Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

And what of Publishers…

The past couple of weeks has seen a few high-profile authors abandon their publishers and head off into the self-published e-book direction. Seth Godin for example:

Traditional book publishers use techniques perfected a hundred years ago to help authors reach unknown readers, using a stable technology (books) and an antique and expensive distribution system.

The thing is–now I know who my readers are. Adding layers or faux scarcity doesn’t help me or you. As the medium changes, publishers are on the defensive…. I honestly can’t think of a single traditional book publisher who has led the development of a successful marketplace/marketing innovation in the last decade.

In response, Paul Carr on TechCrunch suggests that there are still  very good reasons for publishers to exist. I like this one:

How about the timing thing? Says Godin: “The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic. Today, even though all other media has accelerated rapidly, books still take a year or more [to be published]. You need to consider what the shelf life of your idea is.” …

And so yes, Seth, you’re right: you definitely should consider what the shelf-life of your idea is. And if you find it’s so short that it’ll be redundant in a few weeks, let alone a few months, then you shouldn’t – mustn’t – wait!  You should Tweet it immediately. If, on the other hand, your idea is likely to stick around for a while – like the ideas of, I dunno, Orwell or Postman or Keynes or, well, any of a hundred thousand other authors whose ideas are still relevant today, then maybe it’s worth taking the time – and the multiple rounds of copy-editing and revising and proof-reading and checking and double checking that causes publishing to the so slow – just to make sure you get it right before you publish. 1984 was an instant classic; 1983.5 sucked balls.

Oxford Dictionary in Print… R.I.P?

From The Guardian:

Publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary have confirmed that the third edition may never appear in print. A team of 80 lexicographers began working on it following the publication of the second edition in 1989. It is 28% finished. In comments to a Sunday newspaper, Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press, which owns the dictionary, said: “The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year.” Asked if he thought the third edition would appear in printed format, he said: “I don’t think so.” However, an OUP spokeswoman said no decision had been made.

Reading Habits Redux

I’ve always thought that eBooks might be a way to get people to read more. Particularly with convergent devices, which is where some are spending much of their time these days. A recent survey (paid for by Sony, warning bells!) suggests there may be some truth to that instinctive thought. The Wall Street Journal reports on that survey and summarises:

A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books. Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before. And 55% of the respondents in the May study, paid for by e-reader maker SonyCorp., thought they’d use the device to read even more books in the future. The study looked at owners of three devices:Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle, Apple Inc.’s iPad and the Sony Reader.

In addition:

U.S. electronic-book sales increased 176% in 2009, while total book sales in the U.S. fell 1.8%, according to the Association of American Publishers. Of individuals who own e-readers, 86% read on their device more than once a week, and 51% read on their device daily…

Pogue likes the new Kindle

Kindle 3 is nearly shipping, so there’s David Pogue’s inevitable NY Times review. Seems like a definite improvement, and I *really* like this bit:

The tiny joystick has been replaced by cellphone-like four-way control buttons, and the page-turn Forward and Back buttons, which flank both edges, are silent now, for the benefit of sleeping spouses.

And more personal anecdotal evidence that eBooks are on their way mainstream – my sister-in-law really wants one of these…

What’s a boy to do?

Nice piece from Andy Ihnatko about the dilemmas facing book buyers in the world of e-books:

My basic book-buying scheme remained in place. Amazon.com was for search-and-purchase missions. Brick-and-mortar stores were for “discoveries.”

Great. And then I got a Kindle, and it left me with a big, big quandary.

I just don’t buy physical books any more. If a book is in print, it’s probably available via the Kindle store. If it isn’t, I can wait until it shows up in the catalogue, and I’ll almost certainly find a different ebook that I’ll like just as well…

Where does that leave my local bookstores? I still drop by to browse. But my old system has stopped working. If I discover a great book at the store and I buy a digital edition for my iPad, it feels a little bit like shoplifting. And yet I know I can’t pay $23 for a physical book that will do nothing but remind me to buy the $9.99 Kindle edition when I get home.

Seems like a safe bet to me…

Over at Slate, Farhad Majoo is predicting the US$99 Kindle – with a consequential dramatic uptake in ebook reading:

I rarely make predictions about the tech business, but here goes: Before the holidays, Amazon will cut the price of the Wi-Fi Kindle to $99, and the 3G version will go for $150 or less. Amazon will do so, I think, not only to sell a lot of Kindles but also to cement its online store as the iTunes for books—the dominant force in the publishing business for the foreseeable future.

I think that’s right, and the e-book reader will for all intents and purposes become a free device, thrown in (for example) when you buy a dozen titles. You only have to track (for example) ipod prices over the last five years to see the rapid downward trend – and with ipods, they’ve managed to increase features (colour screens, huge increases in functionality) whilst simultaneously dropping prices. If people really do want ebook readers that only do black and white ebooks, then there’s no reason why a bare-bones featureless e-ink reader shouldn’t be the equivalent of the Gillette razor.

The Early Days of Print…

The New York Times has a nice review of Andrew Petegree’s “The Book in the Renaissance”  which argues that “Print, in Pettegree’s account, was never as dignified or lofty a medium as that “humanist mythology” of disseminated classics would suggest. There was, it seems, a familiar gnashing of teeth at the dawn on the print age:

The “fluid, transitional nature of communication” during printing’s first heyday naturally attracted detractors. “This is what the printing presses do: they corrupt susceptible hearts” wrote the “dyspeptic Benedictine” Filippo de Strata. Clumsy and unreliable editions led to “the charge that print had debased the book.” By making book ownership more common, print also “diminished the lustre of the Renaissance library,” causing many collections to dwindle or dissolve altogether as “the library as a cultural institution struggled to adapt to the new age.”

1034 UK iPad owners prefer…

A UK Poll of iPad users has found the following:

Preferred method of reading books:

iPad 41%
Laptop/Computer 12%
Mobile phone 4%
Print 36%
E-reader 7%

Early adopters, predisposed to this, but still…

Another one bites the dust…

Following on from the last post, the much-awaited Plastic Logic Que has been canned. From technologizer:

Plastic Logic has canceled its Que e-reader. The company began demoing its gadget almost two years ago, well before the iPad era. But after multiple delays, it’s decided that the fast-evolving e-reader market has rendered the Que obsolete before it ever shipped.

Feels like 2001

Just before the ipod came out, there were a million (well, not quite) nameless mp3 players all trying to create a digital music player market. I remember almost buying a RCA Lyra or something back then. Then came Apple’s entry and after a couple of years, became an overnight success. 2010 isn’t 2001 – for a start, Apple’s no longer ‘beleaguered‘ but some things smell the same… Check this SF Chronicle link for a good summary of the non-Kindle, non-iPad ebook devices. As Andrew Ross suggests:

It seems just yesterday that “e-readers” and “tablets” came on the scene, but already there’s talk of a great shakeout.