10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

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polymath
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 14th, 2010, 3:30 pm

Knowable: digital technology is merely the latest, greatest Hypermodernity fad to break onto the scene. Hypermodernity favors all things new as good and all things old as condemnable. Hypermodernity sweeps away the old to make room for new Progress Traps. Fads fade; what's left over is practicality.

Hypermodernity involves several cognitive biases: confirmation bias, seeking and selecting and interpreting information to confirm one's preconceptions; bandwagon effect, doing things because others do, also groupthink; false consensus effect, overestimating the degree others agree with a consensus; post-choice rationalization, persuading oneself that a choice made was a good choice regardless of outcomes, to name but a few biases influencing short-term Hypermodernity favoritism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

I don't see e-books or digitial devices as more than a new fad with potential for enduring until they become as taken for granted as any other technology. Humanity's mastery of fire is mastery of a technology for the proxy reality benefits it provides, daytime proxy reality at night from fire's light, summertime proxy reality in winter for fire's heat, for instances. Fires are made in many ways today; the original ways have not been swept aside, though there are few anymore who can start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, if there ever was many who could. I do. I also use quartzite rocks, flint and steel, electrical resistance, dedicated fire starter devices, and thermochemical means as situations dictate.

What is knowable: e-books are here to stay, paper books are here to stay. Each to their own as befits one's own needs and wants and purposes. The ground state will steady out into a new normal, eventually, for a while, surely, but normal is relative in time and space and situation. I'll continue to read and collect paper books for their advantages, and read from devices for their advantages, making compromises and sacrifices as needs and wants and purposes dictate. I'm reading some Poe online today, and some E.M. Forster on paper. One for its conveniences, one for its limited accessiblity. I'm rereading some Cormier on paper for revisiting the privately individual experiences he creates, that digital distances by a too noticeable degree I don't care for but will tolerate for conveniences' sakes.

I can't speak to anyone else's reading experiences. All I know is mine, though I once believed others' were identical. I know otherwise now.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 14th, 2010, 4:18 pm

Mira wrote:What always baffles me about this is that authors aren't jumping up and down for joy regarding e-books.
And that doesn't make you wonder if this might not be so black and white?
Mira wrote:E-books are our ticket to freedom, independence and power. Royalties are at least 4x higher. People may actually be able to make a living off of their writing. E-books are the best damn thing that has ever happened to writers - ever.
Um, yeah, okay. Let's see, 10% (for ease of math) on hardbacks is (give or take) $2.50, but they don't sell nearly as well as they used to. 10% on paperback is about 80 cents. 40% on e-books is $4.00. However, an awful lot of e-books don't sell for $9.99, even if they are from a traditional publisher. What does a Konrath go for? He's been experimenting with pricing, but I think last I read he was suggesting authors try something like $2.99. So 40% of $2.99 is about $1.20. Not bad. Of course, he's also sold at $1.99 and at 99 cents (if I recall, though I could be thinking of someone else). In those cases, 40% would be 80 cents and 40 cents. Of course, e-book distributors like Amazon would never try to force the price of an e-book down "for the good of the customer". And even if Amazon did do so, other distributors would be okay with getting lesser treament.

Three words: Wal-Mart business model. Or does that count as four words? The format isn't the problem (though I still have no desire for a multimedia experience).

(walks away whistling the Vlasic pickle jingle)
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 14th, 2010, 4:52 pm

polymath wrote:Knowable: digital technology is merely the latest, greatest Hypermodernity fad to break onto the scene. Hypermodernity favors all things new as good and all things old as condemnable. Hypermodernity sweeps away the old to make room for new Progress Traps. Fads fade; what's left over is practicality.
I don't know that this will prove true for most or all people, but it does describe my past relationship with gadgetry really well. If digitial readers are the new cell phone, then I'll eventually relent and purchase one (but not from Amazon). If they're the new palm pilot, I'll pass. My electronic novelty drawer is already full of cast-offs.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 14th, 2010, 6:29 pm

polymath, I sadly disagree that both formats will last. As people stop buying books in bookstores, and start buying e-books, the bookstores will fold, the cost to produce paper books will become prohibitive, and production will switch to e-books. That's my prediction, anyway.

Margo - you are looking at today. Look at tomorrow. As e-books come into their own, you're looking at sheer volume, even if pricing is lower. The accessiblity of e-books will bring (I believe) many more people to reading. Right now, books are inconvienient. You have to drive to a bookstore, and then somehow figure out what book to buy, and half the time they don't even have it in stock. As for those who already buy on Amazon, a hop, skip and a jump to e-books. When you can get it on your phone, it's even easier. Oh yes, you CAN get it on your phone.

Konrath has discovered what many people are discovering. There is gold in them hills. He is making a bundle on e-books, because he gets to keep the bulk of the profit. Konrath will never go back to standard publishing. I'd put money on it.

As for it being black and white - well, I think it is. Standard print publishing is terrible for writers. There is a terrible bottleneck, and little to no power. Royalites are peanuts.

I know you want to argue with me on this Margo, because...well, you do tend to argue with me. But really. Think about this. All the power in YOUR hands, and up to half the royalites if not more. It's a sweet deal for authors.

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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 14th, 2010, 8:03 pm

Mira wrote:Right now, books are inconvienient. You have to drive to a bookstore, and then somehow figure out what book to buy, and half the time they don't even have it in stock. As for those who already buy on Amazon, a hop, skip and a jump to e-books. When you can get it on your phone, it's even easier. Oh yes, you CAN get it on your phone.
I don't agree (surprise surprise). I have two major bookstores within 10 minutes drive and a small one across the street and two doors down from where I work. I actually enjoy browsing in a bookstore, and when I need a book they don't have, they order it for me and send me an email when it's in. Because the two major bookstores are in shopping centers, I frequently drop by while in the shopping center for something else. I meet friends for tea there. We hang out while we wait for our movie time in the same shopping center. We may stop by the bookstore right after dinner at one of the half dozen restaurants in each of the shopping centers. In fact, I took my dad to lunch today right down the street form one and just stopped into the bookstore to see what they had.

As for the phone, I don't have a large-screen touch-pad phone. I don't like them for a number of reasons, including the fact that my friends are constantly having problems with theirs and making accidential calls because the lock on it stopped working in their pockets. I have a small phone. I like it because it is small. I can't imagine trying to read a novel on a tiny phone. So again I'm not the target market for that feature.

I don't mind carrying a paperback around in my purse. I can see people like agents and editors loving the ability to read on an ipad instead of lugging hard copies on business trips. I can see the same advantage for business people who need to travel for extended periods. I don't have that problem. How much of the population really does? How many of us need to read as much as an agent and take that amount of reading with us? How many of us have to work in a foreign country where we might not be able to get books in our native language?
Mira wrote:Konrath has discovered what many people are discovering. There is gold in them hills. He is making a bundle on e-books, because he gets to keep the bulk of the profit. Konrath will never go back to standard publishing. I'd put money on it.
He already said he wouldn't go back. I don't blame him. He's on target to make six figures with his books. Do you know how much time he spends on marketing and how any hours writing versus marketing? Do you want to spend 6 hours a day marketing and 2 hours writing? I don't. I don't have a problem with the people who do, but I don't think most people have what it takes to do what he does. That's why he's the exception and not the rule. His blog also talks about how difficult it's been for writers he knows to duplicate his success. There are people who believe marketing is the key, and people who believe good writing is the key. Even Konrath himself steers new writers away from self-publishing e-books. He believes it's a professional's game, after they have already established themselves with traditional publishing, in particular mid-list authors who have been abandoned by their publishers. In this, he has a point. Those authors have an audience already.
Mira wrote:As for it being black and white - well, I think it is. Standard print publishing is terrible for writers. There is a terrible bottleneck, and little to no power. Royalites are peanuts.
How are e-books going to fix the bottleneck, unless you're advocating everyone self-publish on Amazon? As for power, power is great if one has the knowledge and skill to use it. Otherwise, it's wasted.
Mira wrote:I know you want to argue with me on this Margo, because...well, you do tend to argue with me. But really. Think about this. All the power in YOUR hands, and up to half the royalites if not more. It's a sweet deal for authors.
Actually, Mira, I'm frequently in disagreement with you because we are simply on opposite ends of a spectrum.

In the end, you still seem to think my primary objection to ebooks has something to do with format. But they'll be more convenient! Since books are not inconvenient for me, I'm not the target market for that sales pitch. As for the royalties issue, again, I'm looking back to Amazon's conflict with publishers. I'm looking at the similiarities between their business model and Wal-Mart's business model. That model changed business forever, and not in a good way, especially for suppliers. Follow that analogy through. Who are the suppliers in your scenario?

In the end I think we will just have to agree to disagree on pretty much everything.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 14th, 2010, 8:10 pm

J. T. SHEA wrote:Everyone is guessing at the unknowable here. Those who dislike E-books predict their (relative) failure. Those who like E-books predict their triumph over paper. Wish-fulfillment on both sides?

J.T. for president. Or God or something. Some position of authority. :)
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 14th, 2010, 8:36 pm

I own a delightful little handmade book. Out of copyright, and out of print for a hundred years, I only know of one original paper copy existent in the Americas, but I'm sure there's a few more. I couldn't get my hands on a copy through interlibrary loan. I downloaded raw Optical Character Recognition application text from an online open source, cleaned it up, dropped it into a publishing suite, printed it, bound it, and wound up with a rugged walking around paper book of a one-hundred-fifty-year-old text I studied for months. I manipulated the text to squeeze four hundred pages into one hundred thirty-two. It printed legibly on thirty-three letter-size leaves of paper at a cost to me of a nickel a leaf paper and ink. $1.65.

A standard format recent POD release version costs thirty bucks new at Amazon. Mine's not a work of publishing art, but it's a neat little perfect bound paperback, half-inch thick, 5 1/4" by 8 1/4" book that fully serves my purposes. Okay; it's an underground guerilla publication, but legal and useful and convenient and more accessible than the digital PDF, TXT, and HTML versions from the open source.

And I too have shrines to out-of-date electronic devices. My first cell phone weighed twelve pounds and was about the size of a thick casecover novel. I have a dedicated charging workstation for all the battery dependent devices I use regularly, and once had a museum collection of typewriting devices that became too burdensome to maintain in proper working order. I had a smoky burgundy manual Royal typewriter, a battleship gray Underwood, an IBM '68 Selectric, a Brother wordproccessor, and several other typewriting devices of fleeting usefulness. I'm on my second PC, my third laptop, and overdue for a fourth. The first generation Compaq I used at work wasn't mine.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 14th, 2010, 8:46 pm

polymath wrote: I had a smoky burgundy manual Royal typewriter, a battleship gray Underwood, an IBM '68 Selectric, a Brother wordproccessor, and several other typewriting devices of fleeting usefulness.

Ah, but did you ever have a Remington? It's a beautiful beast.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 14th, 2010, 8:50 pm

Margo wrote:Ah, but did you ever have a Remington? It's a beautiful beast.
Used one here and there. Never owned one.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 14th, 2010, 8:56 pm

polymath wrote:
Margo wrote:Ah, but did you ever have a Remington? It's a beautiful beast.
Used one here and there. Never owned one.

Mine's a 1920's model. Heavy like you wouldn't believe. Letters that I could watch rise up out of alignment and strike the paper. Noisy keys and that fabulous ding! at the end of the register. Hand lever for pulling it back to the other side. I typed my first novel on it. I'm amused by the fact that Remington Rand was also a gun manufacturer.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 14th, 2010, 10:01 pm

Margo wrote:Mine's a 1920's model. Heavy like you wouldn't believe. Letters that I could watch rise up out of alignment and strike the paper. Noisy keys and that fabulous ding! at the end of the register. Hand lever for pulling it back to the other side. I typed my first novel on it. I'm amused by the fact that Remington Rand was also a gun manufacturer.
Yeah, Remington and Underwood and Royal and Corolla and IBM were duking it out for a while there. IBM was the visionary foreruner with the Selectric and early personal computing, but Compaq took down Big Blue a few years later. Gosh, what a long strange trip from Gutenberg to--who's on top of the moment now anyway? Kindle? Nook? iPad? RosettaBooks was one of the first e-publishers. They've long been left in the dust after a much trumpeted and shortlived heyday debut in 2001.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 14th, 2010, 11:12 pm

"Actually, Mira, I'm frequently in disagreement with you because we are simply on opposite ends of a spectrum.

In the end, you still seem to think my primary objection to ebooks has something to do with format. But they'll be more convenient! Since books are not inconvenient for me, I'm not the target market for that sales pitch. As for the royalties issue, again, I'm looking back to Amazon's conflict with publishers. I'm looking at the similiarities between their business model and Wal-Mart's business model. That model changed business forever, and not in a good way, especially for suppliers. Follow that analogy through. Who are the suppliers in your scenario?

In the end I think we will just have to agree to disagree on pretty much everything." Margo
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I don't think we disagree on everything! For example, I think you're intelligent. We don't disagree on that do we? :)

We do, however, disagree on this, I guess. Books may not be inconvenient for you, but I would argue that they are for most people. And I do think that convenience and efficency make or break a format. E-books are more convenient, faster, efficient and easier. Therefore, people will begin to buy more of them, and the market will shift.

Who will be the suppliers? Writers. Writers have always been the suppliers.

Polymath - I would guess there will be speciality markets for paper books. Especially since there are many who love paper books a great deal.

Guys, I could be wrong about this, of course........but naturally, I don't think so. The thing is, I see it as very good news. I hear that you don't, however.

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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by arbraun » August 15th, 2010, 12:06 am

I was all set to completely disagree with you, but then I read no. 2. How's an author going to sign an e-reader?

I do like my e-reader for a lot of reasons. I don't have to go to the bookstore as much, and I can get a book in sixty seconds. That saves me a lot of time. I have no problem with going to the bookstore, but don't want to do it every time I buy a book.

I also review books for a magazine and no longer have to hurt my eyes by reading on a computer screen.

I have dropped my e-reader and it still works. I didn't drop it very far, however.

The novelty does wear off, but they're still nice to have. Any gadget is.

I wish both forms could co-exist. I downloaded a book that was over 1,500 words onto my reader, and it slowed it down, practically stalled it. So long books are out. I don't mean to straddle the fence, but I feel they're both effective.

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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 15th, 2010, 12:11 am

Mira wrote:Guys, I could be wrong about this, of course........but naturally, I don't think so. The thing is, I see it as very good news. I hear that you don't, however.
That's an incomplete assessment of my view. I don't see digital publishing as either good news or bad news, but some good and some bad will come of it. It's change, no more, no less, and not appreciably all that much different in any meaningful final analysis. During the calms between chaos storms writers will wind up where they always have, mostly underappreciated pawns of some many elses' commercial exploitation.

Now, if writers could pilot all their own commercial destinies, things might turn out differently, but society doesn't work that way and technology isn't about to make it any different, nor would society allow it. There's an entrenched status quo labyrinthine miasma of secondary and tertiary and deeper degrees of commercial activities existing and others ready and eager to step in and exploit emerging opportunities, from writers themselves to editors to agents to publishers to distribution channels to proprietary technology inventors to copyright pirates to end consumers and lawmakers and lawyers and accountants dictating what writers are worth to society, and dictating what they themselves are worth as much as society allows at writers' expense. Commerce, like nature, abhors a vacuum as much as commerce, culture, and society abhor a monocultural enclave. C'est la vie.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 15th, 2010, 1:13 am

polymath, sorry if I misunderstood, and I have the same fears. Those who are good at making money do tend to win the game, don't they? But authors don't have to sign away their power! There's alot more information available than ever before, which is something new to the game. That's one of the reasons I like to point out the opportunity for authors here. E-books could be a game changer.

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