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So, I'm thinking about doing a semi-regular series that will keep an eye on what is going on in the world of digital books. It is a constantly growing and changing field that will sooner or later affect all Readers and Book Lovers.

What do you think? I've included a sample below the fold.

There is an interesting look at a future where libraries no longer carry books in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. I can see a time when your local library consists of multiple computer stations and books that don't lend themselves to e-book format. And maybe a coffee bar.

...such a library is opening in San Antonio, Texas, this fall. There, with nary a book in sight, patrons will read on computer screens.

Crazy? Pat Conley doesn't think so.

As the director of the Washington County library system, she is watching as per-capita demand for books stagnates, computer demand soars and big, free-standing libraries begin to fade into history.

And in the UK, they are considering ebooks in their libraries, according to The
The UK government will consider paying writers each time their ebooks and audio books are borrowed from public libraries - just like scribes are recompensed when their dead-tree tomes are loaned.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey announced a decision will be made after a formal review concluded libraries must stock digital titles or become "increasingly irrelevant". It's hoped that by paying novelists and poets for ebook loans, their publishers will offer the electronic works to libraries, and that this will entice Brits back into public libraries.

Independent booksellers are doing better selling Kobo's e-reader and books than they were doing with Google.
Just six months after forging a partnership with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to help independent bookstores sell ebooks, Canadian upstart Kobo has shown that it can crush the competition – even when the competition is one of the world’s largest and most admired companies.

In fact, it only took a month.

According to the ABA, Kobo has helped indies sell more ebooks in its first month working with them late last year than Google did in more than two years in a similar partnership.

- Digital Book World

Only problem is the slim profit margins: 5% for the device and 8% to 20% on the e-books which compares poorly to the normal 20% to 50% that they get on other goods they sell. Many are offering the Kobos because they know their customers want e-books and this gives them a toehold in their battle to flourish in spite of the larger sellers like B&N, Apple and Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon, it has released a new tool for writers self-publishing there. Called the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Cover Creator it is a free tool in beta testing. It was leaked to The Digital Reader where you can find pictures if you are interested.

Though the clear favorite among self-published authors as a distributor of ebooks, Amazon is very much in competition to continue offering more attractive services to lure authors away from competitors — other self-publishing platforms and traditional publishers.  The competition is fierce. Ebook production and distribution platform Vook, for instance, recently added a cover design tool to its suite of author services. And the competition doesn’t just come from self-publishing platforms and technology vendors: Simon & Schuster now offers data on ebook piracy on a title-by-title basis to its authors through its author portal.

Publishers, self-publishing platforms and ebook distributors are currently in an arms race to curry the favor of authors, who are increasingly in positions of control in the industry.

Digital Book World

It would be so nice to see the authors gain some power in the industry.

Especially as they are losing ground elsewhere, according to Scott Turow, President of the Authors Guild, wriitng in the New York Times on Sunday:

Last month, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper than domestic editions. Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.
It has been two months since MacMillan signed the settlement with the DOJ over its pricing scheme that I wrote about here. Retailers have finally started reflecting the price reductions called for under the settlement as reported by
According to the terms of the settlement, Macmillan — like the other settling publishers — can’t restrict retailers like Amazon from setting, changing, or lowering ebook prices for two years. Though Macmillan only settled in February, its settlement gave it a back-dated head start on the two-year period, running from December 18, 2012 — the same date that Penguin agreed to settle.
As the article mentions, I haven't seen much in the way of reductions from the other defendants in that suit; Penguin is still setting the prices for its e-books on Amazon.

Penguin has decided to allow libraries to carry its ebooks after pulling out of a relationship with OverDrive in 2011.

Now that Penguin is running ebook trials with two new library distributors — Baker & Taylor and 3M — the publisher has decided it is safe to make new ebooks available for lending again, the AP reported Wednesday. Penguin has been tracking ebook checkouts at libraries to make sure they are not cutting into paid book sales, and found that “the effect of library downloads on commercial revenues has been acceptable.”
In its library trials, Penguin allows an ebook to be lent to only one person at a time, and after a year the library has to buy a new copy of the ebook. The prices for libraries are the same as retail prices. Penguin’s library ebooks aren’t available to Kindle users, because Baker & Taylor and 3M do not yet support the format.

Other publishers also place restrictions on ebook library lending. Random House makes all of its ebooks available to libraries, but at prices as much as three times higher than the retail price. HarperCollins allows its ebooks to be checked out 26 times before the library has to buy a new copy. Hachette only makes new ebooks available to some libraries in a pilot program, and charges more than retail price. Macmillan is running a two-year trial that makes 1,200 older ebooks available to libraries. Simon & Schuster does not make its ebooks available to libraries.

- paid

"Why Do We Keep Making Ebooks Like Paper Books?" asks Kane Hsleh of Gizmodo.
There is no reason I need to turn fake pages. If I'm using a computer to read, I should be able to leverage the connectivity and processing power of that computer to augment my reading experience: ebooks should allow me to read on an infinite sheet, or I should be able to double blink to scroll. I should be able to practice language immersion by replacing words and phrases in my favorite books with other languages, or highlight sections to send to Quora or Mechanical Turk for analysis. There are endless possibilities for ebooks to make reading more accessible and immersvie than ever, but as long as ebooks try to be paper books, they will remain stuck in an uncanny valley of disappointment.
He adds one of my favorite pet peeves about ebooks:
Another misstep in the growth of ebooks was the complete incompatability of previous libraries. People who have amassed libraries of paper books over many years were left behind by ebook distributors. Unlike music or photographs, there is no way to migrate an old book library into a new one. Over the past decade, I've been able to convert my tapes to CDs, my CDs to MP3s, and now import my MP3s into Spotify and listen to music over the cloud. Yet, if I want to read my favorite books on my Nexus 7, I have to pay for a separate ebook version, assuming one even exists.
I just downloaded the 1989 version of Stephen King's The Stand. Did you know that the the 1989 version includes over 400 more pages than the original published in 1978? According to Hsleh:
Authors, no longer dependent on publishers, are afforded previously unheard of flexibility with story telling. A novella can seamlessly grow into a thousand page epic, one chapter a week, urged by a growing fan base. Small steps in this direction are being made by companies such as Plympton, but it would be unwise to underestimate the potential for new sources of content through the democratization of publication.
And finally, Jason Merkoski worked for Amazon when they were developing the Kindle and has written a book about ebooks.
In Burning the Page, digital pioneer Jason Merkoski charts the ebook revolution’s striking impact on the ways in which we create, discover, and share ideas. From the sleek halls of Silicon Valley to the jungles of Southeast Asia, Merkoski explores how ebooks came to be and predicts innovative and interactive ways digital content will shape our lives. Throughout, you are invited to continue the conversation online and help shape this exciting new world of “Reading 2.0.”

- Sourcebooks

A review of the book has been written by Laura Hazard Owen for
In a new book, former Kindle exec Jason Merkoski examines where e-reading platforms are now and how they could change in the future. If you’re looking for secrets about Jeff Bezos, though, you’re in the wrong place.

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Actually, with Calibre and the right plugins you (13+ / 0-)

    can convert your ebooks from one format to another despite the fact that both Amazon and Barnes and Noble do everything in their power to prevent it as their ebook formats have been cracked like a walnut.  Remember, Amazon reserves the right to delete your books at any time for any reason so unless you take steps to protect yourself you could see your ebooks go up into digital smoke.

    You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

    by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:08:05 AM PDT

    •  Protect yourself how? (5+ / 0-)

      I recently got a Kindle.

      Oklahoma: birthplace of Kate Barnard, W. Rogers, W. Guthrie, Bill Moyers & Eliz. Warren. Home to proud progressive agitators since before statehood. Current political climate a mere passing dust cloud; we're waiting it out & planning for clearer days.

      by peacearena on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:22:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was going to mention that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29, RiveroftheWest

      Works great for buying (NOT, I repeat NOT pirating) a book in Kindle format from Amazon, and reading it on my Sony reader as an EPub.

    •  not legally (3+ / 0-)

      in fact, legally when you get an ebook from any of the major outlets, you are merely getting a license which they can revoke at any time.

      Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to and check out New World Orders

      by eparrot on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:07:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would love to see that change. I'm not sure what (5+ / 0-)

        benefit there is to restricting an ebook to a single reader, other than the attempt to monopolize the industry.

        I am hoping that the independent booksellers who are suing Amazon and the Big Six win their suit and give us a universal DRM that would protect the copyright but allow differing readers to all view the material. Legally

        I would love to try the Sony reader or the Nook. But, as planned by Amazon, who was the first, none of my books can be read on those.

        We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

        by Susan Grigsby on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:10:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I use a web-based converter (4+ / 0-)

          To get kindle books onto my sony e-reader. I have not used a kindle, but love love love my sony.  I can also get library books onto it.  I typically buy from kobo, because I live in Canada, and their format downloads directly into my e-reader. And I can buy on my phone and then redownload to my computer to read on my sony. Very flexible.

          Fire burn and cauldron bubble, bendy straws or my fee is double - via Twitter about half-term governor Sarah Palin

          by alrdouglas on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:43:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I envy your choices. Right now I am locked into (3+ / 0-)

            kindle with four devices, including a Fire, for family members that are on my account with over 700 books. When we started buying ebooks, Amazon was the only seller.

            I would love to try the Sony, I have heard nothing but good things about it.

            We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

            by Susan Grigsby on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:47:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They are more expensive (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              but I have found mine to be worth it.  It feels substantial without being heavy and I like to contrast between black and white. It has a touch screen I enjoy as well. Because I am in Canada, I could not get a Nook or Kindle since you can only access titles from the Canadian store, which was disappointing and not as extensive as the US store. Option two was piracy, eek!

              Fire burn and cauldron bubble, bendy straws or my fee is double - via Twitter about half-term governor Sarah Palin

              by alrdouglas on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:29:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I consider this to be a warning: (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RiveroftheWest, duhban, citylights
              Right now I am locked into kindle with four devices, including a Fire
              I was considering a Fire, to augment--not replace--my Nook.

              Since I'm not eager to feel "locked in" or trapped by any devices I guess Amazon will be that much more able to meet someone else's demand.

              Yesterday's NYT had an interesting article about the benefits of e-textbooks. If we haven't already we are fast approaching the point where electronic text is the norm, while "dead tree" media is becoming a novelty. Maybe that's overstating it, but a book would have to be awfully special to get me interested unless it had dazzling graphics, etc. Even images, though can look really good with a top-quality monitor.

              I'm looking forward to your series.

              It matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. Henry David Thoreau, in Civil Disobedience

              by Had Enough Right Wing BS on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 05:32:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Well you might just have to bite the bullet (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              and do the Calibre conversion if you are planning on switching.  Apparently it is pretty easy to do.

              You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

              by Throw The Bums Out on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 11:03:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  If you root the Nook (4+ / 0-)

          you can install a Kindle app on it and so read books in both the Nook and Kindle formats (but of course not the same book).  I know someone who did this; he uses the Nook as a tablet and gets most of his reading in Kindle format.

          You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia".

          by yellowdog on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:10:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I would like to see it change (3+ / 0-)

          as well. But I think the lawsuit has almost no chance of winning. The Big 6 have different DRM for different vendors, so it's not like a typical monopoly or a typical collusion case. A pretty tough legal row to hoe.

          I read on a kindle, but in the few cases when I buy Nookbooks  (as an indie author I don't care for B&N since they've made the conscious decision to be in bed with the Big 6), I read them on my phone.

          Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to and check out New World Orders

          by eparrot on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:41:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  What a great idea for a series (13+ / 0-)

    It's a new world in publishing out there.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:21:47 AM PDT

  •  I am going to second the comment about this being (12+ / 0-)

    ... a great premise for a series.

    You might check our John Scalzi's blog Whatever for a great series on ebook contracts for authors. Very interesting read and great advocate work.

  •  Great idea for a series. (3+ / 0-)

    But how is taking Ulysses and allowing Google Translate to alter selected words and phrases "immersive"? I guess he's maybe thinking technical non-fiction or something, but still, if you like books, you're generally going to like the language they're written in, right?

  •  This annoys me as well (5+ / 0-)
    Another misstep in the growth of ebooks was the complete incompatability of previous libraries. People who have amassed libraries of paper books over many years were left behind by ebook distributors. Unlike music or photographs, there is no way to migrate an old book library into a new one. Over the past decade, I've been able to convert my tapes to CDs, my CDs to MP3s, and now import my MP3s into Spotify and listen to music over the cloud. Yet, if I want to read my favorite books on my Nexus 7, I have to pay for a separate ebook version, assuming one even exists.
    Amazon recently began a program where if you purchased a music CD in the past they've put the digital version in your cloud.  Note that they aren't offering the same deal if you purchased a paper-based book from them in the past - they aren't offering to give you the Kindle version.  

    The whole diary is fascinating. Really look forward to the series.  

    you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

    by Dem Beans on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:05:34 AM PDT

    •  Absolutely agree with you. Is there hope that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      eventually e-book publishers will learn the lesson music publishers did? (i.e. I tunes, etc.)

      I get that no one want to give away something for free, but why couldn't they give a discount to those who buy both versions?  Wouldn't that increase the number of people who do?

      I also look forward to this becoming a series.  It's nice to be enlightened in a way even technophopes can understand.

      "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

      by citylights on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 01:32:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The reason Kobo beat google (3+ / 0-)

    among indies so quickly is that Google refuses to do agency pricing for indies. Whether agency pricing is good or bad is irrelevant - if you want to publish on Amazon, B&N and Apple as an indie, you have to accept agency pricing.

    That means you can't risk putting your book anywhere where they'll change the price without your permission, like Google. If they do, you are in violation of the terms of publishing on Amazon, B&N and Apple. They will price match, and it can be a massive pain to get the prices back to where you want them. If google actually had decent market share, more authors might decide it's worth the risk, but Amazon still has 55-70% of the ebook market, with B&N and Apple combining for all but the remaining 5% or so.

    Want a progressive global warming novel, not a right wing rant? Go to and check out New World Orders

    by eparrot on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:12:11 AM PDT

  •  really hoping you go on with this series (5+ / 0-)

    There are more twists and turns in e-publishing than in most suspense novels -- I can't keep up. And often the changes divide writers I trust, with some saying the latest change will help us in some way and others crying armageddon. You always bring clarity to whatever you diary, so if you go on with this, I'll love it. (And if you don't, I'll just have to love whatever you do go on with.)

    Lately I've been checking out a lot of downloadable audiobooks through my library. (They are also offered as ebooks but like print books, ebooks just stack up here, albeit invisibly.) This is such a boon! I've been listening to Larry McMurtry's books, and some are read so well I feel lucky to hear them instead of read them. But they're long and would cost about twice as much as hardcovers, so I'm glad the library offers downloads.

    "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." Mitt Romney

    by scilicet on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:14:00 AM PDT

    •  Audiobooks have made such a difference (3+ / 0-)

      in my life. My mother has Alzheimers and I visit her at least twice a week; the distance is 45 miles and it can take from 1 to 2 1/2 hours each way depending on traffic. The audiobooks from the library have made those trips so much better. My current book is the third in Tanya Huff's Confederation series. What a good writer she is.

    •  SoCaliana wrote a monthly series on audiobooks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, citylights

      that is currently on hiatus. It would be nice to see it come back, although I have never been very good at focusing on an audio book.

      I love McMurtry's work. Lonesome Dove is one of my all time favorites. I may try another audio book while I am doing stuff around the house. Especially if I can listen to it on my iPhone.

      Thank you for the praise. My brother used to call me a techno geek because I so love the advances technology can bring. It feels like there are big changes coming to publishing as a result of the digital format; in how we buy/lease books, how we "read" books and how we write and publish them.

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:41:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Actually, some texts are available as ebooks (4+ / 0-)

    Most every book published in the US before 1923 -- & various ones between then & 1978 -- are in the public domain & have pdf versions available online. They just happen to be in pdf format, but every ebook reader supports that format.

    The place to start looking for them is, which will then point you to where the files can be found:, the Gutenberg project, Wikisource, or another site. JSTOR also has made available all magazine articles in their collection published before 1923 for free; one doesn't need to have a library card from a participating library to access them. These are also in pdf format.

    And there a websites in France & Germany that have put online academic journals published in their countries -- again, in pdf format. Amazing that a proprietary format -- pdf was created by Adobe -- is better at being cross-platform than the open epub, but that's the commercial world for you.

    I know, most of what I've listed here is outside what people want to read. But it is something, & the reason I got an ebook reader was to read pdf files on something more convenient than a laptop.

  •  I hope you do turn this into a series... (5+ / 0-)

    The digital publishing business is moving so fast now. Keeping with the new trends, technologies, policies--Well it's just overwhelming.

    I'm a Nook user, who is pretty well sure the next e-reader I get probably won't be a Nook or a Kindle. I'm not happy with the restrictions both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have about their e-books.  B&N in particular has some of the worst customer use polices and customer service. Wow. Just wow.

    This was a great informative diary, thank you!

  •  Penguin should be working with ALL libraries (3+ / 0-)

    Not every library has 3M or Baker and Taylor for e-books; my library consortium in Massachusetts has OverDrive.  What this publisher is doing is punishing library users because it soured on a particular vendor.

    -7.13, -6.97 Facts matter. Vice President Joe Biden 10/11/12

    by klamothe on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:41:06 PM PDT

    •  So does mine in California. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, citylights

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:17:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Probably won't happen: publishers treat libraries (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as if they are the enemy. They worry that if they let a library in a city buy one copy of an ebook then everyone in that city will have a copy. (Nevermind that might not happen, even if the book was free.) And they think that because more than one person will read a library copy, books sold to public libraries steal sales.

      Not that they have any firm evidence for any of this. But the publishers are convinced this will happen, so they must stop public libraries from carrying ebooks.

  •  Word counts! (0+ / 0-)

    Books should always show word counts, not just number of pages.  Obviously there should be a transition period when both are shown but word counts are more meaningful.

    by chloris creator on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 05:37:53 AM PDT

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