View Full Version : Will prices go down or quality go up?


LDBoblo
03-09-2010, 04:33 AM
Just a bit of a thinking exercise.

Ebooks are currently at a state where they are quite primitive and significantly inferior quality-wise to their paper counterparts. The degree of work that is normally involved in finishing a book seems to largely be omitted in ebooks.

Of course, the ebook market itself is also quite underdeveloped, and will probably mature a little bit.

As the market matures and a digital model is developed, will the product quality rise to that of physical books, or will quality remain where it is, with previously important jobs and associated costs getting cut as a means of bringing price down (or profit up)?

Even if publishers keep qualified typesetters, designers, and others on board, will ebook reader manufacturers and software creators actually cooperate and provide reader software that handles properly prepared books? Will there be collaboration on improving the digital book standards, or will it entirely be independent and disconnected?

Naturally I don't expect anyone here actually knows...and I'm aware that a lot of people here have very low standards in terms of book quality. For thoughtful predictions and conjecture though, that's pretty much unimportant. I may want to see stuff improve to at least paperback-level quality, but that doesn't mean I think it's going to happen. In fact, I'm a bit doubtful that much will change, except perhaps slightly better proofreading. It's not about what I care or don't care about, it's what I guess will happen.

Iphinome
03-09-2010, 04:50 AM
I'll answer no (0 or 0 = 0) I'm betting on greed to win out so prices go up while quality goes down, much like cable tv.

Ben Thornton
03-09-2010, 05:06 AM
My view is that quality will improve. Although many (most?) people don't think that they want fancy typesetting etc., they are able to see the difference and can tell that one book looks better than another. As the functions that each device can perform become more and more similar, the use of presentation to differentiate one device from another will become more important.

What I'm not sure of at all is whether this will take 2 or 20 years.

Mathlete
03-09-2010, 05:38 AM
Both need to happen—especially in the area of academic book publishing.

Ebooks have the potential to present footnotes, intertextual links, translation glosses, and real-time annotations of professors/classmates. At the moment, the thing that most resembles an academic ebook is a poorly formatted project gutenberg document or a pdf of a photocopied journal.

Almost every ebook store tries to sell public domain material. If they could format and footnote it in a way that added value, it might actually be worth what they want to charge.


Edit:
See, now this (http://www.epubbooks.com/blog/20081202/gullivers-travels-epub-ebook-test/) is what I mean. Even with the limitations of epub, this guy still managed to create a text that I would consider using for a class. He even released it for free.

EowynCarter
03-09-2010, 06:33 AM
Mmm, what ePub limitation ??

LDBoblo
03-09-2010, 07:41 AM
Mmm, what ePub limitation ??
For all the potential epub may have, its implementation currently blows. Blame the viewer software all you want, but until there's a good viewer that actually exists, that potential means absolutely nothing to me as a consumer.

EowynCarter
03-09-2010, 09:43 AM
Yeah, it anoys me some saying ePub is crap, when most of the problem is the publishers not knowing how to use it, or ade's poor css support.

Well, the implemention by bookeen or pocketbook are quitte OK. Sony's lack justify.

HorridRedDog
03-09-2010, 09:49 AM
Just a bit of a thinking exercise.

Ebooks are currently at a state where they are quite primitive and significantly inferior quality-wise to their paper counterparts. The degree of work that is normally involved in finishing a book seems to largely be omitted in ebooks.

Of course, the ebook market itself is also quite underdeveloped, and will probably mature a little bit.

As the market matures and a digital model is developed, will the product quality rise to that of physical books, or will quality remain where it is, with previously important jobs and associated costs getting cut as a means of bringing price down (or profit up)?


At the beginning of "personal" (mainstream) computers you had companies like Apple, concentrating on quality, and IBM that thought that there was no demand for a "PC" (they produced an underpowered computer with a "chiclet" keyboard.
http://www.digibarn.com/collections/devices/pcjr-chicklet-keyboard/Image09.jpg

Now you have companies like Baen Books (http://www.baen.com/library/defaultTitles.htm) producing high quality books (some free) and others that seem to get their $14.99 books off a pirate website, scanned in at 200dpi.

Some publishers resent the very notion of ebooks and want them to go away. Others see the future.

Things in general will get better.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olson, president/founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_computing_1950%E2%80%931979)

Logseman
03-09-2010, 10:00 AM
It is my view that quality will be improved, as more and more companies are seeing the future there. Pricing, however, will vary dramatically. It seems to make sense that the starkly-edited books which require good visibility and big screens such as prestige comics, college books and the like will keep high prices, while novels will go down dramatically. The concept of hardcover novel with no illustrations and a standard text edition for 20 dollars, such as the best selling bricks of the present, is untenable in the long run. Either they'll add strong artwork to the experience or they'll sell them at trash prices.

LDBoblo
03-09-2010, 10:04 AM
Yeah, it anoys me some saying ePub is crap, when most of the problem is the publishers not knowing how to use it, or ade's poor css support.

Well, the implemention by bookeen or pocketbook are quitte OK. Sony's lack justify.
I suppose when the processing ability of ebook devices improves, we may see better flow options, perhaps drawing from the algorithms used by TeX or Adobe's Paragraph Composer, allowing good (if imperfect) hyphenation and justification, and then decent font kerning (optical or font-based). That'd be a nice start for basic text, even if still a little bit compromised. Too bad Adobe's been so half-assed about developing it.

Kali Yuga
03-09-2010, 11:36 AM
Though I understand the impulse not to make predictions ;), I think it's obvious that eventually typesetting quality will approach parity with paper.

Ebooks currently make up a tiny slice of the market. In a few years, ebooks will make up a much larger slice; eventually they are likely to be the majority of sales. At that point, the ebook will be the primary emphasis, and paper an afterthought. It might even be possible that booksellers will develop some sort of format that will be possible to use to derive both ebook and paper / POD printed versions, thus reducing cost and time to deliver.

There may still be some issues, since you're dealing with a very different types of output. To get a paper book right, every aspect needs to be highly specifically determined. With ebooks, you're dealing with numerous dynamic elements to the output -- e.g. different sized pages, alterations in font sizes, users who will change the page orientation, etc. Other aspects like ligatures are utterly superfluous for digital output, and IMO it's fine to drop them. So I expect some of the fussier elements might fall by the wayside.

And not every commercial ebook today is a typographic disaster (though too many commercial ebooks have errors). I've purchased some ebooks that had rather complicated and well-executed formatting, and essentially none of the common errors that I presume come from automated conversions.

EowynCarter
03-09-2010, 11:40 AM
I suppose when the processing ability of ebook devices improves, we may see better flow options, perhaps drawing from the algorithms used by TeX or Adobe's Paragraph Composer, allowing good (if imperfect) hyphenation and justification, and then decent font kerning (optical or font-based). That'd be a nice start for basic text, even if still a little bit compromised.
Well, save for hyphenation... It already fine for text really. And way more.
Formula are the only real problem I can see, unless you use images.

Too bad Adobe's been so half-assed about developing it.
Yeap. The e-book world would be better off without adobe.

charleski
03-09-2010, 01:02 PM
We need to wait and see what Apple has done with the ePub reader for the iPad. Apple isn't shy about being a prime-mover with regard to specs that are incomplete and may well give the format the shot of innovation that it needs.

The primary problem with ePub lies with the spec itself, especially its lack of a paging module, which is a serious oversight. Adobe's xsl-fo extension is an attempt to rectify that, but doesn't go far enough.

Adobe has fixed the justification issue in the version that ships in the PRS900 and they need to release that so that manufacturers can update older devices. But this is one area in which Apple's vertical integration will show its advantages, since there's not much Adobe can do if the manufacturers don't want to recompile their firmware.

The only thing I'd really blame Adobe for is being too timid and not stepping up to force through the changes that ePub needs. You can describe Steve Jobs in various ways, but 'timid' isn't one of them.

HarryT
03-09-2010, 01:07 PM
Yeap. The e-book world would be better off without adobe.

It certainly would. No PDF for one thing. Hurray!

Elfwreck
03-09-2010, 01:54 PM
As the market matures and a digital model is developed, will the product quality rise to that of physical books, or will quality remain where it is, with previously important jobs and associated costs getting cut as a means of bringing price down (or profit up)?

Quality will go up (albeit slowly) because competition from amateurs *will* change the way mainstream publishers deal with ebooks (especially as those amateurs get together in groups and form small businesses of their own), and prices will go down, as they do for pretty much everything tech-related.

Which means publishers will need to change their profit models for dealing with ebooks; they're not based on supplies like paper and transport costs that increase every year. They're based on computer skills, which get more common every year, and software, which gets more effective and cheaper every year.

JSWolf
03-09-2010, 03:13 PM
For all the potential epub may have, its implementation currently blows. Blame the viewer software all you want, but until there's a good viewer that actually exists, that potential means absolutely nothing to me as a consumer.

Can you tell me what reflowable eBook format is actually better then ePub?

Elfwreck
03-09-2010, 03:25 PM
Can you tell me what reflowable eBook format is actually better then ePub?

There isn't one, although depending on the device, some reflowable formats may look better than epubs. (LRF comes to mind. And my Clie doesn't read ePub, so eReader is a better format for it.)

However, non-reflowable formats *designed for user requirements* are currently better than ePub in some cases. A PDF that's designed for the screen size it's being read on, and set to the preferences of the reader (with/without margins, extra lines between paragraphs, indents, justification, etc.) is easier to read than ePub.

And while ePub is great for reading novels for entertainment, it's got some serious problems for academic use--lack of good page indicators makes it hard to use for reference work.

The fact that nothing reflowable is currently better than ePub doesn't mean ePub is perfect.

Bremen Cole
03-09-2010, 03:26 PM
I think long term that price will go down, and quality up.... as the market slowly moves to a digital base.....

iPub is as good as any for general reading IMHO.... I convert most everything to it... academic and technical... are another matter.

LDBoblo
03-09-2010, 03:56 PM
Can you tell me what reflowable eBook format is actually better then ePub?

As Elfwreck said, there's not really a better option for reflowable ebooks. I only read custom-made PDFs, as I can't stand LRF or ePub. It'd be great if I didn't have to go to such lengths to have decent quality ebooks. In the future, ePub may be good enough for me to quit typesetting PDFs. It's definitely not there yet though. Just being the "best" reflowable format doesn't make it good.

theducks
03-09-2010, 05:02 PM
Price will go up.

Quality will remain the same. :/
The reason: There are just too many screen size/resolution combinations out there.
With paper, the typesetter controled the environment. With e-readers, there is no control :o PC with 28" Widescreen to a *-phone screen. :D
Auto Hyphenation, Auto-Page breaks. IMHO just don't make it.

HorridRedDog
03-09-2010, 05:21 PM
It seems that there are many who are VERY dissatisfied with the lack of perfection in ebooks. If I were so obsessed I would sell my ereader and find a less stressful recreation.


================================================== ========================


Please note the picture on the feft? Perfection is a loooong way off. I can wait.:sleeping:

fugazied
03-09-2010, 05:35 PM
I think quality has a long way to go yet. We might get some minor price decreases, but mostly new releases will be feature adding.

In about 2-3 years the technologies will be sufficiently advanced that most new releases will be adding minor features, but getting cheaper. Eventually It will be similar to the iPhone which now just adds somewhat minor features (like 3G) and lowers the price.

But until all of these readers have color touchscreens, internet access, easy to read display technology like mirasol but better, and better form factors and high battery life, they have a lot of technological improvements to achieve.