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Old 10-15-2006, 07:43 AM   #1
nekokami
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Open Letter to the Science Fiction Book Club (sfbc.com)

Sent to service@sfbc.com:

Quote:
Hi folks,

I was an SFBC member for years, but I haven't been a member for a while now. The main reason is that all your books are hardcovers, which take up a lot of space. After a while, I found I was reading hardcovers in libraries or waiting for paperbacks, rather than filling my house with Club versions of the latest books by my favorite authors.

However, there are new alternative ways to enjoy books. In particular, please see the iLiad eBook reader at http://www.irextechnologies.com/ - it has the new EInk display, which reads enough like paper to be comfortable on the eyes, but can hold dozens of books at a time in one small package. See http://www.eink.com/ for more info. (Amazon is also coming out with an EInk device, which I assume will support the Mobipocket format, and Sony has already started shipping the Reader, though they only support their own proprietary DRM format.)

I'd sign up again right away if SFBC could support books in a format readable by a device like this. The company making the iLiad, iRex, doesn't sell content itself but is apparently trying to work out DRM arrangements with other content vendors. Hopefully the format chosen would also be one that could be read on a PC or Macintosh, for those who don't want to invest in a separate reader. It seems to me that many other SFBC members, being comfortable and familiar with technology, might also like this method of subscription. Reciving new books could be as easy as subscribing to a podcast. And it would drastically lower printing and delivery costs for the Club. I hope this is something the Club can consider in the near future.
I should also have pointed them to BAEN, but I didn't have the details on that great service at the time. I considered writing an old-fashioned letter-- you know, the kind on wood pulp-- but I decided that would be counter to my point. No response yet (and there may never be), but I figured it was worth an attempt. If others are interested in getting books this way, please follow up with your own letters. And if you think you don't care about this because you don't read SF, please see http://booksonline.com/ - they have a club for everyone, I think.

The SF market may be the easiest to break into because we're a bunch of geeks already, always up for something new. But if we can prove that this is a working model with the SFBC, the rest of these clubs could easily follow.

(And for the record, I hate DRM as much as anyone, and if my books are only available in DRM format, I'm likely to take steps to make accessable archives for my own purposes, and never mind which country I'm in. But we've got to start somewhere if we're going to get eBooks in volume this century. Maybe after we actually have some eBooks, and publishers view us as a valuable revenue stream, we can talk about forcing publishers to open up the DRM model. Right now we have no leverage. They'e perfectly happy selling dead trees, and other than a few very popular examples like the Harry Potter books, the pirate process isn't going to be fast enough or consistent enough to pose much of a perceived threat to paper sales.)

Anyway, that's my bit of activism for the moment. Back to writing (working on a book for teachers on how to use learning games in language classrooms -- it'll be published in open PDF).

neko
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Old 10-15-2006, 11:07 AM   #2
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I have been doing something similar to the 'open letter' at a number of magazines I like and would like available as I travel (without the weight) by sending e-mail to the publishers. Some already have .pdf versions available and may need only some minor reformatting for legibility - Popular Science & Scientific American, for example. Others, like Granta & Smithsonian, have most or all articles available as a .pdf and only need 'bound' as a .pdf (with proper sizing) to be legible. Since the Granta is the right size for the phsyical magazine, there may not be any reformatting needed.

Many of the Dell magazines (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen, Science Fact & Fiction and others) have .pdf files that work now. See the fictionwise.com magazine list - I think there are a few titles I missed.
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Old 10-15-2006, 04:39 PM   #3
NatCh
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Hey, nekokami, nice idea!

There is one detail error I'd like to point out for you, though. You said:
Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
...Sony has already started shipping the Reader, though they only support their own proprietary DRM format.
This just isn't correct. See the Wiki for full details, but the Sony Reader basically natively (i.e. without conversion) handles all of the file types that the iLiad claims it will (some of them I believe it doesn't actually support -- yet that is), plus their own BBeB file type.

As I'm typing this, it occurs to me that you may rather have meant that the only DRM type that Sony supports is their own, as opposed to also supporting eReader, MobiPocet, etc. If that's what you meant, I should probably point out that iLiad doesn't presently support any DRM types, and we don't really know what Amazon's Kindle will do, though it does look like it'll support a number of different DRM's.

Here's the whole list of what the Reader supports:
* TXT
* RTF
* PDF (Unencrypted)
* BBeB (Encrypted and Unencrypted)
* JPEG
* GIF
* BMP
* PNG
* MP3 (Unencrypted)
* AAC (Unencrypted)

Just wanted to make sure you should knew that, my apologies if you already did.
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Old 10-16-2006, 09:30 AM   #4
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I'm sure any serious sci-fi provider knows about all e-readers out there but it's a good thing to remind them that there are users of such devices.
Good job nekokami!
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Old 10-16-2006, 10:35 AM   #5
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Personally, I'm sorry to hear that the Sony Reader won't read HTML (I thought I'd heard somewhere that it would). Since I haven't heard anything good about the BBeB format either, I may have to add RTFs to my available book formats (no one seems to be buying iSilo formats of my books, anyway) so people can read them on the Sony Reader.
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Old 10-16-2006, 11:34 AM   #6
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There were rumors early on about HTML support, but I don't think Sony ever said anything about it.

The LRF's I've played with, both Sony's and Manybooks' have worked well enough, with a couple of exceptions.

RTF works great, with the only drawback being that the Reader doesn't support pictures in RTF's. Not much of an issue for novels, of course.
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Old 10-16-2006, 01:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
RTF works great, with the only drawback being that the Reader doesn't support pictures in RTF's. Not much of an issue for novels, of course.

NatCh, have you been able to use links (e.g. TOC) with RTF. Mine seem to lose their links. That would be a welcome mod for RTF.
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Old 10-16-2006, 01:16 PM   #8
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No, my links go bye-bye in RTF too. I knew there was something else that got stripped ... it also drops multi-column and other 'complex' formatting.
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Old 10-16-2006, 02:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
Hey, nekokami, nice idea!
Thanks!
Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
As I'm typing this, it occurs to me that you may rather have meant that the only DRM type that Sony supports is their own, as opposed to also supporting eReader, MobiPocet, etc.
Yes, this was very careless wording on my part. I meant what you said, that the only DRM supported by Sony is their own. I'm well aware that iLiad doesn't support any DRM yet, but they're supposed to announce something this month. (Well, ok, go ahead and laugh... maybe next month, anyway!) My hope is that the iLiad will end up supporting more DRMs than Sony, because they don't have a vested interest in selling content. And my hope in writing this letter to SFBC was to get them to look at the situation and, if they felt they must have a DRM (which I don't like any better than the rest of you), they'd tell iRex what DRM they want to use and cut a deal.

The point is, iRex says they want to have a B2B model. That means they need to find someone else to provide content. An online book club seems ideal for this. You could buy the reader from the book club, hopefully at a discount of some kind and with a bunch of initial books thrown in for free, the same way they do club subscriptions now. Then, on the appropriate day (or next time after that when you power up), your iLiad would remind you that it's time to check your book club picks, and if you click "OK" you'd get a page notifying you of upcoming titles for the month, so you could check off the ones you want and the reader would download them. (It would need to check to make sure you have enough memory, or tell you to swap cards or whatever). Even better, you could ask for some sample pages, the way you can with pBooks when buying from Amazon. If you miss the day, you should still be able to go back and pick up titles from previous months, just as you can usually do now with these club memberships.

Sounds like a great business model to me, and a very convenient service that I'd be happy to buy the device for. (I do still need to be able to use it to read and annotate my PDFs for grad school, and handwrite/convert my journal and design notes, etc., of course!)

@VillageReader, thanks for the note about SF&F and other SF related magazines available at Fictionwise. I saw those before. Of course, we'll need to get a supported DRM onto the iLiad before this would work, as these volumes are currently locked down (though more than one format is supported, at least). Once we have that, yes, I plan to subscribe to several magazines this way, as it would massively reduce clutter in my house.

Perhaps others could also write to some of these companies and post their letters here... would it be worth it to do an online petition? Does anyone ever pay attention to those, or are they just to make the petition participants feel like they're doing something?

neko
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Old 10-16-2006, 02:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
Well, ok, go ahead and laugh....
I take all the laughing I can get, most of it's at myself, but I figure if you can't laugh at yourself you shouldn't laugh at anyone else! And when you're me, you get lots of stuff to laugh at yourself for.

Your model sounds reasonable to me, assuming that there's nothing that would invalidate it that isn't visible to us from the outside. The only possible catch I can see off-hand is probably the cost of the iLiad. I think that'd be a catch for a lot of folks even for the Reader -- I don't know how much they can discount the things in the short run (until e-ink costs start dropping, I mean).
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Old 10-16-2006, 03:10 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NatCh
I don't know how much they can discount the things in the short run (until e-ink costs start dropping, I mean).
There's never any free lunch anyway. Discounts always have to come from somewhere, marketing just figures out how to hide them. Maybe they could actually mark the reader price up slightly but include some large-ish number of free books for a year from any of their clubs, to get people to buy them.
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Old 10-16-2006, 03:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
@VillageReader, thanks for the note about SF&F and other SF related magazines available at Fictionwise. I saw those before. Of course, we'll need to get a supported DRM onto the iLiad before this would work, as these volumes are currently locked down (though more than one format is supported, at least). Once we have that, yes, I plan to subscribe to several magazines this way, as it would massively reduce clutter in my house.
neko
Just a clarification - the SF magazines at Fictionwise _are_ currently available as regular PDFs. I subscribe to Analog, SF&F, and Asimov's, and they all work fine on my iLiad. While it's true that many newly-released novels are only available in DRM'ed formats, many individual stories and the aforementioned magazines are in what they call their "multiformat" (unlocked) formats.
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Old 10-16-2006, 07:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
Maybe they could actually mark the reader price up slightly but include some large-ish number of free books for a year from any of their clubs, to get people to buy them.
Filament eBook Club does something like that, letting you buy an ETI-2 reader "for free" if you sign up to buy two ebooks a month for a year from them at $20/month. eBookwise lets you buy the same reader upfront for $125 with no commitment to buy ebooks from them.
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Old 10-17-2006, 02:21 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryanzs
Just a clarification - the SF magazines at Fictionwise _are_ currently available as regular PDFs. I subscribe to Analog, SF&F, and Asimov's, and they all work fine on my iLiad. While it's true that many newly-released novels are only available in DRM'ed formats, many individual stories and the aforementioned magazines are in what they call their "multiformat" (unlocked) formats.
Thanks, I didn't realize that was part of the "multiformat" designation! That's a big boost of content right there.
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Old 10-17-2006, 03:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nekokami
Thanks!

@VillageReader, thanks for the note about SF&F and other SF related magazines available at Fictionwise. I saw those before. Of course, we'll need to get a supported DRM onto the iLiad before this would work, as these volumes are currently locked down (though more than one format is supported, at least). Once we have that, yes, I plan to subscribe to several magazines this way, as it would massively reduce clutter in my house.

neko
Nope. I have several on the Iliad now. These are in 'multiformat', ie, no DRM. Go have fun
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