10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

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

Post by djf881 » August 16th, 2010, 12:55 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
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.
Shatzkin counts on technology to erase the deficiencies of e-readers, and he's right, to an extent. Screen contrast will improve; page-turning will improve. And the sentimentality of readers toward books won't protect the format from real progress. But I just don't see real progress coming from e-readers. There's nothing about text that benefits significantly from electronic formats except the ease of distributing it. And I don't think dictionary functionality is compelling the way "shuffle songs" or "on-the-go playlists" are.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 16th, 2010, 1:01 pm

steve wrote:Ebooks will eat the world, but there will be some vomiting.
I can't tell you how tempted I am to make that my signature line. I don't care if it's true or not that e-bookzilla will eat the world. That's a fabulous line.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 16th, 2010, 1:01 pm

polymath - it was a morning glory! Wow, amazing, you know your horticulture. :)

You live in a lovely place. :)

I completely agree with everything that Nathan is saying. And Mike S. I thought it was funny what he said about the bath, because it's true that paper books and water don't mix.

Bryan, I think some of the nostalgia that people for paper, they might actually feel for the content. Well, for me anyway. I love some books on my shelf. They are my dear friends, and they helped me through many difficult times. But I bought one and downloaded it onto my phone, and now I look at my phone with a certain affection. Lol. Maybe that's just me, and I'm sort of weird, but I really do think it's the content and not the form that touches us.

And the possiblities with e-books are amazing. Truly. It's not just dictionaries. It's complete and total access to anything on the web. There are possilbities that we probably can't imagine yet, because we're used to thinking about books as insular. But new art forms, new information connections and new interactivity is about to be created.

It's really exciting. There's been nothing like it.

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

Post by Down the well » August 16th, 2010, 2:24 pm

Nathan, isn't there a part of you that's just dying to get your hands on your final copy of Jacob Wonderbar? I mean literally in your hands, not an electronic, downloaded version that your agent or editor e-mails you. Have you thought about what it's going to feel like the first time you see some ten-year-old reading your book? Of course, you'll never know or have that experience if he's reading it on a Kindle, because there's no outside cover to advertise what he's reading.

I love the gadgetry of the devices. I think they have outstanding potential in some areas (great for text books and reference materials if you want to talk about having to lug books around). But I'm going to start an underground rebel faction to fight this upstart publishing dystopia if they ever try to replace my paper books entirely. You can call me Sarah Connor from now on. ;)


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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » August 16th, 2010, 2:39 pm

I'm not nostalgic for books because I've never left them. :) They're right there, providing everything I need.

Really, I'm not anti-ebook or anything. I'm perfectly fine with ebooks. I do get a bit annoyed with the "ebooks are superior" idea that's touted in some places, where it's intimated that people who prefer paper books are simply delusional, nostalgic and in love with the smell of ink. E-books are better and more convenient -- for some people. But paper books are better and more convenient for others.

Yes, ebooks provide the same content. But you can reverse that and simply say that paper books provide the same content. That is, obviously, the most important thing. So then it's merely a matter of which form is more convenient and effective for each individual. Because it's not going to be the same for everyone. This is why I'm not keen on the remorseless betterment of ebooks philosophy.

I have bad eyesight. This is not unique. It's bad enough that I have to stare at a screen for some things, but reading books? No. I'll never stare at a little screen for reading books unless I have to. (I should mention I don't have a cellphone, and don't want one) And unlimited google... this doesn't help me read. This helps me not read. My life is overly plugged in already, and I don't need more of it. More distractions equals less reading. I mean, iPads are a wonderful device, and are only going to get better. They're perfect for some people. An agent or editor who needs something mobile that can handle manuscripts, books, email, online accesss, etc. Amazing as they are, I would never buy one unless I was rich and had tons of disposable money to waste on toys. I get all those functions with my laptop, and the laptop has a keyboard. Which I need. I'm not typing a novel on that little touchscreen on the iPad. So what's the gain? Distractions in my book, that's what. Very expensive distractions, too.

I know, I know, readers are coming down in price, and people have funky iPhones. But I think people take some of that for granted. Oh, everybody has cellphones with screens, everyone has computers and online access... but no. Really. Maybe it's because I used to own a used book store, but I find this a fairly inaccurate view of the world out there. So many customers didn't have computer access. So many customers read a lot but couldn't afford much. Couple hundred dollars for a reader? Monthly payments for online access? Computers? Expensive cellphone plans? No. For so many readers out there this simply isn't feasible. A hundred dollars, two hundred dollars... it doesn't seem much for the upwardly mobile. But it's a lot to some people, particularly for a reader to read books... when you can buy the paperback and not spend anything.

And "interactivity", in my opinion, is often misunderstood. People usually speak of it as a positive. Interactive! It must be better for you! But, really, the more "interactive" a book becomes, the less active is the reader's response. Reading pure text is actually the most active of tasks, as your brain is doing all the work. It is constantly interpreting, imagining, creating -- the creation of the story is partly in the hands of the reader. The more "interactivity" in a text the more that personal investment is lost. The more that is provided the less we need to do ourselves. The relationship between reader (viewer?) and text (media?) becomes increasingly static, the dream vision increasingly interrupted. We're turning books into TV. Sit back! Grab some chips! We'll do it all for you.

But we already have TV. We already have lots of statically absorbed visual mediums. Why would we need to transform books in such a way? "interactive" books, I think, would be a great cultural loss if they replaced textual ones. Now, I don't think they will. And I do think there will be some interesting works of art that will use interactive media texts to great advantage. In limited use a wonderful niche could be born, a la Graphic Novels. But this idea of coming "interactivity" as a boon, as a positive evolution for books in general, is somewhat faulty thinking, and a little dangerous at that. Graphic novels are wonderful. But we don't want only graphic novels. They're not an enhanced book, an evolved story, better than text versions. They're different. They should be appreciated for what they are. And the same goes for "interactivity".

Convenience, for me, is a personal thing. What's convenient for one person won't be convenient for another. I don't want google in my books. I certainly don't want to be forced to pay hundreds of dollars to get google in my books.

And it's not that google is bad in books. It's just not for everyone.

This is why I lean toward a multi-platform future. There are valid reasons for preferring ebooks over paper. But there are valid reasons for preferring paper over ebooks, too -- well beyond the reductionist nostalgia of the smell of books and the dangers of the bathtub. It would be a shame if my convenience (and preference) were lost merely for the sake of the convenience and preference of others.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 16th, 2010, 3:26 pm

Oh Bryan, there's something about that that's so from your heart - I don't even have the heart to argue it.

But I will add one thing. You make a very good point about how e-books are currently expensive, and only accessible to those who have the interest and disposable income.

I believe that will change over time, especially if e-books come to the fore as the primary method of publishing. Sellers will want to sell, which means that e-books will become very accessible. Whether that means e-readers become dirt cheap, or applications replace e-readers altogether, so you can get it on any computer, or some other solution, or all of it, it won't remain a toy that only some can play with - I believe, anyway.

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

Post by JuiceinLA » August 16th, 2010, 3:51 pm

I sure hope hard paper books don't go the way of the dodo, but it seems like there is a concerned push for it. For me, most telling and worrisome issue is that you really can't replace text on a page. For example, I can edit my memoir on the computer for days on end, working the same 20-40 pages over - but the moment I print those pages out and read them on hard paper- its a whole different perspective, and flow and experience.

I can't imagine this attention deficit culture having patience to read War and Peace on a Kindle. We aren't trained that way, thanks to the interwebs. If book sale are reduced exclusively or primarily to e-reader format, I am also willing to bet the style, length, types of books sold will dramatically change to accommodate/mimic/mirror the style of reading we seek on the web.

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

Post by J. T. SHEA » August 16th, 2010, 4:03 pm

MARGOT wrote:
"J.T. for president. Or God or something. Some position of authority. :)"

God, Margot? AT LEAST! That's what I've been telling everyone for years! At last, someone gets it! Now that leaves just 5,999,999,999 other people to persuade...

Bravo Polymath re Hypermodernity! I'm not old-fashioned but I do think this new-fangled 'fire' stuff should be banned. I mean, people could get BURNED! And it causes pollution!

But I am considering publishing my WIP in smoke signals. Followed by a semaphore edition, and then maybe Morse Code.

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

Post by djf881 » August 16th, 2010, 4:55 pm

Weirdly, Bryan, your bad eyesight makes Kindle a significantly more attractive prospect for you. You can resize text on an e-reader very easily. It doesn't matter to me; I keep it set on the smallest text size to minimize the frequency of the device's slow-ass page-turns. but you might appreciate it, especially since large-print editions of paper books often are not discounted as generously as the main runs.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Margo » August 16th, 2010, 5:25 pm

Mira wrote:and Margo, I'm a Leo, too! :) So, you know what that means? Happy birthday to us both!
Must have missed this post along the way. In that case, happy birthday to MechaMargostreisand and MechaMirastreisand. I'll eat Paris, you stomp Tokyo, and we'll meet for some kind of carnage in New York City. I'm hoping for that really cool sort of Japanese space opera over-the-top music and all the little people running around screaming words that don't match their lip movements.
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by Mira » August 16th, 2010, 6:12 pm

Margo wrote:
Mira wrote:and Margo, I'm a Leo, too! :) So, you know what that means? Happy birthday to us both!
Must have missed this post along the way. In that case, happy birthday to MechaMargostreisand and MechaMirastreisand. I'll eat Paris, you stomp Tokyo, and we'll meet for some kind of carnage in New York City. I'm hoping for that really cool sort of Japanese space opera over-the-top music and all the little people running around screaming words that don't match their lip movements.
Oh. I was just going to go see Wicked for my birthday.

But that sounds fun, too.

But I'm not sure I want Tokyo. I feel more like Greek food. Mind if I take Athens, instead?

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

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 16th, 2010, 9:30 pm

djf881 wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
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.
Shatzkin counts on technology to erase the deficiencies of e-readers, and he's right, to an extent. Screen contrast will improve; page-turning will improve. And the sentimentality of readers toward books won't protect the format from real progress. But I just don't see real progress coming from e-readers. There's nothing about text that benefits significantly from electronic formats except the ease of distributing it. And I don't think dictionary functionality is compelling the way "shuffle songs" or "on-the-go playlists" are.
I mean, saying that there are no benefits besides the ease of distribution is kind of like saying CDs or records are the same as mp3s because it's still the same music. The ease of distribution and storage are pretty much the entire benefit of mp3s, and it's why they've taken over the world. Purists will tell you that mp3s aren't even the same level of sound quality, but people don't care because of the ease of distribution.

Even if you're speaking strictly of what's on the page and are comparing a black and white book to a black and white e-book, that ease of distribution and storage is a massive advantage. It's the difference between a trip to a bookstore or a three day wait for a book and carrying around the weight of one or more books vs. having it all on a small compact device.

And that's before you get to the additional benefits of e-books, such as the instant dictionary function, the design and color that will be readily possible on iPad-like devices, etc. etc.

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

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 16th, 2010, 9:37 pm

Down the well wrote:Nathan, isn't there a part of you that's just dying to get your hands on your final copy of Jacob Wonderbar? I mean literally in your hands, not an electronic, downloaded version that your agent or editor e-mails you. Have you thought about what it's going to feel like the first time you see some ten-year-old reading your book? Of course, you'll never know or have that experience if he's reading it on a Kindle, because there's no outside cover to advertise what he's reading.

I love the gadgetry of the devices. I think they have outstanding potential in some areas (great for text books and reference materials if you want to talk about having to lug books around). But I'm going to start an underground rebel faction to fight this upstart publishing dystopia if they ever try to replace my paper books entirely. You can call me Sarah Connor from now on. ;)
I don't know honestly. I will probably like seeing the paper book as much as the next author, but I also really enjoy scrolling through my book collection on my iPad and dipping in and out.

I really do think there are things that are great about both books and e-books, but I think what has made us nostalgic about the paper and the smell is the fact that we were holding paper and glue while we were reading our favorite books, not because paper and glue possess magical properties. So if kids today read their favorite books on Kindles or iPads or what have you, they'll be nostalgic about those devices, just as I'm nostalgic about the original Nintendo and playing Oregon Trail on the old Apple II.

I'm not ditching my favorite paper books (and I think accordingly we'll always have bookstores), but I also have been reading e-books long enough to know that at least for me, it's the words, not the device, that makes the magic.

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

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » August 16th, 2010, 11:02 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
Down the well wrote:Nathan, isn't there a part of you that's just dying to get your hands on your final copy of Jacob Wonderbar? I mean literally in your hands, not an electronic, downloaded version that your agent or editor e-mails you. Have you thought about what it's going to feel like the first time you see some ten-year-old reading your book? Of course, you'll never know or have that experience if he's reading it on a Kindle, because there's no outside cover to advertise what he's reading.

I love the gadgetry of the devices. I think they have outstanding potential in some areas (great for text books and reference materials if you want to talk about having to lug books around). But I'm going to start an underground rebel faction to fight this upstart publishing dystopia if they ever try to replace my paper books entirely. You can call me Sarah Connor from now on. ;)
I don't know honestly. I will probably like seeing the paper book as much as the next author, but I also really enjoy scrolling through my book collection on my iPad and dipping in and out.

I really do think there are things that are great about both books and e-books, but I think what has made us nostalgic about the paper and the smell is the fact that we were holding paper and glue while we were reading our favorite books, not because paper and glue possess magical properties. So if kids today read their favorite books on Kindles or iPads or what have you, they'll be nostalgic about those devices, just as I'm nostalgic about the original Nintendo and playing Oregon Trail on the old Apple II.

I'm not ditching my favorite paper books (and I think accordingly we'll always have bookstores), but I also have been reading e-books long enough to know that at least for me, it's the words, not the device, that makes the magic.
I agree with this. I think nostalgia goes only so far, and the next generation is always nostalgic for different things than the previous. Nostalgia, by itself, will only do so much for paper books as it's done for vinyl records.

I think my concern is just with utility. There is increased utility in ebooks - but only for some readers. I don't think it's universal. I mean, certainly the saving in storage space is valuable for some readers. But lots of people don't save books -- they give them away, sell them, or trade them in at a used bookstore for something new to read. For these people ebooks are a loss, not a gain. And on the flipside, a lot of people love saving books. Filling a house with books is a positive thing. *cough cough no one look at me now cough cough*

And getting books quick via download... I suppose is convenient. But when have I ever been without a book? Never, really. I mean, theoretically it seems a great improvement that everyone touts -- finishing one book and being able to order another right away to fill the bookless void. The problem is that I've never encountered the problem that apparently needs fixing. I finish one book, I pick up another. How is picking a book off my shelf less convenient than ordering one on my Kindle or something? I'm pretty sure it takes even less time. Don't even have to push any buttons! Again, I think this comes down more to taste and what people find personally convenient - and that personal convenience will vary a lot from person to person.

If these things (storage, bookless voids) are a problem for some people, then an ereader might be the way to go. That will suit their lifestyle; it will be convenient for them. But these things aren't problems for me, or many other readers. I can't fathom spending a couple hundred dollars to fix a problem I don't have.

I think there's a lot of people who find paper books more convenient, and they aren't likely to switch unless they have to. Which may happen, of course, personal convenience be damned. (I'll surive, don't worry - as long as I can read good books I'll be fairly happy. Even if the books glow in the dark)
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Re: 10 reasons e-books might not eat the world

Post by polymath » August 17th, 2010, 12:25 am

So using mp3s taking over the world as an example, according to a recent survey, one in five U.S persons twelve and older owns a portable mp3 player. That to me isn't taking over the world. Their nature might mean they've taken over the commercial audio player growth sector in recent times, but that's all I see. I don't even own an mp3 nor will I because I don't need to. I have a WMA digital audio recorder-player/memory stick that's compatible with all my hardware and software, including my portable boom box (loud speaker, AM FM radio, cassette, CD, DVD player/recorder) and my other audio peripherals.

But mp3s taking over the world goes to my several concerns about e-readers. One, being dictated to by industry, by an outspokenly vocal subcultural block, or by anyone how to live goes against the very core of my being. Majority Rules democracy dictating liberties and prohibitions for all is a central theme of Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451, censorship of culture by the tyrrany of a minority presuming to speak for a majority's interests without regard to special interests' needs and values. Dangerous precedents proceed from such thinking, as history has shown time and again. Slavery, gender and religious and ethnic oppression, genocide to name a few.

Two, in my experience I've seen portable AM radios "take over the world," solid state electronics, transistor electronics, FM radios, cassette players of all kinds, quadrophonic entertainment centers, boom boxes, CDs, DVDs, and lately portable digital sound devices "take over the world." I appreciate the evolution of convenience for commercial exploitation's sake. But I balk at early adaptation because I've been burned so many times. Much bitten, forever shy.

I have a power tool used for joining sheet material, like plywood. The thing came with a supply of bisquits for inserting in slots the tool cuts. I could buy refills at local hardware stores or online from the manufacturer. Barely a year later without warning the manufacturer discontinued making bisquit refills. An expensive tool that no longer served its sole purpose, I was miffed, to say the least. I bought up what I could lay my hands on, but ran out soon thereafter. I'm handy and self-reliant. I developed methods and made tools to make my own bisquits, a tediously exacting chore. Though I must admit, I found useful help from fellow craftspersons online for how to do it. I make and sell and gift paper safes and other miniature countertop cabinets out of 1/4" plywood and veneers using that tool. No other will do.

Three, mp3 players, e-readers, digital HD wide and flat screen TV's, GPS devices, cell phones, and data modems notwithstanding, industry continues to be driven by preplanned obsolesence and instant gratification of the masses. The best things in life are the hardwon joys and rewards. I first learned that lesson on a defective pinball machine that would give limitless replays for one dime deposited. Mass consumption of material comforts beyond basic needs provides geometrically diminishing comforts.

Last but not least, I don't take anyone's opinion with a vested interest at face value, including early adapters pushing me to join the bandwagon for whatever many knowable reasons they have, like income potential, continuity of product support, brand loyalty, groupthink, etc. I've been burned, too, by the bandwagon or following its parade. I march to my own beat, thank you.
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