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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ebooks and ebook readers

You know what's disgusting? Making a cup of coffee and, after said cuppa is made, realizing that the milk you put into it has gone bad -and went bad several days ago. Curdled milk is gross. Ruined coffee is tragic. But I did go uptown and buy some coffee and soup, so we'll all survive and get on with what I wanted to write about today.

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Namely, ebooks and ebook readers. If you've been following along, you know my mom's birthday was yesterday (she claims she's 29. I think she's just bad at math). We got her a Kindle (she lost her shit for a second after she opened it, too; it was pretty cool).

When the Kindle first came out, I barely registered it, and that registering was mostly one of disgust. I didn't think ebooks were going to be anything major, and I thought the idea of an ebook reader was pretty appalling. "You want to take my paper-and-ink books from me? I don't think so, pal." But I was wrong (it happens sometimes. Take note, because this is a very rare occurrence).

Ebooks are pretty much the shit. The future. The next big thing in publishing. And, as I remarked in a writing chat about ebooks, if you bet against technology...you're going to lose.

I'm not saying paper books are going to go the way of the dinosaur, however. More like the buffalo -they won't go extinct, but they'll be rare, intentionally cultivated and taken care of and newer, faster, flashier things will catch the international eye. This is neither good nor bad, in all honesty. It just is.

Ebooks are fast, convenient, cheap, easily marketed, save on production costs, open up incredible avenues for authors and readers -and they're already taking over. No joke. I'd post the sales figures I saw at one point but I lost the link (if anybody has info on this, feel free to leave it in the comments) -let me put it this way: phenomenal. Unbelievable.

The cost of an ebook is low. Really low (generally speaking). No paper, no ink, no distribution costs to speak of. That takes a huge amount of cost out of making a book. Ebooks are a wonderful answer to technological questions about books.

Ebook readers still have a bit of a way to go, though, I'll be honest. The technology is relatively new and still has some bugs. And, admittedly, there are things a paper book can do that an ebook reader cannot. I would not take a Kindle into the bathtub, ever. That's an expensive piece of equipment. Books can, more or less, survive a bathtub experience -and one book is not 1,500 books, which a Kindle can be. Real books can't get viruses or be mysteriously reclaimed in the middle of the night when a publisher decides they didn't want people having electronic copies of a certain book. Anybody remember that? That was nuts. They can't really do that with physical books.

The main reason I had resisted ebook readers up until recently was that you can't write on the ebooks. If I can't write on a book, I don't want it. Sorry, no thanks. I have to be able to highlight passages, underline descriptions, write awful things about incompetent editing in the margins and generally make my mark on a book to really enjoy it -and now I can. Sony ebook readers come with a stylus and the ability to mark up ebooks.

I'm so sold you don't even know how sold I am. If the devil appeared to me and said, "I'll give you a Sony ebook reader in exchange for your soul!" I would tell him, "Thanks, but I'm waiting for Santa to bring me one. Try me again after Christmas, just in case Santa doesn't come through." That's how sold I am.

Seriously, though. As a writer/publisher/editor/reader, ebooks are awesome.

As a writer, you can write, publish and sell your product directly to the public (which is made vastly larger by the Internet) and make a much greater profit than by going through traditional channels.

As a publisher, you can reach a huge market of people while dramatically reducing the cost that goes into creating a book. Not only does this allow you to publish more (and hopefully maintain a high caliber of talent), you can do it inexpensively.

As an editor, you can work with electronic texts anywhere without carrying huge manuscripts around with you -and that is awesome.

As a reader, you can access a bazillion books cheaply and quickly and without losing more storage space. I want my own library someday, because I'm a book fetishist (not in a weird way), but for practical purposes, an ebook reader will be what I'd use on a day-to-day basis.

What are your thoughts?

3 comments:

  1. I like what I've seen of the one Barnes & Noble announced today. I'd link you to the story but your comment box won't allow me to past it lol. 259, dual screen, and the ability to lend books to other owners of the device for up to two weeks. Slick!

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  2. Yeah, I saw that too! The only question I still had about it was if, like the Sony, I'd be able to write on it. That's really the selling point for me, although the Nook does look better than the Kindle

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  3. Oh...........feel the awesomeness...touch the awesomeness...yes, I know you are jealous :) j/k I love my Kindle 2. Yes, I'd prefer the 10 inch screen of the DX but for 200$ more? I don't really need the size and also the DX doesn't have the left page turn which, while nice for me, is crucial for your sister. If someone is getting a reader for textbooks - check out the DX because it has PDF capabilities as the Kindle 2 does not.
    I see these readers in the same light as cell phones, the mfg. are going to keep improving the technology and dropping the price, tempting us to try the latest models. I really don't have a problem with that :)

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