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The new low price ($189) for the Kindle, and the improved Kindle 3 (shipping at the end of the month) will add lots more e-book buyers and accelerate this trend.

This may be my ignorance but having looked at an iPad it looks to me like a good alternative to the Kindle type gadgets. Other than cost, if there any reason why it wouldn't be?

I own an iPad. It certainly can be used as an alternative to the Kindle and similar devices. There are pluses and minuses to it.

Plus: Color screen, many functions besides e-reader, free Kindle app allows you to read Kindle books, easy setup, lots of memory, excellent as a video player (streaming video), etc.

Minus: Much more expensive than a Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc.; backlit display may be hard on some readers' eyes (though not mine); display gets washed out in bright sunlight; device is heavier and slightly more awkward to hold than Kindle or equivalent.

I have the iPad and a Sony Reader. I like both. The Sony feels more low-tech with its grayish screen and minimal functionality. But if you want to lie down and read a book for an hour or two, the Sony is easier to hold and manipulate.

Overall, I'd say the iPad is a good alternative to dedicated e-readers, if you're willing to pay the higher price, and if you don't mind the backlit screen and slightly greater weight.

"The new low price ($189) for the Kindle"

There's an even cheaper Kindle, though it comes with WiFi only, not 3G. I think it's $139.

By Christmas I'm betting they will be down around $99 for the low-end model.

Four other advantages of the Kindle:

Month-long battery life (30x greater than the iPad).

Greater portability (the new Kindle is narrow enough to fit into the pocket of a suit).

Lesser likelihood of being stolen or damaged on the road and in the field.

Free cell-phone access to the Amazon store (the iPad charges for cell-phone access).

"By Christmas I'm betting they will be down around $99 for the low-end model."

It's a bet. (Two Nyah-Nyahs OK with you?) Amazon is selling it for just over cost now, I think. The e-ink display is expensive. If Amazon sells them by the million at the current price, and has its backside covered with its iPad app, I think they'll hold the line on the price. They won't be under competitive or strategic pressure. I think the improvements they've made in the K3 will spur lots more sales, and that additional improvements would be their best competitive response. (The big one being a three-line LCD screen whose instant responsiveness would make it practical for users to create documents and e-mails.)

============
I think that mass market paperbacks aren't primarily suffering from competition from e-books, but from the Internet as a whole, the same way other traditional media is suffering (TV, magazines, newspapers).

PS: Mass market paperback sales are also probably being hurt by sales of equally cheap used books over Amazon.

PPS: It's not just the Internet that's competing with paperbacks for users' leisure time, it's "texting" and game-playing and app-involvement over smartphones.

PPPS: "The big one [desirable Kindle improvement] being a three-line LCD screen whose instant responsiveness would make it practical for users to create documents and e-mails."

This feature (e-mailing on a physical keyboard) is what makes millions say, "I love my Blackberry." It's crazy for Bezos to think that non-e-book features would be mere bells-and-whistles encumbrances to his gadget, and that the core function is all that counts. What's the core function of the iPad? It has none--and yet that's the key to its popularity! The same with the Blackberry: its core function is that of a phone, but the supplement of texting is what makes it so attractive.

"It's a bet."

Well ... maybe not *this* Christmas. That could be too optimistic.

But by next Christmas, i.e., December of 2011, I definitely expect the price for the cheapest model to be at or below $100.

And the devices are getting smaller, lighter, sleeker, and more user-friendly all the time.

"It's not just the Internet that's competing with paperbacks for users' leisure time, it's 'texting' and game-playing and app-involvement over smartphones."

True. There is a plethora of entertainment/information options nowadays. Publishing increasingly looks like a relic from the horse-and-buggy age.

PPPPS: Bezos has already got a large physical keyboard on his device. That's something lacking on the iPad and the Nook. It takes space and adds cost. He should be thinking of ways to get more mileage out of his feature, or, to put it another way, to turn a lemon into lemonade. Given that he's already more than halfway to having a top-flight texting gadget, why not go whole hog?

RK: "It's a bet."
MP: "Well ... maybe not *this* Christmas. That could be too optimistic.
I'll allow myself one of those Nyahs now.
MP: "But by next Christmas, i.e., December of 2011, I definitely expect the price for the cheapest model to be at or below $100."
RK: Possibly from a desperate competitor, but not from Amazon, I don't think. A cut from $139 to $109 would be very substantial (22% is my horseback estimate) and about as far as they would need to go. We have to bear in mind that these readers are not going to follow the sharp price decline of other electronic items because production of the e-ink screen doesn't yet lend itself to really substantial cost reduction as the volume goes up.

Here's another "little slice of the future":

Nicholas Negroponte: The Physical Book Is Dead in 5 Years

@Paul: The iPad is in its first iteration and is underpowered so as not to cannibalize sales of the Mac. Version 2, a year (?) from now, will be the one you really want. (In addition to your Kindle-3.)

I've waited until now before buying a Kindle, because the first two versions weren't mature.

PDF publishing [2] [3] has been central to the roleplaying-game industry for several years now, though print publication is by no means dead yet. The one exception is the 800 pound gorilla, Hasbro's WoTC subsidiary which owns TSR. WoTC suspended PDF publication of its Dungeons & Dragons material altogether a while back. (Games Workshop of Warhammer notoriety is another big and wealthy holdout.)

"Amazon said last month that Kindle sales have tripled since the price cut and e-book sales now outnumber hardcover book sales. It also claims responsibility for eight out of every 10 e-books sold."

http://seekingalpha.com/article/219431-barnes-noble-sale-won-t-cure-its-woes

My husband asked me if I wanted a kindle for my birthday. I told him no chance; there is nothing like the smell of a new book and getting a new hard cover by a favorite author is like Christmas. Yet, even the school at where I work is thinking about gutting the library and making it a media center. I think it's a shame.

Hi MP/Roger

Thanks for your comments. Very useful. I haven't bought an iPad yet because I am waiting for the update to it that allows multi-tasking (Is this the same thing you were referring to Roger?).

I can see it wouldn't make much sense to buy it simply as a book-reader in these straightened economic times :)

I was bought the Sony reader sometime ago and it does look clunky and old-fashioned, but more of a problem was the range of books available. At one point I could't find a single book I wanted to read in that format.

Like you Roger I don't favour being an early-adopter.

I say get a Kindle AND an iPad. Kindles are great on the beach in full sun (iPads wash out in full sunshine), and iPads can't be beat indoors and in the dark.

Also, iPads include the Kindle app so whatever you purchase can be seen on both.

The only thing about ereaders is that they do not effectively provide citations for textbooks. Once that glitch is solved, I will purchase almost all available books in e-form. I love having a full library with me wherever I go, with the choice to read any number of books at any moment.

Oh, and the iPad lets you stream NetFlix and get full-color Marvel and DC comics, among others.

Thanks Mark. I probably will get an iPad. More for surfing really. How is it for typing and posting in places like this? The keyboard look clever but I am not sure about it for more than a few words?

The keyboard is really pretty good, especially in landscape mode, for everything up to a paragraph of text. When I have my laptop and iPad next to me, I will reach for the iPad almost every time for email and web surfing.

It doesn't handle Office or Adobe apps, except you can download a PDF reader. If you use iWork apps, you can download lite versions.

Oh, I forgot to mention that you can buy a keyboard that can double as a power source. The iPad mounts on it at an angle.

Also, the Apple cover is actually quite excellent in a number of ways. I also have a Beltan travel case that includes a plastic stand that I use all the time (but it's a bit expensive at $40+ just to get the stand. The Apple cover has a built-in stand, but I don't like the portrait angle...the landscape angle is OK.)

OK Mark - I am sold on it :)

"The keyboard is really pretty good, especially in landscape mode, for everything up to a paragraph of text."

I find the onscreen keyboard maddeningly frustrating to use. But the optional Bluetooth keyboard works very well. There are also handwriting recognition apps and voice recognition apps. (For handwriting, you really need a stylus, which can run about $10.)

Ultimately, the iPad is more about content consumption than content creation.

For Owners, iPad Is Now the Go-To Reading Device

Interesting article, Roger. For me, the iPad is not yet my go-to reading device. I use it a fair amount, but I'm not sure I'd want to read an entire book on it. Someone compared reading the backlit screen to staring into a lightbulb. That's an exaggeration, but there's some truth to it. Plus the device is a bit awkward to hold, especially when lying down.

Just last night I ordered three books from Amazon. All three were available as Kindle editions (which I can read on the iPad) and also as trade paperbacks. I ended up ordering the paperbacks. The price differential was trivial ($10 for the Kindle version versus $11 or so for the printed edition), and I was willing to pay an extra couple of bucks for the physical books. But if the ebooks had been priced more sensibly - say at $6 or less - I would have opted for them.

I think price is the key factor here. With my own self-published book "Riptide," I started off with a $10 price for the Kindle version, but after a few weeks I dropped it to only $4. Sales of the Kindle edition have now substantially outpaced sales of the pricier trade paperback (though, needless to say, neither edition is breaking any sales records).

I can see a potential market for adjustable iPad supports :)


Barnes & Noble rattled by the rise of e-books

Get ready for the bookstore massacre

Thanks for the "bookstore massacre" link, Roger. I love this stuff. I don't relish the prospect of bookstores closing, but I do enjoy seeing the publishing industry change in ways that I've long predicted and hoped for.

I especially liked this part:

"Another 75,000 work in book publishing. When writers self-publish in electronic format, how many publishers will still be left?"

To that question I answer: Almost none. And then I laugh.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I laugh because I've worked for publishers and I know they deserve their fate. For decades they've been ripping off writers by giving them measly 6% or 8% royalty rates (that's right, the author of the book gets 8% tops for a mass-market paperback, meaning 92% of the retail price goes to people who didn't write it -- and even the 8% had to be negotiated up from 6%, which used to be the "industry standard"). For decades publishers have been using up writers and spitting them out without so much as a fare-thee-well. For decades publishers have been chasing every "hot trend" from Mafia books to serial killer books to vampire books, never thinking outside the box or beyond this fiscal quarter's bottom line.

And they could get away with it because they were the only game in town.

Now, for the first time in history, they're faced with real competition from outside the borough of Manhattan, and they have no clue how to react, no strategy, no ideas at all.

And so they are going bye-bye.

Hasta la vista, publishers!

"Sub-Rosa on the iPad" by Greg Taylor of TDG

Cool new iPad case with integrated Bluetooth keyboard further threatens netbooks

The KeyCase iPad Folio with Integrated Bluetooth Keyboard is available (currently sold out, "stock due shortly") via UK retailer GearZap (£59.95, US$92.52).

Neat. But I already bought a Bluetooth keyboard for mine.

I do think netbooks will decline in popularity as the iPad and its inevitable imitators take over that niche. Full-featured notebooks, OTOH, have little to fear from tablets, at least for the time being.

As long as I can still buy hard copies I don't mind how the business changes (actually, I would prefer it to change so that the people who don't write books {publishers} make ZERO dollars from books other people write. That seems like a fair deal to me).

I don't have an E reader and I have no interest in buying one. I love books. Especially ones that don't need batteries to be conjured into existence.

MP, here's a link to a long discussion thread on the Amazon Kindle site on Self-Published books.

http://www.amazon.com/tag/kindle/forum/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx3J11RNXDSH2GH&displayType=tagsDetail

Michael, I'm curious to know what you think needs to happen for the shift from the traditional publishing model to On Demand publishing to be complete so that we then see new bestselling authors appear from the on demand printing model?

What is it that must happen for On Demand publishing to finally move ahead of traditional publishing?

Online On Demand bookstores where this or that book gets great reviews from some resident critics? A NY Times list of bestselling On Demand titles?

What's going to push the model forward do you think? Is there going to be some milestone that we can look at to know that we've taken a leap onto a new plateau?

Right now I'm reading a book (hardcover) on the history of batteries, which is fascinating. For a very long time people had no clue how electricity could be useful at all. Even when battery technology became available it was still a while before there were any widespread uses for batteries. Now we can't imagine not having electricity or batteries, but there was a time when people would've just shrugged and said "eh, so what's it good for?" So that got me thinking about the shift in models for publishing and what it's going to take for it to go from one to the other as if from candles in the home to light bulbs in the home.

I was in Barnes and Noble last night and I really enjoy the experience of physically wandering around and browsing titles. So aside from giving us all fatter asses, is there the possibility that the On Demand revolution might still give us physical stores that list On Demand titles that we can browse and print out in the store? Might that contribute to its acceptance that finally changes the model in its favor?

I'm struggling here to come up with the right question to ask, even. The idea is that it seems to me that we're in a transition time where neither model is doing very well, and it isn't clear to me what needs to happen to move things in a clear direction so that the new model takes over and starts to do well and the old model perishes.

Six">http://www.amazon.com/tag/kindle/forum/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx1D7SY3BVSESG&cdThread=Tx1TFPB4EWS4E5A&displayType=tagsDetail">Six months of Kindle and Indie authors Rock!

(Long thread on the Kindle Discussion site.)

Here's a comment from that thread:

"Just in case you haven't discovered this the Authors Thread is where the authors themselves post about their books and is worthwhile keeping an eye on.

"There is usually a monthly Informal Poll - what are you reading on your Kindle thread running and that often has some good books mentioned. Sometimes a lot of best sellers but also other books that readers have discovered and enjoyed. I've pick up quite a few books from monitoring these thread too."

More comments from that thread:

"I'm a new independent author myself. I have to say that I had the same assumption that everyone else did! Yes, I thought I was good! ;) But I assumed that none of the other independent authors would be. I was definitely wrong!"

"Another thumbs up to the indie authors. I'm approaching 300 books in my Finished collection and around 500 still to be read. Most of those are from the indie authors. I sure wish I could magically convert the books I collected "for retirement" into Kindle books. It never occurred to me that reading paper books could get hard later on in life."

"Though I came here initially to promote my book, Alison Wonderland, (and two others that I have subsequently published on the kindle,) I have found lots of interesting recommendations for both traditionally published and indie authors in the threads here.

"As ebooks are so much cheaper than paperbacks, and are available instantly, I have found that my rate of reading has accelerated in the last six months. I have also been much more adventurous with my reading - with such low costs, there is very little to lose (though I do always download a sample before I buy) - and I have been delighted with pretty much everything I have read by authors who were previously unknown to me."

"Yes, the forums have been very useful in finding new books to read. I find that most of the time I don't have to even download a sample, I can usually get enough reliable info from forums and reviews."

"I may be wrong but it seems to me that never have writers come together in supporting each other as it happens now with indies ---in great measure because of kindle, Nook etc - all these wonderful e-platforms. This is awsome. Being a writer meant being the prototypical introvert - exhibiting just negative feelings etc toward your peers. It was very rare when it was otherwise. The balance has now shifted, even if only a bit. And this in itself ROCKS."

"I am a new author and I agree with you about finding talented work that you'll never see on the shelves at WalMart without a boost. I've met some of the coolest people since I was published in June and it's fun to read new authors because they are more accessible. It's cool to read a book and actually get to talk to the author and ask questions about the book or pending sequels! I've been published with 3 epublishers to date and one of books have gone print too. eBooks have really provided a great outlet for talent that otherwise would be ignored by the big boys."

"I can't tell you the last time I have read any established author new books as I am so addicted to these indie authors."
============

MP, last night Peter Bogdanovich was on coast-to-coast and guess what he said? Approximately: "In the old days they made real movies, A-movies, and as a filler, B-movies, which didn't get as much funding and had lesser production values, etc. B movies were space aliens, horror, vampires, Beach Parties, etc. Movies for teens, basically. Today the B movies have become the A-movies and A-movies don't get made--or if they do, they are poorly funded and distributed. The audience is mostly teens now."

Still more Kindle discussion group quotes:

"In addition to our efforts with ongoing reader threads, there is a whole new thread starting that should be of interest to everyone here. This lovely new thread is called "The Spinning Wheel: An Old-Fashioned Cafe and Bookstore for Authors and Readers." It is hosted by the lovely, popular, and prolific author, Kristie Leigh McGuire. This is a place for readers and authors to come together and chat and talk about books. There are some great people there!!"

"and also Al's Place (for something a bit stronger than virtual coffee) to drop into and have a chat."

"MP, last night Peter Bogdanovich was on coast-to-coast and guess what he said? Approximately: 'In the old days they made real movies, A-movies, and as a filler, B-movies, which didn't get as much funding and had lesser production values, etc. B movies were space aliens, horror, vampires, Beach Parties, etc. Movies for teens, basically. Today the B movies have become the A-movies and A-movies don't get made--or if they do, they are poorly funded and distributed. The audience is mostly teens now.'"

Sounds about right. TV is where the new A-movies get made, in the form of limited-run cable series and similar things. HBO's "Rome" was one of the finest cinematic achievements I've seen, and it was made for TV. Not many movies are as intelligently written as "The Shield" or "Lost" or even "24" at its best. No Drew Barrymore rom-com is going to be as funny as Lisa Kudrow in "The Comeback." And so on.

Entertainment for kids is all over the multiplex. Entertainment for adults is found on TV (though you do have to look past the reality shows, etc., to find it).

"What is it that must happen for On Demand publishing to finally move ahead of traditional publishing?"

I think traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores will largely die out. Borders is on the edge of bankruptcy. B&N is seeking a buyer. Ebooks are surging, Amazon is thriving, and the more traditional venues are failing fast.

As this happens, the advantage gained by having a book distributed to bookstores will fade away. If everything is sold online, then the playing field becomes somewhat more level. At that point, ebooks and POD (print-on-demand) books will really come into their own.

If physical bookstores survive, they may be like the Apple "apps stores" found in some malls, where customers can try out apps and see if they like them. If you find an app that appeals to you, you download it to your device.

Or bookstores may offer sample copies of POD books that you can leaf through. If you like one, you either download it as an ebook through the store's website, or print it out on a high-speed printer in the store.

Used bookstores will survive, I think. They may even flourish, the way used-record stores that sell vinyl LPs can flourish in the right neighborhoods.

But the days of printing up a million copies of a book and shipping it all over North America to display hundreds of copies in every store, then pulping the unsold books by the thousands ... those days are coming to an end. That 19th-century business model is outmoded and just too inefficient.

One of the reasons publishers offered such paltry royalties to authors, besides sheer cussedness, was that their profit margins were so small. The business was so inefficient that no one made much money at it, and publishers had to squeeze out every drop of profit. Now there's not much left to be squeezed.

This weekend I decided to read "The Count of Monte Cristo" after seeing the 1934 film version on TCM. My choices: a) drive 15 miles through crushing holiday traffic to a B&N on the highway in the hope that they might have a decent edition in stock for maybe $20; or b) download the Kindle edition to my iPad instantly at a cost of 99 cents.

Guess which option I picked. (Hint: I picked up "Les Miserables" for 99 cents at the same time.)

"Hint: I picked up "Les Miserables" for 99 cents at the same time"

I remember Stephen Fry saying that when he was growing up, he sometimes read two books a night. I'm beginning to think you fall into the same category, Michael. I'm lucky if I manage two a month. Mind you, I usually annotate mine with pencil markings. Can you do that on an iPad?

I r4ead somewhere that the reason POD hasn't caught on is mainly that the printer machines are so expensive that only high volume sales will justify their cost.

Maybe they'll catch on if B&N plus the publishing industry feel threatened enough by e-books that they'll decide to convert completely to a POD system, with the publishers fronting the money for the printers.

Indie writers aren't getting much traction from POD books so far. They seem to be doing better on e-books because of the ability of readers to spread the word about Indie books they line in online forums and the ability to read sample chapters online before buying (plus the fact that POD machines are rare).
========

"I usually annotate mine with pencil markings. Can you do that on an iPad?"

Via the keyboard, yes. Ditto on the Kindle.

MP: Okay, so let's imagine in 10 years traditional publishing is gone. And we have a new author who is a phenomenon like JK Rowling.

Her books are being turned into movies and she's a wild financial success AND she's entirely eBooks and POD books.

How does she get there? How does that happen?

Companies don't like to die if they can help it, so do the publishing houses scale down in size and make publicity and networking to help create successful authors their business in the eBook/POD model?

In which case they still remain the gatekeepers deciding who is likely and is not likely to be a successful author?

Failing that possibility, how do you foresee successful authors like that future JK Rowling emerging from the eBook/POD model to be wildly successful?

"how do you foresee successful authors like that future JK Rowling emerging from the eBook/POD model to be wildly successful?"

I'm not sure there will be many future Rowlings. The market may become so segmented - broken up into small niches - that no author will get those kinds of numbers.

Look at TV. When there were only three networks, a miniseries like "Roots" could have something like half the population of the USA as an audience. No TV show today gets those numbers, because instead of three networks, there are dozens. What you have increasingly are niche-oriented shows like
"Saving Grace" and "Breaking Bad."

Publishing may become more like blogging. There are a few superstar bloggers, but the vast majority write for a small niche audience.

But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. There were never more than a handful of Rowlings or Stephen Kings or Tom Clancys anyway.

Of course, someone who is famous in another field may be able to parlay his success into a bestseller. When Barack Obama writes his memoirs (for the third time), he is sure to sell a lot of copies, no matter how the book is published. But authors who become famous purely through their writing will probably become even rarer than they are now. The upside is that fewer Big Names may mean more room for the little guys.

Also, sales will get more stretched out, with backlist items puttering along rather than fading into total obscurity. This has already been one of the side-effects of an online store like Amazon, which has made every title equally accessible, rather than requiring a special order.

Backlist items will also benefit from being priced lower--at least those that are priced lower will sell more. (I just picked up a 1922 book for $1 for my Kindle that I'd always been meaning to buy in hard copy, Mencken's In Defense of Women, but had never found a tempting price.)

"I remember Stephen Fry saying that when he was growing up, he sometimes read two books a night. I'm beginning to think you fall into the same category, Michael."

No, not quite! It will take me some time to get through "Monte Cristo," and who knows if I'll ever get through the unabridged "Les Miserables"? (I did read an abridged version of Hugo's classic years ago.)

Regarding the question of where the next J.K. Rowling will come from, it occurs to me that this is like asking where the next Walter Cronkite will come from. Answer: there won't be one, because the audience for news is too fragmented to make a single newscaster into that kind of superstar. The book business is headed in the same direction, I think.

As society becomes more atomized, you won't see everybody buying and reading the same book. A recent exception was "The Da Vinci Code," yet it also shows the limits of celebrity in today's market: Dan Brown's follow-up, "The Lost Symbol," didn't do nearly as well. Stardom comes and goes very quickly in today's society; as Andy Warhol predicted, everybody can be famous for 15 minutes, but not for much longer than that.

Well hypothetically I would think that authors may still be able to have the same kind of success as JK Rowling, and possibly much faster if books come to have a sort of viral video equivalence and the apparatus exists to publicize an author's work.

This is why I was wondering if publishing houses would change their business model to offer publicity and promotion instead of publishing, because they would have something to offer an author that he might not otherwise be able to afford on his own if they thought he had worthwhile material.

I realize its hard to predict exactly how things will shape up. IBM famously couldn't see any consumer market for a home computer! So it may be a little like that. But I was wondering if the publishing houses were considering something like that, or if they were holding their noses and preparing to go down with the ship.

"I was wondering if publishing houses would change their business model to offer publicity and promotion instead of publishing"

It's possible. Publishing companies do offer publicity and promotion to their authors now, but only to the top tier of bestselling authors (or authors who are being groomed for stardom). Perhaps publishing houses will morph into management firms that handle an author's PR. But of course there are already PR firms in existence, and many of them do a better job at garnering publicity for their clients than publishers can. So it would be an uphill battle, I'd think.

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