10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

News, trends, and the future of publishing
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Adam Heine
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Adam Heine » August 15th, 2010, 2:41 am

Re: Mira and Margo. Books may not be INconvenient, but the point is that e-books are MORE convenient. So yeah, there will be people who have no problems with books the way they are and can't see where e-books fit. Then there are people like me, who would love the convenience of owning any book instantly without leaving my home (although I'm something of an outlier, what with my home being in Thailand).

Re: arbraun and signing an e-book. It can be done. And technology will only make it more doable as we continue.

Honestly I think paper books will still be around a long time, but not forever. The generations that can't imagine an all e-book future won't last forever, and some day there will come a generation that says, "Why do we still make these things out of paper?"

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

Post by Margo » August 15th, 2010, 3:48 am

I think e-books are absolutely here to stay, but I don't think they will kill the paperback. For Nathan they are more convenient in a very physical sense. For me, it's not a priority convenience. Mira finds the trip to the bookstore tedious. I make it a regular part of my social life with my friends. NHwriter made a case about how great multimedia would be. Others like the fact that books require the reader's participation through imagination. One person likes the fact that they can read an e-book on their phone or ipad. Another is like polymath and loves the actual feel of a paper book in hand.

Which group is MOST PEOPLE? I'm guessing from some of these posts, anecdotal evidence and personal experience tells some of us that most people are e-book people. In my life, having many friends who are avid readers, I know exactly one who owns an e-reader (kindle). The rest have other things they'd rather spend ther money on. If I go by my friends and family, most people are paper and ink people. There's no way to tell whose right on more than a very small-scale personal level. That's one of the reasons we're even discussing this. It's new territory. There's no way of telling what most people are at this point.

In the end, my concern is replacing one problematic business model with a worse one. It may not happen, but it also wouldn't be the first time it had.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 15th, 2010, 3:51 am

Mira wrote:I don't think we disagree on everything! For example, I think you're intelligent. We don't disagree on that do we? :)

That is so not a line you should offer a leo. It's too great a temptation. The Mechastreisand episode of South Park springs to mind.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Heather B » August 15th, 2010, 5:39 am

I'm with you Margo (sorry Mira) in that I hands-down prefer paper books. I believe ereaders I'll be a massive part of our literary future but I'd lament the day books ceased to exist. Whenever my friends and I meet up to go shopping, without discussion we end up at Borders. First. Way more sociable than stickig my head in a phone/ereader.
I love being surrounded by so many books. I love waiting outside a bookstore on the release day of a book I've been dying for.
I believe there will always be people who love both and with the economic crisis on the up (especially in Australia) there will always be a marker for good ol' paper books.
I have a few friends that rush out for the newest apple product etc but not one of them owns an ereader and the one who own iPads don't read don't read anthem at all. I asked if there was any reason and their simple reaponse was 'why?'
As a side note: I've read this forum on my iPhone and I already have a headache. That points out where I stand, I guess.

PS sorry for all the mistakes I'm sure there are inthis post :D
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by djf881 » August 15th, 2010, 8:20 am

Sentimentality won't save a format from real progress. People loved video stores and record stores and those are mostly gone. People probably thought the printing press was a vulgarization of the elegant work performed by scribes. The question is whether e-books represent a real step forward.

The stakes are this: e-books tripled their market share from around 3% to around 8% since 2008. By 2012, a lot of analysts and publishing insiders believe that the e-book marketshare may triple again, to 25% of trade books. Apple is going to sell a lot of iPads. Competing tablets will come out. Falling device prices create some room for growth; dedicated e-readers will fall below $100, possibly as soon as this Christmas.

But the analogies people make to iPods or to computers killing typewriters are inaccurate. There's no lifestyle improvement that comes from switching to an e-reader that's analogous to the eliminating the inconvenience of having to go through the 100-disc changer in the trunk of your car to find a CD you want to listen to on your home stereo. There's no killer app for e-readers analogous to a-la-carte song sales or shuffle songs. And, to be honest, the real killer app for iPods was piracy. Built-in dictionaries and the ability to start a new book anywhere are convenient, but not revolutionary. If music is a part of your life, then an iPod improves and changes your life radically; after you've had it for a while, it's hard to imagine living without it. If you love books, life with a Kindle is pretty much the same; it's a convenience device, not a thing that redefines the way you interact with media.

Cheaper devices will boost device sales, but the question remains whether all the people who will buy Kindle for Christmas will be reading on it in 3 years, or whether they'll go back to paper. I completely accept the idea that future Kindles will eliminate the slow page turns and accidental button-presses of my 1st-gen device, but I can't imagine any iterative improvements that could make me feel more favorable to an e-reader than indifferent between the device and a conventional book.

The impact of e-readers on publishing doesn't matter to people who buy books, but the first thing e-books will kill is bookstores. If trade sales fall by 25% because e-sales replace them, then there will be a huge contraction in the number of bookstores. Amazon and Apple would cut BN's throat just to find out which parts of its corpse are edible. Sales growth in online downloads have been great for Apple, but they have not come close to replacing the sales lost in retail for the music industry. Massive bookstore closings will be bad for publishing, and growth in e-sales won't cover the loss of bookstores.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 15th, 2010, 10:58 am

I don't privately care for big-box stores. They do do all they can to be intimate, but they're agoraphobic nightmares for me. I enjoy the quaint boutique bookstores run by moms and pops. They're making a comeback with the big-box stores teetering on the brink. The several times big-box bookstores tried to franchise here they failed in less than a year.

There's one of the boutique bookstores hereabouts that changed their business model from traditional to multitasking. They have POD access, any book in print is available overnight. They have a self-publishing arm. They cater to impulse buying inventory. They have a used book selection. They buy back books. They provide digital services and help desk assistance. They host book talks and technology talks and book fairs, which the latter had all but become extinct locally before they started theirs. I'm on a first name basis with them and the other seven or so boutique bookstores around here.

But in my view, the remainder system is the demon in the publishing world. With returns running forty and fifty percent, it's idle and wasted production capacity. Boutique bookstores take full advantage of it. In a perfect world, a book printed would be a book sold and be a cherished lifetime or longer friend to readers.

Digital no matter how long they endure are part and parcel of instant gratification, as fleeting as fresh cut flowers. Instant gratification demands newer and higher thrills and satisfactions. But literature is the grace of humanity, in all its exquisite ugliness, its beauty, its traditions is human existence recorded for posterity. It is a history of humanity's culture. "Those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it." Edmund Burke, British statesperson, philospher, circa 1700s. Also, "In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of the most cruel oppressions on the minority," and "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting." Burke's middle quote is a central theme of Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451. What a visionary.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by steve » August 15th, 2010, 1:33 pm

Someone needs to start a "New York Review of Books" type-website/publication that only reviews ebooks.

Ebooks will eat the world, but there will be some vomiting.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 15th, 2010, 3:02 pm

Steve, that's disgusting, albeit pithy. I'm in disgusted admiration.

I agree with Adam and djf. They both said it very well!

polymath, I like fresh cut flowers.

and Margo, I'm a Leo, too! :) So, you know what that means? Happy birthday to us both!

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

Post by polymath » August 15th, 2010, 4:13 pm

Mira wrote:polymath, I like fresh cut flowers.
A digital bouquet of fresh uncut seaside goldenrod for you, Ms. Mira. They aren't in season here yet. End of August they start to bloom, the last blossoms of the season hereabouts. They're one of my favorites for heralding the end of summer's oppressive heat.
grod01.jpg
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 15th, 2010, 6:05 pm

Mr. polymath, how lovely of you! :) Do you live near there? It looks beautiful.



I was very proud, I posted a flower in return, but the picture was HUGE. So instead, for you, a smile: :-)

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

Post by polymath » August 15th, 2010, 6:28 pm

Yeah, I'm a quarter mile from the tidal river in the picture. It meets up with the ocean seven miles away as a sea crow flies.

The morning glory was beautiful, a crossbred wild cultivar of Impomea rubrocoerulea (Heavenly Blue) and longifolia (Pink Throat), unless I miss my guess.

Resampling the picture in an image application to a smaller size than raw out of the camera before uploading worked for me, 500 by 375 pixels.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 15th, 2010, 11:39 pm

Mike Shatzkin just weighed in on this topic:
The ebook, unlike the paper book, advances every month, if not every day. Screens and the reading platforms they run just keep improving: they get cheaper, lighter, more flexible, more capabilities-rich and there are ever more choices of them. Battery life gets longer. They develop the ability to take your notes, keyed in or handwritten. They develop the ability to share your notes or organize your notes automatically. They’ve had built-in dictionaries for a long time (a feature of the very first Kindle nearly three years ago) and now they often offer the ability to get to Wikipedia or a Google search in a click as well...

Indeed, the insistence by some people that they will “never” give up the printed book — which leads to rather ludicrous glorification of the smell of the paper, ink, and glue and the nonsensical objections that the screen would be unsuitable for the beach (depends on the screen) or the bathtub (I can’t even imagine what the presumed advantage of the printed book is there) — must ignore the fundamental dynamic. Print books aren’t getting better. Ebooks are.
http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-printed ... o-oblivion

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

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » August 16th, 2010, 8:40 am

Nathan Bransford wrote:Mike Shatzkin just weighed in on this topic:
The ebook, unlike the paper book, advances every month, if not every day. Screens and the reading platforms they run just keep improving: they get cheaper, lighter, more flexible, more capabilities-rich and there are ever more choices of them. Battery life gets longer. They develop the ability to take your notes, keyed in or handwritten. They develop the ability to share your notes or organize your notes automatically. They’ve had built-in dictionaries for a long time (a feature of the very first Kindle nearly three years ago) and now they often offer the ability to get to Wikipedia or a Google search in a click as well...

Indeed, the insistence by some people that they will “never” give up the printed book — which leads to rather ludicrous glorification of the smell of the paper, ink, and glue and the nonsensical objections that the screen would be unsuitable for the beach (depends on the screen) or the bathtub (I can’t even imagine what the presumed advantage of the printed book is there) — must ignore the fundamental dynamic. Print books aren’t getting better. Ebooks are.
http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-printed ... o-oblivion
I wonder a bit about this. I mean, are e-books getting better than paper books? Or just getting better than earlier (inferior) ebook versions? There are a few new things, as with dictionaries and google searches. But, really, how often do I stop reading to check the dictionary? Never. How often do I want to stop reading (intentionally pulling myself out of the dream vision) and do a google search? Also never. You can argue, legitimately, that these things can enhance the reading experience. But you can also legitimately argue that these distractions interfere with the reading experience. I just wonder how much of this is merely the addition of frills -- great for a few people who will use them, but doesn't really change anything for most people.

I know ebooks are going to keep growing, but I still lean toward a multiple platform landscape in the future. And if paper books fall away, I don't think it will have much to do with the superiority of improving ebooks -- just changing business structures. What's the point of collapse for paper publishing? Ebooks might not have to dominate paper books, but merely take enough sales to cut profit in bookstores. Bookstores start failing... and then the paper book industry will have to evaluate at what point it's not profitable to mass produce paper books without proper sales outlets (or at least enough of them). At that point ebooks might just be more financially convenient for producers.

So I guess I feel ebooks will never dominate paper books in a quality sense. There are benefits to ebooks, but they're fairly nebulous and far from universal (and the benefits are actually negatives, for many readers). If ebooks dominate it will likely be because of the shifting business model. When does the paper book industry hit the wall? 5% loss? 10%? 20%? 50%? And once they hit that wall, will it be a downsizing response... or a dismantling?
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 16th, 2010, 10:38 am

An argument could be construed physical books have gotten worse over time. The earliest durable codices were clay tablets, somewhat permanent when kiln dried, but fragile. Papyrus and rice papers were used for more temporary purposes. Then parchment and vellum came along, animal skins, which were more durable than cotton rag paper. Foolscap as it was known, cotton papers replaced leather. Machine made replaced handmade. Tree pulp paper replaced cotton. Many of the early pulp rag books disintingrated due to high acid content.

Clay tablets weren't very portable and were very bulky to handle. Scolls were more portable, but comparatively difficult to index or access a particular passage. Hand stitch bound books were much more practical and developed into a high art form before machine binding came along. Machine made papers don't lay as flat as handmade papers. Printers and binders must be vigilant to machine made papers' lay and grain, though handmade papers come with their own set of concerns. Perfect bound was introduced. Far from perfect in the early days, perfect bound books tended to come apart. Poorly manufactured perfect bound books still come apart. They've gotten better but are stilll less durable than handmade stitch bound books. But nothing has been lost, some books are still handmade with handmade paper, even leather leaves, hand stitched, and hand printed. Creative anachronisms, sure, valuable to collectors and works of art in their own rights.

The only codex form that's dead is clay tablet scribing, but surving clay tablets are still viewable artifacts and anyone with a wont could recreate the form. I've got digital files on discs I can't access for viewing anymore. And where's the artistic appeal of digital forms? Is something beautiful about literature lost from digitizing the written word? Yes, the very definition of a Progress Trap, something sacrficed for Hypermodernity and convenience's sake, that comes with its own set of issues.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 16th, 2010, 11:16 am

Bryan Russell/Ink wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:Mike Shatzkin just weighed in on this topic:
The ebook, unlike the paper book, advances every month, if not every day. Screens and the reading platforms they run just keep improving: they get cheaper, lighter, more flexible, more capabilities-rich and there are ever more choices of them. Battery life gets longer. They develop the ability to take your notes, keyed in or handwritten. They develop the ability to share your notes or organize your notes automatically. They’ve had built-in dictionaries for a long time (a feature of the very first Kindle nearly three years ago) and now they often offer the ability to get to Wikipedia or a Google search in a click as well...

Indeed, the insistence by some people that they will “never” give up the printed book — which leads to rather ludicrous glorification of the smell of the paper, ink, and glue and the nonsensical objections that the screen would be unsuitable for the beach (depends on the screen) or the bathtub (I can’t even imagine what the presumed advantage of the printed book is there) — must ignore the fundamental dynamic. Print books aren’t getting better. Ebooks are.
http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-printed ... o-oblivion
I wonder a bit about this. I mean, are e-books getting better than paper books? Or just getting better than earlier (inferior) ebook versions? There are a few new things, as with dictionaries and google searches. But, really, how often do I stop reading to check the dictionary? Never. How often do I want to stop reading (intentionally pulling myself out of the dream vision) and do a google search? Also never. You can argue, legitimately, that these things can enhance the reading experience. But you can also legitimately argue that these distractions interfere with the reading experience. I just wonder how much of this is merely the addition of frills -- great for a few people who will use them, but doesn't really change anything for most people.

I know ebooks are going to keep growing, but I still lean toward a multiple platform landscape in the future. And if paper books fall away, I don't think it will have much to do with the superiority of improving ebooks -- just changing business structures. What's the point of collapse for paper publishing? Ebooks might not have to dominate paper books, but merely take enough sales to cut profit in bookstores. Bookstores start failing... and then the paper book industry will have to evaluate at what point it's not profitable to mass produce paper books without proper sales outlets (or at least enough of them). At that point ebooks might just be more financially convenient for producers.

So I guess I feel ebooks will never dominate paper books in a quality sense. There are benefits to ebooks, but they're fairly nebulous and far from universal (and the benefits are actually negatives, for many readers). If ebooks dominate it will likely be because of the shifting business model. When does the paper book industry hit the wall? 5% loss? 10%? 20%? 50%? And once they hit that wall, will it be a downsizing response... or a dismantling?

Just strictly speaking about the dictionary function, I also have never been someone who stops and grabs a dictionary when I don't know a word or the exact meaning of one. But there's a big difference between putting your book down, getting up, going across the room, finding the dictionary, looking up a word vs. just highlighting the word and having a definition appear automatically. It doesn't take you out of the story to look up a word - it's a pretty amazing function.

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