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View Full Version : 2007 The Beginning of the end? (begun in Novels)



Garpy
01-07-2007, 06:21 PM
I've been doing a lot of reading around the book business recently and my spider-senses are tingling.

A lot has already been happening this last year that I suspect will set things in motion in 2007; the google thing - digitizing book content, the rise and rise of homebrew media (eg: YouTube), the growing credibility of self-published POD books, the shrinking market for traditional brick-n-mortar book shops, the first eReaders coming to market...etc etc

Let me make it clear, I'm published with one of the big name UK publishers, the first book is doing well, the second is coming out soon...and I have every reason to have a nauseous little smug smile on my face, to be happy with the way the business works right now, and to argue that nothing much is going to change.

But I suspect it is all about to change. I suspect in 2007 we're going to witness the start of many changes;

1. Retailers will continue to merge, consolidate and shrink, perhaps ending up looking like internet cafes printing books on demand (I blogged about that recently:link ) (http://alexscarrow.blogspot.com/2007/01/futureoh-boy.html)
2. Digital books will pick up. It may not by Sony's eReader link (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4586800.stm) that everyone rushes out to buy. Apple may well enter the fray and design a reader, that becomes the must-have gadget.
3. Without having to invest in large print runs, and buy shelf space, the book market will open up for small indie publishers and self-publishing authors.

If you look at the music industry in Europe (I suspect it's the same in the states, but I can't say for sure, not living there an' all)...any old band now has a chance of success and fame if they snare people's attention with a funny little promo on YouTube and a catchy little tune that spreads like a snotty cold across MySpace. You can become a household name with a song that cost a 100 in studio time, and a homemade video...if, your ideas are good enough.

Well, that model, I think, is what awaits the book industry. A digital marketplace of PDF files, downloaded from a literary equivalent of iTunes, and customers will either buy the licence to play it on their reader, or nip to the local Book PodStop and get a fresh print.

For established midlist authors, it means we'll have to compete on a more level playing field with thousands of new authors. It will mean (hopefully) much more variety, much more originality, but...I suspect it will also mean an influx of a lot of dross that customers will have to sift through.

I think actually, YouTube is a very good example of what we can expect; hundreds of thousands of bored kids whingeing into their webcams, but dotted amongst that...the work of some incredibly inventive, creative kids who completely shame the professional writers and producers of TV content at the moment.

Scary times ahead, but hopeful times. For quality writers who've yet to be picked up by an agent or publisher, because they're not chasing this year's hip bandwagon, or because they're work is confusingly cross-genre and hard to market, or simply because they haven't mastered writing a decent query...I think there's real hope ahead.

For writers like me, that jumped the hoops and got published, it'll be not so good. I'll have more competition, I'll have to work that much harder to make my books stand out of the crowd.

Anyway...enough of the essay. What do people think about this? Are we on the cusp of a revolution in publishing?

Christine N.
01-07-2007, 06:33 PM
I hate e-books. Not the content, just reading them on my computer. Or digital media, or whatever. I spend enough time in front of my computer, reading is for entertainment. I still like the feel of paper in my hands, turning actual pages.

Until they make one that will stand up to being inside my purse, going to the beach or reading in the tub, e-readers will not take over print media. But I hear that erotica is seeing a huge jump in readership in the e-book market; pubs like Ellora's Cave are making money hand over fist.

For the rest... I kind of see that. But will people search out books by people they don't know? I have a MySpace, I've gotten myself some friends. I've seen website hits go up, new people checking it out, but that hasn't translated into sales that I know of.

The problem with self-publishing (and I agree we're hearing more and more about it, it's getting 'street credit') is that there is no gatekeeper. The market will be flooded with poorly written, unedited crap. But I must admit I've seen a few books that may in fact be self published (on MySpace) that do look interesting, and that I will be purchasing from Amazon once my to read list shrinks a bit.

I think people who consider themselves readers will not be swayed by the new self-publishing craze. They demand a certain standard. Now, if self and small press (or micro-press) publishers offer the same discount and returnablitiy that big names do, well, I can see it gaining popularity.

I think I just talked myself into a circle.

I hope more indie bookstores pop up. Seeing as how big box brick and mortars seem to be getting fewer and farther between in some areas, I would hope indies would fill in the gap. We have one here, it's much closer to my house than the big box, but my aunt hits the big box because she's got the discount card.

James D. Macdonald
01-07-2007, 06:34 PM
For established midlist authors, it means we'll have to compete on a more level playing field with thousands of new authors. It will mean (hopefully) much more variety, much more originality, but...I suspect it will also mean an influx of a lot of dross that customers will have to sift through.

Don't worry about the thousands of new authors. Worry about the now out-of-print backlist of everyone ever published since publishing was invented. Those are proven good (for some value of good). A random pulp story from the 'thirties is probably a mile better than a random slush book written today.

Here's one thing to remember: the publishing industry is constantly changing. I've seen massive changes since I started this game twenty years ago -- I expect changes will continue.

Nevertheless, the number of people with the talent to actually tell entertaining stories remains small. Information wants to be free, but entertainment wants to get paid for. I'm not terribly worried.

Jamesaritchie
01-07-2007, 06:38 PM
Trouble is, merges and consolidations haven't caues shrinking, but expansions.

And there's simply no evidenec at all that digital or POD books are growing in popularity. At least not to any appreciable degree.

Hnestly, all tis sound exactly like teh same predictions I've been hearing for at least fifteen years, yet each year since then has actually expanded the book industry as we know it.

Paper books, large print runs, regualr old bookstores, and all the rest, will stay with us until someone comes along with something people want more. So far, no one has.

Things always change, but preditions on what will change are usually wrong, and prediction on when thinsg will change are pretty much always wrong.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is still a good rule, and right now, at least, publishng not only ain't broke, it's working better than ever before.

RG570
01-07-2007, 09:48 PM
There was a CBC series about this called "The End Of Print". You can catch it on the CBC website still, I think. It's pretty interesting.

Anyway, according to that, the part of the industry that's really hurting is the newspaper. Books are fine, at least for now. Somehow I doubt everyone will abandon published books for more expensive, lower quality self published books. And youtube-- blegh. There's nothing worth watching on there. I don't see the big deal. It's a bunch of high school kids acting like idiots. Not a viable replacement for real music by real musicians, and books.

ChunkyC
01-07-2007, 10:52 PM
I agree that traditional paper/bound books aren't in danger ... yet. But I think I know what the OP is getting at. There are signs that big changes might be on the horizon. How far off that horizon is, is anyone's guess. My feeling is that one piece of the puzzle isn't there yet: a reader that truly mimics the look of paper, if not the feel. If that happens, and there are screen technologies that look promising, we may see a sudden surge like we saw in regards to music with the advent of the iPod.

What I think will happen first is already starting to take hold: the distribution of audio books. Take a look at a site like podiobooks (http://www.podiobooks.com/). To me, this is a hint of what is to come. I'd much rather listen to a book while driving to and from work than the typical radio drive-time drivel. Before the iPod, this was expensive and a bit unwieldy in that you had to swap out tapes or CDs. For example, my copy of Lawrence Block's Telling Lies for Fun and Profit is 6 cassettes, but if I can get around to ripping it to my iPod, I'll be able to listen to it from start to finish nonstop if I want. I already subscribe to half a dozen writing related podcasts and listen to them in the car almost exclusively.

There was free music for a while, but that has started to mature with iTunes and other similar services. The same thing could happen with audiobooks. Right now stuff is free, but it could easily follow the iTunes model and earn royalites for authors from that source as well as from print.

Or how about advertizing your print book? Many authors offer PDFs of the opening chapter, why not an audio file as well for the iPod crowd?

As writers, there are lots of opportunities out there to use electronic media to our benefit. We just have to see the possibilites.

engmajor2005
01-07-2007, 11:12 PM
Digital music is pratical; slap 30 gig worth of stuff on a player that will fit in your pocket and have at it. E-books are not, simple as that. If somebody comes up with something just as portable and interactive (marginal notes anyone?) as the book, then we'll see a change.

I do think that self-publishing and POD will be playing a big part in the future, but bad writing doesn't sell...at least not enough to be considered "competition." So while we're going to see more self-publication, I don't think it will be the industry-shaker that some think it will. That's not to say that all self-published stuff is bad, but as one poster pointed out already: there is no gatekeeper.

ModoReese
01-08-2007, 02:57 AM
What I'm finding fascinating about your comparison to the music biz is that a few years ago the music business was analyzing that it would go in the direction of the publishing business. There was a large essay circulating talking about how the music business would be more "home-brewed" so to speak - less controlled by the majors. That indie labels would be more like small publishing houses, the returns overall would be less, record deals would be more reasonable. The biggest point was that music would split into two definite groups: style and substance. Essentially the mass market musicians that appealed to a wider range of people and the more "high brow" musicians and artists would be very different beasts.

It made a lot of sense at the time. This would have been about the mid 90s.

It sort of boggles my mind that this same idea that transformed/is transforming music was based on books, but is now impacting how people see the book industry and its future.

Michelle

Azure Skye
01-08-2007, 03:22 AM
I wonder how far our digital age will go. This generation is growing up wired so I guess I can see how it could happen. But, as long as there are people like me on this earth -- prefer hard copy to reading on a computer screen -- there will still be books.

badducky
01-08-2007, 03:28 AM
I don't think things will change quickly at all.

Until it is just as cost-effective to produce one professionally bound book instead of one-hundred thousand, we will see no major changes in the industry.

Remember that POD books often rely heavily on the promotional energy of the author. Thus, that author is not busy writing another book. With mainstream publishing, a marketing apparatus of many talented people with stable industry contacts exists to promote authors while the authors are busy writing another book.

This advantage will not go away anytime soon, even if self-publications explode.

The physical thing in your hand is not the whole equation.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 10:59 AM
E-book readers have been around for plenty of time now. Some awkward and unusable, some just fine and dandy. We have PalmPilots, don't we? You can read on that, if you must.

Paper books are doing fine. I see a lack of Barnes & Noble workers on the corner with cardboard signs going "COME to OUR STORE! Must FEED my KIDS!" In fact, mostly I just see the place full of people.

Things change and shift. I think the internet may be about to become a useful and recognizable part of the publishing world, if not this year than soon. I don't think this harbinges any doom, because "doom" is a gradual thing and can rarely be harbinged properly.

Actually, I think the internet will be useful for the short story market, the market of the radio drama (because they're screaming "podcast") and the market for serial stories. Novels, less so.

James is right about which end of the spectrum you need to look at as the competition. I'd be a lot more scared about my short story going up against a Back-In-Print short story by Samual R. Delany than I am about some shitsplat kid who thinks he can write real good and post it on the internet.

Tallymark
01-08-2007, 11:57 AM
Paper books are doing fine. I see a lack of Barnes & Noble workers on the corner with cardboard signs going "COME to OUR STORE! Must FEED my KIDS!"

Actually, we all want to stand on corners and beg, but it's against company policy. :)

However, it's not because of anything going wrong with the bookstore or with sales, but because a large number of us lowly booksellers are poor starving college students. XD I can't speak for all stores, but my store is doing fine.

E-books may save you a trip to the bookstore and take up less space on the shelf, but y'know, I like having a shelf full of favorite books, and a lot of other people do too. And I like browsing through real books in a real bookstore. And it's weird, because with everything else in my life I am totally down with new technology; god knows I wouldn't survive without my ipod. But with books...there's really nothing like the simple pleasure of an actual book. As for POD...there's already plenty of that going on now, and most people only sell a handful of books. That's not likely to change.

David Wisehart
01-08-2007, 02:54 PM
I used to see POD publishing as little more than a free-market slushpile, but I've recently revised my opinion.

POD publishing expands the types of books that can be published (including bad books, but that's a given).

It's true that most self-published books never break out of the low triple digits, but some of those are books of quality with a small potential audience. Poetry, for example. How many people read last year's Pulitzer Prize winning poetry book before it won the prize? Or after?

Last week I published Valentino: a play in verse (http://www.lulu.com/content/485931) through Lulu.com. This is a book no traditional publisher would touch, unless it had already been a Broadway hit or Pulitzer Prize winner. Even play publishers want you to have had a professional production before publication. (My play has been selected for a New Works Festival, but I'm printing the book in advance of that.)

My goal in publishing the play is not to sell a million copies (that would be nice), but to get more exposure for the script, in hopes of achieving a professional, royalty-paying production.

This kind of publishing-as-marketing would have been much more difficult and expensive five years ago.

I've recently completed an epic fantasy novel, Devil's Lair (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50143), and don't know if I'd want to go the POD route with that. But I might. My beta readers love it, but warn that the book's vocabulary may be too challenging for the general reader. A couple of agents have been impressed by the writing but unimpressed by its commercial prospects.

If there are only five hundred people in the world who would like my book, POD publishing gives me a way to find those readers.

Garpy
01-08-2007, 08:11 PM
An interesting spread of feedback.

Badducky said Until it is just as cost-effective to produce one professionally bound book instead of one-hundred thousand, we will see no major changes in the industry.

I think the sheer fact that not having to warehouse and ship stock will factor into the POD 'vending machine' model and provides a lot of economic incentive for the business template to drift towards that. Add to this the fact that retailers would be able to downsize shop floor space and reduce staff, then, the economic argument holds a little more weight.

With regard to eBooks, I think the tipping point will come when a few simple ergonomic details are dealt with; you can drop it in the bath and it still works, it's slim and light enough to slide into your jeans, the screen is large enough to provide a comfy read....that kind of stuff.

Anyway, IMHO, down the line - not sure how far though - there'd be two ways for a customer to enjoy a book; an eBook for the more tech-savvy, or a POD'd hardcopy for the more traditonal like-it-on-paper crowd. But the important thing in either case, is that books would no longer be printed in their tens of thousands, shipped by truck and train, and stocked in large retail outlets. Because that's all overhead, and if there's one thing I've learned, if a company can see a way to trim an unnecessary overhead, they will.

pepperlandgirl
01-08-2007, 08:44 PM
As somebody who regularly hauls around several anthologies, the Riverside Shakespeare, and what feels like a million novels, I salivate over the thought of a decent e-reader and being able to purchase all my texts in electronic format. I'll be thinking about that today when I trek on down to the campus bookstore and have to drag several bags of books 1/2 mile back up to my office.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 08:46 PM
The only thing I've ever wanted an ebook reader for, thus far, is reading a slush pile. I'd love to dump the slush pile on one, go to the park, sit with some hormonally unstable mother geese by the lake, and read slush-pile entries.

badducky
01-08-2007, 09:58 PM
I think the sheer fact that not having to warehouse and ship stock will factor into the POD 'vending machine' model and provides a lot of economic incentive for the business template to drift towards that. Add to this the fact that retailers would be able to downsize shop floor space and reduce staff, then, the economic argument holds a little more weight.


Ah, but even in the "vending machine" model, the paper must come from somewhere, and someone must store it. Backstage in a bookstore is not quite as magical as you'd think because it's just a couple bins of damaged stock, a terrifying fridge and a few large piles of trash no one has taken out, yet. Every bit of floor space possible is dedicated to selling the product. In a vending machine model, the situation is reversed. Large amounts of paper and ink in storage, with a small sales area.

All you're doing is shifting around the warehousing. The cost of such a maneuver would be different - perhaps cheaper, perhaps not - but the cost difference would not be different enough to matter.

e-books, even if successfully created to meet your specs, do not solve any of the problems that plagues music. E-books do not make the product more portable. The product cannot generally be consumed in under ten minutes, thus one book is usually all one must carry. E-books are not more convenient because books are surprisingly durable (unlike even the best CD player) and even if they do break, one can replace a book for a relatively low price.

What problem does an e-book solve? Storage? Most people don't hoard books. I'm at my mom's house right now, and my parents are avid readers. They also tend to dump most of the books they've read at a local used book store. Occasionally something might get donated to the library. What they keep, they keep on bookshelves.

Shelving is the heart and soul of the lazy decorator. Books cover walls just fine, and books give any room a personal touch of your true self.

E-books do not solve any problems with the product like e-music does.

The day is coming. That day is not today, or even soon. Until it is just as cost effective to produce one unit as it is to produce one-hundred thousand, the current distribution model will be just fine. Even if the model changes, the quality control and marketing ability of publishing companies will out-perform the guy on the street. Thus, we midlisters will be just fine.

I'm also not scared of competing with history. We authors might adore dipping our toes in the language of history, but most consumers prefer words and products designed for them. HBO kicks TCM all over the Neilson Ratings, after all.

Efrddyl
01-08-2007, 10:33 PM
Regarding e-books, I haven't seen the issue of cost addressed. If I have the choice between paying $7.99 for a paperback, and $7.50 for an e-book, I'm going to buy the paperback. Then I have something tangible and highly portable for my money. No DRM.

To be fair, I like having the ability to adjust the type size and all on my screen, but right now that's not enough of an advantage for me to buy an e-book. Maybe someone here has some insight on the pricing for e-books. I thought the idea was that they would be cheaper, because of not being printed.

I need to replace some of my classics, and I can't. They aren't in print, or the current edition is not the same. Would I buy backlist authors on e-books? If that was the only way I could get them, probably. But they better not be retooled, abridged, or inferior copies. I've been burned on rereleased CD's enough to be wary.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 10:36 PM
Badducky is right. When ebooks reach the useful level of an MP3 player, then we may see something. I still think that ebook readers are approaching a new issue (if it is an issue, which I really don't tink it is) from what's mostly still an old standpoint. It's like listening to MP3s, but your player still looks like a Discman, size and shape.

ChunkyC
01-08-2007, 10:49 PM
e-books, even if successfully created to meet your specs, do not solve any of the problems that plagues music. E-books do not make the product more portable. The product cannot generally be consumed in under ten minutes, thus one book is usually all one must carry.
I generally have half a dozen books on the go at any one time. A novel or sometimes two, a couple of magazines, computer manuals for work, etc. There's no way I can cart all that around with me all the time. If I had a suitable e-reader, I could carry a whole library with me and read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted.

E-books are not more convenient because books are surprisingly durable (unlike even the best CD player) and even if they do break, one can replace a book for a relatively low price.
I agree, with the durability part anyway. Until an e-reader is created that won't snap in half if you sit on it, e-readers won't really catch on. But tech companies are already developing flexible displays that can even be folded like a sheet of paper. Mind you, they'll have to make all the other components like storage flexible too, and that's a ways off yet. Once that's done, it certainly will be far more convenient to carry a flexible reader the size of a single page than a few hundred pounds worth of printed books.

With all that said, I don't believe for a moment that e-books and e-readers will replace the printed book. I too love sitting with a beautifully bound volume, turning the crisp pages as I stay up too late. I don't think that will ever go out of vogue, but I also believe it is inevitable that an e-reader that mimics paper will be invented in the not-too-distant future, and that the electronic book will take its place as a legitimate media for distributing the works of writers. It may take a while, and will probably fill a niche like audiobooks do now, but it will happen. We should be ready to take advantage of it when it does.

badducky
01-08-2007, 10:51 PM
e-book readers, too, have always proven difficult.

ok, john doe consumer, i want you to pay a hundred bucks for this e-book reader that needs batteries and might break so you can save a couple bucks every time you buy a book. You do not know how long your tech will last until it becomes obsolete.

Or, you can buy a nice trade paperback for fifteen bucks, and then another, and then another.

Guess what? E-book readers have been on the market over and over again and investors have collectively lost their shirts on the technology.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 10:56 PM
Okay, here's a supposition.

Supposing the internet does indeed become, as I've theorized before, the place where the short story market explodes into another golden age. Supposing further than in this short story market, on this fluid surface, we begin to see a sudden rise of good quality serial novels appearing.

An ebook reader, thin and comfortable, which I could sit in bed and access the updated stories of my favorite serials would be lovely. There's a use. Or, a la' podcasts, my ebook reader downloads updates of my favorite magazines, which happen to only be online. Delivery systems would change, since if your magazine is online (and still reaching subscribers) you are no longer pinned to a monthly schedule of any sort, since you don't have to make the printer's. You're still on some schedule, but it can be wildly different than it is in print.


THERE'S a use for an ebook reader.

ChunkyC
01-08-2007, 11:02 PM
E-book readers have been on the market over and over again and investors have collectively lost their shirts on the technology.
That doesn't mean they'll never figure it out. The technology is still pretty young.

Then there'll be convergence ... imagine a flexible display you can fold up and stuff in your pocket, that is actually a full-fledged computer with wireless capability, and doesn't use batteries because the whole surface acts as a solar panel. Then imagine a city that is fully tricked out with wireless Internet access.

I envision sitting in a park reading a newspaper article on my e-sheet, and I take a break to check my messages. In there is one from Amazon, because I agreed to let them send me notifications. Hey, PeeDee's new novel is available! I thumb the image and his novel starts downloading and it's billed to my Amazon account. I close up the article and pop open PeeDee's novel the moment the download is complete and start reading. PeeDee has just sold a copy of his book, seconds after the reader (me) found out it was available. Heck, I could even subscribe to an author and automatically get his or her book the moment it is released, just like I do now with podcasts.

Pretty darn cool.

note: cross-posted with PeeDee ;)

Cath
01-08-2007, 11:06 PM
Little of which impacts the need for good new stories and writers. The technology may be changing, but our lust to read and learn isn't.

I don't care what format my work gets published in, as long as people read it.

ChunkyC
01-08-2007, 11:13 PM
Little of which impacts the need for good new stories and writers.
Yes, indeed. All that is changing is, as PeeDee noted, the delivery system. And I truly think it is just becoming a new option for delivering writing to the reader, not replacing anything that currently exists, such as the printed book.

Technology is one thing, but even when the problems with reading electronically are overcome, it will still be the content that will determine whether or not it really catches on.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 11:16 PM
I hoped that went without saying. The day people stop reading and writing is the day I buy a boat and just go sailing somewhere and give up. People read and people write, despite what naysayers enjoy saying to the contrary.

This isn't even, in teh grand scheme of things, that much of a shift. The affordable printing press was a big deal. This is just a next step. And it's not even a next step yet. It's just a lump, somewhere on the horizon, which may be nothing at all.

MidnightMuse
01-08-2007, 11:18 PM
Perhaps I'm a dinosaur, preferring the feel and smell of printed pages to something that's backlit and scrolls - and perhaps the big change is coming, but I do think it will take time (as in years) to really take over.

Besides, in Seattle, solar power means we could only read for 2 weeks out of the year! :)

Meerkat
01-08-2007, 11:23 PM
I don't think this potential threat takes into account what a high percentage of our book purchases as consumers were impulse buys in brick and mortar stores, the literary bags of potato chips that fell off the shelf into our arms, and how relatively few were the result of any intent to buy such-and-such's book. So to continue to capture that lion's share of the market, things have to stay pretty much the same as they are now. Thankfully.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 11:24 PM
I have a utility on my iPod which allows me to put large text files into it and read them on the screen. I almost never use it. It's a tiny screen, and I can just listen to music or audio books much more comfortably.

I DO occasionally use it for slush pile stuff, because I can read something quick if I have ten minutes to kill, or I can read a chunk of my own work and see how it sits with me in a random moment. Things like that.

Solar powered is a terrible idea. Horrible idea. I don't even buy solar powered calculators, for Pete's sake.

Garpy
01-08-2007, 11:26 PM
Little of which impacts the need for good new stories and writers. The technology may be changing, but our lust to read and learn isn't.

But, the point is, if the business model changes to one where there's less initial overhead/risk (printing, storage, shipping etc)...then I'd imagine publishers would take a punt on more authors who aren't this years' 'sure thing'.

You take a big chunk of risk out of the whole publishing business when you flip it over to a digital medium. And the problem with the business, to my knowledge, is that a lot more books fail to recoup the overheads than do. Which means the few big sellers, underwrite the loss on all the other books.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 11:31 PM
It doesn't take any of the risk out. You still have to pick good authors, or people are going to go "Oh. Eos Publishing. I've read two really crummy books by them this year, I'll not try this new one. Nossir."

Just because your overhead is now paper and ink which can go toward a new writer as well as an old one, you still have to pick authors that sell, authors that represent you well. Otherwise, it's tripe coming out and it won't impress anyone.

Garpy
01-08-2007, 11:33 PM
I have a utility on my iPod which allows me to put large text files into it and read them on the screen. I almost never use it. It's a tiny screen, and I can just listen to music or audio books much more comfortably.

Yup, that's an ergonomic issue, like weight, size etc. And the cost, yes that's another issue, I'm not sure I'd pay anything more than 60 for an eBook.

I wonder whether, though, it'll not be case of 'it'll happen when there's enough consumer demand', but instead...it'll happen because the industry would like to do it's business that way.

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 11:34 PM
They would be connected. The industry does its business based on what the readers want. If the consumer doesn't want it, it's not going to last very long.

Garpy
01-08-2007, 11:35 PM
Otherwise, it's tripe coming out and it won't impress anyone.

I'm not entirely convinced we're not awash with tripe now. (present company excepted)

PeeDee
01-08-2007, 11:41 PM
Imagine it like a bookstore that's stocked it shelves with any ol' POD book. That's the good ones, and the ones spelldd liek th33s, or the ones which are mostly fanfiction, or are just...well...garbage.

That's what I mean. No one would shop there.

Garpy
01-09-2007, 12:17 AM
yup, that sounds like a form of chav Hell.

However, removing printing and distribution from the equation, does not remove the other process that a publisher routinely carries out, namely quality filtering. It just means with less money tied up with paper stock, they can afford to take a bit more of a risk here and there. Plus, it would mean smaller presses would have a better chance to compete.

RJLeahy
01-09-2007, 02:51 AM
I made the transition from vinyl to cd grudgingly, after a few indiscrimate affairs with 8-track and cassette (reel-to-reel was beyond my means at the time, but oh did I lust after her). I have not made the jump to "ether-tunes", ie, downloaded music, nor do I intend to. There is no particular reason for this other than aging prejudice-- I have made my last technological jump this lifetime. Portability and practicality be damned.

I only point this out, because I think most of us here have done the same thing with books. We love them; they are ours; it is a spiritual and emotional connection that is hard to explain. Portability and practicality be damned.

In the end of course, what we feel about the future of books really has no bearing on their outcome. I have seen each generation become more and more enamored of all thigs electronic and have no doubt most reading material is going the same way. The looks I give to these slack-jawed mouth breathers, as they wordlessly mime the music pumped into their empty heads by these insidious pods (btw, did you know there was a movie in the fifties that predicted "pod-people"? It was strangley prophetic), you will mimic, as you stare in disbelief at the new wave of future "pod-readers".

Not that there will be any real reading taking place. As others have opined, I believe these will be nothing more than futuristic audio tapes. Why? It's easier to listen than to read. In some ways, it's like going back in time. Until 1440, most people got their information from audio (orators, town criers, plays, etc.). It's coming full circle. Some of you may very well live long enough to see audio recordings and movies (and all their bastard offspring), completely supplant the written word as the major form of information and entertainment. Books may still exist, but as an old, antiquated curriosity.

Want to come up and see my etchings?

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 02:57 AM
You know, I agree with you a bit there. I do indeed expect to see a rise of spoken word material rather than written, thanks to both the internet and the iPods.

(I think about the Pod People reference every time I plug my iPod in. I'm glad I'm not the only one.)

I don't mind this at all. I mean, there are books out there I adore, like Neil Gaiman's American Gods, but until I heard George Guidall's brilliant reading of it, I don't think I appreciated all of the layers to it.

I would love to see a rise in audio books, audio short stories, and radio dramas. If I had the software to eliminate the background noise (that bothers me to no end) I would happily record my own short stories as a means of distribution (if there was a home for them).

I think it's an opening of options and an expanding of homes for stories, not the death of Books As We Know It, and I'm fine with that. The wonderful thing about stories is, they're impossible to kill. Humanity's offed a lot of people to try, but stories survive. Stories are what makes humanity what it is, the good and the bad. We define ourselves by stories, and we measure ourselves up to stories, and I think stories will endure long after you, me, iPods, and the internet are smoke and dust.

I'm okay with that. It means I have plenty of time left to tell stories to someone, somewhere.

RJLeahy
01-09-2007, 03:13 AM
I re-read my post and have to admit, it does come off a bit...well, cranky. Sorry. I'm getting older and they've raised the price of Depends a nickle. Bastards.

It is a subject that is near to my heart however. The book, whose cover I use as an avatar and whose website I pass around like a whore, is basically the story of what happens to a race after it finds that it no longer needs the written word. Not that I ever expect the entire human race to go that route, but I think most of us should be at least a little worried as we watch the steady decline of all but minimal necessary literacy.

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 03:32 AM
It's worth pointing out that, in the history of time, the incline of literacy is a recent trend too.

(I didn't think you were cranky; I thought you made good points.)

ChunkyC
01-09-2007, 05:52 AM
I agree. Very thought-provoking, RJ. I too most likely have fewer years ahead than behind and sense a growing tendency in myself to hang onto all that is familiar. But there is also a part of me that revels in the new. I am fascinated by technology. I love my iPod, I think it's one of the coolest toys ever. It serves me in a pretty specific manner -- as I mentioned upthread -- I use it primarily to listen while I drive.

PeeDee hit on something else regarding audiobooks -- the one doing the reading. Another audiobook I have on cassette is Barbara Kingsolver (http://www.kingsolver.com/home/index.asp)'s Homeland and Other Stories. Now, I'm a sci-fi geek. I was one of the first 50 people to sign up for Internet access in my town back at the beginning of the '90s. I have had a computer network in my house for years. I would never in a million years have considered picking up a book by the talented Ms. Kingsolver had I not seen it for $2 at the library book sale a few years back. I was looking for stuff to listen to in the car, and was constantly turned off by prices of $20 or more for something I could buy for less than $10 in paperback. So when I saw that bargain, I grabbed it.

And boy, what a bargain it was. It is read by the author, and she is remarkable. She drew me into her stories so much so that I nearly missed my exit on the way home that day. I've even driven around the block half a dozen times so that she could finish one of the stories. Amazing writer, wonderful reader. She is a talent I would not have found otherwise.

I think in the right hands -- or voice, to be accurate -- it can be a wholly different and equally enthralling experience listening to a book.

RJLeahy
01-09-2007, 06:11 AM
I think in the right hands -- or voice, to be accurate -- it can be a wholly different and equally enthralling experience listening to a book.

In a way, that's my point. Listening is entertainment; reading is a skill. At times, it can be work, even for those who are highly literate. I see a steady decline in the numbers of people who want to master this particular skill, in deference to the much easier method of having someone else read to them.

farfromfearless
01-09-2007, 06:50 AM
Stephen King tried to release one of his novels in e-Book format to minimal/questionable success a few years ago. For him, it may simply be a case of jumping the gun, or there wasn't as high a demand for electronic media (read: literature) such as novels. With the advances in technology, that trend is changing, but not to the degree that many fear and hope.

I work in the web industry and to be honest, I see so much inflated and skewed opinions on many topics (the biggest being media) by marketing analyst's reports that its next to impossible to accurately gauge what the biggest trends are liable to be until they're well upon us. This is why I tend to rely on human nature and not analyst's numbers.

Keep in mind that YouTube isn't something new, we've had variants on this in the past but the technology is only now matching our creative ambitions. But there is no tangible value in YouTube. Granted, it is interesting and an amusing way to pass a few spare minutes during your day. It's an outlet for untapped energy that will eventually change as newer, more interesting things come in and take its place. One of the biggest factors in its eventual demise is the influx of advertising and marketing attention; again human nature comes in to play - people will steer away from it and get hooked on other things.

From my experience, people find more value in something tangible - something they can hold in their hands and put on a shelf as opposed to something they carry with them on a jump drive or stored in their inbox or on some soon-to-be-dated technology/hardware. It's a big reason why antiques are so insanely valuable. Books - real books - are an investment for many people; they are an investment in resources for the publishers, and in turn an investment in terms of ownership for the consumer. How we obtain them may change, perhaps even the volume of published material will change, but the value inherent in a hardcover copy of a book will not.

As authors, midlist or otherwise, there is always competition. I think that is part of what makes being an author so rewarding. To have confirmation that you are an author of note, would be amazing. To maintain that status is work. And for me, I think I can only really get that when I see my name on the dust jacket of my book. There will always be dross to sift through, just go to your local Chapters/Barne's & Noble bookstore and you can see how evident that is.

We're not living on the moon just yet, and I think there is plenty of time before that happens still (if at all); even then, I think they'll still be reading books.

Cath
01-09-2007, 06:53 AM
Listening is entertainment; reading is a skill. At times, it can be work, even for those who are highly literate. I see a steady decline in the numbers of people who want to master this particular skill...
I disagree - I think one thing authors like JK Rowling have done is create a whole new generation of readers. Books are trendy now in a way they never were when I was a kid. There may be a temporary lull while this new generation grows up and moves on to the more adult stuff - but I don't think reading's dead quite yet.

farfromfearless
01-09-2007, 06:55 AM
I disagree - I think one thing authors like JK Rowling have done is create a whole new generation of readers. Books are trendy now in a way they never were when I was a kid. There may be a temporary lull while this new generation grows up and moves on to the more adult stuff - but I don't think reading's dead quite yet.

I agree, I think that every generation will experience something of the like to one degree or another - at least until we've chopped down the last tree and have to resort to polymers or some such for "paper".

RJLeahy
01-09-2007, 07:03 AM
I hope you're both right, but the pessimist in me has doubts. I don't see this generation moving onto the more adult stuff, I'm afraid.

Dave.C.Robinson
01-09-2007, 08:14 AM
I'm going to jump into the middle of this, but before I do I should mention that my opinions may not reflect the majority of posters.

To start with I absolutely despise audiobooks. I can't stand them. They're too damn slow. I read much faster than I listen, and listening to a book or story is usually intensely boring.

I also like ebooks. I buy both electronic and paper format. I can read the ebooks on my desktop, laptop or PDA, and the paper ones the rest of the time. I do think we need a better ebook device (it needs a larger screen for one thing), but I still enjoy reading ebooks. Having said that I've just spent about $60 on hardcovers from Amazon this week alone and it's only Monday.

Ebooks are going to grow. They will become more popular over time, but it's not going to happen until there's a breakthrough device. The eBook won't be easy to produce. It's going to need to be reasonably inexpensive (cheaper than an iPod as there's less demand) and have a decent size screen.

In the meantime we will still have good old fashioned dead-tree editions. As an aside I buy most of my ebooks from Baen, as their "$15 gets you a full month's worth of releases" price policy works with the idea that electrons are cheaper than paper, ebooks should be too.

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 08:27 AM
I hope you're both right, but the pessimist in me has doubts. I don't see this generation moving onto the more adult stuff, I'm afraid.

I do. I see it every day. Every week, I have easily twenty parents and kids (sometimes more) who have read the Harry Potter books, read Lemony Snicket, and want to know....what else?

I suggest Jonathan Stroud. If they aren't interested, then I advance them to Philip Pullman, Anne McCaffery, Star Wars novels, and so on. I sell every one of them several novels from the sci-fi/fantasy section, and they're all excited at all this neat stuff there is waiting for them, on a level that they're able to start to get into.

This is a good generation coming up. They're reading Harry Potter ravenously, that energy will carry over into adult books. You just wait. The eighties and nineties generations were weird and lackluster things (I would have ot say we were music generations more than anything else) but this newer generation rising is an information generation, and one of the biggest things they're excited about is books!

I have enough perspective that I usually come off pessimistic in these sort of discussions. Here, though, I am both optimistic and excited. The internet and ebooks can do wonderful and interesting things for the story format (particularly, my precious short story format) and the generation coming is going to read like nothing else.

RJLeahy
01-09-2007, 08:55 AM
I'd like to belive it, but I'm not sure the stats support it. Stories like these just depress me.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/24/AR2005122400701.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6089412.stm

Garpy
01-09-2007, 12:30 PM
I can believe the kiddies are reading more and will continue to read more in the future.

Rowling and Horowitz, in the UK, have got a lot of kids reading, who otherwise would no doubt be spending their time hanging aroud on street corners looking surly and drinking cheap cider.

These are the book buyers of tomorrow, and as someone above just said, they may well turn out to be more voracious book consumers than the MTV generations (80's, 90's)....simply because, TV is letting them down. That's actually the main reason YouTube has taken off so incredibly - TV is SO bad, that people are deserting the lounge and heading for the study to hop online, chat on MSN, watch some vids etc etc.

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 07:57 PM
I'd like to belive it, but I'm not sure the stats support it. Stories like these just depress me.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/24/AR2005122400701.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6089412.stm

I can find you a thousand stats like this. I could probably find you stats pointing in the other direction. I don't generally believe anything based on what statistics tell me.

What I do believe is the number of kids I see who are reading, or who brag about what they're reading, or come to me with some book by Asimov or Heinlein and they say "DO you think this is a good book?"

Inevitably, they buy something. They buy a lot.

This generation is growing up with realistic video games, special effects in movies (We looked at "Abyss" and went "WOW!" they will look at it and go "eh"). TV may rise and fall, as it tends to do. Music is music. All of these things are perfectly normal to them. And books are perfectly normal too. It's the generations that were born after Harry Potter exploded and are now old enough to find interest in this excitement of books.

Trust me. It's good years coming.

dmytryp
01-09-2007, 08:15 PM
[quote=badducky]

The day is coming. That day is not today, or even soon. Until it is just as cost effective to produce one unit as it is to produce one-hundred thousand, the current distribution model will be just fine. Even if the model changes, the quality control and marketing ability of publishing companies will out-perform the guy on the street. Thus, we midlisters will be just fine.
[quote]

Actually, the tipping point in favor of offset printing isn't 1, but a couple of thousands and growing each day, since all the digital printing companies are trying to lower the cost per page with their products. There is another factor. I am not sure how relevant it is for books -- personalization. My boss is Benny landa. You could call him the "father" of digital printing. He seesadvertising all turning digital very soon, since you'd be more cost effective by producing personalized catalogs etc.

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 09:15 PM
I shudder at the thought of personalized novels.

"And this is our valiant hero!" She cried, "This is he who will save the land of Ala'Hanster! This is.....Tom Servo!"


BUt yes, I can see customizable catalogs being useful.

ChunkyC
01-09-2007, 09:17 PM
Thing is, no one method of delivery is going to have exclusivity. What's happening now is still the embryonic state of a new form. Only time will tell just how popular it becomes. But it will be part of the publishing industry to stay, of that I am certain.

For audiobooks, there need to be good readers. Dave mentioned above that he finds them too slow. I think that's only if you compare it to reading a book. Do we tell people we're conversing with to talk faster? Or yell out at someone making a speech to speed it up? Not usually. We listen, we pay attention. An audiobook can be the same sort of experience.

I was thinking about this overnight and it occurred to me that listening to an audiobook may be reminding me subliminally of being read to by my parents when I was younger. That was my first introduction to things like imagination, flights of fancy. Sure, I can read faster than someone can speak the same words, but the experience of being read to can still be wonderful, if the one doing the reading has talent.

BiggerBoat
01-09-2007, 09:19 PM
Personally, I don't see ebooks having any serious market penetration for many years. Reading anything on a screen is just a discomforting experience. You can't read ebooks in the tub, you'd worry about them on the beach, you can't leave them lying around because someone might steal your reader. There's no real impetus to carry around a bunch of books (people generally read one at a time).

I can see something perhaps getting a foothold in terms of textbooks and technical manuals. College students carrying around their books on a single reader seems sensible, and in the technology/industrial worlds you could imagine managers walking around with access to all of the corporate literature and technical manuals.

But, yeah, for us readers is there anything greater than crisp pages of a new book?




"And this is our valiant hero!" She cried, "This is he who will save the land of Ala'Hanster! This is.....Tom Servo!"

+10 points for a MST3k reference.

PeeDee
01-09-2007, 09:25 PM
Audiobooks are one of my absolute favorite forms of storytelling. I adore it. Particularly a well-read one.

A well-read audio book gives you accents, tones, pauses, and emotions. ALl of these things are present when you're reading the book itself, but the accents are just marks on the paper and the pause is as long as it takes you to get to the next line.

Even better, I use audio books to get through thicker books of text that I can't follow on paper. I listened to the first Wheel of Time book, for example.

Or, if I have the audio book for a book I'm reading then when I go for a walk, I find my place in the audio book and keep going as I walk. I don't drive anywhere at all (have never bothered to get a license) and so audiobooks are wonderful and enjoyable things.

...

There's how the internet can change and re-shift things. I would like to see more authors willing to record their own works as audio files and put them up for sale. Be it on iTunes on their personal web-sites. It doesn't take very much time or effort or software prowess to record solid sound files. I would love to see "Buy James Macdonald's new book from Amazon.com -- Or download the audio book here, read by the author."

I wouldn't mind reading my own short stories and putting them online for sale. I think that'd be rather fun. In theory.

ChunkyC
01-09-2007, 09:33 PM
Some more links....

Barnes & Noble Meet the Writers (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/writers/writers2_cds2.asp?PID=1302&) podcasts.

Farpoint Media (http://www.farpointmedia.net/). Home to a number of writing-related podcasts, such as Mur Lafferty's (AW nick mightymur) I Should Be Writing and Dragonpage Cover to Cover.

Audible dot com (http://www.audible.com/adbl/site/homepage/AnonHome.jsp?BV_UseBVCookie=Yes). Audio books online. You don't have to become a member, but joining gets you better prices.

ETA: if nothing else, we should be aware of these distribution channels and see what our contracts say about them. People like Stephen King and Michael Chricton have books at audible dot com, you can bet they get royalities.

farfromfearless
01-09-2007, 09:42 PM
Audio books drive me nuts. I tried listening to Harry Potter once and I nearly pitched the CD's out the window - the worst part of narration like that is when a MAN is trying to mimic the voice of the female characters. Not overtly mind you, but subtle inflections and such - it's all very annoying especially if I've already read the book and heard the characters differently in my mind.

ChunkyC
01-09-2007, 09:49 PM
Yeah, that wouldn't be fun. Imagine Orson Welles reading Hermione Grainger's lines, lol. Some books would lend themselves better to the format, such as instructional books like the Writer's Digest stuff, etc. And again it comes back to good readers and good production values. People tell me I have a good radio voice, but I doubt anyone would want to hear me read Harry Potter into my cheap headset on my laptop. ;)

dmytryp
01-09-2007, 10:02 PM
Audiobooks are one of my absolute favorite forms of storytelling. I adore it. Particularly a well-read one.

A well-read audio book gives you accents, tones, pauses, and emotions. ALl of these things are present when you're reading the book itself, but the accents are just marks on the paper and the pause is as long as it takes you to get to the next line.



You'd have to agree that it takes away part of the experience too. It's somewhat like play, the reader take away part of your interpretation by the way he reads.

I like audiobooks nonetheless too

ChunkyC
01-09-2007, 10:06 PM
A question:

I think this is a pretty wide ranging topic for writers of all stripes, does anyone participating here mind if I move us over to the Roundtable forum?

RJLeahy
01-10-2007, 12:34 AM
A well-read audio book gives you accents, tones, pauses, and emotions. ALl of these things are present when you're reading the book itself, but the accents are just marks on the paper and the pause is as long as it takes you to get to the next line.

Yes, these are things the reader is supposed to hear in his own mind, using his own imagination, not having sit poon fed to him by another.

I will agree that stats tell little. "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." However, anecdotal evidence is meaningless.

RJLeahy
01-10-2007, 12:35 AM
or even spoon fed.

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 12:43 AM
A question:

I think this is a pretty wide ranging topic for writers of all stripes, does anyone participating here mind if I move us over to the Roundtable forum?

I'ts a free ranging topic and I don't see any reason to try and shift fully back on topic. So yeah, I'd move it.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 12:49 AM
Allrighty-then. Trays in the upright position, seat belts fastened....

...are we there yet?....

....ah, nice soft landing! Hope I brought the right clothes for the climate. ;)

Garpy
01-10-2007, 12:50 AM
excuse me sounding like a nitwit, but where do I go to find this RoundTable place?

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 12:57 AM
Yes, these are things the reader is supposed to hear in his own mind, using his own imagination, not having sit poon fed to him by another.
I understand your point. But as I've said above, a good reading can be a different and just as enjoyable experience. Plus, it's the only way for some people to experience literature. My dearly-departed mother in law was blind. It hit her at a late enough age (complication of diabetes) that she really didn't learn braille. So audiobooks were her only link to literature. So there's that audience as well.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 01:04 AM
excuse me sounding like a nitwit, but where do I go to find this RoundTable place?
It's the second forum in the Conference Room section of the main page. Actually called For All Writers: The AW Roundtable. I left a redirect in novels so peeps can find their way directly to the thread.

This is a great spot for all the various kinds of writers here to mix with peeps they might not otherwise hang out with. Since the ideas we're bringing up cross genres and styles, I thought it would be good to continue this fascinating discussion over here and get more peeps involved.

Scribhneoir
01-10-2007, 01:16 AM
But there is no tangible value in YouTube. ... One of the biggest factors in its eventual demise is the influx of advertising and marketing attention; again human nature comes in to play - people will steer away from it and get hooked on other things.

In the new issue of The Writer there's a bit about the debut of "ad-supported e-books." That would kill it for me right there. I will not tolerate commercials in my books. According to the piece, WOWIO (www.wowio.com (http://www.wowio.com)) has started selling ads in its e-books with a goal to "keep it under a ratio of one ad page per three content pages." So besides the discomfort of reading a book off a little screen, they want to make every fourth page a commercial. What fun. Just another reason I won't be hopping on the e-book bandwagon any time soon.

RJLeahy
01-10-2007, 01:26 AM
My dearly-departed mother in law was blind. It hit her at a late enough age (complication of diabetes) that she really didn't learn braille. So audiobooks were her only link to literature. So there's that audience as well.


Certainly there's a need for audio books. My concern is that it and other technology like it, will eventually supplant books for most people, not just those who need it. I know PeeDee feel that Harry Potter will save this generation, but I think that's putting an awful lot on one book. I find it more an aberration, than a trend. Most children I speak to, seem to be waiting for the next MOVIE. It seems to be the parents, who are most interested in the next book.

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 01:28 AM
I dont' think Harry Potter will save this generation. That is way too much for one book, or one series. I think that the attention brought to reading BY Harry Potter makes kids more aware of it.

Mostly, I think it's the kids themselves. Harry Potter or not.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 04:12 AM
In the new issue of The Writer there's a bit about the debut of "ad-supported e-books." That would kill it for me right there. I will not tolerate commercials in my books. According to the piece, WOWIO (www.wowio.com (http://www.wowio.com)) has started selling ads in its e-books with a goal to "keep it under a ratio of one ad page per three content pages." So besides the discomfort of reading a book off a little screen, they want to make every fourth page a commercial. What fun. Just another reason I won't be hopping on the e-book bandwagon any time soon.
Yuk, I wouldn't want that either. Even ads between chapters would be way too much. No, let the reader pay an appropriate amount and leave the ads out altogether. I could maybe tolerate a pitch for other books from that distributor, placed at the beginning (or end) like you see with movie trailers, but that's about it. You don't see commercials every six minutes in a movie. Bleah. Even TV shows aren't 25% ads ... are they? Come to think of it, they might be, or even more....

Gak, I'm gonna have nightmares tonight.

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 04:19 AM
Romance and Western novels frequently have a wallop of ads for other books placed in the middle. I just cataloged a big bunch of them.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 04:23 AM
Cue REM....

"It's the end of the world as we know it...."

Could you imagine a Miss Marple novel with ads? And the killer is -- BROUGHT TO YOU BY NIKE! -- the butler!

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 04:26 AM
I'm less gung ho about having advertising in novels than some. If it were advertising like in a magazine then yes, that would bother me. Otherwise, it's just a couple pages in the back from the publisher showing other books by them you can buy. Or its the ads in the middle of a romance novel for other romance novels. Or it's things like that.

Mostly, people read the books anyway and the world somehow manages to do another revolution around the sun. I see it less now than I did, but I still see it.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 04:36 AM
It's this ad every fourth page thing Scrib mentioned that gives me the willies.

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 04:38 AM
I doubt it'll come to that.

And if it did, I would still read. I like reading too much to quit. I read magazines and don'tnotice the ads 'til much later on.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 05:07 AM
Yeah, I'd still read too. I'm one of those 'weirdies' who reads cereal boxes, toothpaste tubes, the labels on a new mattress....

I need help. ;)

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 05:08 AM
*you* need help. *I* need glasses. Urk. :)

gp101
01-10-2007, 09:02 AM
THE BIGGEST HINDRANCE (IMO) TO eREADER REVOLUTION:

Readability.
Ipods and other MP3 players are popular and useful because you fit your entire music collection in the palm of your hand and the quality of your listening experience does not degrade very much. But with eReaders, you might still fit your entire literary library in the palm of your hand, but the quality of your reading experience will not be as good as it is now. To show an entire page on a screen that fits in your palm, the print would be extremely tiny and not very enjoyable. So either 1.) there will be a zoom feature so you get maybe a paragraph at a time to fit in your palm, or 2.) the screen needs to become larger.

If you keep with the smaller screen (we like small stuff to fit in our pockets, after all), then you would have to constantly scroll down. This would be a good time to become a thumb specialist in the medical field because a lot of us would come down with cronic cramped/sprang thumbs. Maybe there will be an auto scroll feature, thus saving our digits. I don't even like that feature on my computer, it gets dizzying after a while. I can't imagine enjoying it with even smaller print on a palm-held eBook. Think about the times you get those long text messages from friends in crisis or when you're fighting with your sig-other. It's annoying reading so much small text.

If they make the screen larger, what would be the size that makes it easy to read a novel while still providing portability in a small unit? Too large a screen defeats some of the purpose of having an eBook (though you will still have the luxury of containing many books in one unit). Maybe a fold-out screen will be developed so that the unit itself is small for transportation, but when you're ready to read, the screen unfolds to a more useful reading size.

I would love to be able to enjoy my entire book library on a portable eBook. The key word hear is enjoy. I think once eReaders find a way to make the act of reading just as enjoyable as a hardcover (or relatively close, I should say), then the revolution may begin. Till then, give me hardcover or give me death.

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 10:48 AM
I read paperback novels that are mass market. An ebook reader that size, but a bit thinner, would fit easily into my pocket. And the text wouldn't be all that small, or at least no smaller than it is in an MMPB right as it is.

But I agree that treating an eBook reader from the same perspective as an Mp3 player or a PSP is in error. It's a different animal altogether. It's a duck, but they're trying to treat it like it's a goose. It doesn't work that way, not at all.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 08:18 PM
I mentioned upthread the idea of flexible electronic paper. I have a good friend and writing mentor, K.A. Bedford, who has a thing called 'active paper' in his novels. That, and reading e-newsletters dealing with new technologies on the horizon, make me think that some form of electronic paper will be that 'killer' device to make practical ebook readers possible.

E-Ink (http://www.eink.com/technology/)

Fujitsu press release '05 (http://www.fujitsu.com/global/news/pr/archives/month/2005/20050713-01.html)

Sony Reader (http://www.sonystyle.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/en/-/USD/SY_DisplayProductInformation-Start?ProductSKU=PRS500U2&CP=sony_10_23_heroimage_Portable_Reader&ref=http%3A//www.sony.com/index.php)

Keep in mind how bulky and heavy the first cell phones were and look where they are now. We could be looking at a killer ebook device within a decade ... or less.

Toothpaste
01-10-2007, 09:25 PM
I think someone else mentioned this but why not mention it again so that I can have a say too! I do think there will be a time when these electronic books will be very readible and look much like our books except you can download many onto one device. Very handy for textbooks etc. My problem is simply one of aesthetics. I buy books so I can put them on my bookshelf and gaze at them. Otherwise I would just take them out of the library for free. That's why I own all the Lemony Snicket books, they look so pretty! And my texbooks from university? They look totally awesome and make any room look cozier. Might seem a silly argument, but I just LOVE the look of books. I love holding them. I love it when they do something with the pages of brand new books to make them look more worn. I like seeing the spines of all my books along my shelves. They are so colourful! And I definietly, DEFINITELY, judge a book by its cover (which is why I think I am having actual nightmares of what mine will be). This is why books will never be replaced entirely by new technology. They are too pretty.

ChunkyC
01-10-2007, 10:12 PM
I too love printed books. I salivate over libraries filled with beautifully bound hardback volumes. That's why I buy the Harry Potter books in the hardcover adult edition from Raincoast Books up here in Canada. They look awesome, and are a joy to read.

As one who hopes to someday have novels out there, I think it's important to be aware of these other formats and make sure they are covered in our contracts so that we can take advantage of them as an additional way of distributing our writing.

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 10:16 PM
Personally, I get excited at the thought of new and interseting formats and mediums to tell stories in. The thought in the back of my head is always first "I wonder if it'll work and last," and second "I wonder what I can do with it."

Dave.C.Robinson
01-10-2007, 10:37 PM
I like ebooks, but there really isn't a good device for them. There are several OK ones, but nothing really good.

I need backlight, a decent-size screen, no DRM garbage, multi-format support and a long battery life. Nothing's there yet.

Del
01-10-2007, 10:40 PM
E-books do not solve any problems with the product like e-music does.



There is one thing. Instant purchase. See it, buy it, read it and never leave your house.

Instant has always enticed changes. Easy is encouraging. I hate browsing book store shelves. It makes my head spin. Ebookly, I can search, see the cover and not the spine, skim a blurb or even a few pages and it takes absolutely no effort.

Ebooks are slow to rise for two reasons. Few want to read on a computer screen (and I can't imagine reading on an ipod - eye strain), and most people aren't ready to accept a virtual product. They need something to hold so they can feel their money wasn't wasted.

On the other side, I've read that ebooks can actually stimulate the sale of hard books.

Del
01-10-2007, 10:46 PM
I need to replace some of my classics, and I can't.

I hope this does some good.

http://etext.virginia.edu/ebooks/

PeeDee
01-10-2007, 10:46 PM
When ebooks truly arrive, you can beat that Baen Books will be leading whatever charge there may be. Those people get it.

Del
01-10-2007, 11:01 PM
It's just a lump, somewhere on the horizon, which may be nothing at all.

It's not a lump. The people that will bring it to reality are only kids now. But kids are spending more time online and oneday we will hear things like "How can you read that book. It hurts my eyes."

Bloggs, websites, movies are conditioning our youth to one day rely solely on the computer which by then will have an optional wall projector, virtual keyboard and be called a PID, personal information device or something of the sort.

Del
01-10-2007, 11:17 PM
Stephen King tried to release one of his novels in e-Book format to minimal/questionable success a few years ago.

Questionable success? If you are referring to Riding the Bullet (I think that is the one) the public crashed the servers trying to get it. In 2 days he sold nearly 2 million copies. I'd say there is no question at all.

Look at these http://www.ebookmall.com/ebooks-authors/stephen-king-ebooks.htm

I know King is fond of turning real pages but commercially I think he is keeping up with technology.