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I start with a confession: I much prefer paper books. However, I believe change is coming.

For example, Markos Moulitsas has praised his Kindle and tweets that he has purchased at least 30 books for Kindle (his tweet also raises pricing issues that warrant further discussion).

Next, Amazon claims that on Christmas Day they sold more Kindle books than paper books.

Third, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords ebook publisher writes:

Ebooks represent the fastest growing segment of the book publishing industry. Ebook sales have been increasing over 100 percent per year the last couple years, according to the latest industry research, while traditional print book sales have stagnated or declined.

I also foresee ebooks creating a "crashing the gate" situation that will revolutionize relationships between writers, agents, publishers & readers and crashing gates is what this site is supposed to be about, right?

Oh my, what strange creatures these e-book readers be . . .

Kindles, Nooks & iPad

As of today, I do not own an electronic book reader, however I did recently download the free Kindle for PC reader just so I could buy a novel by fellow Kossack Eric Lotke.

Lotke's book is called 2044 and while I haven't finished it yet, I like what I've read, thus far.

This diary reviews Lotke's book.

Why haven't I purchased an ebook reader, yet?

Well, I have a very short commute to work and rarely travel out of town.

Also, it is far from clear to me which device will offer the best value and combination of features. And, I expect prices to fall and features to continue to improve. And in the meantime I can buy Kindle books to read on my computer.

In any event, Kindle currently holds a commanding lead within the ebook market and some analysts predict Amazon will sell 3 million Kindle ebook readers in 2010.

It's pretty apparent we've reached a tipping point in consumer acceptance of eReaders, if analyst Doug Anmuth is correct in his prediction that Amazon will sell three-million or so Kindles in 2010.

That represents a 62 percent increase over Kindle sales in 2009. Overall, Kindle-related sales could reach $1.6 billion this year, which could end up representing 5 percent of Amazon's bottom line. Not bad, as that number will only grow in coming years.

Anmuth is an analyst with Barclays Capital.

Last fall, I was seriously enthused about the upcoming Nook product. Unfortunately, it seems that Nook may be falling short. A quick Business Week review:


The Good: Includes an additional color screen, permits friends to borrow downloaded books from one another, and allows free browsing of entire books when the user is in a Barnes & Noble store.

The Bad: Slow to boot up, format text, and display it on the screen. Color screen and Wi-Fi connection drain battery life.


The Good: Lighter and faster than the Nook, it boasts longer battery life, and each of its features has been thoroughly tested in the market.

The Bad: The physical keyboard seems clunky and unnecessary. And it lacks some clever features, such as lending rights.

To add to the confusion, Amazon has since released their Kindle DX even as the new Apple iPad could prove to be a "Kindle killer" although Amazon is already making moves to protect its current dominant market position.


Mark Coker of Smashwords recently blogged about a panel presentation he was scheduled to give this past Saturday (February 13th):

The popular (and sold out) San Francisco Writers Conference kicks off next week.

Dan Poynter and I are sitting on a panel titled, "THE EBOOK REVOLUTION: How eReaders are Transforming Publishing." The panels starts at 9:00am on Saturday, February 13, and is moderated by literary agent Ted Weinstein. If you're attending the conference, stop by and say hi!

Coker believes that the economics of ebooks will radically alter the publishing industry and the role played by agents and publishers in acting as gatekeepers that connect authors to readers. Here are his 10 predictions for the book publishing industry in 2020:

Mark Coker: What Do You See Happening to the Book Publishing Industry 10 Years from today?

  1. 95% of all reading will be on screens
  1. There will be fewer bookstores, though books will be more plentiful than ever before.
  1. The entire book supply chain from author to customer will become atomized into its component bits. Value-adders will continue to find great success in publishing. Dinosaurs, leeches and parasites will be flushed out of new publishing ecosystems faster than ever before.
  1. Most authors will be indie authors
  1. Successful publishing companies will be those that put the most net profit in the author's pocket. No, not the highest per-unit royalty percentage.
  1. If the big six NY book publishers (the fat head) today publish 50% of what's sold, and the long tail of thousands of indie publishers comprise the rest, then 10 years from now the fat head will shrink to 10% and the long tail will get both taller and longer. There will be more published authors than ever before, and collectively they will earn record revenues, yet individually the average "published" author 10 years from now will earn less than the average "commercially published" author today. Advantage will go to those with best ability to reach their audience.
  1. 10 years from now, we will all be authors, publishers and booksellers
  1. Digital books will most commonly be referred to as "books," not ebooks.
  1. For those who still call books ebooks, it'll be spelled "ebook," not E-Book or e-book. Who today still calls email E-Mail?
  1. Authors will write for a global market

Here are links to Seth Godin's answers this this same question.

Richard Curtis offers interesting predictions as well, especially his comment about the Espresso machine:

Richard Curtis: What Changes Do You See for Book Publishing in the Next 10 Years?

  1. First and foremost I predict that the size and price of Espresso print on demand will come down to the point where POD kiosks will be installed in non-bookstores like supermarkets, libraries, pharmacies and the like. Which means that...
  1. The grip of Barnes & Noble as the go-to bookseller will be loosened. You'll be able to buy a book at Publix, Duane Reade, or Starbucks. You'll have a selection of millions of titles, not just what can be packed into the shelves and tables of a brick and mortar bookstore.

Also, this:

  1. Amazon, now a de facto publisher, would throw off the cloak and come out as a full competitor with traditional publishers.

Amazon vs Macmillan or "How much should ebooks cost?"

Here is the full tweet from Markos dated February 5, 2010:

I've bought about 30 books on Kindle at $9.99, many on an impulse. Raise to $14-15, I have to think harder, maybe buy 10.

That offers context to the recent kerfluffle between Amazon and Macmillan with Amazon allegedly caving in . . .

A new development in the Amazon vs. Macmillan fiasco. Amazon just posted an announcement indicating that it will be "capitulating" to Macmillan by selling the publishers’ books for their desired prices.

Macmillan is trying to price their e-books at $15, while Amazon prices e-books at $9.99. Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent said that unless Amazon sets the price of new e-books to $15, the publisher will not distribute new books to Amazon when they are released. On Friday, Amazon basically banned titles, both paper and digital, published by Macmillan by refusing to directly sell them. And Macmillan took out an ad in the Publishers Marketplace magazine protesting the tactics being used by Amazon regarding pricing.

Amazon is now giving into Macmillan’s demands because of the publisher’s monopoly over its titles. In a passive aggressive manner, Amazon says that readers will decide whether it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for e-books. And that other publishers will compete by offering their books and lower prices.

But wait, Amazon counters (January 20, 2010):

Amazon dropped a bomb on the publishing world Wednesday morning by announcing a new royalty program that will allow authors to earn 70 percent royalties from each e-book sold, but with a catch or two. The move will pay participating authors more per book than they typically earn from physical book sales so long as they agree to certain conditions—conditions that make it clear that Amazon is working on keeping the Kindle attractive in light of upcoming competition. Still, authors and publishers are split on how good this deal really is.

Amazon's old system will remain in place for those who don't want to participate in the new arrangement, but the carrot to upgrade is pretty attractive—a typical $8.99 book would pay an author $3.15 under the "standard" system, while an author or publisher would get $6.25 under the new 70 percent scheme.

The catch, however, is that authors or publishers must list their books for between $2.99 and $9.99 on the Kindle. A majority of Kindle books already fall into this range, but authors are able to set prices higher if they want, and some do.

Charge $14.99 for your ebook and receive a much smaller royalty percentage from Amazon or charge $9.99 or less for your ebook and receive a much larger royalty percentage. Heh!

Anyway, what is a "fair" price for an ebook? How much of a discount is reasonable when a publisher can avoid the expense of actually printing and shipping a physical book?

Will we see more indie authors in the future?

With the availability of Kindle, Smashwords and others to publish ebooks on demand along with Create Space, Lulu and others to publish print on demand, indie authors have more options and more tools than ever before.

This means a lot more bad writing will be published.

Then again Harper Collins (a gold standard publisher) certainly dropped the ball with Sarah Palin's book. This still makes me laugh:

In her new book, "Going Rogue," former vice presidential nominee attributes a quote to UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden.

The only problem is that he didn't say it.

"Our land is everything to us...I will tell you one of the things we remember on our land. We remember our grandfathers paid for it -- with their lives."

It's a nice quote, but it really doesn't sound like something that Wooden would say. It was actually written by Native American activist John Wooden Legs in his essay "Back on the War Ponies."

Even though the names are similar, it looks as if Palin sort of airballed on this one. Well, I suppose everyone should just forgive and forget as long as the rest of the book is accurate...

Palin? Yes we should mock Sarah Palin for this mistake and for the countless other mistakes in her book, but what about Harper Collins? I thought rigorous fact checking was part of the deal that went publishing a book with a gold standard publisher.

And part of the deal that came with buying a book published by a gold standard publishing house.

What is certain is that the publishing industry is entering a challenging new phase as they face the same Internet and technology driven market forces as the news media, politics, retailing and tele-communications.

Originally posted to Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 03:57 PM PST.


Do you own or intend to buy an ebook reader?

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Comment Preferences

  •  We thought my mom, in her mid-70's (4+ / 0-)

    would go for the Kindle because she is a voracious reader and has some physical limitations that make it hard to hold a book and turn the pages.  Unfortunately her computer literacy is severely self-limited and she hasn't been able to acclimatize herself to navigating by menu, etc.  I hate to think of the device rotting in her drawer, and am scheming to steal it.  

    My eyes get too tired with endless screen time already.  I'm hoping that Kindle's e-ink technology would successfully avoid that as advertised.

    But it's probably inadvisable for reading in the bathtub.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:03:46 PM PST

    •  The ability to enlarge the font at will (3+ / 0-)

      could be an attractive feature for people who are getting older.

      Also, my sister loves her Kindle and has developed a rhythm where she clicks "next page" 3 or 4 lines from the bottom and by the time the machine reacts she is ready for the new page.

      My wife despises Kindles and I'm not really sure whether I want one or not. Like I said, I like paper books.  

      Governing well shall be the best revenge

      by Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:06:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Espresso Book Machines are cool as well (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cfk, lgmcp, Void Indigo

    The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is a print on demand (POD) machine that prints, collates, covers, and binds a single book in a few minutes.

    The EBM is small enough to fit in a retail book store or small library room, and as such it is targeted at retail and library markets. The EBM can potentially allow readers to obtain any book title, even books that are out of print. The machine takes as input a PDF file and prints, binds, and trims the reader’s selection as a paperback book.

    They are very expensive right now but the costs should be coming down.

    Put them in Starbucks and print your new book while waiting for the coffee.

    Governing well shall be the best revenge

    by Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:10:05 PM PST

    •  Hook it up to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bill White, cfk, yella dawg

      Project Gutenberg, just think of all the out of print public domain books are out there. 1000's of years of literature suddenly available in book form at the touch of a button.  :)

      "No man deserves to be praised for his goodness unless he has strength of character to be wicked." La Rochefoucald

      by Void Indigo on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:13:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's really cool how indy authors are promoted (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White, cfk, lgmcp, smileycreek, melpomene1

    by readers at the Amazon kindle discussion forum. Some of these books are in the top 1,000.

  •  When in Mexico a few weeks ago (6+ / 0-)

    I was surprised by the number of elderly people reading their Kindles.

    I chatted with one at  length, an 86 year old woman  who had gotten the Kindle for Christmas.  She liked it because she could increase the font size which was much easier on her eyes. She was reading Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel.

    She told me she was a former Librarian, but considered her ilk a dying breed because people have the internet to search for information now.  

    When I asked her how she felt about the possible disappearance on print books she shrugged and said, "The world changes.  Books used to be on papyrus, after all."

    I hope I'm that adaptable and open-minded at her age!

    When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat. George Carlin

    by smileycreek on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:25:15 PM PST

  •  I've had a Kindle for a couple of years now (5+ / 0-)

    and really like it a lot, although I still buy real books.

    One thing I don't understand is why the makers of the readers don't build one that is hinged in the center like a real book.  I've gotten used to holding the Kindle and pressing the sidebar to go to the next page, but I would much prefer holding it like a real book, with two screens, and maybe clicking a button at the top righthand corner when I want to change pages.  Plus then it would protect the screen(s) when it was closed.

    If I had any mechanical/electronic abilities at all, I'd put one together myself and sell it.

    If the Earth really were your mother, she would grab you with one rocky hand and hold you under water until you no longer bubbled. -- Kathleen Dean Moore

    by Catatonia on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:26:24 PM PST

  •  I have a second gen Kindle (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    and about forty books for it, Most unread. Love it. The height of convenience and instant access.

    And I'll probably buy an iPad too. Either at launch or maybe in the Fall.

    "You Don't Do More With Less. You Do Less with Less. That's Why it's called Less." David Simon

    by Larry Madill on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:29:26 PM PST

  •  I have the Kindle software version (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White, cfk, Albatross, Eryk

    installed on my iPhone, along with the Eucalyptus (for public domain works from the Gutenberg project and the like) and Barnes and Noble readers. I have about 30 books on the phone at all times, and it has proven to be incredibly worthwhile- every time I'm bored in a waiting room or the like, I have worthwhile things to read right in my hand.

    It has made my iPhone even more indispensible, which is hard to imagine. I am absolutely an E-Reader convert, even though I don't have a dedicated E-Reader!

  •  Thanks, Bill (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White, Albatross, Eryk

    Very interesting!!!

    I will wait for the day when I can no longer buy a paper book to consider an ebook, but as a wanna be author, hmmmmmmmmmmm...

    as I said, very interesting!!

    I will put your diary addy up at Bookflurries on Wed.

    Join us at Bookflurries: Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:38:46 PM PST

    •  Espresso Book Machine is another game changer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Put a kiosk in Safeway and print your book purchase while they ring up the groceries.

      Governing well shall be the best revenge

      by Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:48:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  PS -- as someone who is about to jump into (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfk, Eryk

      the independent author world, the percentages are attractive.

      I'll write more about that in the future.

      Governing well shall be the best revenge

      by Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:58:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Kindle and POD are godsends to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill White

        small publishers, too.  It used to be that anyone who wanted to publish a book had to front the several thousand bucks for an offset print run first. Now, with POD, I can publish 100 titles for less than it would have cost for a single title's print run. And with Kindle I can put up as many books as I want, at no upfront cost.

        Editor, Red and Black Publishers, http://RedandBlackPublishers.Com

        by Lenny Flank on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 05:42:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There are books on my shelves (5+ / 0-)

    that were printed 300 years ago.  I don't really own them, I'm just taking care of them until I'm gone, and then they will still be there for someone else to enjoy.

    Can we say the same for the Ebook.  300 hundred years from now those Kindles will be buried deep at the bottom of some landfill.  Your library will probably be dead years before you are.  Perhaps someone will find a way to break the DRM and will take the time to back up all those bits, but they will be the rare few.  For the rest what was once a human legacy will be just another obsolete technology.  Todays fancy, quickly forgotten.

    Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

    by xgy2 on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:51:55 PM PST

    •  Agree and disagree (0+ / 0-)

      Not all books are printed on acid free paper, for example. Those are decaying rapidly as we speak.

      Personal libraries will be defunct however digital versions of everything could well exist somewhere.

      However well made paper books will survive (IMHO) because people love them.

      Governing well shall be the best revenge

      by Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 04:56:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  part of the reading enjoyment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill White

        comes from holding a book in your hands. The smell of the paper, the feel of each page slipping by. Reading a book occupies the senses in a way which ebooks can not meet. Plus well made books look great on the bookshelf and remind one of the joyful experience each offered.

        "No man deserves to be praised for his goodness unless he has strength of character to be wicked." La Rochefoucald

        by Void Indigo on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 06:24:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The DRM issue is more subtle, IMHO (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill White, xgy2

        We are trading the physical possession of a physical object for the license of an ephemeral copy.  I don't understand why I should pay more money for less ownership.

        I would like to see a crashing of the gates type event in publishing, but the interests in both the "publishing" and the e-book reader manufacturers are vested in keeping the system as closed as possible.

        It's the economy, stupid!

        by hillgiant on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 08:46:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Smashwords is DRM free (0+ / 0-)

          14a. DRM, Piracy and the "Trust" System. Smashwords is a strong proponent of author’s rights, and the right of authors and copyright owners to receive compensation for their digitally published Works. Therefore, Smashwords strongly discourages piracy/infringement of Author Work and encourages customers to purchase licensed copies. However, Smashwords does not publish works containing digital rights management schemes that limit the customer’s ability to consume Author’s Work as they see fit. Therefore, Smashwords cannot completely prevent piracy/infringement of Author’s Work (the reality of the matter is that even DRMed content can be reproduced and pirated, just as easily as a printed book can be scanned and digitized). When Author lists the Work on Smashwords you are trusting the consumer to honor your legal copyright and abide by the licensing terms you set. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that DRMed Works do not sell as well as non-DRMed Work because customers resent limitations and don’t appreciate being mistrusted. Non-DRMed Works often outsell DRMed Works by leveraging the viral nature of uninhibited sampling and sharing which can dramatically increase your total audience and sales opportunities. There is also evidence that by pricing your Works for less than printed equivalents, you can further decrease piracy and increase sales volume. You understand that Smashwords is distributing the Works according to this so described Trust system.

          I don't understand why I should pay more money for less ownership.

          I agree and therefore ebooks should cost less than printed books.

          Governing well shall be the best revenge

          by Bill White on Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 09:02:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Although... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...I had no trouble giving my subscription to the  often rain-soaked (and sometimes nonexistant) NY Times and now read it on line, I don't envision transitioning  to a reader as easily.  In fact, I don't see any advantages.  I do recognize that many trees make the ultimate sacrifice for our books/magazines/newspapers but yet more electronics (and spent batteries) clogging our landfills is at least equally undesirable.

    Oh, there you are, Perry. -Phineas -SLB-

    by boran2 on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 05:38:26 PM PST

  •  as a small publisher . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    I point out that dead-tree books still make up over 80% of all the books I sell.  I don't think paper books will disappear any time soon.

    But I do have almost 200 ebooks available for the Kindle (my publishing company specializes in history, radical politics, alternative religion, classics, and exotic pets).

    And I price all my Kindle books at $9.99, no matter how long they are.

    If anyone wants to check out Red and Black Publishers Kindle list, it's here:

    Editor, Red and Black Publishers, http://RedandBlackPublishers.Com

    by Lenny Flank on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 05:39:42 PM PST

    •  Are you accepting submissions? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      Governing well shall be the best revenge

      by Bill White on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 05:58:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  sorry, nope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill White

        I only publish either stuff that I wrote myself, or public domain stuff.

        The bad thing about POD and Kindle publishing is that while the margins are very high (I make $7 on a $10 book--and I also make $7 on a $15 book), the volume is so low that it's impossible for an author to make any living at it. If you really want to pay bills with POD, you must do the publishing yourself and have lots of titles. The good thing about Kindle is that any author can publish his own work, at no cost, just by opening an account with Amazon. The bad thing about Kindle is that Amazon takes most of the money, so I only make half as much on a Kindle book as I do a print book.

        (I've authored several books for "real" publishers myself, so I know how badly the mainstream publishers, who have decent margin and enormous volume, rip off their authors).

        Editor, Red and Black Publishers, http://RedandBlackPublishers.Com

        by Lenny Flank on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 06:24:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I've been reading ebooks on my treo 655 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    for a couple of years now. You can get free software for most devices, and SF/F books at Including a quite large FREE library.

    Wherefore do ye toil; is it not that ye may live and be happy? And if ye toil only that ye may toil more, when shall happiness find you?

    by keefer55 on Mon Feb 15, 2010 at 05:58:15 PM PST

  •  Kindle (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    Asked for, and got one, for Christmas. That's why the huge Christmas day sale volume, by the way. Who is out buying paper books on Christmas day, for crying out loud? But new Kindle owners getting instant downloads....

    No reading on my commute by car, and limited "travel". However, having a couple dozen books on hand in one "book sized" contraption will be nice when I do. Actually, the appeal is for a smaller version of "travel" - waiting at the doctor's office, stuck in the reception area before a meeting, eating alone, etc. etc. Having a whole library in my purse is nice.

    Nook - didn't even know that was out there until after my Kindle was on the way. Didn't explore it at all because I didn't want any buyers remorse. However, a friend recently said she was having a horrible time with customer service and her Nook; and would tell me all about it when we had time.

    Other observations.
    My Kindle is portable, does not require being stuck in front of a computer screen.
    Easier on the eyes - and with font size (and even text reading) could be nice for some situations or users.
    Because it's not back lit it has really long battery life.
    Cheap books, bad writing, new writers - I've taken advantage of $0, $0.99, etc. Carefully selected, much is no worse than the usual "trashy" paperbacks I might pick up for a couple of bucks at a used bookstore. And I have run into one or two new authors that I will be willing to spend full price on for future work.

  •  Can't afford it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    We shop for our books at a fantastic used bookstore.

  •  Kindle for iPhone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bill White

    I've purchased four titles and read them on the bus ride to work.

    Type is very readable. Screen is bright. Fit's in my pocket.

    Thinking of buying an iPad.  Wish that Amazon made Kindle for Mac.

    I love it!

  •  Students should love ereaders (0+ / 0-)

    If publishers get smart they'll publish e-versions of their textbooks to be read on a Kindle/iPad/Nook.  Imagine having all your textbooks always on hand without the weight. Imagine having your textbooks, electronic dictionary, Atlas, and encyclopedia in your backpack.

    On my iPhone I have apps for Dictionary, Atlas, Spanish/English dictionary, Wiki, Kindle, Barnes & Noble ebook reader, etc.... I also have shop manuals for my Harley Davidson Softail, Jeep Grand Cherokee, all our audio/video gear, Nikon Slr, and most other gadgets we own.  All in PDF format. You know how much this stuff would weigh if I had to carry the actual books?  I'm sold...

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