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"I suspect that most people will not give e-books a try until the reading devices are inexpensive enough to qualify as impulse purchases."

This is the same thing I've thought for sometime, that ebooks may catch on more rapidly when a less expensive reader is available, and they likely won't until then.

I also agree there's a creativity slump. Publishing has become much more business oriented than a century ago, when it was considered a sort of gentleman's business, and though making profit was an important key, it wasn't the single driving force behind publishing. Creativity is now an afterthought. No one is willing to take a chance. There was a time when people were more likely to go into a business because they loved doing and excelling at that business, and not just to get rich.

All that has affected the quality of available books drastically. When I was a teenager it was difficult for me to find a novel in my favorite genres that I didn't want to read. Now it's just the opposite. I don't think I've become all that much more discriminating.

I have to agree with Barbara. With ebook readers running in the three-to-four hundred dollar range, the current market will be limited to relatively affluent book junkies or gadget geeks. The prices will fall in time, but there's also issues with proprietary file formats that will need to be overcome.

Print-on-Demand may offer a better solution for a creative infusion in the publishing industry. The problem there has more to do with marketing as I see it, though I seem to recall that several P-O-D operations do include listings on Amazon. And the Internet itself creates the potential for various marketing approaches that could go viral. Still, the marketing reach of the publishing houses remains formidable. I wouldn't be surprised to see more and more new authors break into publishing by using P-O-D as a first step, with modest success at that stage leading to an eventual contract with a traditional publisher.

I often speculate about what the future may look like. Borders' struggles indicate that the brick and mortar bookstore may go the way of the old General Store. It's a shame, really. Browsing through stacks of books in a real store has it all on Amazon or Alibris, but I have to admit the convenience of the web is a time saver.

Michael, do you have any of your books on an e-book format?
After hitting my head against a brick wall for two years trying to get my book published I went P-O-D. It is a foot in the door, but it does come down to you buy the books from them and then try to sell them. I've found that everyone you know expects you to give them the book instead of buying it.
Thanks for explaining the Kindle vs e-Sony, one question, do these formats come up on computers instead of a reader?
At Southwest Writer's Workshop we've had numerous children's writers and former editors talk about the problem that none of the middle grade publishers will accept a book written for boys, it has to be only for girls. Then they wonder why boys have stopped reading.

>Michael, do you have any of your books on an e-book format?

The Shadow Hunter is still available as an e-book at the Sony store. It used to be sold in MS Reader format, too, but apparently isn't anymore.

>one question, do these formats come up on computers instead of a reader?

Sony books can be read directly on your computer using Sony's ebook software, which can be downloaded without buying the reader device. I don't know about Kindle, which is designed to work completely independently of your PC (though it can be connected via USB if desired).

I've been reading free e-books for many many years, ever since pocket pc's and palm pilots came out. I've saved thousands of dollars. You can get free e-books here:

general topics:
http://www.gutenberg.org

afterlife:
http://survivalebooks.org/
http://www.spiritwritings.com/library.html

science fiction:
http://www.baen.com/library/

If you look around on the internet you can find lots more.

I was interested in the free e-books sites -thanks! That's the thing - money, as you've all indicated. I agree with Michael H that browsing through a bookshop is one of life's more pleasant experiences, but unfortunately the small ones rarely stock enough for my esoteric tastes, and the big ones are a long way from where I live. I can understand why Michael P says the bookshops in the US are closing down and merging. It's happening in the UK too.

Unless these e-readers are really neat and really cheap, when you want a really good read, it will surely be snuggled up with a nice well-bound book. Even Jean Luc Picard did that on the Enterprise. And I dream of having a proper Library [sigh] -a whole room full of books! Light will enter by French Doors. Outside will be a grassy slope leading down to a tranquil lake or a mysterious forest. Make it so! I bet Michael P has...well, in his books, anyway!

I tried the dedicated e-book readers several years ago. At that time they were too heavy to comfortably read in bed. That's the nice thing about the pocket pc's and palm pilots they are not very heavy.

What a lovely dream Ross, what would life be like without dreams and hope?

To make them real is a different story, isn't it. You need to be proactive, setting goals and making steps towards them, otherwise, they just stay as nice "daydreams" to escape into from our reality and years can go by and nothing's changed much.

I don't know about anyone else here but I feel somewhat guilty downloading free "stuff" from artists, whether its music or books, I can't help but think of the blood, sweat and tears that went into those creations, the 1000s of hours, sleepless nights, the stress and the sacrifices (less time for family, a social life etc) to serve the world and bring it pleasure and joy, an escape from one's own existance.

Could you imagine your bosses wanting you to work for free or next to nothing? and yet a huge amout of people don't even think twice when they go buy a second hand book for 50c at amazon or burn copies of friends music.

I myself buy new as I want the artist/author to get paid what's rightfully there's. Its bad enough they have to face the fact that after all their efforts they may not even get published or a record deal and when they do there's no guarantee they are going to make a decent return. Its the minority that make it huge and make the mega $$$, the rest have to hold part-time jobs to put food on the table and have no life.

So next time you buy something from an artist or author, walk past those Dan Browns, JK Rowlings and those in the league, after all they've got more than enough and buy something from an unknown or a struggling artist/writer.


Hope says: "buy something from an unknown or a struggling artist/writer."

Yes! I'll look out for Michael Prescott books (but not e-books)!

Ross I don't think you can get the E Book I checked out the Sony store and its only for Americans.

Regardless I am like you, I prefer books. My dream at the moment is to have a private sanctuary (my bedroom) large enough to have its own living area with library, entertainment area, sofa etc bed overlooking a pool and waterfall and a luxury bathroom with a spa overlooking the room, as you see in those honeymoon suites in 5 star hotels.

About this time next year I'll be probably moving in ;-)

Library wont be a full one like in your dream Ross, more like a built in area thats fully functional.

Big library is down the track :-)

Give me a reader with the look, feel, and weight of a pocket book and I'm in.

Don't know if anyone has seen this case yet

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23775873/

Hope: "fully functional".
Is that in the sense Data says he is 'fully functional' to the Borg Queen?

This Library -do we dream for it or work for it? New Agers say Dream it up!

Ross, starts of as a dream and yes you work obviously but also faith takes you further than just work alone.

Things can just happen too, out of the blue!! a bit like being navigated towards your dreams.

Anyway that's hows its been in my life, I can see stuff happening almost divinely before it occurs and I live in an expectant hope knowing its already manifested in the spirit realm and with that assurance I let it go and then suddenly it occurs...

In the meantime you are working and using your wisdom, making your money work for you etc and planning while keeping that dream vividly strong in your mind.

I guess the next step is to start letting loose and dreaming bigger and better dreams. Mine have been pretty humble really considering I could dream for anything.

Hope: "making your money work for you"
Hmmm - the money is not there to be worked with! Need to dream of finding some!

I'll look for some free e-books on the subject..! My Mum used to like "Think and Grow Rich". She still thinks like a businesswoman at 77!

Hope: "fully functional".
Is that in the sense Data says he is 'fully functional' to the Borg Queen?

Is this where I start reading tea leaves Ross?

So the built in is data? data the robot who is now sexually charged toward the queen......

Thats one hell of a entertainment unit!! ;-)

Don't dream of finding it, go get a job it's a quicker start, that you can build on!

There's a review of the book by David Fontana is there an afterlife?

http://www.accampbell.uklinux.net/bookreviews/r/fontana.html

Apparently the reviewer believes that the evidence from neuroscience strongly supports the view of extinction he said it's not the final answer he believes. He seems to have no knowledge about the transmission theory if he did then he would realize the evidence of dependency of the mind on the brain can be explained that way too and if psi exists which it appears he never heard of either would show that the mind probably survives death. http://www.accampbell.uklinux.net/bookreviews/r/fontana.html

In all fairness Leo, having read that review he doesn't actually dismiss the evidence out of hand. Although there is this comment:

"Nevertheless, it is certain that few scientifically minded or sceptical people will read his book, let alone accept his claims, since for such an audience the matter is already decided in advance: survival is plainly impossible, no matter what evidence anyone adduces"

His conclusion is one of 'puzzlement'.

Leo, I don't think you're doing yourself any favours by searching the web for everything the skeptics say. And I say that for your best interests, not for any offence at all.

I know it can be frustrating. I still have those moments from time to time but you have to find other ways of dealing with it.

Look at Art, Will, Michael P, Michael H, Hope- I hope they won't mind my saying but they find contentment in trusting their own judgment.

Why not try taking a break from those internet searches? Think about what you believe to be so. Take long walks, have a laugh with friends and family.

Just remember: science answers how, not why? When it comes to the second question, everyone is an amateur whether your name is Martin Luther King, Richard Dawkins, Dean Radin or James Randi.

Wow, way to go off post.

I will say though that e-books is like digital filmmaking. It puts creative power back in the hands of the people.

>I will say though that e-books is like digital filmmaking. It puts creative power back in the hands of the people.

That's exactly what I'm hoping for - very well put!


Michael the mind boggles! The possibilities are endless, just add music to it also and your transported into other worlds.

It has unlimited possibilities in the future. You may end up finding that publishing becomes a thing of the past and authors become their own publishers using internet search engines, networking on other sites, lots of various blogs on material associated with their genre or interests all cleverly networked to the source. Sites catering to a mulittude of foreign languages, reaching further afield, e books translations, it goes on and on.

Having one's own E Book store and supporting other writers also. It could be endless but this is where you'd need administration staff, as its a pretty huge load for one person, especially keeping on top of all the blogs and responses to mail etc.

Now thats taking things into one's hands!
:-)

I apologise in advance for the length of this comment. I will try and be more concise in the future. :-)

@The Major

You spoiled your insights by saying 'Wow' about your own thoughts. :-D

Just to be clear, that was a joke. I think your advice to Leo is sound. Although one has to be very careful giving advice in this matter, as it as an area where people's feelings are very delicate.

== e-books ==
I was speaking to a friend about this the other other day. My view is that books are one of the few areas left where the clutter they produce is a fair compromise. With music it makes no real aesthetic difference whether you have all your music on one small digital device or have a million CDs that you are constantly tripping over.

With books, as with writing - nothing replaces the tactile and aesthetic experience of doing it the old fashioned way. Even though the technology offers immense advantages (delete, copy, paste, refactoring, etc.) -- the feel of the process is just different. I wouldn't say we should avoid technology completely, just that we're missing out if we don't do it the old way, too - and learn to integrate both approaches.

For an e-reader to be really useful, it would need Firefox type tabs, notes functionality, a dictionary, etc. Because when one is researching or even just relaxing, there can be a lot of switching between texts, annotation, and looking up of definitions.

== empowering writers ==

Regarding the empowering of writers. It would be a good idea for all writers to offer their work via both their own website and e-book stores. This way we can always 'tip' a writer directly, even if we've bought their dead-tree book already. :-) This also has the advantage that you can read the paper books, but use the e-books to extract quotations and for advanced search purposes.

>It would be a good idea for all writers to offer their work via both their own website and e-book stores.

Maybe someday ... but as it stands, publishers would object to an author who puts out an e-book in competition with the print edition they're promoting.

Michael what about the out of print books? Dont you have some under a previous name also? Resurrect the dead and make another income stream directly to yourself:-)

> Maybe someday ... but as it stands, publishers would object to an author who puts out an e-book in competition with the print edition they're promoting.

Hmmm. I never thought of that. But I thought writers ultimately did have control over their work?

Anyhow, how long is a book actually promoted for? A year, at the most? After that the writer could make sure his/her works are still circulating the best way he/she can.

A super best selling author (or his/her publisher) needn't worry either way. But for a lot of writers, after the initial run, their books run the risk of falling into obscurity.

My agent is planning to market my out-of-print books to an e-book/POD publisher in the near future, so I've got this base covered.

The main problem with e-books now is that there is no universal format allowing a given book to be read on any device, while still preserving its copyright.

Ross look into the Da Vinci Code, this is what I got.

"Theived Icon Cad"
"Hectic Video Dan"
"Naive, Odd Hectic"
"Convicted Die! Ha"
"Addictive Con, eh?"
"Deviant chic ode"
"Ho, dive accident"
"Coin Cad Theived"
"Eh Convict the dead"
"Divide Can't Echo"
"Thin Code Advice"
"He Addictive Con"
"Ha I convict dead"

The bizarre thing is there appears to be some weird theme :-)

Just to clarify I typed in only the book title "The Da Vinci Code"

Hope -"Addictive con, eh?" must be the best!
Have you got a decent one for William Shakespeare yet?

Does anyone here get e-magazines through Zinio? They use a pdf format that works well. I imagine e-books might end up this way.

Writers require readers as appreciative partners for their creativity. With the dumbing down of education becoming so widespread I am pessimistic about the future of book publishing. Comics books may be the future of publishing.

> The main problem with e-books now is that there is no universal format

I'm a big believer in open standards. I really don't agree with propriety solutions that lock people in.

It serves the author best, too -- to use an open standard as their works can be read by anyone, even many years later.

PDF is probably the best option as it is an ISO standard. Project Gutenberg --last time I checked--uses simple plain text.

>...to be read on any device, while still preserving its copyright.

File format had no bearing on copyright or licensing. You can retain your copyright even with a plain text file.

> The main problem with e-books now is that there is no universal format

I'm a big believer in open standards. I really don't agree with propriety solutions that lock people in.

It serves the author best, too -- to use an open standard as their works can be read by anyone, even many years later.

PDF is probably the best option as it is an ISO standard. Project Gutenberg --last time I checked--uses simple plain text.

>...to be read on any device, while still preserving its copyright.

File format had no bearing on copyright or licensing. You can retain your copyright even with a plain text file.

Sorry for the double post. :-(

@ Mark L
Probably the most pessimistic and misanthropic comment I have ever read:

Comics books may be the future of publishing.

Funny though. :-)

Comics books may be the future of publishing.

I learned to read with comic books. Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider Man, X-Men, Thor, Daredevil, Captain America. The old saying that I was a millionaire, then my Mother threw all my comics away. I have no problem with the graphic novel or comic format as people are still reading. Classic's Illustrated helped many of my generation to appreciate great works of fiction, wish they were still affordable.

>File format had no bearing on copyright or licensing. You can retain your copyright even with a plain text file.

I mean one has to able to protect one's copyright by preventing people from making an unlimited number of free copies of the book ... as can be done with plain text files.

There ought to be a single format readable by all e-book devices that allows for DRM. And someday, there will be - once the initial shakedown period is over.

@ MP

>I mean one has to able to protect one's copyright [via DRM] by preventing people from making an unlimited number of free copies.

I wondered if you meant something along those lines. This is a debate you might not want to get into, MP. If so, that's fine...

I don't agree with DRM. But I'm sensitive to the fact that it is a balancing act trying to make sure both the readers' and the authors' rights and freedoms are given due respect. And I realize it is important for a writer to make a living and not have his/her work stolen or pirated.

But I don't think DRM is the best solution. For a start, it imposes restrictions on honest customers. I don't want to be told that I must use X software to read a book, or that I can't have a few copies as back ups or for convenience.

When friends swap books (not that I do), it is all part of the ecosystem; people learn what they like and buy more.

From an author's perspective, I really believe that this new, less restrictive paradigm (brought about by open source software and the GPL license) can be made to work. On some of the Free Software forums I frequent, people often ask where they can send money; often the authors decline the offer (a luxury, I'm sure).

An author may gain 20,000 DRM sales at $7.00, or maybe they could spread their work to 500,000 people globally -- and 5% of those people will become future customers or go to the author's website and tip him or buy some other works.

But I realise this is quite a tricky issue...

I believe that e-Book readers have the potential to ultimately disintermediate the print-publishing industry. The initial adopters, as in the music biz, would be best-selling authors who no longer need the credibility and packaging that publishers provide. Later on, lower-ranking authors, and even beginners, could make it on their own, I think.

To do this would require that Amazon set up an infrastructure that would allow readers to find guidance to books they'd like to read. This could be done by the same sort of features Amazon already has: reader reviews, forums for discussion of individual books (beyond one-shot reviews), recommendations based on "readers who bought the book you just bought also bought ...", and maybe a setup where there'd be quasi official volunteer boards of reviewers of new self-published items, plus "hot lists" of high-rated recent self-published authors, plus free access to chapter 1 (already done), plus maybe (for self-published authors only--and maybe only for those who agree to this proviso--the right to demand a refund for a disappointing book. (Come to think of it, Amazon already allows readers to ask for a refund within seven days. Try doing that with a hard-copy book.) Plus maybe allowing users to turn off access to such authors if they only want to see stuff with a mainstream imprimatur.

But Boing Boing Moderator Theresa Nielson Hayden, in post 74 (90% through the thread), a veteran of the publishing industry, offers several reasons why she thinks this won't happen. Mainly that readers need a mainstream packaging and imprimatur, because it's too tedious otherwise for them to find out if a book is likely to be right for them or not. I think the reasons I mention above rebut her contention, but I haven't posted them, because I have so little familiarity with the publishing biz that I'd be unable to hold up my end of a debate with her, if she responded.

Therefore, I'd rather you took her on, if you disagree. Here's the link to the thread:

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/11/20/amazon-kindle-the-we.html

(Sorry I haven't used the technique to make the link clickable, but it's too arcane to remember.)

I particularly disagree with another statement of hers:

"6. If that were going to happen, it would have done so already. ... We're not looking forward to the day when "anyone can publish a book." That day arrived years ago. Since then, self-published authors have been discovering the limitations of the form. What they've found is that anyone can be an author, and in theory any reader can order their books. Trouble is, the readers don't do it."

But the failure of Print-on-demand publishing to fulfill the predictions made for it by its champions logically nothing about the prospects for e-Books, which are (potentially) cheaper and certainly easier to acquire and store and carry around.

And the failure so far for e-Books to catch on is hardly as definitive as she makes out. Readers may be waiting for someone to "put all the pieces together": e-ink, plus low-priced books, plus a credible vendor, plus a large catalog of books, plus a convenient shopping method, plus a device with software that allows annotations, searching, has a dictionary, etc. The Kindle is almost there, and has the potential to really "put it all together" in its second or third iteration of its gadget.

She also made another (very) dubious assertion that I lack the expertise to challenge (in post 24 in the thread): “Believe me, this DRM schema is Amazon's, not the publishers'.”

In a different BB thread she made this objectionable statement:

“I think dedicated ebook readers are a dead end too. My reason for thinking so is that I've seen other dedicated technologies eaten up when more flexible and generally useful devices developed software and user interfaces that duplicated their capabilities.”

But that’s silly, because e-ink is a Must for an e-book reader, and it is incompatible with the needs of other portable devices like her Blackberry. Further, another Must is access to a trusted vendor who has a sophisticated book ordering system, a large book catalog, a close relationship with publishers, and the potential to build sales to a high enough level to give it leverage and rationale to make publishers reduce their e-book pricing. The iPhone, Blackberry, etc. won’t cut it.

(Also, I note that she is here using a “just you wait” line of reasoning that she scorned when e-book advocates made use of it.)

Ryan wrote:

"But I don't think DRM is the best solution. For a start, it imposes restrictions on honest customers. I don't want to be told that I must use X software to read a book, or that I can't have a few copies as back ups or for convenience."

The restrictions on a book aren't as onerous as on music, because a book won't be repeatedly played, and so there's less need to move it around on a variety of devices.

Maybe you "don't want to be told"--and maybe enough other readers will agree with you that publishers will be forced to concede. But I don't think so. I think most readers will accept DRM from Amazon. I think it will in five years become the de facto standard DRM, and drive other DRM competitors like Sony out of the game.

"I can't have a few copies as back ups or for convenience." But Amazon maintains backup copies of all your purchased items on its site--you can download them at any time. As for convenience, Amazon has a buddy system whereby a buyer can designate up to five other Kindle owners as buddies and share books with them.

"From an author's perspective, I really believe that this new, less restrictive paradigm (brought about by open source software and the GPL license) can be made to work. On some of the Free Software forums I frequent, people often ask where they can send money;..."

Let a hundred flowers bloom. If your method works best for authors, they will ask Amazon to forgo DRM on their items and instead sell them "naked."

(From a PR perspective, allowing "naked" sales on its site would be a shrewd move for Amazon. And of course it would be the Right Thing To Do. So I hope they do it, and then the best system will win.)

I don't have enough faith in human nature to think that people will voluntarily pay for books they can get for free. Oh, sure, a few people will pay. But most, I suspect, will take the freebies and "forget" to compensate the author.

This reminds me of the Objectivist argument that all taxes should be voluntary. People would pay their taxes without coercion, so the story goes, because they recognize their obligation to maintain law and order. Trouble is, most people figure they can count on "someone else" to do the paying.

One thing that might help speed books into the digital age is a revision of the copyright law, which allows a copyright to last for something like a hundred years. Patents don't last nearly that long. There is a difference between patents and copyrights, of course, but I still think a shorter time frame - maybe twenty years? - would be more appropriate. Most books go out of print within two or three years anyway.

It's a tough call, though. J.R.R. Tolkien's books didn't catch on until two decades or more after he wrote them. If his copyright had expired, he would have been out of luck. So a case can be made for the existing system, but I think in an age when "information wants to be free," some kind of compromise will be required.

Regarding the argument against e-books and POD, I think it is way too early to know how it will shake out. I'm reminded of the computer company CEO who famously said that home computers would never catch on, because no one needed a computer in their home. This was back in the 1980s. His company is out of business now.

Publishing industry insiders are often skeptical of unconventional publishing schemes because they know how much dreck is out there. A lot of books go unpublished for a reason - they suck. I mean, they suck even worse than some of the stuff that gets into print, which is saying something. And it's true that readers don't want to wade through a slush pile of garbage in the hope of finding one good, undiscovered author. But there are ways to address this problem. Roger Knights has outlined an approach that would probably work.

Anyway, something's gotta give. The system is increasingly broken. I can hardly even find paperback books on display in drugstores and supermarkets these days. Borders Books is in financial trouble. Publishers are shelling out millions for celebrity authors but shortchanging everyone else - and many of the celebrity books bomb. It's time for a new paradigm.

I agree that authors would lose, rather than win, without DRMs. But those who disagree should be allowed to compete on an even playing field--i.e., sell through Amazon. (That'll take the wind out of their sails when their method doesn't work as hoped-for.)

One minor revision to copyright that would help would be a term-renewal fee. Every four years (say), copyright owners would have to pony up $150 (say) to renew it for another four years. Authors with lots of faith in their prospects could keep themselves in the game thereby.

MP: What do you think of Hayden's claim that Amazon was the one who insisted on DRM. I agree it's in Amazon's interest for there to be DRM, but I am incredulous that she thinks that publishers would be willing to offer their books without it. I thought it was well known that publishers were paranoid about the prospect of a Napster for books, and that there had been several well-known warnings by their gurus about digitization's threat to them.

Amazon allows unknowns to post their books and booklets and essays for sale for as low as a quarter. You know who might benefit most from this? Cartoonists! I think artists like Carol Lay, Peter Bagge, and others in the Fantagraphics bunch are the underground talent of this era, not rock music, which turned into mere show biz decades ago. And yet there's no money in cutting-edge cartooning, unlike in rock.

But now, if cartoonists offered their work for a low price (say 50 cents for 20 panels worth), lots of people might buy them. (Each panel would occupy one Kindle screen.) And Amazon would get some good PR if it proactively made this happen by establishing a cartoonists' corral (a subsection of its site) and publicized cartoon-availability to Kindle buyers. It's worth a try.

>What do you think of Hayden's claim that Amazon was the one who insisted on DRM.

Makes zero sense to me. No way publishers (or authors, for the most part) would allow their work to be digitized and downloaded without DRM. As you say, the industry is scared of the publishing equivalent of Napster, and for good reason.

(I haven't read her actual comments. Maybe she was saying, or meant to say, that Amazon insisted on a certain kind of DRM ...?)

The cartoon idea is a good one. I'm not real big on cartoons myself, but lots of people are. There could be money in this. Maybe you should be working for Amazon!

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