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Old 05-12-2008, 07:35 AM   #1
vince_on_fire
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Research on E-books and user's opinions

Hello,

I'm currently writing my dissertation on E-books and the level of acceptance of consumers on this technology. I would like to ask you users of E-books some questions, and hope you are willing to help me out.

What do you, as user of E-books and E-readers, see as the biggest issue when using these technologies? What problems do you run into and what would you like to see changed?

What made you buy an E-reader, for what purpose and 'where do you use it for?

What's your opinion on content supplies? Do you find it easy to get content for your device? What are the biggest problems concerning content?

Why do you think people will not try using E-books or E-reader and what would you change to make it more interesting for non-users?

I hope you guys will help me out and share your view on these issues. I'm interested in your opinions. If you help me out you'll get a nice credit in my dissertation
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Old 05-12-2008, 11:44 AM   #2
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We own both a Kindle and the Sony 505. I find it quite easy to get content onto them, the biggest issue being able to share books between them as they both have their own proprietary formats. Now I'm converting books to txt so they can be used on both devices. The Mrs reads a lot more books than I so I had bought her a Kindle for Christmas, then Sony had offered a special deal on the 505 if I signed up for their credit card so I then bought it for myself.

I think their is plenty of content out there but I would like to see more compatibility, I believe Amazon should lead the way on this front. With the Kindle offering effortless wireless downloads of books more people will become interested in ebook devices.
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Old 05-12-2008, 12:39 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What do you, as user of E-books and E-readers, see as the biggest issue when using these technologies? What problems do you run into and what would you like to see changed?
Right now for me the biggest problem is organization. I seems that although these devices can store thousands of books the manufacturers don't think they'll want to actually do that.

Quote:
What made you buy an E-reader, for what purpose and 'where do you use it for?
I bought mine because I'm overrun by books and thought it'd be a way to keep reading and acquiring books without having the storage issues. I use mine (Sony 505) for pretty much all my fiction reading now.

Quote:
What's your opinion on content supplies? Do you find it easy to get content for your device? What are the biggest problems concerning content?
While some publishers are better than others at the content game, for current issue titles availability is great. I buy lots of books every year and since October '08 when I got my Reader there have been 2 books (out of about 40 new release title) I couldn't get in e-format.

Catalog titles are another matter. Availability is spotty at best, non-existent at worst.

Pricing is an issue most publishers really need to look at adjusting.


Quote:
Why do you think people will not try using E-books or E-reader and what would you change to make it more interesting for non-users?
Many people simply don't want to try one. They say if it's not a paper tomb they can hold in their hands it's not a book.

One big issue right now is the cost of many devices. Many folks don't read enough to justify buying a device, plus still buying the books, to themselves.

The ability to try before you buy is another issue. Most devices aren't available to see, handle & try at retail locations.

The multiple formats out there confuse people (not to mention DRM). Without a universal format that'll be portable between pretty much every device folks don't want to invest in things.
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Old 05-12-2008, 12:59 PM   #4
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To answer your first (and third) question, for me, it's all about content. I want to have everything I ever want to read available as ebooks and we aren't anywhere near there, yet. Books, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, reports, etc. I want it all available to me. Worries about format conversions, the potential for digital piracy, the long-term supportability of formats, and DRM are all related issues but these are secondary, in my opinion. The available ebook content is sparse, mostly of recent titles (plus public domain titles), includes few newspapers and magazines, is avoided by some authors and/or publishers because of piracy worries, and is, in some cases, is limited by the display technology (e-ink doesn't match well with high resolution color graphics, for example), and PDFs (the standard in digital content for the PC) are awful, usually, on ebook readers unless they've been specifically formatted for the display sizes (usually, 6"). These problems will ease only with time as more consumers demand more.

Why won't some people try using ebook readers? Cost, mostly. Most people who have $400 in hand would rather not spend it on a reader so that they can then also spend more money on the ebooks they want to read. Convenience and the "next cool gadget on the market" will keep interest high, but prices will need to fall to make significant market gains, I think.
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Old 05-12-2008, 01:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by AnemicOak View Post
...if it's not a paper tomb they can hold in their hands....
A new replacement for caskets, coffins, and urns for people who are on the go?
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Old 05-12-2008, 01:29 PM   #6
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IMHO

1. Biggest issue: The lack of one universal format. Right now, it's the wild wild west in e-Book land, with each device using a different format. Hopefully soon, it will shake down to one or two formats, like computers did with MS and Linux.

2. Reason for buying: I bought mine for two main reasons: 1) It is less heavy than most books and is not painful to my hands; and 2) It is backlit and I can read in the dark.

3. Content suppliers: Content is easy to find. There are many free sites for books out of copyright, and I use a very user-friendly online bookstore to buy new books. The problem may be around the bend when the aforementioned formats are standardized and some of my content may become obsolete.

4. What will encourage others to become users: The cost of e-readers is prohibitive for many people, as well as the cost of e-books. I have shown my device to many many people, and the first question they ask is "how much?" I believe the turning point will be when a device becomes available for $99 or less.

Which college are you attending? Good luck with your dissertation!
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Old 05-12-2008, 05:16 PM   #7
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Angry Speaking of ebook content....

Does anyone know of a website or reputable blog where I can get non-commercial information on how to go about publishing an ebook? I'm giving a talk on ebooks and ebook readers at my local library next week and want to include information on self-publishing, but the only sites I've seen on Google are either up-front promotions posted by ebook publishers or more of the same disguised as writer blogs.
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Old 05-12-2008, 05:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What do you, as user of E-books and E-readers, see as the biggest issue when using these technologies? What problems do you run into and what would you like to see changed?
1. DRM
2. Lack of support from publishers
3. Protectionist pricing (making e-book titles artificially high in order to protect hardcover sales).

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What made you buy an E-reader, for what purpose and 'where do you use it for?
I travel about 80% of the time for work and wanted a way to have hundreds of books at hand. I didn't want to do my reading on a laptop, and I wanted long battery life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What's your opinion on content supplies? Do you find it easy to get content for your device? What are the biggest problems concerning content?
See above for "biggest issue". It is easy enough, technically, to get content, meaning the mechanics of buying a book and getting it to my device are fine. Getting specific titles I want at prices I'm willing to pay is hit and miss. Make that a "miss" about 95% of the time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
Why do you think people will not try using E-books or E-reader and what would you change to make it more interesting for non-users?
I challenge the underlying assumption here. People WILL try using e-books. The devices are selling as fast as they can be made. You're making the same fallacy here most publishers seem to be making.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
I hope you guys will help me out and share your view on these issues. I'm interested in your opinions. If you help me out you'll get a nice credit in my dissertation
No credit necessary. Credit "MobileRead.com members".

Last edited by Taylor514ce; 05-12-2008 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 05-12-2008, 06:11 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jwarewolf View Post
Does anyone know of a website or reputable blog where I can get non-commercial information on how to go about publishing an ebook? I'm giving a talk on ebooks and ebook readers at my local library next week and want to include information on self-publishing, but the only sites I've seen on Google are either up-front promotions posted by ebook publishers or more of the same disguised as writer blogs.
Both Amazon and Mobipocket web sites have information on how to self publish an eBook. eReader and Fictionwise may also have some data.

Dale
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Old 05-13-2008, 01:31 PM   #10
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No one else? Let's give vince a lot of feedback, even if you are repeating previous replies. It's a dissertation... who knows, he could be the next Doctor of E-Books and wield mighty power among the publishers.
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Old 05-13-2008, 01:34 PM   #11
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The biggest problem is artificial restriction by content providers. The second is the price of portable reading devices.

Probably the single most crippling artificial restriction is DRM. Thanks to DRM and DRM policies there is no single portable device that can read all formats, and no single piece of software which can read them all either. No portable device can read all DRM formats, and both SONY and Mobipocket require DRM exclusivity as does the Kindle. The only devices which can support multiple DRM formats are general purpose devices such as computers and PDAs, NOT dedicated readers.

This is a major problem and entirely artificial. We need the ability to read multiple formats on one device with one interface. It's like having to put on a different pair of polarized glasses to read a Tor book than an Ace book.

Price is also a problem. Many publishers price eBooks at or above hardcover street prices and most consumers value them at or below paperback prices. One of the largest factors spurring piracy is a perceived disconnect between price and value. Many new releases are priced well above their perceived value.

As has been said before, reader prices are also too high for many consumers. Yes they are selling them as fast as they can make them; but more people can afford $100 than $300-400. Once the price drops they will become more common and we should see more of them around.

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-13-2008, 02:30 PM   #12
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i agree with what many other people have already said. which makes me wonder ; if these problems are so obvious as to elicit a quasi-consensus amongst the population most concerned by them, why *exactly* have publishers not caught on yet ? (is that bad will i smell ?)

but in case you need more testimonies i'll add my voice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What do you, as user of E-books and E-readers, see as the biggest issue when using these technologies? What problems do you run into and what would you like to see changed?
1. lack of content ; there are still a lot of editors who seem quite refractary to offering books in digital format. there is also sometimes a rather brutal division between "new" and "recent" ; it's very frustrating to find that only the last 3 books of a 15 books series you would like to start reading are available as ebooks.

2. price of ebooks. they should be MUCH cheaper than paper books. look at this thread for example where we were discussing price, and this one about possible new publishing models.

3. DRM. if i want to "borrow" a book i'll go to the library, where that is free. if i pay for it, it's mine, and i want to be able to read it whenever i want, on any device, under whatever circumstances i choose. since it's mine, i should also be able to lend it to a friend, in fact, just like i do now with paper books.

4. the tower of babel of incompatible formats. standardize, please.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What made you buy an E-reader, for what purpose and 'where do you use it for?
I discovered the Gutenberg Project many years ago and thought it was brilliant, but although i downloaded dozens (possibly hundreds...) of books, i realized i never read them, because i find reading on my computer really unpleasant, not to mention that i like to read in bed and my monitor is not very cuddly. so i bought the least expensive one i could find (eb1150) to see whether i liked the experience. i love it, in fact in many ways i find it a significant improvement over paper books, and now i want to buy one with an e-ink screen.

i use it for pleasure reading mostly, at home (the eb1150 is larger and significantly heavier than the more recent models, too heavy to carry around the city in my bag) and when travelling. i might take it with me if i go to a café near my house to spend the afternoon reading there, but so far i haven't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What's your opinion on content supplies? Do you find it easy to get content for your device? What are the biggest problems concerning content?
my biggest supplier is Project Gutenberg, since as i said that was the original motivation for my purchase.

nonetheless i have also bought several recent books, however i have bought significantly fewer than i would have, had i not encountered the problems listed above (most importantly, price, and availability of titles i was looking for). also, since the native format of the eb1150 is rather obscure and not a good choice for archival purposes, i buy more common formats (.lit usually) and convert them to html (for archiving) / .imp (for reading) ; it drives me crazy being forced to use Internet Explorer to download my DRM-ed .lit purchases, on principle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
Why do you think people will not try using E-books or E-reader and what would you change to make it more interesting for non-users?
1. price of the devices and of content ; i think they will gain much more widespread acceptance when prices go down.

2. intimidation / confusion when confronted with the problem of sorting out the different formats and other technical specs. not everyone is at ease with computers. see also DRM and format wars above.

3. nostalgia for paper books as objects ; however i think this reaction will diminish progressively (taking into consideration, of course, that digital displays cannot replace paper for some specific kinds of books --art books, etc.-- in the foreseeable future, until the displays are dramaticaly improved in terms of color, contrast, and resolution), especially as display quality continues to improve.

Last edited by zelda_pinwheel; 05-13-2008 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 05-13-2008, 05:09 PM   #13
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Hi Vince.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vince_on_fire View Post
What do you, as user of E-books and E-readers, see as the biggest issue when using these technologies? What problems do you run into and what would you like to see changed?
Price (both of readers and books), DRM, and the format wars.

Quote:
What made you buy an E-reader, for what purpose and 'where do you use it for?
I started reading e-books on my Palm Tungsten, in a small way, when I first bought it a few years ago. I got serious about reading e-books on my Treo, about a year and a half ago. I purchased an eInk reader (Cybook Gen3) because reading on the Treo bothered my eyes. Otherwise I was very happy reading ebooks on the Treo and in some ways I prefer it to the eInk reader (scrolling, searching, the ability to take notes).

I read fiction and nonfiction on my Cybook, both free public domain stuff and purchased books. I don't purchase a lot of books, but I admit that now I look for an ebook edition before buying a pbook, and sometimes decide not to buy a book if an ebook edition is not available.

Quote:
What's your opinion on content supplies? Do you find it easy to get content for your device? What are the biggest problems concerning content?
I find it very easy to get content, because I like reading classics, and the bookmaking elves here at MobileRead give me lots of material! But there are a few favorite authors I'd like to see release ebooks of their backlist, partly so I can clean off my bookshelves.

I'd also like to see more widespread availability of ebooks from libraries. My local library branch, quite frankly, stinks when it comes to books. The new, hot books are always checked out and on long waits, and the stuff that's there is frequently old and nasty. (I don't mind old books, but I do mind nasty old books, and I live in a rather, um, damp area.) They're really good about ILL, but it would be pretty cool if I could "borrow" ebooks online without even having to visit the branch.

Quote:
Why do you think people will not try using E-books or E-reader and what would you change to make it more interesting for non-users?
When I show people my reader, if they like to read (a big if), they often are interested until I tell them the price. Even then some are still interested, though they see it as a "treat" that they will get for a big gift or after a bonus, etc. rather than a must-have tool. I know some of these same people will spend close to the cost of an ebook reader in a year buying pbooks.

Also, some people (not all older folks, either--I'm almost 46 and some of these people are younger than I) who are intimidated by the fancy thinkin' box. I've steered some toward the Kindle. I think many others who are confused or intimidated could be shown how easy it is to transfer files onto the Cybook or similar and get the hang of it easily. But it's a matter of convincing them it's not "hard."

I've received a few comments along the line of "Don't you miss turning the pages?" Does anyone love turning pages so much? Once you get into whatever you are reading, you don't notice the medium of delivery. I'm a webmaster and I understand the concept of content delivery, but most people haven't thought about it a whole lot. The content is vital. The delivery method must only be usable and not thwart the content consumer.

New books are neat, but they eventually become old books and must be shelved and dusted in the meantime. Also there are collectors, who must be surrounded by piles and piles of pbooks to be completely happy. I used to be that way, but I got over it.

Good luck on your dissertation!
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Old 05-13-2008, 05:45 PM   #14
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From a Cybook user perspective.

Problems:
It's still an emerging technology. There are still software and hardware issues (e.g. it can't be trusted to remember where you left off reading, search functions are non-existent, the screen itself is very fragile so the reader has always to be handled with care).
Imho, the CyBook interface is too clunky to be a practical solution for books that may be read non-linearly (text books, reference books etc.) where you want to skip back and forth easily.
You can't flick through an ebook as you would a pbook.

Motivation:
There's a lot of free literature available on the Interenet. I figured that for a couple of hundred pounds I'd be able to obtain the equivalent of many thousands of pounds worth of books - so it is a very cost effective solution for me.
Ebooks are also a way to free up space rather than storing pbooks.
I enjoyed reading on my PDA, but found it practically useless in sunlight.
The Cybook is more readable, and the longer battery life is a definite plus.

Content:
Although there is a lot of free stuff available on the net, quality is variable - although I think the overall standard is improving.
Purchasing from ebook stores is simple, and current exchange rates can make it economical. Hopefully new stores around the world will come onstream, so there'll be more opportunities to buy where the books are cheapest.
One downer is that you can't sell a book on to recoup some of the original cost.

Encouraging late adopters:
I think general readers would be encouraged by fairer pricing of ebooks.
Hardware and software reliability still needs improving.
They should be able to obtain units from local stores, where they can see them in action, and be confident about returning them if problems arise.
MobileRead gets many queries from people wanting to try ebooks but unsure about which one is best for their needs - they need to be able to physically compare and contrast before taking the plunge.
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:41 PM   #15
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Originally Posted by jwarewolf View Post
Does anyone know of a website or reputable blog where I can get non-commercial information on how to go about publishing an ebook?
I'd be glad to pass on what I've learned from e-book self publishing, if you want to ask me through the member messages, or directly through stevej@stevejordanbooks.com.

Vince, as an e-book writer (who uses a PDA for e-book reading, incidentally), I see the biggest issues as being twofold: One is the preponderance of formats involved in the market; and Two is the lack of consensus in the industry, and with the public, on exactly what an e-book is.

Multiple formats complicate everything... I personally make a half-dozen versions of each book I produce, which is ridiculous. It takes time, it causes confusion when new software or software is introduced... I yearn for one overridingly popular format that I can use, without worrying about losing customers in the process.

The issue of what an e-book is... a physical product, a pile of electrons, an intellectual property, etc... affects how industry tries to sell the books, how people handle the books, and whether or not they consider them as a commodity to buy or a free file to share. Until industry (and government) works out the nature of an electronic file to everyone's satisfaction, sales will be difficult, piracy will be a problem, and the industry will take forever to settle into a workable system.

Edit: I should have added that I use a PDA for reading, because I already use it for other things, and it is good for e-book reading, too (though not everybody can get used to the smaller screen, or is comfortable reading LCD screens for long, I like it just fine). Being someone who likes multi-use devices, I may or may not ever get a dedicated reader. One of the other advantages of a PDA over a dedicated reader is, you can read (almost) any format on a PDA, which means more literature choice, while a dedicated reader tends to be limited to one or a few formats only.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 05-13-2008 at 09:50 PM.
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