Australian author Shane Jiraiya Cummings is having a Grand Experiment, releasing several DRM-free ebooks on various platforms, and is hosting a Grand Conversation on his blog, with guest posts from several authors and
editors, publishers, literary agents, booksellers, and readers from around the world.
Experts such as Smashwords founder Mark Coker, Queensland Writers Centre and if:book Australia CEO Kate Eltham, Angry Robot editor Lee Harris, anthologist Ellen Datlow, bestselling authors Scott Nicholson and Joseph Nassise (and time permitting, Aussie self publishing success story Vicki Tyley), and many many others will be participating. Will you? Please help spread the word!

He's open to more participants, including from people who aren't "names" in the ebook world (like me, heh), and encourages people to read the conversation and spread the word. The conversation already has a few posts, and they're packed with crunchy meta (professional-flavored meta, so I feel like I should describe them by saying they "contain substantial well-considered information"). Definitely worth reading.
elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
([personal profile] elf Dec. 7th, 2010 07:26 pm)
Someone has to say something about it specifically, right? Google ebooks went live yesterday.

Google's ebook store has gone live. It has an app you can use to read its books on a desktop/laptop, and apps for many mobile devices. It works with Adobe's Digital Editions DRM. Some of the books are read-online only; some are downloadable as PDF/epub. Some of the epubs are just raw OCR (optical character recognition) of the scanned PDFs, which means they're loaded with typos (if that's the word... OCRos?) and the formatting is atrocious.

[personal profile] pir8fancier posted a link (and most of the text) to an article at Is Google leading an e-book revolution? (My answer? Hell no. When you enter a marketplace 10+ years after it's been established, you are not "leading" anything. Google may add new twists to the commercial ebook game, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with, but when an elephant joins the dog-and-pony show, that's not "leading a revolution." Not even if it's a second elephant.)

Still, they'll bring ebooks to people who hadn't tried them before, because they're readable RIGHT THERE IN YOUR BROWSER, no special downloads required. And most of those people will scratch their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about, because book pages displayed in a browser aren't actually much fun to read. Oh, and non-US people? Pretty much screwed. Googlebooks are very limited for them.

I'm not unhappy with the store, but I'm not bouncing with glee, either. I am *sharply* interested in the results of the lawsuit, which are still pending. (I suspect that nothing available in the store is covered by the contentious parts of the lawsuit.)
So, I read a blog called Get Rich Slowly which I generally enjoy.  However, today, he made a post entitled "Are E-Books Cost Effective? The Pros and Cons of E-Books".  It made me cranky because he wasn't reviewing the cost-effectiveness of ebooks.  He was reviewing the cost-effectiveness of Amazon's ebooks and using a Kindle.  He didn't look at any of the other ereaders out there nor did he examine how people might be getting their ebooks if they hadn't been buying them at Amazon's prices.  I have yet to spend a total of $20US on ebooks.  Of course, I've only had my ereader since October and I don't tend to read new books that show up on the NYT Bestsellers list but I expect that I will eventually spend more than $20 on ebooks.  However, that is going to take a while.  Baen has hooked me up.  Not only through their free library but they also give ebooks to disabled readers for free and I was approved for that program.  Plus, the number of books that I've read and loved that are now in the public domain is quite large. 

So, I've gone from "ereaders - meh" to writing long missives when someone tries to generalize the entire ebook experience based on Kindle. 

Yahoo!News blog has a regular topic (I'm guessing it lasts a week or so, but I really have no idea), which is currently about The Future of Books. They'd like comments; the post went up on Wednesday, and there are a few more than 180 comments at the moment. As is normal for these things, there are plenty of "smell of books/feel of leather" comments, but also a high number of comments from people with ebook devices. I can't see a way to show more than 10 comments at a time, which is annoying. From the article:
Is the ability to carry a bookcase’s worth of literature in a thin electronic tablet jeopardizing the future of paper books?

Stanford University's library director, Michael Keller, seems to think so. The shelves of Stanford University's new engineering library will hold just an eighth of the books the old library stored, NPR reports, and Keller expects that eventually shelves will hold no books. Librarians now encourage engineering students to access periodicals from a laptop or mobile phone, for instance.
My comment )
Seems like Amazon has dropped the price of Kindle 2 to $189 to undercut the Nook.

The ebook reader wars begins.....
The prices of Nooks are going down. According to Engadget Best Buy and B&N will be selling a wireless only Nook for $149 and the current Nook will drop to $199.
According to Gizmodo, Borders are going to start selling Aluratek Libre ebook readers for $120, seriously undercutting the prices on ebook readers. They are getting closer to that $100 price point that most folks want to pay for an ebook reader.
I posted this in my journal a few days ago by accident. (I'd meant to post it here, and just utterly not noticed which journal I'd set it to.) So some of the phrasing here may be a couple of days outdated--these changes have officially gone live, but we haven't seen how they've affected all the ebookstores yet.

April 1, "agency pricing" went live for ebooks. This has the potential to drastically change the way ebook stores work.

Five of the "big 6" publishers have switched their ebook sales away from normal retail systems, wherein they sell to the bookstore at ~50% of retail price; the store sells the book to you at 100% retail price minus whatever discount they're pushing this week. (Random House is the one holdout, and its reasons are probably not altruistic.) The old method allowed Amazon to price bestsellers at $9.99, even when the official digital price was $20 or more, by selling at a loss to bring in customers.

Several publishers were upset at this practice, claiming it caused people to devalue books and it cut into hardcover sales.

Enter the iPad, going live soon. And the new iBookstore. And Apple's new ebook sales contract, setting ebook prices based on pbook prices and requiring that books sold in its store not be undersold at any other site. Enter the "agency" model, where the bookstore acts as "agent" to the publisher. Publisher sets price; bookstore gets a pre-approved cut of that price. No negotiation. No discounts. Except that maybe Apple gets to provide discounts; cue screaming and price wars.

Right now, several ebook stores are missing books from the "agency five" while they're sorting out new coding/sales software. No idea if they'll be back or not. The good (?) news: Stores will have to compete more on the basis of site features, which may mean we see better-designed, more interactive ebook stores.

TeleRead had been posting almost hourly updates on the state of the industry over the weekend, and the Mobileread forums are discussing the issues non-stop. I expect a solid barrage of posts in both as we start to see the actual changes roll out.
Here's a link to a Princeton study on use of the Kindle in a university class setting. It has the advantages and disadvantages you'd expect. The materials used were provided by the instructor, and there's no DRM issues. Students were able to move the materials onto a PC if they wanted to. Not being able to do that to back up ebook purchases is my biggest objection to the current ebook sales. We get to keep our paper copies; why can't we insure that we can keep our digital copies? Anyway, this study has interesting results
Background: Amazon has been clashing with big-name publishers for a while now, over its $10 bestseller prices. Publishers are unhappy because they don't want the public thinking new bestsellers should only cost $10. (They are not, it should be noted, losing money--Amazon pays them the full value, and takes a loss on those sales.)

So. Recently, Macmillan (who owns Tor books) apparently insisted they put bestsellers up to $15. Not necessarily all of them; just that they have a max cost of $15, not $10, for bestsellers. In response, Amazon pulled Macmillan books from its virtual shelves. Among the drama-bits involved is the factoid that Macmillan is partnering with Apple to be involved in something iPad-ish; details are, of course, unknown, so speculation is intense.

Details are blurry and ranty at Scalzi's Whatever, BoingBoing, The NY Times, Mobileread, VentureBeat and several individual LJ's. Comments at the more bloggish spaces include a lot of standard clichés and confusion about ebooks. (Bits about whether ebooks are, or are not, "worth" more than $10. Misconceptions about DRM, and polite corrections thereof. General bitching about Amazon. General bitching about the publishing industry. Anti-piracy ranting. Pro-torrenting ranting. "Authors deserve to get paid for their hard work!" ranting.)

I am *so* not up to entering this debate and playing Ebook 101 Informer at the same time.

Most of me is cheering about this. Not about the authors getting screwed out of sales because the companies who publish them are in a fight with the company that owns the store that sells their work; that part sucks. But only through this kind of megacorp posturing (really, could someone write the Macmillan/Amazon hatesex slash already?) are we going to get the kind of *change* that will let consumers & creators find ways of connecting that make both groups happy. Right now, the corps are getting in the way, because they're trying to use business models that no longer work. Their marketing departments are panicking, trying to figure out how to force the public and the authors to continue to use those models, despite obvious options that work better for everyone... except for stockholders in the megacorps.

Let Amazon & Macmillan bash each other to little *shreds*--a plague on both your houses!--and let a dozen small digital publishing-sales houses appear in their wake, ready to sort slushpiles, edit writing, and promote new books. Let authors start insisting on keeping their ebook rights so they can sell those to the company best able to exploit that market, just like they do with their foreign sales rights. Let readers learn to shop at a dozen stores because shopping at Fictionwise, Baen, Freya's Bower, and Smashwords is *four mouse clicks*, not four drives-to-store, find-parking-places, pack-purchases-in-back-seats. There are plenty of ebook stores other than Amazon... let us find them, browse them, and use our dollars to let them know which of them are doing it right.


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