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Are e-books catching on for all the wrong reasons?

Since 1985 digitized books have been creeping up on the market, but with the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other readers — many of which allow you to download books in moments over wireless Internet connections — the paper book is fast be becoming a thing of the past. Consumers are beginning to prefer e-readers over paper books because of the smaller size, lighter weight, and lower cost to purchase a book. An e-reader itself is smaller and lighter than most single paper books, and can often hold dozens or even hundreds of books.

Taking a look at books exclusively, consider the following potentially backwards moves we’ve made as a culture.

Energy and environmental impact.

Traditional books are made of trees grown specifically for the purpose of making paper. Those trees are cut, harvested, and processed into paper. Then ink and binding are then applied to form a book. Once that book is made, there is zero energy cost for it to continue to exist. It will exist for decades, indefinitely even, with almost no energy cost to upkeep. When it reaches it’s end-of-life, it can be cleanly recycled.

E-readers on the other hand, are made from materials like glass, plastics, polymers, lead, copper, silicon, and various other chemicals and materials necessary for electronics manufacturing. Add the potential for more lead and mercury in the battery, and you have and expensive and messy manufacturing process, for a product that has a life expectancy of maybe 3-5 years. After all this, a frequent energy upkeep from coal or nuclear energy recharges the batteries for a few hours. Improper disposal can easy leave these products in our landfills or worse. The carbon footprint of e-readers is one that will never end: servers, infrastructure, manufacturing, and waste.

It’s mine. Or not?

When you buy a paper book, you do exactly that — you buy a copy of the book. You can read it, mark it up to your hearts content, and then shelf it to pull out when you’re ready. If you know someone interested in reading it, you can lend, sell, or donate them your book.

Think you can do the same with an e-book? Not even close. You don’t even technically own your copy — it’s licensed to your purchase account. You can’t sell it or lend it out, unless you want to hand over your e-reader. Lose access to your account? Vendor go out of business? You’re out of luck. In fact, you could argue that e-books don’t have the same physical, durable-goods properties that paper books have: Once you have the first, you don’t have to manufacture additional copies.

Technology Changes

While writing this article, I went to my bookshelf and found a book from 1975 (and I recall seeing a book from the 1960’s around here somewhere recently). I can still sit down and read it today, 35 years later. How much has technology changed in the last 10? Does anyone still use floppy discs? Does anyone still have a floppy drive for that matter? Probably not. So while you can still read a paper book from 35 years ago, you probably can’t read a floppy disc, CD, or hard drive more than a few years old. Technology changes so rapidly and obsoletes itself so quickly that using electronic storage for anything that we really want to endure time is an effort in futility. We’ve begun digitizing everything, even down to our medical records.

Inexpensive vs Cheap.

The low price of e-books has had almost unseen impact on books. Authors and publishers who choose to sell paper books are having a tough time with the low price of e-books. A $12 paper book can’t hope to compete with a $3 e-book. So what do the publishers do? They try to cut costs, starting with the paper. A website called Permanence Matters shows striking examples of the impact on book quality and longevity when publishers cut costs with paper. Instead of books which last decades, you end up with books which start to fade after just a few years on the shelf.

The speed of sales

Some authors now are deciding to publish e-books exclusively. Possibly to sidebar the cost of printed publication, or because the lower cost of e-books will help them sell more units faster”? What does that mean for the longevity of their books? Or the establishment of a lasting name for them as a respected author?

E-book publishers can’t expect their books to be around for more than a few years, or even to get a lasting reputation as a writer. Why? Readers are likely to read their books, and then delete them off their readers when the next piece of interest comes along. An e-book isn’t the thing that can sit on a shelf or get passed on to someone as a source of inspiration or simply as a good read, or for that matter, can be picked up a few years later with a quiet “I forgot I still had this…”

Arr-gh!

If you want to steal a book you have to walk into a bookstore and steal it yourself, but e-book piracy is a much stealthier and harder to fight crime. People can pirate an e-book with little more effort than it takes to register for their favorite news site, without realizing the consequences of their actions. Some sites even claim to give away copies free, often times during “limited time giveaways”, which are simply fronts for piracy, and can put an unsuspecting consumer in danger of legal action for copyright infringement.

While the US has strict laws regarding digital copyrights, pirates find ways of circumventing these laws, often by having their sites and domains hosted in countries where copyright law is much less strict. This impacts authors and creates misconceptions for consumers who simply think they’re getting a good deal.

Closing up shops

Buying your books online has another consequence few people realize. Bookstores are closing up and people are losing the income that they need to make ends meet.

“The number of independent bookstores has been declining for some time, from about 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,200 today, according to the American Booksellers Association. Sales of all books are declining, down almost 8 percent in September, which followed a 6.5 percent drop in August.” — Source: StarTribune.com (12/11/2010)

The larger chains are actually clearing out paper books in an effort to sell more e-books.

“Barnes & Noble has already cleared space at the front of its stores to display the Nook and push e-books.” — Source: WashingtonPost.com (5/20/2011)

So readers, I’ll open it up for comments. Some discussion points:

  • How does the above article make you feel about the direction we’re going with paper books and e-readers?
  • Do you own an e-reader? How does it affect the way you read paper books?
  • Are you a published author? Have you published in traditional paper books or e-books, and why?
  • Do you have anything to add that I didn’t cover above?
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  1. #1 by NMI on May 30, 2011 - 11:59 am

    My wife owns a kindle. Although she does not use it much, she likes it. When living with limited space in ones home, an e-book reader is definitely an option. No need for big bulky shelving units. Just a place to plug in your e-book reader and possibly a computer and away you go.

    Me, I have a tablet like device, an Inspiron Duo from Dell. It functions as a netbook and a tablet. It even comes with with software to purchase books online and read on the device. I only purchased one book with it, a Tom Clancy novel [title escapes me at the moment]. However, I do not use it for your typical books you can get from the app. I use it for reading .pdf documents I have, usually roleplaying game supplements, homebrew articles, etc…

    Yeah, the invention of these readers was inevitable. Their use in aiding in yet another form of piracy sucks, but it is not the developers fault.

    • #2 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:27 pm

      NMI,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Would you say that you prefer electronic media to traditional media?
      And, do you seem to prefer the tablet/laptop form over a traditional e-reader?

  2. #3 by Mylan on May 30, 2011 - 1:54 pm

    I can see why e-readers are prefferedd by most people…I mean it is nice to have something smaller, and I believe some of them can hold more than one book. But, there are truths in some of the things you have said. In a time when the condition of our planet matters to so many people you would think more would want paper books. And you are right about the piracy thing. It is entirely too easy to “steal” an e-book. And I think people should pay for books…mostly because authors depend on that money. The thing with the bookstores is all too true too. In our economy jobs are needed and e-readers kill jobs. Granted people are needed to run the machines that make the e-readers…but that can be done by far less people than are needed in a bookstore. I, myself would much rather buy a paper book. Again, I can see how e-readers make things easier and less crowded, and NMI is right, for people with less space e-readers are better in that sense. However…I often wonder if convenience is really worth the overall cost. I mean..how many people choose to drive the extra 5 miles to go to a walmart to get something they could get at a convenience store for 10% more? Now, granted, it used to be the opposite. But with the price of things as they are many people anymore choose to drive the extra distance. All in all I think e-readers are nice…but would much rather have a paper book.

    • #4 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:30 pm

      Mylan,

      I myself tend to prefer the paper books too. I can see the size/space advantages of an e-reader, and many (Kindle, Nook) have built-in cellular Internet access to browse/purchase books quickly, inexpensively, and easily.

  3. #5 by Rowena Cherry on May 30, 2011 - 6:29 pm

    Mike,
    Thank you for a refreshing, thought-provoking, original take on the topic. I very much enjoyed and appreciated your analysis, and am fascinated to see what other followers have to say.

    I’ll answer your question:
    “Are you a published author? Have you published in traditional paper books or e-books, and why?”

    Yes. I am published. I won third place in a National contest run jointly by Dorchester Publishing (at the time, print, New York) and Romantic Times (which is much more than a Magazine) and judged by booksellers, editors and other industry professionals. The same year, I also signed a Print On Demand and E-book contract with a now-defunct e-publisher.

    At the time, Dorchester was mass market paperback. It had no use for e-books, and e-rights, so my fantastic editor had no problem splitting the rights and allowing me to honor contracts with the e- and POD publisher who saw me first, as well as with Dorchester.

    It was probably quite unique to work on editing the same basic story with two different editors for two different Publishing Houses, for two slightly different target audiences (Futuristic Romance vs Science Fiction Romance).

    I published one e-book with the now-defunct e-publisher. Got my rights back when it went belly-up without paying me a cent. Self-published that e-book and sell it on jexbo.com and occasionally on EBay. Resolved never to put all my literary eggs in one publisher’s basket.

    Also got back the rights to a nifty short story, which I later sexed up and licensed for e-books only to New Concepts Publishing. I withheld print rights. New Concepts Publishing have paid me every quarter, every year for that little short.

    So, I am traditionally published; electronically published; and self-published.

    My copyright has been infringed by Amazon (three times by my count), by Sony, by Dorchester, by dozens of knowing –and some innocent– Vendors on eBay, by pirates on most of the pirate sites which I will not name, and on many of the filesharing sites.

    Although I publicly assert my rights, various persons mistakenly claim that my works are in the public domain, and that they own GNU rights and resell rights to DVDs and CDs that they have burned of their “Libraries” which include my books.

    Two of my print books have been scanned and turned into e-books without my knowledge or consent, which could affect my ability to license those books to another publisher. Also, my two e-books (the self published one, and the one with New Concepts Publishing) are pirated even though neither costs more than $3.00.

    I have the rights back to all my Dorchester books, and I have considered self-publishing on Smashwords and Kindle more than once, but I am waiting to see what happens with pricing, the laws, and the contracts on various platforms.

    There was the Google Settlement… then, there wasn’t. Amazon offered 70% to publishers/self-publishers… but did not at first make it clear to publishers and authors that up to 10 people could “share” the one e-book purchase if they shared an account. Now, lending must be enabled on the 70% contract, websites are popping up to facilitate “Kindle book lending”, and I’m not convinced that Kindle users cannot hack and “share” e-books if they wish to do so, judging by all the pirated copies of my works and those of others that I am seeing in EBay auctions being offered as “EBooks for Kindle” etc etc.

    When I decided to write for publication, I expected that I might invest ten years writing my first book and getting it published, and perhaps two years for each subsequent full length book, but that I would remain “in print” (one way or another) for life + 70 years, and that although my books would not earn me very much at all, the royalties would be a constant, secure income with small peaks of interest in the back list every time I brought out a new book.

    It looks like, that’s not the way it is going to be, and I am not inclined to turn “busker” or retail site salesperson (affiliate) or corporate advertising vehicle.

    • #6 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 1:00 am

      Rowena,

      Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences on the subject. I greatly appreciate it! I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. I enjoyed writing it.

      It’s late, so I don’t know that I can write a good response now that will make sense tomorrow, so I’ll write something then instead. :)

      • #7 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 5:42 am

        Mike,
        That was my introduction, since you asked. I’ll be back to discuss other issues.

  4. #8 by Rowena Cherry on May 30, 2011 - 6:33 pm

    I have to take issue with you on this, Mike:

    Lose access to your account? Vendor go out of business? You’re out of luck.

    The DMCA permits you to make a reasonable number of back-up copies for your own use. Maybe up to six? That could be flash drive, CD, DVD, Dropbox, floppy, media drive, email…. You are only out of luck, if you don’t back up.

    The Register of copyrights ruled last August that you are entitled to crack DRM if you need to do so in order to back up, save, or adapt for your own use a DRM protected file that you legally purchased the rights to enjoy on your own equipment.

    • #9 by Mike on May 30, 2011 - 11:54 pm

      As far as I know, this has always been a bit of a grey area, but I found a few mentions that might support your position:

      “Section 103 (17 U.S.C Sec. 1201(a)(1)) of the DMCA states:
      No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.” — Source: Wikipedia

      However:

      “Reverse engineering of existing systems is expressly permitted under the Act under specific conditions. Under the reverse engineering safe harbor, circumvention necessary to achieve interoperability with other software is specifically authorized. See 17 U.S.C. Sec. 1201(f).” — Source: Wikipedia

      I still stand with the position that a user of insufficient skill to reverse-engineer DRM-protected content would be unable to use that content on another device for which it was not intended. Still out of luck :)

      Thoughts?

      • #10 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 5:47 am

        Quick thought. Why are you using Wikipedia as your reference?
        Use loc.gov or the copyright office for the most up to date, accurate info.

        Wikipedia may be marvelous, but it can be edited by anyone, at any time. And, if no one edits to keep up with changes in the law, it could be out of date. I’m not saying that it is out of date, just that it could be.

        I wouldn’t rely on Chilling Effects, either. It is (allegedly) run by a group with an agenda which is not particularly author-friendly in my opinion.

    • #13 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 8:26 am

      It’s also fair to bring up that once every three years the Copyright Office makes a determination of works that are exempt from statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology for non-infringing use.

      “Section 1201(a)(1) of the copyright law requires that every three years I am to determine whether there are any classes of works that will be subject to exemptions from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work. … Based on that proceeding and the Register’s recommendation, I am to determine whether the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works is causing or is likely to cause adverse effects on the ability of users of any particular classes of copyrighted works to make noninfringing uses of those works. The classes of works that I designated in the previous proceeding expire at the end of the current proceeding unless proponents of a class prove their case once again.” – Source: Library of Congress

      Currently the LOC has one exemption for e-books:

      “(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.”

      That’s not to say that e-books wouldn’t be allowed an exemption if a particular distributor (vendor, provider?) went out of business, and their DRM method wasn’t compatible with other devices. But — Imagine this for a moment. Barnes and Noble goes belly-up, e-books aren’t available for the Nook anymore and their DRM-protected books aren’t able to be viewed on other devices. I believe that it would be highly unlikely the Copyright Office would make a determination that it would be a non-infringing use to remove the DRM from their books for use on other devices, especially while Amazon is still selling the same titles. Amazon could very easily make the point that removing the DRM on e-books sold for use on the Nook infringes on their ability to sell those books.

      I believe that the consumer would still have to take the loss at the hands of the DRM-protected content and still find it necessary to buy new copies of books they had previously owned had a license to read.

      Not so with paper books.

      I can’t claim to know the future, but this is just one possible scenario.

  5. #14 by Brenna Lyons on May 31, 2011 - 2:44 pm

    Some points are accurate, and some prove you don’t read ebooks…or at least don’t understand them. No offense, but you give nearly as much misinformation as you give true.

    Can you lend an ebook? That depends on whether the copy you license has lending involved already. Yes, that exists. Nook and Kindle both have lending as part of the package, for example. If it is APPROVED by the author/publisher, it’s not illegal. Just do your sharing legally, and there are no problems.

    Anyone with common sense and a little knowledge further knows to purchase books without security/DRM when possible. They know to purchase durable or convertible formats. Backward compatibility means that you will not lose the ability (for instance) to read books in PDF and HTML formats, even as the software and tech to read with advance. Programs like Calibre allow readers to multiformat their libraries to stave off problems, and most of the proprietary handhelds will not only back up your books on the laptop or desktop but also share those books with a desktop/laptop reader. The readers know how to perform conversions. They know how to back up their libraries. In short, very few savvy readers EVER lose a library of ebooks. By comparison, I have lost an entire library of thousands of paper books (some impossible to replace) in a house fire more than a decade ago. With off site storage, this need never happen to your ebooks. NOTE that this disproves two of your points with one blow.

    Beyond that, the Fifth Circuit Court has already reinforced the opinions of the ebook industry old-timers like myself and Columbia School of Law by decreeing that there is a difference between breaking DRM to access what you have licensed, for your own use, and breaking DRM to pirate. IOW, there isn’t anything wrong with cracking DRM (there are hundreds of free programs out there to do it) FOR YOUR OWN USE. This decision overturned one of the staples of the Millennium Act (the one many authors and reader both felt was ridiculous), in the process. Just don’t try to make those illegal copies and pass them around.

    You can’t blame ebooks for the poor quality of paper books. That started independent of the ebook movement. It’s called planned obsolescence, and it’s been going on since at least the late 60s/early 70s. You’re just seeing the progression of it. Keep in mind that the conglomerate poo pooed the entire ebook industry for YEARS before they took their second (didn’t know it was their second, did you?) jump into the pool. They were trying to cut costs, but it wasn’t because of ebooks, which they didn’t believe were a threat. It was because of their own mismanagement of the paper side of the industry…huge waste (and not all paper books are recycled, sadly), huge investments on project that didn’t cut it, and diminishing returns, because they started letting the bean counters choose the books instead of the editors, and that meant carbon copy titles, art, blurbs, and content. Sadly, that’s what cut my paper purchasing down to about nil. Instead of doing this, they should have invested in POD and in ebook formats much earlier and started cutting the costs where they counted.

    OMG, are you clueless about the ebook industry. I’m sorry, but one of the major points in FAVOR of ebooks is that you don’t have the limited shelf life of print. Unless you are a bestseller/blockbuster, your paper book spends a few weeks or months on the physical shelf and then gets lost in the mix. By comparison, ebooks have no such limitation. I have ebooks that were first released 8 years ago, still selling new copies every quarter today, as I release new books. Better, the search engines online allow readers to not only find everything on the site I’ve written but also to match up individual series and so forth. And the search engines will send readers to my site, where they can find more information, more sales outlets, more potential books they might like.

    And it’s not just good for me. A lot of authors that started in conglomerate press have taken their rights to small press specifically to keep the backlist alive…and sometimes to bring out new books in a series. Piers Anthony, for instance, brought out his newest Incarnations of Immortality book with Mundania Press. The same company has the backlist of about 7 or 8 NY Times Bestsellers, like Robert Adams’ Horseclans series (rest his soul). When you can only find $80 used copies of the print book, sometimes searching the ebook sites will show you that the author has released an ebook version reprint of the same title for $6. Let’s see… Pay $6, which the author gets a portion of, vs. paying $80 that the author gets NONE of? No brainer for me.

    Beyond that, names like Angela Knight, Kate Douglas, Mary Janice Davidson, Morgan Hawke…even Sherrilyn Kenyon were not unknown before they became big in NY conglomerate press. They were big in ebook, before they moved to conglomerate, and most of them still publish in small press today. Why? Because they have more control over the books and a higher royalty rate. Win-win. But some of these ladies were hand picked, based on their name in ebook presses…with good reason.

    Many ebook enthusiasts NEVER delete an ebook and keep databases of the entire library to find books later. I’ve had readers meet me at a convention, pull out a handheld or paper printout of the database and not only tell me what they’ve read…how many times they’ve read it, but also tell me what they love about it. Just preferring ebook formats does NOT mean they are less avid readers or less committed to their libraries. Some even read the ebook, save it, and then go on and buy the entire series in print as well, if it’s available. They may choose to carry the ebook on trips and keep the print on the shelf and for the tub. That’s how Baen’s Free Library works, BTW, and it works very well.

    You don’t know much about piracy either. NO BOOK is safe from pirates. DRM gets broken, if the ebook is DRMd. Even only having paper books does NOT save a book from ebook piracy. A box cutter and a home scanner, and you have a pirated copy. Go to any pirate site, and you will find books like Harry Potter, that have never released in legal ebook versions, passing as ebooks. Again, you cannot blame piracy on ebooks.

    Actually, while you claim the big box book stores are clearing out paper books to display ebooks, that isn’t true in my neck of the woods. They cleared out the front of the store, but the front of the store wasn’t paper books. It was games, book lights, lap desks, journals, bookmarks, and other non-book products.

    Brenna

    • #15 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 7:43 pm

      “A box cutter and a home scanner, and you have a pirated copy.”

      Actually, you have an e-book. By your own logic it’s not piracy unless you distribute it.

      Also, there are established and well-respected libraries that spend time digitizing books using machines like Kirtas book scanners. I’ve seen one of these in action and they can digitize a medium sized book in a matter of a few minutes.

      This doesn’t mean that they’re centers for piracy.

      • #16 by Brenna Lyons on June 1, 2011 - 7:39 am

        I wouldn’t argue that. There are legitimate reasons to make an ebook copy of a paper book, including text to speech programs for the disabled (which are protected by law, last time I checked) and backup of your investment.

        I do NOT agree that all people digitizing books are altruistic, of course. Google is one of the worst of the pirates, IMO.

        But like breaking DRM for your own use, digitizing for your own use is fairly safe. Perhaps I should have said “piratable ebook copy.” And, it doesn’t take NEARLY as much time as you think it does. Many scanners are set up with autofeed systems, if you invest in a decent scanner.

        Brenna

      • #17 by rowenacherry on June 1, 2011 - 10:38 pm

        Very true, Mike…

        Also, there are established and well-respected libraries that spend time digitizing books using machines like Kirtas book scanners.

        And, too few people realize that a lot of those libraries were co-defendants with Google in the Authors’ Guild lawsuit that is still being argued before Judge Denny Chin, because His Honor is of the opinion that authors should opt in, if they wish to benefit from the unauthorized scanning…. as opposed to the failed proposal that all authors and “orphan” works should be included willy-nilly unless they actively opted out.

        Libraries are not allowed to infringe copyright without the copyright owner’s permission.

    • #18 by Mylan on May 31, 2011 - 7:53 pm

      Brenna…you make many good points…and I’d like to make a few comments. One, you’re right not all paper books are recycled but it is my understanding, and I am no expert so could be wrong, that it is much safer environmentally to put a paper book in a landfill than a battery from or an ereader. Again I could be wrong but that is my understanding. Also, you are right it is possible to pirate a paper book and it is done…as you have shown…but how many people have the tools/knowhow/desire to do that with a paper book when it’s so much easier to do it with an ebook. Not blaming ebooks for the piracy or the ease…merely saying it is easier to do. In my opinion the fault for piracy of any type of book falls on society/parents/guardians of/individuals. Now…ebooks are easier to use, more convenient, cheaper, smaller…but there is still good use for paper books. Not saying ebooks are bad, just that they are not the only type of good book.

      • #19 by Brenna Lyons on June 1, 2011 - 7:49 am

        Mylan,

        You would be surprised at what pirates do. Rowena and I both have years of dealing directly with them. Their methods and madness would probably astound you. They think nothing of wasting an hour or so to make an ebook copy of a book. Some will do it to “share” a print-only book, just to “punish” the author and publisher for not offering it in ebook formats. In fact, A LOT of them will do these things. Remember what I said about hacking off readers? Some will do it to “share” an OOP book that is only available used for $80 or more. Some will do it to “share” the book with people who claim they can’t purchase the paper book in their area of the world…another conglomerate problem.

        Beyond that, I am a huge fan of paper books. I don’t want them to go away and don’t think they are a lesser product. Nor do I believe ebooks should be shortchanged, in the belief that print is better. They both have pros and cons. In fact, I want to streamline the paper system into something FUNCTIONAL to make it stronger.

        Yes, the batteries in a landfill aren’t good, but here’s what a lot of people miss in the equation. You can read ebooks on any number of desktop, laptop, PDA, smart phones, tablets…and so forth. These are things people own, whether they read ebooks or not and reading ebooks on them is just another perk. Personally, I read almost all of my ebooks on my work laptops…I have two for work. Getting rid of ebooks won’t get rid of the items we read them on.

        Personally, I see only ONE use for dedicated ebook readers that do nothing else for you. They are great for schools. In fact, that’s why I purchased my oldest an eBookwise reader when she was 11. She’s allowed to take it to school and even use it to read in the classroom, when she’s not allowed to pull out a cell phone to read on or other multi-purpose electronic devices. Dedicated readers have a purpose, but it is a limited one, in my opinion. The rest of the reading devices do other things people want them to do, so we won’t be getting rid of them. Why not utilize them to their fullest potential?

        Brenna

        • #20 by Mylan on June 2, 2011 - 8:01 am

          Brenna, you make a good point about the devices you can read ebooks on. I was not thinking of that…in fact was unaware that you could read them on smartphones. And I apologize for making it seem like I thought you don’t care about the landfill situation…just something I wanted to point out. You are absolutely right about the e-readers and schools. Especially elementary/high schools. While many teenagers are texting back and forth during class anyways, most schools and teachers frown upon it. So, in general an e-reader is best for a student…I can even see them being better for college students in some cases. As to the things pirates are willing to do…I must admit I know very little about that as I have never dealt with ebooks or the people who pirate them. As I stated in most cases I would prefer a paper book. But I am starting to think I might start reading ebooks. However, to ease some author’s minds I would not download free copies unless I knew the author approved it. I would pay for the ebook. I have a friend who is publishing an ebook and has offered a free copy. I told her I would prefer to pay for it as I know it cost her money to make it. And I would do the same for any author. I do have a paper book I did not pay for, however it was something a relative lent to me and I just never returned. And I might someday lend it to someone myself…but I would not make an ebook of it. To me giving a book as a gift to one person is different than putting it on a site for just anyone to download. Now, with an ebook, I might consider letting a friend or relative read it…but I would only share it with one or two people instead of everyone in the world that wanted it. I apologize to both of you if I have made you think I agree with piracy…I just have little experience with it.

    • #21 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:32 pm

      Anyone with common sense and a little knowledge further knows to purchase books without security/DRM when possible. They know to purchase durable or convertible formats.

      I agree with supporting non-DRM materials, but I disagree with this statement. I would find that a large portion of “typical” computer users aren’t even aware of what DRM is or the implications of it.

  6. #22 by Brenna Lyons on May 31, 2011 - 2:46 pm

    For the record… I’m published in both print and ebook…more than 100 times in ebook and more than 4 dozen times in print. I also administrate a small ebook/print publishing house. Oh, and we’re now doing audio on every title and Spanish translation on some titles.

    • #23 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:33 pm

      Congratulations on your success!

  7. #24 by Brenna Lyons on May 31, 2011 - 2:49 pm

    Nook books are ePub and set up for Adobe Digital Editions reading. You do NOT need a Nook or even a Nook for PC/Mac to read a book purchased for Nook.

    Brenna

  8. #25 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 3:54 pm

    Quoting you, Mike:
    “Consumers are beginning to prefer e-readers over paper books because of the smaller size, lighter weight, and lower cost to purchase a book.”

    I agree that you accurately reflect the reasons consumers prefer e-books and e-readers. But I should like to point out that the “lower cost to purchase an e-book” is an artificial reason… an expectation that has been created largely by entities that sell hardware.

    Often it is not the choice of the copyright owner or of the publisher that the cost of an ebook is lower.

    The lower price of the content has been imposed on publishers and authors by manufacturers of e-reader hardware (Amazon, for instance) and sometimes Amazon has quietly funded the expectation of a lower price or “free” by paying the publishers, and eating the cost of the royalties.

    A Kindle would be useless, if there were no e-books.

    On other forums, we often see the argument from readers that an e-book costs almost nothing to copy and distribute, therefore, they ought to pay almost nothing for it.

    OK. It costs pirates almost nothing to copy and distribute other people’s e-books. However, it costs publishers plenty. An e-book must be edited, proof-read, copyrighted, formatted, promoted, marketed. The book keeping costs must be the same. Taxes are probably similar. Brenna Lyons can probably speak expertly to the difference between the cost of bringing an e-book vs a Paperback to market.

    • #26 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 4:06 pm

      On other forums, we often see the argument from readers that an e-book costs almost nothing to copy and distribute, therefore, they ought to pay almost nothing for it.

      I can see this argument, and I may have touched on it in my post, but it is true in one sense and false in another.

      The argument is false in that, as you say, an e-book has normal production and real costs associated with being released.

      I would submit that the argument is true in that once a single distributable file is ready for sale, it costs next-to-nothing to reproduce and distribute electronically. The cost factor of distributing 10,000 electronic copies of an e-book is not nearly the same as manufacturing and distributing 10,000 paper books.

      I would be happy to hear discussion on this.

      • #27 by Brenna Lyons on May 31, 2011 - 6:19 pm

        You’d be wrong. The price is LESS but not nothing or even close to it.

        Distribution is the main factor in this. Distribution doesn’t cost considerably less for ebook than it does for print. Our distribution channels take between 35% and 65% of the price of every sale. Even Amazon’s “claim” of taking only 30% has hidden costs and strings that do two things: insure we don’t really get our full cut and make sure we can’t give prices below $2.99 at the full royalty rate, which means we eat the difference or cheat readers. For what? Allowing US to enter all the information in and load the books and covers on their servers? Because, believe me, they aren’t doing it for us. Handling a cart that is already in place? If readers were willing to purchase from the publisher sites ONLY, we’d only use the publisher sites, because none of us like losing that percentage to a nearly useless middle man. And we do have storage and listing fees and such, as well.

        In addition, you don’t understand how many small epublishers work. Not all of them pay their costs up front. Some publishers I’ve dealt with pay administration, cover artists, editors…all on a royalty or stipend up front and then royalty cut of sales. That means the ongoing costs are much higher than you might encounter in paper books and less up front. Not every publisher works this way, but some do.

        And let’s not forget the author. Claiming that there is no cost or nearly no cost to the book at sale point is saying the author doesn’t deserve his/her cut of sales, and that’s going to drive authors away from sharing their works very quickly.

        Brenna

        • #28 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 7:37 pm

          And let’s not forget the author. Claiming that there is no cost or nearly no cost to the book at sale point is saying the author doesn’t deserve his/her cut of sales, and that’s going to drive authors away from sharing their works very quickly.

          I think you may have mistook my point. My point was not that distributors cost next-to-nothing, but the reproduction of an electronic e-book file for delivery from the storage server to the content reader costs next-to-nothing. Copying (and optionally DRM-encoding) a file for transmission compared to manufacturing books is exponentially different.

          “The cost factor of distributing 10,000 electronic copies of an e-book is not nearly the same as manufacturing and distributing 10,000 paper books.”

          Perhaps this would have been clearer had I said “… making 10,000 electronic copies of an e-book is not nearly the same as…”

          Storage is cheap, bandwidth is fairly cheap too.

        • #29 by Brenna Lyons on June 1, 2011 - 7:34 am

          No offense, Mike, but the idea that making a paper book is so very expensive isn’t true either. People have inflated ideas of what it costs and perpetuate that. Honestly, there are readers out there that actually believe they are getting $6 worth of printing in an $8 book. Hardly. While the book costs vary widely by printing method, number made at one time (if you have plate costs, which don’t exist in many printing options today), middle men or lack of them… I’ve been told the average cost of printing an offset mass market book at that size is still less than $2.00. Yes, you have to ship it and sometimes warehouse it, but conglomerate is trying to cut back on the warehousing, as I understand it…and there are alternatives to the shipping and warehousing I’ve been talking about for years. I’ll get back to that.

          Example time here. How the pricing can change drastically with one small change in the system… I have a 140K range book selling from one of my small presses that is POD printed (through LSI) and distributed, high quality paper choice, and sells for $16 in paper ($7 in ebook). I have a similar length book selling from another of my small presses (one with an in-house POD machine…no middle men on printing adding cost) that sells for $10 in paper ($5 in ebook). The willingness to take on printing and shipping personally makes for a MUCH better deal for the reader.

          You might think I’m off subject. But let’s talk costs. Conglomerate is using ebooks to try and shore up their print mess, when what they COULD be doing is fixing the problems with their print system and then enjoying a smoother system on both sides. I’ve been told this outlook is simplistic, since it ignores the old game of distribution outside the US, but that game is antiquated and perhaps not the best way anymore. Small press doesn’t play it and distributes worldwide, so why should conglomerate cling to it? Change is scary, perhaps.

          When Amazon prints a book and takes it to their own distribution, you make a LOT more money than when you are dealing with several levels of printer to distribution model and the potential for worldwide or nearly so market on your titles, from day one, which readers and authors both enjoy, from my seat. Now expand on that.

          We could have an entirely POD system (my vision for how to fix the broken paper system), if we could get the brick and mortar stores to invest in it and give up their game of returns (which is hurting the publishers and authors horribly now and only benefiting the brick and mortar book stores). Imagine a system where some of the blockbusters come in printed in bulk but most books are printed on site, in the stores. Imagine a bank of computers the readers could use to find books, sitting right next to the shelves filled with bestsellers and new releases, for browsing. Imagine that books are NEVER out of stock, because the customer can place a print order and even pay for it at the computer terminal, browse a bit, and pick up the freshly printed book/s at the front desk 15 or 30 minutes later. If a reader takes a book off the shelf and purchases it, one of two things will happen. If it’s being phased off the shelves, it just sells and nothing further is done. If it’s still on “shelf time,” a print order is automatically sent to the machine with an order to reshelve the book.

          This system would further streamline book purchasing, since readers would be able to place a print order with a pick-up time and pay for it from home and just walk in to pick the books up as you would do with medicine refills. Additionally, readers could place such an order and have a local store deliver the books to them for an additional cost and much less time and cost than usual shipping would take…and less gas. It would use all the best technology provides for us in a single system with radically reduced waste.

          Beyond that, it would put small press and conglomerates on the same playing field. Conglomerate wouldn’t have to warehouse and mass print books…no returns… Small press could be “stocked” (by that, I mean placed in the computer database alongside conglomerate books) and sold right at the brick and mortar stores, which is something many would dearly love. Store managers would have more leeway with physically shelving books of local authors, since everything is technically in-stock, at all times, so shelving 5 less of the NY Times bestseller to stock a local author isn’t a problem. They won’t run out of the bestseller, since they can print them on site.

          There would still be shipping, but it would be shipping of raw materials and of finished books to readers with little or no wasted shipping. There would be jobs for maintenance on the machines and running them but not for processing huge deliveries and returns. A trade-off of the jobs.

          These are the types of choices conglomerate SHOULD be making, IMO. These are things that would cut the useless portions of the equation out. With enough mass production, the cost will go down, as it does in any mass production situation.

          And why should the authors be penalized for selling in a format that saves the reader and the publisher money? Because that’s the way your arguments read to me, Mike. May not be the way you intend them, but that’s what it sounds like.

          B

  9. #30 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 3:57 pm

    “I believe that the consumer would still have to take the loss at the hands of the DRM-protected content and still find it necessary to buy new copies of books they had previously owned had a license to read.”

    How about the authors who don’t believe in using DRM? Presumably, anyone purchasing an e-book from those authors and publishing houses would not suffer such a risk.

    Do you think e-books without DRM ought to sell for more, to compensate the authors for their trust and good faith?

    • #31 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 4:12 pm

      That’s an excellent argument.

      I’m a big fan of authorized DRM-free media, and I would strongly support DRM-free e-books whenever and wherever available.

      I would absolutely say that authors who publish DRM-free e-books deserve a higher royalty and could easily justify (and in my opinion sell) DRM-free content at a higher price than DRM-protected media.

      Does anyone know if DRM-protected and DRM-free units have ever been sold side-by-side, with the DRM-free content at higher price point, and what the percentage of each were sold? I’d be very interested to see the results of a study in that area.

      • #32 by Brenna Lyons on May 31, 2011 - 6:22 pm

        It was done with music and showed that consumers were willing to pay more for non-DRM copies.

        Ironically, the small press authors and publishers that don’t use DRM tend to also charge less for their books than the conglomerates.

        B

        • #33 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 6:28 pm

          It was done with music and showed that consumers were willing to pay more for non-DRM copies.

          This is exactly the result I anticipated. Thank you for sharing! :)

  10. #34 by Adam on May 31, 2011 - 4:04 pm

    I don’t have much time to leave a huge comment, I will leave a bigger one later, but for now, I will say this. As a former employee of Borders Books in Dekalb IL (and later Lees Summit MO) the digital book craze is not 100% to blame for book stores going out of business. It does take a good chunk out of retail profits, but what really put Borders out was the **** poor management and all the people on top.

    • #35 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 4:14 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that, Adam.

      I would appreciate if you could share whatever you were able to about what you saw first-hand in the bookstores with traditional paper books and e-books.

    • #36 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 5:05 pm

      Not arguing with you, Adam. However, I have met a great many truly wonderful and knowledgeable Borders and Waldenbooks store managers and store book club leaders and at least one buyer who is and always has been a tremendous friend to romance writers and romance readers.

      On the other hand, there have also been some decidedly silly regional rules about events and book signings… at least in Michigan.

  11. #37 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 4:58 pm

    Very true, Mike

    “I would submit that the argument is true in that once a single distributable file is ready for sale, it costs next-to-nothing to reproduce and distribute electronically. The cost factor of distributing 10,000 electronic copies of an e-book is not nearly the same as manufacturing and distributing 10,000 paper books.”

    However, it would be an excellent thing if readers understood this, and perhaps came to understand that it would be fair to expect authors and publishers to be able to recoup their costs before they were expected to share the reproduction-and-distribution savings with readers.

    This might mean that e-books ought to start life costing the same as the paperback or hardback version until costs had been covered, or that e-books should be withheld from the market until the costs had been covered.

    The vital importance of “sell-through” isn’t discussed often enough, in my opinion.

    Once a book is making a profit, instead of a loss, it would be much easier to reach a consensus on sharing the savings.

    • #38 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 5:37 pm

      This might mean that e-books ought to start life costing the same as the paperback or hardback version until costs had been covered, or that e-books should be withheld from the market until the costs had been covered.

      This is an interesting idea — maybe the starting price point could be, say, 10% less than the price of the paperback at entry, and then gradually lowering over time as the costs are recovered.

      This would, at least initially, close some of the cost gap between paper books and e-books, and help level the market for new releases.

      Odds are, the e-reader manufacturers and e-book sellers are going to claim their profits are going to be hurt by this…

      • #39 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 5:46 pm

        Your solution works for me. Of course, at the moment, I don’t have skin in the game!

        I wonder why it is that everyone cannot see the progress of every book’s sales from loss to profitability. It ought to be possible. Do you think that it is so obscene (either way) for some, that it has to be kept hidden?

      • #40 by Brenna Lyons on May 31, 2011 - 6:25 pm

        Which only hacks off readers…withholding ebook versions. Besides, it still doesn’t take into account the authors that ONLY have ebooks or have them first and print later. There are a lot more of that type than the print first type, in my experience.

        B

        • #41 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 7:31 pm

          Brenna,
          You are absolutely right “Which only hacks off readers…withholding ebook versions. Besides, it still doesn’t take into account the authors that ONLY have ebooks or have them first and print later. There are a lot more of that type than the print first type, in my experience.”

          So what is to be done?
          How do we not “hack off” without undermining a return on investment for the authors (time and money and talent) and their licensees?

          What is fair for the e-only or e-first population?

        • #42 by Mike on May 31, 2011 - 8:14 pm

          @Rowena,

          What about an initial starting price based on roughly what said book would retail for, _were_ it printed? The price could be projected based on page count, anticipated dimensions, illustrations, etc.

  12. #43 by rowenacherry on May 31, 2011 - 9:42 pm

    @Mike “What about an initial starting price based on roughly what said book would retail for, _were_ it printed? The price could be projected based on page count, anticipated dimensions, illustrations, etc.”

    If the price were projected on roughly what a mass market paperback would retail for (new, not discounted), you’d be looking at a range from $5.99 to $8.99.

    However, if the paperback were Print On Demand, trade sized, the equivalent cost might be between $12 and $18, because one does not enjoy the economies (ha!) of scale.

    Then again, if the book should have been a hardback, you are into even higher prices… and back in the thick of the issues of Amazon recommended pricing (around $9.99 isn’t it?) versus the deeply resented Agency pricing.

    One cannot price-fix.
    In most areas of commerce, market forces work pretty well, as long as outside forces don’t tip the playing field, or distort the market with predatory pricing until the competition is out of business.

    I find it rather disturbing that one retailer is now not only retailer and distributor, but printer of other publishers’ works, and also used book marketplace, and also publisher…. not to mention the lending sideline…. and the social networking offshoot.

    Should publishers start selling each other’s books?
    Maybe a consortium of the Big 6 publishers should buy what’s left of Borders.

    • #44 by Brenna Lyons on June 1, 2011 - 6:41 am

      Again…these fixes are aimed at conglomerate, and some of them have been advanced and failed. Readers, for instance, are expecting to pay at or below mass market price for an ebook. They do not tolerate paying hard bound prices while the book is new and then dropping price later well, though that is admittedly about a million times better than expecting readers to pay hard bound pricing on ebooks forever. The ONLY reason Baen gets away with the $15 ebook versions is that the ebook readers are getting a sneak peek before the book appears in hard bound. Once the book is out for sale in print, they expect the price to drop.

      Not to be a nudge, but small presses are already pricing at or below mass market pricing for ebooks. I don’t have a single book, no matter how long (and I have several that are in the 140K+ range) or how new or old that sells for more than $7 in ebook. The highest one of my publishers typical goes (for books in that plus-sized novel length) is $8.99, and the average book they put out is priced between $3.99 and $6.99. It’s not small press that are screwing this system up. We’re the ones that set the bar readers expect to have followed.

      Conglomerate press, for all that they are sometimes a century old, are the Johnny come latelies in ebooks. They screwed it up the first time and didn’t learn from their mistakes. They learned to take genre cues from small press but not pricing and DRM. In short, they haven’t figured out what we did a decade ago. That would be what the readers will tolerate and what they expect from us. They COULD take our cues, and they COULD learn that they will sell exponentially more books at a reasonable price and with worldwide distribution (another of their screw ups) than they would doing what they are now. They are fighting it tooth and nail.

      To be blunt, I see no reason to change the way small press does it, since our system is functional NOW. Why should we screw up a good thing to pander to conglomerate’s mistakes?

      B

      • #45 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:35 pm

        A lot of very good points here that many people (myself included) aren’t aware of. Thank you both for sharing!

        It’s very interesting to hear about the factors that affect price which are normally invisible to the ordinary consumer.

        • #46 by rowenacherry on June 2, 2011 - 5:28 am

          Brenna could probably speak more effectively than I about the value an editor (and her team) adds to a novel.

          Before I was published, I had no idea what an editor’s life is like (and the cost of books must pay for all this). An editor may only have one or two days a week to do actual editing. There are literally bags of query letters, boxes and boxes of partials and manuscripts, correspondence and meetings with agents, contracts with authors, editorial meetings to discuss potential new authors, blurb writing… The thing is, aspiring authors don’t pay for any of that, so the costs of discovering new authors must be covered by sales.

          Moreover, editors have to deal with ongoing queries, partials, and fulls whether the eventual book will be in print or e- or both.

          Check out international, best selling author M.J.Rose’s article
          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mj-rose/advice-for-self-publishers_b_862819.html

  13. #47 by Fiona McGier on May 31, 2011 - 11:58 pm

    I’m going to try to answer some of your questions from the article.
    Environmental impact? I would be more concerned if everyone around me wasn’t replacing their phones every year, their laptops every other…lining up for the new I-Pad, etc etc. I try to keep my electronics as long as possible, but the planned obsolescence built into them rears its ugly head every time. Yes, it bothers me, but so does global climate change, people who needlessly waste water, people who celebrate ignorance and reward it with reality TV show-based celebrity involving book contracts with huge advances, etc. With 4 young adult kids who are in or entering college, I have a whole lot more to lose sleep over these days.
    Yes, I own an e-reader, and I thoroughly enjoy it for a couple of reasons. I like the cheaper price of eBooks, but mainly having earned my English degree years ago, my collection of books is truly huge, and husband is tired of building me more shelves. Most of what I read on my reader are the kinds of books I’ll probably only read once, so with an actual book, I’d have to give them away somewhere. This way if I figure I’ll never read it again, I’ll just delete it. No need to lug a bag of books to the used book store. She gets enough of my family’s stuff anyway.
    And I am also an author who is e-published by 2 different publishers. When I sent my stuff to print publishers I got either form letters telling me to “keep at it” but “not interested at this time”, or terse statements about not reading anything not presented by an agent, which was never mentioned in their rather long and involved submissions guidelines on their websites. E-publishers are willing to take a chance on unknown authors.
    As for the assumption that eBooks are not as good, my books are edited multiple times, and a cover artiest produces my covers. I did put one book out unedited, but I listed it on Smashwords.com as a free book, in order to hopefully interest readers in the rest of the series, which is available from one of my publishers.
    The hardest part about being e-published is that there is no marketing muscle behind your books, but I’ve learned that few of the big 6 print publishers give much support to their lessor-known authors. So I would have spent years waiting to become published, only to be ignored by my publisher’s marketing dept, then ultimately dropped by them for lack of sales. No thanks.

    • #48 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:44 pm

      Environmental impact? I would be more concerned if everyone around me wasn’t replacing their phones every year, their laptops every other…lining up for the new I-Pad, etc etc. I try to keep my electronics as long as possible, but the planned obsolescence built into them rears its ugly head every time.

      I think it’s equally frustrating for the consumer. Let’s take a gigantic only-somewhat veer off topic for a moment, and hope I don’t segue into a topic hijack :)

      As a consumer, I want my money to go further, so when I buy a cell phone I want it to last as long as possible. However, there are two MAJOR planned-obsolescence factors in the consumer cell phone market. To keep it narrow, I’ll focus primary on the Android-powered device market.

      1) Cell phone hardware is improving at a pace much rapidly than it has ever improved at before.

      Multiple screens, dual-core processors, 3D, dual cameras, high-res cameras, and memory capacity are all improving at a dramatic rate in large thanks to the Android platform itself. As this happens, application developers write and promote software that requires higher-end devices, “forcing” consumers to upgrade quickly if they want to take advantage of the latest fad.

      2) Software updates are largely being targeted to new devices.

      On the Android platform especially it seems that once a device enters the market, support for it is soon dropped. OS updates, often introducing security and usability improvements, release which only target newer devices. This pushes consumers to want to purchase newer devices as well.

      It’s frustrating as a consumer to see a planned software update, only to find out that my barely one-year-old phone won’t be getting it, and I’ll wind up having to get something newer.

      Planned obsolescence at it’s finest.

  14. #49 by J M Cornwell on June 1, 2011 - 7:14 am

    I am an author who is traditionally, indie and self-published.

    You have made some good points, but they do not go far enough. eReaders offer people who love to read and have arthritis a book they can hold that doesn’t tax them. A friend told me last night that she couldn’t finish Stephen King’s The Dome because it was too big and too hard to hold. She doesn’t have it on her Kindle — yet. eReaders offer a lot and, yes, the technology will change, but books will still be books and you can archive your purchases and download or save your books for as long as Amazon is in business. I don’t think they’re going anywhere since they are now going into publishing and putting out print and ebooks. Amazon also offers book lending so you can share your book files with whomever you choose.

    Books have not had a stable decades-long shelf life since long before the digital age. Books were made to begin deteriorating after five years, meaning you’d have to buy another copy if you wanted to read it again after the pages of your copy yellow and crumble. Lightly used books will still have problems, and that has been the fact for a very long time. Books that were made to last were made with cotton and linen incorporated into the wood pulp, something that has not been the case for more than a century. Pulp books are cheaper to manufacture even though the books do not last nearly as long.

    Planned obsolence happens in nearly every industry. Manufacturers wouldn’t want to make a light bulb that burn virtually forever because it means you won’t come back and buy more. Light bulbs are cheap to make, but making them fragile so they burn out within a few hours means more sales. It’s how the world works.

    Times change and the way to make money changes as well. Bookstores that are just bookstores have been obsolete ever since they added music and coffee shops to the mix. Bookstores need to branch out to become more than just a place where books are sold. That is how to stay in business, diversify. It is the same for every business made and good sold. There are downsides to everything and ebooks will have their day and then be replaced. It’s the cycle of business life.

    • #50 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:55 pm

      eReaders offer people who love to read and have arthritis a book they can hold that doesn’t tax them. A friend told me last night that she couldn’t finish Stephen King’s The Dome because it was too big and too hard to hold.

      This is a point I hadn’t considered, thank you for pointing it out!

      Bookstores that are just bookstores have been obsolete ever since they added music and coffee shops to the mix.

      Actually, a few miles from where I live there is exactly that: A bookstore that is just a bookstore. Well, they do sell records, CDs, and various media, but they don’t have a coffee shop or any subtenants. They have been struggling for a time, and did go out of business for a bit, and then reopened in a new location. One can probably assume the building rent was a bit much for them.

      I haven’t been in there (though I’ve been meaning to for some time) but from what I hear from people that have, it’s amazing. They have been around in this area for over 30 years.

      http://toadhallonline.com/

  15. #51 by rowenacherry on June 1, 2011 - 10:17 pm

    JM
    Has your friend heard of the Chaffee Amendment? Have her look into bookshare.org if she has a sympathetic doctor or physiotherapist who will attest to the fact that her disability causes her a difficulty in accessing books.

    Some books that are not available as ebooks in other places have been legally scanned by volunteers, usually working for the blind, but the rules appear to apply to people who might be unable to hold books, also.

  16. #52 by rowenacherry on June 1, 2011 - 10:22 pm

    JM
    As I understand it, Amazon allows any e-book for which lending is “enabled” to be lent once, to one person of your choice, not quite Amazon also offers book lending so you can share your book files with whomever you choose.

    That is not “sharing” as most people on file sharing sites understand it.

    For the duration of the loan, the purchaser does not have access to the ebook, and at the end of the two weeks, the loan ends, and (as I understand it) the e-book cannot be loaned again.

    Or, has Amazon changed the contract (with copyright owners) yet again?

    • #53 by Mike on June 1, 2011 - 10:48 pm

      The only thing I could officially find on this was that the loan period is 14 days, and you cannot read the title while it is out on loan.

      Also: If the borrower already owns the title, or the title is not available in the borrower’s country due to copyright restrictions, the borrower will not be able to accept the loan.

      So “… with whomever you choose” is somewhat incorrect.

  17. #54 by rowenacherry on June 2, 2011 - 5:48 am

    Your headline is “Are e-books catching on for all the wrong reasons?” but what are the wrong reasons for reading an e-book, Mike?

    Is it possible to read a book for the wrong reason?
    Or… as with piracy, would it be wrong to assume that those who collect and distribute e-books in violation of the authors’ copyright are not necessarily reading the books at all.

    Maybe e-books are a proxy for currency in social networking…. the modern equivalent of beads… or a handshake… or some kind of status symbol, like a trophy or a tattoo… or the price of entry to a secret and prestigious club.

    Do pirates say as much, when they opine. Are we not noticing the code… “We wouldn’t have bought it anyway” might mean, we don’t read.

    Pirate sites, forums, groups are everywhere. I notice more of them, every day. Some of the subscription sites take e-books from quasi legal file hosting sites, upload them, and sell subscriptions. Goodness knows what they do with the credit card numbers, but negative consent billing is probably the mildest abuse.

    Dozens of pirate forums are talking about wiredshelf.com at the moment, and not in a good way.

    EBay is awash with illegal DVDs with e-books snagged from pirate sites, and I know that some of those pirated books on some of those “200,000 e-books” DVDs contain viruses. People on eBay are paying to infect their own computers!!!!

    • #55 by Mike on June 2, 2011 - 8:52 am

      Your headline is “Are e-books catching on for all the wrong reasons?” but what are the wrong reasons for reading an e-book, Mike?

      Is it possible to read a book for the wrong reason?
      Or… as with piracy, would it be wrong to assume that those who collect and distribute e-books in violation of the authors’ copyright are not necessarily reading the books at all.

      You ask two separate questions there, so let me try to address each one separately.

      Is it possible to read an e-book for the wrong reasons? Solely reading? Maybe not.

      But if you combine that with the act of acquiring an e-book, then yes. If one acquires and reads an e-book though an act of piracy, and does so on the premise that they want to read the book without paying, and e-book piracy is easier than trying to get out of a bookstore with an unpaid book, then yes — it would be fair to say they are doing it for the wrong reason.

      Although the subject of my article was primarily about what I believed to be the negative impact and culture shift of e-books versus traditional books, it’s been enlightening to hear from everyone so far about their first hand background and personal experience in the e-book industry — a perspective I have not had myself.

      As far as the sites that simply collect them without reading… I would agree with you that they aren’t reading them at all. They’re simply collecting them and distributing them, for what I believe goes into your next point:

      Maybe e-books are a proxy for currency in social networking…. the modern equivalent of beads… or a handshake… or some kind of status symbol, like a trophy or a tattoo… or the price of entry to a secret and prestigious club.

      Do pirates say as much, when they opine. Are we not noticing the code… “We wouldn’t have bought it anyway” might mean, we don’t read.

      I had a discussion with a person in the music industry a few weeks back, and we talked about piracy at length. There’s an undeniable percentage of the market for both music and books (and arguably any other ware) that “wouldn’t have bought it anyway.” Somewhere I got the numbers that between 5-8% of the music, software, e-books, etc market is piracy. I can’t seem to find my source though. I’m sure it fluctuates over time and product popularity though. Based on those numbers, the “we wouldn’t have paid for it anyway” crowd is relatively small, though that doesn’t negate the argument.

    • #56 by Mike on June 2, 2011 - 9:08 am

      Sidebar:

      A Twitter user I’m following just posted this:
      “I’m preloading Black Ops off Steam. Free play all weekend. No! I have no intention of buying it!”

      +1 for the “We wouldn’t have bought it anyway” crowd, but this isn’t piracy in the least.

      http://www.pcworld.com/

  18. #57 by Mike on June 2, 2011 - 7:45 pm

    Here’s a point I thought of today:

    A paper book is published in limited quantity and, if demand for the book is high enough, copies of good quality will increase in value as copies of lower quality fall out of circulation. As quantities diminish, the volumes can become sought by collectors, museums, libraries, and conservators.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t see the same thing happening with e-books since the effort to duplicate an e-book — assuming no DRM — is trivial.

    On the other hand, this could ensure that the books never enter a rare state and are generally always available for the population to enjoy.

    Thoughts on this? What do you see happening?

    • #58 by rowenacherry on June 3, 2011 - 5:27 am

      Mike,
      If a paper book is in demand, the publisher will do a second printing, and a third, and a fourth…. I have one friend whose book went into a second printing before the official release day, because it sold out.
      (Deborah MacGillivray … “A Restless Knight”).

      You can see the phenomenon on Amazon, if you ever wondered why there can be multiple book pages for the same book. Sometimes the info will say “Reprint” or “Second Printing” etc.

      The paper books that achieve great street value are the ones that are out of print.
      This market will probably be undermined by the e-book phenomenon.

    • #59 by rowenacherry on June 3, 2011 - 5:37 am

      Mind you… this brings us into a discussion of copyright, doesn’t it?
      On the other hand, this could ensure that the books never enter a rare state and are generally always available for the population to enjoy.

      What bothers me is the rights of an author, or an author’s “victim”, or embarrassed heirs. Most of us, I suppose, avoid writing books that could hurt the feelings of someone else, but many of us share the same name with someone else. Witness the problems for namesakes of Kate Middleton and Mark Zuckerberg. Presumably, many fictional villains have a living namesake. (Namesake may not be the right word, but I’m not on a computer that allows me to open several windows.)

      Some printed books ought to become rarities, and it ought to be possible for an author or her heirs to suppress it for at least 70 years if that is their choice.

      I wonder what the legal position would be if an agreement to quietly suppress a book was thwarted by a Google initiative to digitize “orphan” works, and the offending book became widely available as an e-book?

  19. #60 by nita on June 5, 2011 - 1:59 pm

    Just a comment from an avid reader both on my Kindle and of “real books.” I will never give up the feel of a real book in my hands and I will always buy a copy to keep from my favorite authors. Kindle gives me the opportunity to read many books that I would not normally buy in a bookstore. I can buy a Kindle book at midnight on a Saturday night if I discover I need something to read and I can usually find something for a dollar or two. My Kindle didn’t stop me from buying 10 books at a sale for a dollar each either. For me, it’s about getting more books for less money. I also enjoy the convenience of keeping the Kindle in my purse all the time, taking up MUCH less room than a book. That way, I am never without a book. I think both forms have a place–especially to those of us who just love books!