentioned here too):

- It's fragile. With a book you do not have to worry about herp-derp moments where you accidently wipe it from the table or slip outside when you have it in your bag. I broke a kindle in the latter way.

- It's not something you will comfortably take with your where it could be stolen. I missed having a book at the pool or beach.

But those disadvantages are compensated for me by the advantages and then some. I.e. with my smartphone I have my whole book library with me and can read whenever I want, while waiting for an appointment, in the tram, etc. So despite having "lost" some places when I can read my total amount of places where I can read has increased (and, yes, you could in theory take a p-book with you too, but that is not always practical, especially if it is a hardcover).

92:

The box will go bad. What's your backup. Or will it all go away?

93:

On fragility: I accidentally dropped my Kindle 3 edge-down on a hard floor while at an airport. The plastic case deformed slightly, and the back managed to unclip itself from the front of the device -- but I was able to press it back together until it clicked back in. Sometimes plastic devices are better at surviving drops than precision-engineered aluminium (as anyone who owned an old-time Psion 3 can testify -- dropped edge-down, the battery compartment lid used to sacrifice itself to maintain the structural integrity of the screen and keyboard of the PDA, and could be clipped back in place easily enough when one stopped swearing).

As far as theft goes: a survey last year determined that the average British adult has around £400 of gadgets [by replacement value] on their person when they leave their front door -- mobile phone, car remote unlocker, headphones, other gizmos. A Kindle is well down that list by replacement value -- car remotes are likely to cost as much as, if not more, to replace from a main dealer!

94:

That is kinda the beauty of them. I have a copy of my library on my smartphone, on my desktop pc, on my laptop, on the kindle (doh!) and also one in the cloud via dropbox. Everything I own can burn and I still can access my books, provided I have an device to view them and internet ;)

The chance to "loose" them is significantly less than with paper books. The e-reader is more likely to break, its content...not so. Even if you haven't backed them up at all (which would be stupid considering it takes a minute to do so) you can still usually download them again (for no cost) from where you bought them.

95:

Yes, edges are not too bad. The problem is when it drops on the glass. I went to the tram, there was ice on the road, I slipped and the kindle went glass-first on the pavement while still in my leather bag. Although I might have fallen on it as well *g* Oh, and I (then) did not use a case for it too. I would be lying if I would claim it wasn't avoidable.

Anyway, it is not exactly a delicate flower, but you definitely have to take more care with it than with a normal book.

About theft - it's not about getting mugged or anything, but when you are at places where you keep your stuff lying around. When you are at a pool you will put your keys and phone in a locker, but putting the kindle there too would kinda defeat the reason you brought it in the first place.

96:

Which is fine until you hit the limit of the number of devices your DRM provider will allow you to register for the same account...

97:

Saving a copy does not require me to be able to view them on the device I save them on. I save them on my PC, laptop and dropbox only for organizing/redundancy reasons, the only devices I actually read them is my kindle and smartphone.

But either way, the limit of devices I can read them from is a total nonissue for three reasons.
- At amazon you can have IIRC 5 devices registered. I honestly cannot fathom why I would need more than 5 devices for the same books. Even if you share the books in your familiy you would have to have more than 5 family members who read the same types of books. I find that unlikely. Mind, I do not claim that such cases do not exist, but I strongly doubt that they form anything but a tiny minority of all readers.
- And in the event that you run out of devices you can de-register an unused device with a single click and *ta-daa* you can register a new device. You can "reuse" a device slot as often as you want.
- And as last resort there is still the option to remove the DRM altogether. Using DRM as argument with p-books vs e-books discussion makes about as much sense to me as using it as argument in a tape vs cds discussion. Sure it has a potential to be a bother, but if it ever is it can be easily removed, so where is the problem? (In before "But it is against the law")

98:

Melvyn, you seem to have got hung up on the "buying dead trees" aspect of my point, rather than the "buying IP" aspect. Everything you say about Baen is true, and I knew most of it, but it still doesn't help me get a new DRM free Harry Connolly or Charlie Stross legally.

99:

If I was to buy an ebook reader, it would have to be :
- passive display: non tiring reading
- touch screen: easyness of use
- non proprietary format: I want something able to still be readable by whatever reader in more than 5 years (as having worked in electronic document management for years, I was used to painfuly handle the recovery of archaic Word files...)
- DRM free: because non proprietary format accepted
- short ROI: the savings of buying my 10 first ebooks should cover the price of the reader.

The ROI is the worst problem. With ebook reader at about 100 euros, and the savings between pbook and ebook at less than 1 euros, I need more than 100 ebooks to cover my investment. That is about 10 to 12 years!

The economic model of ebook needs cheaper reader AND cheaper ebook.

Or other usages for ebook reader (meaning a killer app: http://xkcd.com/548/)

100:

It doesn't answer any of your other points, but one of my colleagues uses his jPhone as an ebook reader.

101:

Every ebook reader I've tried that supported a DRM-locked company store was also quite happy to chow down on DRM-free files sideloaded from an SD card or over USB. This includes the Kindle 3, which is a really nice Mobipocket format reader (in addition to handling DRM'd Kindle files -- a variant on Mobipocket format).

As paws4thot notes, you can also get a whole bunch of ebook readers as apps for Android or iOS, and a somewhat less broad choice of reader apps for other platforms (Symbian, old-school PalmOS, Maemo, whatever).

In fact, that's the key: free readers (ignoring for a second the fact that you're paying for your phone, if you already have the phone the e-reader app is effectively free on top) and slightly cheaper books.

102:

It is a bit painful though. I have a kindle app on my smartphone, but the reading on it doesn't really come close to my kindle3. It replaced my kindle for reading outside my flat however, mainly because of the size & the "always have it with me anyway" advantage.

@Jadawin: I do not really think that is a realistic viewpoint. You basically say that you will only get an ebook reader when (among other things) you get it efficiently for free*.
You might as well say you will only buy p-books when you get the shelves and storage place for them for free (and someone to move them around for you on top of this).
Ebooks give convenience advantage there which is worth a fair bit. I myself haven't regretted a penny I spend on the reader because of this alone.
And for me at least reading on it isn't equal or worse to reading an p-book - it's better.

The economic model of ebooks / ereaders does not need free readers either. The market for them is already growing rapidly. It might need it for you to switch, but it certainly does not need it to succeed.
If it starts slowing or stagnates you might argue that it needs to be cheaper but right now that argumentation has no basis at all.

*It's worse than that actually, less than 10 books a year is pretty little/slow reading. I myself have read about 50 books on my kindle in the last year, with your requirements I would have gotten a free kindle and then 4 times its worth in price savings so far.

103:

The ROI comes a lot quicker if you're interested in reading a lot of out-of-copyright books, since they can often be found in decent versions for free.

Gollancz's SF Gateway is another thing that might interest people here -- they're planning to put thousands of mostly-OOP SF and Fantasy books out in ebook editions, starting from the end of this month. I can see about 600 books already listed on Amazon, with a lot of good names included (I think I'm likely to be reading a great deal of Ian Watson soon, for instance).

104:

#102 It is a bit painful though. I have a kindle app on my smartphone, but the reading on it doesn't really come close to my kindle3. It replaced my kindle for reading outside my flat however, mainly because of the size & the "always have it with me anyway" advantage.
That was pretty much my impression of my colleague's phone as an e-book reader; the screen was way too small for "avid reading", although probably adequate for a typical West of Scotland rail commute when you're unlikely to read more than 10 minutes without doing something "off-screen".

#103 The ROI comes a lot quicker if you're interested in reading a lot of out-of-copyright books, since they can often be found in decent versions for free.
Really? IME "Wordsworth" editions typically run £2 to 3, which with $EReader typically running just under £120 makes a need for 40 to 60 free titles that you want just to reach break-even.

105:

If you can imagine it, it probably exists, unfortunately. I imagined spray-on book stink. Lo and begoogle: http://smellofbooks.com/

106:

I've mentioned this before. But as a blind Ipod Touch user, Ibooks are near miraculus. Voiceover reads them. I can get books the same time as other peple. (Rather than wait for audio versions, often abridged.) it means i can read more and quicker as Voiceover speaks at a quicker rate than would an voice artist. It's surprisingly good and the synthetic quality of VO is quickly forgotten. The Epub format is also portable to other devices and there a number of online stores to buy them, so you needant be forced to use IBooks.

For reference guides, I find the .CHM format is particularly handy in my case. I'll concied I'd probably use paper versions instead, if I could. Just for quick grab-ability. The .CHM format works on IOS devices though.

A special case, maybe. But with an aging population more used to using technology perhaps an increasingly significant market.

107:

About ROI, I forgot to add magazine. A lot of my professional magazines are available as PDF.

@joergw: 10 to 12 books a year might be little/slow reading for you, but what about the average people who buy 1 or 2 book a year?
I don't cound myself as a little reader, more about an average reader. My wife is a writer, and she is a high reader with about 50 books a year.
About storage, 1000 pbook used less than 1 m3. 1 m3 is not a lot, and 1000 pbook is a lot.
And as you say, these are MY requirements. Everyone have different requirement.

About ebook being viewed as a different publishing platform by Amazon. If that view is shared among publishing professionals, isn't that a way to envision different contracts (of different clauses in the same contract) for pbook and ebook? So, ebook might be sell cheaper at the end. Because ebooks are cheaper than pbook! Cheaper to produce and to distribute.

108:

For what value of "average"? The "arithmetic mean" household contains 6 or 7 books, on which basis I own every book on the estate I live on.

Ref e-book costs, Charlie has stated regularly that most of the costs of publishing $title (neglecting author costs) are editting, marketting and proofing rather than putting words on dead trees and moving them about the nation. (any omissions are mine, and I hope the point still stands)

109:

"1: Any of you Author types had someone walk up to you to request that you sign their Kindle? (insert other e-reader type of choice here..."

I'm no author myself. But I did ask William Gibson to sign my old Archos Jukebox MP3 player last year. Some of his audio books are on it. I can't see the signature but thought the idea might be appropriately cyberpunk... He was fine about it.

110:

Using my ipad and the free app kindle, I have access to any amount of reading material wherever I am able to gain a wireless connection.

To me this is as close to heaven as I may find myself.

Australia charges a staggering amount of money for a softback, typically 2-3 x what I pay for the whisper service delivered item, with no need to drag myself the hours drive to the nearest bookshop.

I can even pre-order and have a book delivered when it is released without waiting for years before a book makes the big journey down south.

Font size adjustment, gigabytes of storage, low costs and instant gratification.....how can it be anything but desirable?

No I cant loan it to someone, but at the price I could shout 2 buddies and still be square.

E Books-I love em.

111:

Yes, but the issue is that you assumed that your requirements are the average requirements, because according to you ebooks and readers need such massive price reductions to be successful.

Which is simply contradicted by the current boom of ebooks. As said, they might be your requirements, but they are certainly not the requirements ebooks need in general.

As for people reading 1-2 books a year - what about them? Is the success of ebooks liked to everyone using them? If you hardly read anything they are not worth it, sure. But that still leaves quite a lot of people. And a person who buys 50 books a year is 50 times more important to the industry than someone who buys 1 book a year, their success isn't a question of who many people use them, but how many ebooks are sold compared to p-books. Or better, how much income is generated by ebooks compared to p-books.

And yes, ebooks are cheaper. By around 10-20% (at least those were the numbers Charles stated a while ago IIRC). Aka a $10 p-book costs $8-9 as ebook. The price savings to justify your requirements simply are not there.

Btw, 1m³ of books weights about half a ton, have fun moving those around or keeping all of them on one shelf. And god help you you need to get one of those books out of that pile.
1m³ might not look much, but it is.

112:

To put this into perspective - if we assume a heavy, but still manageable moving box weighting 20kg, 1m³ of books would produce 25 of them.

Or, if someone reads 40 books a year he will "produce" a moving box full of books every year.

113:

I'm using a Mercat Classics copy of F Marion McNeill because it's handy:-
0.198x0.129x0.022 = 0.000561924m^3

Or 1_779 mass market paperbacks per cubic metre.

114:

Really? IME "Wordsworth" editions typically run £2 to 3, which with $EReader typically running just under £120 makes a need for 40 to 60 free titles that you want just to reach break-even.
Well, not all OOC books are available in Wordsworth or similar editions. If you go for slightly more obscure ones, you're likely to be paying closer to new book prices.

115:

@joergw: I never give a hint about my requirements being the average one. I clearly stated that I, me not the average people, will not by an eBook reader without a short ROI. You assumed something I never stated. That is the issue.
I got more than 1/2 m3 books. And I would be dumb to have all of those on shelves. My books (more than 600) are indexed by 3D coordinates and store in a cubic box in my basement. I keep on shelves my references books, and the last year or two to have them handy.
The cost of storage is 1 m2 of my basement, meaning no other cost than the already existing one to rent my house.
About moving around, I moves my books in 1/32 m3 boxes is workable.
So, I confirm: 1m3 is not so much.
As you stated, the price savings to justify my requirements simply are not there.
For different requirement, different strategy and choice. If you really want that discussion to lead to some conclusion, it's that eBook reader target heavy readers.
And electronic devices savvy people ;)

@paws4thot: I agree, most of the cost is not about printing and shipping, but even if it's only 10-20%, it's worth to discount it to make ebook more attractive.

I subscribed to professionnal magazines offering paper or electronic. The discount varies from a magazine to another: from 0% to 60% less for the electronic media.
I'm aware that the economic model is not the same between books and magazine, and that ebook readers are not good for magazine because they don't offer color, yet.
As soon as a color touch passive display is available for eBook reader (active diplay are eyes killer) is available, I'll buy one (if price between 150 and 199 euros).

116:

"Average"
From 99 - "The economic model of ebook needs cheaper reader AND cheaper ebook." as conclusion after your list your requirements.
This only works if you count your requirements as "average", aka on which depends the success of ebooks. If not please elaborate why you said that, because the current boom of ebooks certainly does not indicates price reductions are neccessary.
And in 107 you say you count yourself as an average reader.

"Book Storage"
Indexed by 3D coordinates? Seriously? :p And how much time did you spend to index them? And the shelfs you have your books not in boxes are free?
The point is - with an ebook reader I need not to buy any shelves, I do not need to spend hours to "index" my books in storage and I do not need to move them around when I switch flats (which I did 2 times in the last 5 years). I would argue that all that is worth more than $100.
But even if they are to you not worth as much, saying they are not worth anything is not realistic.

We can agree however that the more you read the more attractive ebooks get.

"e-Magazines"
For those the percentage of their price which you pay for the physical object is a good deal higher than with books. So an e-Version saves them more money, meaning they can offer bigger price reductions.

117:

@dirk bruere:

Where's the website for your editing business? The one in your name goes to a site for a book about magic systems.

118:

We can agree however that the more you read the more attractive ebooks get.

Not really, I have about 4000 books I've read and about 1000 books to read. I don't think the ebooks are attractive at all.

119:

I have a friend with the Nook Color. He likes to take it around the table at bookgroup and have us look at pictures.

120:

Yes, because a personal preference totally proves or disproves a general principle :p

121:

It looks like an active display (I don't know of colored passive display). Active displays are painfull for long reading and hard to read in sunlight, and they usually imply short battery autonomy.
For magazine reading, a Tablet PC is nice, especially for reading articles while commuting. But, for reading books, it kills my eyes :(

122:

Yes, the Nook Color is a Tablet, it has a lcd display. It is marketed as an eReader, but not more of one than the iPad is. eInk based devices are easier to read from for a longer time, smaller, lighter and have a far better battery life.

The soon to be released Nook Color 2 will be the first eReader with a color eInk screen. The last news I have read about color eInk wasn't too optimistic though, so I am note sure if the display will be for black-white of equal quality as that of non-color eReaders. We'll see.

123:

I have seen colour eInk, and the result was not good.

On the other hand, the early b&w eInk was pretty bad too.

124:

Ermmm, no, it's because he said there weren't any e-readers with a color passive display. I don't actually know if the Nook Color is passive, but I figured I'd mention it.

125:

Sorry, didn't get the right comment. You said "We can agree however that the more you read the more attractive ebooks get." and it didn't specify any particular "we," so I'm part of "we" and I disagree with you.

126:

You still miss the point.

If I would have said "If you read a lot ebooks are attractive" you could say this isn't correct because you dislike them. But I didn't.

I said that they get more attractive the more you read. Which is something different.
Certain disadvantages and advantages of eBooks diminish and advance with the amount of them you read. A disadvantage is that you have to spend ~$150 for an eReader, advantages are that eBooks are usually slightly cheaper and are far less bother for storage/transportation. If you read a lot the eBook price advantage will counter the eReader price disadvantage sooner and the more will the portability advantage effect you. Ergo, if you read a lot, eBooks are more attractive than if you read only a little.

"But I read a lot and do not like them" does not invalidate these arguments at all.

127:

This is the last, since we aren't going to agree. You said "We" would like ereaders after we read for a while. I've been reading for decades and still don't want an ereader or ebooks.

128:

It's clear enough what you're getting at.

Ebooks have a high initial investment in the reader. In strict economic terms, that investment is paid off in lower costs and portability, and those advantages depend on reading a lot of books.

It's not the only aspect.

1: Books aren't fungible. The latest Charles Stross can't be substituted for by The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, even if the price difference is wonderful.

2: Current ebook pricing doesn't seem to show a significant difference for new works. Maybe the payback is an illusion.

3: Actually using a reader is different from using a book.

Maybe Marilee can come up with a few other reasons. But I think that's enough to show that your argument is incomplete.

Yes, I can see myself self-publishing something as an ebook. But I am not at all sure about the way the current systems may embroil me in the US tax system. Why should a multi-national corporation hit me with UK VAT on sales in the UK, and then insist on paying me under US income tax rules, when I am entirely within the UK? I pay tax in the UK, do business in the UK, purchase goods in the UK, deal with a company in the UK, but they want me to pay income tax to the US government when they pay me?

According to Charlie, there are procedures. And, even for him, living in a capital city, dealing with HMRC to sort out the taxation on a payment from a publisher in the USA or Japan, is a PITA. And his payments are more than big enough that the tax amount matters.

I know that is wasn't what "no taxation without representation" was about, but is "greedy bastards" really a too simple explanation?

129:

You still do not understand that there is a difference between "getting attractive" and "getting MORE attractive".

Say you hate your job. It is obviously not attractive to you.
Now, lets assume you get a small pay rise. It isn't enough to make your job attractive to you, but you do not hate it as much as you did before. In other words, it got "more attractive" to you.

So even if you hate eBooks, if you read a lot they are more attractive to you (as in you hate them less). Because the money investment is smaller or the money savings are greater.
Unless you do not care about money, in which case I am sure Charles would appreciate if you could buy a few hundreds of Rule 34 hardcovers.

130:

And the latest Charles Stross is as ebook $13 on amazon.com is $17. I wasn't referring to free books with the price reduction. There are some non-amazon "new" ones there for $11, but you still have to pay shipping for those.
It varies of cource. When you take a look at the amazon book top sellers the ebook edition is sometimes cheaper, sometimes more expensive. But in general I find more cheaper than expensive ebooks. The biggest difference I found with Neal Stephensons Reamde, which is $10 cheaper than the book version.

But, anyway - the point is that there are characteristics of eBooks which increase their attractiveness the you read.
Sure there are other differences between them and normal books. However to counter said characteristics mentioned before they need to behave the opposite way, meaning that they reduce the attractiveness of them more if you read a lot.

The only one I can think there is that you need to charge it more often, but considering I can read through 3 normal books on the kindle before I need to charge it for 3 hours arguing it is a real disadvantage is just plain silly. If it would be like a smartphone which dies after a day it would be something else.

Claiming an argument is incomplete because there "might" be other issues is no valid counter because then there are no arguments in existence which are complete. You cannot prove a negative.

131:

So even if you hate eBooks, if you read a lot they are more attractive to you (as in you hate them less). Because the money investment is smaller or the money savings are greater.

You keep making the same assumption, and I don't think it's getting any more valid. For you, perhaps for the majority, it may be applicable. But for you to demand that Marilee be in that group is a little arrogant.

Posit the situation where the more I drive a car, the more a bicycle is supposed to be attractive to me because it's cheaper to run. Would it be so? Possibly, but likely not.

(Disclaimer: a Sony eReader and a few thousand dead tree chunks.)

132:

*sigh*

You also miss the point. Could you please point where I said that "the more attractive eBooks become COMPARED TO BOOKS"?

The only assumption I made about Marilee is that he is no multimillionaire and actually cares about money in some extend.
If you read a lot eBooks become cheaper per unit. Which makes them more attractive than if you only read a bit. Even to him. Unless, well, see above.

Where do I say "more than books" there please? I do not compare them vs normal books there, I compare them vs themselves, but in different scenarios (read little vs read much).

In the end I could boil that statement down to dumbspeak:
If read much, eBooks cheaper. That better than if read little, because then eBooks more expensive.

Could we now *please* drop this ridiculous sub-discussion?

133:

We can agree however that the more you read the more attractive ebooks get.

Ah, so no. You use a comparative with no referent. That's your failure: everyone else was assuming you meant 'than physical books'.

Could we now *please* drop this ridiculous sub-discussion?

Certainly.

134:

The only assumption I made about Marilee is that he is no multimillionaire and actually cares about money in some extend.

Well actually, you have made another assumption about Marilee, and that one is definitely wrong.

135:

Okay. So you assume that I made an assumption and complain because of that assumed assumption.

Seriously?

Maybe before you complain that someone made an assumption you might check first if you yourself are making them in the first place.

136:

Or I just might have made a writing error and skipped the "s" :P ;)

137:

Seriously late, but just to raise a point that I recently came across: ebooks and the digital divide.

138:

I do not really think that is a valid issue. Books are not the first media effected by digitization. Take music.

Mobile mp3 players had when they first arrived a cost of $400. Nowadays you can get new players at $20. And I do not think you could argue that poor people can listen to less (non-radio) music than 10 years ago.
Mind, I wouldn't argue that most of their music is pirated nowadays. However, for a publisher it does not really matter if someone bought a used or steals a pirated copy of one of his products - the amount he earns from it is identical. Nil.

Also, despite everyone and their dog (and before someone wants to start a pointless discussion again, I do not mean literary everyone) listening to mp3s nowadays you can still buy music CDs. So even while the non-digitized market for music is greatly diminished it isn't totally dead. In 10-20 years it might be something else though. But by then you will get 10gb mp3 players in a happy meal.

I do not really see this happening any differently for eBooks. If anything the conversion process will be slower as with music.

139:

Music is very different. With (recorded) music, there is no self-playing music: your CD or vinyl or whatever requires a mechanism to play the content. You can't use a CD in isolation: you've always required something with which to play it.

The book, on the other hand, does not require a player. The e-book reader is a mechanism that provides the same interface (black squiggles on a pale background) as the physical book and, on the whole, it still does it less well.

140:

That you need a player is largely meaningless, because the cost of players gets meaningless over time. As said, see the price developement of mp3 players over time. By the time a physical media really gets obsolete the technology for the digital version is so cheap it is available for everyone. It getting close to this level with mp3s and you can still get the vast majority of music on CDs.

Unless you state a reason why this behaviour won't be reproduced by ebook readers just because their physical counterpart does not need a player said argument means nothing.

And for "does less well":
It does several things better - storage, distribution, transportation, backups.
Reading can be subjective, but as both longtime reader of physical and eBooks I prefer the the latter because an eBook reader is easier to handle (no worry about pages flipping, less weight) while the reading quality is virtually identical (it is basically like reading from recycled paper since the screen has a light gray, so it is a bit harder to read in low light conditions).
Disadvantages are the price of the reader and *possible* DRM issues (as a sidenote, I recently bought a book from the german market for my US kindle (because it wasn't available there), stripping the DRM took 10 minutes google how to do it, 2 minutes adding plugins to calibre with zero configuration and 1 minute importing the book and stripping the DRM in that process so I could use it on the US kindle. So much for that.), a limited availability of titles (from older books) and a worse performance in low-light conditions. Oh, and in conditions where you have no power for 3 weeks but can carry 3+ books with you (and have time to read them).

I do not think you can generalize that to "does less well".

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This page contains a single entry by Harry Connolly published on September 1, 2011 11:49 AM.

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