The Growth of E-readers

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Jaysen
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Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:34 pm Post

Possible NYT from before electronic media really existed wrote:Is there a difference in the way the brain takes in or absorbs information when it is presented electronically compared to when said information is presented on paper?

Maybe? Seems easier to understand to me. But then I have issues.
Jaysen

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AmberV
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Thu Oct 15, 2009 2:52 pm Post

I think the most compelling argument I've seen for the mind processing information differently in a digital environment is how we approach information we do not know. When reading a book, it is more likely that we'll let things go and keep reading if we do not understand a word or thought. In the digital environment, it is more likely we'll look it up somehow in a dictionary or Wikipedia. This causes the reading habit to be less linear and more nebulous, but I'm not sure if there is a better or worse here. While the average person may acquire more trivia and knowledge in a digital environment, will they have less focus? There are some interesting studies going on about that question. Take the Kindle for instance: the reading experience is practically identical to paper in that you are looking at physical ink on a reflective grey surface. It is not too dissimilar from reading a newspaper, but the environment allows easy and rapid cross-referencing. When I read something on a Kindle, I am more inclined to look things up and jump around while I'm reading, then when I'm reading a standard book.

As for the first style question: I have seen capitalised letters after a hyphen in titles before.
.:.
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Thu Oct 15, 2009 3:24 pm Post

AmberV wrote:As for the first style question: I have seen capitalised letters after a hyphen in titles before.


It depends on the reason for the hyphen. If it's to equalize two adjectives, like red-rimmed glasses, they're individual words and both should get capped. If it's a compound noun, like "Cutoff for check-in is at 10 am", then it depends on the individual house style. I prefer not, myself.

So, is e-book a compound noun?
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Jot
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Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:28 pm Post

I've been using ebooks for at least 5 years. Palm Pilots. The world is still trying to catch up. Kindle? Sony? Pish posh. Even my iPhone isn't a patch on the Palm. Unless a book is in electronic format these days, it doesn't get read. I even download the newspaper onto the Palm/iPhone.

I bought some books for the eReader years ago and I've still got them. Of course, I can't remember what my password is to open them, but hey, they're still looking as new as the day I bought them. After wearing out 2 penguin paperbacks of Pride & Prejudice, I can read it time after time on the Palm, it remembers my place and I can make the font bigger when I'm feeling a bit blech. Gutenberg is fantastic for free books - I've got about 20 such novels on the Palm.

I've been experimenting with various readers and still haven't found the "happy place" on the iPhone. Stanza is okayish, but a bit...ordinary and a pain in the rear to convert many docs. There is a real niche for iPhone developers - I'd pay serious money (forget your piddly $1-5 apps) for a good reader that allowed me to convert my own documents. I paid $40ish for my current reader/converter on the Palm five years ago and it's the best money I've ever spent. I'm currently stalking that developer in the hope that they'll abandon Blackberry (their current focus) and adopt iPhone.

As to the books not being available in the pirated world...they sure are. Harry Potter, Twilight (uggh)...in fact all the "big" or popular novels are available. Just use your torrent of choice and search. Even audio books are there. There's a rule - if it exists, it's on the internet. Having said all that, I never use torrents and won't pirate - it's just not right for me.

To demonstrate how far down the ebook path I am: when the final Harry Potter book came out (not available in e-format here) I bought a hard copy. That night, I made myself comfortable in bed, picked up the book, turned off the light...and realized it was dark. How do people read in bed? You have to have a light on? Who knew?
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Thu Oct 15, 2009 7:43 pm Post

Jot wrote:As to the books not being available in the pirated world...they sure are. Harry Potter, Twilight (uggh)...in fact all the "big" or popular novels are available.


Even a lot of "little" ones are. I'm not above searching some sites and e-mailing the resultant links to the author.
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Jot
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Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:02 pm Post

Hey, that's a good idea. I never thought of that. Although, I don't actually have a torrent thingy myself so I only hear about stuff second hand.
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Fri Oct 16, 2009 7:59 pm Post

Sure, some niches, like reasonably tech savvy students who need expensive textbooks, and publishers who receive electronic copies anyway and need to carry round lots of manuscripts will use it. But your 50 year old housewife who buys Danielle Steels and Judy Astleys? I doubt it.


You may want to read this:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/24/technology/24kindle.html?_r=1

Note in particular this quote from the article: "Many Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-hound demographic. Almost as many women as men are buying it, Mr. Hildick-Smith said, and the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds."

The royalty thing will sort itself out eventually I think, just as music and video is sorting itself out. But if digital books do take off, as they might with a radically different model - cheaper, less needless power - we could easily end up with royalties hit as hard for authors as they have been for musicians. The money used to be in record sales. Now it's live performance, for instance.


Live performance is not a viable option for an author. Here's the link I included in my second post: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/busin ... l?_r=1&hpw

A quote from the article:
"Ms. Scheid, of RapidShare, has advice for them if they are unhappy that her company’s users are distributing e-books without paying the copyright holders: Learn from the band Nine Inch Nails. It marketed itself “by giving away most of their content for free.”

I will forward the suggestion along, as soon as authors can pack arenas full and pirated e-books can serve as concert fliers."

More heavy hitters are getting into the game, on the content side:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/books/14fried.html

And this from an agent who says she is seeing a dramatic increase in e-book sales for her clients (from reviewing actual royalty statements):
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/10/tectonic-shift.html

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AmberV
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Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:45 pm Post

I’ve been using ebooks for at least 5 years. Palm Pilots. The world is still trying to catch up. Kindle? Sony? Pish posh. Even my iPhone isn’t a patch on the Palm. Unless a book is in electronic format these days, it doesn’t get read. I even download the newspaper onto the Palm/iPhone.


Yeah, I did the Palm Pilot thing for years as well. I started reading e-books back in 2001, and have quite a library of eReader and FictionWise titles (much prefer the latter as they serve a lot of open content, rather than DRM stuff). Funny, but you even illuminated one of the major drawbacks of the eReader format: its reliance upon a credit card number to decrypt it. I don’t know how many card numbers I’ve gone through since 2001, but I do know that it’s a regular and annoying task to have to reset and re-download all of those titles every time my card changes. I know it isn’t necessary—but if I didn’t then I’d be in the same boat as you with a bunch of books keyed to a password I no longer remember.

Not a good situation to be in.

Once I went e-ink I never looked back. I read quite a bit with the Palm Pilot, but it was never a pleasurable experience. It never replaced paper books, lets just put it that way. It was an easy way to carry titles around while commuting, but I never sat around at home reading on a Palm Pilot. Kindle on the other hand? Well my physical book collection is gathering dust these days. Reading is not only just as easy on the eyes with e-Ink, but the digital aspect of it is, for most things, superior to paper.

The same would go for the iPhone (comparing it to the Palm is more like comparing the Sony Reader to the Kindle—it’s just quibbling over details), or any other little tiny glowing screen. It’s just not a good way to read. Anyone that works in an office and stares at a monitor for 9 hours a day can tell you it’s fatiguing and bad for your eyes. But you know, if I do want to use the iPhone to read a book for whatever reason, I can. Just download the free Kindle app, download the book from your online library, and you have full access to it. Annotations and last page read will be synched with the server; the next time you pick up the Kindle it will have everything integrated from the iPhone automatically. The inability to synch annotations between eReader Palm and eReader Mac was truly frustrating, for me. Now that my Palm is dead and I have no desire to buy another, pretty much all of the notes I ever took on it are gone. You might say the same could happen to the Kindle, but that isn’t so. For one, as mentioned everything gets synched universally—but the Kindle also logs every single annotation into a text file. I have all of those backed up.

“Platform wars” aside, here is an interesting article, salient to the thread topic:

E-Book Fans Keep Format in Spotlight (NyTimes)

And also, Barnes & Nobel finally released their reader (NyTimes), which looks like a combination between an iPod and a Kindle—very interesting. They are going the same route as Sony with the ePub format, so that is one nice thing about it. Two major players using that format could be enough to convince Amazon to give up the proprietary format—but it might take three considering how big Amazon is. Catch a demo (YouTube), to see it in action.
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KB
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Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:52 pm Post

Damn, I like the look of the Nook. Bloody US companies - shame we don't have Barnes & Noble over here...

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Jaysen
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Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:29 pm Post

KB wrote:Damn, I like the look of the Nook. Bloody US companies - shame we don't have Barnes & Noble over here...

You mean you want a coffee/music/art house that sell books on the side? You can have mine.

Ok, not a fair thing as I am sure that a B&N somewhere is a book store first, and "all that stuff" second, but the ones here seem to forget the books.
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I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:47 pm Post

So far, publishers like HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster say that sales of e-books for any device — including simple laptop downloads — constitute less than 1 percent of total book sales.


One percent. So although the growth is big in percentage terms, it's still a tiny tiny bit of the market. Proportionately, ebooks just aren't huge.

Adam Rothberg, vice president for corporate communications at Simon & Schuster, said: “Everybody in the industry considers piracy a significant issue, but it’s been difficult to quantify the magnitude of the problem. We know people post things but we don’t know how many people take them.”


Simon and Schuster can't figure out how many people pirate books. Neither can Rapidshare, who seem to be getting the blame for hosting most of the files. So I don't know where the figures come from underlying all these assertions that it's already huge. What are your sources, guys?

"Many Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-hound demographic. Almost as many women as men are buying it, Mr. Hildick-Smith said, and the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds."


That's one person's anecdote in a newspaper story about how popular the latest fad is, naturally picked to back up the story the reporter pitched to the newsdesk. I've been a newspaper reporter - one quote does not a demographic make. If you've got actual reliable stats, I'd love to see them. One percent, remember.

How can I put this nicely. Anyone who read regularly on a Palm was an early adopter of the technology, and - I honestly don't mean this pejoratively - a geek. I had a Palm, I tried reading on it, and it was unusable. You're also geeks who read novels, the perfect demographic for eReaders. And you probably mix with similar geeks. Of course you perceive they're popular. But the only sourced number you've dug up is one percent of book sales.

But my main point was that I don't like Kindles as a technology - they're too expensive and while there's a good reason for having all your music on your iPod, I know I do, I can't see any reason why I'd want all my books on one. Reading isn't like listening.

For what it's worth, I think the model that will work for eReaders will be connected, and cheap. There's no need for bells and whistles - immersivity (if that's a word) is the main thing, and cost. Kindle books are priced halfway between hardbacks and paperbacks at the moment, and paperbacks massively outsell hardbacks, so if Ebooks are going to hit mass market they'll have to compete with paperbacks. And they don't, yet.

As for live performance not being an option for authors - that was kind of my point. There's more tolerance, it turns out, in music markets because there's demand outside of what can be pirated. That tolerance can't be there for writers.

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Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:03 pm Post

I'm waiting for this:

mactablet082009j_cst_feed_20090820_11_08_34_24069#h=400&w=336.jpeg
mactablet082009j_cst_feed_20090820_11_08_34_24069#h=400&w=336.jpeg (24.89 KiB) Viewed 899 times


I'll still buy hardcover books, but the Apple tablet (whatever it ends up being) is going to replace my paperbacks, for sure. (And, likely, my Macbook. And, eventually, my newspaper subscription and my trips to the comic book store. And my liver, because I read on the internet that it'll do that too, and someone heard that's what Steve got, and that would be super awesome because... well, y'know. Vic knows, at least.)

So I figure a tablet, plus a wall-mounted 27" iMac (for in-office movies and Scrivener 2.0 in all its glory), and I should be set. Of course, if I actually did go out and get both of those, the first project I would have to use them for would be getting my affairs in order for my divorce.

Worth it? Hmmm.

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Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:42 pm Post

One percent. So although the growth is big in percentage terms, it's still a tiny tiny bit of the market. Proportionately, ebooks just aren't huge


"Less than one percent" isn't really helpful. That could be anything between a couple of books and thousands. If the figure is anything near one percent, I wouldn't call that "tiny". If we're talking one in every 100 or 200 books sold is an eBook - well, that's pretty significant. Suppose it is one quarter of a percent - that means that one in every 400 books sold is an eBook, and that's with e-readers costing over £200, and with the Kindle still waiting to be launched internationally. As soon as e-readers come down in price, we can expect this figure to go up, and grow. It's still early days. Spinningdoc, I get the impression that you really hate the idea of e-books, but it really is too early to say that they are just a "fad" and won't take off. Many (myself included) thought that about the mobile phone. I think you're right that price will be a factor - once they become affordable and start appearing in supermarkets, and once you can just go into any bookshop and choose between paper or e-book (in the same way as for many software products you can choose physical shipment or download-only), it could be a very different book world.

All the best,
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Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:00 pm Post

I have nothing of value to add, but I wont let that stop me from posting!

I hate both option. The printed books take up space, real space. They are inconvenient, especially when vic-k is plopping his hairy down at 3am and one is wedged between the cushions of the couch. God forbid you are almost done with one book, know you will finish a second and them make a good start on a third and try to get on a plane with 3 books. And when you loan them out and the book is returned with a "uh we had a small problem with the dog, separation anxiety or something" AARRGGHHH!!!

On the other hand, the readers are sterile, they are hard on the eyes, they feel wrong, and the wire to my ears gets in the way of me reading! How much radiation do I really need that close to my remaining cranial cell? Have you ever used a magnifying glass to read when you have misplaced your glasses? good luck!

What I want is not a tablet, but a electronic paper book. Real pages. Real binding. SSD and a micro USB. Load ePub and pdf. Has a multi touch pad a little bigger then a 1x2 that can be used to select an area and zoom (allowing PDF to display with proper formating). Book should be 6x9 closed.

Don't tell me it can't be done. I've seen things in person and we've all seen the "leaked" shots of the paper. If only folks will get the head extraction surgery we could all be happy.

Whew. Back to dog wrestling. Or is it cat? I can't tell any more, the man is crazy.
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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Wed Oct 21, 2009 10:50 pm Post

Spinningdoc wrote:How can I put this nicely. Anyone who read regularly on a Palm was an early adopter of the technology, and - I honestly don’t mean this pejoratively - a geek. I had a Palm, I tried reading on it, and it was unusable. You’re also geeks who read novels, the perfect demographic for eReaders. And you probably mix with similar geeks. Of course you perceive they’re popular. But the only sourced number you’ve dug up is one percent of book sales.


You’ll have no argument from me on whether or not I am a geek that reads books—this much is clear. However I would base my perception of increasing e-book popularity on what I see around me in public, not on who I mix with. I commute via public transportation, and it has become almost unusual to go a trip without seeing at least one person with a Kindle. The number of people reading on their Palm Pilots and smart phones is difficult to quantify, but even more significant. I probably see half a dozen a day (I see more people staring at screens of text on their phone, but I’m assuming a percentage of those are reading web sites).

A mere three or four years ago and it was extremely unusual to see any kind of book reading device being used. Such people had to sit there consciously ignoring everyone around them due to frequent stares and double-takes. Nowadays, people pull out a Kindle and nobody blinks.

Granted, I live in Portland Oregon. We do happen to love books about as much as we love our beer. That said, I do have to agree with the statement that the demographic for these devices is mixed—not specific to any particular grouping. Weighted, certainly, but it isn’t unusual to see a variety of people using these devices.

Coming back the percentages, I think Keith adequately addressed how your statement is largely meaningless in this context. We are talking a massive industry here. Even fractions of a percentage mean quite a lot of business is being done. Second to this is the key term here: growth. Again, three or four years ago it was a double-taker event to see someone using a large-form reader, and even people reading on smart phones or PDAs would turn heads. It’s gone from that to “less then 1%” of a major arm of the entertainment industry in a few years.

Growth like that is certainly something to remark on. When the big players of the book distribution network start making their own devices and selling large percentages of their inventory in digital format, I think it is safe to say that the secret is out.

It’s not just the geeks playing around anymore.

But my main point was that I don’t like Kindles as a technology - they’re too expensive and while there’s a good reason for having all your music on your iPod, I know I do, I can’t see any reason why I’d want all my books on one. Reading isn’t like listening.


I recovered the cost of the unit itself in under a year, just off of savings in book purchases. It’s actually not that expensive once you do the math. Having all of those books on a single device is great, especially since I have a lot of non-fiction that I frequently find myself referencing. Honestly, I’m the opposite of you. I’ve never “got” the whole need for putting all of ones music on a single device. I only ever listen to about four or five CDs as my mood changes gradually over the year. I’ve been plenty fine with low-capacity iPods all along. Meanwhile, I read 10 or 15 books at once, switching between them depending on my mood—which can sometimes change several times in a single day. Music is just to hide the background noise so that I can read/write without distraction. And I do quite like the “library” aspect of the thing as well. It’s quite nice to be reading something, have a question about, and search my device for answers. Getting one or two daily newspapers delivered to it, and a few reference books, greatly increases the “width” of these results.

Having access to a massive library of books I don’t own yet nearly anywhere I go, that is phenomenal! I think it is good that the Nook is heading in that direction too. Reading a book review in the NYT on the train and buying the book a few minutes later, on the train, is definitely the stuff of pornography for book lovers.

Kindle books are priced halfway between hardbacks and paperbacks at the moment, and paperbacks massively outsell hardbacks…


This isn’t true; you must be cherry-picking samples. Only on the stuff that isn’t even out in paperback yet, do you see the pricing model described. While a book is still exclusively in hardback distribution, the cost is usually around $10, which is a third of the cost in most cases, of the paper version. Once the paperback comes out, the cost of the e-book tends to drop to more like 75% of paperback. You are still saving money—just not as much. Like I said, I saved enough money in year-one to recoup the cost of the device. That was a year ago—my reading habit has been all in savings mode since then.

As for live performance not being an option for authors - that was kind of my point. There’s more tolerance, it turns out, in music markets because there’s demand outside of what can be pirated. That tolerance can’t be there for writers.


You are missing an extremely crucial point. Music piracy was not marginalised by the industry changing. It wasn’t marginalised by artists going strictly to live performance. It wasn’t marginalised by the RIAA suing everyone and their daughter (literally).

It was marginalised by a digital device, legitimising and making convenient, a marketplace for the masses and providing it on a device that anyone could use.

Does that mean e-books will do the same? Probably not; it’s a completely different market and a completely different product. I wouldn’t compare them directly, and I’m not sure why you are, either.
.:.
Ioa Petra'ka
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