Publishing Industry Trends to Watch in 2008
January 9, 2008 6:00 AM   Subscribe

15 Publishing Industry Trends to Watch in 2008
posted by stbalbach (54 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't believe the ebook will work. Here's why.
posted by DreamerFi at 6:28 AM on January 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Current ebooks definitely won't work. But the idea of a book, only infinitely modifiable, searchable, etc, will definitely work (assuming someone gets the technology right).
posted by DU at 6:34 AM on January 9, 2008


Have you actually seen one of the new e-books, DreamerFi? They aren't backlit transient electronic displays. They work by physically moving dye onto or off of a visible surface. They also are very high-resolution. I wish I had one. As soon as they drop in price, lots of people are going to get them. Go check out a Sony in a bookstore (but don't buy it from Sony, they are anti-consumer).

See Wikipedia for more information on the technology, which is really cool.
posted by grouse at 6:48 AM on January 9, 2008


DreamerFi, maybe I'm missing something, but that cartoon makes no sense to me. How does it back up your point that ebooks do not work? Should the penguin have tried reading the ebook in a comfy chair near a fire from the start?
posted by davemee at 6:54 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Until the ebook:
Allows me to take notes in the margins
and
Will not malfunction if I accidentally drop it in the bathtub
I'll be sticking with the conventional model.
posted by thivaia at 6:54 AM on January 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


12. Publishers will rethink the traditional sales conference and begin to move toward a continuous publishing model. This will be a belated recognition of two key facts: national accounts are mostly covered by staff, and the rest of the accounts can be reached quickly and efficiently by e-mail.

I'm pretty sure that publishers that only contact non-national accounts via email will see their orders drop substantially.
posted by drezdn at 6:57 AM on January 9, 2008


I'm incredibly disappointed in Amazon's Kindle. I really wanted someone who understood the appeal of books to create an e-book reader that appealed to readers.

I pictured something that fit comfortably in your hands, inviting and mysterious all at once, warming to the touch, leather-clad and gilded-edged, perhaps with a lock or a zipper, suggesting permanence and personalization, an inviting, old English library smell of old parchment and candle wax...
posted by misha at 6:58 AM on January 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've lost a few books over the years - I'll be standing in line at the bank/DMV/wherever and put the book down to fill out paperwork or something, and then wander away without it. I'm then out somewhere between free and US$25. If I ever lost an ebook, I'd be out the cost of the ebook plus all the books on it. It's unlikely I'll ever switch.
posted by rtha at 6:59 AM on January 9, 2008


I pictured something that fit comfortably in your hands, inviting and mysterious all at once, warming to the touch, leather-clad and gilded-edged, perhaps with a lock or a zipper, suggesting permanence and personalization, an inviting, old English library smell of old parchment and candle wax...

I totally get your point, misha, and eventually those will probably be out there as the indie market grows for these readers. But since even the regular books published now don't provide anything like what you just described, it's hardly surprising that their new technological innovations don't either. If anything, they'll take the opposite tactic, making sure people are wowed by the sleek futuristic appeal of them, ushering people into a "post-book" society.
posted by hermitosis at 7:05 AM on January 9, 2008


I do like the new paper technology of the e-book readers, though.

Interestingly, the Cybook seems friendly, but is not yet Mac compatible. So, yes, I will stay off e-books for a while longer, myself (seconding the whole Sony is not consumer friendly aspect).
posted by misha at 7:08 AM on January 9, 2008


Burning an e-bible on stage to wow the audience is going to be prohibitively expensive...
posted by fuq at 7:10 AM on January 9, 2008


If I ever lost an ebook, I'd be out the cost of the ebook plus all the books on it. It's unlikely I'll ever switch.

That's why it's imperative that a user be able to either backup or redownload those books at no charge. One of the positives of the iPod is that you can take music you already own with you. Sure you can buy new music, but it goes to your computer first, then onto the iPod. You always have your originals.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:15 AM on January 9, 2008


I could see using an ebook for work documents and stuff of that nature (textbooks might be a good application), but, for me personally the thought that I need batteries or a wall socket to read a book for enjoyment is a major MEH factor.
posted by edgeways at 7:22 AM on January 9, 2008


Pick your poison. The thought that I need a large physical object to read, say, Crime in Punishment, is much more of a meh factor to me than the need for AAA batteries.

There are books that I haven't read simply because they are too heavy. Too heavy to take with me on the trek to work or a trip, or to hold up in bed. So I read a lighter book.

There are inconveniences to both physical and e-books. I think over the next few years, however, the inconveniences of e-books will decrease, and the inconveniences of physical books will remain the same.
posted by grouse at 7:51 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting predictions. As an editor and a book lover, some of the possibilities really excite me.

Make-your-own books have been creeping into public consciousness for a couple of years: Apple has made it easy to produce one-off picture books and author-services sites like lulu.com have enabled author-generated books for some time.

I might be behind the curve here — is it already possible to order copies of out-of-print, public domain books?

I was happy to read that large print books might become more readily available due to the need to cater to the aging baby boomers. My father's eyesight is getting rather poor and when I tried to find him a large print book for Christmas the selection was all about mass market crap that he would have hated.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 AM on January 9, 2008


You can forget a traditional book on the bus. It'll cost you, what, $25 to replace it. Do the same with your kindle and you're out $400.

A bit of a moot point if you're outside the US, because Kindle doesn't work outside the US anyway -- you have no access to the network, so no access to content.
posted by clevershark at 8:22 AM on January 9, 2008


I might be behind the curve here — is it already possible to order copies of out-of-print, public domain books?

There are companies that specialize in making available these sorts of books, but as of yet I think there's no company that actually lets you order a public domain book that they haven't actively tried to make available.

It could be a cool business model. Fill your computer with public domain books, and then don't print them until customers order them. Slap on a nice cover and call it a day.
posted by drezdn at 8:39 AM on January 9, 2008


Alexandria? Yeah, we finally excavated it. There was just a bunch of silicon and copper fused together inside plastic cases. We don't really get what's so great about that.
posted by salvia at 8:43 AM on January 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Can anyone explain the supply chain problems that Borders has? The list refers to B&N's superiority in this sense. I've always preferred the Borders' stores, but I've no clue about their business condition.
posted by mullacc at 8:53 AM on January 9, 2008


Kendle is overpriced and ugly, it will die and quickly be forgotten.

But the idea of ebooks will not, I think, die out. The basic concept, if not any of the current executions, is tremendously appealing. I recently went on vacation with my wife, between us we took along at lest ten or fifteen pounds of books, and both of us got somewhat tired of the books we took along. Being able to carry my entire library (or even a decent fraction thereof) in a single book sized device sounds fantastic to me.

As for books and bathtubs, I understand that's a major deal for some people, but its always puzzled me. I've tried reading in the bath a few times, and found it to be a uniquely stressful and unrelaxing use of time. Still, I'm sure that a fully waterproofed ebook reader will come along, there are enough bath readers that the demand will make it worthwhile to the manufacturers.
posted by sotonohito at 8:54 AM on January 9, 2008


I don't understand the appeal of these things, outside of the gee-whiz factor. Yes the technology is cool. From what I hear, the 'virtual-ink' stuff is impressive. But I don't ever need to carry more than two books around with me, at the most.

Maybe this makes a lot of sense for students who need to lug around many books at a time? But even then, as mentioned above, you can't make notes on the pages quickly with a pen, or shove a marker or three in it.

Also, to me there's a tactile appeal of knowing how much book is left, and how much progress I've made through by seeing the chunks of pages.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


The last conventional book I read that wouldn't malfunction in a bathtub had rubber duckies & Ernie on the cover.
posted by designbot at 9:39 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't understand this fear of losing your ebook reader. People carry around $500 phones and ipods all the time. Losing my wallet costs at least that much in my time.

And do people really do all this reading in the bathtub? The handful of times in my life I read in the bathtub I took a magazine because getting a paper book wet ruins it too (as designbot says).
posted by nev at 9:46 AM on January 9, 2008


"...forecasters of publishing’s future are doing well if they get a hit 30% of the time. This crystal-ball gazing is an uncertain business—and the bolder the prediction, the greater the chance to be spectacularly wrong..."

So WHY do it?? Meteorologists say 'twenty percent chance of rain' when they honestly just don't know. It's annoying.

I predict this new year will have months in it. And weeks. And possibly even days.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man that link is some paulsc-level dreaming about technology. And clueless. Apple would have 0 trouble "loading in content" for an e-reader.
posted by bonaldi at 9:54 AM on January 9, 2008


People carry around $500 phones and ipods all the time.

An ebook reader that you can put in your pocket in a pinch doesn't have a big enough screen. And people DO lose phones and ipods all the time.
posted by clevershark at 9:59 AM on January 9, 2008


I don't believe the ebook will work. Here's why.

I don't get why people make statements like this. It's the same no-point argument that people used to say about MP3 vs CDs: "I don't think the MP3 will work. I prefer buying physical CDs/vinyl." The point is, it's not a zero-sum game. I don't think anyone envisions books and bookstores disappearing. But as the e-ink and descendant technologies evolve, there's going to be certain niches and markets that give way from paper to digital media because of advantages inherent in digital print.

For example, textbooks and reference manuals could benefit greatly from conversion to digital reader media. Schools would love to be able to provide their students with low-cost, zero space storage, easily updateable versions of the big, heavy textbooks they usually carry around. And I'll bet industrial firms would pay big bucks to have portable digital versions of industrial regulations and codes manuals.

The universe of books includes more than just your small paperbacks and hardback novels. So stop with the throwaway "e-book = FAIL" snark alright?
posted by junesix at 10:14 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"But the idea of a book, only infinitely modifiable, searchable, etc, will definitely work"

Are you predicting for 2008, then, that the web will definitely work?


thivia, some of the current crop of readers do indeed allow you to make margin notes. I don't know about the bathtub test, though, I can't even expect that of the books I own now.

Between blogs, newspapers, magazines, and books I read about a 1500 pages a week, and I'm waiting with baited breath for a nice ebook. Haven't seen one yet -- DRM books that I can't also read on my computer, or that I can't read years from now and the manufacturer is out of the business? Pay to subscribe to blogs? Secret book formats I can't convert the .txt, .chm, .html, .pdf, .tex, .ps, and myriad other formats I have books laying around in to? And to top it all off, $600?

I think it's going to be another decade before we get good features, open systems, nice form, and a price that doesn't have me checking for typos.
posted by Harkins_ at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


For example, textbooks and reference manuals could benefit greatly from conversion to digital reader media. Schools would love to be able to provide their students with low-cost, zero space storage, easily updateable versions of the big, heavy textbooks they usually carry around.

While it's a good argument for e-books, in higher education the low-cost approach would seriously cut into professors' incomes. Publishers make big money by having you pay all over again for the same material with different examples or minor fixes, and the professors who put those new editions on the reading list get kickbacks from doing so. That's why academia will probably have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of e-books.
posted by clevershark at 10:25 AM on January 9, 2008


I'm a print diehard and a lot of my feelings about the subject are rooted in emotion and self-interest rather than rationality. But I do not think that Ebooks will thrive. I think the people who push them hardest and make great claims for their superiority over print books do so for ideological reasons and didn't tend to read books anyway. There are innumberable tactile and aesthetic advantages to print books that can never be replicated on Ebook readers. Woo print. Hooray for ink. The smell of the glue! The crisp edges of the pages! The crackle of the spine! The joy of the full shelf! Browsing, properly browsing, bookshops, so that you can feel the weight of the book in your hands, flick through its pages, read the second paragraph of page 62 ... discovering the Venetian water-bus ticket between the pages of a book you haven't opened for a while ... the inscription written by your wife ... You can't even fold down the corners of the pages of an ebook. You can't ask a friend "is that any good?" if you can't see the cover of the book they're reading. Sand in the cracks between pages. A doodle or stray thought in a margin. What about book-signings? No excuse to actually say hi to an author after a talk ...

Yes, I'm being reactionary, defensive and irrational. I know that it's near-inevitable that I'm completely wrong and remarks like this will sound like defences of the horse-drawn buggy, but I've made my peace with that. I love mobile phones, the internet, DVDs, satellite TV, all that lovely technology, but I'm a Luddite on this one.
posted by WPW at 10:29 AM on January 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


It would be nice for my daughter to have not had to have have two years of back therapy from having to lug 40lbs of textbooks in her backpack all through high school. She'd give a bit on the aesthetic for a pain-free back. My heart bleeds for academic authors. I don't begrudge folks making a living but textbooks are a bit of a scam and the one who get hurt are school districts and kids, and low-income college students. I'll applaud e-books for school and corporate applications, otherwise, its a matter of taste.
posted by sfts2 at 10:40 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's why academia will probably have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of e-books.

I think academia could do with being dragged, kicking and screaming, into a lot of places.
[undergrad, standard beginning of term grumpery]

Back on topic: For some reason, I can't find the Andy Ihnatko article this quote came from, but I found it an interesting look at the Kindle: Metaphorically, the company invented a humanoid robot capable of autonomous action. Every day at 4 a.m., it gets in your car and drives all over the state, buying fruit, milk, butter, eggs and other staples straight from the farm. By the time you wake up and trudge into the kitchen, there’s a steaming plate of waffles waiting for you, made from scratch, and topped with fresh-picked strawberries and whipped cream.

It’s one of the most awesome consumer products ever. It might even be a landmark moment in technology. … and Amazon is promoting it as a $399 waffle maker.

His argument was that the free 3G cellular connection and web browser included with the Kindle made it a far more compelling device than the actual e-book side of it.
posted by heeeraldo at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2008


Until they make an eBook reader that generates its own power, has a negative weight, is indestructible, exists in alternate realities, and can travel at superluminal velocities, I'll stick with my paperbacks, thank-you-very-much!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:49 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


and of course, shortly after I make the post, I find the article: link.
posted by heeeraldo at 10:52 AM on January 9, 2008


there's no company that actually lets you order a public domain book that they haven't actively tried to make available.

This guy in Baltimore, a Russian Jewish immigrant building a bunch of interesting book publishing sites, has setup some scripts to automatically print any book from Internet Archive (300+ thousand) through LuLu - just give it the Internet Archive URL and the book shows up in the mail about 2 weeks later. He even adds a page at the end detailing all the scripts he used to make it work. Forewarning: pictures don't come out, so pick a book where you can live without the pictures, otherwise the text is a fine facsimile repro.
posted by stbalbach at 10:55 AM on January 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


That just seemed like one great big throat job for the Kindle. He says himself it will account for less than 2 % of sales yet he devotes a huge percentage of his list to talk about it. Someone needs to make a full disclosure.
posted by Skygazer at 11:08 AM on January 9, 2008


He missed the two most important predictions for 2008, so let me supply them:

16. 2008 will be the year of the file format war (he got this implicitly, but as a non-techie didn't understand the issue properly): and the formats will be Mobipocket (aka OEB) versus Adobe Epub. Mobipocket is owned by Amazon, and indeed the Kindle file format is Mobipocket with a new DRM layer added in. Epub is owned by Adobe, obviously, but I happen to know some major publishers have bought into Epub in a huge way because it's an XML based format with output plugins for InDesign and all Adobe's products, which mean they can add epub provisioning to their publishing cycle at virtually no extra cost. Note that epub is due to show up on the Sony Reader Real Soon Now (they pre-announced the firmware upgrade months ago for "early 2008"), at which point the Betamax/VHS battle lines should be fairly clearly drawn.

17. 2008 is the year when publishers abandon DRM. Of the four major publishers I deal with, three are in the process of ditching DRM on ebooks. They received the planet earth to RIAA/MPAA message loud and clear and they're backing away from the kool-aid stand. They're still worried about piracy and talking about things like watermarking, but DRM on ebooks should be dead by the end of the decade.

Oh, and what does this mean for readers? Well, OEB and Epub are both XML-based schemas. So if the books are DRM-free, it doesn't really matter which format they're in, it should be fairly easy to translate between them without much loss of information, if any. Ergo, for the first time we (the readers) will be faced with a wide range of DRM-free ebooks in open formats that we can read on our own choice of device. Which really changes the market quite fundamentally ...
posted by cstross at 11:18 AM on January 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


clevershark: Yep, there's a lot of money in textbooks. But I think you overestimate how much professors get as a % of the textbook's price. With the few exceptions of authors of "The Standard Textbook" in a subject, publishers have the upper hand when setting author royalties. It's typically around 10-12%. So for a $150 printed textbook, that's $15-$18 to the professor. I have a hard time imagining an e-book publisher couldn't get it done for $80, pay out higher per-unit royalties to the authors, and still sell more units than a print edition. Hell, if I had the option when I was in college, I probably would have paid more for high-res, color, digital versions than the print versions of my textbooks.

Commercial and industrial manuals and reference books are a different story. I know those publishers make a killing - especially the niche publishers. My own firm pays tens of thousands of dollars annually for some highly specialized (but shoddy) reference manuals and healthcare coding books that get published once a year along with quarterly update "newsletters." Everyone knows it's a rip-off but it's become a standard business expense for everyone in the industry. Having e-book versions would let us put a huge wall of shelving to better use, let everyone have access from their desks, and save us a lot of "Who has the 2006 ICD-9 Procedures coding book?" emails.

I guess what I'm saying is there's a huge, profitable market out there ripe for the taking for fresh, new companies dedicated to publishing e-books. I have no love for the textbook and niche publishing dinosaurs who have made no attempt to modernize their products. Give us a better way and we'll guarantee you a taste of our corporate pocketbooks.
posted by junesix at 11:26 AM on January 9, 2008


WPW Obviously I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm a large ebook suporter, and I read books all the time, and I find your statement that anyone who likes technology must be an illiterate to be incrediblely offensive.

No one, at least not that I'm aware of, is proposing abolishing physical books. You, personally, can keep on reading print books. No one is going to take them away from you, so you can stop spewing insulting venom implying that the evil advocates of ebooks are illiterate, book hating, goons and we'd all be very greatful.

Personally, I like high quality physical books. Leather binding, watered silk endpieces, gilt edges, acid free paper, etc. They're great. I'd love to own a crapload. They're also too damn expensive for me to afford. So I buy cheap paperbacks that start disintegrating after a few years, take massive resources to produce and ship, etc. Give me a good ebook reader instead please.

From my POV there are two aspects of a book, and they're separatable.

The first, and vastly more important aspect, is the information. That can be represented as marks of ink on paper, or patterns of electrons in impure silicon, or chiseled in stone, or expressed as lumps of raised material in a three by two pattern. The digital representation of the information aspect is, in pretty much every way, superior to other representations in that it is easily copyable, transmittable, searchable, etc.

The second, and less important but quite fun, aspect is the physical aspect. Which is where my lust for really high quality bound books makes its appearance.

I suspect that the printing industry will shrink, while simultaniously the amount of published material grows tremendously, and that printed books will become a bit more expensive, but that's hardly the same as the libraries being burned by technology zealots, or whatever other bit of weird paranoia you've been entertaning.
posted by sotonohito at 1:23 PM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I find your statement that anyone who likes technology must be an illiterate to be incrediblely offensive.

Calm down. I didn't say that, or anything like it. I didn't call anyone illiterate. I said that I suspected that the most hardcore ebook advocates tended not to read print books, not that they didn't read at all, and certainly not that they couldn't read at all. You've massively inflated the scope of my statement in pretty much every direction. There is certainly a hardcore of ebook advocates who are driven by disdain for print books and a preference for screen-reading. Their tastes are not typical, and of course they prefer ebooks. You are clearly not one of them.
posted by WPW at 1:55 PM on January 9, 2008


The digital representation of the information aspect is, in pretty much every way, superior to other representations in that it is easily copyable, transmittable, searchable, etc.

It's not superior in the two most important ways: readability and durability.
posted by WPW at 1:57 PM on January 9, 2008


The two most important ways to you, for your uses.

Even without a nifty e-book reader, I already find myself using the NCBI Bookshelf to access biomedical textbooks I already have sitting right in front of me because it is better in a number of ways.
posted by grouse at 2:05 PM on January 9, 2008


E-books do offer big portability advantages, since the books themselves basically take up little or no volume, and you only need one reader. Also, I'm sure they can make the readers fairly weatherproof. If there are any weatherproof readers, one of those, equipped with a solar charger and some spare batteries and loaded up with a bunch of survival-oriented ebooks would be a great emergency resource to have for hikers, campers, mountaineeers and the like. Information on how to make shelters, find edible flora and fauna, trapping, fishing, signaling, navigation, local languages, yada yada. That'd be way more useful and durable under rugged conditions than a cabinful of books.
posted by jamstigator at 2:10 PM on January 9, 2008


WPW, you wrote "I think the people who push them hardest and make great claims for their superiority over print books do so for ideological reasons and didn't tend to read books anyway."

To me, and I think to anyone but you, that looks like a rather offsensive claim that the advocates of ebooks are illiterate goons.

However, your subsiquent statements both made more sense and didn't include the implication of thuggery, so I'll retract my own venom.

Re: digital storage. When it comes to durability many digital storage methods are at least as long lasting as paper, certainly more long lasting than the crappy paperbacks. A commercially pressed CD, for example, has a pretty much unlimited shelf life, and can withstand moisture, mold, etc much better than paper can. Magnetic media, of course, is another matter. And, more to the point, unless you're expecting atomic war or some other similarly catastrophic event, the very mobility of electronic storage is its greatest durability.

Even if we accepted, which I don't, the position that digital media is inherently more fragile than words on paper, the argument only makes sense if you are envisioning the complete and total end to printed media.

While seems likely that eventually most publishing will be electronic, this isn't the thunderdome (two formats enter, one format leaves!) Hell, glass plate photography still exists, and doubtless will continue to exist as a hobby for centuries to come. Books, as physical artifacts, will certainly continue to exist, if for no other reason than crazy people like me think they're nifty.

As far as readability, you may have a point as far as conventional displays go; though personally I've never found reading on a monitor, whether CRT or LCD, to be difficult. However, epaper rather neatly solves that problem for those who have it, it looks pretty much exactly like a page printed on paper with ink, no flicker, no backlight.

For myself, I do prefer electronic formats for many things. Technical books, textbooks, etc are much easier to work with due to enhanced searching, hyperlinking, etc. I took a history class, for example, where all of the primary source material we were working with had been scanned, OCR'ed, and was available online. It made research vastly easier.

In the end, of course, its a matter of taste, and if you prefer wood pulp to plastic, that's fine. Wood pulp has an attraction for me as well. Though, truth told, if I had a nice leatherbound copy of a book, and a very good ebook reader, I'd probably keep the leatherbound copy on the shelf, and read the ebook; my attraction to physical books is more of a matter of collecting.

But, even if ebooks to become the most popular method of publishing, its hardly going to take the physical books out of your hands, so why the fuss?
posted by sotonohito at 3:14 PM on January 9, 2008


I certainly did not mean to suggest either illiteracy or thuggery, and while I can see how the first could be read from my remark, I don't see how the second could. All the same, it doesn't change the fact that it was just a bit of cranky arseholery from me written in a bad mood, so I think it's probably best for everyone if I just retract the remark and say sorry for any offence caused. Sorry.

As for the rest of the debate, as you said, books aren't going to disappear, and it's just Luddism on my part to doughtily defend proclaim their virtues in those circumstances. You're right that it is ultimately a matter of taste. As for durability, I suppose Time Will Tell.
posted by WPW at 3:32 PM on January 9, 2008


My vision of a perfect ebook reader

1. Two panel display, sort of like a real book, that opens and closes.
2. Color screen. Real paper look and feel, not the cold black on gray.
3. Facsimile of real print, not digital print. Imperfections are good.
4. Sound. As certain scenes are reached, background sounds kick in. Waterfall. Birds chirping. Anything to enhance the scene. This is already done in some audiobooks to good effect.
5. Support for third-party cases, leather, mole-skin, etc..
6. Screen big enough to hold a full-page of text from a normal size (9-10") book. Too many page flips in current 6" screen.
7. Interactivity. All words "clickable" and wireless interface to a computer that brings up dictionaries, Wikipedia, etc.. customizable.
8. Notes and annotations, both personal and group. Imagine every person is able to edit a Wikipedia-like annotation database.

There are people working on a software version with some of these features - when it gets out of Beta I'll be making a FPP about it, sometime in 2008.
posted by stbalbach at 4:34 PM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


While it's a good argument for e-books, in higher education the low-cost approach would seriously cut into professors' incomes. Publishers make big money by having you pay all over again for the same material with different examples or minor fixes, and the professors who put those new editions on the reading list get kickbacks from doing so. That's why academia will probably have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of e-books.

It seems likely to be that we might see ebooks bundled with textbooks (with heavy DRM) the way we are now seeing online content bundled with textbooks. When publishers create these bundles it allows them to assign new ISBNs, which obfuscates the fact that they are selling the very same book and dips into the used book market when textbook managers don't realize that they are the same book or professors insist that the bundled content will be necessary in the course. We also see a lot of university specific editions adopted often only with chapters removed to kill the resale market. The main reason professors adopt new editions is because the old edition goes out of print and textbook managers don't like that (even though they should be over the moon for it). Then there's our human inclination to want what's new, etc. Kickbacks to individuals are not common, but deals with individual departments are. Of course, all of this is a shame for students and ebooks seem ideal for the textbook market for a lot of reasons. That is, except for the piracy factor. Just wait until the college kids can pirate their textbooks!
posted by prosthezis at 5:09 PM on January 9, 2008


I'm sure someone has mentioned it somewhere, but I've not noticed, so - what I dislike is the 1984 quality the ebook suggests. The Kindle was even touting this as an advantage. They claimed they could update a book at will across the network, no charge, and please don't thank us.

Well, quite.

I want my books un-updated. I don't want to have the slightest notion that what I have on my shelve could at any moment and without my knowledge or consent change from what I once knew it to be. I want to see how attitudes and mores were at the time of publication, and not what some eventual prig or fanatic or vandal or commissar decides what they should be. Or perhaps decides what should no longer exist at all, for I have to assume that if they can edit at will, they can also delete.

I have a few renaissance books about the house. Lovely objects. One of the things I like about them is their longevity, their survival through centuries of war, neglect, obscurantism. They're hard to kill. Electrons are too flighty for the ages, I say. To publish something solely on zeroes and ones - to an author of any ambition the thought must be at the very least depressing. TO the reader with an eye to the future, the very thought is frightening.

(Which is not to say that publishers don't fiddle with the classics, as they did with modern editions of such stuff as Penrod - but at least there was the original out there so someone can call them on it. When we all go a-kindling- maybe not so much.)

Or have I been watching too many dystopic movies?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:09 PM on January 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


This internet thing will never go anywhere. That's why I invented (with Al Gore) the ebook. You laughed when I invented (with Dr. Evil) a giant LASER, but you will stop laughing and buy and ebook in the next ten years.

Ebooks for students, casual and avid readers, 3rd world countries, and anyone living in a small apartment, are INEVITABLE. Do grasp this, internet.
posted by ewkpates at 3:53 AM on January 10, 2008


Can anyone explain the supply chain problems that Borders has? The list refers to B&N's superiority in this sense. I've always preferred the Borders' stores, but I've no clue about their business condition.

It would make more sense if he'd left in prediction 16: PW will continue to prove that New Yorkers can be as parochial as anybody else, by continuing to deep throat B&N for everything they do and widdle on Borders for everything they do.

(Disclosure: Borders employee. We definitely have some challenges/problems, but PW is historically hostile to us for some reason.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:53 AM on January 10, 2008


Disclosure: Borders employee. We definitely have some challenges/problems, but PW is historically hostile to us for some reason.

It's ok though, PW is so behind the curve (have you seen their blogs?), Shelf Awareness is where it's at.
posted by drezdn at 7:07 AM on January 10, 2008


One thing I have no idea how they'll replicate in ebooks is spatial memory. When i'm reading a book, I can really easily jump back to a section somewhere "back there" where a character was introduced, or a plot point happened. I can do this without having taken note of it at the time (so no bookmarks) or even remembering any of the useful words (so no search).

In case I'm just weird in being able to do this, the problem also translates to: how do you stick six fingers into pages to keep your Choose Your Own Adventure options open?
posted by bonaldi at 1:04 PM on January 10, 2008


Who is PW?
posted by misha at 1:15 PM on January 10, 2008


Publishers Weekly.
posted by grouse at 1:19 PM on January 10, 2008


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