Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do you read electronically?

The subject of ebook readers has glued itself to my "pay attention" list. I'm getting ready to buy a Kindle, and one of my favorite publishers is getting ready to Kindle-ize their books.

I've heard that Kindle requires exclusive ebook rights (ie publish on Kindle format, you can't publish on any other e-reader format) so I want to tap the collective smarts of the readership to see how many of you are reading electronically and on what platform.

Herewith the poll


JES said...

publish on Kindle format, you can't publish on any other e-reader format

I don't think that's exactly how it works. I think the "only Kindle format" restriction means that Amazon won't sell e-Books in any other format. But if you're a publisher who creates Kindle e-books, you're free to create Sony e-reader (etc.) e-books, too, and sell them elsewhere.

Would love, though, if someone with a less vague sense of the e-publishing world could clarify! :)

Arkansas Cyndi said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I hope someone steps in with good information. I was on e-bay just last night reading about readers. (Thinking Christmas present - for me!)

Margaret Yang said...

I read e-books on my laptop (PDF format) and also lots of short fiction on my laptop (electric spec, abyss and apex, ideomancer, etc.). But "laptop" wasn't a choice so I just chose "other."

ilyakogan said...

Kindle is the winner because of Whispernet (wireless connection).

How many of you bought a first book in the series and hesitated whether to buy or not the whole series?

I hate buying sequels just in case I don't like the first book and I hate not buying because if I like it I will have to go back to the book store to get it.

With Kindle I buy the next book as soon as finish with the old one. It takes a minute and it works anywhere. I just bought two books on my way home.

From agent's perspective, here is the review Nathan Bransford did.


Note that he doesn't read partials any other way anymore.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

For what it's worth... recently,

I was talking with someone who specializes in formatting for the Kindle and offers his services, for a price, to get your book "Kindle-ish" for a smooth transition to publish via Amazon's Kindle.

We were discussing formatting size for illustrations... he said hold off, Kindle is coming out with a larger version of the one selling now... and it will be illustration friendly... hmmm 8.5 X 11, I believe were his numbers. Dunno? But that's what he said! Like I said, FWIW!

Haste yee back ;-)

Dharma Kelleher said...

With any new technology, there has to be a clear and significant advantage over the old before I will switch.

While I can appreciate the recent innovations of eReader technology, including the Kindle, the improvements over print are marginal.

I find audiobooks more appealing than ebooks, particularly with my busy schedule. But neither are a substitute for the warmth and browsability of a good paperback.

clindsay said...

I recently bought a Sony Reader and love it, especially for reading manuscripts and partials. But it has limited functionality with Macintosh, so I am limited to reading Word docs. Still, it's a great reading experience. Very easy on the eyes.

I almost bought a Kindle but it was just a little more expensive that I could afford at the time. I can't remember if you are a Mac user at home or not, but if so, a Kindle is much more user-friendly for Macs.

I've been reading electronically for about eight years, though, on a wee Palm Pilot. First the Palm IIIc and then a Palm Tungsten E (which recently kicked the bucket - RIP, Tungsten!). When I worked in the publicity department at RH, editors were always giving me reams of paper to read. Once I got them trained to just email me a Word document, it was so much better!

I got very used to being able to carry around forty or fifty books and manuscripts.

Anyway, I think you'll really enjoy it. :-)

Joe Iriarte said...

I don't read e-books or listen to audiobooks. Back in the early nineties, I tried the Books on Tape thing once or twice on long trips, but I just couldn't get into it. I wouldn't turn down a Kindle if someone gave me one, but I can't see spending hundreds of dollars on a device to enable me to read books. That just doesn't make sense to me.

Steve Ulfelder said...

I'm this close to Kindlehood. The last few times I found myself dropping money in a bookstore, I consciously thought how much better off I'd be running home and getting a Kindle instead (I do believe I blogged about one such visit about a week ago). When the price drops to $250-ish, I'm in.

Just_Me said...

I have two small children and I'm on my fourth cell phone in two years, and only because I paid out the nose for a cell phone that's water proof.

Unless e-readers become dirt cheap or become the only way to buy all books I'm not getting one in the near future. I'm not willing to spend that kind of money on something that's easily broken and hard to fix.

Eric said...

I will buy a Kindle, or a similar device, only after author's contracts are worked out in such a way that authors don't get screwed on the royalties from e-book sales. Near as I can tell, it's not there yet. It will be an important point to take note of in my next book contract.

But, as someone who travels a lot and always ends up hauling along a bunch of books, I am looking forward to it all getting worked out so that I can bring along one trade paperback sized device rather than a stack of books on long trips.

December/Stacia said...

Nope, you can definitely publish in Kindle and other formats. Ellora's Cave offers pretty much every format there is, including Kindle, and you can get books in different formats including Kindle on Fictionwise as well. :-)

My agent has a Kindle and I got to hold it. It's not as ugly as it looks on the Amazon screen. It was actually pretty neat.

Karen Ranney said...

The rights to all of my earlier Zebra books have reverted to me, and I've put them on MobiPocket (owned by Amazon, I believe). The free software they provide is incredibly easy. In addition to the books being available on Kindle, they're also available in a variety of formats and stores.

Maria said...

I read e-books on my computer (several authors/publishers make the works available via PDF). I will not buy a kindle or other reader, but would buy ebooks more often if available in PDF for my computer.

I read lots of e-zines on my computer also. I don't travel enough to need a more portable "book" device so when I do travel and need a portable book, I take!

Elissa M said...

The two things I like most about a paper book are the ease of opening to any place in the book, flipping back and forth, etc., and that a book requires no power. E-readers may some day be as easy to navigate as a book, but they will never work "off the grid".

Mags said...

If I had a job like yours, where I read for business all day long, I imagine I'd have been among the first in line for a reader. As most of my reading is for pleasure, however, I'm nowhere near ready to give up books. I heart books.

Janet said...

I'm waiting for the price to drop and the bugs to be worked out before I get an e-reader. I do like real live books for a lot of reasons, but they're breeding in my basement and I'm running out of cage space. Virtual pets take up less room and are easier to carry around.

Josephine Damian said...

I think this really comes down to the generation gap. No way in hell would I read anything other than traditional printed paper book format.

However, like you, I'm well aware of dead trees and the space these books take up, which are just some of the reasons why I check books out of the library as opposed to buying them. And when I do buy books, I buy them used, and then donate them to my library.

Gary Corby said...

Given the disaster that DRM has been for software and music, I don't understand why book publishers would be so keen to line up for the same treatment. Imagine a world in which every book is available for free download from BitTorrent within hours of it being published.

Paper is the best DRM solution yet invented. It works, and users enjoy it.

I prefer to read textbooks off my laptop, because of the search capability and their bulkiness, but for a novel which I'm going to read linearly, a screen's not important. An extra device, specific for reading, with only one function, might be great for reading professionals, but is unlikley IMHO to get much traction with normal human beans. But I can see how reading off my laptop would be attractive, especially if I had a tablet.

literaticat said...

I almost buy a reader, like, once a week. But I need to be able to annotate, and not just a little bit. So if there was a way to get "track changes" and easy-write-on-pageishness, I would be all over a reader for reading manuscripts and for travel. I imagine that this improvement will come along soon enough.

It wouldn't replace real books, though, cause I like to bring those in the bath.

Stacy DeKeyser said...

After recently seeing a friend's Kindle, I am coveting one badly.

I'm a purist and a paper-lover, but MAN, those things are awesome. And better than the Sony E-reader, IMO.

I do believe they're the wave of the future in books.

So now I need to ask my agent how such RIGHTS work, from an author's POV. Any words of wisdom in that regard, JR?

Jay said...

If I wanted to read a book on a screen I'd use a laptop. But I don't like to read books on a screen.

As far as portability of a device, well, I'm a klutzy guy and the last thing I need to do is drop a Kindle or other e-book reader in an airport, as I'm prone to do, and damage a several-hundred-dollar gizmo.

Now, paperbacks I can drop and nothing happens except I might lose my place. I'm nervous enough traveling with a laptop to worry about some other power-needing device. For home use, nothing beats kicking back in my favorite chair and turning some pages.

Pepper Smith said...

Gary Corby--people who want to pirate print books to so by scanning them and offering the files online. Paper doesn't keep your work safe. Even JK Rowling's books have been made available online through scanning, and she definitely refuses to have them out as ebooks because of piracy issues.

I've read ebooks on my computer for years now. Some day I'd like to get an ereader, but it's beyond my budget just now.

threepenny said...

Give me a way to borrow e-books from the library, and enjoy the same wide selection of books that Portland's public library system offers, and I'm in. I love the idea of carrying my reference library around in a single device, with searchable notes.

Also, I would like to use the device to "lend" books to friends' e-readers (never an MIA book again!).

Once the Kindle can give bibliophiles a way to seamlessly continue their book habits, like borrowing and lending before buying, that's the day the technology truly has arrived.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Pepper. You're right, they do. But the quality is generally low, and I'm guessing pirated online copies of printed books represent only a tiny proportion compared to legit sales; not because readers are more honest, but because the pirated copy is neither as good nor convenient as the original.

We all know how much music is illegally copied, and with some popular software there are many times more pirated copies than legal.

If pirated copies of books became no different to the real thing, I would expect the take-up rate of piracy to become roughly equivalent to that of music or software.

For that reason, paper does offer protection.

Joe Iriarte said...

Gary, I disagree with your interpretation of what happened with music. I believe illegally copying music became as prevalent as it did because the music industry dragged its heels so much on giving consumers a legal way to accomplish the same means, and once they slowly got around to providing really crappy solutions like iTunes, the culture of getting music for free was already in place. I believe that, ten years ago, given a choice between paying Amazon a buck for a song or getting it for free off some virus-infected site, people would have chosen to pay the buck and have clean consciences and clean hard drives. Instead people were told to pay fifteen bucks for an album with one song they wanted, while file sharing sites all over the internet could give them the single songs they wanted for free.

Even if I'm wrong, though, I don't believe piracy will ever be the sort of issue with books as it is with music because the clientèle is just so different. Sure, there are some illegally available books now, but I don't believe there is an enormous demand for stolen books. It's just a different culture.


literaticat, it almost sounds like you're describing a tablet. ;)

Gary Corby said...

Ah well, we've probably just proved I'm a cynic with little faith in humanity. Believe me, I very much hope you're right and I'm wrong.

L.C.McCabe said...

I don't have a Kindle, but I remember Nathan Bransford mentioning on his blog that he was planning on acquiring one. Then a few days later I saw a link to this post which has 100 or so tips on how to use the Kindle.

I sent the link to Nathan and am now alerting you to it as well.

Hopefully it contains lots of nifty ideas to exploit the new toy - er - reading tool to its fullest potential.

Claire said...

I'd love to get an ebook reader but not a Kindle. I wouldn't buy anything that locks you into their DRM. The music industry hasn't been able to stop pirating with DRM and neither will the book industry.

DRM puts people like me off. I want to be able to transfer my files freely, not be locked to a number of times/devices. Until that happens I'll stick to books and cds.

I rip my own cds. If I got an e-reader I'd rather buy the physical book and download the pirated ebook because at least it would be DRM free.

Treating your customers as potential criminals is never a good thing.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

mobipocket is, i believe, owned by amazon. Their reader is free.

Pixie Warrior (Writen by a really cute pixie princess) is available in Kindle, pdf, in mobipocket format and umm i don't know what else ... I should, shouldn't I. But I've forgotten.

for pdf one must go to one of the other ebook sites such as or ...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I see I forgot to comment on my preference. PDF is easiest to read. Most of the ebooks I read are reporductions of historical material. PDF is most often searchable. I like this.

... but then I also like goats ...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

reporductions = reproductions ... okay so it's late and i cant see straight. Mr. Editor whose work appears in the next post ... just remember ... pixies bite!

Kelley said...

Actually, we're able to borrow ebooks through our library. It's amazing. I just log on, type in my card number, and select a book. They email me when it's available to download (usually right away)and once I do, it's mine to read for two weeks. Then poof, it disappears.

I can't tell you how much I adore this service, particularly with nonfiction (writing) books or when I'm traveling. It's not going to replace books for me--I still curl up with paper ones at night, but it definitely has its purposes and advantages.

clindsay said...

Threepenny -

Actually, you can borrow Adobe PDF versions of e-books from the New York Public Library right now. I do it all the time. There is an unlock code that they send you, and when the book is due back, the unlock expires and they are then free to let another patron download a copy. It's a great system! I do it all the time.

Kelley said...

in case anyone wants to poke around-our site here is Public libraries just subscribe to the service.

I forgot to add-I prefer to read off my laptop, while my husband has a sony reader. I've borrowed it a few times, but it has issues. I prefer my laptop right now.

Lynn Price said...

one of my favorite publishers is getting ready to Kindle-ize their books.
Aw, what a lovely thing to say about us. What? You didn't mean me? Ben...I'll get him for this outrage.

Anyhoo, I love my Kindle. Love it to bits. I upload all my submissions into it and read them while beating my brains out at the gym. I've never been more productive. Anyone who has to read a lot of their Word files will adore this feature. You can make notes and bookmarks as well.

Our distributor is converting our books to all the big ticket e-readers, but we feel the Kindle has bigger staying power because they have more visibility than everyone else.

And, no, Kindle doesn't have exclusivity on our books. We can turn them into pumpkin pies if we want.

Pepper Smith said...

Interesting. About a third of those who responded by voting in the poll have an ereader, would like to get one, or read on another device such as a computer. That's actually higher than I expected.

I'm not sure how much age has to do with whether or not one e-reads. My father, who's in his late sixties, has been carrying around at least ten electronic publications on his handheld for years. He likes the convenience of having a dictionary, a planetarium program, and a few novels on hand to read whenever he needs to look something up or has to wait anywhere.