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December 28th, 2009


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11:27 am - e-books
Thanks to andrewducker seen on Amazon.
On Christmas Day, for the First Time Ever, Customers Purchased More Kindle Books Than Physical Books

Mind you, 'on Christmas Day', presumably Kindle books are the only ones you can get hold of right away, by downloading?

Poll time:

Poll #1504291 electronic text

Are you likely to get an electronic book reader?

Already got one
6(19.4%)
Very likely to get one
1(3.2%)
If it takes off, I'll probably get one
3(9.7%)
Yet to be convinced
18(58.1%)
Never, and that's final
3(9.7%)

Do you think e-books will replace books?

It's inevitable over the next few years
2(6.7%)
It probably will happen, but not for a long time
16(53.3%)
Books will remain the main medium for texts indefinitely
11(36.7%)
e-Books are a fad that will soon be over
1(3.3%)

e-Books - good or bad?

Better than paper books
0(0.0%)
There are many circumstances where they are better than books
6(19.4%)
Sometimes e-books would be useful
19(61.3%)
Paper is much better
6(19.4%)

(31 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:fjm
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:31 am (UTC)
(Link)
I love mine but it's main use is for when I woudn't be carrying just one book. If I am carrying just one book I'd prefer paper, but when I want to carry a book and a couple of spare books (just in case) the e reader wins hands down.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
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Yes. You do more travelling than me I think, so I can see that.
[User Picture]
From:lamentables
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
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For pragmatic reasons, I'd consider it if I travelled more - either a daily commute or more international travel - but, as it is, my books and I are rarely parted.
And I can't imagine choosing to curl up with an ebook if there were a physical version of the same text available.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:40 am (UTC)
(Link)
Neither can I. I worry about texts becoming evanescent, obsolete, and then lost.
From:emmzzi
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
(Link)
ereader was invaluable during my commuting year and also v good for holidays.

2 things better in paper
- art anything. graphic novels just dont work in e at the moment.
- textbooks where you want to doodle. notes functionality on e books doesnt do it for me.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
(Link)
I sometimes like to browse around in a book, and I understand by feel how to do that with paper. I can't see it working with an ebook.
[User Picture]
From:dfordoom
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
Clearly the end of civilisation is closer than we thought.
[User Picture]
From:matildabj
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yet to be convinced for the same reason I keep a paper diary rather than a PDA. I love paper, I love being able to flick through the pages, and it feels more 'real' somehow. More permanent.
[User Picture]
From:katlinel
Date:December 28th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I still use a paper diary too, and I have, on occasion, been given PDAs by work. I find that I remember things more readily if I write them down and typing doesn't have the same effect. I am very fussy about my paper diaries though (must fit in handbag, must be lined, must have a section for notes, must be week-to-view, pretty covers are preferred but optional).
[User Picture]
From:dfordoom
Date:December 28th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
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The popularity of ebooks shows just how terrifyingly naïve consumers have become. When you buy an ebook you're not buying anything real. If in a couple of years time amazon decides to introduce a new generation ebook reader that isn't compatible with Kindle, all your Kindle books are suddenly non-existent. And since an ebook reader is a piece of digital hardware, one can expect it to have the same lifespan as any other piece of digital hardware. Two years, tops. It looks bright and shiny now. In two years time it will be landfill, along with your bright and shiny new iPhone and iPod and whizz-bang new laptop.

Ebooks mean that books are now disposable junk, like junk food.

But then consumers accepted the idea that when you buy an incredibly expensive piece of computer software you don't really own it at all, in fact you have no rights over it whatsoever. So it's not surprising that consumers are embracing ebooks.

[User Picture]
From:andrewducker
Date:December 28th, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
This is why I only read DRM-free books on my ereader. (And refused to pay to own DRM'd music too)
[User Picture]
From:several_bees
Date:December 28th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
(Link)
So. I remember passages in books by "it was near the bottom of the page on the right-hand side, about x thickness in", and by the colour of the cover, and all that. I'm not very keen on ebooks. But I'm pretty sure that's not because they're bad.

I think most of the problems with ebooks are just... interface problems, engineering problems. For years it was "you can't read them on the bus/in bed/at the beach/in the bath"; which was true, but now you mostly can. So the problems people list are removed a little further from the primary act of reading, and become things like "I can't browse through them" or "pictures don't work well" or "I like having a sense of how far I am from the end". I'm pretty sure that these problems, too, will be solved in time; if the last fifteen years of "OH MY GOD EBOOKS ARE TAKING OVER, NO SERIOUSLY ANY DAY NOW, IT IS THE DAWN OF A BRIGHT NEW AGE / END OF THE WORLD" have shown anything, it's that people like how books work, they're not going to throw them over en masse for something that doesn't replicate important-for-them elements of book functionality. So, someone will figure out how to make browsing work, eventually; someone will figure out an interface option that gives you a subconscious sense of how close you are to the end, if that's something people really want. (We might lose things like being able to see what a stranger is reading on the bus, mind.)

And the stuff about paper books feeling more real and enduring and easier to think about, or about electronic texts feeling more transient and less permanent; well, I agree that it feels that way, but I think we're wrong, and that the feeling is an artefact of when we were born. Electronic text is many, many times easier to preserve than paper, generally speaking (and part of the reason for the Kindle's success is that it reads text files and pdfs and mobi files and so on rather than just one awkward DRM-ed format that you can easily lose the capacity to read).

Because of the increasing affordability of POD, I don't think those of us who prefer print need to worry too much that we'll have it wrenched away from us; if ebooks become the dominant form, then the currently-gimmicky machines that can print and bind any book in five minutes will get better, and will become the way that we get our papery versions of the "real thing".
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I hope you are right because I can just see myself having to buy my entire library afresh every 15 years.
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:December 28th, 2009 01:42 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think it's being done backwards--the eBooks now are things that are available on paper and probably work better that way. However, things like chemistry textbooks that *do* change are still published on dead trees supplemented by electronics so you're supposed to read the paper version and then go hunting for updates.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes. That is a very good point, though the way that updates are commissioned and paid for might be problematic. Paying for people to create high class content is something capitalism does very badly IMHO.
[User Picture]
From:hafren
Date:December 28th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I've had v. little experience of using them but from what I've seen, they don't have the invaluable reverse function known as flicking back a few pages to remind yourself what you just read, or who the hell Mr Soandso was. Nor can you, when reading an annotated classic with notes at the back, keep a bookmark in both the text and the notes and read both in tandem. As far as I can see, and maybe I haven't used the latest hi-tech, they are for people who read by starting at the beginning and going straight to the end by way of the middle. I don't.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, I muck about back and forth a lot too. But as several-bees says, there may be ways round this, with improved interfacing. It's the format thing I worry about.
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:December 28th, 2009 06:37 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I graduated from law school in 1975, when up-to-the-minute law firms had wonderful tools like MTSTs and even, miracle of miracles, computers with fabbyboo 8 1/4" floppy disks running astonishing programs like WordStar.

Y'know, if you're careful about it, you can still read an incunabulum. Good fucking luck reading an IBM MagCard.
[User Picture]
From:emeraldsedai
Date:December 28th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I feel like the lone pro-ebook voice here, but I see from poll results that I'm not entirely isolated, so I'll make my case, as ebooks are an area I've been passionate about for more than ten years.

Concerns about the evanescence of electronic texts don't seem any more valid to me than concerns about fires in libraries. A text deemed valid by someone will be preserved, the methods for accessing it (whether a lucky Rosetta Stone or a lucky still-functioning Wang word proceesor) will be found. There has always been a time-telescoping selection of texts, and the ones that survive the narrow end of the time-funnel are the ones deemed worthy by someone.

I share everyone's concerns about DRM, but greed, profit, and the concept of intellectual property are not unique to or inherent in the digital formatting of texts, and I think we need to continually question them as a separate issue. People like Cory Doctorow on Boing make it their business to do so.

As to paper itself and all the sensual joys thereof--well, fine. Not a kink of mine, but I understand it, having grown up with a bookdealer and a librarian. I view it like horses. Beautiful printed books will remain an art form for people who want to make owning and using them a priority.

Finally, nine-tenths of what most people read is for one-time consumption. Even I have hardbound copies of Shakespeare and Immortal Poems of the English Language and Riddley Walker. For everything else, there's ones and zeroes. Searchable, font-scalable, weightless and sizeless, they go with me everywhere my phone goes, and when I'm done with them, I delete them from the index. I can read them in bed without taxing my hands or my eyes, and carry them without taxing my shoulder.

The same would go for ALL school and university textbooks, which are STUPIDLY overpriced, instantly obsolete and always big and heavy.

Oh, and finally-finally? I live where the paper comes from. I am one-hundred percent in favor of anything that would allow us to stop clearcutting, and re-grow the fir forests.

Edited at 2009-12-28 07:11 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:December 28th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I really hope you are right. Textbooks - definitely
[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:December 28th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I would love to have one because books are too expensive to buy here to read once, and I can't find all the books I want to read at the library. However there are too many different incompatible formats out there, and too many regulations forbidding people in the wrong countries (and I almost always am) to buy and download. I am [not very] patiently waiting for things to get better.
[User Picture]
From:sugoll
Date:December 29th, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I'm in two minds.

As has been mentioned, I think the medium would well suit reference books, technical books, text books, etc. They can be searchable, for a start. I also think that having a built-in interface to dictionaries, wikipedia, etc. would start to fulfil the promise of hypertext as given in early 80's documentaries.(I remember seeing random sections of text being swept out, and dictionary entries, recipies, audio/video clips popping up, etc.)

Just physically speaking, I imagine a Kindle's easier to hold than, said, Stephenson's Anathem. My wrists will be grateful.

But I'm very concerned about the DRM implications. When I buy a book, that physical object is mine. And while I can lose it, drop it in the bath, watch it burn with the rest of the house, etc. it's still mine, and those are my screw-ups. It's not going to disappear from my shelf without warning one day, and if it does, that's theft.

Books are viseral objects. We've got reading versions and holding versions. We like the look of them on the shelves, and we like the ability to browse them. Take me to someone's house where they've got a bookshelf, and that's the corner of the room I'll be standing in, reading their spines, getting a feel for the person (usually, "envy").

The business model's junk at the moment - mainly because ebooks as-are spell disaster for publishers, as they become as redundant as music publishers are, and they vestigial reptilian hindbrain is going to start thrashing that tail soon. A friend of mine argued that no-DRM will kill publishing completely, because plain ASCII's so much easier to copy than, say, music or video. He may be right, since the music-and-video copying is currently mostly illicit and hence not made trivially easy by, say, Windows and Mac OS X, but since the problem (if not the interface) has already been solved, I think it's now just a matter of wait and see.

Personally, I forsee something like iTunes. I think Apple's approach of having apps available for trivial amounts means that there can be large-scale suck-it-and-see, meaning a larger overall market for the sellers. I can see people buying the first few chapters of a book for 0.59, and then either upgrading to the rest, or going out and buying it physically, if they like it. If the system has sense, your 0.59 would be redeemed when you get the full thing.

And I hope that that will be how the large-scale copying will be possible without killing the author through starvation: if the books are available very cheaply and easily, I'm hoping that people will still volunteer to pay (especially for the ease-of-use systems like iTunes), but I'm not convinced that'll actually happen.

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