eBooks – Trends in Reading

ebooks

Hey Everybody,
I thought it might be interesting to give you the scoop on ebooks/enovels and that whole electronic world coming to a bookstore near you. Michelle Halket at ireadiwrite (the company that published my novel, False Witness) has graciously agreed to do a post that gives you a great overview of the whole electronic book universe. So, sit back and read and see what you think. Thanks, Michelle!
WC

The eBook Primer

For those who love eBooks, like myself, it’s easy to tout their benefits – portable, customizable, instantly attainable, no paper to throw away and my entire library is always with me, (I read on my iPhone).  For those who haven’t taken the leap – by far the biggest complaint I hear is that one will lose that tangible feeling of holding the book, of seeing the words in their typeset as the publisher intended, of the smell and feel of the paper. It’s hard to argue with that.  I don’t see paper books going anywhere; heck, there are people who still swear by their vinyl or photographic film.  But for me, the experience of reading comes not from the paper and ink, but from the words that flow from the author’s mind, creating a time and space in which I don’t reside, carrying me away from myself and my surroundings to the one they created.  And once I was there, in that surreal place, even years later, I remember those words, that feeling the author invoked.  And I simply can’t remember the paper.

So this blog entry is for the naysayers and the non-believers or those who just know very little about them.  I’m not here to convert you, we all have choices in reading and I’d personally like to keep it that way.  But if you happen to be e-curious – read on…

What is an eBook?

File Types: An eBook is the digital file version of a book, much like an mp3 is a digital file version of a song on a CD or vinyl album.  Like music, there are many types of files which can hold eBooks the most widely known is the pdf.  This is a static version of the book, a “picture” of the way the text was laid out in it’s chapters, typesetting, spacing etc.  Other and increasingly popular file types are re-flowable, or allow the user to determine the font, sizing, spacing and paper/background on which the book will be read.  More and more we are seeing an adoption of the epub format as the preferred file format for eBooks.

Protection: To protect against piracy, publishers or stores can impose Digital Rights Management (DRM).  This is a form of encoding or locking the file so that it cannot be copied to other machines or to other readers.  For most large publishers and bookstores, DRM is necessary to protect themselves and their authors.  For those who truly love reading, it is a bane since it limits what the reader can do with a book once it has been purchased and can even limit being able to transfer the file to other machines. We are against DRM since imposing it doesn’t necessarily protect the book from being copied (e.g. I’ve heard recent rumors that a pirated version of Dan Brown’s most recent book appeared online not 14 minutes after it was released with DRM in large online bookstores.)

Methods of Reading: Readers can read eBooks on a variety of machines.  One’s computer is the most obvious choice. A smartphone, like a Blackberry or iPhone, is another.  But increasingly, electronics manufacturers are releasing dedicated eBook reading devices which can have a variety of functions, like wireless network access, single or dual screens, color display, large or small displays.  The Amazon Kindle is a very popular device and was devised to instantly gain access to Amazon’s Kindle store where New York Times bestsellers reside alongside self published titles. That said, there is a bevy of non-store specific readers that aptly and well serve their owners.  For everything you’d want to know about readers, here is a great matrix over at MobileRead.

Where to buy eBooks: Every major bookstore now carries electronic books and this is apparently the only segment of the book publishing industry that is in current growth.  Whether you choose to shop from the majors like Barnes & Noble or Amazon or the great independent bookstores like Books on Board or Powells, they all offer major titles and books by indie authors.  In addition, there is a multitude of self-pub sites out there, like Smashwords or Lulu.  The benefit of buying from smaller stores is that you may have a choice of formats and whether or not they impose DRM.

Overcoming Public Perception

One of the biggest challenges of overcoming the stigma attached to eBooks is that people often have a stereotypical idea of what ebooks are – many think they fall into one of the three categories:

  • A self-help, ‘make-money-quick-on-the-internet’ scheme
  • A technical or how-to manual
  • A way for untalented authors to get published
  • These misconceptions exist because originally this is what most eBooks were.  They were cheap and easy ways for people to get the word out on their book or themselves.  To compound and reinforce this image, there is a lot crap out there. The worst among them is ‘private label book’ – which is a generic piece written to sell to others who can put their own name on it.  Usually, these books fall in the “how-to” category from gardening to MLM marketing. Additionally,  a lot of document sharing tries to tout itself as self-published work.  Neither of these genres does anything to promote eBooks as a viable, credible publishing medium.

    However, if you can put those stereotypes aside I  believe you can see that eBooks have many advantages over paper books from the writer’s  and the reader’s perspective.

    1. eBooks are cheaper to produce:  This refers only to books that are only distributed electronically, (books that are both in paper and electronic versions don’t necessarily follow the same manufacturing P/L).  Therefore, the savings can and should be passed along to the Reader.  The lower production costs results in more authors being published.  Although, I don’t believe that works should be priced at free or next to free – writing is a profession and writers should be fairly compensated, thereby recognizing their contribution to society.  In addition, because of the lower costs of manufacturing, writers can and should receive a larger portion of sales as royalties.
    2. eBooks are portable: I am a big fan of multi-purpose devices and I like reading on my iPhone, a wonderful multi-tasking device.  I have my movies, music, email along with dozens of books – at all times.  Whether I’m flying somewhere or at the beach, I always have a nice selection of reading material with me.
    3. eBooks are environmentally friendly? Some tout the eco-friendly aspect of eBooks, however, I’ve found that most studies are still inconclusive on that topic.  Sure we save the trees that paper books are printed on and the disposal costs of the books.  But the manufacture of dedicated reading devices and their toxic innards might just negate the tree-savings.  That being said, I still feel good knowing that my previously read tomes aren’t moldering away in a landfill somewhere.
    4. eBooks are less exclusionary: Due to low production costs, more authors can get their books distributed without a huge investment.  More authors being published means more choices for readers and the fulfillment of the long tail of the industry.
    5. eBooks appeal to younger readers: Those of us 40 and over may be slow to adopt new technology, but younger readers are in tune and at ease with it.  As one YA author said to me, “This is how kids will read”.  And for her, being in a digital format might be necessary, not just a bonus.
    6. eBooks are here: Just as the book industry migrated from hardcovers to paperbacks, so too will it migrate eBooks.  Paper books won’t disappear, but they are another consumer option.

    Whether you consider yourself a fan of eBooks or not, you are an electronic reader – if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. The idea of reading articles at our computers was completely foreign 20 years ago – not so much today.  Fast forward that trend, coupled with the light speed release of new reading hardware, and you’ll soon start seeing more people adopting the eBook as the ‘normal’ mode of reading.

    michelle halkert logo ireadiwrite
    Michelle Halket is the Creative Director for ireadiwrite Publishing, a digital small press that features writers of literary fiction, poetry and selected non-fiction across a variety of genres.  Their books are distributed to eBookstores worldwide and are available for purchase from their own site at ireadiwrite. If you would like to visit Michelle, click on the company logo above.

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11 thoughts on “eBooks – Trends in Reading

  1. Thanks for the information on ebooks. Given the variety of books available in ebook form it seems odd that people are still categorising them as ‘less’ than printed books.

    Hi Cassandra,
    I agree, however, I think that a lot people just aren’t aware of the fact that pretty much any type of book can be and often is an eBook. People will catch up. Thanks for reading.

    WC

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  2. Very enlightening for this old fart! I am, however, a diehard devotee of printed books. They and I can go down together, I suppose. Interesting coincidence … I was working on a post just today about wanting my grandkids to learn to love hardcover books.

    Hey Girl,
    Yes, I’ll always love hardcover books too -there is just something special about them. On the other hand a damn good book is a damn good book no matter what it’s printed on – don’t you think?

    Annie

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  3. Hi WC – Just discovered your blog and I’m delighted. I’m a fellow ireadiwrite author – they just published my novel Roadkill – and I just love hearing from Michelle, she is a remarkable chick and a maven, you know. I’m also a local computer guru – god, I hate that term – here in Glendale, Arizona and I’m getting all kinds of remarks from some friends and family regarding my book. Things like, “I can’t buy your book, I don’t have a Kindle.” Or, today, “How do I download it, and it’s gonna cost me at least 20 bucks to print the darn thing.” So I think that’s the problem with E-Books at this point. I’m the same way with cell phones, I want it just to be a phone – that works – and I don’t want, or need, all that crap that comes with it – I don’t need anymore pics of the inside of my Jeans pockets. But I can still work it when I need to. But I know a lot of people who really shouldn’t be using a computer, and some of the questions I get would amaze you – step away from the computer, ma’am and keep those hands where I can see them. E-books just have too many moving parts for some people, I’m afraid. I’m always relieved and delighted when I go into people’s homes, when I see adolescent children, and often tell customers, “ask your kids if you get in trouble, they know more than you think about this stuff – and it’s true, if it’s stuff they care about.

    I got my wife a Kindle for Christmas – she’s always wanted one and now I can consider the $259.00 cost a business expense, and she loves it – I’ll have her buy your book and we can see if you’re a maven too; as I suspect you are. My wife is a wonderful blogger, too, although she’s tapered off of late – http://glimpsesthrougtheblog.com – give it a looksee if you can as she’s buying your book as we speak. I like to blog too, but I’m just too busy to keep it up.

    So, it’s really nice to meet a fellow irediwrite author, and your book is now downloaded, and we’ll both be reading it and commenting on the Amazon site when we finish it…

    Hey John, hello & welcome,
    I’ve run into much the same stumbling as you. Family and friends are vaklemped about how to download it, how to read it – a little creeped out by the fact that it isn’t a ‘real book.’ Unlike your wife, none of my family and friends have a kindle or reading device – well, scratch that, I think one has some sort of mobi device but I don’t recall what it is. Most of them had trouble downloading it, blah, blah. Still, I love the idea that people could literally carry around their entire library in one relatively small reading device. It’s kind of cool when you think about it.

    I have to admit though, I too love the books that are made of paper and binding, glue and ink. Guess I just love all kinds of books.

    I will check out your wife’s blog, I love to find new blogs to add to my list. And thanks so much for buying the book. Hope it turns out I am a maven. LOL.

    Thanks again,
    WC

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  4. Writer Chick is a very cool moniker, and I love it. Some folks with sticks up their collective butts find the word chicks demeaning and to refer to yourself that way is too cool for school – cool chicks are, well, cool. I read three chapters of False Witness late last night and am so far, impressed – maven impressed I must say. You should have seen my wife, Maggie – she was so cute as she ‘let’ me use the Kindle – cautioning me as to it’s fragileness and warning that should I break the thing, I’d be so screwed, and not in a good way. You are my first, btw, except for my own book. I love good dialog, and I’m very good at it – you seem to be too, and that’s so important in a good book I think. It makes it flow so much better. I’m quite intrigued with Witness and will read more today – time permitting – and check out my site too when you get a chance – http://www.freelunchmediawiz.com

    I’ll keep you posted on my progress with Witness and thanks for having me, WC…

    Hi again, John
    I’m glad you like the moniker – it kind of happened accidentally and then stuck. Chick a demeaning term? Perhaps but then again I think sometimes people take themselves too seriously. That’s the thing about political correctness, it doesn’t really allow us to laugh at ourselves does it? Darn shame if you ask me.

    I hope you treated your wife’s kindle with the proper respect and didn’t get in trouble for mistreating it. Thanks for the kind words about the book – I really have to start doing some promoting of it – time is always an issue you know?

    WC

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  5. Ah, it’s so nice to see siblings getting along so well – warms the cockles of me motherly heart…

    Digital reading is a leap for most, but given the decline in print books and the meteoric rise of ebooks (I’ve got sales records to prove it) – we’ll all look back on this in a few years and chuckle.

    Happy New Year!
    Michelle

    LOL Michelle,
    So…you are the mommy publisher and we your published baby chicks? Cute.

    I hope you’re right about the looking back part. I could use a good chuckle.

    Annie 🙂

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  6. I know she’s right – her being the head maven and all – and that’s why I hitched my star to her wagon. I’ve always loved the printed book as well, but I also love audio books – unabridged, of course – and have seen much go by the wayside in the past 20 years or so – the typewriter, the audio cassette, videotape, texting, oh wait…that’s made it’s triumphant return – although I absolutely hate it. And newspapers and magazines are on the brink of extinction as we speak. Printed books will always be around, and increase in value. In Stranger’s from the Sky, by Margaret Wander Bonnano – the very best Star Trek story ever, trust me – Captain Kirk has a copy of the ‘novel’ printed up in book form as he is none too comfortable with the very Kindle-like device, McCoy, Uhura and the rest of the crew are using to read the ‘novel’ that puts the Captain in a near coma because he can’t shake the feeling that he was there when it all happened in the book. Intrigued? It’s a great book, even if you don’t like Star Trek, and I highly recemmend it, in case you hadn’t guessed.

    I believe in Michelle and I believe she has made all the right moves for this inevitability, and most of all, I’m waiting. Let the chuckling begin…

    Yup, Michelle is a good one. She’s in the know on this stuff and thank gawd, because I’m pretty clueless. In fact, I may be a bit like ol’ Captain Kirk – old fashioned and liking traditional things yet still living in the futuristic world of electronic everything. Life marches on with or without you.

    Chuckling?
    WC

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  7. In Michelle’s response she says – referring to the rise of e-books – that we’ll all look back on this conversation someday and chuckle, because we’ve all made it big as writers, thanks to e-books. Annie’s comment also refers to this. Go back and check it out and let the chuckling begin…

    Ah…I get it. BTW, I’m Annie. 😉
    WC

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  8. By the way, that Star Trek book was written in the 80’s, and most everyone there had a Kindle

    You mean amazon stole the idea of a kindle from star trek? Wow, first cell phones, now kindles. What’s next? 😉
    WC

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  9. Annie, this is Writer Chick, Writer Chick, Annie… And if someone invents a transporter next month, don’ be asking me where it came from – but you’ll probably be able to get it at Amazon. Hey, this is fun. Only I’ve already lost a friend here – so, let me get this straight, Annie wears glasses and WC doesn’t? is that what we’re talkin’ about here – whoa, Clark Kent…

    And WC, I’m sorry I referred you back to yourself – ah hell, I’m gettin’ all confused – sombody save me…

    LOL John,
    You sound confused. A state I find myself in constantly. 😉 Annie sometimes wears glasses but no cape involved. Make sense? 🙂
    Annie aka WC

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  10. Great article, Michelle. I’m also on the ebook bandwagon. As an author of two novels, I recently had to figure out all the formatting conversions and venues for selling ebooks. In the process I was unknowingly doing the research for my latest book, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for FREE. It teaches other authors a multitude of tips, links, sites, software etc for accomplishing these goals without spending a dime. http://ebooksuccess4free.webs.com

    Hell Jason and welcome
    Sounds like you’ve done a nice thing by offering all your research on ebooks for free. Thanks.
    WC

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