eBooks Are For Weirdos

September 21, 2011

According to a new survey by Harris Interactive 1 in 6 Americans now use an eReader with 1 in 6 likely to purchase one within the next 6 months. That’s 15%, which is almost double what it was this time last year, 8%. Also eBook readers purchase more books and read on average more than paper book readers!

I should know, since I purchased my first Sony eReader I started reading more, and now with the books from my Kindle available on my Mac, iPhone, iPad I purchase and read more than ever!

A case in point, Seth Godin released a new book today entitled, We Are All Weird, but rather than purchase the hard back and wait for it to be delivered (which I’ve not done in many many years!), I clicked the link to the Amazon Kindle store, clicked the “Buy now with one click” and had it on my Kindle before my kettle boiled this morning! Two Clicks and I had the book, why would anyone purchase a book in any other way, and why would an author sell their book any other way?

I’ve been saying this for years, it’s part of my no paper mantra, but it would appear Seth believes the same:

My new book, We Are All Weird goes on sale today. We only have 11,000 hardcover copies on sale at Amazon, with no plans to print more. I wanted you to have first dibs. (PS, Outside the USA? click here). Why limit the number printed?

Conventional publishing wisdom says that the first 10,000 copies are the hardest. In fact, you don’t make money until after that. The goal is to prime the pump and then, if you get lucky, sell millions and millions of hardcovers, day after day, year after year. That’s what pays the bills at all the large publishing houses. The thing is, digital is better at infinity than paper ever will be. Digital is easy to keep in stock, easy to replenish, easy to connect with. Paper, on the other hand, benefits from scarcity.

Google Editions

December 1, 2010

Although 6 months behind schedule it appears that Google are about to roll out their commercial eBook store Google Editions. As promised, unlike other stores that tie you into using a single eReader platform ie eBooks purchased on Amazon only work on a Kindle, B&N only on a Nook, Apple only on an iPad etc (although Apple do sell non-DRM ePub docs as well, so technically eReader agnostic, but personally I’ve never got them to work properly on anything than other an iPad), Google Editions however, will allow your purchases to be read on most, if not all, eReaders… although don’t hold your breath that they will work on a Kindle!

You will access your purchased eBooks and subscriptions via a Google Editions account, Google will have a store of it’s own, but it’s planning to offer it’s Editions versions on Independent book sellers websites. The way Google plan to achieve this, is having a browser based eReader, plus native device based eReader software, but it’s the browser based eReader that concerns me, just how good a reading experience will you have using a browser based application? Plus that doesn’t sound like a practical option for e-Ink based eReaders.

I appreciate we live in a connected world, but quite often when I’m reading an eBook I’m not connected to the web, with my Kindle offline for days if not weeks at a time, of course Editions books will be cached in your browser’s memory, but it still seems a little flakey to me. The real gripe though is yet another format, Google talk the talk of being open etc, yet Google Editions will not be in any sort of  transferable format, you can’t simply download a book you’ve purchased and put it on your eReader of choice (in fact you can’t exactly download a book!), this is a major drawback of nearly all eBook platforms, and a major hurdle to the uptake by new users and the continued expansion of the market. It’s high time the likes of Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony & Google agree to play nicely and stop trying to control a market by continually fragmenting it. Standards win in the end, think email, SMS, HTML, until there’s a truly open format (and I mean really OPEN), new adopters will continue to be confused and frustrated with their choices and purchases.

Buying an eBook should have advantages over a physical purchase, but you know when you purchase a paper book, it’s yours to keep, you can lend it to a friend and they won’t run into any compatibility problems when it comes to reading it. Will consumers have the final say on this, will the social media revolution really give users a voice and enough clout to eventually force the big guys into open standards? it will be interesting to see how it pans out, it will probably take a few class action legal cases to rock the boat enough that legislation forces them to adhere to users having the right to transfer and truly own their digital purchases (if you’ve ever bought anything for the Kindle, look in the T&C’s and notice that you don’t actually own your purchases, they’re merely on loan to you from Amazon, and they have the right to stop you accessing them anytime they want!)

Anyway I’m veering off subject, Google Editions will be available in the US in the coming weeks and Europe Q1 2011

Google Editions
Interesting PC World Article
An Authors Perspective

It’s not the only time this has happened in recent months, but this time it’s a high profile brand, James Bond.

The Ian Fleming estate has announced that it are releasing all 18 Bond titles as eBooks this week on Amazon and Waterstones, but they won’t be released through their current print publisher Penguin (as they never signed for the digital rights), they will be released by themselves under the name of Ian Fleming Publishing.

Of course the publishing houses are up in arms, hitting out at the online retailers and complaining the authors have no loyalty, but they only have themselves to blame. If instead of complaining they offered equivalent royalties to their authors, then they’d retain their custom, but as long as authors can sign better deals elsewhere, then they will continue to do so.

As this article in the Telegraph highlights, JK Rowling has not signed away the digital rights of Harry Potter and is assessing their options.

“The books industry could lose out on millions of pounds because publishers have failed to sign up the digital rights to authors, who are expected to bypass traditional publishing houses in favour of Amazon or Google.”

As I’ve said before on the no paper blog, publishing houses have had a monopoly for far too long, they need to understand that it’s no longer the case, they need to embrace the sea change not fight it, as the potential eBook market is enormous… plus they should stop trying to make an outdated, centuries old business model work in a modern environment that is quickly leaving them behind, they should be jumping all over this opportunity not running from it!

The rumours were correct Barnes and Noble just unveiled the NookColor, a 7′ 1024×600 coloured LCD touchscreen, Wifi (no 3G)… I won’t go into the full specs, there’s plenty of websites that have that covered.

So how successful will it be? only time will tell, but with the addition of their Nook Kids platform, which is due to have titles available in the next couple of weeks, a colored touchscreen Nook was essential. While there are numerous interactive childrens books available for the Apple AppStore with new ones appearing daily, parents are unlikely to handover their expensive iPads or iPhones to their kids for long, although an iPod Touch isn’t so heart stopping, so makes a popular alternative. It fits in the pocket, can be stuffed full of children’s music, films, TV shows and of course books, so great for long car journeys or days out.

With Amazon sticking to their mantra of, legibility and highest possible quality screen technology first and foremost, LCD is not an option, e-ink only for Kindles, no touchscreen layer either, plus 3G and 1 month battery (although I find mine lasts 16-17 days max).

So B&N are stepping into new territory, with a device that is a cross between an eReader and an iPad (and lets face it, everyone is going to make that comparison even if it is unfair). Could the NookColor fall into the same trap that the NetBook has, that middle ground where it’s useful, but it doesn’t excel at anything. It won’t have a battery life that is anywhere near a Kindle, it’s screen will be very difficult to read in bright sunlight and it doesn’t have 3G, so as an eReader it falls short of it’s main rival.

Then there’s the iPad, it won’t have anywhere near the same level of functionality, or the plethora of Apps, it does have a web browser, but it too won’t support flash, which would have been a major plus if it did. I know it’s unfair to compare it to the iPad, after all it’s half the size and half the price, but that’s what consumers and the market will do.

So the nookcolor to me is in a bit of a no mans land, although there’s nothing wrong with that, if they etch out a big enough niche that leads the way and shows other eReader manufacturers that there’s a demand for this type of device, then maybe it will excel, but it has a tough job on it’s hand… but who knows, maybe it will become the hardware of choice for Android hacks!

more info nookcolor

Anyone that’s in magazine or print design and isn’t looking seriously at the iPad and eBooks is on very dangerous ground… it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee

Magazines of Tomorrow

Shift Happens, Are You Ready?

November 30, 2008

I recently found my notes from a presentation I gave 13 years ago, unfortunately I no longer have the presentation (not that I would have software that could open it now even if I could find it). You need to remember that at the time a 56k modem was considered warpdrive access to that little known thingy-me-jig called the internet. Upon seeing the presentation, everyone I knew thought I was nuts, as the basis of the presentation was simple All music will be available online.” Now that was bad enough, but I also went on to say, “it will be free, or so cheap that it might as well be” as the distributors and artist will make their money in other ways, concerts, t-shirts sales, merchandise etc (ie giving the audience what they want… mmmmmm sounds like tribe building to me, but that’s another discussion!)

OK, look at the music industry in the past 10 years then think about what I said back then, just how crazy was I? although I did say All music not just some of it (that’s still to come, and it will), but prices are hitting rock bottom, the labels tried DRM, it didn’t work (DRM free did), they tried to keep prices high, that didn’t work either, they were too slow to move with the tide. You only have to look at the likes of Jamendo to see my 13 year old predictions coming to fruition, entirely free, good quality, legal music downloads, if you like the music enough you can pay money directly to the artist through the site, but it’s your choice entirely.

The movie industry is doing the same, they think they’re safe due to movie file sizes, but they’re not, data speeds are going up, compression improving, portable players increasing… DVD’s have a 2-3 year life expectancy, HD-DVD & Blu-Ray was undoubtedly the last physical format war, everything will be online & instantly available very very soon!

As they say, “Shift Happens”, at the turn of the century the petroleum motor car replaced the standard mode of transport at the time, the horse & cart, did this end with the demise of the horse, far from it, it gave rise to horses having an improved quality of life, being used for sport & leisure activities only, rather than be flogged everyday to pull a cart. In fact the motor car gave everyone a better quality of life, if the motor car hadn’t been introduced to London it would have ground to a halt, as it was knee deep in horse manure and the stench unbearable. Now it’s the turn of the petrol based motor car, to be replaced by electric or more likely hydrogen based cars completely within the next decade, will this be the demise of the petrol car, not entirely, as enthusiasts will be able to use their treasured “classic” petrol based cars purely for leisure guilt free, in the knowledge that they’ll be using their hydrogen based car for the weekly commute to work.

The newspaper & journal industry is on it’s last legs, they appear to have forgotten what they’re really about, which is delivering “News” not paper, paper is merely the delivery mechanism, but it’s days are numbered, newspapers & books are a dying breed, being referred to as the “souvenir dead tree format”, there will be those that cling on to the printed page, just like those that still listen to vinyl (but they’re a tiny number, even iTunes alone, downloads more songs now than CD sales worldwide!). I know people argue that they like the tactile feel of real books & have a bond with them that they could never have with an electronic version, and I have to agree with them to a degree, but you have to face up to the tide of change. Plus this is only true when it comes to story books or novels, when it comes to manuals, reference books, cooks books, self help etc who has this same bond? Let’s face it, no one… are you really telling me you’re going to get attached to “Dreamweaver For Dummies”, no you’re not, plus you’d probably prefer an electronic version anyway, one that you can bookmark & search through instantly, plus contains electronic versions of code & examples.

So there’s a mindset shift that needs to happen with those that like to read paper now, but the next generation won’t have the same limitations, they’ll simply want whatever is most convenient and most up to date, no paper is the future. Another limiting factor currently is the hardware, reading on a computer screen or an iPhone isn’t great, eReaders that use e-Ink like the Kindle are so like reading paper, you hardly notice you’re not, plus they have numerous advantages. Some argue that because paper books are real tangible objects, they’re more permanent than their electronic counterparts, but actually the reverse is true, paper rots, it gets dirty, you can tear it etc. Corrupt an electronic file? simply re-load a new file and it’s as good as new, in fact it’s probably been updated with new content. I’m not dead set against paper, it has it’s place, but it’s time for the publishing houses worldwide to wake up, accept the sea of change, and prepare for it, otherwise they better be ready to move over when the flood happens & the new ePublishing houses appear on the scene giving the audience what they want (now where have I heard that before?)

So will eBooks, replace paper books? absolutely… but at the end of the day, does it really matter which prevails, as long as more people are reading & writing, who cares how it’s delivered, we’ll all be winners!

Just Give Me The Darn Thing!

November 28, 2008

If you’ve got something worthwhile of my time then let me read it, but don’t make me jumps through hoops to get it. Why do I have to register with your site first to get it?

ask yourself the following:

If I don’t register with you…
I’ll never know how great what you’ve written is, you had your chance but you lost it, I won’t be back.

If I register with you…
but it’s not up to scratch, sending me emails isn’t going to make any difference, your emails are just annoying me and have been relegated to my spam folder, I won’t be back.

If it’s just sitting there in the open and if it’s good!
I’ll pass it on to others and recommend they do the same, so in turn spreading the word about you.

If it’s good & I’m interested…
you don’t have to email me to remind me, I’ll be back anyway, as I want to hear more, plus I’ll probably want you to have my contact details.

So, say something worthwhile & I’ll make the decision to listen & contact you, not you.