Monday, August 3, 2009

E-readers, E-books

Tip of the Day: If you use iTunes, you can save song samples of songs you don't have yet to a separate playlist. Find the 30-second samples on the iTunes music store and drag them to a playlist. Then when it's time to buy music, you have a wish list already set up.

Last week, Barnes and Noble announced that they're giving away free e-book reader software for your PC, Mac, Bluetooth, iPhone or iTouch. A small library of free books comes with it, and additional titles are about ten bucks a pop. Also last week, John Green blogged about the possibility that physical bookstores are going the way of physical CD and music stores: going, going, gone. In the electronic world, he argued, covers won't matter as much. You'll download your books online.

As a reader, I have a hard time accepting that books will be downloaded like songs. Songs are only 3 minutes long so I need lots of them. Oh, alright, I need a lot of books too, but not like I need thousands of songs. Plus it's hard to beat the portability of a paperback. If I lost my iPod, the mourning period would be long and painful. If I lost a $5 paperback on a beach trip, I'd recover quicky with a margarita.

Now talk to my husband about it, who cringes every time I bring a book home because we don't have room for the books we already own. He says, woo-hoo, finally, let's get back some space!

What about the library? I argue that most of the books I read are checked out of the public library. But I have to admit that it wouldn't be that hard to work out a system where e-books could be rented. In fact, it might cut out the hold period for popular books, or the nuisance of having to reserve books from other branches. Gasp! Is it possible to have a world where every book you want to read could be downloaded from the library on demand? That seems too good to be true.

There are some books I'll always want a treasured copy of. But the more I think about it, the more an e-reader appeals to me. Could my eyes actually take any more screen-staring? I could increase the font and control the lighting on an e-reader. If I wanted to find a passage in a book, I could use a search feature. I've always had trouble reading books in a car (motion sickness) and I wonder if reading on a device might help that.

Right now, I don't read e-books. I would have to read them on my PC. I read a lot of manuscript on my PC for critiquing purposes so it's not like I don't read on my PC. They're just not officially e-books (not yet anyway). I think to get me to buy e-books, I'd need a good reading device so I could read in bed.

If you're published or shopping a book, how do you feel about your books going electronic? Do you and your agent have a plan for it? Does your publisher support it aggressively or sidestep the issue?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

Right now in our lib system, you can download e-books and audio books from home and save them to your PC! You are supposed to then delete the files when you are done with them. We also only have so many licenses for them, so it's not that there's suddenly an infinite # of copies of each book. There's still the 3-week lending period and all that until the next person is allowed to "check out" the e-book. The probs we run into are mostly ppl who can't get the software to work on their PC for whatever reason, and when they call the lib for help, we really have none to give them since it's usually a software issue that only a techie person would know how to fix. But the idea is cool. Still, I just love the feel of books in my hands! But I also love the OPTION of e-books and audio books.

Kristina Springer said...

I don't know-- I don't see ebooks taking over yet. I remember 10 years ago they were shouting the same stuff about ebooks taking over and bookstores going away and it hasn't happened yet.

Lisa Schroeder said...

I heard a thing awhile back that talked about whether movie theaters were on their way out. With so much ease in pay per view, netflix, etc. they wondered, will people stop going to the theater?

And the answer? No way. Yes, people can get movies at home, but they *like* to go out. Going to the movies is fun.

I sorta think it's the same with with bookstores. People like to browse while drinking their coffee. They like to go to the library with their kids every week. I just don't see the printed book, and the places we find the printed book, going away completely.

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C. K. Kelly Martin said...

I totally agree with what John Green had to say about covers in that post:

I would argue the job of a cover is not to get the book to the broadest audience but instead to get the book to its best audience.

Unfortunately, I think he could be right about bookstores disappearing in time too (though I sincerely hope not!). I do think inevitably as the technology improves there will continue to be a shift towards e-books which will result in additional worries about how to market books and also increased piracy. These changes are scary stuff!

I know my own books currently exist as e-books too but confess I haven't seen them in that format and don't know what percentage of sales they account for.

Kate Fall said...

I agree, Lisa, I couldn't imagine not going to a bookstore and browsing, drinking coffee, buying gifts, etc. I would miss that more than squinting at small print in paperbacks, scrambling for a bookmark, and balancing a treacherous stack of books on my bedside table.

C.K., the changes are scary. But it's good to have a community of people to talk to about it.

Deena, thanks for the library 411. So the books are licensed, huh? Fascinating!

Kristina Springer said...

I totally agree Lisa! And you're right-- I can't see libraries EVER going away. My town LOVES the library. It's so packed all the time that they're building a new gigantic one now. All the moms bring the kiddies there and you're totally right-- not the same thing as going here sweetie read your ebook.