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E-books

Enter here to talk about books, art, literature, film, TV and anything else to do with popular culture.
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Dave B
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E-books

#1 Post by Dave B » August 17th, 2010, 11:06 am

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a Kindle ereader from Amazon.

Then I had second thoughts and looked seriously into the books available. These seemed to be in two categories:
a) the free books, out-of-print and out-of-copyright stuff up to a century old - some classics ("Alice in Wonderland", "Mort d'Arthur"), lots of obscure stuff, maybe some of it edifying, but uninteresting except to those interested.
b) Cheaper but more modern stuff by obscure authors and often involving violence, sex and similar themes.
c) Books that, though they have no printing or postage costs are damned near as expensive as buying the actual book and are (so far as the customer is concerned) merely a licence to hold and read the file, you do not own it.

That latter means that you cannot loan it to a friend, sell it or donate it to a charity shop - but it has probably cost you as much as a paperback posted to you.

Then there are the vendors. There are those that sell individual books, but the "40,000" titles they boast might (if you are a selective genre reader) offer one or two you actually want to read. If you are lucky these will be older books and only half the price of a paperback, about the same as buying a second hand one from and Amazon seller and paying £2-75 postage.

The best scam (in my opinion) from the seller's side is the club type operation, where you have to pay a fee every month (to earn credits to "buy" books) on the offchance they might have a book you actually want to read. This is like the old bookclub scams where you had to buy a book every month, and the editor would select one for you if you did not.

I may be overly selective in what I read (at my age with my condition I read for pleasure not edification!) so maybe this is not for me anyway. By the time only ebooks are available I will probably be long gone. Basically I like the idea, it would be a lot easier to carry one of those in my "hospital bag" rather than half a tree branch's worth of paper (providing the charger passed the hospital's electrical tests.) All my music is now on an MP3 player - far easier than a pile of CDs and a CD player - so I am happy with the technology, just not the marketing methods.

Has anyone bought an ereader or looked into the market? What are your thoughts or experiences?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

Gottard
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Re: E-books

#2 Post by Gottard » August 17th, 2010, 3:45 pm

Thank you for the info. Dave B. I was just warming up to buy a kindle but your helpful message has cooled my spirit....for now.
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

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Dave B
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Re: E-books

#3 Post by Dave B » August 17th, 2010, 5:42 pm

Peneasy, check it out for yourself, and the methods of selling do not apply only to Kindle but to other ereaders as well. Perhaps Kindle is one of the better ones because it is in Amazon's interest to make sure the customer is contented.

Perhaps, hopefully, the "monthly club subscription" idea will die out. Public dislike of the book-clubs' "you must buy a book a month or else" practice lead to its demise - no-one took it up.

As I said, I am not against the technology, just the greedy way it's "product" is marketed.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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getreal
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Re: E-books

#4 Post by getreal » August 17th, 2010, 5:49 pm

means that you cannot loan it to a friend, sell it or donate it to a charity shop -
Gosh! I never thought about that. I've been toying with buying one for some time now, and appart from the convenience when travelling (no need for a light and having all your holiday reading on one reader) I can actually find no good reason to own one.
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

Nick
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Re: E-books

#5 Post by Nick » August 17th, 2010, 7:20 pm

Hi Dave :D

I'm not disputing anything you say, nor would I disagree much with your sentiments, but I do think there is a wider picture. As one who has seriously considered buying a Kindle, I think it would be fair to classify you as an "early adopter", or at least very nearly one.

Such people tend to adopt for a variety of reasons (which may or may not apply to you). Eg, enthusiasm for technology, a desire to be ahead of the crowd or a specific benefit (eg an inability to hold a book open, say). Against this are the negative points you raised, so your decision is (for now) fair enough.

But in the short while that Kindles have been available, the price of Kindles has tumbled, and will fall further. The number, range and attractiveness of the publications will increase. Competition will ensure that the cost of the e-books falls. As volumes sold increase, the marginal costs per e-book will fall. As this happens, competition should ensure that that the retail price falls too (thus reducing further the average cost per e-book). Just think of what has happened to mobile phones. I can remember, in the 1980's, mobiles (the size and weight of a brick) costing £3,000 a pop and being widely disparaged as a yuppy excess. Today, even my parents have got one!

Whereas a printed book has a host of associated costs, especially the cost of printing, storage, retail and/or postage, e-books have none of these. As more people adopt the technology, the difference in cost between printed books and e-books will become more and more pronounced.

Printed books will always have their place. In today's market people pay a premium for hard-backs. There is also a market for 'coffee table' books and special editions. But (if I'm right!) the price of e-books will continue to fall, so that one day you will indeed adopt the new technology.

What of the future? Maybe Kindles will be given away in return for a minimum number of books purchased, just as mobile phones and lap-tops are subsidised today. A student may be 'given' a Kindle, to allow them to buy all theirn course books. The Kindle itself will morph into various shapes and sizes: table-top, travelling size, tactile-and-bendy.... well, you get the idea.

I'm actually looking forward to Kindles becoming ubiquitous, but, for now, I'm not about to buy one. Will I ever? I wouldn't bet against it.

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Dave B
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Re: E-books

#6 Post by Dave B » August 17th, 2010, 7:47 pm

Hi Nick,
Such people tend to adopt for a variety of reasons
Partly love of gadgets, partly for portability for my hospital visits. But I am also a pragmatic type and there is always this sort of tension . . . :D
But in the short while that Kindles have been available, the price of Kindles has tumbled, and will fall further.
Ah, excellent reason to wait . . .
The number, range and attractiveness of the publications will increase.
Yes, this is bound to happen, paralleling the change from cassette to CD and VHS to DVD. I do wonder if the time will come when all fiction will be digital - just download consoles instead of shelves full of books? I also agree that the prices will reduce as the technology gets more popular, but will there be a point when every book is parallel published on paper and as a file? There are going to be some interesting marketing decisions made, or will they try to force the issue I wonder?
In today's market people pay a premium for hard-backs
.Was not Amazon saying last week that their ebook sales had exceeded their hardback market in terms of number of books?
Maybe Kindles will be given away in return for a minimum number of books purchased . . .
Bit like the old saying about calculators being given away with cornflakes in the 1980s (when they were about a week's wages in price). I think it actually happened. Yes, I can see the idea of freebie devices on contract working just to get the shift, for pop lit at least, going faster. Smaller book shops with consoles cost less to rent as well.

One other aspect is file compatibility, I thought of that after my OP, not looked into it yet. Most readers seem to read .doc and .pdf, but are not some books are only epublished in files specific to Kindle or whatever? Bit like the early days of video, until VHS (the worst of the formats actually) won out. Then there had to be an agreement over CD formats. Then DVDs etc. etc. Will it ever come that any ereader will read files from any publisher, or will there be a common format? Perhaps that is the critical decision, no good getting caught with the technology that can't read the majority of the products! Let's hope something like .pdf, nice proven technology, wins out as the common format.

Of course, music and videos/films suffered a similar problem, but at least they came to a fairly gentlemanly decision over that in the various "Expert Groups".

Think I will just keep a lump of laminated tree in my hospital bag for now and hang the weight!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

Nick
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Re: E-books

#7 Post by Nick » August 17th, 2010, 7:56 pm

You've grasped my point perfectly, Dave. :D I hope the reading matter in your hospital bag is not on your "must read next" list..... :wink:

Fia
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Re: E-books

#8 Post by Fia » August 17th, 2010, 8:05 pm

Damn, I did a post and lost it... I'll try again:

As someone who embraced the clunky 4 track tape and betamax, I won't be getting one of these gismos until the format is agreed.

I do wonder about the carbon footprint, though. Printing and distributing books on paper clearly costs loads, but well cared for they can last many lifetimes. How much energy is needed to power a planet full of those for who can afford them and have access to the maintenance and power for the kindles and such? A book can be composted. What about the waste from the early models? How many gismos have you put in the waste stream? Just asking :D

Nick
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Re: E-books

#9 Post by Nick » August 17th, 2010, 8:15 pm

Just answerin', Fia :D I expect the Kindle would win hands down. No more trees cut down for books unsold (or indeed sold but not recycled) and think of all the fossil fuel saved by not running paper mills, printing presses, warehousing and book-shops....

Fia
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Re: E-books

#10 Post by Fia » August 17th, 2010, 8:18 pm

In itself possibly, but the waste stream?

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Dave B
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Re: E-books

#11 Post by Dave B » August 17th, 2010, 9:12 pm

Nick, you forgot transporting tons of paper all over the world, from the mill to the printers to the distributors to the shops etc.

Wow, that could be an interesting exercise trying to work out which used the most energy up to its disposal. As Fia said, the book may go one for many years before it gets thrown away (recycled I hope, and there's another angle to consider). I considered trying to work out the links in making a single chip, from mining the raw stuff to the shop. I gave up after the third page of flow chart!

One would have to consider the life the time until it broke or became obsolete. The files take so little energy to transmit it would hardly be worth comparing that.

I wonder when the Chinese will start making a range of readers for the pound shops? Very basic version, no internal memory, using SD cards, no special functions, no WiFi etc.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

tubataxidriver
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Re: E-books

#12 Post by tubataxidriver » August 22nd, 2010, 3:00 pm

Life expectancy of most modern technology appears to be classifiable by two main parameters: (1) how long it takes before a better version of what you currently have is available [in computers this is in the region of two months, with mobile phones about the same], (2) how long the manufacturer will support the product with updates, repairs and content [this seems to be currently about 3 years]. Then there is a "out of the blue" factor, where a revolutionary new product comes along and completely displaces other technology, e.g, the iPod. Given all this I wouldn't touch a Kindle or similar device, as it will probably be useless within a few years.

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Dave B
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Re: E-books

#13 Post by Dave B » August 22nd, 2010, 3:23 pm

I wouldn't touch a Kindle or similar device, as it will probably be useless within a few years.
If your figures are right will it even last "a few years"!?

They used to talk about built in obsolescence but it seems the designers of today have little idea what tomorrow may bring, so building in that obsolescence is pointless, it will happen anyway! This is probably why national libraries still insist on documents in book form, the life of electronic data is limited both by physics (deterioration) and technology becoming out of date.

This has just reminded me, IIRC, something in Asimov's "Foundation" series in the early 1950s - "Second Foundation" I think. He has some people searching for data in the ruins of the Imperial University, they are looking for "silver discs" and a reader that still works. Seems like DVDs might have lasted that long, but since it is 4000 years in the future it's probably Mega Terabytes per disc by then! But storage in those days was either large tapes or drums - another accurate prediction by the Master (he "invented" an iPad type device in the same series, a "tablet" that was all screen and was stylus operated.)
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Gottard
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Re: E-books

#14 Post by Gottard » August 22nd, 2010, 9:40 pm

Another way of looking at technological products' life is:
Company investment + production cost + marginal profit = product's life span
Rest assured that this cycle lasts until the above equilibrium is reached; if a close substitute breaks into the market then the former product's price will 'shrink' but its life will be stirred up.
What a funny way of expressing myself!
The intelligent Humanist (well, all intelligent if Humanist) will buy at the 'shrinking' point in life.
P.S.: purchase of a close substitute by the Humanist is regarded as 'sacrifice'
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

lewist
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Re: E-books

#15 Post by lewist » August 22nd, 2010, 11:38 pm

peneasy wrote:The intelligent Humanist (well, all intelligent if Humanist) will buy at the 'shrinking' point in life.
Is this similar to buying last year's model at a huge discount? I'm always up for that if I want to buy something.

I have just transferred my television from Sky (their free service) to Freesat with a gadget called 'Technisat HDFS'. It has software updates and if I had bought it a year ago it would have been pretty clunky. Now, due to the cumulative effect of updates it works pretty well. Will the Kindle work seamlessly out of the box, or will there be updates to make it work right?
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

Nick
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Re: E-books

#16 Post by Nick » August 22nd, 2010, 11:57 pm

TubaTD, surely your adoption of computer and internet technology disproves your point conclusively? All the points your attribute to Kindles also apply to computers and the internet, but here you are using them....

Fair enough. You may not be an 'early adopter' and the pace of change may be brisk to start with, but I've used Windows XP for a number of years, and the advances made since are beyond my ability or willingness to keep up. (Windows Vista is crap!) In the same way, though it will continue to develop, I think there will come a time when mass adoption of kindle-style technology will arrive. I can easily envisage a Kindle being given away with a newspaper subscription, for example. My lap-top was 'free' with my '3' contract, the cost of which is less than that of a daily newspaper. If I wanted a daily rag, and found it bundled with other publications, and could have effectively free extra magazines and swap paper for Kindle at a cash saving, then I'd be very tempted. And I think you would be too, once the technology has bedded down. 3G technology once seemed outlandinsh; now it is commonplace. So it will be with Kindle and its competitors. We'll see soon enough.

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getreal
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Re: E-books

#17 Post by getreal » August 23rd, 2010, 12:59 am

What about the jobs lost if e-readers become the norm?
forestry/haulage/shipping/paper mills/ink manufacture/printing/book shops.......

After watching a programme about the manufacture of elecronic gizmos for the West, by less developed countries, and the dreadful conditions people have to endure, I'm much more circumspect about these types of gadgets.
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

Nick
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Re: E-books

#18 Post by Nick » August 23rd, 2010, 1:15 am

getreal wrote:What about the jobs lost if e-readers become the norm?
forestry/haulage/shipping/paper mills/ink manufacture/printing/book shops.......
Sorry, getreal, I can't cope with that right now. I'm too involved with the fate of the hand loom weavers.....

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getreal
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Re: E-books

#19 Post by getreal » August 23rd, 2010, 1:39 am

:laughter:

Oh! Handloom weavers are very interesting. I live in an area* where weaving was the main industry. They were on the whole educated men and with lots of time to think and read (I don't think the weaving took much brain power) they could be pretty policically active. There is a day celebrated each year, Sma' Shot Day which marks a victory by the weavers over the big guys who bought their cloth.

My grandfather's brothers were weavers (my grandfather wasn't--he ran away and became a plowman)

Sorry. Very off topic--but what do you expect at 1.30 am?

*I don't live in Paisley anymore.
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

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Dave B
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Re: E-books

#20 Post by Dave B » August 23rd, 2010, 10:48 am

@ Lewist
Will the Kindle work seamlessly out of the box, or will there be updates to make it work right?
Dunno, but if Microsoft ever bring one out it will probably be like Nick's hated "Vista" (spit), needing an upgrade or correcting software almost every damned day!
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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