View Full Version : Discussion: eBook Publishing Model proposals


mrkai
12-16-2007, 03:40 PM
As an offshoot from a rather..heated tangent on another thread, this thread s being created to propose and promote practical publishing models for eBooks given current market and technological conditions.

So let's do that. Some ground rules:

1. We are working on the assumption that we are discussing selling books to people that wish to buy them. As such, accusation and/or labeling of anyone engaged in the discussion as a "pirate" is strictly forbidden and out of bounds.

Further, anyone engaging in such will be branded as a violator of "MrKai's Law" which is mobileread's version of "Godwin's Law" as it was dubbed by Nate the Great, here (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showpost.php?p=128431&postcount=63). Massive heaping of shame upon the guilty is to be allowed and encouraged :)

2. Any discussion of Digital Rights Management is to be of a technical nature, not a political one. This includes slurs such as "Digital Restrictions Management" and "Freeloaders". Again, we are talking about buyers and sellers, and the participants are assumed to be producers/vendors customers.

3. This is not Sunday School, Philosophy 101, Plato or the Free Software Foundation. We aren't looking to discuss morality or "morality" or law or "law". If you are a lawyer...fine. But I mean real lawyers. Please state where you are allowed to practice law so that the participants are aware of where these laws apply.

4. Publishers and authors are encouraged to participate. Assuming the above 3 points can be adhered to.

I fully expect this to be either a productive and educational discussion...or a completely dead one due to the limitations outlined above :D

Darqref
12-17-2007, 03:41 AM
I think "improving" ebook publishing will fall into 4 areas that can be summed up as "making it easier".

1. Price. You may be tempted to say cheap, Cheap, CHEAP. However, I think its more accurate to find a price that's considered fair, which might not be the cheapest. (An illustrating tangent: Those who have been around Baen's Bar for a long time will remember the OLD price for Webscriptions. Barflies were worried that the price for webscriptions were too low to give an adequate royalty to the authors, especially if buying the webscription might replace buying a paper copy. Jim Baen had originally started the Webscription program as an advertising expense (which REALLY worked, by the way) to drive pre-orders of books. After kicking around the idea, the monthly webscription price increased a couple of bucks, apparently with very mild grumbling and much more acclaim. We want our authors to be happy with the webscription sales!)

If the price is high enough that you look elsewhere, then not only have you encouraged the darknet, but you may induce those you are are spending their discretionary funds to spend elsewhere. Eric Flint keeps saying "we're competing for their BEER money, folks". Conversely, if the price is cheap enough, you're tempted to buy it just to try it, because you don't feel cheated. (Freqently observed Webscription comment- "I'd spend that much just for the Flint and the Weber; now who's this new author included in the package?")

2. Ease of use. Is the ebook easy to use? DRM hurts here, even if only because it forces you look for the correct file. Even in drm-free forms, it really helps to have a file available in the format needed. Yes, it's good to have a format that can be flexibly transformed, but, as an author (or publisher) wouldn't you rather have at least the first suggestion for how you'd like it to look? I have a Rocket, and a bunch of people download one or another version and then convert to rb format. I find it easy (enough) to just use the rb versions that Baen makes available. I might change that pattern when I finally buy an eInk device, but I'd at least try the native-format first.

Similarly, bad text formatting or grammar errors (compared to print versions, anyway) detract from ease of use. A file format that specifies too small of font. Improperly displayed umlauts and such in foreign names. Anything that makes you start to think "I could do better than that!"

3. Ease of Finding. This might be MUCH more important than you might think. Eric Flint (boy, he makes a lot of quotable remarks, doncha think?) frequently challenges people to find his books for free. Then pay attention to how LONG it took you to find and download, compared to just paying for it at Baen, as well as the effort to get it into the right format, and possibly correct scanning mistakes.

I pay attention to Fictionwise, since they're happy to send me a list every week of the books they are adding. Much less frequently, I go back and browse through the categories to find something older, because its a bit more of a pain. On the other hand, I find it almost excruciating to find publishing info for the various imprints under the Penguin brand, let alone whether they even HAVE an ebook version. I think their website is impossibly difficult, and it's almost too much work to find the old DAW and ACE imprints.

The bottom line is to make it so much easier to FIND the legal ebook to purchase, that it becomes a pain to go elsewhere. This might take extra effort from a publisher to make sure search engines will find your author's books on your site. And make sure it's easy to find a list of what you've published this month and what you're going to publish in the next month or two!

4. Service and customer interaction. This might also cover some of the "value added" features on the other thread. One of the reasons Baen is so passionately defended, is that the Baen's Bar community interacts with *most* of the authors and the publisher regularly. It's sometimes fun to find out that Ringo is have trouble coming up with a proper name for an upcoming book (at least one that isn't vaguely pornographic), or how many places Joe Buckley has been red-shirted, and we've been downhearted about the recent death of Toni's husband. Questions tend to get answered quickly, even if the answer is "that's still under negotiation". Maybe other publishers have similar online communities, but at least in the SF field, I haven't found them on the publisher's website.


In summary: If we can get online publishers to make improvements in any or all of these areas, I think their sales will improve, and their "non-sales" will decrease, at least in proportion.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-17-2007, 10:23 AM
I agree with Darqref's points, and would like to add another:

Exposure. Presently, most people out there don't even know what an e-book is (or, at least, before Amazon most people didn't. Now, I'd guess a few more people have figured it out). However, most booksellers do not make a big effort to advertise e-books, and few authors or publishers make sure they add "available in e-book too!" to their ad copy.

In addition, those authors (like me) who do not have Big Publishers' contracts have a hard time getting recognized outside of their limited number of groups of influence. There are some great e-book only authors out there, but it is hard to find them past the smoke and noise that is the mainline sellers and publishers. And online promotion, without serious funds, is a lot like whispering in the middle of a rock concert.

Finally, there needs to be better outreach, so to speak, to the potential market for e-books, which includes anyone who uses computers, PDAs, smartphones and Blackberries, not just dedicated hardware. And many of those people need help to get over the idea that "it is impossible" to seriously read a book on anything as small as a PDA, so they won't be deterred from checking out e-books based on the fact that they don't have over $300 to burn for a dedicated device.

So, Exposure on essentially three fronts: Availability, choices, and readability.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 11:02 AM
My general thinking here is one of (re)-education, from the publisher/content provider side. I believe (and this can be witnessed in quite a few excerpts and transcripts of several articles, keynotes and symposia of/from the industry) that while they are "aware" of the mistakes the music, and to a degree, the movie industry has made in attempting to deal with the digital chaos, don't quite "get it"; they are doomed to fail the same way, because they are concerned about essentially the wrong group of people.

Those people are people that aren't going to buy what they are selling, under any circumstances...ever.

Sound familiar? :)

Specifically I believe, in light of the above, they should clone The One Model That Has Worked: Apple's.

While Apple's iPod/iTMS model is not perfect, its pretty damned good and has eclipsed all comers. The biggest problem I see with it/have with it is that it is not web-based, and as such excludes buyers that don't use Windows or Mac OS X...however this has changed with the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

The positive points I will outline below and follow each with what publishers could do with ebooks that would be akin to Apple's music offering:

1. A "good enough" reader that is inexpensive, sleek and simple to use. The iPods are not the most feature-filled DAPs out there, but have the right size/price/feature/simplicity ratio.

An equivalent reader device to be "iPod-like" in the above ways should be a bit smaller than the 505, have the same amount of buttons (less than Kindle, more than Gen3) but allow for text entry via a T9-like method or the typical phone texting method (this gets you lookups/notes but allows you to have less keys and a smaller form factor), OTA buying - but via Wi-Fi (keeps costs down...but eliminates the computer requirement) and an eInk screen that is smaller (3/4 Sony/Kindle/Gen3) in both dimensions to get more per run and keep the overall unit cost down. Target price should be $200.

2. iTMS tracks can be used on as many iPods as one owns.

If the owner of our reader chooses to use it with a computer and do their purchase this way, they should be allowed to put their books on as many readers as they plug into their machine. If the reader is plugged into another machine, the books can't be (easily) transferred off and if they are, they must then be "authorized" this new machine.

Its a limitation, but one that most people won't run into. It doesn't stop the hardcore pirate types, but nothing will. Its a gentle reminder in the "keeping you honest" category. Its "fair".

3. iTMS tracks have uniform pricing and one set of "rights"

This has been a sticking point for the music biz, but I think we can be a bit more flexible with books...assuming there is a minimal baseline set of "rights" across the whole price range.

What screwed the other digital music stores was a quagmire of stupid limitations across tracks...some on the same album...utter insanity. For the flat price of X, some tracks could only be streamed(?!), some could not be played on a portable device, some could not be burned to CD...some had none of these restrictions...some all.

A successful eBook venture will avoid this foolishness. History has shown that it is fraught with implication, doomed to failure and pisses customers off. Its not "better than free" and drives them towards "free". We don't want to do that.

4. All iTMS tracks can be backed up to data cd, and burned to music cd to play on any cd player

Many people overlook this very crucial feature as a "killer" one, but on a psychological level its a deal-maker. It adds value to the customer instantly and gives them a sense that they have purchased something "tangible". They "own the music" because they can protect it from data loss and have the added value of being able to have something they can not only "hold in their hand" but use and enjoy practically anywhere.

How do we do this with an eBook then? Simple. Allow the printing of one copy. You burn your own paper and ink, it costs us (the publishers) nothing.

"Ah...hang on there a minute skippy!" the horrified publisher exclaims. "If we do THAT then it makes it easier to pirate!!!"

Does it really? Let's look at this a bit closer.

Remember...we cannot beat the "hardcore"...this is a given. We want to help honest folk stay honest. We can do this by simply printing the book as a bitmap. This way, even if some clever bastard thinks "Bwahahaha...I can print to PDF and extract the text"...there isn't any.

If they want to be really...paranoid about it, build the printing into the device and not the desktop...or do like the USPS does and Print from the web. Even if its spooled...its a bitmap.

I'm a software engineer...and a damned clever guy, that has "walked with darkness" enough to know how to think around it, in case you were wondering how some yahoo on the 'net could come up with this and not the brightest minds in the publishing biz ;)

Additionally, this method also puts our printed ebook on even footing with a publisher printed one in terms of the pirate horde...they are gonna have to retype it (introducing possible errors) or ocr it (same). We have made a "lossy" copy because it is not going to be as nicely bound...at least not on our dime and our labor :)

Like our burned iTMS tracks, this give the buyer that "tangible" safety net. They "own the book". We (the buyer) lose nothing. They (the publisher) lose nothing. Win-Win. I like...win-win outcomes :)

5. Some iTMS tracks are higher quality, and are "DRM-free".

Apple sells some tracks (One major label, many indie labels) in higher quality than standard tracks. Initially, these tracks were priced at a premium. I say, let the book publishers have this. if they want to add extra content and sell for a bit more feel free...as long as these "Ultra Premium" eBooks are "DRM-free".

I put "DRM-free" in quotes here because while iTunes Plus tracks don't have the restriction that that can only be played on iPods and authorized computers, they are watermarked. This is what is being termed as "Social DRM"...each iTunes Plus track has the account name of the person that originally bought them embedded into the track.

Now, I honestly don't think this is doable with eBooks, sadly because there isn't a way to make an eBook that can be read on "anything" that could embed this info in such a way that removing it either destroys the eBook (editing the iTunes file to change the personalization makes it unplayable) or by making it lossy and lesser quality (you can re-import Plus tracks to get rid of the personalization, but they sound worse).

So we'll have to give the publishers a pass on this.

I think tho, even without item 5, do the rest and we have a winner on our hands. From the business side and the buyer side.

They get their "DRM"...we get "DRM" that effective is not going to rob an honest buyer of what they paid for by shackling it to death, making it not even "worth paying for"...not "better than free".

Xenophon
12-17-2007, 11:14 AM
My general thinking here is one of (re)-education, from the publisher/content provider side. I believe (and this can be witnessed in quite a few excerpts and transcripts of several articles, keynotes and symposia of/from the industry) that while they are "aware" of the mistakes the music, and to a degree, the movie industry has made in attempting to deal with the digital chaos, don't quite "get it"; they are doomed to fail the same way, because they are concerned about essentially the wrong group of people.

Those people are people that aren't going to buy what they are selling, under any circumstances...ever.

Sound familiar? :)

*Specifically* I believe, in light of the above, they should clone The One Model That Has Worked: Apple's.

SNIP


I agree with the above quoted, all except for one word... "Apple's."

I'm a Mac-head. A Mac fan-boy from waaaaaay back. I even think that Apple's model would probably work. But it's the wrong example for this market.

In the book market, "The One Model That Has Worked" is... Baen's, not Apple's. In particular, it's a model that has worked for a content provider. Apple is a device seller. The other publishers are a lot more like Baen than they are like Apple. Push Apple's model at them, and they'll view themselves in the role of the music labels, not in the Apple role. That's bad, 'cause it pushes them away from what we want, not towards it.

But with Baen as an example... Here's a publisher making more off of eSales than from all international sales combined. They don't have a piracy problem -- even with NYT best-sellers. And they're another content provider, not a device-maker/seller. That's an example that resonates the right way, not the wrong way (for publishers, that is). And it's at least as good for consumers, too.

Xenophon

mrkai
12-17-2007, 11:16 AM
2. Ease of use. Is the ebook easy to use? DRM hurts here, even if only because it forces you look for the correct file. Even in drm-free forms, it really helps to have a file available in the format needed. Yes, it's good to have a format that can be flexibly transformed, but, as an author (or publisher) wouldn't you rather have at least the first suggestion for how you'd like it to look? I have a Rocket, and a bunch of people download one or another version and then convert to rb format. I find it easy (enough) to just use the rb versions that Baen makes available. I might change that pattern when I finally buy an eInk device, but I'd at least try the native-format first.


....while I'm not a fan of DRM per se, I don't think you can "sell it" to Big Publishers without something that passes for it.

I think if its limited to "discouraging of casual copying" as opposed to "practically useless since you can't enjoy reading the damned book" its a "win-win".

We want them to sell us books so we have to look at "their side" too.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 11:21 AM
Can you print NYT bestseller's from what Baen sells?

I'm looking at an end-to-end system here.

The problem with the Ebooks is, well, look.

Amazon has a MASSIVE amount of stock. None of it happens to work on my reader...and i dont think my reader, nor amazon's for that matter with the current price structure is gonna get anywhere near "ubiquitous"...so my model deals with pervasive portable readers.

We..sooooo don't have quality pervasive portable readers :) And while Baen might be sucessful...I'm pretty sure publishers are looking for a scale and scope much greater...volume, you know :)

mrkai
12-17-2007, 11:31 AM
I
But with Baen as an example... Here's a publisher making more off of eSales than from all international sales combined. They don't have a piracy problem -- even with NYT best-sellers.


I didn't see a single author I recognized in the whole of Baen's very small catalog.

I think this is what I'd call a "big tell".

NatCh
12-17-2007, 12:09 PM
I didn't see a single author I recognized in the whole of Baen's very small catalog.

I think this is what I'd call a "big tell".I don't recognize most of the authors on the NYT Bestseller List (http://www.nytimes.com/pages/books/bestseller/index.html), but evidently somebody thinks they're worth buying -- even if it's just those who buy what's on that list. :wink:

The point of exposure has been made above, obscurity is the great enemy of every author. I think that the fact that there is little or no piracy of a book on the NYT Bestseller List is pretty remarkable in and of itself. Especially when the book can be purchased as an un-DRMed e-file for a measly six bucks.

That is how I interpret Xenophon's point, anyway. :shrug:

An interesting comparison point might be to look at the level of piracy on the NYT Bestseller List as a whole (especially the ones that have no e-version at all), if the list is generally free from piracy, then the whole point is pretty moot. :shrug:



That being said, I think that another issue is accesibility, and I think the biggest obstacle there is the tower of e-babel. A single "standard" format that everyone sold in and used would eliminate the vast majority of problems on this point. :nice:

JSWolf
12-17-2007, 12:15 PM
Also being able to go to a publisher's website and see what it forthcoming for ebooks so we don't end up buying the pbook when the ebook is soon to follow. I personally think that not telling us is akin to lying via withholding information.

Nate the great
12-17-2007, 12:21 PM
I didn't see a single author I recognized in the whole of Baen's very small catalog.

I think this is what I'd call a "big tell".

How is it a big tell? I know of at least two Baen authors who've been on the (extended) NYTimes Best Seller List, Lois Bujold and David Weber.

igorsk
12-17-2007, 12:27 PM
John Ringo and Eric Flint also were on that list.

Penforhire
12-17-2007, 12:38 PM
Just to expand on one item noted above -- price. Price, price, price.

Today e-readers are so expensive as to limit the market for e-books tremendously. Nobody I know wants to read a novel on a standard PC screen, Palm TX, or iPhone. You want mainstream volume? We need mainstream e-ink.

Along those lines, as much as I argue against DRM, a really strong DRM should allow a large distributor (e.g. Amazon) to heavily subsidize the e-reader. This is in addition to giving us a real incentive on buying e-books over p-books, not merely matching discount p-book prices. Ths assumes the cost of producing and distributing an e-book are significantly less than a p-book, something I do not know to be a fact but do believe.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 12:44 PM
Ok...I'll rephrase that since the "no offense" part seems to CLEARLY have been ignored.

I go to amazon's top sellers and the NYT fiction list I see several authors I recognize.

As I don't read sci-fi I guess you know this could have been a limiting factor there at Baen.

The other point, and again, getting twisted up on who or who is not a Baen fan may be getting tangental here, but are any of these Baen NYT Bestsellers themselves available from Baen?

Like the Grammys (for example) there is a grammy for Best Audio Engineering on a Latin Fusion Recording-type Grammy...but not many people can tell you who won it.

I go to Mobipocket, I see stuff I know or people I've heard of...and I mean heard of *casually*..not as a fan of a particular genre.

How anyone could have not picked this up...I dunno. Seems like fanboys looking for a fight.

Wrong thread...unless you serious think that

1. Big Publishers would go for the Baen model and
2. Big Publisher's product (with in the above stated "I go to Mobileread, I see stuff I know or people I've heard of...and I mean heard of *casually*...") have the same market weight/value

If so...rock on

mrkai
12-17-2007, 12:47 PM
An interesting comparison point might be to look at the level of piracy on the NYT Bestseller List as a whole (especially the ones that have no e-version at all), if the list is generally free from piracy, then the whole point is pretty moot. :shrug:

Nope. A nice chunk of it is out there...if you know where to look.

What most interesting about that tho, and pretty unrelated to our specific discussion but interesting nonetheless is that all of the *audiobook* versions floas free, fast and in abundance thru the ether...

mrkai
12-17-2007, 12:54 PM
Along those lines, as much as I argue against DRM, a really strong DRM should allow a large distributor (e.g. Amazon) to heavily subsidize the e-reader.

...largely out of fashion nowadays with electronics. I think printers are about what's left...the consumables model needs consumables to actually work :)

Tho...it is said that Amazon is trying this "upside down"...they are selling the razor for a bit of upfront profit and losing money on a lot of the blades by selling them under cost, hoping to make up in general volume and services on the document conversion.

This is...loco, but you know...I guess if someone is gonna give it a try it might as well be Bezos.

I read a couple of publishers were less than pleased with this scheme. I imagine they would be because it drives the public perception of the value/cost/asking price of the product down across the board.

So if it actually *works* then maybe Bezos isn't *completely* loco :)

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-17-2007, 01:18 PM
Also being able to go to a publisher's website and see what it forthcoming for ebooks so we don't end up buying the pbook when the ebook is soon to follow. I personally think that not telling us is akin to lying via withholding information.

I never saw that as a publisher's obligation, myself... it's like not telling us about a sale until the day it starts... but hopefully, if e-books become as regular as paperbacks, you'll be able to take it for granted someday that an e-book will be available, and just wait for it.

What most interesting about that tho, and pretty unrelated to our specific discussion but interesting nonetheless is that all of the *audiobook* versions floas free, fast and in abundance thru the ether...

Considering how incredibly expensive audiobooks are compared to print versions, this doesn't surprise me one bit. And publishers clearly look at audiobooks differently than print books... more like a multimedia product, maybe. Apparently the sales figures for audiobooks is nothing compared to most printed books, so the publishers have adopted the idea of them being an essential loss-leader.

Maybe they could eventually look at e-books this way, which could go a long way towards getting them to drop DRM.

NatCh
12-17-2007, 01:21 PM
Ok...I'll rephrase that since the "no offense" part seems to CLEARLY have been ignored.Ah, okay, yeah I didn't notice it up in the post title -- I often miss the title completely, because they aren't widely used here, and the quote being between it and the rest of the message pretty much guarantees that I, for one, will miss it entirely as part of the actual post. :shrug:

In any case, I took no offense, but rather wanted to explain why I felt the Baen point isn't as irrelevant as you seem to believe. :nice:

I go to amazon's top sellers and the NYT fiction list I see several authors I recognize.

As I don't read sci-fi I guess you know this could have been a limiting factor there.I was suspecting that might be the case, and only meant to subtly point out that it might be a factor. :nice:

The other point, and agian, getting twisted up on who or who is not a Baen fan my be getting tangental here, but are any of these Baen NYT Bestsellers themselves available from Baen?I'm assuming you mean "available from Baen as e-books" because obviously all of Baen's books are available from them as p-books. :laugh4:

To actually answer your question then: yes, this is one of Baen's "things" -- all of their new publications are available as e-books. In fact, many of them are available as e-book Advanced Reader Copies, well before the official publication date. They also work through their back-list gradually, with the presumed intent of making all of it available eventually.

Like the Grammys (for example) there is a grammy for Best Audio Engineering on a Latin Fusion Recording-type Grammy...but not many people can tell you who won it.

I go to Mobileread, I see stuff I know or people I've heard of...and I mean heard of *casually*..not as a fan of a particular genre.If you're talking about the books that are in our e-book uploads section, well, that's not really a fair basis of comparison. What I mean is that those books are all 1) public domain (so they've been around a long time), 2) selected by the folks who processed and uploaded them so they're likely to be things those folks enjoy, and 3) (the most telling in my opinion) often written by authors who were taught in High School English classes.

Pretty much everyone who's made it through 9th Grade (corresponds to ~14 years of age for the non-U.S. reader) English Class has at least heard of Charles Dickens or Charlotte Brontė, for instance. Whether or not they've actually read anything those folks have written is another matter, of course.

How anyone could have not picked this up...I dunno.I might suggest the same thing about my last point. :shrug:

Seems like fanboys looking for a fight.To the hypersensitive, your choice of words might seem like someone picking a fight, but that's a matter of perception, and generally around here there's very little tendency to do either, as it's simply not much tolerated. :nice:

Wrong thread...unless you serious think that

1. Big Publishers would go for the Baen model and
2. Big Publisher's product (with in the above stated "I go to Mobileread, I see stuff I know or people I've heard of...and I mean heard of *casually*...") have the same market weight/value

If so...rock onActually, I think the original point was that Baen's model might be a better choice of example of what works than the example of Apple's model, because Baen deals, successfully, with e-books rather than music -- the gist being, why compare oranges to apples when you have a perfectly good orange to compare them to? :grin:

That being said, the facts that Baen does have an actual e-book store, from which they show a profit, and have a number of bestseller list titles available from, which seem mysteriously resistant to piracy despite their glaring lack of any DRM would seem to be extraordinarily relevant to the current topic of discussion. :headscratch:

I understood that you wished to discuss how e-books might be successfully and profitably marketed in the mainstream, but perhaps I misunderstood your intent?

If I don't misunderstand, then I'd figure that a specific, real-world example of a company that's doing a darned good job of doing precisely that in a particular genre would be of interest, along with the details of how they're going about it. :pleased:

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-17-2007, 01:27 PM
So if it actually *works* then maybe Bezos isn't *completely* loco :)

I think Bezos was pretty shrewd: Amazon already is in business to get a cut from product sales. Kindle allows Amazon to sell more e-books and get a bigger cut from e-book sales, plus the reader itself. And if Kindle takes off, more people will buy e-books, and the publishers will have had someone else work out the whole e-book thing for them.

The only part of Kindle that I don't like is the DRM'd proprietary format locked onto the Kindle part. (Mind you, that's a big part.) The rest of Amazon's method works for me.

JSWolf
12-17-2007, 01:32 PM
I never saw that as a publisher's obligation, myself... it's like not telling us about a sale until the day it starts... but hopefully, if e-books become as regular as paperbacks, you'll be able to take it for granted someday that an e-book will be available, and just wait for it.
They announce a lot of pbooks. Why not also announce at the same time that the ebook is also coming out? It's a simple thing to do and would make it so much easier.

Plus, if I was to purchase the pbook when I wanted the ebook and the ebook came out after I had the pbook, I would be pissed at the publisher.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-17-2007, 01:44 PM
They announce a lot of pbooks. Why not also announce at the same time that the ebook is also coming out? It's a simple thing to do and would make it so much easier.

I'm just thinking from a marketing standpoint here: A lot of products are introduced today, with heavy marketing to get people to buy. Then a red one is introduced tomorrow, prompting more people to buy. Then a fuzzy one comes out next year, etc, etc, etc. It's fairly standard procedure for products to be introduced without alluding to another version coming later... because then, fewer people will buy now.

I'm not condoning it, I just understand why they are doing it.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 01:49 PM
Actually, I think the original point was that Baen's model might be a better choice of example of what works than the example of Apple's model, because Baen deals, successfully, with e-books rather than music -- the gist being, why compare oranges to apples when you have a perfectly good orange to compare them to? :grin:


Because I don't think they are that far apart. Digital music and digital books are essentially software products.


That being said, the facts that Baen does have an actual e-book store, from which they show a profit, and have a number of bestseller list titles available from, which seem mysteriously resistant to piracy despite their glaring lack of any DRM would seem to be extraordinarily relevant to the current topic of discussion. :headscratch:

I understood that you wished to discuss how e-books might be successfully and profitably marketed in the mainstream, but perhaps I misunderstood your intent?


I guess it depends on your definition of mainstream. I sense that you may be attached in some way to Baen (I don't know, something in the tone of the responses is almost defensive) so this may have something to do with it....so let me put it this way:

How many Oprah Book Club selections are being sold by Baen as eBooks?


If I don't misunderstand, then I'd figure that a specific, real-world example of a company that's doing a darned good job of doing precisely that in a particular genre would be of interest, along with the details of how they're going about it. :pleased:

I do not believe that if Baen were selling more of and different kinds of DRM free books with a super broad appeal that this would be the case.

I don't *know* this, but my experience with the other fork in the road tells me that "Pop" is what ends up flooding the waves, not Indie.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-17-2007, 01:51 PM
Actually, I think the original point was that Baen's model might be a better choice of example of what works than the example of Apple's model, because Baen deals, successfully, with e-books rather than music -- the gist being, why compare oranges to apples when you have a perfectly good orange to compare them to? :grin:

That being said, the facts that Baen does have an actual e-book store, from which they show a profit, and have a number of bestseller list titles available from, which seem mysteriously resistant to piracy despite their glaring lack of any DRM would seem to be extraordinarily relevant to the current topic of discussion. :headscratch:

I understood that you wished to discuss how e-books might be successfully and profitably marketed in the mainstream, but perhaps I misunderstood your intent?

I'd agree: Baen is a good example of a company, already selling e-books successfully, to examine.

Another is Harlequin, who is doing a good business with e-books too... romance is considered the best-selling of e-book genres in most markets.

So, if these two work as well as they do, the questions are, what parts of their methods work, and how do we get the other publishers to emulate their methods (or is there some reason why they might need to alter them for their own needs)?

mrkai
12-17-2007, 01:54 PM
The rest of Amazon's method works for me.

On the price tho considering the current set of limitations. You can't even read the things on a computer if you want to and I don't know if they have a "re-download" scheme. $10 is a bit much for such a limited offering...but granted it is better than $16 :)

mrkai
12-17-2007, 02:00 PM
Another is Harlequin, who is doing a good business with e-books too... romance is considered the best-selling of e-book genres in most markets.


...is that there is a much higher rate of consumption of these books and a lot of "churn" on the content side so its a volume business. They put those things out like, daily almost don't they? :)


So, if these two work as well as they do, the questions are, what parts of their methods work, and how do we get the other publishers to emulate their methods (or is there some reason why they might need to alter them for their own needs)?

I think this speaks for itself in a way; other publishers do not believe their products will have the same sale/loss ratio as say Harlequin or Baen...for...whatever reason. If it is widely known that these two entities are successful, perhaps other publishers may judge success by a different metric?

It is certain worth investigating why these two examples are being "ignored" by others, I will grant you that for sure.

Liviu_5
12-17-2007, 02:04 PM
Very interesting ideas above. Let me add my thoughts:

1: Dedicated devices are not going to become mass market unless very, very cheap (50$) - comparison with music is not valid since for music you need a device to listen to it, for books you do not need a device to read; also music is one dimensional, a stream of sound, so ergonomics considerations are quite different than for books which are 2 dimensional

2: The main reason people do not like to read novels from pc/laptop is not the lcd screen, but ergonomics - you want a comfortable position, you want to lose yourself in the book...

3: There are lots of things about books that have been ingrained in human culture over centuries (unchangeability, ability to read anywhere...) that are going to be very hard to overcome unless the alternative offers extraordinary benefits.

4: To me the proposition that people as a mass are going to pay 3-400$ for a device for the privilege of reading 10$ books that they do even fully own is mind boggling. Sure, some are doing it for various reasons, but to extrapolate from that to millions it's a big stretch.

5: E-books as a commercial proposition, rather than a hobby need to show extraordinary benefits to people for mass adoption, and right now that is quite far away.

6: When your business model is open the slushes, let everything to flow and swim or sink, I think that your number one worry is that your product stands out in the waters, and there e-books can be very helpful; Baen is the best example here since e-books were the main reason it succeeded in building itself up from a paperback house to the healthy sf imprint of today.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 02:27 PM
Now this is interesting to me...

NatCh tells us that Baen shows a profit, specifically on their *eBook* store.

I will take it as read that this is strictly on the eBook store as opposed to the pBooks doing a spread and covering losses..but even still...

As I'm quite open to learning and such, I decided to check the "seedy underground...the soft underbelly of the Internet" for the authors mentioned previously in this thread...and I found (easily) I believe every eBook from every single one of them in like 5 minutes.

Seriously.

This makes me wonder, then, if Baen can show this on paper to some folks...why on Earth don't they have some of those Oprah Book Club types in their stable?!

The above SHOULD NOT BE MISCONSTRUED as accusatory or a maligning of Baen in any way. People get...touchy around here, heheh.

I'm really curious about this! I mean, if what I understand is correct, Baen is sitting on the paperwork that demonstrates that a whole hell of a lot of people are dead wrong about losing trucks of money t freely traded eBooks.

What's going on here?

Xenophon
12-17-2007, 02:36 PM
I didn't see a single author I recognized in the whole of Baen's very small catalog.

I think this is what I'd call a "big tell".
I you read much SF and Fantasy, you'll recognize their authors. If you don't, you wont. Shrug. No offense taken, as I'm sure none was intended.

The point I was trying to make is that they are a content provider. A respected (if small) part of the publishing industry. They have a sane (from the customer's point of view) eBook policy. And they don't have a piracy problem!

Some have argued that this is because they are 'too small' and their books 'aren't popular enough.' Well... They put multiple books on the NYT bestsellers list each year. (Aside: They do so in numbers that are the envy of much larger publishers, as a matter of fact.) And they don't have a piracy problem with those bestselling books, either.

They make a good example exactly because they sit on the publisher/content-provider side of the fence, just like the big guys. And they make a dandy existence proof that sane, consumer friendly policies do NOT lead to piracy.

Xenophon

Xenophon
12-17-2007, 02:52 PM
Now this is interesting to me...

NatCh tells us that Baen shows a profit, specifically on their *eBook* store.

I will take it as read that this is strictly on the eBook store as opposed to the pBooks doing a spread and covering losses..but even still...

Yes. They do indeed make a profit directly from the eBook store in its own right. It's not enough to run the company, but it is bigger than all non-US sales combined (Canada included).

As I'm quite open to learning and such, I decided to check the "seedy underground...the soft underbelly of the Internet" for the authors mentioned previously in this thread...and I found (easily) I believe every eBook from every single one of them in like 5 minutes.

Seriously.

This makes me wonder, then, if Baen can show this on paper to some folks...why on Earth don't they have some of those Oprah Book Club types in their stable?!

Um... 'cause they specialize in SF and Fantasy, and those Oprah Book Club types don't generally write in that mode.

The above SHOULD NOT BE MISCONSTRUED as accusatory or a maligning of Baen in any way. People get...touchy around here, heheh.

Understood. From the beginning, on my part at least.

I'm really curious about this! I mean, if what I understand is correct, Baen is sitting on the paperwork that demonstrates that a whole hell of a lot of people are dead wrong about losing trucks of money t freely traded eBooks.

What's going on here?
The folks at Baen are puzzled about this, too. They've been screaming the news to the heavens for the last five-plus years. They tell the other publishers. They quote actual (gasp) numbers (gasp) in public venues. And the publishing world as a whole goes on their merry way, p*ssing off customers and leaving significant* amounts of money on the table.

Eric Flint gave a talk at a big publishing industry conference about e-Publishing and Baen's success. He reported back that the individuals he spoke to all said things paraphrased as "you're clearly onto something here, but I'll never be able to convince the Powers That Be."

So... why won't the *&^%&*^% idiots pay attention? Beats me!

*Baen doesn't talk exact profit and sales numbers (at least not to me), but they've indicated that their ebook sales represent something above 10% and below 25% of their total. What publisher wouldn't want a 10% increase in sales?

Xenophon

Xenophon
12-17-2007, 03:03 PM
Actually, I think the original point was that Baen's model might be a better choice of example of what works than the example of Apple's model, because Baen deals, successfully, with e-books rather than music -- the gist being, why compare oranges to apples when you have a perfectly good orange to compare them to? :grin:

That being said, the facts that Baen does have an actual e-book store, from which they show a profit, and have a number of bestseller list titles available from, which seem mysteriously resistant to piracy despite their glaring lack of any DRM would seem to be extraordinarily relevant to the current topic of discussion. :headscratch:

I understood that you wished to discuss how e-books might be successfully and profitably marketed in the mainstream, but perhaps I misunderstood your intent?

If I don't misunderstand, then I'd figure that a specific, real-world example of a company that's doing a darned good job of doing precisely that in a particular genre would be of interest, along with the details of how they're going about it. :pleased:

NatCh hit most of my intent. The one missing piece is that the content-providers for the stuff Apple sells via iTunes perceive themselves as having been screwed over (whether correctly or not), and I fear that the Big Publishing guys worry about having the same thing happen to them. The iTunes model has clearly worked for Apple and for the Consumer, but it is at best arguable whether it's worked for the big record labels (they don't think so, certainly).

So the Baen example is relevant because they're a publisher too. A content-provider, not a widget maker. It's an example that a Big Publisher might look at and say "They're like us. Small, but like us" instead of saying "iTunes? The content guys got screwed! I don't want that!!! :eek:"

Even with the Kindle, we have Amazon trying to act more like Apple with iTunes. And the publishers are probably quite concerned (and understandably so). I think that they're wrong to be concerned, but I understand why they would be.

Xenophon

mrkai
12-17-2007, 03:11 PM
Um... 'cause they specialize in SF and Fantasy, and those Oprah Book Club types don't generally write in that mode.

I mean why not have a BigBaen or BaenGenPub or whatever...

There has to be some catch. Ok, there doesn't *have* to be...but I mean is Baen able to print 200K books or whatever?

And *bump* the other publishers! What *author* wouldn't want "somewhere between 10% and 25%" more money?!?!

If I was shopping a book around and some publisher was telling ME "go with us..we've got the eBook thingee and we're showing an additional X% in sales above (say) HarperCollins"...

I'd think some folks would be tappin' on Baen's door when the contracts were up elsewhere.

This really, really makes no sense :)

OK that's not true. If you are a writer or publisher still looking at this "uʍop ǝpısdn" ("people have it and didn't pay for it") instead of rightside up (Mo' money...gittin' PAYYYYYED, BOYEEEEEE!) then yeah, the "morality obscession" I think is a forest/trees issue.

To my eyes, from what I'm learning here, Baen is practically "printing money".

I guess money isn't everything.

Suckers :)

NatCh
12-17-2007, 03:16 PM
The iTunes model has clearly worked for Apple and for the Consumer, but it is at best arguable whether it's worked for the big record labels (they don't think so, certainly).Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that to most all appearances, the RIAA is a bunch of gibbering idiots, bent on their own destruction by simultaneously driving away both their customers and their providers, you make an excellent point, Xenophon. :yes:

The perception that money is being lost is a big deal, and is primarily what drives a lot of the obstacles that e-books are facing. Consequently the absence of that perception, not only on the part of Baen, but also on the parts of their authors is an even bigger deal, in my estimation. :nice:

mrkai
12-17-2007, 03:18 PM
So the Baen example is relevant because they're a publisher too. A content-provider, not a widget maker. It's an example that a Big Publisher might look at and say "They're like us. Small, but like us" instead of saying "iTunes? The content guys got screwed! I don't want that!!! :eek:"

Even with the Kindle, we have Amazon trying to act more like Apple with iTunes. And the publishers are probably quite concerned (and understandably so). I think that they're wrong to be concerned, but I understand why they would be.

Xenophon

...totally. That said, I think the world needs a $150-$200 "state-of-the-art"-esque piece of hardware to go with it.

I will say this. I can see a bit more reason behind some of the...malice of the proponents here.

On the flip, I see even less of a valid *business* argument for the types that malign the frustrated, as there is a living, breathing example of how misguided the industry at least appears to be.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 03:25 PM
Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that to most all appearances, the RIAA is a bunch of gibbering idiots, bent on their own destruction by simultaneously driving away both their customers and their providers, you make an excellent point, Xenophon. :yes:


I'm not sure that the above is the...tone...we were looking for...heheh...but you'll get no argument from me.


The perception that money is being lost is a big deal, and is primarily what drives a lot of the obstacles that e-books are facing. Consequently the absence of that perception, not only on the part of Baen, but also on the parts of their authors is an even bigger deal, in my estimation. :nice:


Yeah, I can dig it. I've said time and time again that these publishers seem to be more concerned about people that aren't their customers than those that are. It has to be the most...counterproductive...way to run a business.

But you know what? I'm starting to suspect that its NOT about business at ALL...but this may be a flaw with me being a person driven by rationality and logic.

It makes no business sense whatsoever. This leaves me to lean in the direction that the (sigh) "morality" angle...the "property fetish" is clouding their judgement.

There is no measurable business explanation for this....and if that's the case, I've really got nothing to add because I think focusing on "not business" is counterproductive the the cash.

Liviu_5
12-17-2007, 03:37 PM
Yeah, I can dig it. I've said time and time again that these publishers seem to be more concerned about people that aren't their customers than those that are. It has to be the most...counterproductive...way to run a business.

But you know what? I'm starting to suspect that its NOT about business at ALL...but this may be a flaw with me being a person driven by rationality and logic.



Personally I think that the basic motive for the publishers reluctance is that there is no external force to push them. Why rock the boat? Yeah, maybe you leave 10% of potential income, but what if you crater your business? Is it worth?

For music there was and is a HUGE external force that is pushing them, though they fight it at every step (ripping + Net), for books there are no such pressures.

Then the small imprints who are struggling are the ones trying things; again Baen was a mmpb sf house as late as 1995, and considering the collpase of that market, who knows if they would be in business today without using e-books to go to a hardcover model.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 04:13 PM
Personally I think that the basic motive for the publishers reluctance is that there is no external force to push them. Why rock the boat? Yeah, maybe you leave 10% of potential income, but what if you crater your business? Is it worth?


...that there is no evidence t support this whatsoever. New Video Games, DVDs and CDs are released every tuesday, and like I said, I found every book from all of Baen's "Big Guns" online ready to download (in multiple formats, no less) in 5 min's time.

:shrug:

Seems like leaving "between 10% to 25%" more cash out based what we know as opposed to what we fear is throwing money away to me...

igorsk
12-17-2007, 04:30 PM
mrkai, would you please stop putting part of your reply in the subject field? It's very disorienting, especially with the quote in between.
That said, not only it's pretty easy to find Baen books on darknet, you can actually find a lot of those sold on Webscriptions legally for free (and I don't mean the Free Library). Check this:
http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/
And still people keep buying them.
Actually Eric Flint covered a lot of what we're discussing here, including exact numbers. I highly recommend his "Salvos Against Big Brother" (start at the bottom).
http://baens-universe.com/authors/Eric_Flint

Liviu_5
12-17-2007, 04:33 PM
...that there is no evidence t support this whatsoever. New Video Games, DVDs and CDs are released every tuesday, and like I said, I found every book from all of Baen's "Big Guns" online ready to download (in multiple formats, no less) in 5 min's time.

:shrug:

Seems like leaving "between 10% to 25%" more cash out based what we know as opposed to what we fear is throwing money away to me...

Completely agreed with point one above, however in all the forums I've been and where publisher representatives participate, that is what you will hear.

And similarly for authors. "What if I release this book as an e-book, and 100k people download it for free on the darknet; think how many sales I lost?" is a common refrain. That is a hard mindset to break, and only DIRE necessity (publisher going bankrupt and author in need of lots of money) forced several such authors to recant and go with drm-free e-books.

I think that only cratering p-book sales will make most publishers truly embrace e-books, and even then I expect them to fight it every step with onerous drm, high prices and the like..

mrkai
12-17-2007, 04:48 PM
And similarly for authors. "What if I release this book as an e-book, and 100k people download it for free on the darknet; think how many sales I lost?" is a common refrain.

I'm gonna go ahead and be less polite here.

It's retarded. Those people aren't customers, and "potential customers" is like "a little pregnant".

A person is or isn't a buyer. So put some ;) "DRM" on the things (as opposed to DEEEARRRREMMMM...Dum Dum Duummm) and Count de Monet.

Is it really *that* hard to leap that gap for these people?! Talent and smarts...I guess they aren't necessarily a pair, eh? ;)

Heh. Its not my money being left out there....whatever. My poor Sony Reader sits devoid of commercial books save one because of this foolishness..

Suckers.

nekokami
12-17-2007, 04:50 PM
One reason I think Baen comes up so often in these conversations is that science fiction readers were ebook fans long before the rest of the population. As in, back in the days of hand-typing books and sharing them on BBS sites over 300 baud modems, and reading them on monochrome CRT screens. This is a population of readers that has shown a willingness to switch to the ebook format for a long time. I'm pleased to see romance readers and publishers joining them (even though I don't read romance myself), but I think the SF crowd will always be a bit avant garde when it comes to book reading technology. That makes them a good group to watch when trying to predict market direction.

As far as defensiveness in tone or whatever, mrkai, don't you think it's worth considering that just maybe some other folks do know a little something about the book publishing business? The success of the Baen model has been discussed at length around here. Whether you like their content lineup or not, dismissing them as a successful retailer of ebooks doesn't exactly enhance your credentials to moderate a discussion on this topic.

Penforhire
12-17-2007, 05:44 PM
Yes, especially because Baen handles so much military SF and you know how we military types get...

Seriously though, you never heard of Baen? They handle David Drake, Larry Niven, Lois Bujold, Andre Norton, .... and the hits just keep on coming. Get your Sci Fi on!

Lemurion
12-17-2007, 05:47 PM
Here are what I see as the keystones of a successful e-book model.

1) Price: In order for e-books to succeed they have to be priced in-line with the public's perception of the value of e-books, which appears to be approximately the same order as a mass-market paperback or slightly less. Baen sells most new releases for $6 individually and a lot of their backlist is available for $4 each as individual books. They also have a bundling program which works to get new authors out there. Ignoring the bundling as a special case, I would say that a sustainable model should be based on the idea that the purchaser of an e-book gets less than the purchaser of a p-book and so the e-book edition should always be at least a little lower than the cheapest currently available p-book.

2) Flexibility: There are a plethora of different e-book formats out there, and no one device reads all of them. This means that in order to provide service to the majority of the market a book needs to be either available in multiple formats or in a single format that can be read by all devices. It also helps to be able to change formats as one moves from one device to another. Baen and Fictionwise (with their multi-format e-books) do this well, as they allow multiple downloads of purchased books in different formats.

There are other factors such as author/book exposure and piracy , but since they are not unique to the e-book model I'm choosing not to focus on them. Many, if not most, pirated e-books derive from scans of p-books and so their availability is going to remain completely independent of any e-book distribution and publishing model under consideration.

Personally I do think Baen's model is worthy of consideration because while they do serve a niche market (Science Fiction/Fantasy) they are a major player in that market and their model has proven successful for them. It's sufficiently successful that over the last year they have added non-Baen books to their Webscriptions storefront.

One conclusion we can draw from Baen, and also Fictionwise, is that DRM is not required for profitability. This is important because DRM adds to price and reduces flexibility, which means it should not be employed unless required by the publisher.

I think a cross between Baen's and Fictionwise's models would likely be most successful, with an absolute minimum of DRM and maximum of formats.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 06:16 PM
As far as defensiveness in tone or whatever, mrkai, don't you think it's worth considering that just maybe some other folks do know a little something about the book publishing business? The success of the Baen model has been discussed at length around here. Whether you like their content lineup or not, dismissing them as a successful retailer of ebooks doesn't exactly enhance your credentials to moderate a discussion on this topic.

This reply makes me wonder if you read *all* of the thread before you typed it.

I know a lot of people don't and reply to the first thing that "catches" them :)

If you did and still found the need to give me this "wrap on the knuckles" I'd sure like to know why...

mrkai
12-17-2007, 06:40 PM
Actually Eric Flint covered a lot of what we're discussing here, including exact numbers. I highly recommend his "Salvos Against Big Brother" (start at the bottom).
http://baens-universe.com/authors/Eric_Flint

I'm reading them now, bottom up as you suggested, but so far they aren't interesting to me yet.

Not because they lack insight. I'm one of those weird and rare people that doesn't need to read things that confirm what I believe, so the "socio-political" articles thus far seem to be "preaching to the choir" as it were.

As I also run a business, the thoughts, theories and facts about the business logic are more interesting to me, as well as the rebuttal of them, because I think they would be a more convincing argument, a "better sell" to those opposed to such business ideas because while its a "harder reality" is a "softer sell" because its one thing to call your opponent misinformed, or even misguided (which is a little harsher) but another entirely to call them "corrupt" or just plain "evil" and it make them defensive instead of engaged.

So far what I've read kind of reminds me of the Stallman Free Software Approach as opposed to the Raymond one. You don't proselytize to business Stallman style...that is how you speak to the converted :)

Reading on, nonetheless.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 07:15 PM
So far what I've read kind of reminds me of the Stallman Free Software Approach as opposed to the Raymond one. You don't proselytize to business Stallman style...that is how you speak to the converted :)

Reading on, nonetheless.

I've read them all. If this is the general "tone" he utilizes when trying to promote these ideas/change the system from within I can see why it may be difficult.

He's kind of mean and really snide about it all, isn't he?

How to Attract Flies, using Least-to-Most Effective Method/Bait

1. Vinegar
2. Honey
3. Fresh Ripe Bovine Excrement

The "Salvos" Series seems to be firmly pegged in Spot Number One there :D

igorsk
12-17-2007, 07:20 PM
Hmm really?
http://xkcd.com/357/

mrkai
12-17-2007, 07:33 PM
Yeah man. I was actually talking to this with some Free Software advocates...and they TOTALLY saw it that way too.

Many, Many, MAAAANNNY in the Free Software world that want to engage business feel Stallman is their worse enemy because he cannot tailor his message to the audince he's addressing.

I'm on the "good" side as it were, but looking at it from the other side, I see those pieces as mean, kind of offensive and really "lording it over the lamers" at the same time.

I suppose that someone that believes in the socio-political sides of it (I certainly do) might not see that that isn't the best approach to take, because if they are super-passionate about it like Eric and many others are, they can't do the attachment thing need to move out of the "Vinegar" slot.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 07:43 PM
Hmm really?
http://xkcd.com/357/

Yeah I've read that. Of course the Bullsh*t reigns supreme with flies, and people enjoy the sugar more, literally and figuratively, so if you go with the scales, unless you are trying to convince fruit flies or about 100,000 different species of flies to publish eBooks...

Try the sugar, smartass :D :iloveyou:

nekokami
12-17-2007, 07:45 PM
This reply makes me wonder if you read *all* of the thread before you typed it.

I know a lot of people don't and reply to the first thing that "catches" them :)

If you did and still found the need to give me this "wrap on the knuckles" I'd sure like to know why...
Yes, I read the whole thread before posting.

I've noticed in many online discussions over the years that people sometimes have a tendency to let their enthusiasm for a subject overwhelm their interest in the potential contributions of others. And sometimes, when one is highly experienced and skilled in one area, it can be hard to remember that others may also have skills and expertise in different areas, perhaps greater than one's own in those areas. And it can be especially difficult, when presented with new information, to acknowledge publicly that perhaps one's own opinions may need to change.

I personally find discussions more enjoyable when there is at least as much "listening" as "talking" by the various participants. This is, however, a personal preference. If the rest of the participants are enjoying the discussion, then by all means, carry on.

mrkai
12-17-2007, 07:51 PM
And it can be especially difficult, when presented with new information, to acknowledge publicly that perhaps one's own opinions may need to change.

This is exactly why I asked you. It was pretty obvious that after getting the 411 on Baen (thus becoming more informed) I immediately acknowledge this and ran with it...because I could not see with rational business minded people couldn't respond to this in the (what is obvious to me, Mr. Idiot) way most beneficial to their business.

After doing *even more* learning, it became real obvious why, hence the current turn of the discussion.

Baen is definitely the the model to follow...but the sales pitch needs some serious work.

Xenophon
12-17-2007, 09:54 PM
I've read them all. If this is the general "tone" he utilizes when trying to promote these ideas/change the system from within I can see why it may be difficult.

He's kind of mean and really snide about it all, isn't he?

How to Attract Flies, using Least-to-Most Effective Method/Bait

1. Vinegar
2. Honey
3. Fresh Ripe Bovine Excrement

The "Salvos" Series seems to be firmly pegged in Spot Number One there :D
The "Salvos" series is clearly polemical writing. This should be clear from its status as an Opinion column, and from its name "Salvos Against Big Brother" is not what you name a business case study, after all. As polemical writing, it's pretty effective. As a business case, it's, well... it's polemical (which isn't a business case).

Eric's given some much more calm, measured and reasonable versions of this argument in a variety of venues. I've heard it at SF conventions. I presume that the presentation he gave the publishing industry folks was of the calm variety, not the polemical variety (although I wasn't there to see it).

Xenophon

mrkai
12-17-2007, 10:27 PM
I've heard it at SF conventions. I presume that the presentation he gave the publishing industry folks was of the calm variety, not the polemical variety (although I wasn't there to see it).

Xenophon

I'd like to read those too. I think in the framework of this discussion those would be better than the "stump speech" tone of the ones I read.

OTOH..you know, it still may be beneficial to have a "SuitBot™ 3000 Mk-II" type on the job, too, because you know, while its nice that Eric can tune the message, his Opinion stuff is kind of, for want of a better word, "Backstabbing" if you understand what I mean. Sort of the notion to being nice "in their face". Possibly can do more harm than good.

I don't know...maybe there already is one that I don't know about. I'm learning here :)

And it really doesn't come off as even a little sympathetic.

"Polemical"...man, that's why I love this place :)

It's become my favorite place to post on...such a refreshing change from the...

Well I don't think I have to say it ;)

astra
12-18-2007, 06:23 AM
1. There are 2 equaly important things.

a. DRM free.
b. A format that can be transfered to any future reader.

2. Fair price.
I agree to pay $10 for a book that complies with 1.a and 1.b.


Currently, *.lit is the only ebook format I am willing to buy.

[EDIT]
3. I agree to buy DRM books in a format of a reader I possess at any given moment of time for a top price $2.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-18-2007, 10:10 AM
...is that there is a much higher rate of consumption of these books and a lot of "churn" on the content side so its a volume business. They put those things out like, daily almost don't they? :)

I think this speaks for itself in a way; other publishers do not believe their products will have the same sale/loss ratio as say Harlequin or Baen...for...whatever reason. If it is widely known that these two entities are successful, perhaps other publishers may judge success by a different metric?

It is certain worth investigating why these two examples are being "ignored" by others, I will grant you that for sure.

I think your comments hint at why two successful publishers are being ignored: They are not taken seriously by Big Pub. With commonly-denigrating tags such as "geeky" sci-fi and "trashy" romance... are there many other genres that are looked down upon more sharply by the general public and the mainstream publishers?

So possibly Big Pub simply assumes that genre successes can't be duplicated by mainstream publishers... or, they could simply be using that as their standard excuse boilerplate to keep everyone else at bay.

Liviu_5
12-18-2007, 11:27 AM
I think your comments hint at why two successful publishers are being ignored: They are not taken seriously by Big Pub. With commonly-denigrating tags such as "geeky" sci-fi and "trashy" romance... are there many other genres that are looked down upon more sharply by the general public and the mainstream publishers?

So possibly Big Pub simply assumes that genre successes can't be duplicated by mainstream publishers... or, they could simply be using that as their standard excuse boilerplate to keep everyone else at bay.

Actually genre fiction is what's keeping publishers in business on the fiction side. Literary fiction is losing money, but genre makes enough to keep everyone happy.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-18-2007, 11:54 AM
Actually genre fiction is what's keeping publishers in business on the fiction side. Literary fiction is losing money, but genre makes enough to keep everyone happy.

Really? If so, it does beg the question (even more)...

After all of this discussion, I find myself coming back to the "Castle" publishing mentality, the desire for publishers and successful authors to maintain the status quo as much as possible because they are already on the inside, and by extension they ignore the entreaties of those "peons" on the outside to keep them there. There seems to be no other good explanation for the industry's resistance to e-books.

There are a relatively few people "on the inside" who seem to be active proponents of e-books... and they have not largely demonstrated enough success (read: profit) with e-books to garner any respect from other insiders. So they seem to be looked upon by the insiders as either "visionaries" or "heretics," even though they are still respected for their ability to provide profit to the castle (so their indiscretions are politely overlooked).

When a castle dominates an area, the only way to change things from the outside is to storm it, or to cut it off from the outside. I don't see either of these solutions as beneficial in the short run, and I'm not sure about the long run.

But is there a way to affect change from the inside, even with outside help, when the majority of insiders are against it?

In other words, we're coming up with ideas, but how do we apply them?

igorsk
12-18-2007, 12:12 PM
Hopefully we'll see faster progress once Tor is back on Webscriptions...

NatCh
12-18-2007, 12:18 PM
Wouldn't it be ironic if Baen grew into a giant conglomerate because of their views on/approach to e-books?

Liviu_5
12-18-2007, 12:27 PM
Wouldn't it be ironic if Baen grew into a giant conglomerate because of their views on/approach to e-books?

Unfortunately in the current incarnation Baen has some limitations built in (they are to a large extent dependent on S&S so they cannot give large advances, publish too many books and so on).

If e-books take off big, Webscription is in a good position for sure.

jasonkchapman
12-18-2007, 12:28 PM
Actually genre fiction is what's keeping publishers in business on the fiction side. Literary fiction is losing money, but genre makes enough to keep everyone happy.

Still, mainstream publishing people are often quick to dismiss any business-related comparison between mainstream publishing methods and genre publishing methods. They simply see it as a different market, with completely different consumer dynamics, different marketing methods, etc. "Yes, but that's genre" generally ends the conversation right there.

That's why I find two recent developments of particular interest: One is the popularity of a few recent titles that can't exclusively be dropped into the "mainstream", "literary", or "genre" bins that are, nonetheless, drawing readers from all of them. The other is Harlequin's broadening of its imprints into more diverse categories and taking their e-business model with them.

Genre publishers are leading the way toward whatever e-book movement is coming. The second wave will come from the small presses, because the major publishing conglomerates just aren't willing to take what they see as a big gamble. Safe roads generate small, but dependable, dividends for the stock holders.

NatCh
12-18-2007, 12:36 PM
They simply see it as a different market, with completely different consumer dynamics, different marketing methods, etc. "Yes, but that's genre" generally ends the conversation right there.The ironic, and mildly irritating thing about that is that what they consider "mainstream literary" I view as just another genre. :shrug:

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-18-2007, 02:25 PM
That's why I find two recent developments of particular interest: One is the popularity of a few recent titles that can't exclusively be dropped into the "mainstream", "literary", or "genre" bins that are, nonetheless, drawing readers from all of them.

Could you cite some examples, so we all know what we're talking about here?

tompe
12-18-2007, 02:30 PM
I think Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro might fit the description.

jasonkchapman
12-18-2007, 03:07 PM
Could you cite some examples, so we all know what we're talking about here?

As I wrote that, I was thinking of things like Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and Neil Gaiman's American Gods. These are a couple of examples of works that have gained readers who would "never read genre fiction", readers who would "never read literary fiction", and mainstream readers who were unlikely to ever read either; and won acclaim from all three groups.

As tompe noted, Mitchel's Cloud Atlas is another example. It got nodded for both a Booker and a Nebula. That's a very curious thing.

Also, in short fiction, it seems like more and more journals are sitting on the border between litfic and specfic: Chizine, Strange Horizons, Electric Velocipede, Apex, Clarkesworld. All of these appear (to me) to put more emphasis on style and literary form (word choice, structure, theme, tone, etc.) than is traditional with genre fiction.

bingle
12-18-2007, 07:31 PM
After all of this discussion, I find myself coming back to the "Castle" publishing mentality, the desire for publishers and successful authors to maintain the status quo as much as possible because they are already on the inside, and by extension they ignore the entreaties of those "peons" on the outside to keep them there. There seems to be no other good explanation for the industry's resistance to e-books.


Yeah, a lot of people have postulated the same thing when it comes to the music industry and online distribution. It takes power out of the hands of the labels, and puts it much more firmly in the camps of the artists, meaning that an independent has as much chance of getting heard (theoretically) as Britney Spears. It's not so much a loss of money that spurred them against the online music movement, as a loss of control.

It could very well be the same thing with book publishers!

bingle
12-18-2007, 07:40 PM
I think I have seen the perfect e-publishing business model.

And Amazon is already doing it!

But not with books ;-) Amazon recently started selling DRM-free MP3 files on their online store. You can download them for less cost than the competing DRMed files, and they can be played on any device (because everything supports MP3), and they're fairly high quality encodings.

They are lacking the software/device integration that Apple has, but last I heard they were quite happy with the sales figures.

Imagine them doing the same for ebooks...

And I think that the key to a successful ebook sales strategy is accepting that you'll have some people who won't pay, who will download your books for free and send them to their friends for free or upload them on filesharing networks. It's like 'shrinkage' in the retail business, or 'breakage' in the old record business, or 'spoilage' as a grocer - you accept that you lose some percentage of product to thieves or carelessness or nature. And you factor that into your business plan.

DaleDe
12-18-2007, 08:50 PM
I saw the exact same business model in GPS technology. Mapopolis gave away the navigation program and sold the maps unprotected. They are now out of business do to lack of map sales after several years in the business. The product was outstanding and the maps were too easy to steal.

Dale

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-18-2007, 09:29 PM
And I think that the key to a successful ebook sales strategy is accepting that you'll have some people who won't pay, who will download your books for free and send them to their friends for free or upload them on filesharing networks. It's like 'shrinkage' in the retail business, or 'breakage' in the old record business, or 'spoilage' as a grocer - you accept that you lose some percentage of product to thieves or carelessness or nature. And you factor that into your business plan.

Although this sounds reasonable...

I saw the exact same business model in GPS technology. Mapopolis gave away the navigation program and sold the maps unprotected. They are now out of business do to lack of map sales after several years in the business. The product was outstanding and the maps were too easy to steal.

...this, not so much.

mrkai
12-18-2007, 11:15 PM
I saw the exact same business model in GPS technology. Mapopolis gave away the navigation program and sold the maps unprotected. They are now out of business do to lack of map sales after several years in the business. The product was outstanding and the maps were too easy to steal.

Dale

Hi Dale. You know...here's another explanation...the one Mapopolis gave!

http://www.gpspassion.com/forumsen/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=76767

Further...outstanding? I um, checked some reviews, and (as I suspected) in light of newer competing apps and their features it just couldn't compete anymore.

I mean, no 3D maps..."robotic" voice navigation...Mapopolis was antiquated. They had their fans, but people were looking for PDA mapping that rivaled newer dedicated hardware solutions at a fraction of the price and Mapopolis didn't provide this.

Additionally, Mapopolis was slow to migrate to newer Palm platforms...their core and bread and butter.

In light of all of this...you come up with "they didn't have DRM to save them" as their problem?! I submit that the lack of DRM made them relevant in the face of their superior competition...it allowed them to live longer :)

Sheesh.

DaleDe
12-19-2007, 01:23 AM
Hi Dale. You know...here's another explanation...the one Mapopolis gave!

http://www.gpspassion.com/forumsen/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=76767

Further...outstanding? I um, checked some reviews, and (as I suspected) in light of newer competing apps and their features it just couldn't compete anymore.

I mean, no 3D maps..."robotic" voice navigation...Mapopolis was antiquated. They had their fans, but people were looking for PDA mapping that rivaled newer dedicated hardware solutions at a fraction of the price and Mapopolis didn't provide this.

Additionally, Mapopolis was slow to migrate to newer Palm platforms...their core and bread and butter.

In light of all of this...you come up with "they didn't have DRM to save them" as their problem?! I submit that the lack of DRM made them relevant in the face of their superior competition...it allowed them to live longer :)

Sheesh.

The article you quoted was not from Mapopolis owners. It was their customer support person. I worked heavily with Lamar for some time and my own company went under as well. I was the technical writer and customer support person as well. Lamar did not have any inside track on what happened but does have his informed opinions. You can certainly believe what you want and the product did have some shortcomings but believe me they all do. I have intimate knowledge of GPS stuff. Check my web site. Of course no single problem is ever to blame but you have to look at the evidence.

Dale

nekokami
12-19-2007, 10:13 AM
I would think people don't buy new maps as frequently as they buy new books, though they probably refer to them more often. This seems like even less of a direct comparison than to music.

GregS
12-19-2007, 11:20 AM
Friends, we need a business model that can work for both extremes - that is the big established publisher, and perhaps someone living in small town in India that just happens to write like and angel and never will get close to a publisher of any kind.

Apple's itunes went particularly well because you could buy a card at a music shop and use it for buying music over the net. Without that card it would have not been half as successful.

That is the critical part, methods of payment - that works for small amounts.

I agree it is not question of cheap, cheap, cheap, even less that everything should be free. I want to see authors and editors paid, so they keep producing. I want to see that gifted self-published author - get more than enough to live comfortably and keep writing. But that is not going to happen through credit cards, or paypal.

The secret is small amounts, a few cents, being an easy transaction. The bottom end is critically important, get that fixed and the rest will flow. Whether the pay in method is phone cards or indeed itune cards, credit cards, or any other means, paying-in has to be easy; and getting cash for work has to be almost as easy as well.

If I edited a public domain text, what is that worth? I think only a few cents per copy, after 15 years that too should become public domain (ie that edition, not the work itself).

Copyright is an issue and unfair laws can be gotten around by using servers in countries with different, fairer laws. The big publishers won't like it, but we need fair copyright, copyright that protects authors throughout their life-time )and I would suggest 15 years after their death. Editions protected for 15 years from first publication).

The reason I bring this up as part of a business model, is that fair copyright is essential to it. For ebooks to flourish as part of this second Gutenberg revolution in printed works, both the creative genius must be protected, and also the public interest. If need be a compliant country can be found that will police and protect fair copyright.

Fair copyright allows small ebook publishers to gain a toe-hold, and it allows authors to break free of some of the unfair contract arrangements made with big publishers.

Which brings me to the last part of this model. Authors and creative talent (illustrators, translators and editors), have to establish a fair price for their work on a per item basis, and stated in a single currency (Euros I would suggest).

It would assume a method of payment that works (none presently do, especially for small sums), and a method of payment direct to the copyright owners, however, the ebook is obtained.

Rather than crippling the ebook (current DRM), there could be a use of digital signatures, public encryption and receipting to establish the copyright owners prices, the abstract identity of the purchaser and transferrers of ownership of copies.

It would not be perfect, but the present mess is crippling to all concerned. Electronic literature changes many things. For one if I want to print it, I do so at my own expense, if I want to have the text voice synthesized I do the work. If I want to get at the text for close personal study, perhaps process it through other applications - that is my business.

If I want to give away other peoples' work I am a pirate, but if the prices are unfair and the DRM crippling, and I have no way of paying the true copyright holders their money, am I still a pirate? Or has this piracy been imposed on me? The present situation encourages piracy as Prohibition encouraged bootlegging.

There is a better model, readers actually want authors to be paid. Fair prices, fair copyright and the means to pay them are preconditions for ebook publishing to flourish as it should, and create whole new generations that read more and understand more because they do.

As for big publishing companies they have to adapt, or in the long term, perish. But it is up to us, not them to establish the market and business model. Copyright must be policed, but it must be secured first and foremost on fairness, to the creative talent and to the public interest in obtaining the words of that talent and its transition into the public domain.

If the parameters of such a model were in place, would you not be obliged to report pirates and be happy to do so? And what better police force than readers themselves.

Of course the easiest way to do things is find a country willing to host ebook publishing, based on a fair copyright laws that are enforced, the method of payment would be an inducement, after all the real money has to sit somewhere.

Doing things right will in the end, make things work, but waiting on big business to do the right thing will be a very long wait.

HappyMartin
12-19-2007, 01:47 PM
I know next to nothing about publishing but more than I did before ploughing my way through this thread start to finish.

In terms of business models it seems to me that a marketing approach should be at the core of the model. In other words marketing not sales. Determine what the market wants and find a model to supply that rather than designing a product and then trying to sell it to the market. Basic business stuff really but it works a lot of the time and it is being ignored as far as I can tell.

You can come up with the most fantastic model that pleases publishers and authors and retailers but so what if no one spends any money. The product needs to be clearly defined in terms of what it is selling and what the Unique Selling Points are (USP). It is not a book, it is information and entertainment and there are clear USPs to selling this in an electronic form that could be communicated much more effectively than is currently the case.

Design the product and that will define the publishing model. DRM and all the rest of it is not the hurdle. I think the hurdles are the needlessly complicated world of formats, conversions, device functionalities and the rest of it that make it easier to simply pick up a book.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-19-2007, 01:55 PM
Greg, I'm not sure trying to tie your ideas to a specific governing country will work: Countries in reality have very little pull over other countries, and any disputes will never be resolved. On the other hand, a non-profit organization with international influence could possibly pull it off, assuming they could get full cooperation from all governments. (Yes, even this is a long shot, but a better chance than expecting a government body to do it.)

And let's try to leave out the questions about what constitutes a pirate... we're trying to keep clear, rational heads around here, and piracy debates--for some strange reason--do not lead to that... :rolleyes:

I'm not so sure we need copyright reform, per se, as much as we could use a uniform set of copyright laws for all governments to adopt, which I think would go a long way toward unifying everyone on distribution, pricing, DRM, etc. This might not be feasible, given the extreme range of economies and personal rights from country to country, but perhaps a range of values within the initial regulations that took those extremes into account, and allowed for some play in the regs per country.

Something like this might also help solve the pricing differences between countries/regions that make a book reasonable for one, but prohibitively expensive for another. I personally would love to be able to set up a way to charge a significantly lower rate for "third world" countries, to make my work more accessible to those for whom $50 can be a year's salary.

DaleDe
12-19-2007, 04:15 PM
I believe it is perfectly permissible for an author or a publisher (with the author's permission) to establish copyrights that are less restrictive than the law allows. They can decrease the time or the terms.

Dale

GregS
12-19-2007, 08:03 PM
Steve and Dale thanks for the replies.

In one sense what I have said is not practical to implement, mind you if someplace like Cuba or Venezuela wanted to become the world hub of epublishing, it would not be hard for them to do so, but it is extremely unlikely.

At the moment ebook publishing is artificially constrained, as well as suffering the pangs of its own development. Epub standards (and other more specialized standards are needed as time goes on), and at least DRM (as crippled literature) should be device and software independent (how that might come about may be far more difficult).

Standards, Copyright, micro-cash and DRM/ownership-receipting, hang around our necks like millstones. Why us?

Why is this not such a problem in other digital industries, such as software?

Yet with ebooks these things are immensely prominent. What is it about literature that creates these things as obstacles where elsewhere they hardly seem to matter?

Copyright, which is implemented differently around the world, has not been a big problem, but with ebooks it is. First because the readership is world world and so is the means of distribution, and second because we are a site of conflict.

A publisher holding copyright can keep a book out of the public's hands. By not printing it effectively the author is denied royalties and the public their thoughts. With paper this was just an unavoidable by-product of the cost of production. Publishers needed control over the work, because producing it was expensive, it represented an investment and while publishers may well want every book they control inprint - it was never viable to do so.

Ebooks mean perpetual publication, reproductive costs and storage costs of the "plates" is negligible, the constraints of paper reproduction no longer hold. This alone causes a huge tension between public and private interests - the response by industry has been extraordinarily protectionist not just in DRM but also in getting in some places copyright extended in its favour and completely alienable (the rights passing from the author and edition to the companies now deemed as living beings and having those rights exclusively).

The clever contract now can effectively deny the author income (one of the reasons copyright was established in the first place), deny the public reading material, and give retail/publishers virtual unending monopoly over our art and literature (I consider 70years that excessive).

The fact is this is all coming to a head because of promise (it has a way to go yet) of eink and epaper. I have tried for more than twenty years to read computer screens without success, between flicker and battery-life I find it a complete non-goer, and have waited and waited for the technology to make electronic reading as good as paper reading.

That is the critical thing, where eink/epaper is likely to be in the next five years - we can all smell it, regardless of what is thought about current devices, the publishing industry can smell it, and finally it looks like a real and large audience/market is ready to come into being. Hence, what was niggling obstacles before start to become crushing problems.

The fact is up until now paper has been the supreme technology for storing and comprehending coherent thought. Despite the first computer revolution, the centuries old technology of pressing ink to wood fiber was superior - now that is changing, we not only have the beginnings of technology as good as paper, but with added bonus of the functionality of digital. Hence the problems suffered in the past now become insufferable and hold everything back.

The truth is no one will have a business model that can really work under such conditions, for the conditions have to be changed. It will change, there is no doubt, but when is an important for people already publishing and selling, for millions of potential authors, historians, academics, students etc.,. We don't get to live for ever, we need change within a reasonable time, and that means forcing the issue rather than waiting for the powers to be to change their minds.

We need to form an association of e-publishers, e-retailers, translators, editors, authors and readers, capable of presenting coherent policy to the world - there area it needs to cover is standards, micro-cash, copyright/anti-piracy and e-receipting/tagging/signatures of literature. They are all curable and this could well become the biggest market for a single product the world has ever seen. The way it is going at the moment it will take decades before this potential has any chance to succeed.

PS

On cheaper editions for the third world, you are very limited, obviously you can as a retailer/publisher cut your profits down for this sector, but this will hardly make a significant difference. We need a royalty payment system that is so easy to use, that it is possible for copyright holders to make charity royalty sacrifice, without them being ripped-off by shady operators. But that needs an organization capable of rating countries fairly and establishing a regime of fair percentages - and that is some way off yet.

The other side of things, is that third-world sellers (publishers, retailers and authors) need a reverse pricing structure, so that buying a ebook in Africa from Australia, I have to pay an uped percentage, to protect retailers in the developed world and deliver a good sum to the underdeveloped world (a small bias towards the latter would be understandable).

Sorry for another extra-long post.

mrkai
12-19-2007, 10:10 PM
They are all curable and this could well become the biggest market for a single product the world has ever seen. The way it is going at the moment it will take decades before this potential has any chance to succeed.


This cannot happen GregS, until the publishing business starts being concerned with, and about, the needs of customers that wish to buy the product...as opposed to the current SOP where the energy and obsession is with people that are in fact not customers :)

sanders
12-20-2007, 09:25 AM
I am about to publish a non-fiction book (a computer programming manual) and I'm considering an ebook version of it as well.

A few things to note (which most of you probably alreay know): the printing/paper costs are not the bulk of the price you pay for a book in the store. The store usually gets books from the publisher at a "deep discount" of 55% (and can even return unsold books to the publisher for a refund). Out of the remaining 45%, the publisher pays the author, the editor, the printer, the cover designer, etc. A 300-page book in large numbers costs only a dollar or two to print.

Using print-on-demand and a short discount of, say, 30%, I incur higher printing fees (about $4 for a 300-page book) but no stocking costs; in the end, this leads to higher net per book (say, about $10 for a $22.99 book).

However, ebooks do not need to be stored in brick-and-mortar stores. I could publish the pbook and offer the ebook for download from my own site, at the same price I would get for the pbook; yet the consensus on this forum seems to be that an ebook should only cost a few dollars, tops. Include the risk that an entire class of students will buy one single copy of my ebook and put the pdf on their Iliads, and this makes me hesitant to go that route. Especially for technical/textbook material, the "share copies of the PDF" problem sounds like a real risk.

Can you say anything to convince me? :-)

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-20-2007, 10:20 AM
In truth, probably not.

You accurately summed up the market as-is for books and e-books, most importantly, the fact that there is a "risk" of piracy. As we've been saying around here, e-book publishers have to figure out a way to deal with and accept the expected losses that come with electronic files, just as they do in print.

If you are selling an e-book, and concerned about one purchaser sharing their e-books with too many, you may need to look into (dare I say it?) a way to secure your copies with DRM (say, using the PDF passwords function, going through a DRM-capable publisher, or tying your books to specific hardware like Sony or Amazon). However, there are other ways of trying to deal with the issue, such as adding value to the e-book to make it more palatable to buy it... issuing a "validation certificate" to each purchaser... lowering the e-book price, to remove the "burden" of paying for it...

...or, simply appealing to their sense of honesty and asking them not to rip you off.

No, none of these methods are perfect. Guess what? There are no perfect methods to remove "shrinkage" in the print world, either. In the end, all you can do is take some steps and hope for the best.

If you really feel that producing e-books will be counter-productive for you, wait. The market will get better down the road... maybe now is not the right time for you. But if you're willing to take a chance that you can figure out the best selling model for e-books, netting maximum profits and minimum losses, and coincidentally lead the way for the rest of us... go for it.

Liviu_5
12-20-2007, 11:12 AM
Can you say anything to convince me? :-)

To me the determinant things would be:

1: what is my market?
2: how many copied do I want to sell at a minimum?
3: how do I get people to look at my book?


Discussing about publishing an e-book (or more generally a book) in a vacuum has no point. Worrying about people ripping the book are useless if you cannot sell the book anyway, or if very few people see it...

nekokami
12-20-2007, 01:06 PM
I'd suggest two things:

1 - when we say an ebook is worth a "few" dollars (I usually think around US$5), we're talking about fiction, not technical books

2 - Look into "social DRM", by which I mean a system that embeds the purchaser's identity in the text, for all to see. Include a valid email address (confirmed by response of purchaser) and phone number. You don't have to worry about making it impossible to remove. This will slow up anyone that more customary DRM would work on, and won't irritate your customers nearly as much as regular DRM.

AnemicOak
12-20-2007, 03:35 PM
I'd suggest two things:

1 - when we say an ebook is worth a "few" dollars (I usually think around US$5), we're talking about fiction, not technical books


$5-$6 is probably a good price overall, although I don't personally mind the pricing used by S&S where new HC equivalent releases usually sell for $10-$12 & PB equivalent releases are usually $3-$5.

bingle
12-20-2007, 05:46 PM
2 - Look into "social DRM", by which I mean a system that embeds the purchaser's identity in the text, for all to see. Include a valid email address (confirmed by response of purchaser) and phone number. You don't have to worry about making it impossible to remove. This will slow up anyone that more customary DRM would work on, and won't irritate your customers nearly as much as regular DRM.

I seem to be the only person that feels this way, but as I user I would be more worried about social DRM than the anti-social sort ;-)

The reason being that 'real' DRM prevents accidents. I can't accidentally share a file for the entire world to see, or accidentally copy it to my laptop, which then gets stolen. Also, if something *does* happen, well, that's too bad for the publisher (to the tune of a few lost sales), but it's not bad for me.

On the other hand, with Social DRM, it's easy to imagine a scenario where your file gets accidentally shared somehow - a family member installs file-sharing software, or your computer/device gets hacked or physically stolen. Now your personal info is out in the wild, and your reputation has suffered irreparable harm. Depending on the info that gets out, too, the financial damage could be considerable.

nekokami
12-20-2007, 06:27 PM
bingle, I can see your point, but this is true of a lot of info that might be on your laptop or other system. You can put passwords on your computer. You can even put passwords on individual files, if you want to, effectively DRMing your purchased ebooks. All this is in your control as an individual. And that's where I'd rather have it.

But I recognize your point of view, and I think it was good to bring it up.

bingle
12-20-2007, 07:09 PM
bingle, I can see your point, but this is true of a lot of info that might be on your laptop or other system. You can put passwords on your computer. You can even put passwords on individual files, if you want to, effectively DRMing your purchased ebooks. All this is in your control as an individual. And that's where I'd rather have it.

That's a good point - individuals can opt-in to as much lockdown as they like.

I definitely feel better about social DRM from a trust point of view - it doesn't seem as customer-hostile as the other sort. And I'm sure everyone knows that I'm not a fan of regular DRM ;-) But I think the downsides of any method should be considered.

sanders
12-21-2007, 05:30 AM
Some very interesting options here.

How do e-readers handle password-protected PDFs? Can you enter a password on an Iliad for example? Will users consider this an "acceptable" hindrance?

Also, I like the "social DRM" part. I understand the problems with reputations being at stake, but perhaps this will make people more careful. After all, with a "non-personalized" PDF being shared, the publisher/author has the same problem, but the "culprit" can more easily shrug it off.

I can see setting up a server which, when a user buys the eBook, re-generates the PDF file with "Registered to John Doe (thank you for buying!)" on the title page. On the other hand, the problem with "tech" material is that there's usually a close group of people who buys the book at the same time, so I guess the normal "sharing situation" of "I liked this book, here's a copy for you to read" goes to "Let's all put in 50 cents and register the book to "University XYZ book club" and all use it for this semester".

Regards,
Sander

tompe
12-21-2007, 07:28 AM
Students have always shared book if they were to expensive (that is a copy of the book done in a copying machine is much less expensive).

We used a book in a logic course that had a key that was used to correct exercises via the net. The book was freely available as pdf but to pass the course you had to have a unique key and two persons could not use the key at the same time. That is one way to get people to buy a new book.

Maybe you could sell sets of books for one class to the teacher and then they could collect the money for using the book?

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-21-2007, 10:56 AM
Some very interesting options here.

How do e-readers handle password-protected PDFs? Can you enter a password on an Iliad for example? Will users consider this an "acceptable" hindrance?

I confess, I don't know how Iliads handle PDFs and password protection. (By the way, don't call an Iliad an "e-reader," or you'll incur the wrath of Jon! ;) Call it an e-book reader.) PDF files can be created with a password to open (or edit) the file. For small enough distribution, you could create individual files with unique passwords for each.

We used a book in a logic course that had a key that was used to correct exercises via the net. The book was freely available as pdf but to pass the course you had to have a unique key and two persons could not use the key at the same time. That is one way to get people to buy a new book.

An excellent way to go about it!

Amalthia
12-21-2007, 03:28 PM
I knew a girl that bought a 180 dollar book for college, paid the 20 dollars to use the copy machine and then took it back to the store. But really 180 for a book??? can't say I blame her. College books are WAY too expensive. I get the reasons why, small market and all that but I think students are less likely to cheat if they can actually afford to buy the book.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-21-2007, 03:57 PM
But really 180 for a book??? can't say I blame her. College books are WAY too expensive.

That's an issue unto itself, one more aspect of the U.S. education system that needs serious attention. It's still my hope that converting textbooks to electronic formats will go a long way towards improving the cost situation, but it won't do the trick by itself.

DaleDe
12-21-2007, 05:21 PM
That's an issue unto itself, one more aspect of the U.S. education system that needs serious attention. It's still my hope that converting textbooks to electronic formats will go a long way towards improving the cost situation, but it won't do the trick by itself.

Back when I was in college the professors would write their own text books to supplement their income and require students to buy them. In some cases I bought books that I never opened the entire year. The professors would also revise them every few years so that used books would not be purchased.

Dale

nekokami
12-21-2007, 06:27 PM
Interactive content at a website is a great add-on for an ebook, and often is licensed separately when pbooks include this content, i.e. if you buy a used copy of the book, you still end up buying the license for the web content.

Regarding the iLiad, yes, it can read password-protected PDFs. It has stylus input via an on-screen keyboard or a handwriting recognition line. I dislike PDFs for ebooks, but a password is one of the less onorous kinds of DRM -- as long as future versions of Acrobat continue to support the password feature. I've heard there can be problems with that.

GregS
12-22-2007, 08:07 AM
My pleasure in reading is non-fiction, I like taking notes, slotting quotes away, I would like to annotate, but could never bring myself to do so, my iliad has not yet arrived, but even so I would like to print out the occasional work from time to time, I also like to listen to lighter works.

In other words my use of any particular book is unpredictable. Hence crippled DRM ebooks are most unattractive. Tethering ebooks to devices, is very much the same as monks chaining books to tables. Ironically a handwritten book was a very expensive item, while an ebook is potentially a very cheap one to reproduce.

Passwords are too difficult, too difficult to keep, but besides they do not change the problem, the ebook is still crippled, for if it is open to reading it is closed to other uses, if it weren't then the password effectively nullifies itself.

DRM cannot escape the fact that it is crippling the ebook against legitimate use.

If the problem is pirating then the cure is policing, and on the web bots can be sent out easily, but only if they also have an easy method of checking.

In terms of models there is an easy way to check things using hash tables, a suspect file can be checked, the graphic cover can be used along with the text, the TOC etc.,. It is not hard but it can be made easier again with digital signatures and identity numbers.

First the work is given a unique identifier, and the edition, and the publisher signs the book with a hash table. One other thing, the publisher's signature also hashes the distributors signature, and the distributor signs a receipt that includes a unique identifier of the transaction and thereby the ebook itself.

All of this can be combined in one way or another that the removal of one part corrupts the other signatures - an easy check for falsely resold ebooks that look genuine.

Of course, all the signatures can be removed, and new ones created making the book suspicious only to electronic bots, the publisher's hash table and records being sufficient to prove the ebook a knock-off.

Nothing would stop giving copies to friends, but arguably this small circle hardly effects overall sales, and besides it is likely to create a greater readership for future works by the same author, I know this happens in my family when a friend lends us a book they have liked, we return the book, and buy subsequent volumes as they are published. Public libraries act in much the same way - they expand the market.

I don't mind that the right to resell the item disappears. That seems a fair exchange given the nature of the medium.

Basically reliance on electronic means to restrict and cripple literature, means that I will only buy material I know before hand I can crack - not to pirate but merely to freely use.

As for students, even book reading clubs buying only one copy and sharing it, I should not that in my country the right to reproduce works for the purpose of study has co-existed as a common law right with copyright since its inception. Twice big business tried to have this eliminated and twice the courts upheld that copyright cannot stand in the way of study - this has not led to rampant piracy, it has led to more readers.

The model being proposed is one of affixing seals or stamps which has been used for ownership purposes for centuries.

I would not want to mandate personal information being signed in, some books in some parts of the world are dangerous to read, that should not be forgotten ever. But I would not mind being able to mark my books with an exlibris signature - it would make it easier for me to keep track of my collection for one thing.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-22-2007, 03:21 PM
The only problem with the identifier method is the situation where someone replaces a new device without transferring the devide's ID to the new device from the old. Even at best, many people have not proven equal to doing this with new devices (usually there are so many such accounts, IDs, etc, that they are missed), and at worst, if the old device was lost/stolen/damaged, you might not be able to recover the ID from it.

This suggests using some sort of ID that is part of your personal ID info (like a social security number or driver's licence), that will not change, and is device independent. But then there are privacy concerns... you don't want just anybody to have your social security number.

So... a unique identifier, maybe a number randomly generated for you and then stored on a card, dongle, or database. But if you lose the card or dongle, or the database is corrupted or taken offline, you're locked out of your books.

About all that's left is a biometric identifier, like a fingerprint, that must be added to the e-book when bought and checked by the reader when you open it.

This would even accomplish the Big Pub's dream, by taking away the ability to loan the book to anyone else. But you also wouldn't be able to pass it down, gift it or resell it, alienating the consumer further. But it is by far the best way to secure a book.

Mind you, that depends on whether the e-book reader is designed to lock out the book unless the fingerprint is read, and I'm sure we all know someone will come up with a hack for that...

GregS
12-22-2007, 08:38 PM
Steve Jordan thanks for the reply. Whatever is used it has to be unhitched from device - this just does not work and can never work. My suggestion is simply self-identity, that is the book identifies itself as a specific work, bought from a specific retailer with a item (copy) specific serial ID.

Nothing would make the book unreadable and simple editing could remove all security. It is an aid to policing, not a substitute for actually tracking down pirates and dealing with them by legal means.

Everything else relies on either keeping the same set of devices forever, or some abstract password (I regularly lose these so I now use the same simple, easily guessed, password for everything).

My main problem is that DRM the way it is done now cripples the ebook. I have many legitimate reasons for manipulating the text aside from simply reading it, none of which, by any stretch of the imagination, comes close to piracy.

Any system that opens the book fully, allows for editing (legit or otherwise). It is a catch-22. The book is either permanently crippled or opened up for editing of one sort or another.

The problem is thus two-fold with DRM. One the system that would make it universal (device independent) requires identifying the buyer unambiguously. This has serious consequences, especially if the buyer is reading something their government deems subversive, dangerous, and liable to sanctions.

Biometrics could be used, but think of the consequence of finger prints in keeping tabs on the reading population, link the print to the person and with the right software anything and everything they are reading is available to the local police. I was considering at one stage the use of generic identifiers - height, eye colour, hair type - simple generic descriptors, linked with a book and reference (ie any selected text divided by 999, text plus number = password).

The problem is that the ebook remains crippled, simply unencrypting is actually a limited use right.

That is the bit that I have been unable to reconcile - no matter what the system, no matter how it might be improved (improvement is not hard to imagine), we still get stuck with a book that artificially restricts legitimate use.

My solution of signing/stamping works with signatures, will not satisfy publishers, because they are fixed on the idea that there is a foolproof electronic solution. The idea that copyright infringements would have to policed just like any other item, including traditional books, frightens them.

I believe there is a concession to be made, that the right to resell, or make an ebook publicly available is given up. Putting a purchased ebook on the net, is therefore an infringement, removing the signatures from it a serious infringement, re-editing and presenting a copyrighted ebook likewise.

What is done privately within the home, or amongst friends on a one to one basis, that is private and publishers should just give up on this aspect of things - besides which it does them good, if they publish good works, in the end.

For libraries, I would suggest, time-bomb triggers, that is agreement by software reader suppliers to look for a library signature and delete the file if it is out of date. This might also work for short term renting of books, but anyone determined to get a copy could easily get around it.

nekokami
12-23-2007, 11:44 AM
Even resale could possibly work if you do it through the retailer or publisher, i.e. they could change the digital signature and change the record of ownership to the new person at the same time. Otherwise, I agree with GregS on all points.

It's important to remember that the majority of the books floating around the darknet currently are scans of paper books.

Liviu_5
12-23-2007, 03:33 PM
[B]

For libraries, I would suggest, time-bomb triggers, that is agreement by software reader suppliers to look for a library signature and delete the file if it is out of date. This might also work for short term renting of books, but anyone determined to get a copy could easily get around it.

Interesting thoughts in all of the above post. However one simple question remains unanswered to me. Why bother?

If you think there need to be so many hoops (publishers do this, consumers do that...) why bother with e-books at all. print books work quite well...

E-books need to have REALLY compelling benefits for people and this to me is still the big unanswered question. Who is going to offer those benefits? The publishers - well until they MUST, they won't as we well know from the music industry case, and from current practices...

sanders
12-23-2007, 04:33 PM
It's important to remember that the majority of the books floating around the darknet currently are scans of paper books.

I'm not sure what this points out. On the one hand, a scan of a paper book to me would be equivalent to the old cassette recording of a piece of music: you listen to it a few times, then determine whether you want the real CD, or put up with the slightly lower quality of the cassette, or tape something else over it. I'm certainly not opposed to that kind of "piracy", and I've personally bought many CDs which I already had on cassette.
On the other hand, you could say that people are willing to put in a lot of effort to avoid paying for a book.

When you take into account that digital copies (of CDs or DVDs, for instance) are of the same quality of the original, I'm worried about publishing the PDF of my book. It would perhaps make things very tempting to copy.

Over here in The Netherlands, "piracy" is pretty rampant. People even look at me strangely when I say I prefer to buy software, and that they don't need to "burn a copy" from their latest CD for me. What I find even stranger is that people leave their computer on overnight to download a torrent of a DVD, take the effort of burning it to a DVD, including printing the cover (!), while I just drive by our local blockbuster equivalent and rent the movie, probably for about the same cost (taking printer ink, empty DVD-R etc.).

Anyway, so far I like the "personalized copy" idea and the password protected PDF.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-23-2007, 07:00 PM
Liviu, I do think there's a reason to bother... there are a lot of positive aspects of e-books, their portability, their flexibility, their environmental friendliness, and their lower production cost, that make them a desirable product. We just need a publishing model that suits those positive aspects... or, put another way, doesn't outweigh them to the extent that nobody wants e-books.

Greg, although e-books can probably be considered a bit like software, and a bit like digital music, I think they will earn their own definition and method of use, and that may not preclude being resellable. However, I think we have a long way to go before we get there... digital music's and software's selling/reselling model took years to settle down, and e-books probably will, too.

Maybe we're all paying too much attention to the meticulous details, and need to step back and get a better look at the overall picture. We have a digital file, and the point here is to package it in such a way as to make people want to buy it, not bother to steal it, and not detract from their enjoying it.

Take my publishing method (no DRM, low-cost, multiple formats, semi-entertaining website) as example: It seems to work fine... but a major variable is that I am not widely known, so the cross-section of the population that knows about me is small. If we theorized that I became famous tomorrow, and millions of people started coming to my site to buy e-books, would my model still work? Would I get more sales, massive pirating, or a modicum of both? What should I alter to deal with such a situation?

Then, other publishing methods, such as Baen's, or Harlequin's, both of which have larger e-book customer bases: Do their models need to be tweaked to make them more palatable? To make them palatable to the mainstream? Is there a reason the mainstream couldn't handle their system? Or are they really fine as-is?

GregS
12-23-2007, 08:29 PM
nekokami many thanks, I have been going through the epub format (slowly) and digital signatures are well catered for within it. One of the things I will work towards is making an exlibris signature system so that you can stick it into the non-DRMed ebooks, along with shelving information, so that they may be organized on the the PC at least.

Steve Jordan I am not sure that I am reading the format correctly, but it looks like it may be able to incorporate TIE tags (Text Encoding Initiative), which may be very good news for textbook and serious scholarly works. Optional stylesheets seems the only deficit in the format, but that may be the result of nothing other than my poor attempts to understand the format.

In terms of giving shape to market, file format is critical, epub seems close enough to mobileread format that transforming it automatically would not be all that difficult. Buyers should not ever be concerned with formats, just the ebooks. Epub serves well for most fiction, there are a few things which should be mandatory (such as Section-chapter-paragraph numbered ids and unique IDs for the publication and edition - I would also add shelving information re the Universal Decimal system), but these things can be dealt with in the fullness of time.

Complex non-fiction is another matter, and that a standard that includes some form of PDF-like stylesheet that generates typographically true pages designed for the particular reader is not yet even on the drawing boards as far as I can find out. But again that needs time to emerge. Epub is to my mind THE critical keystone for providing a large and growing market in ebooks.

Aside from big publishers/retails, what you seem to be doing on your site is what I see as the true model for ebook publishing - the specialist publisher-retailer will I think be the backbone definition of the ebook publishing model.

The problem of advertising will not so easily be solved, yet the solution is not a biggy. Review eMagazines need to be produced - the problem is that for these to become viable the writer/editors need to make an income and such regular publications need to be cheap and with an easy subscription system.

That brings us to the one vital missing ingredient - micro-cash, a means of safely depositing real money on the net, and make easy transactions of small (a few dollars) and very small (a few cents or less) amounts. Transactions that are the electronic equivalent of opening a wallet and paying in cash.

I was looking at your site, and I have not read any science fiction for years, and despite not yet having a reader (and I cannot read off a computer screen), I was very tempted to buy a few, I don't have a credit card (I can't be trusted with one), and I will now setup and use paypal, however, while this is good enough for ebooks that are a few dollars it falls apart at sub-dollar prices (which is where public domain publishing should be), and it would positively fall apart at the small Ebook Review Magazine level where transaction costs would swallow up the price which should be for such a thing at less than 50 cents level.

That needs to be fixed, as I believe micro-cash could well support the minor publications on which genuine advertisement (via ebook review) could evolve - after all, if I set up such a emagazine, I would be paying readers to write reviews for it. I thus also need a simple means of paying them, what might be a very small per sale commission. Until that loop is secured we all stand behind a substantial barrier to further development.

As an example; my eMagazine sells for just 10cents, back issues for 5cents. Each issue has fifty reviews, as editor publisher I take 20% commission, and pay out 80% of the cover price (based on ebook providers actually forwarding the full cover price - why not they benefit from the reviews). That is 80% of 10cents = 8 cents divided by 50 or 0.16 cents for each reviewer for each magazine sold new, and 0.08 cents for each backissue sold.

Three thousand readers surrenders only $4.80 to each reviewer, hardly worth the effort. However, I get $60 per issue - I would be better off working a couple hours at MacDonalds. However if I had the prior interest, and the reviewers likewise, it may be enough to get things started. 30,000 regular readers produces $600 and $48 per article which is looking not too bad for the effort involved - greater factors of readership make it into a viable business.

We are a long way from that, but in terms of future advertising Review eMagazines are a natural way to expand the market - held back by the lack of a micro-cash system - I will write to paypal to see if they are interested in setting up a cash purse system, even if it was limited to just $50 it would work well enough. This is one aspect of a model we need to get in place. Review eMagazines for instance are not viable until we have something like this.

sanders I agree with you, big publishers are worried about nothing, of course if they severely overprice their products (as many do at the moment - they will create a blackmarket whether they are DRMed or not). nekokami on the last point raised - likewise.

Liviu_5"E-books need to have REALLY compelling benefits for people and this to me is still the big unanswered question. Who is going to offer those benefits? The publishers - well until they MUST, they won't as we well know from the music industry case, and from current practices..."

Until we had eink/epaper readers, there were mainly deficits, with DRMed ebooks no real benefits at all. But this changes dramatically when a device can be read for weeks, and library carried around, we have a way to go yet in providing more digital functionality in readers (such as proper shelving, fully referenced quoting and integration into a eCard system - but that will come).

The devices make the difference - they first the first time since Gutenberg pressed movable type onto paper, provide a substantial improvement in recording, storing and apprehending human thought in written words.

I will repeat - until now the best form for keeping complex concepts was on paper - that has changed, it is a revolution or as Steve Jordan says "the ebook IS the 21st Century".

Liviu_5
12-23-2007, 08:49 PM
Liviu, I do think there's a reason to bother... there are a lot of positive aspects of e-books, their portability, their flexibility, their environmental friendliness, and their lower production cost, that make them a desirable product. We just need a publishing model that suits those positive aspects... or, put another way, doesn't outweigh them to the extent that nobody wants e-books.



I like and read e-books, so of course I would like them to succeed. However, even if interesting all this discussion seems to me that is somewhat missing the main point, which is that paper books have a very well defined ecological place in our culture and the e-book experience overall really needs to offer very tangible advantages to make serious inroads.

Simplicity, durability and easy access are VERY powerful advantages and right now e-books have a long way to go in all those categories compared to print.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-23-2007, 09:27 PM
In terms of giving shape to market, file format is critical, epub seems close enough to mobileread format that transforming it automatically would not be all that difficult. Buyers should not ever be concerned with formats, just the ebooks. Epub serves well for most fiction, there are a few things which should be mandatory (such as Section-chapter-paragraph numbered ids and unique IDs for the publication and edition - I would also add shelving information re the Universal Decimal system), but these things can be dealt with in the fullness of time.

Complex non-fiction is another matter, and that a standard that includes some form of PDF-like stylesheet that generates typographically true pages designed for the particular reader is not yet even on the drawing boards as far as I can find out. But again that needs time to emerge. Epub is to my mind THE critical keystone for providing a large and growing market in ebooks.

Agreed here. I haven't spent enough time with ePub to know how well it is suited for more complex works, like textbooks, but if it isn't there yet, I'm sure it can be brought up to that level.

(By the way: If you don't want to read SF, there's always Lambs Hide, Tigers Seek! :D)

I like and read e-books, so of course I would like them to succeed. However, even if interesting all this discussion seems to me that is somewhat missing the main point, which is that paper books have a very well defined ecological place in our culture and the e-book experience overall really needs to offer very tangible advantages to make serious inroads.

Simplicity, durability and easy access are VERY powerful advantages and right now e-books have a long way to go in all those categories compared to print.

I think e-books are closer to that point than you might think... in fact, poised to become as major a part of literature as MP3s are to music now. That's why the proper publishing model, applied now, could push them over the edge.

nekokami
12-23-2007, 09:39 PM
My reason for pointing out that most of the darknet books are scans was twofold:

1 - Even though most commercial ebooks are available in a "cracked" DRM format (LIT), that does not constitute the bulk of the shadow market (i.e. what people are stealing isn't, for the most part, commercial ebooks).

2 - There is enough market demand that people are spending time manually scanning books that are not yet available as ebooks to share, and these have value in the gift economy of the darknet.

If I'm right about this, there is plenty of market demand for ebooks, even now, and if the ease of use was high and the prices reasonable, the darknet could become completely marginalized, without needing any DRM at all. I honestly believe this is the case. I favor social DRM (embedding the identity of the purchaser) just to remind people not to "loan" copies of books too widely, but that should be sufficient to provide a viable ebook market.

Liviu_5
12-24-2007, 12:17 AM
I think e-books are closer to that point than you might think... in fact, poised to become as major a part of literature as MP3s are to music now. That's why the proper publishing model, applied now, could push them over the edge.

Maybe; we will see. Still in the latest published report, quarterly e-book sales were about 25M$, compared with about 7-8B$ for print.

Now it can be argued that for a long time the same was true for the ratio of cd to mp3 sales, however cd sales have started going into free fall recently while book sales still have healthy trends.

I have no doubt that the number of books released as e will increase over time, what I doubt is that the sales of said e-books will increase dramatically.

If we talk about free e-books (of whatever kind), then the picture may indeed look a bit different, since if there is a point where e competes well with print is when e is free.

GregS
12-24-2007, 01:02 AM
I have no doubt that the number of books released as e will increase over time, what I doubt is that the sales of said e-books will increase dramatically.

If we talk about free e-books (of whatever kind), then the picture may indeed look a bit different, since if there is a point where e competes well with print is when e is free.

Liviu_5 one of the biggest publishing countries in the world is India - and one of the biggest parts of that industry is reprinting out-of-print works that cater to specialized interests (in terms of money earned).

Ebooks have a definite advantage in that arena. Plus the capital costs of setting up make even low-cost Indian printers look expensive. Then of course there are the many authors (from poor to overlooked geniuses) that can go directly into publishing.

One argument worth considering is the huge drop in the cost of the means of production and the general effect this has socially on the reproduction of texts. More ebooks can be produced and stored for reproduction, covering a wider and deeper publishing potential than paper products ever possessed.

Lower costs mean lower prices - significantly lower for anyone who has knowledge of printing industry and the risks involved. The capital risks being smaller the profit margins do not have to take this much into account (unlike p-book publishers), the profit ratio can more be tuned to expected turnover alone.

This favours production, more old works and more new ones, more neglected works that should have been printed, and of course more rotten works which still make it into print. This does not translate into buyers of course.

Customers need devices which are relatively cheap, robust and paper-like, that have extra functionality built in. These are the early days, the devices are expensive, fragile and lack the things which will in a few years all change dramatically for the better in every respect, if the rest of technology is any guide.

The missing element, a means of payment, so that p-book to e-book scanners, editors, writers, graphic artists and all the rest can begin to make a living from their work, this is in Beta stage - Micro-cash seems well on its way, so hold onto your hats folks:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html?node=342430011

PS
After over 10 years advocating micro-cash/payment as essential to eCommerce, Amazon.com is doing the right thing. Hopefully PayPal and Wildcard will soon join in, if phone cards and iTunes cards could be used for payments, then third world is in a good position to reap benefits as well as custom.

Hooray - I just got my Christmas present - mirco-cash/payment is just months away.

sanders
12-24-2007, 05:11 AM
The only reason I'm considering an e-book as an author/publisher is that I'd want one as a consumer. The main reason for me to buy an iLead (I've promised myself that the first 649 euros of proceeds from my book will go directly to iRex :) ) is not to read fiction/literature, but for my professional career as a software architect.

To me, having my entire professional library with me at all times, searchable even, is definitely worth the price of the iLiad.

Also, there is a lot of stuff you need only temporarily, like spec sheets, white papers, etc. I always hesitate to buy a pbook on a subject which I know will be obsolete in a few years, because it just feels like a waste to me. I'd gladly pay for an ebook version of such literature, so it won't take up shelf space. Throwing away pbooks hurts my soul (even if I'm certain I will never look up anything anymore in my "Complete ZX Spectrum ROM Disassembly" book). Keeping ebooks in a tiny corner of my hard disk would solve that issue.

As a publisher however, nothing convinces more than "You'll make more money offering ebooks."

JSWolf
12-24-2007, 05:36 AM
I am about to publish a non-fiction book (a computer programming manual) and I'm considering an ebook version of it as well.

A few things to note (which most of you probably alreay know): the printing/paper costs are not the bulk of the price you pay for a book in the store. The store usually gets books from the publisher at a "deep discount" of 55% (and can even return unsold books to the publisher for a refund). Out of the remaining 45%, the publisher pays the author, the editor, the printer, the cover designer, etc. A 300-page book in large numbers costs only a dollar or two to print.

Using print-on-demand and a short discount of, say, 30%, I incur higher printing fees (about $4 for a 300-page book) but no stocking costs; in the end, this leads to higher net per book (say, about $10 for a $22.99 book).

However, ebooks do not need to be stored in brick-and-mortar stores. I could publish the pbook and offer the ebook for download from my own site, at the same price I would get for the pbook; yet the consensus on this forum seems to be that an ebook should only cost a few dollars, tops. Include the risk that an entire class of students will buy one single copy of my ebook and put the pdf on their Iliads, and this makes me hesitant to go that route. Especially for technical/textbook material, the "share copies of the PDF" problem sounds like a real risk.

Can you say anything to convince me? :-)
If you do decide to use Adobe PDF as your ebook format, then you do deserve to get pirated all to heck. That is a very poor format for portable readers. However what you could do is publish the pbook with a companion CD that contains all the programming examples. That would make it a lot easier overall for the reader of the book.

The issue here is should you publish an ebook and the answer is no. The reason for that is because there are no decent portable readers that are yet good enough for text books. if I was using your book, I would want it in paper form so I could sit in front of the computer and use it while I was learning how to program from it. It's not all that nice to have to flip back and forth between the book and the editor. So while it is possible some might distribute the ebook, those really serious about learning from your book would want the paper edition. That that just collect to say they have it would steal the ebook, but would not really use it, so it would not matter that they have it.

sanders
12-24-2007, 05:51 AM
If you do decide to use Adobe PDF as your ebook format, then you do deserve to get pirated all to heck.

Why thank you. After all, the careful layouting, the mathematical formulas, the illustrations - these are all nonsense, right?

I'd say the only viable format for e-publishing of technical material is PDF.

Of course, I understand your reasoning: if you insist on a tiny ebook reader with 600x800 resolution or even less, you like the "reflow" which is possible with other formats.

It would be entirely possible to have a few "editions" of a technical ebook, each specifically tailored to a particular screen size of an ebook reader. I would go as far as spending time to properly layout a 768x1024 pixel version of my book (for iLiads), leaving away the margins and making sure everything properly fits, that the index and TOC are correct, etc.

JSWolf
12-24-2007, 06:08 AM
One major problem with PDF as a format for your programming book is that if it's not DRM laden or gets cracked, it will be printed and then people will have a paper edition every bit the same as the pbook edition.

sanders
12-24-2007, 06:19 AM
One major problem with PDF as a format for your programming book is that if it's not DRM laden or gets cracked, it will be printed and then people will have a paper edition every bit the same as the pbook edition.

True. I am not so naive that I trust "password protection" as a means to completely lock a PDF. If people can read it, people can crack (and print) it.

On the other hand, if you buy my ebook and decide you'd rather print it out and read it from paper, I shouldn't care. After all, you've paid for the content.

I really don't think people would do this to save money. Printing out 280 pages on a laser printer isn't free either (unless they do it "at work" or something). But anyway - that would be less money going to my printer and/or to Amazon, not less money going to me.

So: the printing isn't the problem, it's the copying.

JSWolf
12-24-2007, 06:34 AM
But the reason it would be copied is so it could be printed.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-24-2007, 04:03 PM
But the reason it would be copied is so it could be printed.

Don't forget, Jon, PDF does have a function. It is perfectly suited for people who read texts on computers and laptops... which is how many students do it. There may not be a dedicated reader good for textbooks yet, but laptops and PCs combined with PDF files work fine.

I think the "registered key" idea mentioned earlier would probably be your best bet for providing electronic files and making sure everyone paid for their copy (that method does work when you are limiting your output to smaller groups, and can issue a manual key... or, with larger groups, when your sales/distribution chain can issue keys that you can verify later).

Lemurion
12-24-2007, 06:56 PM
Don't forget, Jon, PDF does have a function. It is perfectly suited for people who read texts on computers and laptops... which is how many students do it. There may not be a dedicated reader good for textbooks yet, but laptops and PCs combined with PDF files work fine.

I think the "registered key" idea mentioned earlier would probably be your best bet for providing electronic files and making sure everyone paid for their copy (that method does work when you are limiting your output to smaller groups, and can issue a manual key... or, with larger groups, when your sales/distribution chain can issue keys that you can verify later).

PDF is an excellent format for anything I buy with the intention of printing. I buy game rules and even printable figures that way. I don't and won't buy fiction that way as PDF is just too hard to read on a screen. Double column PDFs are the worst as it's impossible to get a full page legible on my screen so I have to jog up when I go to the second column.

It's a superb format for printing. But that's about it.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-26-2007, 10:33 AM
Why thank you. After all, the careful layouting, the mathematical formulas, the illustrations - these are all nonsense, right?

I'd say the only viable format for e-publishing of technical material is PDF.

I'd like to say that HTML would also be a viable format... but only if you accept the fact that some material, for instance complex formulas, have not yet been accommodated by the MathML updates yet, and would have to be converted to images. Nice thing about HTML is that, not only is it reflowable, but users can often use HTML to convert to other formats of choice. And obviously it's best on a device with a good browser.

delphidb96
12-26-2007, 11:37 AM
Why thank you. After all, the careful layouting, the mathematical formulas, the illustrations - these are all nonsense, right?

I'd say the only viable format for e-publishing of technical material is PDF.

Of course, I understand your reasoning: if you insist on a tiny ebook reader with 600x800 resolution or even less, you like the "reflow" which is possible with other formats.

It would be entirely possible to have a few "editions" of a technical ebook, each specifically tailored to a particular screen size of an ebook reader. I would go as far as spending time to properly layout a 768x1024 pixel version of my book (for iLiads), leaving away the margins and making sure everything properly fits, that the index and TOC are correct, etc.

I'm going to have to agree with you on this one. For non-fiction texts with lots of graphics and formulas, PDF works okay.

I'd love to see you have a success with your non-fiction work as I know what a thrill it can be to see something you've created make it into print.

However, as soon as it hits the PDF files, don't be surprised if it gets pirated. That's just what happens with expensive textbooks. And to be honest, MOST of the people who'll pirate it are probably not the people who'd have bought it - many may not even have a compelling reason beyond 'wanting' it.

Derek

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-26-2007, 12:03 PM
However, as soon as it hits the PDF files, don't be surprised if it gets pirated. That's just what happens with expensive textbooks. And to be honest, MOST of the people who'll pirate it are probably not the people who'd have bought it - many may not even have a compelling reason beyond 'wanting' it.

Derek

I don't get that... who would "want" a textbook but would not have been likely to buy it otherwise? I can see a science major, say, who is told to get a certain text for class, but who balks at the price, so he takes a pirated copy. I can even see a science fan who would buy the text because it is their favorite subject, and taking a pirated copy to save the money. But if you weren't interested in science, or didn't have a science class, why the heck would you pirate a science text?

I don't believe the people who pirate HP books, say, do it just to spite JK Rowling and/or Scholastic. They do it because they have a legitimate interest in the book, as well as a desire to count coup, so to speak, on Rowling and/or Scholastic. If the e-books had been available (assuming at a perceived reasonable price), they would likely have just bought the e-book for themselves, and there would be no piracy issue. I assume the same thing for any text or subject... it is almost always pirated by someone who has a direct interest in it in the first place.

If anyone will pirate PDF textbooks, it's going to be people who would otherwise have bought the book for school or personal use... not a "random act of piracy," I think.

tompe
12-26-2007, 01:32 PM
If anyone will pirate PDF textbooks, it's going to be people who would otherwise have bought the book for school or personal use... not a "random act of piracy," I think.

People collect things. It is status to have many things that you can share. You do not collect because you need to use a book or a game or a computer program.

You also never know when you need a book. If you have 1000 text books in your collection and you need to look into two of them every ten year then it was rational to have the collection but not rational to buy 1000 text books.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-26-2007, 02:49 PM
People collect things. It is status to have many things that you can share. You do not collect because you need to use a book or a game or a computer program.

I only collect things I like. So does every collector I know. I'm not going to collect DVDs of splatter flicks, "just because I can," because I don't like them. And I don't share everything I collect, because some of those things are only of interest to me. But I will revisit my collection as often as I can, to derive enjoyment out of it. If you're collecting things just to give them away... I'm not sure that's actually "collecting." More like... charity, or redistribution of wealth, or something.

You also never know when you need a book. If you have 1000 text books in your collection and you need to look into two of them every ten year then it was rational to have the collection but not rational to buy 1000 text books.

Yeah, kind of. It's also rational to just go to a library every once or twice every ten years, if that's how seldom you need to reference them... or look on the web. But I see your point there.

delphidb96
12-26-2007, 02:58 PM
I only collect things I like. So does every collector I know. I'm not going to collect DVDs of splatter flicks, "just because I can," because I don't like them. And I don't share everything I collect, because some of those things are only of interest to me. But I will revisit my collection as often as I can, to derive enjoyment out of it. If you're collecting things just to give them away... I'm not sure that's actually "collecting." More like... charity, or redistribution of wealth, or something.



Yeah, kind of. It's also rational to just go to a library every once or twice every ten years, if that's how seldom you need to reference them... or look on the web. But I see your point there.

My collection includes books on homemade explosives, gun-and-knife-making, survivalist techniques, cheesemaking, homesteading, woodworking, photography, optics, programming, weaving, knitting, wine-and-beer-making, drafting, residential construction, wealth-building, self-improvement... and the list goes on and on. Many of them I use solely as references for some bit of a story I'm working on. But writing, for me, is a long-drawn process and checkout times at the libraries are too short. So whereever I can, I scrounge textbooks.

Plus I have wide-ranging tastes in reading matter - Oh man, there's nothing like curling up with Progress in Optics Volume VI on a cold winter night! :)

Derek

tompe
12-26-2007, 03:56 PM
I only collect things I like. So does every collector I know.

Maybe hoarding is a better term then.

But I collect or hoard science fiction films. Not because I want to watch a particular film or because I like a particular film but just because science fiction as a genre interests me on many levels.

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-26-2007, 03:59 PM
Okay, so you collect for reference (and just because you happen to like "Progress in Optics Volume VI"). ;) That's not a "what the hey" reason, you have a legitimate reason to collect those texts.

Even a music downloader who collects gigabytes of music they may never listen to, generally limits their collection to the genre of music they prefer, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of music downloaded and/or pirated has been collected by young people, and the majority of the legit and illegit content out there is the popular music (mostly rock and R&B) favored by those same young people. And with books, where the news is filled with Harry Potter pirates, but noticeably absent of Mike Hammer pirates.

That's something to think about in terms of e-books, because if you can create a system that the young people (who tend to be the early-adopters) will accept, it will have to be with content they want (or need). You can thereby establish a model with them, and once it is successful, expand it to encompass other genres. (That could even be why pubs aren't rushing to bring old content to e-books, as they don't expect young early adopters to want it. Maybe.)

nekokami
12-26-2007, 08:03 PM
Mmm... publishers have shown a notable lack of interest in what young readers are interested in so far, apparently on the grounds that young readers don't tend to own hardware suitable for reading on. (And I still think a reader for PSP would be a killer app if combined with books for young adults.)

As far as "collecting" or "hoarding" goes, yes, there seem to be quite a few people out there who collect (or hoard) entirely for the sake of accumulating titles, whether or not they are at all interested in the content. This has been suggested as one reason some of the content is so badly proofed and formatted. :shrug:

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-26-2007, 10:59 PM
Mmm... publishers have shown a notable lack of interest in what young readers are interested in so far, apparently on the grounds that young readers don't tend to own hardware suitable for reading on. (And I still think a reader for PSP would be a killer app if combined with books for young adults.)

Just shows how out-of-touch publishers are... because laptops, handhelds, portable game machines, etc, are perfectly good readers. In fact, where adults might balk at using them, kids get used to them readily (who do you think got the world started on Blackberry-sized keyboards?).

I don't know, I would tend to think it's because publishers assume that, on the whole, kids today don't want to read (the occasional Harry Potter book notwithstanding).

brecklundin
12-29-2007, 05:38 AM
is "the risk of piracy" any more significant competition from 2nd hand book stores? Ebooks with DRM at a lower price would seem to ADD new customers that would otherwise wait for the previously read copies to hit the used book stores. I suspect that is Amazon's motivation on the $9.99 NYTBS deal. Amazon makes less on each individual sale but uses the economy of scale to predict they make more in the long term as there will not be saleable used copies. BTW, YES they are making a profit @ $9.99 for NYTBS...publicly traded corporations are REQUIRED to not sell anything at a loss. Do you really think you are getting a "free/discounted" phone from Verizon? Even the EVDO access is factored into the price for the Kindle...it's likely that could be the largest expense in producing the device. Sprint is not giving it to Amazon for free unless there is a way to generate revenue for Sprint or they are doing it under a beta-test agreement for their EVDO network.

What will restrict ebook sales (specifically for a proprietary DRM format) is the cost of the reader device. Until the devices can be bought by everyone ebook sales will not be a viable revenue stream. Baen works because of portability/device independence which allows for increase total volume of sales. Baen's nurturing of folks who are doing the Cybook Gen3 thing is another smart move that BigPubCo cannot do either...a device that supports almost anything you can throw at it. Supporting other DRM format's might present a conflict of interest issue because it is not the publisher's format but rather a a format controlled by a competitor.

Interestingly maybe Amazon's purchase of Mobipocket will allow it's eventual absorption into Amazon itself which would perhaps expand Amazon's ability to support other DRM format's. Also, as Mobipocket books with DRM are still the competition because Mobipocket is run as a separate company so Amazon might not be allowed to add support for the device. Not sure...

Portability and device cost are the keys in my opinion.

brecklundin
12-29-2007, 06:36 AM
Oh man, there's nothing like curling up with Progress in Optics Volume VI on a cold winter night! :)

Derek

DUDE!!!...I think I dated her!! and she made cheese too... :D

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-30-2007, 09:24 AM
What will restrict ebook sales (specifically for a proprietary DRM format) is the cost of the reader device. Until the devices can be bought by everyone ebook sales will not be a viable revenue stream.

Don't forget, e-books can still be read on other than dedicated devices, from full-fledged computers down to iPods. Many people have been reading them that way for years. E-books' success doesn't actually depend on dedicated readers, but if done correctly (so that people want to buy them), it can help.

No, e-books' success depends on content: Having the books (and textbooks, and magazines, etc) that people want to read available, in a format and features they can enjoy using. If the content and format features they want are there, people will buy. And as the iPod/iTunes model has shown us, they'll even accept DRM to get it.

Personally, I haven't been sold on any of the dedicated readers, which is due to the lack of features I want in such a device (color, for instance, but there are others). When such a device does come out, I'll be first in line to buy one.

But even more importantly than that, if the content comes out that I want, and there is a particular device that will let me enjoy the features I desire, I'll buy that device, whether it's a dedicated reader, a new laptop, or a pocket calculator. The device is secondary to the content, and my enjoyment of it.

Perhaps the publishers (and ourselves) are not thinking enough about content being the driver here. Instead of figuring out how to DRM people out of the latest Tom Clancy book, they should be putting the popular books front and center, to get the attention of the masses. Perhaps they should be putting the books for young people front and center, to get the attention of the traditional early adopters. Perhaps they should be putting the glossy mags front and center, to capture the monthly (and weekly) periodical crowd.

If, as the saying goes, "Content is king," then only the availability of content will make e-books successful.

Liviu_5
12-31-2007, 12:02 AM
If, as the saying goes, "Content is king," then only the availability of content will make e-books successful.

Agreed 100% with the whole post. Devices are secondary, and even now there are enough out there. The problem is that content is not there and until the magic wand that allows to digitize your own print books easily for free (or very, very cheap), the content is not going to be there overnight, the way it happened with mp3's.

Also it may or may not happen (to me the jury is still out there if e-books will succeed in displacing p-books, or even if commercial e-books will succeed in increasing their size of the pie at more than a small fraction - the print books are "very fit" from an ecological point of view in our culture)

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-31-2007, 11:52 AM
Also it may or may not happen (to me the jury is still out there if e-books will succeed in displacing p-books, or even if commercial e-books will succeed in increasing their size of the pie at more than a small fraction - the print books are "very fit" from an ecological point of view in our culture)

Yes, most of the culture can't see a good reason to stop reading print books right now. However, I do expect this to change at some point, due to:

the ever-increasing (and still very small) awareness of the ecological impact that book and magazine printing makes;
the increasing cost of print-based book distributin, due to the increased costs of chemicals, power and transportation;
the inherent advantages of electronic files, such as easier storage, always with you, library in your pocket, etc.

I think we can expect to see the attitudes towards printed books and magazines change, especially as the things I listed above become more and more extreme over time.

We're on a tipping point now with many other "accepted norms" of our lifestyles, such as commuting to work, driving gas-guzzling vehicles, burning lights, throwing away trash, etc. Print books can tip over to digital books in the same way.

Liviu_5
12-31-2007, 04:07 PM
We're on a tipping point now with many other "accepted norms" of our lifestyles, such as commuting to work, driving gas-guzzling vehicles, burning lights, throwing away trash, etc. Print books can tip over to digital books in the same way.

Possible but I think you are underestimating the large degree of inertia of society ("conservatism" without the political connotations).

Anyway, it's good to have many choices and the more e-books appear the better from my point of view; so I hope you're right that e-books will have a faster adoption curve than I believe it will be the case

Steven Lyle Jordan
12-31-2007, 06:08 PM
Possible but I think you are underestimating the large degree of inertia of society ("conservatism" without the political connotations).

Anyway, it's good to have many choices and the more e-books appear the better from my point of view; so I hope you're right that e-books will have a faster adoption curve than I believe it will be the case

Well... I didn't exactly say it would be fast...

I do think it will happen. That's why I'm in the game now, hoping I can anticipate the moment, and be prepared to capitalize on it.

Of course, in 1980 I thought we'd all be driving fully electric cars in 2000...

rhadin
12-31-2007, 07:02 PM
Also it may or may not happen (to me the jury is still out there if e-books will succeed in displacing p-books, or even if commercial e-books will succeed in increasing their size of the pie at more than a small fraction - the print books are "very fit" from an ecological point of view in our culture)

I got a Sony Reader for Xmas not because I want to displace my print collection or buying print books (I spend $200+ a month on p-books) but so that (a) I can inexpensively try new authors and (b) so I can easily carry books with me on trips and to offices where I have to wait (like doctor offices). I think e-books need to be looked at as adjuncts to p-books, not as replacements for p-books.

rhadin
12-31-2007, 07:06 PM
Don't forget, e-books can still be read on other than dedicated devices, from full-fledged computers down to iPods. Many people have been reading them that way for years. E-books' success doesn't actually depend on dedicated readers, but if done correctly (so that people want to buy them), it can help.

I can tell you that in my case it is the device that matters; content is available, even if not everything. I waited until the new Sony Reader came out before asking my family for a reader for Xmas. I have never read a book for pleasure on either my desktop or my laptop because it seems too much like being at work -- something I want to get away from when I read for pleasure. And I guess I'm one of the odd folks because I do not own an iPod-type device and if I did, I certainly wouldn't want to use it for reading (what are the screens 1 inch x 2 inches?).

Steven Lyle Jordan
01-01-2008, 11:33 PM
I probably wouldn't read on an iPod either... well, maybe an iPod Touch. But other devices, such as handhelds, have much larger screens that are well suited for reading. And I don't have troubles spending time at my PC or laptop and "feeling like I'm at work," so I can read e-books there, no problem.

For fiction, my handheld is my reader of choice right now. The thing is, everyone's different, and you need to figure out what kind of device works for you. But the device is still moot without the content.

rhadin
01-02-2008, 11:07 AM
And I don't have troubles spending time at my PC or laptop and "feeling like I'm at work," so I can read e-books there, no problem.

My problem my be unique (or semi-unique) in this regard. I spend most of my days reading on my computers books that I am editing for publishers, so I need to get away from the computer. If I didn't, I think my wife would kill me. She already complains that I spend more time with my computers than with her :D. Besides, she is a painter and likes to paint on location but is afraid to go alone (I guess we have developed irrational fears in our doddering years :)) and when I tried to use my laptop to read while with her, I found that it was awkward and an unpleasurable experience. My Sony is a cure for that.

Steven Lyle Jordan
01-02-2008, 11:35 AM
My problem my be unique (or semi-unique) in this regard...

As far as home computer usage making you feel as if you're "at work," no, it isn't unusual at all. Many people on these threads have echoed the same feeling. It does seem to be a more common attitude among "older" people than "younger", but this isn't an absolute indicator (so, if you happen to be "older", like me, don't take it personally).

Anyway, it's fortunate that new and developing devices are coming along, to give us choices beyond computers and laptops. I'm eyeing the UMPCs as being possible entertainment- and communications-based replacements for the more business-oriented laptops, and they could turn out to be excellent e-book readers. They are/will be similar in size to readers like the Sony, but some have color, making them viable readers for color material in other formats.

If Amazon ever releases its Kindle format to be installed as on-board readers on other devices, especially those that can take advantage of wireless web access to buy Amazon books on-the-go, UMPCs could prove very popular for e-book reading (as well as other things). Even without Amazon, having access to other material (especially in color) in other formats could prove to be very popular.

So, yes, I'm not discounting the possibility that a "killer box" will greatly improve the prospects for e-books. We can still speculate on that, since we haven't gotten what anyone considers our "killer box" yet. Maybe now that Amazon is poised to become a mass-market e-book provider, we will be able to settle some of the content speculations, and concentrate more on what will constitute the "killer box."

Steven Lyle Jordan
01-02-2008, 11:43 AM
Possible but I think you are underestimating the large degree of inertia of society ("conservatism" without the political connotations).

Anyway, it's good to have many choices and the more e-books appear the better from my point of view; so I hope you're right that e-books will have a faster adoption curve than I believe it will be the case

I probably should have mentioned the other factor that will influence e-book adoption:

The influence of young people who are not affected by the inertia and conservativism of their elders.

Many of the points I mentioned earlier may not sway the older generations. But the kids, being raised in front of computers, have proven to be much more likely to adopt new ideas and new technologies much faster than their elders have. Cellphone texting is a perfect example of their willingness to embrace something that older users largely had to be pushed into.

Again, providing some value-added aspect of e-books (and, I think, e-magazines and e-texts) that the kids will want, they will be much more likely to evaluate their e-book options, embrace one system or another, and run with it as fast as they can. Once they get started, it will be all we elders can do to keep up.

rhadin
01-02-2008, 12:02 PM
I probably should have mentioned the other factor that will influence e-book adoption:

The influence of young people who are not affected by the inertia and conservativism of their elders.

Many of the points I mentioned earlier may not sway the older generations. But the kids, being raised in front of computers, have proven to be much more likely to adopt new ideas and new technologies much faster than their elders have.

I think this is correct but it will be at least another generation. My generation (old) is not too conservative to go from p-book to e-book -- after all, I'm using an e-book and recommending it to my peers; instead, we recognize that there is an intimacy that can be reached with a p-book that cannot yet be matched by the e-book. There is also a sense of permanence to a p-book that is not duplicated by an e-book, which both changes the reading experience and provides an anchor in the life experience.

My son (my youngest child at 26) grew up with computers. He has no problem reading, for example, the NY Times online, whereas I want the print version and am averse to reading it online. But he prefers the eperience of reading a p-book to an e-book (although he does read e-books) and prefers to buy a p-book. I've talked with him about the Kindle to discover whether the features of the Kindle matter to him and they do not. He doesn't care about the wireless connectivity, which is its big feature. What he wants is a single standard so he can buy books wherever he
wants, just like he can with p-books, and he wants a reader that better emulates the p-book reading experience. Of course, he is a reader but I wonder what the majority of his generation want as they are not readers.

Anyway, I think we won't begin to see dominance of the e-book until public schools adopt e-books rather than p-books. It will be that generation who learns to read for school and for pleasure on a reader who will finally cause the death of the p-book. Sadly, once again our public schools -- elementary, middle, and high -- hold the key to a major generational attitude change.

Steven Lyle Jordan
01-02-2008, 12:42 PM
Anyway, I think we won't begin to see dominance of the e-book until public schools adopt e-books rather than p-books. It will be that generation who learns to read for school and for pleasure on a reader who will finally cause the death of the p-book. Sadly, once again our public schools -- elementary, middle, and high -- hold the key to a major generational attitude change.

That's a distinct possibility, but I don't think it's the only likely one.

True, the younger generation may not read books as much as we do... but they do read, mostly glossy specialty books and periodicals. A reader that could optimize this experience--say, through high-resolution color displays, automatic download of subscription material, the ability to either save entire books and libraries, or "clip and save" articles and photos as desired, etc--could become the "must-have" device of every kid, and propel them into dedicated readers before the schools have had a chance to implement a reader-based system of their own.

Schools have been slow to react to new technology (such as cellphone use in classes, and classwide computer use), but often prove able to work with it over extended time. That's why I expect the schools to develop a system using dedicated readers, after the kids already have theirs.

Most likely it will be an optional-choice system (i.e., if you have a reader, you can do this thing, and make this easier/save money... or if you don't, continue to do it the old way) that will take advantage of the readers out there, and if done properly, encourage parents to get readers for their children who don't yet have one. Eventually, it will be assumed that all kids have readers, either self-bought or issued by the system in some generic form, and future school systems will base their learning systems on that supposition.

Mind you, this would be a slow process... and probably wouldn't impact the generation that's hitting kindergarten right now... but I think it would happen faster than allowing the school system to push readers on kids and promote their use.