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Upbeat on E-books 291

Posted by michael
from the reading-text-is-fundamental dept.
DavidRothman writes "Sunday's NYT Book Review will carry an upbeat article on e-books, complete with mention of the New York Public Library's impressive 3,000-title efforts. The writer, however, misses many of the recent developments of e-bookdom such as the debut of the $100 eBookwise-1150, a reborn Gemstar machine. And the DRM mess and the Tower of eBabel--the horrors that consumers, publishers and libraries face with conflicting proprietary formats of problematic durability and accessibility over the long term--don't get the space they deserve. So far the XML-related OpenReader project, in which I'm involved, is invisible to the big media even though major Internet e-book retailers are quietly coming aboard. Still, it's great to see Times contributor Sarah Glazer being far more receptive to e-books than are many journalists. More at TeleRead."
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Upbeat on E-books

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  • Free eBooks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:16PM (#10998173)
    eReader.com is having a free eBook promo [ereader.com] this month, with a new one every day for $0.
  • by SpooForBrains (771537) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:18PM (#10998186)
    I don't see ebooks catching on unless there's a sensible way to read them. Reading from a screen just isn't conducive to enjoyment of a book.

    Oh, yeah, and my wife says how are you supposed to read an ebook in the bath?
    • Give it time (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jesterzog (189797)

      Oh, yeah, and my wife says how are you supposed to read an ebook in the bath?

      If it's an open format, then presumably you could print it without too much hassle. Just because it's distributed electronically doesn't necessarily mean it has to stay in an electronic form for reading it. Electronic distribution on its own has all kinds of advantages if it's not done in a crippling way.

      If there's enough of a demand over time, someone may even develop a bathroom ebook reader to which you could tempora

    • My wife, my best friend, and I all read books almost exclusively on our Palm Pilots now. Takes less getting used to than most people think, and is the most convenient way (and yes - enjoyable) to carry multiple novels and a booklight with you everywhere.

      The #bookz channel on IRC has a very large collection of "warez" e-books, and I honestly feel no moral pains while downloading a book I have sitting on my shelf.

      As for reading in the bath with a PDA - I do it all the time. I just keep a towel on the floo
    • I love ebooks for certain uses... especially when in plain text format so they can be used with my speed reader program on the Pocket PC. Zipping through a just-for-fun book at 600+ WPM and finishing it in one sitting beats the heck out of fooling with paper. I love Project Gutenberg [promo.net].

      Then there's the joy of having pretty much an entire library of books with you at any one time. I always have my Pocket PC with me on the go, so I always have my ebooks. Can't beat the convenience, especially if you have
    • I read EBooks on my PDA on the train etc.. it's a lot easier than manageing a real book (smaller, no pages). because the screen is a lot more compact on a PDA (or PDA/Phone) it makes reading a lot nicer than a using 20inch LCD.

      I expect there are even some phones that you could take in the bath.

      A pda could also read the book to you, which is quite good for the train too.
    • by qbwiz (87077) <john@baumanfamily. c o m> on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:37PM (#10998536) Homepage
      Maybe electronic ink [eink.com] will help, at least with contrast problems.
      • I've played with this particular sony ebook, and while the screen detail and contrast seem pretty good, it sucks in many ways -- particularly the insanely slow update time for the screen (like 1-2 seconds for an update), and a confusing user-interface which makes no attempt to accomodate the slow update speed.
    • You know, I feel exactly the opposite way.

      Before I got my PDA, I hadn't read more than two books for the fun a year since middle school. Two years ago I got a PDA and have read about 300 novels since then - finishing off the works of most of my favorite authors and starting new ones. I just started and finished the complete works of R.A. Salvatore last month, for example (well...half a book left, and then I'm starting on Tad Williams).

      Here are the things I love about it:
      You can read while drifting off to sleep. Reading a book requires page turning, which, when you're very, very relaxed, is an effort of coordination. Getting up and turning off the light is enough to make you wake back up again. The PDA will shut itself off, and I can set it to autoscroll, or just press the down button on my pda, both which are very minimal efforts by comparison. Why would I want to read when I'm that relaxed? It's a common phenomenon that the state right before sleep is when you have the greatest connection to your subconsious mind - your imagination is the strongest. Think of it as surround sound for books.

      It's less strain on your eyes. With a good PDA, you get better resolution than normal text, and there's a backlight. You can read for longer periods of time without feeling eyestrain. After having seen and tried them, I would never buy an e-book reader because they don't consider this that important, whereas I find it paramount. This may be why there are so many people like you, who think that it's worse. The PDA that I currently use almost exclusively as an e-book reader is a Palm Tungsten E, which is noted for it's especially sharp screen.

      You don't have to plan to carry books. A PDA is a convenient thing to have around anyway, so I've got a book with me anywhere. Standing in lines is much more fun now.

      I put all my books into my PDA by converting whatever format I have into HTML, and then storing that with plucker, which compresses text into chunks (it uncompresses as the text is needed in an almost unnoticable manner). Usually I have about ten ~300 page novels on my PDA at any one time, which take up about 1.5MB. I have 26MB available for storage. Finish a book, start another without having to go get it.

      As far as reading in the bath, I would suggest that a printed copy of a book would be ruined just as PDA would if you got it wet. However, e-books can be printed out, and if the print-out gets wet, you lose little. You don't have to print it all, either, so don't use the argument that printing takes a while. 30 pages at 8 1/2 x11 should be more than enough to turn your wife into a prune before she finishes.
      • "With a good PDA, you get better resolution than normal text,"

        Man, I remember thinking MS's (or whoever it was that originally developed it) ClearText was a gimmick until I read an ebook.
      • by IronChef (164482) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @04:21AM (#11000407) Homepage
        With a good PDA, you get better resolution than normal text...

        I too am a huge fan of reading on the PDA but... even a super high res PDA screen isn't sharper than real print. Sharp ENOUGH, sure.

        I'm DONE with paper, for the most part. uBook [gowerpoint.com] on my 640x480 Axim X50V is just sick, and even on my last iPaq (only 320x240) it was very usable.

        What the world really needs is a cheap ebook.

        - Screen at least 640x480, greyscale
        - Good backlight
        - CF or SD slot
        - A few fonts w/ bold, ital, underline
        - Software that digests open formats: Palm DOC, RTF, HTML, TXT

        Basically, it would be uBook on a dedicated monochrome device for about $150. Kind of like the Cybook [bookeen.com] but slashed down to essentials.

        ebooks won't really hit it big until they are cheap enough that you don't cry when you leave one on the bus.
    • Reading an ebook in the path:

      Read it on a PDA. The thing is no more succeptable to being dropped in the tub than a book is.

      Oh, and a properly done zero-DRM ebook should sell for about as much as a paper copy. DRM or poor quality would, of course, be acceptable if the price is comparably reduced.
    • Reading in the bath (Score:3, Informative)

      by GodOfNothing (675212)
      The solution for reading an ebook in the bath is the venerable ziplock bag.

      I use ziplock sandwich bags I bought in a 99pence shop.

      As for whether reading from a screen is conducive to enjoyment of a book: you'll either get used to it or you won't. I suspect most people could get used to it and find it enjoyable if they gave it a chance. Have you?

    • On the other hand, try reading "War and Peace standing up on a packed commuter train with one hand.

      I did exactly that on my Clie. Being able to fit a big ol' ox-killer book in the breast pocket of my jacket is nice.

      I've read something on the order of twenty or thirty novels on PDAs as well as about four years of monthly SF magazines. I've enjoyed most of that. (When I haven't, it is because the book sucked, not the author.) It's not perfect, true, but it's perfectly doable.

    • "don't see ebooks catching on unless there's a sensible way to read them. Reading from a screen just isn't conducive to enjoyment of a book."

      Depends on what tickles your fancy, I suppose. I'm actually quite enamored with the idea of e-books. A few years ago I purchased a PocketPC and read Tom Sawyer on it. It was great! I could hold the unit with one hand instead of having to force the pages to stay open. Page turning was a matter of using the little thumb wheel. When I shut it off, it remembered my
    • Well, I use a pen slate myself.

      Fuiitsu Stylistic 2300. the newer ones are much nicer the Electrovaya Scribbler has great battery life.

      Read Swiss Family Robinson to my kids from it. The nice thing is it's usable for a lot more. Using it to post this now.

      Handles acrobat .pdfs and a lot more It's the sort of thing I've wanted since reading The Mote in God's Eye when I was a kid. Faster than my old Newton MessagePad. Wish the user interface was better

      William
    • why? do you put your book in the water or do you keep it out? well, same way. If you put it in the water, you will destroy the reader the same way that you would destroy a book
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:19PM (#10998188)
    Just wondering, while this article is up, what people's thoughts are on the best reader for e-books?

    I've been thinking of getting a PDA for a while, but have never been sure if I can get a simple one that works well for ebooks without a lot of useless flash I don't need to pay for...

    Any hints on what people have found works well in terms of price, battery power, readibility/screen?
    • I bought an old Palm IIIxe for this, and I've read dozens of books on it quite comfortably. Although some people may not be able to get used to the low res screen, the long battery life (weeks on 3 AAA batteries) and convenience of being able to carry at least ten full length books (IIIxe has 8MB) in such a small form factor more than outweighs this. You can probably pick one up on eBay cheap cheap.

      If you do use a Palm definitely check out Weasel Reader (http://gutenpalm.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]).
    • I know its discontinued, but you can find them on ebay, and they rock. I love my 1100.
  • This is just an opinion, but I say you can't beat good-ol-fashion paper.

    I love technology and all, and I love using the computer, but after starting at my screen all day every day, if I ever feel like reading something, I'd prefer it wasn't backlit.

    • Can you imagine everytime you read an EBook you have to go to the bathroom to wash your inky hands? It doesn't make sense, right. That's what you have to do after reading newspapers now. Paper sucks. It's dirty, it's fragile. You can't read in the dark!

      Not to mention, 20 magazines weight like 20 magazines. Well, I want to carry 2000 books in my handheld, that might be do-able. Again paper sucks. You won't see me carrying a briefcase of books around.

      • The great hting about the concept of ebooks is, if it ever gets off the ground in a form that is universally accepted, easy to use, and inexpensive (in relation to books and other paper goods, both for the consumer and the producer), it will become almost universally accepted, I think. That's the spectre of technology, and this, I think, would be an ideal representation of such.

        In essence, the "paperless society" would probably be much closer to realization. Now, and in the foreseeable future, non-color bo
  • by ShatteredDream (636520) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:34PM (#10998245) Homepage
    Most proponents of copyright expansion love to talk about how increased copyright powers make it safer to create and profit, which will give incentive to make more, ergo more choice. It seems like a classical dilemma, in another manifestation it is freedom versus security.

    Customers don't get any tangible benefits out of a system that allows copyright holders to intrusively restrict their use of intellectual property. That is why systems like the one employed by iTunes work whereas most do not: in the case of iTunes, it only seeks to protect the status quo of the relationship between buyer and seller.

    To that end, as part of the intellectual property right agreement, customers should have a legal right to force eBook publishers to let them print the eBook. If someone pays a few dollars for the eBook and then wants to print it, that is their right regardless of what the law says. It's the customer's paper and their expense. In most cases, it would just be cheaper to buy the print book anyway.
    • by flimnap (751001) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:44PM (#10998302) Homepage
      There are over 14,000 uncopyrighted eBooks available from Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org], and you can help create more by proofreading a page a day [distribute...eaders.net].
    • Someone posted RMS's short story on Slashdot a week or so ago, but it seems topical now so I repeat it here: http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html [fsf.org]
    • I think you have the copyright argument backward. The ultimate goal of copyright law is to allow people to create their works without having to worry about others republishing or taking claim of the creation.

      The end result of strong copyright (and widespread respect for copyrights) is that publishers can present their works in simpler, universal formats.

      When there is no respect for copyrights, then publishers must resort to other measures to protect their works.

      If we had widespread respect of copyrigh

      • I think you have the copyright argument backward. The ultimate goal of copyright law is to allow people to create their works without having to worry about others republishing or taking claim of the creation.

        The United States constitution states the goal of copyright law as "to promote the progress of science and useful arts". American copyright law (as opposed to European copyright laws) in no way protects the author from people taking claim of the creation. (In a complete sense, that's beyond the scope
    • This is always an ugly subject but I guess I'll wade in again. Where exactly does the end user get itellectual rights to a writer's work without paying for the material? There's nothing in the constitution that takes away the writer's right to market his work. The free market system handles this all quite well. If you don't wish to pay for the work don't buy it. Seems a simple solution. If you want the work then you pay for the work. If all intellectual property is free then what is the incentive to create
      • what if all the authors say screw it and stop writing?

        Authors were still writing long before the artificial concept of copyright was invented (and recently perverted), so it's impossible that ALL authors would say "screw it" and switch to more profitable careers. More likely we'd be left with a smaller core of above-average talented writers whose incentive was never primarily making money.

        --

  • Till these damn things support PDF I will not buy one. It is the ONLY thing that is keeping me from buying one and no a PDA doesn't work as the screen is too small.
  • by Bifster (697408) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:37PM (#10998262)
    EBook tech really needs 4 things: 1) contrast ratio approaching paper 2) crisp resolution (anti-aliasing techniques makes fonts look blurry) 3) power to run such a display for at least 5 to 10 hours 4) light weight enough to be comfortable carrying around all day Without these features, I don't think the public will widely accept ebooks. Ebooks loose a certain intuitive spacial sense of location in the work that paper books provide. When you pick up a paper book, it's easy to find your place again and it's relatively easy to find former passages that one might like to refer back to from time to time. People don't like the disconnected homogeneous "loss of place" that one suffers with an ebook reader. Though I think people might be willing to adapt to a new interface if the above display and portability features were achieved though. Display and battery tech are just nowhere near capable enough and they're coming along much too slowly I think for ebooks to become ubiquitously adopted by the general public at least before the next decade I bet.
    • 1) are you surprised if i tell you that normal newspaper print has only contrast ratio of around 10-20? Its black on dark gray. Worse than even dstn lcds.
      2) Antialiasing makes fonts better. Always (ok, one exeption: extremely small fonts with an effective height of only 5-6 pixels. you can decypher most letters and thus recreate the next if not anti-aliased, but with aa it will be only blurry mess). Your fonts only look blurry because the native resolution is to low.
      3) Agreed. In fact, having my pda running
      • I want to just read. There is no problwm allowing anchors and bookmarking of any place in a text file. PDFs are only for printing.

      • Thats why i dont understand those "we hate pdf, because thats only for printing" idiots. I WANT to read at page 25, 2nd article. Not somewhere in the middle of an endless html file...


        This may come as a shock to you, but yes you can break html documents into multiples pages.

        Furthermore, as someone who has to read lots of PDFs that are far to large for him to sensibly print, THEY SUCK FOR READING ON A MONITOR. I vastly prefer html or even plain text to pdfs for online perusal.

        (another downside to printi
    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:37PM (#10998532) Homepage
      That technology is available now in E-ink. The problem is, the company that makes it is only licensing it to fucking Sony, maker of the Librie, which isn't available in the US and has restrictive DRM. (The gumstix, which you may or may not have heard of, is what powers the librie, I believe. It's a gumstick-sized system, basically, using an Intel Xscale.)

      Now, we need either a competing, similar technology to compete with the E-ink, or the release of the technology for other companies to work with.
    • "EBook tech really needs 4 things ...."

      You're addressing the ebook reader, and make some good points. But it may be more important to look at it from the other side of the equation - the content. Right now there are some problems with ebooks (the content, not the readers) that are easy to fix. First, they are priced ridiculously. Yes, I know about all the free content and the niche ebook retailers selling cheap ebooks. But that's not going to sustain any market. For mass appeal there needs to be the
  • Need better readers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Magickcat (768797) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:37PM (#10998265)
    E-books are a good idea, but I'm unimpressed with the hardware that displays them compared to the quality of traditional print.

    One would think that in this day and age, someone could make a decent book plaque of some sort with a good display that doesn't give you an epileptic fit or a "lucy in the sky with diamonds" strobing effect after a couple of hours use.

    It seems absurd that we have so many advances in CPU speed for instance, but essentially very little in the way of text legibility on monitors. It seems absurd that monitors mimic the dimensions of televisions, and yet the internet and computing in general is primarily a text based medium. I've seen some people rotate their TFT monitors for text, which is a great idea however I'd like to see a greater emphasis placed on making text readable.

    Oh, and rendering and embeding decent fonts in html/xhtml wouldn't harm anyone either. It seems ludicrous that people in the 1450s had access to better rendered fonts than what we have to put up with on daily basis on our computers.

    • It seems absurd that monitors mimic the dimensions of televisions, and yet the internet and computing in general is primarily a text based medium.

      Why shouldn't monitors use standard dimentions? (16/9 4/3)

      Books are typically taller than they are wide, but I don't see any advantage to that. In fact, it's backwards, because having to scroll side-to-side after every line while reading is infinitely more annoying than scrolling up/down.

      rendering and embeding decent fonts in html/xhtml wouldn't harm anyone

      • Why shouldn't monitors use standard dimentions? (16/9 4/3)

        The page you're reading at this very moment is a prime example of why - because a web page is not a television program.

        You can choose to use whatever fonts you want to use for every page you view,

        Indeed, and when the fonts often aren't available, you get an inferior substitue font that regardless of whether it happens to be right or not, renders badly and even with anti-aliasing, still looks inferior to a page printed five hundred years ago.

        W
        • because a web page is not a television program.

          You haven't answered my question. This webpage looks quite good on my 4/3 screen here. Web pages look terrible on a tall skinny screen like a Palm.

          Explain yourself.
  • Pricing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zebra_X (13249) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:41PM (#10998284)
    why are the books still 20 dollars?

    I would think that much of the cost of book would go to the production process. Layout, typesetting, printing binding and shipping.

    The eBooks however, seem to cost as much as their paper counterparts.

    I'd be more inclined to get an eBook reader if the books were more affordible.
    • Re:Pricing (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Calroth (310516)
      why are the books still 20 dollars?

      I would think that much of the cost of book would go to the production process. Layout, typesetting, printing binding and shipping.


      Easy.

      Because the price of e-books, as with a lot of other things, have little to do with the cost of production. Book publishers will charge the maximum amount that the market will let them get away with. In addition, there are a whole lot less big-name electronic publishers than paper ones, so there's less competition to reduce prices.

      It
      • so they think - but it's the expectation of the market (at least my personal market) that the goods will be cheaper. Therefore the price will have to come down to meet the consumers expectations.
      • Re:Pricing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by eclectro (227083) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:49PM (#10998609)
        The eBooks however, seem to cost as much as their paper counterparts

        Because the price of e-books, as with a lot of other things, have little to do with the cost of production....so there's less competition to reduce prices. It's all economics!

        Yes, but there is a reason that nobody is buying them, and it's not lack of competition.

        It is safe to assume that the person who is buying the ebook is not completely stupid as they know how to turn on a computer.

        People know that the DRM is draconian for most commercial ebooks, that there is no standard, and that it costs a fraction of the cost of a regular book to produce.

        To price an ebook the same as a regular book is insane, as most people prefer the dead tree version to handle on a day to day basis given the choice. It may change someday with better display technologies, but right now paper rules the world. It is also easier to photocopy a couple of pages if you wanted to where the heavily DRMed version would not give you the chance.

        I really don't care if commercial ebook ventures crash and burn (and many have), because producers need to gain a sense of reality which they seem to be lacking.

        Sure ebooks have a cost to produce. But to say that they are near anywhere that of a regular book is a bald face lie.

        You're right, it is econimics, and economics is saying get a clue or go out of business

        • Ok, let's say I buy a $100 reader. Maybe it will last 5 years, and I will read, at most, 5 e-books per year. (I will still read online stuff, magazines, real books, etc.) I need to amortize $100 over 5 years, or $20/year

          Real paperback bestseller type books cost about $5 at Costco. I might read 5 a year... maybe, there is lots of other stuff to read, other than "bestseller" stuff. So, 5x5 = 25. 25-20 = 5.

          So; I would expect to pay about $1 to get a current best seller downloaded into my reader.

          Q.E.D. Th

        • I have the feeling that they're just blaming the lack of sales on internet piracy instead of just admitting that a lot of this stuff just sucks ass.
    • I've noticed that Peanut Press [peanutpress.com] sells books for Palm devices for less than retail for new books, at least. I picked up all three volumes of Stephenson's latest for $26 and new books only in hardcover seem to run around $15-20 .
  • by Eberlin (570874) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:43PM (#10998296) Homepage
    I'm a big fan of books -- the type where you turn the pages, bend the spine, dog-ear a few corners, and occasionally highlight important bits as a reminder. I like the smell of old books that have been shelved and unopened for some time. Then again, I work at a public library so I may be a bit biased. :)

    E-books have their place, though. I'm sure they're much easier to carry. Probably easier to search for text, too. As for archiving, they'll certainly stretch further than any physical shelf space. They don't have pages that tear off, no print that fades in time, no worries of physical damage whatsoever...except for water damage, that is.

    In the end, I say let school textbooks go e-book. I'm sure it'll be cheaper that way, and revisions would be more immediate than dead-tree versions. There won't be a book buy-back (so that $5 return on that $80 hardbound won't be there to feed you ramen through the holidays) but at least you'll save on the initial purchase...and you'll need to lug less weight around from class to class.

    As far as novels, poems, and other bits of fiction, I'll stick to regular books. There's just something about that page-turning tactile thing that I'd otherwise miss.
    • I agree with you completely when you say that a good book (ie, one that's enjoyable ot read) definately are preferable in paper form so you can appreciate it more fully. Text books aren't good for enjoyment because they're written so poorly, and thus they're good for skimming, searching, and the like - ideal for ebooks. But....

      Hah! "save on the initial purchase" indeed!

      You can count on the prices going up, not down, my friend. The genious at the book companies will think, "Tey, we're giving the students t
  • by RealProgrammer (723725) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @06:44PM (#10998300) Homepage Journal
    That's Plain Old Text. Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org], as most surface dwellers know, collects free electronic texts and distributes them as ASCII. They have over 13,000 e-books.

    I know, I know, you can't make money putting things in ASCII. My real point is to encourage consumption of Free stuff.

    Subtle, huh.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    uhm, 2000 books is very few.

    Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] sports over 13,000 books (these are legal)

    if you go to your local alt.binaries.ebooks or just #ebook you can easily double or triple Gutenberg count (my current library has around 30,000 books). Ofcourse would not so legal to download/own as they still would technically be under a copyright. But then, some of the books are easier to download illegaly than to get them at a library (as soon as I found out that my library has Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
  • by Andover Net (78484) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:13PM (#10998428) Homepage
    1) I find modern pda very readable -- they are easy to carry, and you can read them at night with the lights low. With paper I must have a light on casting glare on my book.
    2) I can get an ebook when I want one. When I want to buy an ebook I am usually not at the book store, but I am near the computer.
    3) I can fit many ebooks on my pda - along with music and a few .avi episodes of Stargate, etc, etc. All this fits in my pocket.
  • Not enough selection (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Surur (694693) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:25PM (#10998467) Journal

    I'm reading Ian M. Bank's Algebraist currently. Its a huge 700 page hard cover. It is was available in e-book format I would have finished it long ago on my pocketpc. I could have read it easily in bed with the lights off, while waiting for others to arrive at a meeting, in a queue. It is too big, bulky and heavy to cart around, so currently its lying next to my bed, and has been for last 2 weeks.

    I really cant understand why Sci-fi authors dont get behind the idea. Its described enough in their novels for them to understand the concept, isn't it?

    Surur
    • Baroque Cycle ebooks (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jonathan (5011)
      I read Stephenson's "Baroque Cycle" on my PDA -- carting around 1,000 page paper books is a pain -- literally! But with my PDA I could read them wherever and whenever I wanted.

      Really, I'm surprised at the Luddite "paper forever" attitude that so many people have here on Slashdot -- it's the sort of attitude I'd expect people who still use typewriters and record players to have...
  • Niche publishing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eggboard (315140) * on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:42PM (#10998567) Homepage
    eBooks have turned out to be a great way to fill the gap between articles on a Web site of a few thousand words and the increasingly large exhaustive tomes of 1,000 pages in print. I and a bunch of other authors have written books in the TidBITS' Take Control [tidbits.com] series for Adam and Tonya Engst, and we've sold collectively in the tens of thousands of "copies."

    The books are all about 50 to 150 pages, running $5 to $10 each. They're in PDF form without any DRM enabled. We've turned six of them into print books (four in one volume and two others as single volumes). We use the eBook in part as a way to mature the books: buyers get a subscription to the edition and keep getting updates as we add, correct, and update the books.

    For instance, I wrote Take Control of Your AirPort Network focusd on Mac Wi-Fi networks. The first edition was about 70 pages. The 1.1 release ballooned to well over 100 pages because I listened to what readers want and added it in. All the buyers of 1.0 got 1.1 for free.

    More recently I spend a couple of hours incorporating all of the changes that Apple introduced with the AirPort 4.1 software update (fairly extensive small fixes and improvements). All the 1.0 to 1.1.2 buyers get 1.1.3 for free, too.

    It's rewarding for me as an author to get the kind of quick and precise feedback from readers to write better books and then be able to shoot out those books to the original buyers and all new buyers. It's all a good financial return.
  • by starglider29a (719559) on Saturday December 04, 2004 @07:50PM (#10998612)
    I have written a novel which I placed on the web as a HyperNovel, if you will. The format gives me the freedom to include complex graphics and tables, links to my sources or allusions, (no to mention soundtrack MP3's, which I'm not mentioning) and the ability to tweak text as I go. In return, the user can control the font face and size, the color and style of a background (or not), and they have full control of the size of the viewing window, and thus, the wrap length.

    But even though it has received favorable feedback, including from Neil Peart :">, people don't want to read it on their computers! (Ok, i'm calm now...)

    On the other hand, I also produced PDF formats of various layouts, including the "submission guideline compliant" versions and one that borrows the typography from Jordan's Crown of Swords paperback. But if they print the pages from the PDF, it totals 654 pages. The submissions guideline version is 957 sheets of paper! The total printing cost at Kinko's would be about $40. You would smoke two Epson black ink cartridges, at like $28 each! Trying to print two sides to save paper costs in patience, time and sanity.

    What are we supposed to do? I wanted the book to be 'live' in that it could have "services packs ;-)" so that it would slide through the changes of politics, administrations and computer technology, and remain '20 minutes into the future'. But what's the point if I can't get the "upgrades and patches" to the reader in a format that they WILL read?

    Does Da 'Net have an answer? Some site where you submit a URL to a PDF and $10 on yer credit card and get a gift-wrapped printout shipped to you? Is there any technological fix for this dilemma? Is there any way to get digital verbal content into a lower cost, readable, comfy format for the reader? If not, anyone have a literary agent I can borrow?

    StarGlider29a
    "You have the right to remain silent... anything you say will be used in my next book..."

    PS: You l33tz are smooth enough to figure out what my URL is. So in an attempt to avoid slash-dotting my server, please instead peek at a low overhead, imageless, slash-dot friendlier mirror for the raw (ugly) content: http://www.traffiscope.com/slashdot/mirror/
  • To paraphrase William Gibson's remarks to an NYC audience last month, eBooks won't be worth the paper they're printed on until they can be read in the bathtub comfortably risk-free. eBooks might be great, but the readers's searching/bookmarking/storage/networking features don't compensate for the simplicity of disposable paper books, and their high-touch user interface. Just because the NYT wants to get out of the expensive paper business doesn't mean the rest of us should be chained to a buzzy gizmo to rea
  • Technology is no good and serves no useful purpose unless it has a tightly integrated DRM solution, without which the technology will not function. There is no better feeling than trying to copy a file that you made and being told that you cannot do it without paying Microsoft and the government a hefty subscription fee that gives you the temporary priveledge of assigning the ability to copy files to the files that you made.

    In other words, information should be locked down unless Microsoft agrees--after a r

  • All I want out of an ebook device is XHTML support, embedded SVG (for graphics), standard CF and SD card support, and a long battery life. The screen should be at least 320x480, but 640x480 or 800x600 would be better. Color is not necessary, and a transflective display would be preferred. Upon insertion of any card, it should display "index.htm" in the root directory of that card and don't do anything else.
  • tofu [mac.com] is an oddly named, but extremely useful text reader for osX. It breaks the text into columns exactly as tall as the window. To navigate, you simply shift columns. Far better than vertical scrolling. I've read several books on my powerbook, and I've found that I prefer it to paper when reading in bed at night (no need to have a light on being the primary benefit)

    I have nothing to do with this software. I chanced across it, and I'm surprised at how useful it has proved to be.
  • eBooks do Work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by paulkoan (769542)

    I have been reading the majority of my fiction through ebooks on Pocket PC (using the Peanut Press / ereader reader) for several years now.

    I was much the same as many people, in that I thought that losing paper would also take something else away from the experience, and balked at the idea.

    But I gave it a go. Originally on a Palm PC many years back, and I now struggle to get through a book on paper. Quite simply, it is too inconvenient.

    My book has its own light source. It is lighter than most books.
  • Get mine from irc.nullus.net #bookwarez.

    Read them on by Tungsten E ($130 cdn) used to read them on my Palm ($30 for a cheap palm.

    Rechargeable internal battery is a good idea, you'll go through a lot otherwise.
  • The failure of E-Books is another example of what happens when you spend all your time and energy trying to build restrictions into a product, instead of concentrating on making a good product at a fair price.

  • ASCII (Score:4, Informative)

    by mattr (78516) <mattr AT telebody DOT com> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @03:34AM (#11000308) Homepage Journal
    Having read a lot of ebook text I so far have not found anything much better than ascii and jpegs, in the end. HTML is also good if you have good software for it. (By good I mean you can view embedded images and zoom/pan them on a small screen, slow cpu; you can transparently copy, save and search plain text without worrying about html tags; you can easily view and convert formatting with free tools, etc. Anyway ascii is best so far.

    The major problem I see is how to store, index, and search when you have a lot of ebooks from many different publishers. For example there are no standard filename formats to include author and title information, and limitations on filenames also mean you basically want to have some metadata at the head of the document. So a simple standard for an ascii header at the top of a file would be good. This problem is of course much worse if you have different file/reader/compression formats so I am just thinking of ASCII here.

    I've bought the same book several times over from my favorite authors over the years. That is dumb but even now my apartment is full of paperbacks and I keep tying them up with string into bundles which I can't get into anymore. I hate throwing away books but it is nuts. So I would like to get credit when I buy something from an author, so I can get a digital file when I buy the book and a copy any time thereafter for free. If I want a printed copy I pay the printing cost. But I should not have to pay 2 or 3 times for the copyright, and I should be able to store and manipulate electronically the text. I should be able to email or post on the web quotations from it, or put passages from it into my word processor.

    When I was studying writing in school, I heard that one well known writer (maybe Kurt Vonnegut?) typed the entire text of his favorite writers on his typewriter, to learn how to write well. That seems like a really excellent way to train.

    My opinion is that writers are writing for a couple reasons, one maybe is money (though 99% of the time not for more than making a living at it) and the other is to get what you want to say out. Maybe another reason (Heinlein says) is because you are infected with the writer's bug and cannot stop. (Luckily I stopped before I caught it, as you can see by my long, winding posts).

    So I think the brief blurb on the inside cover of printed books about how this work may not be electronically copied etc. is complete anachronism and insulting. The point is, in the 21st century you should be able to do that. You should even be able to trade with friends, like you do with books. The part about not publishing it yourself and stealing profit from writers is a separate consideration which is important maybe but not the most important message writers want to send to their readers. So it may not be a popular opinion, but I think that writers should (and some are beginning to) embrace the Net as a way to get more people to know them, and trust their readers. In general this has already I believe been proven to work.

    To me, I am most worried about how to maintain a well-organized, perpetual store for my personal digital library, which will not fall apart or become inaccessible as I move between operating systems and computers , will allow me to have both ascii and dvd together, will have some security maybe via an online backup, will let me trade with friends, will let me discover new works, will let me reimburse authors I like, will save me money so I don't have to repurchase dead tree copies, and will let me carry around a few hundred ascii books on my palm's memory stick.

    Also I need a good book reader for linux, that is another perpetual quest but the most important thing I think is to achieve some open least common denominator standards and to create open text archives. Authors who don't want to participate can stay out of it, but there are a lot of books not in the bookstore and a lot of authors probably would like to become better known. Personally I have used an ol

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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