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. )
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.
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.' )
The more I look at Mark Coker's announcement about the Smashwords changes to comply with PayPal's demands, the more annoyed I get. The EFF posted their obligatory rant about free speech, but I'm focused on a different aspect: Coker's semi-apologetic, semi-defensive post.

He does a terrific job of implying that these are reasonable, sensible new rules, and that it was just kind of an oversight that he didn't have them in place all along--while *also* implying that he's so, so sorry about how this affects authors and readers, but he just has no choice. I hate this kind of duplicity.

The new rules (or possibly, new enforcement of existing rules; PayPal's always been anti-some-sexual-content, but may not have been so specific in the past) require ebook stores to not carry books that contain "bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica." Of course, none of those are actually defined; this is another case of "all DECENT people will know it when they see it, and agree that those are Horrible Things that all DECENT people should not want to write or read."

Coker supports this approach to censorship.

What he says about each of those points )
I read a lot of publishing & ebook related blogs. (Including Teleread.) That means I see a lot of links to other blogs, that I don't regularly read, and forum discussions in places I don't normally hang out. And *that* means I see a lot of posts that express opinions I sharply disagree with, and after over a decade of getting into screaming flamewars experience with online debate, I've realized that very few bloggers (or anyone else, really) love to have a total stranger show up after they post something controversial just to say "dude, you are so damned wrong about that."

In this particular case, I don't think she's "horribly wrong" as much as "has a skewed perspective."

She's comparing the price of ebooks to the price of songs, by word count, and pointing out how hard authors work, and how they deserve to be paid for that, and how buying a car doesn't entitle you to free tires, and therefore buying a Kindle doesn't entitle you to free or even cheap ebooks.

I never thought an ereader entitled me to free books )
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.
Amazon's talking to publishers about a "digital library" or subscription ebook service, like Netflix. I like the idea; I can't see it working, at least, not soon.

Movie contracts have had, for many years, a provision for royalties for broadcast; adapting that to paid-subscription broadcast instead of open-public broadcast is a lot simpler than creating a provision for broadcast from scratch. Book publishing contracts generally don't have a clause about rental royalties--because when books are sold, the new owner can rent them any way they want. Selling digital access is a licensing fee that doesn't fit the standard contract structure, and authors are likely to be suspicious of whatever they're offered.

Especially given the bad accounting and rights grabs and bizarre royalty change demands that publishers are often prone to; authors have little incentive to just agree to whatever terms publishers suggest for subscriptions.

Not impossible; just unlikely in the current quagmire of legal, social & technological issues )
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: )
A couple of days ago, [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll posted a list of women SF authors who got their start in the 70's (LJ crosspost), and I happily copied out the list, bolded and italicized as appropriate, and then looked over my results and thought, huh. So, these other authors that I don't know... they probably wrote some great stuff. Some of them are names I'd heard of and *know* they've written some shiny books, which I just never had or got around to; some are total strangers to me, and they must be at least noteworthy to make it onto the list. (I'm assuming that more than 50 women wrote at least one SF book or short story in the 70s, and that these are prolific, award-winning, or groundbreaking authors.)

So I went looking for their ebooks (because I don't read paper anymore if I can avoid it), and... damn. About half have nothing available at all. A handful only have DRM'd ebooks (and you can guess who those are); the rest tend to have a small selection, often a few short stories only.

20 with DRM-free ebooks )

I didn't list Amazon books; other than being sure that the Agency 6 books are all DRM'd, I have no way of telling if a Kindlebook is DRM-free. A handful of others have ebooks available (Anne Rice and Kurtz's Deryni novels are both available from Agency 6 publishers; a few others have DRM'd ebooks available) but almost half are out of print entirely.

This, THIS is why we need copyright reform: so that important works of art & culture aren't lost, so that our children can read the books that were important to our childhoods. Because waiting another 50+ years for some of these to hit the public domain means "by the time this book is freely available for copying, not only is there almost no chance of commercial value, there'll be no cultural context for it."

Much of science fiction ages poorly; we're now able to look at the books of the 70's with a critical eye, noting what worked & what didn't, what guesses were right and which were entirely off-base. In another 50-100 years? Nobody will care who predicted cellphones and who thought we'd have colonies on the moon by now. Nobody will understand how groundbreaking some gender-focused stories were. Nobody will know why it mattered that the name on the book jacket was a woman's name.
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. )
While I don't think we'll be seeing lower prices in the mainstream ebook market soon (because publishing is an industry that moves with the speed of snails on valium), we are seeing more talk about how the pricing is ... odd. Including, in some cases, from publishers.

Link roundup of news & commentary posts. )
I originally wrote this for Shane Jiraiya Cumming's blog a month ago, during his Grand Conversation about ebooks; it was posted there a month ago. The conversation is fascinating series with input from many authors and publishers, and I encourage people to go read it. (And try out his books; he's got a couple of freebies and a set of very reasonably priced ebooks at Smashwords.) This essay was intended to be "a blog post;" Shane wound up posting it in 3 parts because blog posts shouldn't be 4500+ words long. But since this is DW that allows *cough* 50k word fanfics in a single post, I'm posting it all together here.

Part 1: Customers in potentia )

Part 2: Sell something worth buying. )

Part 3: Make them pay. )
It's apparently Mobileread/Dreamwidth crossover week, in which IP law and ebook piracy have become one of the hot new topics bouncing around the journalsphere. I hesitate to jump in, not so much because I'm not sure what to say, but because I'm not sure what there is to say that Mobileread doesn't have a dozen thirty-page threads about already.

We have discussed this. To death. Beyond death. There is no aspect of ebook piracy that hasn't been considered, counterpointed, analyzed by lawyers (from several directions), critiqued by hackers, patiently explained to newbies, ranted about, and used as the topic for random surrealist jokes. Even the US-centric aspects... MR shies away from discussions of race (of privilege of any sort), but it *is* a firmly international forum, and people from non-English-majority countries have a firm presence; they're quick to jump in and explain how the laws work differently in their country, and how US publishers don't consider them as real customers.

Up for some more hipponecroflagellation? )


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags