My Own ePublishing Rant

Electronic publishing is the future!  Embrace e-publishing!  Paper is dead!  You publishers are idiots, ignoring this new market!

Please.

I love watching the techno-geeks howl and cry about this.  I even agree with them.  Read here and here for some excellent examples.

But . . .

The problem with epublishing, one that neither of these people has addressed, is quite simple–NO ONE WANTS TO READ THE STUFF.

Okay, “no one” is a slight exaggeration, obviously.  Electronic erotic romance (say that three times fast) is thriving.  Some authors of my acquaintance are poised to make a major move into e-publishing their own work because they’re pretty sure they have the e-readership.  So someone out there is buying and reading.  However, such readers make up only a teeny-tiny percentage of the market.  Why should this be?

Here’s the answer: reading at a computer screen feels like work.

It’s not comfortable, it’s not cozy, it’s not relaxing. You can’t do it at the beach, in the waiting room, or in your favorite easy chair. Amazon is trying to wean people onto its Kindle e-reader, but until the vast majority of book readers buy an e-reader, publishers aren’t going to be willing to put full effort into e-publishing.

And there’s the solution.  Once e-readers are in everyone’s hands, then the market for e-books will be worth a publisher’s serious time.

There’s an easy way to bring this about.  Computer and phone companies have been doing it for decades.  If you want to have a market for e-books, simply do this:

GIVE THE E-READERS AWAY FOR FREE.

Remember when cell phones were only for businesspeople and the wealthy?  We regular folk couldn’t afford the cell phones.  My, how things change.  The phone companies are responsible, of course.  When was the last time you paid full price for your cell phone?  What’s that?  “Never did,” you say?  Exactly!  The phone companies subsidize cell phones until we, the customers, get them for free or nearly free, creating a market.  Now the demand for the newest cell phones is huge, and the phone companies have an endless supply of customers for their cell phone plans.

Remember back when computers only had drives for 3 1/2″ discs?  No one wanted a computer with a CD drive.  Everyone said, “Who needs that much memory?”  So computer companies simply started including them in computers for free.  They also gave out a couple of games that could only work with the expanded memory a CD offered.  Everyone got a taste of what a CD drive could do, and abruptly demand for CD drives skyrocketed.  Now such drives are standard on every computer, and the CD drive makers have an endless market for their product.

The publishers need to work with computer companies and distributors to get free or extremely inexpensive e-readers into EVERYONE’S hands, not just the hands of technophiles and businesspeople.  Amazon needs to GIVE the Kindle away, perhaps in conjunction with a publisher, and with it set up a plan for a certain number of e-books available for download per month, just like a cell phone company gives you a certain number of minutes every 30 days.

A full-blown market for e-books doesn’t exist, and it won’t puff into existence on its own  The publishers need to create it.

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  1. 1. Ben

    Even better would be to make sure every Blackberry or iPhone had a killer e-book app. on it. People are trying to condense the number of electronic devices that they have to carry around, which is how phones ended up taking pictures and playing music. If you can put e-books onto portable devices people are already buying, you don’t need people to buy and carry around an extra device for something they might not think they need.

  2. 2. Simon Haynes

    Just one data point, but I’ve paid full price for every one of my phones. I buy them without a contract and make them last about 4-6 years each time. I’m still using the same phone number I got in 1994 or so.

    On the ebook front, this post of mine includes my thoughts, and the comments trail includes discussion of what a low-cost ebook reader should look like & do:

    http://halspacejock.livejournal.com/97501.html

  3. 3. Arachne Jericho

    One word: iPod.

    Apple rarely gives anything away for free. And yet they revolutionized the way we buy, carry, and listen to music anyways, through the iPod and the iTunes store.

    Mostly I think the Kindle needs to come down in price. Free is not necessary, because there actually are a lot of tech geeks around—otherwise the iPhone phenomenon would be a fluke (though some argue it still is; I don’t know, one out of two people where I work has one, and we don’t work for an Apple-friendly company. And it’s a rather large tech company).

    Of course, I am a bit biased. *g*

  4. 4. Glacia

    America is one of the few countries to give mobile at discount rates/free as long as you get a contract. Back in asia, peeps tend to buy a new phone whenever they feel the need (some doing it every 6 months) and usually never have to deal with a contract.

    It isn’t about giving away ebook readers. It’s about the content and tech. The ipod and iphone are hits because they are innovative and easy to use. Also, people already have music files to transfer to the devices.

    I adore ebooks. I still go out and buy paperbacks of books I love, but as a college student who moves apartments each year, I can’t cart around my books – both textbooks and novels. I find it much easier to just get ebooks. Unfortunately most books are not available in eformat. Currently, I head to the library if I want to read something only available as a regular book. I’m far more likely to buy it outright in ebook format instead. I may only have a laptop, but in the long term ebooks are far more comfortable for my lifestyle than regular books.

    I’d also be far more willing to buy textooks in ebook form instead of going to second hand stores and getting them there.

    I’d buy a Kindle if there was more content available. It’s as easy as that.

  5. 5. Liv

    I don’t like reading on a computer screen, never did and never will. It makes me not want to read. I want to smell the book, touch the book, be able to carry it everywhere. I don’t like reading on screen, not that much text anyway. And I don’t think I’m the only one.. so giving away Kindle for free, wouldn’t work with my kind of people, would it?

  6. 6. jjay

    Hey – ‘they’ already gave out the eReaders. Well, you already bought one – your cell phone makes a pretty good reader. Good enough that I would not spend $400 on a kindle or it’s ilk just yet.

    http://www.booksinmyphone.com distributes free books that run on your phone as java applications. A very simple, clean reading experience – the text the whole text and nothing but the text. I have a data plan so from the mobile site I can find and install a book in a few clicks.

    For novels I find it compelling right now, and the experience will just get better over then next couple of years as screen sizes grow and the tecos get more flexible.

  7. 7. Roland Dobbins

    I’m a Kindle user, and I even have some DRM-free MobiPocket books from Baen Books on my mobile phone.

    And I’m appalled at the ignorance & Luddite attitude evinced by a supposed author of speculative fiction.

    Since buying my Kindle in November of 2007, I’ve purchased ~70 books from Amazon. That’s right – *70*. I know some other Kindle owners, and their purchases of books have increased greatly, as well, due to the convenience factor, reduced cost, and lack of a physical storage penalty in terms of shelf-space.

    The distribution costs are zero, and Amazon pay authors whose works are available via the Kindle 30% royalties – and that’s 30% of the *retail price set by the author/publisher, even if Amazon decide to discount the book*.

    The Kindle is very much a 1.0 device, but even in its embryonic form, it beats a paper book hands-down for anything except color photography and illustrations (a future version will get there, I’m sure). Those of us who are Kindle early adopters are by and large technophiles, which has a high degree of correlation with readers of speculative fiction; and many of those buying Kindles are *not* technophiles, but see this is a gadget they can use in their ordinary lives, *because it makes it easy for them to buy books and to read them*.

    The market for e-books is here now, and if you aren’t a) taking your own steps to ensure that you’re represented, and b) ensuring your publisher are doing the same, you’re really missing out. Just ask Charles Stross or Peter Watts or Charlie Huston what e-book sales – and, more importantly, the *buzz* created by those readers – have done for them.

    You’re behind the times, and it’s obvious that you don’t understand the technology, you’ve never actually tried it yourself, and you don’t understand your target market nor your crucial leading fan-base/buzz mechanics. I’ve never read any of your books or even heard of you until now, and it’s obvious why I haven’t; and, given your lack of insight or willingness to do even a bit of research in this arena, I’m not inclined to spend any money with you now, or in future.

  8. 8. Karen Wester Newton

    I think Roland is more than a tad harsh, but one point he makes is important. There is a unique creature called a voracious reader. She/he (they come in both genders but are more often female) reads a lot of books! And after a while, the shelves fill up. I know voracious readers who won’t buy hardback or even trade paper because they take too much room! What e-books offer is the chance to buy every book you want to read without running out of shelf space.

    You make some good points about pricing, but I don’t think Amazon will be giving away Kindles any time soon–although since they can track who orders what, it might be an option for literary “high rollers” who buy a lot of books (see voracious readers, above)– sort of like a free hotel room in Vegas.

    E-books are the classic catch-22 situation. You need lots of e-books before people will buy e-readers, and you need an installed base of e-readers before publishers will publish in e-book form.

    E-books have been a long time coming, but I do believe the tipping point has been reached.

  9. 9. Steven Harper Piziks

    Actually, Roland, I have no control over whether my books are offered on Kindle at Amazon or not. I’m not a big enough name to force that sort of thing with a publisher. (My contracts state what e-rights go where.) And I didn’t say there’s no market–I said the market’s not fully developed, and the publishers are missing out.

    The people like you are out there on the forefront, buying e-books and enjoying the ease and convenience, but the majority of the book-buying public is techno-shy. There are also the occasional book-buyers. You’ve bought over 70 books for your Kindle, but there are lots of people who only buy a few books a year, and they balk at Kindle’s price as a result.

    I ask my students (I teach high school for my day job) how many of them are interested in e-books, for example, and none of them are, even the ones who read. But when I ask how many would use an e-reader if they were given one for cheap or free, about half say they’d give it a try.

    You’re absolutely right about the convenience of Amazon’s Kindle. The trouble with it is, people aren’t buying it in big enough numbers to make the publishers say, “Let’s get involved.” The publishers are standing back and waiting to see what happens, which is a great shame because there are a certain number of people who do read e-books, and there would be a lot more if they were simply handed the technology to do so.

  10. 10. Bran Fan

    Wired magazine made the same point in the March issue. The title was “Why $0.00 is the future of business.” They used the cell phone company anaology too, and the famous razor blade example. (Gillette used to practically give away the razor and charge a lot for the blades.) And don’t computer printers work the same way? The printers are cheap, the ink costs a fortune.

  11. 11. Sharon Lee

    Erm.

    We’ve (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) have been selling e-editions of our novels and short stories (first through Embiid and now through Baen Webscriptions) for some time, and I’d have to say that the market exists now, and that plenty of people *do* want to read this stuff. My support for this assertion is the only measure available to an author: we get royalties, steadily, from the e-editions of our work.

    Part of the difficulty that faces the expansion of the ebook reader market is the continuing battle between the DRM and the unlocked camps. Until one (most likely) DRM-free protocol is available on all ebooks, there’s going to be a depressive effect on the number of people who want to read electronic books.

    That said, I personally know manymanymany people who think it’s not just wonderful, but necessary, to be able to carry their library with them, so that they’re never without something to read.

    Karen is correct when she says that people can’t buy ebooks that aren’t on offer. I think that there is, now, more than enough market for e-versions that an author would be foolish not to make their work available in that format.

  12. 12. Skip

    I’ve strongly considered buying a kindle, but if I did so I’d probably be amazon’s worst nightmare because the odds of me buying their DRM-infested crap is zero. Instead, I’d be using it to read works bought from other providers who don’t treat their customers like criminals.

    For purchased books, especially, DRM is a complete non-starter. I have books I bought over 30 years ago that still get an occasional reread. Are you going to be able to use kindle-format books in even 10 years? The experience with DRM schemes so far says the answer is no.

    Now, on the other hand, if they wanted to offer a subscription service, like netflix but with books, where I was paying a monthly fee for, say, access to the back catalog of a bunch of publishers, everything over a year old, say, and then pay an extra fee for access during that first year, DRM that all you want, because I’m not “purchasing” anything.

  13. 13. Arachne Jericho

    Heck, I use the Kindle to read stuff from other folks all the time. And the Kindle. And I know folks have scripts that strip the DRM away from the Kindle books; you just need your serial number, which you have.

    (Similarly for FictionWise books with DRM. And, going strong for some years now and not eBooks in any way, music from iTunes.)

    At the moment I’m reading books from other folks/Amazon book at a ratio of around 50/50. I don’t really mind the DRM, because the Kindle’s around as long as Amazon is around; they can’t afford to pull out, unlike Wal*mart. (Heck; they couldn’t pull out from the Segways.) Plus I imagine there’s a day when—just like with the record companies—publishers other than Baen and Tor will be convinced that DRM-free is the way to go. Amazon’s MP3 store was DRM-free from the get-go, building on top of the success of iTunes; I have no doubt they’ll be there again, because Amazon doesn’t have the hubris of Apple—heck, MICROSOFT doesn’t have the hubris of Apple.

    Amazon’s been around for over 10 years now. It’s not a mere little .com. Heh. I should know. I’ve been watching it for some time now.

    Digital is still a young industry. Give it time.

  14. 14. Skip

    You may want to re-think that. Sure, Amazon will still be around, but will the kindle scheme be? Ask Microsoft about their PlaysForSure DRM’d music. If Microsoft can’t afford to keep a couple of servers up for more than 3 years, you really think Amazon will?

    BTW, if you really have something that will strip the DRM from a kindle-format work, that would go a long ways towards making the format palatable. But I didn’t find such a creature via a quick google. All I found was a way to strip off the DRM of secure mobipocket format books, so as to then be able to use those on your kindle.

  15. 15. Robotech_Master

    Kindle books are basically just Mobipocket by another name. So the tools that strip Mobi DRM will work on them too.

  16. 16. Robotech_Master

    Mr. Piziks:

    I think you’re creating a false dichotomy here—your post seems to imply that the only kind of e-books are Kindle books, and for e-books to flourish the Kindle has to be given away for free.

    I’d just like to point out that there are already literally hundreds of thousands of people who did get their e-readers for “free”. Or at least, they got them for zero marginal cost, which is almost the same thing.

    E-books originally moved into the realm of commercial ten years ago when the Palm Pilot came out. People who bought their Palm for other things, like tracking appointments, suddenly discovered they made great e-book reading devices with just a little bit of downloading. And suddenly Peanut Press and Fictionwise got their start.

    Ten years later, they’re both still going strong (though Peanut Press is now known as eReader, and owned by Fictionwise) and both have very large title catalogs.

    And the iPod Touch and iPhone have come out and sold in the millions of units. And people who bought them for other things (playing MP3s or making phone calls) are again discovering that they make great e-book reading devices with just a little bit of free (in the case of eReader or Stanza) or inexpensive application downloading.

    Some people find the iPhone and iPod Touch screens to be too small. Whether they’re the majority or not, I don’t know, but I do know Steve Pendergrast of Fictionwise has said that over 300,000 books have been downloaded from their stores by iPhone/iPod readers alone since the eReader iPhone app came out. So obviously, not everybody feels that way by a long shot.

  17. 17. Richard Herley

    I agree with Karen Wester Newton (#4): “E-books are the classic catch-22 situation. You need lots of e-books before people will buy e-readers, and you need an installed base of e-readers before publishers will publish in e-book form.

    “E-books have been a long time coming, but I do believe the tipping point has been reached.”

    Indeed it has. Have you seen the number and incredible rate of downloads for Stanza?

    There are more and more ebook displays coming out, and they’re getting better, faster and cheaper. Once they crack the $100 price-point, the market will explode. Conventional publishing is expensive and ridiculously inefficient: and it keeps most authors firmly and permanently in the wrong place.

    My own rant on this subject is at:

    http://www.richardherley.com/FTCebooks.html

  18. 18. Pete Tzinski

    The interesting thing is, I was previously a big “meh” toward eBook readers, until I started making more use of Project Gutenberg and realized how much I’d love to have all of THAT on a single slim eBook reader. Not Amazon’s Kindle. I don’t care for the Kindle, and I intensely dislike Amazon and their strongarm tactics toward publishers and the book community (they do not have your best interests in mind, folks, they aren’t out to improve the book industry).

    And while I don’t mind the Sony Reader, I think the article makes a good point…if I had a gadget at a price I could reasonably afford, I would buy it. And even if I didn’t buy a load of books for it, it would be filled with the classics, and non-fiction volumes that I’d like to have around. I have books I love on marine biology which you have to lift with your knees, or your back will collapse. I’d like a thin ebook of that.

    As with Apple products, the strategy here (for me, for now) is to wait three generations or so, and see what the Readers look like then.

    I don’t know that it quite works, the Apple/eReader comparison, by the way. It must be remembered that iPods, iPhones, et. al., they can play a COOL card. They can play commercials with funky dancing and Black Eyed Peas and people go “GADGET COOL MUST BUY NOW” to an extent that you can’t with an eBook reader. You aren’t appealing to the same crowd, the same gotta-getta attitude that can be aimed at Playstation 3′s, and iPods, see.

    What I mostly do is, since my cell phone has a music player built in, I put audio books on it. And I quite like doing that. I’d like an eBook reader with good speakers and a headphone jack too, plz.

  19. 19. Alma Alexander

    I freely admit I am behind the times. Part of this is simply economics coupled with personal criteria that haven’t yet been met – the kind of e-reader that would make it worthwhile for me to exchange reading a, yanno, BOOK instead of text scrolling down a screen just hasn’t been invented yet. Yes, Kindle is cool – but there are things about it I just do not like, it’s still expensive and limited, and frankly I do my WORK at a computer screen and when I relax I like to do it holding a real book rather than squint at another screen and exacerbate my incipient carpal tunnel fiddling with more buttons.

    That said, some of my own books are available as e-books – not all, but some – and since my royalty statements reflect the fact that they are being purchased and read in this format it is something I cannot ignore in terms of market share. Given that it’s only a subset of my books that are so available, though, it is still my hope that someone who trips over these books in electronic form might be nudged into buying the rest of them in dead-tree format when they discover that the e-format may be unavailable. Either way, though, the publisher holds the rights to the e-books currently, in ALL cases, and it’s out of my hands, period – it’s a decision made by the editors and the marketers and the beancounters in my publishing house. If it brings in new readers, that’s cool. If not, well, uh, yeah. There’s still the books out there.

    But honestly. Speaking for myself, I just haven’t graduated to reading for PLEASURE on a computer screen. Because I work at one, it feels too much like work. I’d probably start editing someone else’s prose by sheer damned instinct – I mean, it’s on-screen, so it can’t be finiished and PUBLISHED, now, can it…? [grin]

  20. 20. Zora

    I’ve been reading ebooks for seven years, with a cheap (under $100) monochrome Sony Clie PDA. Comfy? You bet. I can hold it in one hand and turn pages with the scroll wheel. I use the tiniest font available and take off my glasses. I’m nearsighted, so holding the screen a few inches from my nose works fine. It’s got backlighting, so I can read at night without turning on the light. Lie down on the bed, curl up with the PDA, and enjoy. If I fall asleep, my Clie turns itself off.

    If my part-time secretarial job holds steady for a while longer, I’ll probably be upgrading to a Palm J22 PDA, which several friends have recommended. Under $100.

    I can carry dozens of books with me. I have thousands of books on my computer, filed neatly in my elibrary. When I want to read something, I just browse in my library, then transfer my picks to my PDA.

    The vast majority of my ebooks were FREE. Want the complete works of Dickens? Sure, download them for free from Manybooks.net. But wait, there’s more! I enjoy reading Victorian novels. Many of the books I’d like to read (Charlotte Yonge, anyone?) are out of print. I can get them for free, online.

    (I should perhaps add that I also make the free ebooks; I volunteer at Distributed Proofreaders. As of this morning, we’ve published 13,620 free ebooks. Some of them early SF. Greg Weeks is overseeing a project to turn the entire 1930 run of Astounding Stories into ebooks.)

    I also buy ebooks. Not often, because I’m poor, but when I can. I just spent $19.95 for a copy of Anathem, Neal Stephenson’s latest, from Fictionwise. Instant gratification and a book that I can read without risking wrist strain. It doesn’t take up any space and it doesn’t have to be dusted.

    I’ll be happy when I can get rid of all but a few of the thousands of dead tree books cluttering my apartment, keeping only the books that are best read in paper (sewing and crafts books, frex) or that are old and rare (my 1816 copy of A Guide to True Peace).

    I was a lone weird outlier in 2001 and I’m getting less weird by the minute.

  21. 21. Arachne Jericho

    Skip: And the iTunes store could have died a stricken death. Mind you, it would have taken Apple down with it. To me, Kindle is iPod in more ways than one, although Amazon itself wouldn’t tank right now if the Kindle store died. Although that wouldn’t, really wouldn’t, look good.

    It may just be me, but Kindle/Kindle store and iPod/iTunes parallel too closely. DRM sites only shut down when they don’t win. Which is why the iTunes store is still around on mostly DRM; Amazon MP3 downloads is trying to kill it, but DRM is just three letters to lots of folks.

    It might be the case that the Kindle store loses, but watching the fight between iTunes and Amazon MP3 (and now Video Downloads) is interesting.

    Also: Google mobi2mobi. You’ll also find the MobileRead forums interesting if you haven’t found them already (I assume you have).

    I’m fondest of Feedbooks for the public domain that’s definitely public domain (after 1923/before 1970 copyright law starts to get nasty in the US and internationally). Not just because their eBook formatting is wonderful with real chapter jumps and suchlike, but they support a wide variety of formats and have extensive author information in every book (along with links to get more of that author’s books). Their formatting is on par or even better than the ones from the Penguin/Dover eBook collections. Their Little Brother edition is also better than the “official” one on Cory’s site.

    Right now the works of Shakespeare are being put on Feedbooks.

    Also, Feedbooks has a web app that creates special files that let you download blog updates to your reader, Kindle or not. How cool is *that*? And all free, too.

    Pete: I kind of reserve my hate for Borders and Wal*mart. Actually, Borders will kill itself before it damages publishing overmuch, although they’ve already managed to hurt the mid-list. Wal*mart has never been about variety, and yet its market is probably bigger than Amazon’s.

    Amazon continues to sell mid-list stuff. Since most writers, if they’re lucky, will mid-list, um… you know… it’s nice to have a venue that will always sell your stuff because it helps them and has never hurt them. (Physical bookstores, on the other hand, almost always get hurt when a book doesn’t have great sell-through. Thus the dynamic of returns becomes an issue… and this is all part of the reason why Borders is being run into the ground by a maniac at the moment.)

  22. 22. Robotech_Master

    Another point (which I brought up in the pingback post as well, but don’t know how many people actually click through to read those):

    The cellphone companies can afford to give cellphones away because they’re so cheap anyway. Most giveaway phones are only $50-$100, or else they knock the equivalent amount off of more expensive phone. Why? Because they know that they can make it back in just a year or so of service.

    But they haven’t been able to get an e-book reader of any quality much below the $300 mark yet. It would take an awful lot of $10 e-book sales to make back what such a giveaway would cost—especially since there are enough free e-books out there that one could read for the rest of his life without ever having to buy a book.

    When e-book readers dip below $100 is when you’ll start to see them really take off, giveaway or no—because more people will be able to afford to buy them for themselves.

  23. 23. Gary Gibson

    I am temporarily relocated to the Far East from Europe, and although I wish to keep reading, I do not wish to lug a couple of tons of paper books home to the UK when the time comes. Partly motivated by this, and partly by my desire for shiny new toys, and even more by the difficulty of obtaining english-language works in Taiwan without suffering the penalty of high postage costs, I purchased a cheap Sony Reader 500 from Ebay. It’s wonderful. It’s wrong to call it a screen – it is better to think of it as a ‘sheet of e-ink’. ‘Screen’ puts across the wrong idea.

    In terms of economics, the argument in favour of a free device collapses in view of the sheer quantity of legally freely available works currently out there in order to promote the authors concerned, and I have certainly discovered some new favourites. On my ereader just now, I have:

    4 Cory Doctorow titles
    4 Peter Watts titles,
    Dogland by Will Shetterly,
    Bold as Love by Gwyneth Jones,
    Ant King by Ben Rosenbaum,
    Geek mafia by R. Dakan,
    Postsingularity by R. Rucker,
    Content by Cory Doctorow,
    Neptune Crossing by J. Carver,
    Orphans of Chaos by John C. Wright,
    Accelerando by C. Stross,
    Black & White by L. Shiner,
    Eifelheim by M. Flynn,
    Move Underground by N. Mamatas,
    Halo by T. Maddox,
    Burn by JP Kelly,
    Soul by Tobsha Learner,
    Flash by LE Modesitt,
    The Baum Plan by J. Kessel,
    Deadstock by J. Thomas,
    City of Pearl by K. Traviss,
    Crystal Rain by T. Buckell,
    Grey by J. Armstrong,
    Four & Twenty Blackbirds by C. Priest,
    Farthing by J. Walton,
    2 titles by K. Schroeder,
    Old Man’s War by J. Scalzi,
    Monsters & Other Monsters by M McHugh,
    Metrophage, by R. kadrey,
    and Painkillers by S. Ings.

    And these really are just a few – slightly under forty, altogether. All previously or concurrently published by major publishing houses and a few well-respected indies. There are quite a lot more out there I could name if I took the trouble to source them, but these are only the ones that happen to currently be on my machine.

    Your argument that the problem with an ebook reader should be free is partially correct, partially wrong, and has in fact already taken place. The device is not free – but if one wishes, a very great deal of the content is. I’m neither a fast or slow reader, but to work my way through the amount of legally free texts that pique my interest would take me between one and two years. The cost of purchasing these works in paper format, even discounting postage & purchased back home in Britain, would most certainly exceed that of the device itself. And that’s not even counting the stuff that’s out of copyright and available via Gutenberg etc. Hence, the motivation you suggest would necessary in order to buy such a device is, in fact, already present, albeit in a slightly altered form: the device is not free, but a great deal of the content most certainly is.

  24. 24. Gary Gibson

    Just a quick addition – I’m not sure if I was clear enough in my comment; I mean to say that the list above is of books that the authors have made available online as free ebooks, often in a multitude of formats.

  25. 25. RfP

    “Even better would be to make sure every Blackberry or iPhone had a killer e-book app. on it. People are trying to condense the number of electronic devices that they have to carry around”

    Ben, you make a good point; the e-publishers should work to make e-reading easy on smartphones of all types. However, most people still have phones that are primarily for voice use, and many avid readers are wedded to something approximately book-like. So greater usage of e-reader devices is important alongside iPhone and Blackberry applications.

    “I don’t like reading on a computer screen, never did and never will. … so giving away Kindle for free, wouldn’t work with my kind of people, would it?”

    Liv, the Kindle and the Sony Reader are not backlit “screens” like your computer. They use eInk technology that looks like paper. That’s why getting more eInk readers into consumers’ hands could make a big difference to widespread adoption.

    It’s done the trick in my case. I despise reading on either a backlit computer screen or a small iPhone screen, but once I tried the Sony Reader, e-books suddenly made sense to me.

  26. 26. Lisa L

    Okay, I’ll chime in and say that I’m one of those readers who has avoided ebooks for many of the reasons that Steven has listed. If an ereader was cheap, I’d give it a try, but right now it’s just to costly a gadget for me to want to risk it being tossed aside. Like the way I used my palm pilot for a month and never touched it again. What a waste. Eventually something came out – the iphone – that made it worth my while to get a PDA again. So I imagine someday my ideal ereader will come out, but a really cheap one that uses eInk would get me into the e-book market a lot sooner and then maybe I’d buy up to a fancier reader.

    (And yes, I could read on my iphone – I even installed an ereader, but the screen is a bit too small for my comfort.)

  27. 27. Kelly McCullough

    Roland, this bit:

    Amazon pay authors whose works are available via the Kindle 30% royalties – and that’s 30% of the *retail price set by the author/publisher, even if Amazon decide to discount the book*.

    might be correct for some authors who have work out via the Kindle. It is not true for all books released on the Kindle. For anyone who has a prior contract with their publisher for electronic editions the royalties will be paid based on whatever percentage of the price of the book the published and author have agreed to for eformat books. For example, my book, CodeSpell, (Penguin/Ace) is out in Kindle edition and the numbers you sited are incorrect for my contract. In that particular part of your response, you are simply flat wrong. That said, I think the ebook is here now and only getting better.

  28. 28. Timothy

    I realize that I am so very late to this conversation, but I have to say that for me everything that Mr. Piziks stated in his post has turned out to be spot on. I just say this for those who may stumble across this interesting discussion as I did.

    The point Mr. Piziks makes about the e-reader being free before the customer will by the e-book describes me to a tee. To prove this I write this post on 2/19/2010 eight months shy of two years after Mr. Piziks original post and I have to admit I just bought my first e-book yesterday. Something I steadfastly resisted for several years. Ironically, my first and only purchase was Mr. Piziks’ books (writing as Steven Harper) The Silent Empire series. And to tell the truth I hold very little interest in buying many more books. That’s because as some have stated, including Mr. Piziks, I find reading from a computer screen unappealing. I just don’t like it. That’s it in a nutshell. You may not agree with me, you may think I am out of touch, old fashion, take you pick or come up with your own I don’t care: I Do Not Care For It.

    I only purchased the books because Amazon finally released a Kindle App designed specifically for my Blackberry phone. An app they gave it away for free had they not done so, I would still be firmly in the ‘I am not interested’ category. I am sure that Amazon only did this because they realized that there was a market out there that they could not tap simply because those customers, customers like me, who refused to pay an exurbanite price for one more electronic item to carry around. If the whole idea is convenience, then why do we need so many different electronic devices to carry around? That has always been my contention thanks Amazon for finally seeing it my way.

    Oh, I have to say the whole I have no space for my books is a copout. You get rid of the books you don’t want, keep the books you do, you gain the extra space for the new books you want to buy. I realize that hindsight is 20/20, but come on if Amazon would have been just relying on those you who were looking for extra shelf space the Kindle would have never taken off. And as for convenience, that is and always will be relative. What you find convenient to carry around will always differ from your neighbor, when break that argument down to the individual it never hold up, so just give it up.

    So for those of you who doubted Mr. Piziks’ assertion that people would be more likely to purchase e-books if the Kindle were free and/or able to read on their phone, here I am, the man who has waited for (how long has it been since the Kindle hit the market, I can’t remember) two years plus, as living confirmation and proof. Yes, proof that there are people out there who think in practical terms. Yes, living confirmation that there are people who are not fooled by the “you have to get in on the ground floor” mentality. Roland you should pay close attention even you can be wrong.

  29. 29. Richard Sutton

    Great post! I’m late seeing it, but the points made are very important, and still very valid.

    Here’s an underscore: The last time publishers (before this time they were just printers) created a market, they bound up stories into an easy-to carry form called books. What a concept.

    I agree with Steven, but as of today’s date and Amazon’s sales figures, it’s happening anyway.

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  1. Steven Harper Piziks on e-books | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home
  2. ePublishing Rant | Saille Tales – Author Richard Sutton Blog and News Site

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spiziks

Steven Harper Piziks was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but he moved around a lot. Currently he lives with his wife and three sons near Ann Arbor, Michigan. His novels include In the Company of Mind and Corporate Mentality, both science fiction published by Baen Books. Writing as Steven Harper for Roc Books, he has produced The Silent Empire series. He's also written movie novelizations and books based on Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and The Ghost Whisperer. Steven currently teaches English in southeast Michigan. When not writing, he plays the folk harp, dabbles in oral storytelling, and spends more time on-line than is probably good for him. Visit his web page at http://www.sff.net/people/spiziks or find his LiveJournal at http:spiziks.livejournal.com/ Visit site.

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