If you thought this was going to be a consumer guide, or that I even know what I am talking about on this topic, you may be disappointed. I wrote a stream of consciousness piece on books, ebooks and e-readers. You’ve been warned!
So the iPad has now been officially released in Canada. Great. Now what? I’m certainly not going to rush out and get one. In fact, I’m not really eager to rush out and buy any e-reader right now.
While I may be a high tech worker of sorts (I do wear the clean suit in my office you know) I still like many old ways of doing things, because they work (and are just better). I love social media, but I’d still rather meet people in person, as much as possible.
I know all the advantages of e-readers, particularly the iPad. I’ll eventually get one, once they’re cheaper. At the price they are ($549 base) I can get a decent laptop that’s much more capable. Yes, it’s heavier, but I can do more.
I like the Kindle, but it’s still overpriced. As an e-reader, it’s better because the screen can be read in direct sunlight. I want to sit on my patio and read when it’s nice out.
I like the portability of books and the fact that it can sit on my shelf for years before I read or reread it. I am concerned about electronic books in a number of ways. With all the concern over copyright and digital rights management, I think one thing has kind of slipped by everyone. What about the author?
I would be more inclined to pay the $10 or so for an ebook if I knew the bulk of that $10 went to the author. Instead we have Apple and Amazon, as well as the publishers, taking a rather large cut. I seem to remember reading something about these devices not allowing an ebook to be able to be moved from one platform to the other. That’s like saying I can read in the living room, but I can’t read the same book in the bathroom.
With my wife taking classes at the University of Alberta, we’ve discovered that many textbooks have an electronic option too. What’s the downside? Well, the license expires after a short period of time and you’ve got no work to refer to afterwards (in some cases).
I still have textbooks from my university days, sitting on my shelves and actually referred to on a reasonably regular basis.
What would happen if my iPad were to die but I don’t want to buy another one? Do I lose all of those? And what about garage sales? How am I going to buy an ebook there? How would I lend a book to my friends?
That’s not to say there’s no advantage to e-readers at all. They’d be great to sit somewhere and read the newspaper or whatever. I often find myself watching something like the Discovery Channel and want to check out something I’ve seen on a show like Daily Planet.
An iPad would be nice for that.
I sometimes wonder if the companies that make these things think more about people buying “their” ebooks and getting them locked down in their platform and think less about a useful, universal device that has no issues with data portability. What am I thinking? Of course they’re more worried about locking them down.
I think the ongoing license model can work for some products but I don’t want my books to be that way. For books related to my work (search engine optimization) that would make sense as things change, yes.
My ideal e-reader would allow my books to be lent out, switched from an iPad to a Kindle (or whatever), could be read in direct sunlight, is waterproof (because people still like to read in the bath), reasonably shock resistant, doesn’t use much power and would allow me to surf, email, etc. Oh, and it can’t weight too much. And allows me to use Flash.
Is it out there? I don’t know. I haven’t researched it too heavily. It’s not a big worry. Perhaps some of my concerns are already addressed. Not too worried.
I think that authors could potentially benefit greatly from ereaders, iPads and such. This is the one bright spot in the whole debate about this emerging technology.
Instead of having to go to publishers to get their books published, they can self-publish, and it’s almost as easy as finishing it in the word processor and publishing it immediately. That’s obviously simplistic, but not far off.
So why would the author need the publisher? Why do they need the book store? Why not publish it from the author’s own website? Cut out the middleman and the author makes a hell of a lot more money.
Chapters and Amazon can still play a role, but take a much smaller cut. Hell, why not publish your book as an app through Apple? What does Apple take? 35 per cent? The only issue there is that it’s not portable. I need an Apple device, but it’s one option.
Publishers should be worried
Authors should be fighting to have open standards so they can sell their books from their own site and have them read on any ereader out there. I doubt the big players like Amazon and Apple want this. I’m not sure if the iPad or Kindle will read PDFs at this point. I thought I’d heard they do.
Authors obviously want to make sure they are protected though. I don’t know how they can make it so their book is portable but can’t be copied. They really ought to get the full credit for their works. If you’re going to read it, pay for it. They ought to price the books such that people will think they might as well pay for it, especially when the author is getting most of the money from the sale.
What would that number be? I’m sure authors aren’t making $5 a book now, but if their ebooks were $5, why wouldn’t you pay for it?
Every time a new communications medium comes along, it brings with it claims about how the existing communications methods will die. Most of them are still with us: books, TV, radio, etc. Ebooks will add to the mix of media in their own way, and we will still be able to buy the paper versions. They may become rarer as time goes on, but I doubt they’ll ever disappear.
I’m curious to know what you think. Got an iPad you’re in love with? Kindle DX? Something else? I will buy an e-reader eventually, so I would like to know what other people think.