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Old 01-06-2008, 11:18 PM   #46
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As I see it, shousa, the definition of "average consumer" is very relevant to the discussion of what sort of device is appropriate for him.

You defined an "average reader" as:
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I said AVERAGE users (to spell it out - will not be using hacking software in legal grey areas to convert their books and I am talking about BRAND NEW BOOKS NOT OLD PUBLIC DOMAIN).
A number of us have taken the time and energy to explain, in some detail, that we don't think your definition really fits the average e-book user, because folks who use e-books are necessarily more computer savvy than you describe, and the true "average consumer" doesn't have much use for books period, let alone e-books -- but I'll refrain from going back into those details again.

In order to have much of a productive discussion on any given topic, the terms of that discussion have to be agreed on by those in the discussion. Given the way you've defined your "average consumer" the only answer to the question you posed would be the one you offered in the first place: there is no e-reading device suitable for the "average consumer" as you define him.

However, that doesn't make for a very lively discussion (and discussion is kinda what we do here :wink2), so we're trying to find a definition that is, perhaps, a bit more representative, so that there can be an actual, somewhat real-world related discussion of the question you raised: are present e-book devices so unapproachable that they're doomed to failure? You can declare that semantics if you choose, I just consider it to be defining the terms of the discussion.

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I therefore define Sony's reader, for the average user as being tied to their connect store since other store's ebooks will not work eg Amazon et al....
You're free to define it that way if you like, but you're ignoring the fact that several other retailers offer books (yes, new stuff) that can be used with the Sony without conversion. Fictionwise sells many titles in LRF format. Baen's webscriptions service offers titles in RTF, a format the Sony reads just fine. And as I said before, if your average consumer can handle ripping MP3 files from a cd (I imagine any realistic definition of "average consumer" would include such folks), then they can handle running .LIT files (which are very widely available from many retailers) through ConvertLIT to get RTF which the Sony can read, and which can be converted via a number of similar drop-and-convert apps into pretty much any format you care to name. If you want to ignore those facts you're welcome to do so, but that sort of thing doesn't tend to make folks take you seriously.

You also seem to think that e-books are inevitably doomed because you can't get just any title you want in them. There are also new, current titles that can't be gotten at Barnes & Noble or Borders, that single fact alone doesn't mean that paper books are inherently doomed. That's not semantics, that's analytical consideration of the argument you advanced.

If you want to point out that the selection of e-books still lags the selection of paper books at your typical retailer, well pretty much anyone who's awake will agree that is true. If you want to make an argument that this is detrimental to e-books in general, most would agree with you there too. I just don't think it's reasonable to try and make the availability, or lack thereof, of any specific book, or even of a majority of books, into some sort of success/failure litmus test for the entire e-book reader industry.


Your initial post was indeed clearly phrased as a challenge, and there's certainly no reason not to have such challenges, but even a challenge can be handled respectfully.
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Old 01-06-2008, 11:53 PM   #47
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Fair enough Natch.....apologies to all.

One point though:
- I do not know many people who do rip CDs (anecdotal not statistical evidence I know) and there may be large areas of the book market IMHO (however it is defined) who would not go thru a conversion process for their books and with CDs they do not need to this - just put in the CD player and play.

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Old 01-07-2008, 02:48 AM   #48
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For me, the important question to ask is not "can I get any book that I want as an e-Book", but rather "are there enough e-Books that interest me to make it worth my while to buy an e-Book reader", and for me personally, the answer is unequivocably "yes".

I know that public domain books don't interest you, but my special interest is 19th century novels and the particular benefit of an eBook reader for me is that I can get hold of thousands of 19th century books as eBooks which are virtually impossible to find as printed books. For example, I can read the entire works of Rider Haggard as eBooks, whereas it's virtually impossible to find anything except "King Solomon's Mines" and "She" in any current printed book.

We all have to look at our individual interests and make our own decision.
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Old 01-07-2008, 03:07 AM   #49
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For me, the important question to ask is not "can I get any book that I want as an e-Book", but rather "are there enough e-Books that interest me to make it worth my while to buy an e-Book reader", and for me personally, the answer is unequivocably "yes".

I know that public domain books don't interest you, but my special interest is 19th century novels and the particular benefit of an eBook reader for me is that I can get hold of thousands of 19th century books as eBooks which are virtually impossible to find as printed books. For example, I can read the entire works of Rider Haggard as eBooks, whereas it's virtually impossible to find anything except "King Solomon's Mines" and "She" in any current printed book.

We all have to look at our individual interests and make our own decision.
Your first point is really key and could be one that would persuade someone who does not have an ebook reader to buy one. I think I will run off now and make a list of books I would like to have and see what I get.

BTW I am actually interested in public domain books, it is also impossible to get many ancient roman and greek texts any other way. A good way is also to copy text from a website (assuming legally OK one to do) and put that as an "ebook" as well.
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:00 AM   #50
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I bought mine because I like the idea of having in one place, a light-weight copy of more than one book. I'm one of those odd-ducks that has at least three (usually more) "reads" going at once.
Odd? I thought everybody did that...
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:23 AM   #51
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Shousa,
Your premise states that "if I can't get whatever paperback I want, whenever I want then the ebook system is a failed system." In fact, the availablility of texts via the electronic network for use on the PRS-505 is far superior to Amazon's on-line hard text selection or any bookstore I currently visit. Try to find AE Merritt novels, Edgar Rice Burroughs complete Tarzan series or HR Haggard's novels at a bookstore (all online here and at Gutenberg.net). (Don't forget to buy them and pay for shipping at Amazon if you can find the book you're looking for).

The point is that these are profit making institutions who will place for sale only those texts people are currently buying. I'd recommend you peruse Gutenberg.net for available etexts that can easily be put into LRF or RTF format compatible with the SONY PRS 505. I have found other bookstores that cater to the BBeB format. The point is not that I can't find everything at one site. The point is that you have a drastically limited capability without an ereader. I would submit that you have failed in your supposition by failing to demonstrate how those without access to a reader have a superior text selection capability through hard-text purchases. I believe the reverse is true.
Our expectations have changed. I recall when I would have to find something to read at the local library.

Back when I was a kid, we didn't have this fancy order-any-book-ever-printed from amazon.com, and get it in 2 days stuff. We had one book store that stocked the books the owner liked, and we had to pick from those books...and we liked it that way.

Today's availability of ebooks far outstrips the local library or the small book store, but there are still some books that are not available that way.

As a teacher, I used to need to carry 40 books, so I only grabbed the 5-7 that I needed the most, and spent half the day not having the books I needed. Now, I can get 30 of my 40 books in digital format, I rip another 7, and have 3 paper books for the semester. My eBook is indispensable.

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BTW recycledelectron - thanks very much for taking the challenge instead of arguing semantics.

I enjoyed your post very much - it was the kind of thoughtful, informed and intelligent kind of post I was looking for - you deserve a karma boost!

Profjulie deserves a boost too!
You just haven't read enough of my posts yet. You too will be calling for my head ... soon.

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Old 01-07-2008, 10:48 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by shousa View Post
One point though:
- I do not know many people who do rip CDs (anecdotal not statistical evidence I know) and there may be large areas of the book market IMHO (however it is defined) who would not go thru a conversion process for their books and with CDs they do not need to this - just put in the CD player and play.
That is an excellent point. Most of the folks I know just get their MP3's from iTunes these days rather than ripping them, but I do know a lot of folks who used to rip CD's, back before there was a simpler option.

Certainly, the same thing applies to e-books, I'll usually choose the simplest path that fits my requirements. I tend to run my Baen titles through BookDesigner rather than just reading them as RTFs. But I don't do any TOCs or any fancy stuff with them -- the extra responsiveness and the in-line pix are worth the extra step to me, but if I don't have to take that extra step to get what I want/need then I won't do it. Case in point, if a book is one I'm pretty sure I'll only read once, I'm fairly likely to just get it from Sony's store, and accept that there's a fair chance that it'll be lost to me at some point in the future. That trade-off is worth the decrease in hassle to me.

I think that tendency to go with the simpler path is fairly universal amongst mankind.
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Old 01-07-2008, 11:42 AM   #53
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That is an excellent point. Most of the folks I know just get their MP3's from iTunes these days rather than ripping them, but I do know a lot of folks who used to rip CD's, back before there was a simpler option.
That always depends on whether or not the music (or books) you want is available. As a jazz fan, I regularly find that I cannot get certain old or classic jazz pieces on iTunes. When I started listening to MP3s, I spent most of my time ripping from albums to MP3s, or album to CD to MP3s. I still do more of that now (my father left me a boatload of his old jazz albums) than buying new material, either on CD or from iTunes. Obviously, if you are into newer pop music, you won't have to bother with all that... but if you are into even more eclectic music, you may have to go through even more.

The books situation is similar, and will impact readers similarly. Some people will find all the books they want to read available for dedicated readers, some will find hardly any, and some will find a significant portion. The latter two groups will therefore supplement what they can easily find with e-books they have to work harder to find, or have to convert themselves. There will be a wide variety of people who will range from minor effort to major effort in getting what they want, or just decide not to bother at all.

That's why it's good to have choices, not only in dedicated readers, but in non-dedicated hardware that may be better suited for your needs, like a laptop, UMPC, handheld, smartphone, etc. I may never own a dedicated reader, but if my PDA satisfies my need to read e-books, that's okay.
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Old 01-07-2008, 11:26 PM   #54
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That always depends on whether or not the music (or books) you want is available. As a jazz fan, I regularly find that I cannot get certain old or classic jazz pieces on iTunes. When I started listening to MP3s, I spent most of my time ripping from albums to MP3s, or album to CD to MP3s. I still do more of that now (my father left me a boatload of his old jazz albums) than buying new material, either on CD or from iTunes. Obviously, if you are into newer pop music, you won't have to bother with all that... but if you are into even more eclectic music, you may have to go through even more.
And you get one additional benefit - you get the original mixes. A couple of years ago, my brother gave me a couple of re-issue cds of older big-band jazz. Compared to older stuff I hear on the radio, these cds had been remastered, and the bass tracks were boosted so much that the sound was vastly different, and to my ear, terrible. (I think the sound engineers who did the job may not have even realized that they were changing the sound, because all the current pop has such boosted bass).

I'm not likely to spend time digitizing old LPs, but I'm more conscious of the changes that can creep in with remastering.
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Old 01-08-2008, 06:45 AM   #55
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I'm not likely to spend time digitizing old LPs, but I'm more conscious of the changes that can creep in with remastering.
Good point. I've heard the same thing, heightened bass lines, altered channel levels and backgrounds, etc. It's annoying and frustrating if you know the original music. (For the record, I also don't need most of the "bonus tracks" layered onto CDs, usually rejected tracks of songs that are already there.)
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Old 01-08-2008, 02:20 PM   #56
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Book selection is a big problem when it comes to wider acceptance of ebooks.
I know people who are avid reader and would love an ebook reader, but they read mostly modern pop. lit. or the newest bio or other non-fiction.
Items that are sorely lacking from the ebook world.
Ebooks are great for the lovers of classic lit and genre work or technically inclined readers like myself who search for digital copied of the books on their shelfs.

I purchased my Sony PRS-500 because I took part in a deal. Otherwise, at the price, I would have stayed with my PDA. Though, after having it for months now, my PDA does not compare.
I started buying ebooks for my PDA because of the convinience of carrying a few books in my pocket, especially when traveling and daily commuting. My interest in finding books i wanted to read took me to some of the smaller shops where I found DRMed and non DRM titles.
But I'm not an "average" book consumer because I'm a techie.

I believe the average book consumer will need everything easily handed to them before they'll accept ebooks into their everyday lives. I'm not looking down on anyone but I believe thats how the average consumer works.
Thats why itunes worked so well. It also worked well because it had a wide selection of what was popular and mainstream.
I couldn't buy the death metal i listen to but I could buy the Spanish pop or the lastest from Ms. Spears and those consumers outnumbered me.

I also try to avoid DRM unless i'm desperate, but I'm not sure if the average consumer really cares about DRM. Is it really a concern for anyone who's not "other than average"?
A device like the Kindle, that is, a device that tried to be an ebook ipod, might actually work one day because, it makes things easy. I haven't had any experience with it myself. I'm going by what's I've read so far and looking at it as a non-techie.
The ability to subscribe to the New York Times or The Nation peaked my interest alone. Buying books online without wifi, access to new york times best sellers, and the Amazon name don't hurt.

Will the "average" consumer care that they are tied to one store for all their mainstream reading needs, news, blogs, etc... if the experience is easy and big name brand backs it up?
I don't think so. But they will care about access to as many mainstream books as possible.
DRM or no, are we really that far off?
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Old 01-08-2008, 04:24 PM   #57
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Book selection is a big problem when it comes to wider acceptance of ebooks.
In fact, it's probably the single biggest problem to widespread adoption. Let's face it, if a person could get literally any book they wanted, they could just pick the reader they liked, and run with it. Especially if they could convert every book they owned to digital files... man, I'd be off and running, and there would be only one bookshelf of rare hardbacks left in my house!

It's the chicken-and-egg problem: You need e-books to make e-book readers viable... you need e-book readers to make e-books viable.

But to convert every book that's not already in electronic form (because now we know, publishers created electronic files for printing, but they generally deleted them once the print run was done)... that would take a gargantuan, multi-national, probably government-overseen effort. We already know that if we wait until the publishers do it themselves, it'll never get done. So, how to accomplish that? Subsidized organizations with public/private/govt oversight? New job for the Library of Congress? Project Gutenberg on uber-steroids?

Until we figure out that nasty conundrum, all we can do is try for a reader that will be easy and fun to use, to get them into people's hands. You can look at this as a chicken-and-egg problem, and get stuck behind the paradox... but on the other hand, if you can provide the chicken, the egg won't be far behind, and the paradox is gone.
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Old 01-08-2008, 04:31 PM   #58
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At least we have decent reading hardware these days, so we have about half the equation licked. Now folks are just grousing about lack of selection, rather than lack of selection and lack of decent hardware!

One big step in improving e-book generation is to get the publishers to stop deleting the electronic files when they finish with them.
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Old 01-08-2008, 04:51 PM   #59
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One big step in improving e-book generation is to get the publishers to stop deleting the electronic files when they finish with them.
You have to wonder: Now that even the publishers know there's an e-book market, have they stopped deleting them yet? Anecdotal comments have led me to believe that they may still be deleting files...

Actually, though, I suspect that deleting new files isn't much of a problem. It's the old books that need to be made electronic, that's the rub. And until somebody either figures out how to either profit off the scan/conversion/proofing process, or get it subsidized, we're not likely to see it happen anytime soon.
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Old 01-08-2008, 04:55 PM   #60
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It's the old books that need to be made electronic, that's the rub. And until somebody either figures out how to either profit off the scan/conversion/proofing process, or get it subsidized, we're not likely to see it happen anytime soon.
They should go out to the darknet to get them (obviously not everything is there, but a lot more than is out from legit sources), then they'll just need to clean them up, but the scanning's all done for them.
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