There's a post over at GoodEreader, called The Vision Problem – Why eReaders Are Not Widely Adopted in Public Schools, in which it is claimed that the reason schools haven't adopted ereaders en masse is those awful disability-activist groups that insist that if there are two blind kids in a school who can't use a Kindle, nobody gets to have one:
Honestly, you figure that the average school might have roughly one or two kids out of the entire student body that has severe vision problems. There is also a number of dyslectic kids in the school system too, you would figure that a few students would not limit wide-spread adoption. These few students are all represented by a number of very large organizations that take their rights very seriously. Last month the National Federation of the Blind filed a court motion against the Sacramento Public Library Authority because the library was lending NOOK e-readers preloaded with ebooks to its patrons.
(Plz to ignore the grammar/spelling errors in the quote; not my fault.)

Aside from the overt ablism--which I'm so not up to screaming about right now--the author is missing the point. Ereaders aren't avoided by schools because "whenever they try, advocacy groups representing disabled people shut them down," which is what the article says.

Ereaders aren't promoted in schools because ereaders are lousy for academic use. And all the new bells-and-whistles being added aren't helping that one bit.

They are so lousy, I'm gonna have to rant about it under a cut tag. )
I've noticed that generally people seem to fall in instant love with ereaders. I didn't, and I'd really like to, in hopes of being able to haul around somewhat fewer dead trees (although much of my book collection is unfortunately not a good candidate for digital replacement).

Is there anyone out there who was not immediately enthused, but grew to love an ereader anyway? What helped? Better technology (the new eInk screens are significantly better than on my old Sony)? A different model? Something else?

At present, I pretty much only use my ereader for traveling. I feel like the advantages of print books for me are a) I find them more comfortable to read, b) higher contrast (possibly resolved by new eInk?), and c) I enjoy being able to flip through books (I also enjoy being able to search books, but mostly do this on my computer). Also, for many of the backlist books I love, ebook conversions are often extremely poor in quality, and I resent having to hack a file to fix formatting and OCR errors when I can get a perfectly fine paper copy, and may already own one. So I don't know, maybe these are insurmountable issues?

Anyone else been in this boat and found a way to make ereaders really work for you?
I'm now working with a digital publisher, which means I get to see a lot of ebook covers and overhear a lot of discussion about ebook covers. So I went looking for info (I'm the web-research person, because my Google-fu is good and my skim-and-read rate is phenomenal) and came up with a roundup of posts about ebook cover design, ranging from technical to artistic to commercially-focused.

What I concluded:
  • Every frickin ebook store on the web wants different shapes of ebook covers. Find a good compromise, and expect to make a few variants anyway.
  • Readability, or at least recognizeability, at thumbnail size (about 150 pixels high) is crucial.
  • Covers are not part of the story; they're part of the advertising.

Jan Marshal at Tips For Authors: eBook Cover Design Advice from @Jan_Marshall
"• Aim to create three covers, then choose the best. You don’t have to stick with these; you can wander off at a tangent as you work.
• Look at covers in your genre and analyze how they work. Sticking with genre conventions, make something about your cover better or more striking. (Easy to say!)"

9 (or 10, depending on how you count) more blog posts about ebook cover design )
Posted earlier today at my personal account:

It seems I cannot go through my backlog of RSS feeds without encountering at least one smug anti-ebook graphic or text statement. I wonder if anyone who creates or reblogs these sentiments knows or cares how important ebooks have become for people who cannot read standard print books because of a disability.

For many people, disability is not a real thing that affects real people who live everyday lives and want to do things like enjoy stories, keep up with current events and culture, or seek knowledge of things from the past. It's aggravating that people who profess to love books so much have no concept of people who are slightly different from them valuing the same things even though they can't enjoy books in exactly the same format or container.

Books in electronic format help people with many different impairments access written information.

A person with low vision (legally blind but with some usable vision) may require large print in order to read visually. Large print paper books are available, but the title selection is limited, they are very expensive, they go out of print much more quickly than editions with standard size type, and they are much larger, heavier, and more difficult to hold than standard print books. This last part is especially galling for someone with an additional disability that affects arm and hand strength and dexterity if they must hold the book close to their face instead of being able to rest it on their lap or a table top. In addition, paper large print books are often available only in 14 or 16 point type, when many people require 18, 24, or even larger type sizes in order to read comfortably for extended periods of time. With most ebook formats and display devices, fonts can be adjusted to the size needed, and some color screen devices even support high contrast (yellow or white text on a black or navy blue background) which is helpful for many people with low vision.

Braille readers also benefit from ebooks. Braille books are even harder to come by, and even larger than large print books. In most countries, braille books are only available from government-sponsored lending libraries or a handful of nonprofit organizations that serve blind people. A library may have only one copy of a book, and of that copy becomes lost or damaged, a replacement may never be made. My own local braille lending library lost thousands of books a few years ago due to a mold infestation caused by lack of funding for adequate climate-controlled storage facilities. The embossing plates for those books were not kept on hand so those books can't be replaced. Limited copies mean that someone may have years on a waiting list before they get access to a book they want to read. Even if you are first in line, it can take a couple years for a new book to be made available in braille, if it even gets transcribed in the first place. Having access to a digital braille file or a DRM-free ebook that can be displayed on a refreshable braille device means being able to have access to more books, more quickly, and even keeping a personal archive of files of books you've enjoyed. Can any of you print readers imagine only being able to get books from the library and not having the option of buying your own copy to keep? Never getting a book as a gift?

Text-to-speech is another way that ebooks are useful to people with print disabilities, and not just blind people: dyslexia, other learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, brain cancer/tumors, epilepsy, paralysis, cerebral palsy, stroke survivors, etc. If you can't see the page, interpret symbols, hold the book, turn the page, etc., you might be able to hear and process synthesized speech to gain access to the same information. Some text-to-speech programs are optimized for specific circumstances, for example programs for people with dyslexia may highlight the word on the screen as the computer reads it out loud, which can improve comprehension over simply hearing the words from the computer or an audio recording of human speech. DAISY, the combined ebook and audiobook format for people with disabilities (and a close relative of EPUB) is especially suited for this purpose.

And, finally, some people who may not be able to hold a print book and turn paper pages may be able to use assistive technology to use desktop, laptop, or tablet computers to read ebooks in that manner.

So before you snark on ebooks, think about who you may be snarking. Since few people reach old age without acquiring a significant disability, you may be short-changing your future self.
Print books are a page-based layout medium. What the producer puts on the page is what the receiver sees, barring exotic technological interventions. (Colored filters for dyslexic readers, magnifying lenses, complex projectors that put the content up on a large screen... whatever. Those aren't how most books are read.)

Ebooks, on the other hand, are a tagged-language medium. What the producer creates is the suggestion of format; what the receiver views is filtered through hardware and software to display something like that intent. In order to make reflowable text, able to grow or shrink or display sideways in the device, the creator can't decide exactly where the line breaks go, how deep the margins are, and how many words fit on a page. The exact appearance of the ebook will be based somewhat on the software and hardware used to read it.

This is a very basic overview of what kind of things make ebooks look different from each other & from print books. )
March 4-10 is Read An Ebook Week (officially, read an ebook month in Canada) and for the last couple of years I've wondered, does fanfic count?. I've been pondering the difference between "documents" and "ebooks" a lot recently, because I'm involved with a publishing company and I'm also converting some fanfic to ebook formats. The subject matter is similar. The writing quality is similar. I do about the same work for both kinds of documents… only, when I'm done, some are "ebooks" and some are "just fanfic."

"Ebook" is currently a word lacking a useful definition. It stands for "electronic book," and forty years ago, when Michael Hart started Project Gutenberg, that was an obvious and simple thing. Book in hand, computer on desk (or on wall, depending); transfer contents of A into container B; poof, ebook. Not so simple anymore… a "book" means something (although that's a bit blurry, too; are pamphlets "books?" Are magazines?); we (mostly) recognize a "book" when we see it. Everyone knows what a "book" is. Or at least, what a book was, a few decades ago.

I mean, aside from 'made of paper and has a cover.' )
Roundup of news & blog links, several of which are just confirming what most avid ebook readers already know. I've wasted far too much time in the "bookery" section of my Google feed, and I'm inflicting some of the results on the rest of you.

Publishers Desperately Trying To Protect Print Sales, And Failing
Despite all the breathless talk of “transmedia” and “metadata” and the furious rate of backlist digitization, the overarching strategy was clear: protect print sales at all costs, and pray that e-books will plateau soon (and that international markets won’t take to them with quite the same relish).

Paying authors more might be the best economics for publishers in the long run
If the stores and other intermediaries they rely on go away, they have to find other ways to sell their books. That’s a challenge, no doubt.
But if the authors don’t play along, they have nothing to sell. Making deals with authors is the publishers’ price of admission to the game.

More links! More quotes! )
JA Konrath goes over his ebook predictions from 2009, notes his success/failure rate (8.5/11 right), and adds some new ones. I don't normally play the prediction game, but I think I know this topic, and I think he's right about some, and missing the mark on others. While I could reply at his blog (and I might, and post a link to here), my thoughts got too long for a simple comment, especially at a blog where I don't normally participate.

His predictions; my reactions )

All of which is fine for authors (well, most authors), but he doesn't discuss at all the future from the readers' perspective: How will I find books? How much will they cost? Who will I buy them from, and how much hassle will that be? Will proto-geek children become geeky bibliophile teenagers if they read on a screen? How do I find good stuff that isn't topping anyone's bestseller lists yet? [How] Can I bring a stack of ebooks to my aunt/spouse/grandfather in the hospital in three years? Will ebooks be inheritable?

I don't have answers for those, and I'd love to see more exploration of them. I think the future for authors, for the business side of things, has some points of clarity, although a lot is still open; the future for readers, other than the very basic "hot DAMN we are gonna have access to a lot of ebooks" is much more blurry.
elf: Mozzie with Bonsai (Minimalistic)
([personal profile] elf Sep. 10th, 2011 02:25 pm)
Ten years ago, when this question started going around and getting commercial attention, the answer was "it's a book you read on the computer." Followed by, "...or a special device made for reading books that you can read on a computer." Possibly rephrased a bit more formally, but the essential elements were: E + book, electronic book. Digital version of a book. Simple, right?

It was *relatively* simple when most people confined it to "digital versions of books that had been printed." The less-simple parts included formats and what's-really-a-book; Gutenberg dealt with both of those. )
Lots of articles on the internet about "the future of publishing." Some of them are well-written and fascinating; some have carefully considered bits of historical explanation; some are wild speculation; some are fearmongering propaganda. And there's several of those on all sides of the debates.

The more I read? (And I read a *lot*.) The less I care.

I am not, except in abstract, concerned about "the future of publishing." I am concerned about access to educational literature, entertainment text, reference works... but I'm no more worried about industry trends than the average person is worried about whether advances in the energy industries are going to change what kind of stove they have. Gas, electric, something else... the point is, I want to be able to cook on it. Avidly tracking green-vs-unsustainable energy systems doesn't really affect whether I'll be able to make a grilled cheese sandwich in another decade.

I looooove books and reading, so the future of publishing fascinates me--but I don't have to let it affect my life much. As Dean Wesley Smith said, books are not produce; they don't come with expiration dates.

For starters, consider the time issues: )
Rowling has finally decided to release the Potter books as DRM-free ebooks* and even physical bookstores are freaking out. (They've been "banned from selling" the ebook editions. This is a problem, because, of course, brick-and-mortar stores sell so *many* ebooks now; this will be a major blow to them. WTF?) Publishers are quick to insist that this is not a game-changer, not a major shift in publishing habits. (I'm with Wired: I think this is book publishing's Radiohead moment.)

Konrath is crowing that he was right a year ago when he said that authors, not publishers, would eventually destroy the publishing industry, if publishers didn't figure out what they actually had to offer. The WSJ says that other authors could be inspired "to self-publish when their deals come up for renewal or demand higher royalty rates than the 25% of net sales that most publishers offer today on digital editions."

Aww. Authors might notice that they have the right to set the terms for their work. Publishers might have to figure out what they've got that's worth 75% of the sticker price for the life of the book (or the life of the author + 70 years, twitch). And we'll get to actually find out if the last several years' of unauthorized ebooks** prevent the legit ones from selling.

* Current info is that the ebooks will be watermarked somehow, probably with buyer's name & either acct # or purchase order # like DriveThruRPG; I assume this'll mean they're locked PDFs.

** If anyone didn't realize there are Harry Potter ebooks already, the rock you're using for an umbrella is too big.
Archive of Our Own is an excellent source for free eBooks. Every single story posted on Archive of Our Own is free, DRM-free and is available for download in four formats: mobi, EPUB, PDF and HTML.

'But wait,' you say, 'Archive of Our Own is an archive for fanfiction. I don't read fanfiction!' Well, you are in luck, because Archive of Our Own has a very broad definition of fanfiction and thus a number of stories which may appeal to non-fanfiction readers. For example, do you like Regency romances or reinterpretations of fairy tales?

Try Lord Wolfe and the Ape-Leader (30887 words) by faviconwho_la_hoop: The sensible Flora Pilkington is delighted to be asked to accompany her cousin Emily, a wealthy heiress, on a sojourn to Bath – even if seventeen-year-old Emily is something of a ninny-hammer. However, when the dashing but mysterious Lord Wolfe rescues Emily from Terrible Peril, causing her to fall quite in love with him, Flora becomes deeply suspicious. Just who is this Lord Wolfe? Why does he persist in winking at Flora in such a deeply uncouth manner? Why does he refuse to attend all evening engagements? And what is the insufferable man's dark, awful secret? (For she is quite convinced that he has one.) Flora determines to find out, whatever the danger to her reputation...

Have you been enjoying (or enjoying panning) the recent zombie apocalypse fiction trend? Or perhaps you like your C. Wright Mills and Michel Foucault-centric sociology with a slice of humor?

Try Many Forms of Resistance (2323 words) by faviconamalnahurriyeh: No one had ever expected a critical theory conference to end so poorly. The worst you could usually expect was that someone would get wine thrown on them.

There are many short and longer stories in fandom categories at Archive of Our Own which, if they were to be published, would simply be considered fiction. You can browse the shelves of any US bookstore and find fictionalized history about real historical people, and re-interpretations of Shakespeare's plays, Jane Austen's works, or the Odyssey. You can also find all those categories at Archive of Our Own.

A list of fandom categories for non-fanfiction readers, a guide for how to browse AO3, and how to tell what's worth reading. )

Archive of Our Own is well worth everyone's time because it's chock full of great free (and DRM-free) eBooks. Take a chance and try it as non-traditional publishing source for free eBooks; you might be pleasantly surprised. Have fun browsing and happy reading!

Note: If you've found some great stories on AO3 which you feel might appeal to someone who wouldn't consider themselves a fanfiction reader, please feel free to leave it in the comments! More recommendations are good for everyone.
elf: We have met the enemy and he is us. (Met the enemy)
([personal profile] elf Jun. 18th, 2011 12:25 pm)
One of the recent topics that gets brought up in ebooks-vs-print discussions is "you can't show off your library of ebooks." This is often said sarcastically, as if it were promoting elite snobbery to want to show off a book collection--Having a bookshelf full of big books lets you showoff to visitors exactly how educated and cultured you are. An unclutter site admonishes that Bookshelves are for storing reference books, books of great value to you, and books you plan to read. Bookshelves are not for trying to impress other people. Often, it's implied that this is an advantage of ebooks--once everyone switches to digital, we'll stomp out those arrogant people who fill their home and office shelves with "fancy" books they've never read.

As if "impress people" were the only reason you'd want a rack of books that other people could read. As if nobody keeps a lending library in their home (don't we pay taxes for those?) and nobody uses books as an honest method of home decorating: instead of posters, here's 1000 stories I care about. Here's the art that touches me; here's a list of people whose words have influenced my life.

This is my sadface, because I never like realizing there's things ebooks can't do as well as pbooks. )
By popular demand (I said "I should make a list" and four people said "I'd read that list"), I put together a list of 10 great publishing blogs, with recent sample posts. These are not "the 10 best publishing blogs on the net," or at least, not necessarily so. They're not necessarily the most accurate, and they're certainly not unbiased. But they're all active and cover many aspects of publishing and ebooks, and perhaps the most important message they push is "find out what's really going on, so you can make the decisions that work best for you."

I worry about giving these too much weight; I'm sure that I've left off some excellent wonderful blogs. These aren't "the ultimate list of ebook publishing blogs;" they're "blogs Elf watches and thinks about."

10 recommended ebook/publishing-related blogs )
If you're interested in the business end of publishing, ebook, traditional, or other, you need to check out Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog. (AKA Kristine Grayson and Kris Nelscott.)  She has two very interesting posts up on the number of sales of ebooks the Big Six are reporting vs. the number that are actually being sold, and how writers are getting screwed on their royalties.

Royalty Statements
Royalty Statements Update

Apparently, some of the Big Six publishers are significantly underreporting the actual number of e-books sold on writers’ royalty statements.

I heard from dozens upon dozens of traditionally published writers last week, and to a person without exception, they had all looked at their royalty statements and found discrepancies like the ones I found. Some—and I find this terrifying—had the exact same numbers reported on their statement as were on my statement.

That’s not possible, folks. In a six-month period, each individual book title sells a different number of copies than another individual book title, even if the titles are in the same genre.

But within one company at least, the one I was most familiar with, several of us had identical e-book sales for the same period. Some writers in that company who had published books in a series had identical e-book numbers for each book in that series. Again, not possible.

Because of my blog post, at least a dozen writers sat down with numbers and calculators in hand. These writers compared the sales of their self-published e-book titles to the sales of their traditionally published e-book titles, and found startling discrepancies. Even adjusting for price differences (Big Six e-books were priced higher than the self-published books), these writers discovered that their Big Six publishers reported e-book sales of one-tenth to one-one-hundredth of their indie-published titles.

Some of these writers are bestsellers. Their bestselling frontlist novels (released in the past year)—with full advertising and company wide support—sold significantly fewer copies than their self-published e-books, books that had been out for years, books that had no promotion at all.

As I said in last week’s post, the reported sales numbers from some of the Big Six publishers do not pass the sniff test.  I still stand by last week’s statement that this comes not from malice, but from an unwillingness to improve accounting systems to accommodate the new technology.
I hope this all leads to changes in the way they do accounting in the industry.
4. What if I miss the smell of a print book?
Digimonkey has a solution. Wear your paperback as a hat while you read! Well, maybe not. But for those who need that olfactory experience while reading, now you can have the advantages of your ebook while enjoying the smell of a print book with
Smell of Books. As their slogan says, “The smell of e-books just got better.”

Seriously, you need to click on the second link right now and go look at all the pages on that site.


ETA: *dies more*

Ooh! Shiny! New thought about ebook distribution, comparing it not to books, which have high fixed costs and substantial, non-reducible per-unit costs, but to radio--which has high fixed costs, and almost nonexistent marginal costs. Sound familiar? I don't think I'd ever thought of ebook subscription services like this--not as comparable to a book club, but like public television or radio, where a few paying customers were happily supporting the entertainment of a lot more free users.

The Public Broadcasting model for ebooks, by Eric Hellman Did I say shiny? More shiny than that. Wow. )
Gathered from around the web, some from recent discussions, some not so recent. A collection of comments by people who obviously are not in favor of ebooks.

9 Ebook Quotes, with links & some snark. )
elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
([personal profile] elf Apr. 4th, 2011 07:25 pm)
A grad student at U of Tennessee is conducting a survey about the viability of ebook tech for people in their 50's.

He named it Kindle Questionnaire, which I think is annoying, but I still encourage ebook readers in their 50's to go fill out the survey. I'll see if I can get my husband to go through it.
Got caught up reading Making Light recently, where they're talking about ebook scams and piracy (the real kind, where people sell authors' works w/o permission, not the unauthorized-free-copy kind that's harder to prove damage from), and I wound up looking for Rowling's reasons for not releasing ebooks.

Her two stated reasons were "piracy concerns" and something about wanting people to experience "real" books, which I couldn't find a decent quote about; I know it exists somewhere. What I did find instead, from USA Today in 2005:
J.K. Rowling has not permitted any of the six Potter books to be released in electronic form, not even during the peak of the e-book craze a few years ago.
Emphasis added. Oh, my sides hurt. The peak of the ebook craze: 2001-2003. Damn, the web is bringin' the funny today. I am tempted to send Konrath a link so he can share the giggle over the short-sightedness of mainstream publishing.


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