Join 3,411 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Napsterizing the Baggy Old Book Business
March 19, 2007 9:30 AM   Subscribe

The Caravan Project: "Imagine you're a customer looking for a book you don't find on the shelf. As you would now, you'll likely ask a bookseller to check the store computer for it. As is not yet possible, the bookseller will say: "We can order you a print copy or we can sell it to you in other formats, some of which could be ready for downloading by the time you get home. How would you like it?"
posted by mattbucher (60 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Although they only have 23 titles in the program right now, this could be the forerunner of the business model that will shut down even more brick-and-mortar bookstores.
posted by mattbucher at 9:32 AM on March 19, 2007


I wouldn't, because reading a book on a monitor is like trying to have sex with a video camera.
posted by solistrato at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think I read books differently than you do.
posted by empath at 9:36 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Now if only there were people that actually wanted electronic books, we'd be all set!
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on March 19, 2007


I'd like a print copy. You know, something I can actually read in comfort.

And as a side comment on the bookstore owner--she gets steamed because customers won't wait a week for a book? Steamed? Really?

If I go into a bookstore looking for a specific book (as opposed to browsing for something interesting to read), I generally want the book for a specific purpose. And the specific purpose is generally date driven. So, no, sorry, I don't want to wait a week to get the book I need to have finished reading before my book club meeting in 2 weeks.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2007


Now if only there were people that actually wanted electronic books, we'd be all set!

You could've said a similar thing fifteen years ago about digital music. Before the iPod, before all the innovation, a group of people wanted all music digitized and deliverable online. Now that is ubiquitous. It is only a matter of time before all books will be delivered online at lower prices. The eReader technology is improving, but the desire for instant access to content is already there. Not all books are beach novels.
posted by mattbucher at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2007


I wouldn't, because reading a book on a monitor is like trying to have sex with a video camera.

Nice print-resolution compact OLED screens are right around the corner. Even Sony's currently available Reader device is pretty damn close. The time was wrong for e-books before. I'm not so sure about now.

(which means I may be looking for a job some time in the next 5-10 years, but hey, change or die.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:52 AM on March 19, 2007


digital books have been "just around the corner" for 10-15 years now. i expect they'll ship around the same time as personal jetpacks and flying automobiles.
posted by keswick at 10:01 AM on March 19, 2007


huh?

Haven't heard anything about ePaper for a while.. wonder whatever happened to that.
posted by creeptick at 10:02 AM on March 19, 2007


You could've said a similar thing fifteen years ago about digital music. ... The eReader technology is improving, but the desire for instant access to content is already there. Not all books are beach novels.

Well, not everything gets read on the beach, but I can think of a few compelling arguments to the contrary just from my everyday experience. I get serious monitor fatigue after a full day at work, and one of the major pleasures of my life is retreating to the world of soft lighting, pulpwood, and printers' ink in the evenings. Books are active and tactile in a way that music listening is not.

Leaving aside comparable arguments about the relative benefits of analog vs. digital audio, the qualitative distinction is lost on most listeners. By contrast, the collection of "unnatural" sensations (to use a loaded word) required to read anything of any length or depth on a screen would be torture for me within the context of a longer-form work. I actually need things in print form to be able to make full sense of them - and this applies to practical situations (e.g., I'm a better proofreader on paper) as it is in the "world of ideas" (I can somehow absorb ideas more fully when they aren't on a glowing backlit screen).

Without trying to sound too dramatic, computers just ... well, offend my senses, in a way, or fill up my mind too much to be any sort of ideal analogue to actual books. The act of listening doesn't require nearly the amount of processor power as the act of reading - especially close reading, and especially over protracted periods of time.

So, yeah. Perhaps I'm a Luddite, but ... electronic books: no thanks.
posted by mykescipark at 10:04 AM on March 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Whatever happened to print-on-demand? The idea was supposed to be that you'd go to a bookstore and ask for a book that's not on the shelves, they'd download it and print you the whole book, and you'd walk out with a bound paperback in fifteen minutes. Is that just too much customer service?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:04 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


You could've said a similar thing fifteen years ago about digital music.

No I couldn't. Music playback has always required an electronic device. The fact that the storage medium got more compact didn't change much in a quantitative way.

But electronic books are called that for a reason: because the original isn't electronic. It's a qualitative change. And until the technology gets a LOT better (flexible, rugged and waterproof at the very least), they are going nowhere fast.
posted by DU at 10:06 AM on March 19, 2007


While there is no doubt that ebooks will eventually make inroads into the market, I don't find the digital music correlation apt. It comes down to the interface.

Long before digital music and the ubiquitous mp3, people were already accustomed to getting their music from tiny earphones jammed in their ears, hooked to (relatively) small electronic devices clipped to their belts. That paradigm was well-established by the mid-80's. Digital music only changed the music format and the convenience factor for getting the music.

A switch to ebooks is a much more radical shift. Ink on paper is still a far superior tactile and sensory experience. It's utterly intuitive, easy on the eyes, perfectly portable, doesn't eat batteries and is far more impervious to being dropped down a couple of flights of stairs than any ebook reader I know of.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2007


I wouldn't, because reading a book on a monitor is like trying to have sex with a video camera.

Related: "You Do Like Reading Off a Computer Screen" by Cory Doctorow.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:14 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Whatever happened to print-on-demand? The idea was supposed to be that you'd go to a bookstore and ask for a book that's not on the shelves, they'd download it and print you the whole book, and you'd walk out with a bound paperback in fifteen minutes. Is that just too much customer service?

Equpment cost was too high, per copy margins were too low, available list was too crap. Ingram and others have had some success with print on demand machines in warehouse facilities, but it's still not a huge business.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:14 AM on March 19, 2007


I am actually on the pro-paper book side here (it's my livelihood, too) and I am a book collector, maybe even a bibliophile. I've never had the desire to read an ebook in my spare time at home. However, I love having electronic access to reference books, to How-to manuals. I love being able to Search Inside the Book at Amazon. Researchers across continents no longer need to apply for grant money to see a rare collection in person. I am interested in the many uses of books, and many of those uses would benefit from having instant portable access to electronic content previously only available in print.
posted by mattbucher at 10:17 AM on March 19, 2007


I've seen these Sony Reader in Borders a couple of times now... the price point is off by an order of magnitude, but there's no doubt I'll eventually own one.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:22 AM on March 19, 2007


However, I love having electronic access...

Oh, absolutely. I love how books feel and smell, but I would give it all up in an Internet minute for a device that worked well and had great features. In fact, forget device--I want direct brain interface.

My objection to ebooks isn't that I'm a reactionary nutbar, my objection is that I don't want to carry around a fragile, expensive, bulky device. Make something that costs under $5, won't get ruined in the rain (or the shower--no really) and can survive being chucked across the room and I'm there. (Standards-compliance should go without saying--I'm not buying a separate reader for every publisher.)
posted by DU at 10:30 AM on March 19, 2007


mattbucher: ahh, that clarifies things, and makes me glad I didn't unleash THE BIG GUNS beforehand. (OH TEH NOES INTERNET BIG GUNS!!!11`1~!) I think, as a supplement or a reference source, this would be a perfect solution. I just naturally assumed that this was all about books-as-literature, and thus the umbrage began rising. (It turned out to be gas.)

I dunno. I just don't see a compelling need for electronic books as a primary interface, because y'know, paper works. Yeah, there's the ecological argument, but there's plastic/power needs to consider, and if we're at the point where trees are so scarce that books threaten them, we have bigger problems to deal with. Meh. MEH, says I. I will be a huge fuddy-duddy on this. FUDDY. DUDDY.

Also: fuck Cory Doctorow.
posted by solistrato at 10:38 AM on March 19, 2007


The Caravan Project is a little more nuanced than just digital vs paper. If you read the linked FPP WashPost article, it says the issue has to do with customers who go into a bookstore and there is no stock on the shelf for a long-tail book, like from the University Presses. So customers ask the info desk, who look it up on the computer database, and tell the customer they can order it, but it will take a week to arrive. Typical experience that happens thousands of times a day across the country.

So, what if, when the info desk person looks it up, they find there is a digital version available, and if the customer provides their e-mail address (and credit card) the book will be waiting for them when they get home that night.

This at first sounds kind of stupid, you have to drive to the bookstore to order a e-book. But it solves two of the supply side problems: publishers who have trouble keeping stock available in bookstores, and bookstores who want to go digital but don't want to sabotage their brick and mortar stores.
posted by stbalbach at 10:41 AM on March 19, 2007


The Sony Reader is a step in the right direction...but it's Sony, so they've screwed it up with DRM and god-awful software. There are a number of other eInk based devices coming this year and next; I suspect one of them will get it right enough that I'll pick up a reader.

I used to read books off the screen of my cell phone. It sounds horrible, but it is very nice to have a distraction with you at all times. Some books also seem to lend themselves to the small display. The Three Muskateers was a lot of fun to read in 5 minute increments over a few months.
posted by Eddie Mars at 10:42 AM on March 19, 2007


Whatever happened to print-on-demand? The idea was supposed to be that you'd go to a bookstore and ask for a book that's not on the shelves, they'd download it and print you the whole book, and you'd walk out with a bound paperback in fifteen minutes. Is that just too much customer service?

Lentrohamsanin basically nails it, but there are a few bookstores that are trying out in store POD.

As someone who sells books for a living (somewhat indirectly), I fear the day electronic books get a true foothold in the industry. Part of it is that I just like the feel of reading a book far more enjoyable. Even if I was researching something, I loved plopping down 10 books flipped to the correct page.

I love the smell of books, the look of a shiny new cover, and the thrill of finding a great used book in a thrift store.

There's one reason if I were a publisher that I would be hesitant to embrace digital downloads. It's a lot harder to bootleg copies of physical book than it is an electronic file.

From a more science-fiction perspective, if we moved to mostly digital books, depending on the technology, it would be much easier for the government to block access to some knowledge (imagine a great firewall of china for certain kinds of books), or to just lose information due to the lose of the right readers.

Although they only have 23 titles in the program right now, this could be the forerunner of the business model that will shut down even more brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Not really, no, this isn't what Caravan is meant to do. It's designed to give bookstores the ability to sell digital books. Ingram (the owner of Caravan) is in the book distribution business and this is really an attempt by them to get in on the ground floor of distributing electronic books in a way that will be palatable to independent bookstores (who tend to oppose change).
posted by drezdn at 10:46 AM on March 19, 2007



The Sony Reader is a step in the right direction...but it's Sony, so they've screwed it up with DRM and god-awful software.


The publishers demanded DRM. Any reader that wants to get another of the big publishers (harpercollins, Random House, Hachette) will have to have a reader with some form of DRM.

In a way, it's a repeat of the issues in music, with the huge difference being that it's alot easier to copy a CD than it is a physical book.
posted by drezdn at 10:51 AM on March 19, 2007


Also, unlike CDs or tapes, books don't scratch, can handle high levels of abuse, won't melt if left in your car and can be used to prop open a door in a pinch.

And especially, how can you use an e-reader to flatten leaves?
posted by drezdn at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2007


..if we moved to mostly digital books...it would be much easier for the government to block access to some knowledge...

If anything, a more flexible format makes it *harder* to block access. With a paper book, they have to find some way to block paper books. With electronic books, which can be printed to paper, they have to find some way to block paper books AND electronic books. This will always be harder than simply blocking paper books no matter how easy blocking electronic ones is.

It's a lot harder to bootleg copies of physical book than it is an electronic file.

It's also harder to ship and sell.
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2007


I refuse to read anything that isn't inscribed on fresh papyrus. I don't want future historians knowing what sexual escapades I've been reading about.
posted by mr_book at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2007


I won't read anything on a computer screen. This thread, in fact, was read aloud to me by my manservant Helmut.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's designed to give bookstores the ability to sell digital books.

Yeah, I agree. My statement was kind of ass-backwards because clearly there is a divide between selling digital books at a physical bookstore and selling them strictly online. There is an argument that physical bookstores will survive no matter what because people enjoy the experience of visiting them, they serve the community somehow, etc. I find this true of places like the Tattered Cover, but Politics & Prose never impressed me one bit.
posted by mattbucher at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2007


Also: fuck Cory Doctorow.

Well, I guess I knew putting his byline in would be a provocation, but actually solistrato, he seems to agree with you (other than your last point, I presume).

The point of the essay I linked is that the problem with e-books isn't that reading off a computer screen is completely unbearable (you do it all the time, including right now (on preview, Astro Zombie excepted)) but that long-form works like novels aren't really suited to being read off computer screens. As a consequence, the novel-as-unit-of-fiction may lose its primacy in our reading habits, in the way that iTunes emphasizes the single at the expense of the album.

I'm not saying I necessarily buy all of this, just that it's an interesting perspective.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:04 AM on March 19, 2007


The paperback is a pretty much unimprovable delivery mechanism. What is that the e-book crowd don't understand about this?

(yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you love reading novels on your iPod. But no-one else does).
posted by rhymer at 11:06 AM on March 19, 2007


Actually what will happen is they will ask:

"We don't have a copy on hand, would you like us to print one for you?"

You come back in a half an hour, and they have your book.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on March 19, 2007


The paperback is a pretty much unimprovable delivery mechanism.

The same argument was made about newspapers: you can take a few million words, fold it up, jam it in your briefcase, read it in a cafe, recycle it--the format is perfect. Yet online newspapers thrive, circulation numbers are down, craigslist is killing classifieds. I would say that the presses involved in something like the caravan project have sustained themselves with library purchases and endowments--revenue streams that are difficult for online entrepeneurs to take down quickly. But it happened to academic journals, it happened to newspapers, and books are next. The process might be slow, but more systems are being developed for delivering books electronically.

(what is the line between commenting a lot in a thread and moderating the thread? time to stfu?)
posted by mattbucher at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2007


The quicker all books are available in electronic form, the better, IMHO, and I don't care how uncultured that makes me out to be.

I've never liked reading a lot of novels, primarily because I hate having to sit in some unnatural way and hold a book open for however long it takes to read it. Trivial, I know, but it's a perspective thing: I see no problem staring at a screen, especially if that's reading a novel, where I can window it and pay attention to work if I have to. To me, the ergonomics of reading, even in the comfiest of chairs and in front of the most picturesque fireplace are soundly defeated by a scroll wheel.

Throw in adjustable viewing/font options, word searches, copy/paste, and the future potential to sync it up with some kind of portable device so I can take it with me on my break? This is the sound of me chucking my library card.

When I was in college working at a grocery store, i would email myself chapters of e-novels and read them on my cel-phone, bit by bit. I WISHED my textbooks could be searched by keyword/topic, and be kept on the same desktop as my notes, email and webbrowser, compatible with all of them. When I hear people wax nostalgic about paper books, I'm reminded of the people (aside from DJ's) who have an unnatural fixation with vinyl records, in spite of their fragility and inferior sound quality.

I not only welcome this new technology, I demand it.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:18 AM on March 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


And, see, for me the paperback is a terrible delivery mechanism; even with bifocals, the presbyopia of old age makes it fatiguing to focus on text-on-paper, and my arthritis makes it painful to hold even a paperback (let alone a hardback) up/open for very long. I actually think that older people may end up constituting the ideal market for e-books; the ability to adjust font size is something I really depend on, and it's also a huge help to be able to have text presented on a monitor positioned in front of my face, so I don't have to crank my arms or neck. I've been a real-paper&leather-book-lover most of my life, but nowadays, I yearn for all books to be as readily available on-screen as they are on paper.
posted by Kat Allison at 11:20 AM on March 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Uh, uh matt. Online newspapers work because reading an 800 word newspaper article on a screen is fine. Reading a 120,000 word novel is a horrible experience.

So no, with things as they are books aren't next.
posted by rhymer at 11:21 AM on March 19, 2007


On preview, seconding everything Uther Bentrazor says. Nice to know it's not just old ages.
posted by Kat Allison at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2007


"We can order you a print copy or we can sell it to you in other another formats, some all of which could be ready for downloading are absolutely worthless to you by the time you get home. How would you like it?"

If I wanted a worthless PDF I would have already illegally acquired it, sans DRM.
posted by prostyle at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2007


Uh, uh matt. Online newspapers work because reading an 800 word newspaper article on a screen is fine. Reading a 120,000 word novel is a horrible experience.

But think about it: you don't read a 120,000 word novel all at once. Some days you might only read 800 words. DailyLit is capitalizing on that right now.
posted by mattbucher at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2007


mattbucher: This is tangential to the discussion, but that's why I tend to read so little any more -- I sit down and read a novel straight through. It really irritates me to have to put a book down and deal with something -- anything -- else. Reading a good book with a cup of tea is a relaxing luxury for me.
posted by boo_radley at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2007


True. But I might read 40 pages at a sitting - which is 16,000 words. If I did that on a screen, my eyes would bleed.

Don't get me wrong, screens are wonderful for many things. But, at the moment, the only real downside paperbacks have is that they're bulky.

I think the thing about e-books is that they're of a solution in search of a problem that isn't really there. One day, someone will doubtless invent something so wonderous it will usurp paper. But at the moment (and this is what e-bookies don't really see) paperbacks answer reading needs really, really well. The problem isn't there.

So whatever it is that kills paper will need to be fantastic. Not just kind of cool and tecchie.
posted by rhymer at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2007


Thankfully, none of these technologies are likely to eclipse any of the others: let a thousand flowers bloom, etc... except for cuneiform and papyrus, for what I take to be obvious reasons.

Say what you will, this is the primary reason to love post-industrial capitalism: niche marketing. By the time you've figured out who you are and what you want in the world, so have the marketers and they're ready to sell it to you.

...so long as you live in the US or Europe.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:33 AM on March 19, 2007


(sorry, Horace, complete knee-jerk reaction.)
posted by solistrato at 11:46 AM on March 19, 2007


I don't think the question is even one of whether reading on-screen is better than reading print (aside from the convenience, it isn't, but that'll someday be addressed as display quality improves and DPI increases). It's that the interface metaphors for dealing with large amounts of text onscreen are unilaterally awful.

The pagination metaphor that PDF and many screen-readers use is flawed. There's no way to thumb-flip through pages to find arbitrary text, and the principle of having to scan your eye from the bottom of the screen back to the top after pressing a button is awkward.

On the other hand, treating a volume as a long scroll makes it unwieldy and tedious without a sense of geography more tangible than a marker on the scrollbar.

Reading a PDF file onscreen when each page is unreadable until zoomed in enough to require scrolling is the worst of both.

Issues of the book-as-artifact are unresolvable. There are still plenty of people who prefer vinyl records because of their physical aspects, too. Nothing wrong with that, but we're only having this debate because a majority of music listeners have learned to accept the idea of music as information rather than as artifact, but the majority of literature readers have not made an analogous adaptation yet.
posted by ardgedee at 11:46 AM on March 19, 2007


Even the trade paperback is fairly recent innovation in publishing. The guy who gets credit for it, Jason Epstein, says the next innovation will be "a vast multilingual directory or catalog which will include everything,' Mr. Epstein said in a recent interview. 'There will be no shelf space problem,' he said. 'The publisher doesn't buy paper, order a printing, ship books to retail stores. He doesn't need a sales force.' In this view Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, unprofitable because their businesses still require middlemen, will become brokers of books."

This idea is about six years old so it's ancient now, but the point is that book people recognize change and innovation when they see it (they just don't know how to make money off of it).
posted by mattbucher at 11:48 AM on March 19, 2007


Actually what will happen is they will ask:

"We don't have a copy on hand, would you like us to print one for you?"

You come back in a half an hour, and they have your book.


I don't have an exact price, but both of those machines are expensive as hell. You base a P.O.D. mail order business like Kessinger around them. Maybe some University stores could make a go of it but only with a nice big subsidy. The expenditure just won't earn out for a commercial store.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:50 AM on March 19, 2007


Books are very convenient for what they provide (serial
access, light weight, high resolution). No tablet or ebook
machine has even come close. A quantitative example:

Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith: 8 inch diagonal screen,
450 pixels per inch, 150 grams, $10.

Sony PRS500, 6 inch diagonal screen, 170 pixels per
inch, 250 grams, $349.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2007


I'm pretty sure that when I go in to a bookstore prepared to overpay for a paper book[1], the one purchase that I would absolutely never, ever consider making would be to buy a digital, DRM-restricted version that I could only use on one computer, that I wouldn't be allowed to copy from or print out, and which would cost the full price of the paper book, including taxes.

That's what's on offer here, right? These guys aren't talking about selling you an unrestricted PDF for $2.95 - that would cannibalize the booksellers, and they'd never go for it. No, the digital files have to cost at least as much as the paper book, and they have to be full of DRM to limit their usefulness - otherwise you might give copies to everyone, and that will never do. *Because* the booksellers and publishers have to buy in to it, they will never offer a product that competes favorably with what they already offer.

[1] Since Amazon cuts 30% off the price of everything, the instant you step into a physical bookstore you're already overpaying by 30%.
posted by jellicle at 12:32 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


[1] Since Amazon cuts 30% off the price of everything, the instant you step into a physical bookstore you're already overpaying by 30%.

This is not true. I have bought many many books from Amazon at full retail price.
posted by mattbucher at 12:58 PM on March 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many thousands of pages I've read here at Metafilter. I'll bet it easily outweighs whatever I've read in printed form over the same amount of time.

And the thought of being able to take my (admittedly small, but precious to me) personal library along with me wherever I go, just like I now do with my music library, is enough to make me drool.

Give it some time, and the technology will be feasible. Maybe a 5" x 7" electronic ink display, scalable fonts, enough capacity for a sizeable personal library (say, 2000 books) and an across-the-board bookmarking and indexing system? It seems like a pipe dream now, but I grew up with 8-tracks, and the iPod still seems like magic to me.

Of course, at that point, I won't have any more use for Barnes and Noble than the kids do for Tower Records today.
posted by malocchio at 1:08 PM on March 19, 2007


Since Amazon cuts 30% off the price of everything, the instant you step into a physical bookstore you're already overpaying by 30%

First off, no it doesn't. Secondly, without even including the cost of shipping, shopping online has a hidden cost on your community.

Amazon doesn't support the local government with property taxes or sales taxes. In turn, that drop in revenue is covered by taxing you more. Additionally, unless if you live near one of their warehouses or in their hometown, Amazon doesn't create any jobs in your community.

Local businesses give back to the community in other ways besides taxes. They are more likely to spend their money locally when using products or services. Unlike Amazon, a locally owned store is more likely to hire local printers to get signs done, accountants for paperwork (if they don't hire their own), web designers, etc.
posted by drezdn at 1:08 PM on March 19, 2007


I'm not familiar with how the few attempts at POD worked. Were the publishers involved in a serious financial way? That is, did the publishers partner with the booksellers to share the cost of hardware? Or were the booksellers left on their own?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:15 PM on March 19, 2007


I'm not familiar with how the few attempts at POD worked. Were the publishers involved in a serious financial way? That is, did the publishers partner with the booksellers to share the cost of hardware? Or were the booksellers left on their own?

I'm not sure on the situation in the past, but currently, most POD is done by book distributors such as Ingram for titles which are self-published by their authors. The stores that are trying pilot-projects, as far as I know either bought the equipment themselves, or are borrowing it from the companies which sell it.
posted by drezdn at 1:20 PM on March 19, 2007


To answer your question, I'd like it a lot.
posted by MarshallPoe at 1:21 PM on March 19, 2007


Let me know when I never have to worry about the problem of my Sony BookReader(TM) v7.0 from 2017 being unable to read my pulp.bkdc, which was stored in a format from 2009.
posted by adipocere at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2007


we're only having this debate because a majority of music listeners have learned to accept the idea of music as information rather than as artifact, but the majority of literature readers have not made an analogous adaptation yet.

This sounds clever but I don't get really it. If you look at encyclopedias where the information is far far better on CD, then people "learned" and made the switch very quickly. Duh, it's better. Ditto iPods. Ditto cameras. OK, I know the quality isn't as good, but it's good enough.

The second someone comes up with a brilliant book substitute then almost everyone (myself included) will learn sharpish. But they haven't. It's not a question of educating people who read. It's a question of making something which isn't inferior to what already exists.
posted by rhymer at 3:21 PM on March 19, 2007


I like reading, and read a novel or two on paper a week.
I read non-fiction too, and love my public library.
Yet I still think it great to carry a dozen ebooks (all freebies of mixed legality) on my palmpilot.
It isn't as good as a book, but it isn't much worse, and it just presents text (or HTML).
I look forward to the day I can get a whole bunch more content as ASCII, and think those who claim nobody wants ebooks or it will always be a flop are kidding yourselves.
Sure DRM infested Sony readers may suck, but that isn't the only ebook.
posted by bystander at 4:13 PM on March 19, 2007


What kind of 1980's 50Hz monitor technology are you pulp-praisers using? Try spending some money on a new-fangled LCD monitor for your PC and your eye fatigue will vanish.

I sure don't mind foregoing the neck cramps I used to get while reading in bed. I also don't miss holding down one side of the paperback at the beginning and end of a novel. That used to drive me nuts.

Let's evolve m'kay?
posted by HyperBlue at 6:05 PM on March 19, 2007


Books are active and tactile in a way that music listening is not

I'll admit that the tactile quality of music is different to that of books insofar as music touches you rather than you touch it, but to suggest that listening is a passive activity is an awful nonsense for many many people, some of whom may even be musicians.
posted by Wolof at 6:20 PM on March 19, 2007


What kind of 1980's 50Hz monitor technology are you pulp-praisers using? Try spending some money on a new-fangled LCD monitor for your PC and your eye fatigue will vanish.

I'm reading this on a cinema style Apple LCD screen, while it might be a year or two old, I'm sure it's still among the top of the line, and my eyes still hurt after looking at it 6+ hours.

Personally, aside from potential job loss, I don't mind other people reading ebooks, I just don't want them for myself. With the way I read, aside from reference materials, I don't see the need to carry more than 2-3 books at a time.
posted by drezdn at 6:38 AM on March 20, 2007


e-books .. a solution in search of a problem that isn't really there.

That is the point of this FPP, there is a problem, and they do provide a solution. Read the WashPost article and my previous comment above.
posted by stbalbach at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2007


« Older Civilization ends in 3... 2... 1.......  |  “No dogs bark” by Juan Rulfo i... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments