The Kindle (part one of two million)

By Alex

It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to post a blog on something I have so little experience with. I guess in this particular case, as a new author, I’m desperate for other people’s thoughts and experience.

I’ve always steered away from e books and have never even tried an e book reader. For a touch-based person the very idea is anathema. But my objections crumble in the face of a delivery system like this:

There’s a very wide-ranging Newsweek article on the Kindle “> here.

View the Kindle promotional video here.

29 thoughts on “The Kindle (part one of two million)

  1. guyot

    Michael Cader wrote a nice (informative) response to that Newsweek article – calling it pretty much a puff piece. I think Weinman has a link to it.

    My biggest fear of the whole e-book technology is that once it’s really here, it’s going to be the youtube of the publishing world. Anyone will be able to put their “books” out there, and with the flood in the marketplace, real deals for “real” writers will be hurt.

    Luckily, most of the time, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

    Reply
  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    G, I think that’s a legitimate concern, although I still think that major publishers will find a way to buy internet real estate (as it were) for “their” authors, both the established ones and the ones they sign in the future.

    I do feel REALLY grateful to have gotten in under the wire, and have a major publisher promoting me now so I’ll have some brand recognition once this e book revolution is truly underway.

    But you’ve hit on what is really my main question – have publishers been working around the clock on the implications of new delivery systems in the same way that the WGA has? And where can I catch up on those conversations?

    Reply
  3. JT Ellison

    Harlequin has…

    Harlequin Goes All E-Book

    By Josh Kerbel — Publishers Weekly, 9/21/2007 7:25:00 AM

    Harlequin said yesterday that from this point forward it is making its complete frontlist catalogue available in e-book format. Active in the e-book marketplace since October 2005, with an initial publication schedule of nine titles a month, Harlequin will now be releasing more than 120 titles per month in both print and digital formats.

    Harlequin’s e-books will be priced slightly lower than their print books and be available in Adobe, Microsoft Reader, MobiPocket, Palm and Sony formats. The company said it is launching this initiative because its customers embrace the immediacy and portability of the format and the titles do not go out of stock. —————This applies to the Kindle as well. If you look my book up on Amazon it has a Kindle version.

    Here’s a link to Harlequin’s E-Book Boutique. I’ve linked to the thriller page, but you can sail through any of the imprints with a click on the category sort. Have to say, they’ve got it going on…http://ebooks.eharlequin.com/0B39AECD-D3CE-4ED0-AF5F-D5F901BCA2D3/10/126/en/SearchResultsImprint.htm?SearchID=8255573&SortBy=date

    Reply
  4. JT Ellison

    Now, me personally . . . for something like international travel, where I would normally be lugging twenty books around, ebooks are handy. But the Kindle already looks and feels outdated. When Apple gets on the train, we’ll have a problem, I think. I would buy this kind of product if it were user friendly and slick like they did with the iPhone and Nano.

    I have an Ebook, one of the first iterations back before they lost all popularity. It was pretty cool, though I read fast and the constant forwarding to the next page was a bit annoying.

    A real book, though, will always be my first choice.

    Reply
  5. Barbara Fister

    I interviewed publishing folks (editors, agents, publishers, observers) in 2000, when the last big e-book push bubbled up. Everyone was excited about the possibilities, but their big focus was on saving money by cutting someone else out of the picture. (We’ll bypass bookstores! No, agents! No, publishers!) There was a panel discussion at The New School where folks were swooning over the possibilities but Richard Bernstein asked what for me is the real question that needs asking: “What’s in it for the reader?” And that sort of stopped everyone cold, because none of them were thinking that way.

    My feeling is the industry has to think of that first, then find ways to generate sufficient revenues to support the work that needs to be done. (And share it fairly. The WGA issue, if I understand it, isn’t about making money in the digitial world, it’s making sure the money that’s made is fairly distributed. Which is the “cutting someone out of the picture” scenario mentioned above.) Too often, though, the industry seems to be circling the wagons to protect against “piracy” – don’t let anyone share books, resell books, copy bits of books, etc. – which suggests we’ll be going the way of the recording industry and the dodo.

    I have an idea: let’s not. There are a lot of readers out there. A lot of good writers, a lot of good editors who make good writers better, a lot of dedicated booksellers. We need to work out a future that has room for all of these without going to a one bookstore, one proprietary product, no sharing model, which is what the Kindle is.

    Then again, I’m a librarian as well as a writer, so I think sharing is good. (I’m a bit of a bolshie, too.) But Cory Doctorow makes his books available online for free and it actually helps his sales. And DRM is meeting with tremendous market resistance, not because people don’t want to pay, but because they want to be able to use the things they buy without all kinds of tech barriers and hassles.

    The 2000 e-book boom was a bust. It cost a lot, there wasn’t anything in it for the reader, cutting one another out of the picture was a bloody mess, and the entire tech industry was about to burst anyway (actually the bubble had already popped before book publishers caught on). I hope we learn from it – but so far I don’t see any signs that we have. A lot of publishers, though, have been working to digitize their front and backlists and we could see some interesting developments – IF we keep asking ourselves “what’s in it for the reader?”

    By the way, if anyone’s interested in the article I wrote way back when it’s online (free!) here -http://homepages.gac.edu/~fister/TradePublishing.pdf

    There’s also an interesting blog post here…http://diveintomark.org/archives/2007/11/19/the-future-of-reading

    Reply
  6. Allison Brennan

    This exact conversation was brought up two years ago when the Sony e-reader came out (cheaper than the Kindle–which I think is a stupid name, but that’s not important.) Ebook sales are going to increase, but I don’t see them replacing print books anytime in the near or even long-near future. Piracy is the number one issue authors (and publishers) need to be worried about. Most authors make the same or greater royalty rates on ebooks as they do on the print books, and I’m fine with that–as long as I’m not losing books to theft.

    I understand concerns that everyone and their brother can now “publish” but quality matters. The polish of the professionally created movie or book. I don’t think we’ll lose sales because now people can write and “publish” books online for free and people can read for free. That’s sort of what blogging is, isn’t it? And it’s not replacing books.

    If anyone can bump up e-sales, it’s Amazon, but still, even with Kindle if my e-sales approach 1% of my total sales, I’ll be surprised. Right now I’m at .0014 ebook sales. And I still get paid for those books.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Alex and this is something that needs to be on our radar. But I think most of our contracts already deal with ebooks and any rights not reserved specifically to the publisher are retained by the writer. (though Kristin Nelson had a blog about this recently where she was reading a contract and the publisher had snuck in the reverse–definitely something to be watched, just like S&S tried to change the terms of what “in print” means last year.)

    Reply
  7. Elver

    Suppose there’s a book signing. How would you get an author to sign an e-book?

    Am asking because there’s a book signing scene in the screenplay I’m writing and, hey, I’m all for progress.

    Reply
  8. billie

    Assuming I could get used to reading books on a screen without the visceral feel of the page and my tendency to flip ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter, my first thought is what I would do if I had all my favorites on the Kindle and then lost it. Or dropped it in the horses’ water trough while trying to read while filling it up. Or it gets stolen. Or it simply fries in some weird computer way.

    I know all this e-data can and should be backed up, but there’s an element of “it could just disappear” there that fuels my distrust of all things computer. I like to have hard copies of everything important.

    I guess that’s me being in my generation though – my children have an entirely different reaction to technology. And they’re both dedicated consumers of both film/TV and books via iTunes and the local indie bookstore. Daughter had to wait 24 hours between each Stephanie Meyer book b/c the indie bookstore actually closes down for the night. 🙂 I know if she’d been able to, she’d have downloaded it onto her Kindle and read all three of them w/o stopping.

    For me, the anticipation is part of the passion for reading. Not sure I’ll ever get as excited over a list of book files to be read on a screen as I do my actual piles of books sitting next to my chair.

    Reply
  9. Dima

    I agree with the observation that the younger generation is reading from the screen much more than it is reading form paper, however i doubt that Kindle is a device to revolutionize this process. Why would you have a separate device for reading books? I, for once, read most of my stuff from my laptop including books when I travel or can’t get a paper version. Of course Amzon can try, and is trying, to enforce a unique format for e-books to sell its new device, i doubt that that it adds to the reading process so much as to revolutionize the reading experience.

    And I am sorry, but the newsweek article was somewhat annoying. It looked like a paid add for Kindle.

    If you are interested to follow the blogosphere responding to Kindle, you can follow this thread on technorati (this is how i got to your blog 🙂

    Reply
  10. Naomi

    Alex:

    I’ve found the best discussions regarding e-book technology on romance sites. The folks at http://www.dearauthor.com are the cutting edge of readers (they were recently quoted in a Wall Street Journal story on the Kindle).

    Here are a few sample links–

    SURVEY OF THE DEDICATED READER

    http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2007/11/04/dear-authors-2007-christmas-buying-guide-for-ebook-readers-the-dedicated-reader/

    SURVEY OF MULTIFUNCTION DEVICES (like Palm, etc.)

    http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2007/11/11/dear-authors-2007-christmas-buying-guide-for-ebook-readers-the-multifunction-device/

    INDIVIDUAL PUBLISHERS AND E-BOOK (here, Random House)

    http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2006/12/03/random-house-e-initiatives/

    Right now it seems like we are in the pre-Beta/VHS stage–there are so many competing formats and no standards. And, I guess, the prices for e-books is still relatively high (in other words, why not just buy a paperback?). But as the format becomes more standardized, prices drop, and file-sharing (“thieving”) begins, e-books will certainly prove to become a bigger issue for us writers. Most of us are so old school–lovers of the actual BOOK–but I think it would be smart for use to dip our toes in the high-tech revolution so we will have some understanding of what challenges we will face in the future. (Actually maybe e-books will be a boom among seniors if the type can be easily magnified.)

    E-books will have interesting ramifications on international sales (will Canadians be able to easily obtain U.S. e-books, thereby saving them a substantial amount of money?) and probably tragic effects on independent book stores.

    I wonder what younger writers, those in their twenties and thirties, think about e-books. If they intend on being published for the next thirty, forty years, what do they envision for their careers?

    Reply
  11. pari

    Ahhhhh! Alex, this is the gist of my post on Monday, too — though from a slightly different angle.

    I’m concerned. The technology has definite benefits and on some of the lists where I lurk, it’s been getting rave reviews.

    As a parent with a kid with a visual impairment, I’m delighted that in a few years, my child will have more tools. As a writer, its implications are far-reaching and I feel like I’m looking through the wrong end of the binoculars right now.

    Reply
  12. Dave Zeltserman

    This might just be me, but fiction seems to read differently on paper than a computer screen. When I’m editing online, prose can appear to flow well, but then when print it out and edit it on paper that same prose can appear clunky. I don’t know why this is, maybe I’m conditioned to scan a screen quickly for information as opposed to relaxing and enjoying what I’m reading, or maybe it’s related to other sensory inputs, such as the feel of the paper, but whatever it is I don’t think you get the same reading experience from a screen. Now for newspapers, magazines, text books, etc. this might be fine, but fiction, I think we’d be losing something.

    Reply
  13. Barbara Fister

    A short aside – I work with traditional college-age students (18-22 mostly) and while they love to find things using the computer, they don’t want to use any sources that they can’t print out or have in their hands. Our printers are going constantly. Entire forests destroyed daily.

    We have some e-books via Netlibrary that don’t allow printing. When students find them in the catalog this is usually what happens.

    “How do I print this?””Uh, you can’t.””Okay, I’ll copy and paste… what’s going on?””It’s a copyright protection thing.””How totally stupid. How am I supposed to use this?””Um, read online and take notes?””Oh, fer… you got any real books on this topic?”

    Reply
  14. Louise Ure

    Speaking from an industry point of view, rather than simply as an author, I applaud the Kindle and its kith and kin. It may in fact broaden our audience of readers by adapting the traditional written word to today’s preference for convenience and online accessibility.

    Reply
  15. Alexandra Sokoloff

    JT and Naomi, I completely agree that Harlequin/Mira and the romance community in general is way ahead of the curve on this (umm… as usual….). I wouldn’t be giving e books a second thought right now if I hadn’t seen how they’re selling at romance conventions and in that community.

    And Naomi, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. We’re not the e book generation, but that’s the way it’s going. No matter what our personal tastes are (and give me a book to eat any day), we need to start thinking about what publishing is going to look like in 20 years.

    You are so right that we are in the PRE Beta/VHS stage of this technology (Beta? Beta?). We can’t even imagine what these things are going to look like in two or three years.

    Thanks for all the links, you two!!

    Reply
  16. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Barbara and Louise – I tend to agree that technology like this will broaden our readership and that can only be good. I think it’s fabulous that JT’s book is available for download to the Kindle – I hope mine will be, too.

    And Barbara, you’ve stated the core question, and I already know what’s in it for me, the reader. All the books I’m reading at once in a 10 oz package, and adjustable type.

    Reply
  17. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Dima, thanks for the link! The things I don’t know that are right under my nose…

    Yes, I agree – I don’t think the Kindle is a very advanced device. Again, I think Naomi nailed it (as usual!) – we’re in the pre-Beta, pre-VHS stage of this technology. We won’t even remember what a Kindle is in five years. But something much more innovative will have replaced it.

    Reply
  18. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Pari, I’m glad you’re blogging about this on Monday. I think we need to be having as many conversations about this as we can think of. Personally, I feel like I’ve just been hit in the head with a hammer.

    Reply
  19. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Thanks for sharing this, Allison: “If anyone can bump up e-sales, it’s Amazon, but still, even with Kindle if my e-sales approach 1% of my total sales, I’ll be surprised. Right now I’m at .0014 ebook sales. And I still get paid for those books.”

    I was going to mention that same thing about e book contracts. Here’s one thing we have to be aware of – I have a friend whose contract now states that e books count as “in print” – therefore as long as the possibility of an e book download exists, the publisher retains the rights to that book. Non-negotiable. That’s all well and good if that publisher is promoting the book, but if not, your rights are tied up in perpetuity. Not good.

    Reply
  20. Alexandra Sokoloff

    ” I don’t think you get the same reading experience from a screen…”

    Dave, I don’t think we do, either. But that’s the thing that most fritzed me out about that article – the idea that the new system is going to radically change the reading and writing experience.

    Don’t want to go there! It took me long enough to get HERE.

    Reply
  21. Naomi

    It is hard to predict how these things will develop. I used to be a tech writer for a p.r. firm in the last eighties (we represented the hardware side of the entertainment industry–cameras, computer effects, etc.). I remember everyone talking about high-definition television–how it will go, what the standard would be, and so on. Finally twenty years later, high-def has arrived in mainstream culture.

    Twenty years ago, we were also using modems, not e-mail. The recipient had to be at their computer to receive our computer text. (Remember those times?) And then e-mail technology/the web then exploded so quickly.

    What am I getting at? That certain technology is embraced by the public immediately and others lag behind (sometimes due to political/corporate reasons). It may take some time for recreational readers to fully accept e-readers, but it will eventually happen.

    Reply
  22. JT Ellison

    Excellent conversation today! So interesting to see all the different opinions on this topic.

    I was talking to Randy this morning about this, and he said he doubts the Kindle-esque devices will ever replace actual books. The joy of turning pages, of experiencing a book can’t be replicated digitally. But he pointed out that down the road (waaay down the road) the technology and software to turn a book into a film on the spot would be a real boon.

    Reply
  23. Tom

    Seems to me the romance and adult-x-rated market sectors usually lead the way when it comes to new media and their applications. Might be good to keep an eye out for their investment patterns.

    I buy and read e-books, but my wife won’t touch them. She says a screen’s her work environment, not her enjoyment environment.

    Reply
  24. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Tom, both excellent points. I agree about romance and porn leading the market (GREAT idea about investment patterns, hmm….)

    And I understand your wife’s point, too.

    Plus, who’s going to use an e book reader in the bath? I mean, really, let’s get down to actual use….

    Reply
  25. a Paperback Writer

    Sure it’s all techno and spiffy and all that, but how do you write notes in the margins?I’m not against them by any means, but I can’t see myself rushing out to buy one — even if they were a reasonable price.

    Reply
  26. Doug Riddle

    First off I love books, the feel of them in my hands, the smell, etc. And for years I worked doing layout work for the largest short-run printer in the country. So books are in my blood. So please do not take this the wrong way.

    But lets be honest with ourselves…..the genie is out of the bottle. When a reader sells for $150, e-books are $5.99 and you can store 1000’s of them on a reader the size of a trade paperback then there will be no going back, and it will here to stay.

    So how will this impact publishing? Who knows. I think the big question will be in regard to new writers and how they will be promoted. But promotion of authors and books has already started to change. I mean how many writers had websites, blogs or My Space pages in 2000? A You-Tube clip to sell a book, who would have ever thought?

    Last year half of all music sales were digital files sold online. That means half as many companies/factories making CD’s, but there are still companies making them. Also, there are no less artists, in fact there are more.

    I think the good news is that I don’t know of any music artists who, by choice, only release their music as digital files online. It is normally a mix of online files and cds.

    So hopefully books will coexist in the same fashion…….Heck, I have over 1200 songs on my iPod, but I just got back from buying a vinyl LP.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Barbara Fister Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *