Sunday, September 26, 2010


At the beginning of August, the publishing world was a-Twitter over the news that a major publisher had dropped mass market publishing in favour of e-books.  Apparently ebooks account for 12% of their sales and that number is expected to increase dramatically.

Let's just see if I, a financial imbecile, understand this correctly.  They threw away 88% of their market in order to increase 12%???  Is there a good reason they couldn't do both?  How much does it cost to produce an e-book?  Why does it cost almost the same to purchase an e-book as it does to buy a paperback?

Then there are the e-book readers. One of my friends loves her Kindle.  The convenience of several books contained within the lightweight and portable mechanism is important to her.  Most of her traveling is done with a backpack.

Another friend likes her Kindle well enough.  She was one of the people who had a book deleted from her device when Amazon chose to no longer do business with an author.  While it's true that no one who buys an ebook actually purchases the book, just the right to read it, that practice alone makes me think long and hard about e-readers.  Digital rights are not the same as print rights. Borders and Chapters don't come into my home and remove books off my shelf when the author is de-listed.  Without my personal information, they don't recommend other books to me either.  I don't want my reading habits to be scrutinized by anyone other than myself.

The e-book readers themselves are confusing. They all seem to follow different rules so if you buy an e-book from one place, you might not be able to view it unless you have a specific device. It's like iTunes. It took me awhile to be able to play music I purchased there anywhere other than my laptop. I have since figured out the conversions but why did I have to?

Don't get me wrong. I have several .pdf files of books from authors I like who publish in that format. It seems to be a very creative branch of publishing with a lot of editors willing to take a chance on new authors.  I would likely try more new writers that way if I could read them more comfortably.

For now, I'm going to stick with my trusty paperbacks.  I like the rustle of the pages being turned, the slight scent of pulp and the heft of the spine.  Just to prove I'm not a complete dinosaur, once I find the app for my Blackberry, I'll download it so I can read e-books on that format.  It doesn't require a major expenditure on top of the book's purchase price.

Until such time as it becomes more convenient, comfortable and a loss less expensive to convert, I'll remain one of the 88% still reading mass market.  What about you?  Convince me.

****There is some great information in the comments. Some helpful stuff.

I was able to view my pdf files in my browser window on my phone. That's great for her but won't do me much good on the plane when I need to turn it off so I'll likely take a trusty paperback.

Our library ebook software only supports three readers so that didn't seem like a good source for me to pursue.

My other concern is my propensity to spill things.  Paper can be blotted. Electronics get fried.

I really don't understand the price of ebooks.  Why aren't they significantly less expensive?

I'm not in one camp or another. I think there's clearly a market, and place, for both.  But to bail on 88% of your customers makes no sense to me at all.


  1. Stragngely enough I've been researching this very topic (actually I don't find it strange at all knowing us). For me, I want to download my research reports so I can review on a crowded subway without lugging tons of paper. Oh and the fact that I could store my patterns is an extra bonus. I already carry so much with me everywhere that I'd prefer one less heavy thing. And I keep losing printouts, so this would be more environmentally friendly. But you know me, I'm just a gadget geek.

    My verdict (for what it's worth) is the Sony Touch.

    Here's why

    Kobo - won't show pictures. Kinda hard when books I'd want have lots of pictures. That being said, it is cheap and free delivery right now, so if pictures aren't an issue it's probably ok.

    Kindle - only takes proprietary books from Amazon - you can't use it anywhere else. I'm already forced to lockin with my ipod, so not keen on another of those.

    Sony - they have three models, but I want the Touch because I can take notes on that.

    I'd recommend going with one that takes the e-pub standard because then you can download files from the library system or lots of other places.

    Big downfall for me right now is none are colour :-(

  2. I've actually bought quite a few e-books, which so far I've read on my computer. e-books speak to the child in me who sees and wants things NOW. Find a new author and want to glom their backlist? Read a review or an excerpt and want to read the book now and it's 11pm? e-books!

    In an ideal world, I would be able to get any book that I wanted to read at the drop of a hat. (Yes, just call me Ms. Instant Gratification.) Unfortunately, with DRM, geographical restrictions, and publishers like St. Martins who don't seem to feel the need to release ebooks, we do not yet live in this world. Sigh...

    I can see my book reading evolving to where the majority of books that I read will be e-books, but I will still want paper copies for my keepers.

    All that being said, I still don't understand the decision that was made by the publisher that you mention.

    Also, I'm not sure yet how I will like reading with my e-book reader. But it must be better than reading on my laptop, which is hard to snuggle into bed with, although I've managed on a few occasions when I wanted to read an e-book in bed. :+)

  3. I just got a B&N Nook this past weekend and I'm enjoying it. It's slightly less nifty as a gadget than its Kindle counterpart, but it will read anything in the EPUB format, which gives me access to library loans as well as everything at the Gutenberg project. It will also read .pdf files(as will the new Kindle), so I can load my own manuscript and make notations on it if I should choose. My main thing, though, was that I don't like Amazon's business practices, so I avoided them despite the shiny new generation of Kindle.

    I will, however, continue to purchase paperbacks. I researched on both Amazon and B&N and found that the paperback price is almost always lower than the ebook price, particularly on bestsellers. This is irritating. For new releases, though, it's much less expensive. But, like you, I don't see the logic in stopping the presses altogether.

  4. I'm not very good at math, but I'm pretty sure 88% is way bigger than12%. Seems like a very poor plan indeed, to not bother with most of their customers. I haven't read the article yet; wonder how the authors feel about that?

    I don't think I would get an e-reader, for many of the reasons listed above: formats, not all authors available, and prices (which really becomes an issue when you take into consideration how I like to shop in used book stores and garage sales for cheap books; and if I want a new release, I can usually find a coupon). Plus, there's the whole thing I seem to have aganst technology in general; I don't rush out and buy the lastest doo-dad. Which means I prefer the old-fashioned format of books, in paper, in my hands, dogeared pages and all. Yes, they take up space, but so what?

  5. For me, the so what comes up when you don't yet have a permant home, when you have to move across an ocean. And must be separated from your books for way, way, too long *sob*.

  6. I'm jumping on the ebook thing as soon as the readers hit my price point. I think Sherri sold me on the Sony Touch.

    One thing that's being overlooked in the 88 v 12 discussion is that "retail sales fell by 25% in 2009" and never picked back up. This is an instance of the publisher actively looking to the future and changing their business model, rather than waiting for circumstances to force them to change.

    I'm not saying that's the smartest decision, but it's better than doing nothing. I hope that they at least did some market research to see that a worthwhile portion of the 88% would switch to ebooks.

  7. Good point, StanMaxX. I would expect the research was done but it would all depend on who was being asked. Most of the readers in my acquaintance who have embraced ebooks are over 35. The younger people read til they were 18 then stopped. Now they all youtube. Nope, that's not a scientific survey at all. I asked everyone who stopped by my house in the last week :D

  8. I'm torn.

    I'm always going to buy my favorite authors in paper. That's a given.

    Right now, I'm experimenting with Kindle for PC, because I have a mini, which is about the size of a trade paperback. I love how quickly I can get a book, and it doesn't bother me to read it on the mini.

    Kobo has a free desktop version, which I tried to test, but you have to own a Kobo in order to download the free desktop version. Go figure. Also, their e-books are too expensive.

    Sony has a desktop version, which I downloaded, but the e-books are expensive. I haven't bought one yet to try their reader.

    I have issues, Keziah, with the whole Amazon-removing-a-book-from-a-Kindle. Once I've paid for the right to have it downloaded on my Kindle, it should remain there until I decide to remove it. End of story.

    I would really like a Sony, but they need to come down in price in a major way. Major. Way.

    That being said, I'm hoping to have an e-reader in the future for convenience in traveling. I always have a book with me. Always.

    Great topic!

  9. Dang, I forgot the Amazon book removal service in my rambling.

    If Amazon sold an ebook subscription service, such that you pay $X per month for access to the ebook library, then they would be well within their rights to remove the book from your device.

    But that's not what they sell. They are selling you a book. Yes, they couch it in service language or whatever, but that is freaking deceptive of them. If I buy a product, I want to keep said product.