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March 9, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

How will the Kindle change the publishing business?
posted by Pants! (130 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
If Amazon sold Kindle books at $5 a copy, I'd get a Kindle and never buy another paperback. At $10 a kindle-copy, I feel like I'm being taken. It's like ten cent text messages; it's not the cost per se, it's feeling like a sucker for buying.
posted by orthogonality at 10:51 AM on March 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


If pricepoints were lower across the board, yup--the reader itself by about half, and books likewise. What'd really be a killer app would be, being able to scan in isbns on books I already have in dead-tree format, and paying a nominal fee to get the kindle version.

Fully aware that last is pretty much impossible currently, but it's still my dream.
posted by Drastic at 10:53 AM on March 9, 2009


it's feeling like a sucker for buying

Amazon is cashing in while they can, to amortize the cost of developing the thing. Once Apple puts out its touchscreen netbook, there's little that the Kindle would offer, feature-wise, that it couldn't offer with or add to its existing iPhone-Kindle app.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2009


I'm hoping it will drive them to open standards implemented on a general purpose web tablet.
posted by DU at 10:54 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If Amazon sold Kindle books at $5 a copy, I'd get a Kindle and never buy another paperback. At $10 a kindle-copy, I feel like I'm being taken. It's like ten cent text messages; it's not the cost per se, it's feeling like a sucker for buying.

Yeah, I have an Amazon Prime subscription, so I can get a paper copy of a book in two days for the same price or less as the Kindle version, so I'm not sure what the point is.

If I was rich and had a ton of money to blow on gadgets, it would be tempting, but until the price of the device comes down it's really a non-starter for me, especially with all the DRM.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on March 9, 2009


Once Apple puts out its touchscreen netbook

is that real, though, or just another macrumor? I haven't heard yet whether there's any reason to believe that's actually going to happen.
posted by shmegegge at 11:01 AM on March 9, 2009


also: inevitable penny-arcade link.
posted by shmegegge at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2009


nothing big is going to happen in this industry until nanotechnology gets advanced enough to created phones with foldout screens. The kindle is too big to carry around in a pocket and the iphone et al is too small to be taken seriously as an ebook reader.
posted by any major dude at 11:02 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


What made me really want the Kindle 2 is the free 3G internet that you get with it. Granted, it's for simple pages only and in black & white, but you don't have to pay for it.

However, you can not hollow out an old Kindle and keep a whiskey flask inside.
posted by hellojed at 11:03 AM on March 9, 2009


There are a handful of things that the Kindle is lacking.

- I think the first comment has the right price point, but I would take that a step further. Charge me $5 to rent the book for seven days. The countdown would start from turning to page one, just in case reality interrupted before I started the book. If I want to keep the book after seven days, I'll pay another $5. Anything more than $10 for a glorified text file is too much.

- Give me the ability to let a friend borrow the book I'm reading, because that's one of the great benefits of an in-hand book. If my friend has a Kindle, let me send them the whole book with a one or two day time limit. Or rather, if there is a fear of speed-readers, let me send them the first chapter. And if my friend has no Kindle, then I can send that same first chapter to their email address.

- Let the Kindle read PDF files without hacking or extraneous effort. This limitation might no longer be an issue with the Kindle 2, but I've not heard anything about its removal.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:04 AM on March 9, 2009


What are the dimensions of the Kindle? Is it materially larger than a 350-page hardcover?
posted by Mister_A at 11:07 AM on March 9, 2009


"Yeah, I have an Amazon Prime subscription, so I can get a paper copy of a book in two days for the same price or less as the Kindle version, so I'm not sure what the point is."

Uh, you don't have to store those books with a Kindle, and you can take as many with as you like?
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I find thr ifone fine to reed on, evn long tings ovr multipl pages (lik teh link) - It s the tiping thats dificult .
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:12 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jeff Bezos was on the Daily Show a short while ago to push the Kindle 2, and it was pretty interesting mainly for seeing a non-techy non-gadgetphile's reaction. Which was pretty much what you'd expect: Jon was nonplussed by the price point, and I think the finest moment was when Bezos also mentioned the bullet point of Kindle books being cheaper than hardcover at only $9.99 and Stewart sort of blinked and said "Oh, you have to pay for the books [i]too[/i]? Well...good luck..."

Youtube did not have a full clip of his appearance on a cursory search. But it did have this edited clip of Bezos laughing and laughing and laughing. Which is almost as good!
posted by Drastic at 11:13 AM on March 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


there's little that the Kindle would offer, feature-wise, that it couldn't offer with or add to its existing iPhone-Kindle app.

More than a one-day battery life.
No fixed monthly pricing.

Now, I get what you mean, that it would be a tough sell. But the Kindle does some somewhat innovative stuff that no one is likely to put into another device for a while yet, specifically the screen and the idea of having a 3G cellular connection without a subscription fee.
posted by GuyZero at 11:13 AM on March 9, 2009


I can get a paper copy of a book in two days for the same price or less as the Kindle version

I can't. If I bought, for example, Dreams from My Father right now, it would cost me 8.97 USD plus 7.98 USD Shipping & Handling, and I would get it supposedly in 18-32 business days but, judging by experience, probably closer to the high end or more. Plus, I either need to get reading glasses or get longer arms or start reading large print, so I'm considering the benefits of electronic large print.

Is the cost of a Kindle book the same as the cost of a paper book, minus the manufacturing and shipping cost, and plus the data storage and processing cost? Does everyone otherwise get the same cut?

And... how hard is it to get pirated books for the thing? Or is a Kindle stuffed with DRM tricks?
posted by pracowity at 11:15 AM on March 9, 2009


You can currently get Kindle software for the iPhone. Adding competition to the Kindle in the future: Hearst (publishing company) is planning a wireless e-reader with a large screen, slated for release in 2009, and flexible e-ink (possibly with color and touch-sensitive features) is also scheduled for the near future.

The Kindle (2) made reading from a computer less annoying, and more feasible (physically, if not monetarily). Stephen King thinks this future is intriguing, but he's a best-selling author who has done well with the old model (but he embraced ebooks back in 2000, possibly hedging his bets). Kindle's not the only e-book reader (or even the only digital reading option - MeFi self-link).

For the sake of my limited bookshelf space, I'd like to see e-readers do well. But the penny-pincher that I am, I find old, used books hard to resist. Plus they have that old book smell.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2009


With all the criticism of the Kindle here, you'd think that Amazon would be having a hard time selling it (they aren't).

Bezos' laughing at Stewart's jokes (even at the expense of the product he was pushing) on that TDS interview made me LOL.
posted by found missing at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2009


Yeah, I looked into the Amazon prices now the iPhone app is available and they seem to high for me to really want in on it - about a 25% reduction and I'd get interested.

pracowity - you need to get a better book retailer or stop living in Antarctica.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


^ re: Dreams from My Father

Get it Wednesday, March 11 with FREE Two-Day Shipping if you order within 4 hours and 8 minutes.

Price: $8.97 & eligible for free shipping with Amazon Prime

~~
posted by troy at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2009


Like razor blades Amazon wants you to buy the books. Kindle readers will appear on every platform from PC to ipod. Once it becomes a de-facto standard Amazon will reap the benefits of not only their own sales but a percentage of every kindle formatted book or magazine sold.
posted by Gungho at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I expect eventually books will be like MP3s, quickly and easily traded, and the publishing industry will start to experience the sort of epochal shift that the music industry has experienced. The flipside of this is that I will soon own 30,000 digital books, which will cost me nothing at all and take no real space to store.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:24 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been trying out a Kindle2 (We're also looking at the Sony PRS 505) to see what we can use it for here at the library and after finishing one book on it over the weekend, if I wasn't in the process of buying a house and filling it with stuff, I'd be really tempted to pick one up for myself. Being able to slip a few books into my jacket pocket rather than lugging them around would be nice. Another neat thing was that I was able to buy a British book that is hard to find here in the states on the Kindle. It cost 7 bucks and took 2 minutes.

The hope is to use Kindles as back-ups to our reserves collection. One Kindle book can be shared between 6 Kindles, so even if we end up paying 10 bucks a title, we'll be able to earn back the cost of the devices over time. There are a couple of english lit courses where we've had to get multiple trade paperbacks, so 10 bucks vs 60 is pretty tempting (even if we have to buy 6 Kindles ahead of time).

As the Sony PRS plays better with PDFs, we're thinking about using it to supplement our collection of articles. Currently, we have a slew of papers stuffed into a few cabinets. Reducing said slew to a few 505s would be nice.

Of course, the big stick in this is that textbooks are not on Kindle/PRS. That would be pretty sweet. The Kindle App for iPhone is pretty nice too. We have some Touches that we'd like to get some more use out of.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:25 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know what might make interested in Kindle? IF IT WORKED IN MY COUNTRY. Until then, I'll give it a pass. As far as Kindle on my ipod, I don't see why I would with mobipocket and stanza around.

"Amazon’s strategy is extremely US-centric, unlike their traditional retail reach. By choosing to include a US-specific mobile phone radio under the bonnet — the so-called Whispernet that is used to download books without a PC — Amazon limit their global presence. If Amazon wished to create a foundation for a global strategy then Amazon, like Apple, should have used a GSM/UMTS mobile phone radio. Now, Amazon must release different hardware if they want to offer Kindle in Europe or most of Asia. For consumers, this decision decision hits the product’s convenience: Kindle will only download books in the US, and in the future perhaps a few select countries that happen to use the same mobile technology, such as South Korea and parts of South America."
posted by Salmonberry at 11:29 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a kindle2. I love it. If you are comparing reading on an iPhone or other device to reading e-ink, you need to stop. It is a completely different experience.

Additionally, the kindle is not for reading pdf files. Pdf is a print layout format which is not reflowable. There are already business-class e-ink readers with an A4-size that display pdf files just fine. However, you will pay for that feature. This is probably the future of the kindle, A-4 sized with a touchscreen.

- Give me the ability to let a friend borrow the book I'm reading, because that's one of the great benefits of an in-hand book. If my friend has a Kindle, let me send them the whole book with a one or two day time limit. Or rather, if there is a fear of speed-readers, let me send them the first chapter. And if my friend has no Kindle, then I can send that same first chapter to their email address.

Most of the books on the kindle marketplace allow you to download and read the first chapter to try it out.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:33 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Doesn't work in my country either, but I heard from somebody who has one that if you have 2 Kindles in a household and want to share books, they must be registered to one Amazon account.

I guess they want you to buy the book twice. No, thanks. Besides, that probably also means it's not easy to buy a book on your account as a gift to somebody else.

Oh, and Amazon being US-centric? Let me give you another example... I maintain a wish-list on amazon.co.uk. It’s partly so I can keep track of books I’d like to read, and partly because every now and then a reader on my weblog surprises me by ordering something from it. And it's the co-dot-uk because that's just across the herring pond and they actually ship to me.

Today, when browsing some news sites, I read a review of a book that I thought I’d like to read - and the author of the review included a link to the book on amazon. Well, the dot-com variant, not the dot-co-dot-uk version. After reading the page on the book on the amazon site, I decide I still like it, and click the “add to wishlist” button, and it happily takes the username and password I maintain at the dot-co-dot-uk version.

And then creates a new wish list for me. Now that’s stupid, but it gets worse. The page layout insinuates that the wish-list creation process isn’t complete, because it asks me which delivery address I want to use, conveniently listing all the delivery addresses I have set up on my account. So I abandon that web page - the site is smart enough to fully recognize my account, but too stupid to know I already have a wish list. Off to the UK site to try again, right?

While I browse the dot-uk site to find the same book (which turns out to have a different title and different release date over here, yeah!) I receive a mail message - but I don’t switch to my mail client until after I’ve added the book to my real wishlist.

Now guess what’s in my mail.

Indeed. A mail from Amazon, welcoming me to my “new Universal Wish List”.

I wonder how many universes they have at amazon.

Oh, and the message closes with “Here’s hoping you get every single thing you’re dreaming of!” signed by “Your friends at Amazon.com”.

Well, I’m dreaming of a truly universal amazon wish list, but somehow I doubt I will get it.

And If they muck up something as simple as this, I won't be trying their eBook software any time soon.
posted by DreamerFi at 11:41 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are comparing reading on an iPhone or other device to reading e-ink, you need to stop. It is a completely different experience.

Seriously. I've tried reading on a variety of different backlit LCD devices and the e-ink display on my Sony Reader blows everything else out of the water.

I expect eventually books will be like MP3s, quickly and easily traded, and the publishing industry will start to experience the sort of epochal shift that the music industry has experienced.

That's a good point. The infrastructure for trading is already there, and in some niche areas (like technical books about programming), books have been actively traded for years. Once ebooks become the norm, file sharing will probably come into focus as it has in other industries. I think that the lack of a big file-sharing community around ebooks actually proves that the current technology isn't up to the standards of real books. If there's not much of a demand to download digital books for free on the Internet, then there probably isn't much of a demand to buy them.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


also: inevitable penny-arcade link.

And the mandatory xkcd one.

Having still to get my hands on a Kindle 1 or 2 (I need more early adopting friends), I'm not yet convinced this is the Gutenberg-like breakthrough on electronic publishing. Movable type, after all, saw other experimenters before Johannes. Amazon has a few e-competitors to keep them on their toes. Just in the past week, Barnes & Noble just bought independent e-book retailer Fictionwise as part of its strategy to open an e-bookstore soon, and Google is embarking on a massive global advertising campaign to comply with the terms of a class action suit settlement over Google Books Search project, its grandiose plan to scan every the book in the world. I'm just waiting for an e-book reader with "Don't Panic" inscribed in large, friendly letters on its case.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I expect eventually books will be like MP3s, quickly and easily traded, and the publishing industry will start to experience the sort of epochal shift that the music industry has experienced. The flipside of this is that I will soon own 30,000 digital books, which will cost me nothing at all and take no real space to store.

You're probably right. I'd quibble that libraries and used book stores already make most books quickly and easily traded, but your point remains. I'd also say I'm a bit more pessimistic about the impact of all those "easily traded" books on the bottom-line of authors, who typically need to hold down day jobs to pay the bills in a way that music industry professionals don't, but I guess we'll see. If there's a dramatic reduction in the amount of stuff getting published -- because margins are already razor thin as-is -- maybe it won't be the worst thing. At least that 30,000 have already been written.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:01 PM on March 9, 2009


As much as I like real dead-tree books, I must say that I am looking forward to the day when moving day does not mean 18-27 boxes of books. There are some books I really like (old editions, special to me, etc.) but some books I just want to read once or keep around for reference now and then.

I'm really tempted by the Kindle but as grabbingsand said, I'd like to be to upload books I currently have via ISBN, even if it means paying a nominal fee to get the e-version.

I'm still kinda wondering about the whole bookstore thing as well as publishing. I guess there are people who like their local music stores and people who like their dusty book stores (me being the latter). I like music too but not as much as I like books. I'd hate to see a complete demise of either type of store.

looks like this will all be a wait and see kinda thing tho. anything is possible...
posted by sio42 at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2009


Uh, you don't have to store those books with a Kindle, and you can take as many with as you like?

But the kindle does nothing for the acoustics or heat insulation in my reading room.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2009


Now, I get what you mean, that it would be a tough sell. But the Kindle does some somewhat innovative stuff that no one is likely to put into another device for a while yet, specifically the screen and the idea of having a 3G cellular connection without a subscription fee.

You mean other then All the other e-book readers? (Well, not the 3G, which is interesting)

Anyway, the Kindle is larded with DRM, so I'll probably skip it.
posted by delmoi at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2009


And the mandatory xkcd one.

Excellent point: if I could get one gussied up to look like the HHGTTG, with a big "DON'T PANIC!" on the back or something, I might just give in and buy one, even though I've become a big library user and stopped the weekly book-buying-bleeding.
posted by papercake at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2009


The Kindle is itself not packed with DRM, though the books you buy through Amazon with it are. I've only bought two or three for the year or so I've had a Kindle v.1.

You can use sites like Feedbooks, which have mass-converted out-of-copyright texts for the Kindle, and provide links at the end of each file so you can easily click to the next book by the author.

For all your pre-1924 reading needs, Kindle is a wonder. Free, easy, no hands, no connection required.

The real killer copyright-free app, of course, would be the epaper that could auto-download the scanned pdf full text books from Google Books.

In the meantime, the Kindle is really quite close enough to magic for me.
posted by LucretiusJones at 12:21 PM on March 9, 2009


I'd also say I'm a bit more pessimistic about the impact of all those "easily traded" books on the bottom-line of authors, who typically need to hold down day jobs to pay the bills in a way that music industry professionals don't...

Hell, we can just go on tour I guess. Seriously, comparing this to the situation in music is pretty crazy. Musicians can use the "record" to promote their live shows; how is a novelist going to make money if no one pays for the book? That's all there is. Just the book.
posted by Mister_A at 12:34 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


who typically need to hold down day jobs to pay the bills in a way that music industry professionals don't

Music industry professionals don't need to hold down day jobs only if you restrict the definition of "music industry professional" to that small fraction of musicians who, er, don't need to hold down day jobs. This is probably not a derail that's worth pursuing at any length, but I can't make any sense at all of that assertion.
posted by cortex at 12:44 PM on March 9, 2009


Oh, people here will declare warezing the answer to anything. A few mates of Doctrow and Ellis get deals off the back of free distribution (and a shitload of internet promotion) and suddenly it’s The Only Business Model That Works, ignoring that they actually make their money off of physical copies and that it’s questionable if it works when you don’t have pimping from big names of the web.
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Speaking as an author (10+ major publisher books) here, I have to say that I watched as every publisher with a few bucks to spend decided my particular niche was ripe for CHEAP AND FAST CRAPPY TITLE X, and now that the fallout's, well, fallen, there is room for a quality content comeback.

Self pubbing or small press pubbing is a crapshoot at best no matter how high the quality of your work, but Kindle opens up a whole new world of accessibility even to known-quantity authors like me. No more fighting over royalty statements (there's a group of us who think the books are being cooked at one particular pub), no more working your ass off to promote a book that the publisher is going to ignore 3 months after it's out. Kindle and its ilk are going to level the publishing playing field for many of us who'd rather just DIY. (well, DIO).

And as a reader, I have never been so happy -- never again will I be stuck in an airport with the choice of Crap A or Crap B (AIRPORT: I BLAME YOU FOR FORCING ME TO BUY THE KEVIN SMITH AUTOBIOGRAPHY), and as mentioned above, it's not perfect but the built-in web-browsing is yay when you are stuck somewhere.

It's first gen stuff, sure, but with the Kindle reader for iPhone out now, I think that's going to be a massive help as well...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


yeah, it seems like price is the real issue here...if only there was some way to 'rent' books locally. though, what with the high cost of books and the huge infrastructure costs of building all those nonvirtual 'libraries', the cost of 'renting' a book would probably remain an option only for the very rich.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:52 PM on March 9, 2009


The price of the books is the killer for me. They want to charge *MORE* for an ebook than they charge for a print book. Think about that for a minute.

They have essentially zero publication costs. Paper, ink, printing machinery, shipping, etc, all the stuff that makes publishing expensive are nonexistant for ebooks. Their only costs are editing, and maintaining servers. There is no possible way I will ever pay more for an ebook than I do for the real thing.

The worst part, I think, is that enough people will buy ebooks at that insane inflated price that it'll become standard.
posted by sotonohito at 12:53 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


how is a novelist going to make money if no one pays for the book?

Proust was rich. Joyce had sponsors. Henry Green worked for a living.

We'll get by.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Kindle isn't good yet. It is too expensive and the screen isn't as big as it should be given the size of the product and the keyboard is too much of the device considering how much you use it, the big thing though is that the pages turn too slowly. I guess it is fine for fiction but for reference material the inability to flip multiple pages at a time too home in on the sort of thing you're looking for in an informal organic search is a serious problem. What would be really nice would be if a school used the kindle and designed books that took advantage of the kindles random access ability to sort of create a nested lesson where a student can look up concepts and meta concepts that they don't understand sufficiently. Kind of what wikipedia allows but more designed around pedagogy. If I was bezos, I would hire some professors to design textbooks around the kindle for a wide variety of subjects and offer them as a loss leader to move the kindles to get a lot of students and schools to use the kindle as a big part of their lives.
posted by I Foody at 12:54 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Kindle isn't good yet. It is too expensive and the screen isn't as big as it should be...

In the eighties, my parents paid $2,000 for a Commodore 64. I've thrown away cell phones with more processing power. Don't fixate too much on the limitations of what's there now. The kindle of five or ten years from now will be much better.
posted by GuyZero at 12:57 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


GuyZero I agree. I probably should have put the 'yet' in italics. The kindle is almost exactly what it needs to be but the things that aren't right yet matter a lot.
posted by I Foody at 1:02 PM on March 9, 2009


Oh, people here will declare warezing the answer to anything.

It's not that warez is "the answer" so much as that it is an inevitability. Predicting the widespread underground distribution of digital content A as a given in the face of the success of new media hardware platform B isn't ideology, it's basic common sense.

Whether and to what degree free or deeply discounted (from current prices) content distribution will be an actual business model for the majors is an interesting question, and one I figure any smart publisher is already asking themselves at this point.

But independent of that, there will be folks cracking and torrenting ebooks. That's a given. It's an assumption that any sane company looking at digital content has to take into account and work with (or around, though workarounds for this sort of thing tend to be laughable and short-lived) if they want to go into this with their eyes open instead of wearing blinders.
posted by cortex at 1:02 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just ordered a Kindle1, so I'll see how well I can get it to work in Canada (I know, I know).

All Amazon needs to do is drop the cell network, and add WiFi to make it a world-wide device.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2009


For anyone who likes to borrow & lends books to friends, the Kindle is worse than useless.
posted by Aquaman at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So you were the one who bought that! Hah!
posted by Mister_A at 1:12 PM on March 9, 2009


Shrug. I stopped buying books and just go to the library. None of the books I've ever bought have lived up to my expectations.
posted by anniecat at 1:16 PM on March 9, 2009


I got a Kindle a couple of weeks ago, and I've used it every day since I took it out of its box. I love it. I love reading, and I'm not going to get rid of any of my paper books -- nor am I going to stop buying paper books. But if a book is available for Kindle, I will consider that option.

It's not for everyone, and it SHOULDN'T be for everyone. It's great to have multiple ways to read: hardcover, softcover, audiobook (which I also love), e-ink book.

Here's what I love:

- e-ink. I think all the negative criticism in this thread makes sense (price point, etc.), except for the people claiming that netbooks and cellphones work just as well for reading. Have you TRIED an e-ink device? And by "tried," I don't mean glanced at one and flipped a few pages. Have you tried reading on one for three-hours straight and compared that to reading on a LCD screen for three-hours straight? IF you've really tried this and think "meh," I guess your eyes are different than mine. Maybe you're 22 years old.

- one-handed reading. I live in NYC and ride the subway. I can finally hold onto a pole and read without it being a hassle.

- carrying around tons of books at once. If you read one book at a time, you won't care about this. But I'm currently reading two computer-programming books, a pop science book, and a novel. I love being able to switch back and forth between them, depending on my mood. Back before Kindle, I read this way. I did it by carrying around a messenger bag full of books. My back thanks the Kindle.

- impulse buys. I impulse buy books. I'm not ashamed of that. I got into bookstores and have no idea what I want. I find a book that looks interesting, grab it off the shelf, but it and read it. I've always loved doing that. The Kindle makes it even more fun. You recommend a book to me; I think, "Man, I'd like to read that right now!"; and in about a minute, I'm reading it.
posted by grumblebee at 1:19 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can finally hold onto a pole and read without it being a hassle.

Good news for women working as strippers to put themselves through school.

But seriously, car vibration seems a much larger impediment to subway reading than the need to hold a book in two hands.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2009


Good news for women working as strippers to put themselves through school.


If I ever saw a stripper dancing around a pole while reading a Kindle (or reading anything), she'd get a huge tip from me.

But seriously, car vibration seems a much larger impediment to subway reading than the need to hold a book in two hands.

Nah. We NYers are used to the vibrations. The entire subway is like a big reading room. I sometimes buy books based on reading the spine and cover of the book the person across from me is reading.
posted by grumblebee at 1:26 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, but Joe Beese, it is absolutely delightful to read a ginormous book (like this nearly-900-pager I currently have on my Kindle which, also, cost practically a third of the print edition) in bed, on my side, without worrying about breaking my damn wrist.

And in my special niche (knitting/crafts) the ability to haul dozens of patterns/knit-related books to the yarn store when searching out materials with which to make them is quite fabulous.

Textbooks, when and if they come, and color -- those are what will take the Kindle and similar readers well over the top. I remember when I was in college (back in the dark days of the early 90s) -- you'd be lucky to get $10 back for a $90 textbook at the end of the quarter. On Kindle, I could not only pay less for the actual book, but I could annotate the hell of out it (the 'highlight' function is fab, too) while reading without worrying if I was making it less-resaleable.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:28 PM on March 9, 2009


I sometimes buy books based on reading the spine and cover of the book the person across from me is reading.

Sometimes it works the other way.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2009


I think textbooks will be completely delivered via kindle in a few years. They're already an enormous waste of paper and we can dispense with the illusion that textbook shave any resale value - publishers have already figured out how to juggle the exercises in each successive edition to make it fairly difficult to use second-hand texts. Plus by reducing the cost to a more sensible level ($90 for a calculus text? Really?) people will simply give up and submit to paying their $500 or whatever a term for all their texts delivered electronically to their kindle. Plus you'll finally be able to bring the text to class without having more weight on your back than Tenzing Norgay. And Amazon has all the right publisher connections to make it happen.

Believe me, the textbook niche is the Moore-esque "bowling alley" for the Kindle (i'm crossing the chasm inside a tornado with my gorilla game!). Assuming it starts in, say, 2012, by 2016 you'll have legions of new grads with Kindles in hand and by 2020 books will be taking a serious, serious hit.
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2009


Regarding digital books and artificial inconveniences like DRM and weird licensing schemes, a few years ago I pushed for my office to try out O'Reilly's 'Safari' digital book program. Under this program, you get access to O'Reilly's books.

The entire program was cumbersome. They didn't list prices on their website. Instead, you had to talk to a salesperson. And then getting the books was really weird - you could check them out a chapter at a time in exchange for tokens, after paying a significant amount of money per user per year in exchange for the right to use the system.

Ugh. It was too complex for a startup. We did not need yet another recurring cost, books doled out a chapter at a time, and some licensing management scheme to contend with.

At the time, Pirate Bay featured a torrent of every O'Reilly book we wanted, each as a scanned PDF. This option would have been: a) simpler, and b) more convenient in almost every way than the legitimate digital one.

In the end, we just stuck with Amazon and our local bookstore (Staceys, RIP) and physical books.
posted by zippy at 1:40 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


But seriously, car vibration seems a much larger impediment to subway reading than the need to hold a book in two hands.

What bitter-girl.com said about big books—not everything I want to read is a slimmish paper back that's easy to prop up with one hand—plus the difference between being able to hold a book up with one hand and being able to comfortably turn pages with one hand.
posted by cortex at 1:43 PM on March 9, 2009


Zippy, I'm not sure what you're talking about. I'm a Safari member, and I go on their site all the time and read as much of a book -- any O'Reilly book -- as I want.
posted by grumblebee at 1:43 PM on March 9, 2009


The kindle (and other similar devices) will never take off until it is easy to pirate books. Imagine an iPod that could only play DRM'd songs you bought on iTunes, how successful would that have been?

I always felt $1 per track was an absurdly high price for iTunes to charge for a song anyway, just as $10 per book is. Those prices only make sense if you think you are selling content, not just selling convenient access to content. This business is exactly the same as online music distribution, and they are making the exact same mistakes. Rampant book piracy is so obviously inevitable, it makes me sad that I even have to mention it.
posted by where u at dawg at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2009


Oh, this is a relatively minor benefit, but I really enjoy having a device that I don't have to turn on or off. Kindles use almost no power unless you're turning pages or have the wispernet enabled (I only connect when I want to download a book). I've had it on for two weeks, and the power bar is still at almost full. When I'm done reading, I just put it in its bag. When I want to read again, I just pull it out -- not booting up or anything.
posted by grumblebee at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2009


"- one-handed reading.... I can finally hold onto a pole and read without it being a hassle. "

Too much information. And I really don't want to know whether that's your pole or someone else's.
posted by orthogonality at 1:49 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I expect eventually books will be like MP3s,

This seems to be Da Hype surrounding Kindle, for reasons unknown: The fallacy is that books aren't like MP3s, they're like MP3 albums. Albums you can't just play back at random in a great shuffle. You can't just one-button rip one of your favorite books in your collection. The biggest thing MP3 had going for it, sadly, were piracy and grey-use areas: There were no stores for digital audio when digital audio players came out.

I fail to see how the literary world is going to be that much more brilliant than the music world at trying to come to grips with a medium shift and not making a fuckery of it for the forseeable future.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:50 PM on March 9, 2009


What bitter-girl.com said about big books

Don't get me wrong. If the Kindle cost 1/4 as much and would load my own documents without busting my balls about it, I'd own one today. But it doesn't and it won't. So now we play the waiting game.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2009


orthogonality, I meant a citizen of Poland.
posted by grumblebee at 1:52 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


What, Joe Beese, uploading your own docs via email or USB cable isn't easy enough for you? (Both are possible; the former will cost you 10 cents but I am a lazy bastard when it comes to finding a spare USB cable around this House of A Thousand Cables).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:55 PM on March 9, 2009


Though I've sounded like a fan boy in this thread, and though I'm head-over-heels about my Kindle now, I suspect it will quickly become boring to me. I don't mean I'll get tired of using it. I mean I'll get tired of thinking about it and talking about it. I use pencils all the time, but I don't really think much about them.

iPods/iPhones are different, because they can radically change your life. Never before could I carry so much media around with me at one time. And there are even new sorts of apps being created for them.

But even for someone like me -- who likes to carry around several books at once -- I can only read one word at a time. And once I'm into a story, I don't really care (or think about) whether I'm reading it on a Kindle, a netbook or on sheets of paper. I just want to know what happens next.

There's a fun moment when you first take your Kindle out of the box and geek out over its bells and whistles. But then you just ... read. Ultimately, for me, it's functional and I'll use it -- but it's not sexy. And if it fails -- or if printed books fail -- well, that will be too bad. But reading won't fail. I'll still read on SOMETHING.

Also, I expect that eventually most of the concerns about authors and the publishing industry will die down. People who like to read will still need writers to write things for them. And we'll pay for good writing. You know what's much more fun to talk about than the Kindle? The latest Stephen King or Margaret Atwood novel. If your friend says, "I just read a great book by John Updike," do you really care whether she read it on a Kindle or in hardcover?
posted by grumblebee at 2:01 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


uploading your own docs via email or USB cable isn't easy enough for you?

Can you do it through just a USB cable now? It simply drinks up one's .txt, .pdf, or (ha ha) .docx files and asks for more? Last I'd heard, you had to e-mail. And aside from the annoyance factor, which is genuine, the contents of my documents are none of Amazon's goddamned business and will remain that way.

I fail to see how the literary world is going to be that much more brilliant than the music world at trying to come to grips with a medium shift and not making a fuckery of it for the forseeable future.

Their craven capitulation on the text-to-speech business does not encourage hopes for "much more brilliant".
posted by Joe Beese at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2009


I've been giving this a bit of thought and I'm considering lower the price of most of the books that the publisher I work for has in the Kindle program to $4.99. Here's my thinking.

1.) It's not the same customer. For quite some time publishers have been pricing their ebooks at or near the price of the physical book. The rationale was that the ebook cannibalized the market for the physical book so the cost still needed to be recovered. I don't think it is the same customer, at least not for the kind of book we publish (scholarly monographs). Libraries and scholars buy most of our physical books, and it seems highly unlikely to me that they will buy ebooks instead of physical books because of the price. Instead I think our content will find a wider audience of general readers who can afford to read deep if the price isn't a barrier.

2.) Costs are lower, so too should be the price. (Though costs are not as low as you might think. Editorial and design costs don't disappear with ebooks and for the type of book we publish, that can be as much as 1/3 of our associated costs on a title.)

3.) It doesn't do what your physical book does. You can't lend it or resell it. Hell, on the iPhone you can't even search it. The death of the backlist, which is really what's hurting publishing the most right now, isn't the result of the digitization of books or piracy, it's a result of the centralizing of the used book market on the Internet. The Kindle's distribution model eliminates a lot of used copies competing for a publisher's copy of the book new.

4.) My biggest concern about the future of the publishing industry is pirates. The easiest way to compete with free is to offer a reasonable alternative. A $4.99 Kindle edition seems to be analogous to the .99 ACC file iTunes first sold. As Steve Jobs once pointed out, the .99 was worth it just for the time you saved finding the file to pirate and then adding the metadata yourself. I think the same could be said of books. It takes a lot longer to digitize a book than it does to rip a CD. If I can de-incentivize that with a reasonable price point, why not. Maybe the best way to avoid piracy is competing with it.

So I'm talking to my bosses about it and to Amazon, and if they all will allow it, I hope to reprice them by the end of the month. I've been fiddling with a Kindle and a Sony Reader and they're fine devices, but it was Amazon's deal with Apple that I think will revolutionize ebooks. It's not that I think reading on an iPhone is ideal, it's that Amazon has set the stage to put put book content everywhere. And once the Google Book Settlement is resolved, the number of titles eligible for that marketspace goes from 240,000 to 7,000,000. A big part of our success in that space is clearly going to rely on the value proposition for the customer, and the ability to complete with pirated editions. The $4.99 Kindle edition might just be an appropriate response to both of those challenges.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:08 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Pencils are awesome.

But it doesn't and it won't. So now we play the waiting game.

Yeah, I'm not getting one either. Costs too much, I'd get too little us out of it.

I'm just not not getting it out of any straining sense of anti-ergonomic pride. It seems like a pretty cool device, and I'd love to play with one if it just appeared by magic.
posted by cortex at 2:10 PM on March 9, 2009


The kindle (and other similar devices) will never take off until it is easy to pirate books. Imagine an iPod that could only play DRM'd songs you bought on iTunes, how successful would that have been?

The Kindle already reads open format ebooks and txt files, and there are ways to strip the DRM out of Amazon-sold .azw files. It's already easy to pirate books; there just aren't the same vectors in place to actually accomplish the piracy as there are in, e.g., the music or movie world.

Anyway, I think that the main objection most people have to the Kindle is that it just isn't a book. If I may quote myself:
The thing the critics really hate, though, and the one thing that dwarfs all of the other objections to the Kindle, is that it isn’t a book. It doesn’t feel like a book, it doesn’t smell like a book, and most of all, it doesn’t lend any character to the specific book you are reading right now. I hadn’t really thought about this before using the Kindle, but it immediately struck me how much of the character and tone of a book I get from the body of a book itself—the weight, the cover, the binding, the quality of the paper, the font choices, the density of words on the page—all of these have a distinct impact on how I think about and remember a book.

I have an old paperback copy of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, one that I read innumerable times growing up. It’s not so much a paperback anymore, since both the front and back covers were mostly lost at some point during my adolescence. I loved the book so much, though, and wanted to be able to take it with me without damaging the thin, brittle pages, that I made my own cover and binding for the book out of cardboard and packing tape. It’s quite a feat of teenage engineering, I think, and has held up masterfully for twenty years. Now that is a book. A real object that acts as a physical referent, a nexus for my intangible memories about the trilogy. I’ve read the other books in the Foundation universe, and none have carried the weight that those first three did—I now wonder how much of that is because of my physical connection with the book as an object.

Every book on the Kindle feels exactly the same. There is no physical object, and the visual components of the book that do carry through the device—the font choice, mostly—are determined not by publisher or author, but are fixed by the device itself. Maybe the attachment to the physical object is mere nostalgia, an artifact of history; maybe the Kindle will let the writing itself, the author’s story, imprint more directly in my memory, unbounded by the ephemera of its physical packaging. I don’t know yet, but I will tell you this: you can have my Kindle when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:16 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I sometimes buy books based on reading the spine and cover of the book the person across from me is reading.

Oh man, if I did that I'd have an entire room full of crappy Will You Be Saved When Jesus Comes books. That and romance novels.

And yeah, to add to the anecdotes, reading Infinite Jest on the subway these past 2 months has been an exercise in frustration. The air conditioning vents alone made me need two hands just to keep the pages from blowing over while I read.
posted by shmegegge at 2:19 PM on March 9, 2009


If they dropped the price for a digital version of new hardcover books to $5, would people still buy the physical ones for $25?

I figure we've come pretty far from the early days of eBooks, where the price was the same as the full list price as the physical book. Of course, back then people were saying that if they just dropped the price to $10, they'd have no problem buying it. I guess people always want it cheaper.
posted by smackfu at 2:20 PM on March 9, 2009


you can have my Kindle when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

That last line seems at odds with the rest of the piece, or am I being dense and not getting a joke? I expected him to say, "You can have my paperback copy of 'The Foundation Trilogy' when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."
posted by grumblebee at 2:22 PM on March 9, 2009


Yeah, it's certainly at odds with the rest of the piece, but that's the whole thing about the Kindle--it confounds our normal expectations about reading books, while at the same time opening up new and interesting reading habits and behaviors. I miss certain aspects of the physical book, but I also really like reading on the Kindle.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2009


Can you do it through just a USB cable now? It simply drinks up one's .txt, .pdf, or (ha ha) .docx files and asks for more? Last I'd heard, you had to e-mail. And aside from the annoyance factor, which is genuine, the contents of my documents are none of Amazon's goddamned business and will remain that way.

I know I've done textfiles over USB, for sure. (Project Gutenberg, anyone?) I could test the others.

Seriously. I love the New Yorker, longtime subscriber = STACKS of them at our house because I don't get around to throwing them away ever, or tearing out the chunk of text I wanted to remember. Now that it's available on Kindle, the thought of not necessarily NEEDING a print sub = awesome. $2.99 per month is less than a single issue AND the cartoons look great, if you were wondering.

Also, the 10 cent per document charge doesn't even get charged til you rack up $3 in charges. From my account page at Amazon:
Individual charges include e-mailed document charges to cover wireless delivery ($.10 per e-mailed document attachment). Your credit card will be charged when you have accrued at least $3.00 in total charges, or 30 e-mailed documents.
Killing publishers/authors? mmm, no. If anything, it's made me more likely to try out books I would never have picked up or bought or even encountered in a bookstore -- the ability to download a sample chapter makes it easy.

Toekneesan's mention of scholarly monographs reminds me -- if I could buy half the stuff I had access to in college (in our miraculous library, that is now sadly 4 hrs away), I would. I'd consider $9.99 a damn bargain compared to the $50-90 AND UP some medieval history books retail for, even USED.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Textbooks and reference books on the Kindle would be pretty killer, too, especially with the inevitable improved search functionality. I would love to be able to get the key reference texts for my field and have them all standing at the ready on a Kindle.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2009


Re the "feel and smell of a book," I totally understand. I love physical books. But history says that I should get over it. People got bent out of shape about paperbacks when they first came out. I'm sure people get upset about scrolls giving way to printed books. They probably got upset when clay tablets yielded to papyrus, or when the oral tradition yielded to print.

I'm not mocking it: if you love reading, you're naturally going associate the particulars of your customary reading experience with the stories you read. But "reading devices" always change. Reading stays the same. In 50 years, there will be people waxing nostalgic about the Kindle. "I don't want to read on a holographic device. It's so soul-less! A Kindle is warm and friendly!"

It's kind of like if your brunette wife died her hair blonde. If you preferred her old hair color, you might be upset for a while. But you'd get over it. You'd realize that your wife is not her hair.

I'd bet that the writer of that piece gets over his nostalgia for books while he's reading a really riveting story on his Kindle. It's fun to smell books in a book store or on your self. It's fun to look at them and feel them before and after you read -- and when you take breaks -- but WHILE you're reading, if you're thinking about the binding and the font, there's something wrong with the story.

I DO think it's sad if books are on their way out. But we'll get over it. We'll drown our sorrows in stories.
posted by grumblebee at 2:30 PM on March 9, 2009


The thing the critics really hate, though, and the one thing that dwarfs all of the other objections to the Kindle, is that it isn’t a book. It doesn’t feel like a book, it doesn’t smell like a book, and most of all, it doesn’t lend any character to the specific book you are reading right now.

True. MP3s are also quite characterless in comparison to, say, the gatefold sleeve of Houses of the Holy. [Not to mention that click in the vinyl when Robert Plant asks where the BRIIIDGE is.] But if the passing of the gatefold sleeve era means the arrival of an era in which I can get Led Zeppelin's entire catalog for free - not to mention their studio outtakes and concert bootlelgs - I won't mourn for what was.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:36 PM on March 9, 2009


Our production costs aren't actually that much lower for an e-book than they are for a physical book; a great deal happens with a book before it is printed that must still be taken into account. Here are all the people who work on a book regardless of whether it is a physical book or an e-book:
  • Managing editorial: the department that prepares edited manuscripts before they are typeset
  • Art: the department that creates book jackets and covers
  • Production: a more limited role when we’re only talking about the things that happen for both physical and e-books, but still involved
  • Marketing: coordinates paid promotions (often divided into traditional marketing and online marketing, and often the smallest department)
  • Publicity: seeks editorial coverage of books in print, radio, TV, and on the web.
  • Subrights: sells rights for translation, foreign publication, serial (when excerpts appear in print and online publications), and whatever other secondary rights the publisher controls (radio, film)
  • Sales: sells the books to bookstores and coordinates e-books sales agreements (bricks and mortar and online), so they can sell them to youSo, you can see that it's more complicated than "Hey, look! There isn't any packaging anymore!" There's undoubtedly bloat in this model (there are even more layers when you're talking about things that happen for physical books that don't for e-books), but all of these people generally work for very little money for very long hours; nobody is twiddling their thumbs.

    *The reasons why fact checking in books isn't as rigorous as fact-checking in magazines could really use its own FPP.

  • posted by ocherdraco at 2:37 PM on March 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


    One item I have yet to see addressed is the integrity of open-format e-books. While it would be tough to insert "Play it again, Sam" into your copy of Casablanca, which then goes on to circulate about the world, it would be trivially easy to take the Thompson quote:
    The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.
    and tack on the famous addition, "There is also a negative side." After a while it circulates about and nobody can easily know what the truth might be. Imagine the subtle annoyances of mp3 files with inaccurate ID3 tags and multiply it by a thousand. Some might welcome this brave new world of subtle rewrites, but I, for one, would not.
    posted by adipocere at 2:43 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Toekneesan's mention of scholarly monographs reminds me -- if I could buy half the stuff I had access to in college (in our miraculous library, that is now sadly 4 hrs away), I would. I'd consider $9.99 a damn bargain compared to the $50-90 AND UP some medieval history books retail for, even USED.

    Damn, those are bargains compared to graduate level engineering texts. I paid $190 for one of my books at the beginning of this semester, and mine routinely cost ~$120 used. I would be very interested in a Kindle if it had a wee bit more functionality. Most of my interaction with papers is taking notes, and engineering notes usually involve things that are either very difficult or impossible to type (equations, figures, etc). A winning device for me would include a touchscreen that you could take notes on -- not just notes on books, but your own standalone notes on separate pages, that you'd be able to save as a .pdf or something. That would beat lugging paper and stuff around to classes. I'm aware that there are e-readers that can do this, but my quick research in the last few minutes has shown that most of them are really expensive (much more than the Kindle) and look like they have really awful form factors and screen refresh rates.

    Textbooks on a device, as long as it had some sort of note-taking or annotation mechanism, would force me to buy it, though. That would be fantastic. No more dragging around ~1000+ page hardcover books.
    posted by malthas at 2:44 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


    I was talking with a literary agent a couple of months ago who said:

    1. Publishers are exploring business models that involve renting, rather than owning, books, based around the "book club" concept. IE you pay a subscription and get access to say five books (that you choose, from a list) for a month. He said in effect: "At the moment, the people who publishers make profits from do not see the need to keep books - they read them and pass them on, or throw them away."

    2. The end result will be a much shittier deal for nearly all authors, and will lead to fewer good books being published. There will be fewer authors. There will be fewer readers. Even good books will be worse because the model will no longer support editors and typesetters who know what they're doing.

    3. All this is suicide for publishing but they don't see it that way.

    4. I said "But I'll still buy [print] books. And I keep most of them." He said: "Publishers do not have a picture of you on their walls." Print books will survive as expensive luxury items.

    He was pessimistic in the extreme, and the conversation really shook me as a writer.

    Of course, he might be wrong, but by the time we find out we will have smashed a system of knowledge distribution that will be near-impossible to rebuild.
    posted by WPW at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


    we will have smashed a system of knowledge distribution that will be near-impossible to rebuild

    The Library of Congress seems to have an answer for this, by tying into the desire of publishers to protect their copyrights.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:53 PM on March 9, 2009


    See, by the way, some UK whinging, which includes: "As if all this weren’t bad enough, a further challenge has emerged: the unstoppable rise of electronic publishing. The difficulty of making money out of the internet is well catalogued."

    Umm, yeah. It's really difficult for me to sell single pattern PDFs for $5 and $6 a pop.

    (Wait, that was sarcasm. In fact, I've sold about $50 in single pattern PDFs since yesterday).

    I expect this will continue or perhaps even get better once I am offering longer-format works with more patterns for say, $15. Yes, children, the internet is dangerous and full of thugs and there is no money to be made -- move along lest ye be swept into the horrid maelstrom of suck that is the beast's mouth.

    Did I mention I recently tested selling Kindle-formatted versions of these patterns successfully? OH NOES, PLEASE DON'T LET ME SELL MY FILES ON THE AMAZON. NO ONE WILL SEE THEM THERE AND THE WORLD WILL END.

    ocherdraco, you forgot the job someone needed to have done before they let Stephenie Meyer pub Twilight: "Egregious Homonym Abuse Checker." ------ I mean, come on. Dust "moat"?!?
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:55 PM on March 9, 2009


    I don't think we're even close to smashing our system of knowledge distribution, it is evolving. As Dr. Malcolm once said, life finds a way. Old media may be crumbling under it's own weight, we may trade movable type for WordPress, but knowledge will be distributed.
    posted by Toekneesan at 2:56 PM on March 9, 2009


    Oh, jeebus, bitter-girl, I feel your pain. I read about three chapters of that book and went bonkers. Copyediting like that gives publishing a bad name.
    posted by ocherdraco at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


    And on post... WPW's

    The end result will be a much shittier deal for nearly all authors, and will lead to fewer good books being published. There will be fewer authors. There will be fewer readers. Even good books will be worse because the model will no longer support editors and typesetters who know what they're doing.

    Oh yes, because a shittier deal than some of the ones I have now with my publishers is unimaginable.

    (Again, sarcasm. I can totally imagine it. Which is why I have banded together with some other known quantities in our niche of the market to explore how we can make digital work for us, the authors we work with, etc... Right now, and I've done the math over and over and over again, the books I wrote that are tied together for royalties and have sold THOUSANDS each could have earned out the same advance if I'd sold a mere 2700 copies...everything over would be gravy).

    I could go into messy detail on all of this, I have the numbers to back it up. Let's just say if I knew what I know now, I'd have self pubbed from the start. It would have taken me longer to build my name, but I'd be doing better financially as an author.

    As a publisher, with plans for all digital editions of some upcoming stuff, I can afford to pay my authors hella better royalties than they would have gotten from a big house, too. Digital lets me do that.
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:01 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


    This seems to be Da Hype surrounding Kindle, for reasons unknown: The fallacy is that books aren't like MP3s, they're like MP3 albums. Albums you can't just play back at random in a great shuffle.

    I agree, in that music albums were to some extent an artificial construction, mainly based on the fact that it's relatively cheap to package a bunch of extra songs together with a hit single. To the people who only care about singles (which covers a significant percentage of people who buy music), it has always been little more than an annoyance. Therefore allowing people to easily buy single tracks helps prop up digital music sales by virtue of being better than being forced to buy a full album in a store.

    But, it could be argued that the book length published written work is also an artificial concept based mostly on the logistical problems with publishing shorter standalone works. Once a digital platform becomes popular, it's very possible that the most popular works will be shorter, possibly in the form of serials. This is already happening in Japan in the form of cell phone novels, and I think that their success is a natural consequence of cell phones being accepted as a reading platform there rather than being based on any fundamental difference in Japanese readers.

    You can't just one-button rip one of your favorite books in your collection. The biggest thing MP3 had going for it, sadly, were piracy and grey-use areas: There were no stores for digital audio when digital audio players came out.

    There weren't stores that sold MP3 files, but commercial digital music existed in the form of CDs. If only cassette tapes and vinyl records had existed when the first MP3 players came out, they would probably have been less popular than ebook readers are now. I don't have any data on it, but anecdotally most of the people buying the pre-iPod giant brick MP3 players ripped their own digital music collections to MP3 files for using on their players. As you said, one of the big roadblocks for ebooks is that people can't easily transfer their existing books into ebooks in the same way that people can rip CDs into MP3s.
    posted by burnmp3s at 3:05 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


    For my fellow kindle owners, you NEED this software. Calibre (pc/unix/mac). It is a very nice piece of open-source software, and it's developer is extremely active on the mobileread forums. He is also amazingly responsive to bug fixes and feature updates (often same day).

    And yes, you can load all of your books on your kindle (and downloaded rss feeds/webpages, etc) all through calibre or your operating systems file browser/My Computer. That is one of the biggest selling points to me of the Kindle (as opposed to the Sony Reader). It mounts as a USB removable storage device, so you don't need some piece of failware (no thanks Sony) to interact with your device. And it will work out of the box with Linux/Mac.
    posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 3:28 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


    a great deal happens with a book before it is printed that must still be taken into account.

    The invisible production team behind every single book is just one of the hidden facets of the publishing industry. One of my favorite ways to torment newly minted MBAs was to describe the sales side: Picture a product line that has one and only one model ... with a monthly roll-out schedule ... sold almost exclusively on consignment ... in a market place where the competition numbers a couple hundred thousand ... where the average return rate for unsold stock is between 30% and 40% ... for a 90-day window before the returns start ... at a discount rate of 40% to 60% off list price. That's a simplistic gloss of the business, but it was more than enough to make their eyes glaze over. (And I didn't get into dirty trade secrets, such as the way chain's distribution centers' orders distort print runs or how publishers try to boost copies/store orders just to get the shelf space in lieu of advertising.) The publishing industry in its current form, to be blunt, makes no business sense. Electronic publishing has the potential to smooth out the crazy physical logistics of the book business in the future. I feel only relief to be watching from ringside these days.

    Of course, he might be wrong, but by the time we find out we will have smashed a system of knowledge distribution that will be near-impossible to rebuild.

    Networked print-on-demand services and e-books have been touted as the breakthroughs that will save publishing from itself. I suspect whatever the industry metamorphoses into will resemble its current form the way monk-inscribed illuminated manuscripts resemble the offerings of the average airport bookstall.
    posted by Doktor Zed at 3:35 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


    where u at dawg : The kindle (and other similar devices) will never take off until it is easy to pirate books.

    *cough*

    posted by quin at 3:42 PM on March 9, 2009


    I've had a Sony Reader for some time, and just got a Kindle 2 for my significant other.

    First, everyone who compares reading on your iPhone, or laptop, or netbook, or whatever: the experience is completely different - and this is coming from someone who read dozens of books on his phone.

    until the price of the device comes down it's really a non-starter for me, especially with all the DRM.

    The Kindle's DRM is fairly user-friendly, though - being able to share a book across any six devices is within the comfort zone of most users, I think.

    Pdf is a print layout format which is not reflowable. There are already business-class e-ink readers with an A4-size that display pdf files just fine. However, you will pay for that feature. This is probably the future of the kindle, A-4 sized with a touchscreen.

    PDF is, in fact, reflowable, as long as the client software knows how to reflow it. And PDFs are why I got the Sony Reader, actually - I put courseware that I use on there, so I don't have to lug it around. That works quite nicely since the latest software update, although it was touch and go when I first got it.

    I think that the lack of a big file-sharing community around ebooks actually proves that the current technology isn't up to the standards of real books. If there's not much of a demand to download digital books for free on the Internet, then there probably isn't much of a demand to buy them.

    There's actually a pretty big file-sharing community, at least if you want to read science fiction or fantasy. But the problem is that there isn't a preexisting digital source available for books as there is for music, so people have to scan books, proof them (or not), etc. Most books you find in torrents have hellacious amounts of scan errors. When there are significant numbers of digital books, there'll be lots more pirated books.

    And yes, you can load all of your books on your kindle (and downloaded rss feeds/webpages, etc) all through calibre or your operating systems file browser/My Computer. That is one of the biggest selling points to me of the Kindle (as opposed to the Sony Reader). It mounts as a USB removable storage device, so you don't need some piece of failware (no thanks Sony) to interact with your device. And it will work out of the box with Linux/Mac.

    The Sony Reader does the same. You don't need any software, it's a USB drive. They give you software, which kind of sucks, but it's absolutely not necessary to load files. And, unlike the Kindle, there's slots for SD and Memory Stick, which you can just load up with files and stick in.
    posted by me & my monkey at 4:00 PM on March 9, 2009


    Doktor Zed: When I get gloomy about the future of books, I remember networked print-on-demand and cheer up a bit. More than a bit.

    This would make me very happy: Networked print-on-demand that produced a book of the same quality and durability of a Penguin paperback, but with a formalised design language like the Tschichold composition scheme for Penguin (or one of its successors). So the title, author name, spine, general typesetting and blurb were consistent across titles ordered from that outlet. Of course, you still need art direction and a design team to get that perfect and truly delicious but maybe something could be automated. If anyone fancies going into business ... that's my idea.

    Yeah.
    posted by WPW at 4:05 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


    As someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about publishing for the past couple of years, I have to say that the way modern large publishers work makes no sense. Book publishing has never been something that coexisted well with traditional profit based shareholder capitalism; the profit margins are too small. I would love to see a return to small privately owned publishing companies that are in it for the sake of the books, rather than the sake of the money. I think this is going to happen in the near future, as Amazon and digital distribution make the already untenable business model of the mega-publishers impossible.

    Of course, the danger is the probability that cortex and others above have raised of book pirating, and if it really becomes widespread, what you're probably going to see is the end of publishing companies entirely, and probably the end of the "author" as a job that one can make a living off of. The profit margins are too low as it is; a substantial amount of piracy is going to make it almost impossible. If publishing companies can't survive, you're going to see a big decrease in quality writing, because editing, as a career, is also going to be less tenable, and authors whose works are being pirated aren't going to be able to afford to higher freelance editors, either.

    Hopefully I'm wrong, and that this sort of thing won't happen, but it may be that the future of writing, particularly fiction writing, might be the same sort of model that webcomics operate on now, though even there I don't see a great deal of promise.

    On the other hand, if Amazon and other e-reader device creators are smart, their products will end up being more akin to game consoles, which take a lot of time and effort to do perform serious piracy on, more than most consumers are going to actually be able to achieve. I know lots of us here are Cory Doctorow style "fuck all DRM" types, but whereas musicians can, in many cases, afford to lose a lot on music distribution and make decent livings off of tours, as Mister_A said above, how is a novelist going to make money if no one pays for the book? That's all there is. Just the book. If book piracy becomes as big a thing as music piracy is, you're not going to see professional authors anymore, at least not the way you do today. It will be, at best, unedited serial novels on blogs using ad income as the major source of money. I'm not sure that's really what you want.
    posted by Caduceus at 4:06 PM on March 9, 2009


    Of course, if there is a lot of book piracy, publishers might well survive by straight up refusing to do e-books anymore. The problem there of course is Google books, but people are probably less likely to go through and scan books on their own (at least not enough to take a significant chunk out of the market). The long and short though is it's tough, and it something that we as publishers are trying to figure out, and not something anyone has particularly great ideas on, just yet. The near future is going to be interesting.
    posted by Caduceus at 4:10 PM on March 9, 2009


    anecdotally most of the people buying the pre-iPod giant brick MP3 players ripped their own digital music collections to MP3 files for using on their players

    Hey now. My 32MB Rio (66% of an album!) was smaller than the conventional iPod, but yeah, I ripped my CDs to my PC to transfer. Can't really do that with books yet ...

    Of course, the danger is the probability that cortex and others above have raised of book pirating, and if it really becomes widespread, what you're probably going to see is the end of publishing companies entirely, and probably the end of the "author" as a job that one can make a living off of.

    The movie industry would have to go down the tubes, too. Movie rights are still big bucks. Also, 99(.9?)% of writers *now* have day jobs as teachers or journalists or copywriters or freelancers or ...
    posted by mrgrimm at 4:18 PM on March 9, 2009


    That'd be an awesome world, where writers only make money off of movie rights. And by awesome I mean terrible.

    Of course in the future movies will be 100% warezed and making their returns through T-Shirt sales (Weirdly T-Shirts will remain the one un-warezable medium).
    posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Caduceus: Of course, if there is a lot of book piracy, publishers might well survive by straight up refusing to do e-books anymore.

    Yes. Or authors will refuse (cf JK Rowling). Worst case (?): Print book publishing won't wholly die, but we could return to the model 1600-1850: a small number of well-off book buyers buying beautiful hardbacks for £50 or creamy paperbacks for £20; a gentlemen's profession again. Literary salons. Coffee houses. Being published in this smaller world would be more difficult, and exclusivity is desirability, so making it into print would be the ultimate intellectual recognition. Not great for the poor, though. Especially since we're also seeing the decline of creative professions that traditionally support writers: proofreading, sub-editing, journalism, reviewing, agencies, jobs in publishing houses.
    posted by WPW at 4:28 PM on March 9, 2009


    authors whose works are being pirated aren't going to be able to afford to higher freelance editors, either.

    I see what you did there.
    posted by Joe Beese at 4:30 PM on March 9, 2009


    "I agree, in that music albums were to some extent an artificial construction, mainly based on the fact that it's relatively cheap to package a bunch of extra songs together with a hit single. To the people who only care about singles (which covers a significant percentage of people who buy music), it has always been little more than an annoyance."

    See, I never got this. I suppose because I never got into popular music; at any time in my life I couldn't have told you what was then popular. Only after the fact was I aware of what survived "the test of time".

    And I guess I always assumed an album was crafted, a group of songs meant to be listened to together (and even in order.) That said, it disturbed me when I first learned that the same work could be interpreted or arranged in different ways -- that there way no one canonical version of a work. Except for translations, that doesn't appear to happen with the written word. Of course it does: there are different revisions, editions, abridgments, serializations, errata, expanded versions, etc. -- but that's not obvious when you're holding a particular book.

    Now, today, I can appreciate different versions of classical music and, especially opera, because these are media presented as live performances, and just as inevitably as Tuesday's show won't be second-by-second the same as Monday's, it makes sense Solti's Ring is different from von Karajan's, even though both are Wagner's. Conductor and cast and set director will all take these performances in different directions.

    For individual popular songs though, cover versions are still somewhat problematic for me. All the more so as I prefer "singer/songwriter" songs that ostensibly are first person and autobiographical ballads. Generally I take the first version I hear as "canonical" and hear any other as being "off" or "wrong". So even though he wrote it, I find John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" "wrong" and Peter, Paul and Mary's version "correct".

    But back to the album thing. As you can see from the above, I'm a bit rigid and inflexible. Prior to having an iPod, I had an Archos a file-and-directory based player. Instead of using Id3 tags, it navigated directories just like the directory tree of a computer. I spent a great deal of effort to not only organize my music in directories, but to make each track's file name the catenation of Track Name -- Album Name - Artist Name, and then put that in the directory tree Genre/Artist/Album. Tracks that were medlies of several songs got as long as 300 characters in the file name alone.

    And so I just hated individual tracks or otherwise incomplete albums. They not only didn't fit my structure, they tended to get lost in it, or presented directories of only a single file, and thus a pain in the ass to play (as I also eschewed playlists). And I still hate individual tracks. They just don't fit anywhere. And so I've never had any inclination to buy a track. It's either buy a whole album or forget it.

    And if the album as a whole isn't good, I'm not buying it. Which again leads me to prefer music that's stood the test of time, albums that have proven themselves good enough to stick around. Which is why I'm just not aware of what's currently popular: I'm not going to buy it until its no longer current.
    posted by orthogonality at 4:39 PM on March 9, 2009


    My big theory about ebooks as a market is this: The cost of most ebooks is almost irrelevent. Not textbooks but the things people choose to read. It doesn't matter much if it is 10 dollars or 15 dollars or 5 dollars or free. Because the cost of reading a book isn't really in dollars for most people. It is in time. Think of it this way: If music was free people would live their life differently. They would get big inventories of music that they like and give bands a try and delve in and swim around in the possibilities and learn new favorite bands and get into their niche and surround themselves with every song they ever loved in case they felt like listening to it. I know that this would happen because it happened.

    But if books were free people would ... books are more or less free. You go to your library you read a book you give it back. That's what books are mostly for. Right. People mostly own books so they can either not read the book or so that they can prove that they've read the book. Books as scalps. Trophies. I know you write in the margins and reread your books and have a spiritual connection with your books. Or something. Imagine I'm talking about everybody else.

    A song costs 1 dollar and 4 minutes. A book costs 10 dollars and 4 hours. So it costs 10 times as much in dollars. And 60 times as much in time. And you can't be doing anything else while reading. And really 4 hours? What was it? The Hardy Boys? Books cost in time and attention to the point where the dollar cost is almost irrelevant. Don't worry about the price of EBooks because you're kidding yourself if you think you can read yourself broke with no discount reading is about the cheapest leisure activity available in this world.
    posted by I Foody at 4:42 PM on March 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


    I can't keep up with all the wrongness in this thread--there are an awful lot of comments that are flat-out factually incorrect (coming from the anti-Kindle brigade, natch). Perhaps doing five minutes of research before blasting a product because you have something against the concept of it (or your misinformed version of the concept of it)--a product you've likely never seen or tried in real life, I'll wager--might be worth your while.

    Also, books v. e-books is a false dichotomy. You don't have to quit one for the other. I love the solidness and heft of a good hard-cover book. I love having shelves packed with paperbacks I keep lending out. I also love being able to carry, in my purse, the entire works of Shakespeare, the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, all of Jane Austen, H.G. Wells, Mark Twain, and absolutely anything else that is in the public domain. There are sources for free e-texts all over the place.

    But oh well, this is Metafilter--we are very good at ranting about things we don't understand.
    posted by tzikeh at 5:01 PM on March 9, 2009


    /wonders if Doctrow is getting some kind of kick-back from the T-Shirt industry.
    posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on March 9, 2009


    In the eighties, my parents paid $2,000 for a Commodore 64. I've thrown away cell phones with more processing power. Don't fixate too much on the limitations of what's there now.

    Having spent over $20,000 on a souped up 386 PC in the eighties, I'm totally fixated on what's there now.
    posted by StickyCarpet at 6:11 PM on March 9, 2009


    People mostly own books so they can either not read the book or so that they can prove that they've read the book. Books as scalps. Trophies. I know you write in the margins and reread your books and have a spiritual connection with your books. Or something. Imagine I'm talking about everybody else.

    I buy books because (a) I don't like going to the library -- there's only one near me and there are tons of bookstores all over the place (plus, a library book might be checked out, whereas most Amazon books are always in stock); (b) I want to be able to take my time with the book, write in it if I want, lend it to a friend, loose it, etc. without having to worry about getting into trouble or late fees; (c) because whether or not I actually wind up doing so, I believe I might read it again.
    posted by grumblebee at 6:28 PM on March 9, 2009


    To the people who said "What, USB isn't easy enough?" let me just point out that the USB support on the Kindle 2 is ... um ... not so good. Check the threads on Amazon and elsewhere. It doesn't work on a lot of people's computers and no one can seem to ferret out why. It's pretty disappointing. Please don't call me a kneejerk Kindle-hater; I loved my friend's Kindle 2 when she got one on the first day they were available. I was prepared to hate it but it was really nice to use, and the thought of being able to get books so quickly is really appealing. Then the USB problem happened, and it was a big deal since she wanted to take it to Asia for her new job. They replaced it with another unit, which had the same USB problem but on the other computer in the house. What the heck, Amazon?

    The only other thing that would stop me, other than the price (of the unit and the individual books) is the lack of being able to read in the bathtub.
    posted by wintersweet at 6:56 PM on March 9, 2009


    The C64's original list price was $595, so an early adopter buying a system with 1541 floppy drive, 1702 monitor and 1525 printer might have payed $1200 or so. By the time I bought mine I spent $99 for the computer and $150 for the disk drive, using my TV as the monitor.

    Also, why should I buy a Kindle when I can read ebooks on my Tungsten C and save a bunch of money ?
    posted by rfs at 8:45 PM on March 9, 2009


    The lack of an SD card slot is a fail. And why does everything have to be white now? White shows wear and tear faster. Eventually, someone is going to put out a nice ergonomic device for reading e-books and listening to digital music that I would actually want.

    I have to upgrade my computer anyway...maybe I should just buy a really kickass tablet PC.
    posted by deusdiabolus at 9:08 PM on March 9, 2009


    I have no problem paying the same thing for an e-book as for a paper one, if I can get the same flexibiility-- read whenever I want, again and again (no "subscription" please, once I buy a book it's mine, forever), plus the ability to loan it out to anyone I want without having to tell anyone I've done that. I also want to be able to "borrow" an ebook from a library, without a return date, without having to pay for it (the library already paid for it, see point one.) But as an insomniac who shares a bed, Kindle type devices are a godsend-- a book-sized device I could read in the middle of the night without having to turn on a light, leave the room or juggle a flashlight. I'm in.
    posted by nax at 5:55 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


    a book-sized device I could read in the middle of the night without having to turn on a light

    Sorry, but you do need to turn on a light. e-ink devises don't have screens. They use a form of ink on paper. It's pretty hard to back-light paper without creating a huge, bulky device. The whole idea is that you can read it wherever you'd be able to read a normal book (e.g. in bright sunlight, where you wouldn't be able to read a screen). The new edition of the Sony reader has front lights built in, and many Kindle users buy those cheap, clip-on book lights.
    posted by grumblebee at 6:24 AM on March 10, 2009


    Also, fuck it. I just bought a Kindle of my own.

    Walking around Boston on Sunday with the library's test Kindle is what really sold me. My wife and I like to read in bars or parks or anywhere that's not home (too many distractions) and the ability to have several books with me slipped into my jacket pocket as opposed to the three tomes my wife was lugging about in her bag was great.

    Also, I spent several hours last night boxing up books for an upcoming move. I'd like to avoid that in the future. Once I got done with all the Important To Me books, I was left with a lot of cruft of books bought in airports or on the way somewhere. I'm too much of a bookrat to throw them out, but I also know I'll never lend them (or in some cases, admit to ownership).

    I would have tried to mooch of the library's machine longer, but there were certain limitations to what I could buy. They didn't have a problem with me picking up nonfiction or actual literature, but I don't think they would have been too happy with the crummy scifi/fantasy I find myself reading these days.
    posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Clearly-written article about the tech being e-ink.
    posted by grumblebee at 7:20 AM on March 10, 2009


    you do need to turn on a light

    Well crap. Still, easier to juggle the flashllight since I don't have to turn pages. (Plus I meant borrow from the library WITH a return date.)
    posted by nax at 4:45 PM on March 10, 2009


    without having to turn on a light

    As an inveterate night-reader, the lack of backlight makes the Kindle a total joke to me.

    Plus the awkwardly large size. I've gone through at least a dozen novels in the last few months purely on down-time between other activities, when I was able to slip my iPod Touch out of my pocket for 10 minutes or so. On precisely all of those occasions, I would NEVER have purposefully brought a large, book-sized electronic device.

    I'm sure it's great for some people, who have such exactingly specific needs that any of the other ereader solutions aren't tenable. I haven't met any of them, though.
    posted by Aquaman at 8:55 PM on March 10, 2009


    Why I buy books: what grumblebee said. Although I also do it just to have a few books on hand, for when I'm in the mood for something different.

    Kindle would actually change that reason, since there's no reason to "bank" books that you aren't actually reading yet. You just buy it when you want to start.
    posted by smackfu at 6:52 AM on March 11, 2009


    I'm sure it's great for some people, who have such exactingly specific needs that any of the other ereader solutions aren't tenable

    Amusing this follows your exactingly specific complaints about the backlight and the size.
    posted by smackfu at 6:54 AM on March 11, 2009


    The Kindle HAS AN SD CARD. Kindle 2.0 does not. No clue why they dropped it, but some Kindles do in fact have one.

    What I want to know is why you can't add Kindle editions of titles to your Amazon wishlist...sigh.
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2009


    cortex:

    Perhaps that was poorly phrased. What I meant was simply that professional writers typically have a narrower margin on income than what most people assume, often because the industry is imagined to be comparable to the music or film industries. I certainly don't mean to imply that session musicians or struggling actors are living on easy street; just that the mid and high levels of income in the respective fields are far more unequal than people may know.

    A music artist who has put out half a dozen major label albums quite probably has enough money to never have to work again. A writer who has put out half a dozen books with a major publishing company is more likely than not still living off the money they actually earn doing something else.
    posted by Amanojaku at 1:13 PM on March 11, 2009


    I can buy that, Amanojaku—I don't know much about the specifics of living as a published author, but I've certainly heard the "this does not pay the bills" explanation from a lot of authors and I don't have any reason to doubt it.

    But it's a bit of a silly comparison considering we're talking about the proportional tiny, tiny fractions in either industry—if the thin-as-paper slice of musicians making a secure living off music is thicker than that of writers making a living off writing, it's still paper thin slices in both cases. 0.05% vs. 0.01% isn't all that meaningful to the folks in the 99%+ remainders of both industries, yeah?
    posted by cortex at 1:42 PM on March 11, 2009


    Here, let me sum up the specifics of life as a published author, cortex: 11+ major publisher books, several award-winning, and I still have a day job. ;) More than one, in fact.

    Difference between us and musicians is that we can't make money on tour. Courtney Love's infamous "Courtney does the math" piece from 2000 notwithstanding, I think in 2009 most bands make the majority of their money from touring/merch sales, not putting out new albums.

    A writer on tour is either:

    1. Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris (mobbed)
    2. Everyone else (not mobbed)
    3. Someone sitting on a stage typing and periodically taking coffee breaks (not exciting at all)

    No t-shirt sales, no posters...just us and our words.
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:55 PM on March 11, 2009


    I think in 2009 most bands make the majority of their money from touring/merch sales, not putting out new albums.

    I am not arguing this in either direction; my point is that regardless of which is the source of the majority of their money, that money is not, for almost all bands, a living. They have fulltime jobs and gig nights and weekends, or work whenever they're not on tour to save up enough cash to afford having only marginal income on the road. A band that actually nets a profit at all, let alone a living wage, from touring? That's a lucky band.

    I understand that authors don't "play out" the way musicians do, and as a distinction between the daily work and visibility of the two sorts of creative careers it's an interesting thing to consider. But I feel like there's this implication that being a musician somehow doesn't, for 99% of the people doing it, mean working a normal job and sacrificing a lot of other things to be able to do this thing you love.

    What I'm saying is that's something musicians have in common with writers, even working, you've-heard-of-them musicians and publishing, they've-written-several-books writers. Courtney Love's (really, to be clear, Steve Albini's) reality-check on label math isn't notwithstanding anything—that's how hard it is for the people who are ostensibly the really successful ones.

    There are a tremendous number of folks who are talented and gigging regularly who don't even enjoy the luxury of that brand of ratscrew, just as there are a lot of talented writers who don't even have the advantage of being able to cite eleven published books and the need for a dayjob besides. It's hard out there for a creative type, regardless of the medium and genre.
    posted by cortex at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2009


    So, in short: Get a real job, losers!
    posted by Artw at 2:28 PM on March 11, 2009


    (Very funny, Artw)

    And all good points, cortex...my dad's been a working musician (and by this I mean working a day job and working as a musician!) since high school, so I know very well how tough it is to earn any kind of living doing what you love, for sure!
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:33 PM on March 11, 2009


    Also! almost forgot -- another interesting Kindle discussion I happened upon today.

    I can't say I'm down with this link (one of the commenters on the post above runs this site, and it's how I found it to begin with)...not sure boycotts are really the way to go here, but it's interesting to say the least. Though some digital books are insanely overpriced, it's as was stated above in the thread -- it doesn't cut ALL the associated costs in producing the book if it's digital instead of print...
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:37 PM on March 11, 2009


    Rich people and descendants of celebrities excepted of course.
    posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on March 11, 2009


    Very funny, Artw

    Now buy my T-Shirt!
    posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on March 11, 2009


    Do we also need to get off your (digital) lawn?
    posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2009


    Dunno, charging for digital lawnspace is someone elses model. All the likes of us are allowed in the wicked cool everyone-basically-just-does-vanity-press future is tip-jars and T-Shirts.
    posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on March 11, 2009


    My eLawn is available for $2.95/month on a 2-year contract. Email in profile.
    posted by blue_beetle at 3:24 PM on March 11, 2009


    For what it's worth, I went ahead and changed the price of our Kindle editions to $4.99. I've submitted 100 books to the Kindle program. So far they've processed a third. We'll see what happens.

    Interesting note, Amazon reduced the price of all of our currently active Kindle editions to $3.99.
    posted by Toekneesan at 7:54 PM on April 3, 2009


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