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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Published may not mean printed

It should be fascinating to learn how the forward-thinkers at the SFWA, whose two most recent presidents have staunchly and repeatedly denied that there was any need for authors to be concerned about imminent changes in the publishing industry related to ebooks, deal with the news that the major publishers appear to be moving away from contractually obligating themselves to release print versions of the books they publish:
The idea that any standard deal from a major publisher guarantees a print format release—which was previously a foregone conclusion—is something agents no longer take for granted, with some expressing concern that the big houses are starting to hedge on print editions in contracts.

While e-book-only agreements are nothing new—all large publishers have imprints that are exclusively dedicated to digital titles—a handful of agents, all of whom spoke to PW on the condition of anonymity, said they’re worried that contracts from print-first imprints will increasingly come with clauses indicating that the publisher makes no guarantee on format. The agents say this is a new twist to the standard way of doing business....

One of the difficulties with reporting on changes to book publishing contracts is that all new contracts, as Applebaum rightly noted, are open to negotiation. However, there are standards of doing business, and the agents speaking out said they feared that if vague language about format begins to crop up on a regular basis, they will need to start advocating for a format they were universally guaranteed in the past.

Despite their dismay, agents and other insiders who spoke to PW said they were not necessarily surprised by the move, given the current marketplace. There is growing pressure on publishers to release books quickly, and to do so in the formats that will bring in the most revenue. Because so many book deals are made well in advance of the titles’ release dates, publishers have always had to gauge the future relevancy of topics and authors. Now publishers also have to attempt to anticipate the future bricks-and-mortar landscape when signing contracts. As some insiders explained, it’s a very different situation when the question goes from, “How many copies will Barnes & Noble take?” to “Will Barnes & Noble be around?”
Considering how McRapey had a complete meltdown when Random House established its digital-only imprints, it should be deeply amusing to see his reaction when this starts happening, to say nothing of the rampant panic amidst the less successful SF/F authors, as they will not only be limited to trivial advances, they won't even be able to point to their print books to differentiate themselves from the self-published ebook authors anymore.

The fact is that print books don't really make much economic sense anymore. There is too much risk attached to them given the rules of the distribution system. I think this will most affect paperbacks, particularly trade paperbacks. There will always be a small percentage of book lovers who demand hardbacks, but if I'm a publisher who faces the possibility of eating some 5,000 paperback returns, why take that risk?

Take ATOB, for example. I've sold 15x more ebooks than hardcovers, and that is to a group of unusually book-friendly readers who are disproportionately inclined to buy my books. I'll continue making the hardcovers available, (because, let's face it, the monsters do look well on the shelf), but they are a sideshow, they are not the primary product.

Perhaps more importantly, as the authors of the article noted, once Barnes & Noble goes down, there won't be a large enough retail market to make it worth their while producing print books for it. It may be another year or two before the publishers make the leap, but don't be surprised if they do so sooner than that, given the growing financial, competitive, and distribution-related pressures on them.

Labels:

62 Comments:

Anonymous Brother Thomas October 30, 2013 1:03 PM  

Interesting, it always seems that the "Progressives" are the people most opposed to progress.

Anonymous Michael Maier October 30, 2013 1:04 PM  

Man, I sure hope print-on-demand becomes and stays viable. I really hate e-readers.

Anonymous Vidad October 30, 2013 1:08 PM  

The digital age has already gutted music stores... it's time for the same to happen with books.

I don't like it, but it will take place.

It's been years since I bought a physical CD. I'm more stubborn with books, since I don't like e-reading as much.

Anonymous DrTorch October 30, 2013 1:09 PM  

It doesn't seem as though it's just about bragging rights. If you sign w/ a publisher for an e-book only deal, what advantage does it get you vs self-publishing?

They market for you. And if they market for you poorly...you're SOL. Because they have the rights to your book.

Anything else they do?

Anonymous Huckleberry - est. 1977 October 30, 2013 1:12 PM  

I love the idea of e-books, and I understand why they are driving the publishing industry in a direction it doesn't want to but desperately needs to go.
However, it's probably just due to my own deficiencies, but I have a much tougher time committing the e-books I read to memory than I do traditional paperbound books. Many of the e-books I read all blur together because I read them all on the same device, with no situational cues to differentiate the material in my memory.
It's something I'm going to have to get used to, though.

Anonymous hygate October 30, 2013 1:20 PM  

I'm a bit suprised that the change over is happening so fast, but really anyone who has been paying attention to the publishing industry at all should have seen this coming. As Vidad states, the music industry has been down this road already.

Anonymous GG October 30, 2013 1:22 PM  

"The fact is that print books don't really make much economic sense anymore."

True, VD, but other things are more important than economics. I've been having a hysterical nightmare involving the Gov's Obamacare website failing so miserably it actually wipes out the entire internet. What happens to all our books then?

Perhaps I'm getting too old, but I also worry about kids who are not learning how to read, write, or do math anymore. Everything is now text, calculators, and e-books. What happens if society collapses and all the knowledge/tech is lost? Will kids even be able to write words in the sand with a stick anymore? How many years will it take us to reinvent language?

Anonymous Ivan Poland October 30, 2013 1:28 PM  

Thank you Vox for keeping us in the loop with these developments. My father in law has tried to get his books published for years but once he went to self e-publish his books ( after telling him to come here and read about it) he now has people reading his stuff and just had a small publishing house offer him a contract.

Also, my kids are really liking your How to Write series. My oldest is writing a book for kids and has learned a lot from those posts. She tests her writing on her younger brother who is just learning to read (all homeschooled) and has been happy with the results.

Anonymous Huckleberry - est. 1977 October 30, 2013 1:29 PM  

What happens if society collapses and all the knowledge/tech is lost?

It may not even take a collapse -- if media formats keep evolving at an increasing pace, a lot of material will effectively disappear because it can no longer be accessed -- documents, images, records -- the shear volume of data is likely to prevent all of it from being constantly updated to the latest format each and every time there is a latest format. An increasing amount of information will simply fall through the cracks.
The life of a historian in 2063 is going to suck...

Anonymous Huckleberry - est. 1977 October 30, 2013 1:33 PM  

Not that I'm a Luddite or anything.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2013 1:35 PM  

I've been having a hysterical nightmare involving the Gov's Obamacare website failing so miserably it actually wipes out the entire internet. What happens to all our books then?

How will a lack of internet access wipe out the thousands of books on your hard drive? I have 200 books on my phone alone.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2013 1:40 PM  

It doesn't seem as though it's just about bragging rights. If you sign w/ a publisher for an e-book only deal, what advantage does it get you vs self-publishing?

All I can think of is that you'll get it professionally edited and you'll get a professional cover, and if it sells well enough, they'll move it over to the print branch. Of course, by spending a little money, you can do the first two yourself and the latter will happen if it sells well enough.

At this point, it's mostly the ego boost of someone else's approval. ATOB hasn't come close to any bestseller lists, but it has already outsold the average number of copies sold by an SF/F novel.

Anonymous GG October 30, 2013 1:41 PM  

"How will a lack of internet access wipe out the thousands of books on your hard drive? I have 200 books on my phone alone."

Heck if I know. Everything is linked these days. Maybe a virus, maybe a power surge? Have you never lost everything on your phone, computer, crashed a hard drive beyond recovery? Whole networks can crash. I become concerned the more linked together and dependent we become. FB, the US Gov, several others, seem bound and determined to get us all holding hands and singing kumbaya. That freaks me out on several levels. A little imagination goes a long way. There's something to be said for not putting all your eggs in one basket.

Anonymous Porky October 30, 2013 1:42 PM  

Thanks to "Autography" you don't even need a hardcover to do a book signing.

Anonymous dh October 30, 2013 1:44 PM  

Man, I sure hope print-on-demand becomes and stays viable. I really hate e-readers.

It will always be viable at a certain price. It will probably never be cost competitive with massive offset runs, which drive down the cost per unit to barely over the material costs.

I vastly prefer paper ready to onscreen, but onscreen continues to get better (the new kindle paperwhite is an easy read compared to the earlier kindles).

Blogger JartStar October 30, 2013 1:47 PM  

I think they saw it coming, but many authors chose to ignore it and flail against it as the change was too frightening. I'm sure some of them dropped out of a normal career years ago to write and now they see their writing career as they know it about to go away.

Anonymous scoobius dubious October 30, 2013 1:55 PM  

Sorry I'm a caveman, I can only read print books, refuse to (or maybe am just unable to) read ebooks. Meantime I am busy stockpiling my diabolical library of hardcover acid-free books so when the zombie apocalypse, my place will be the little monastic oasis of actual learning on the corpse-riddled prairie.

Ever think of publishing AToB as a multi-volume hardcover so the individual volumes weren't such behemoths? If you did that I might actually read it; otherwise I think I'd have to purchase a lectern, like Nabokov used, just to avoid carpal-tunnel syndrome.

Anonymous Jack Amok October 30, 2013 1:55 PM  

Print-On-Demand makes so much more sense for physical books these days anyway. Not only do you save the cost of printing all the returned inventory, you save the transportation and warehousing costs. And given that for most books, print runs are not very big any more, the cost differential between offset litho and POD is going to shrink, and might end up being less than the transportation costs. I Imagine a POD copy of a book may be cheaper than a traditionally printed one within a few years.

And frankly, for the bulk of books written these days - fiction or non-fiction - they don't really deserve anything other than ephemeral existence.

Anonymous O.C. October 30, 2013 1:55 PM  

> I really hate e-readers.

E-readers are transitional devices. In the long run only Luddites will keep their Kindles and Nooks. Most people will read e-books on their phones or tablets, and e-books will occupy just one slice of bandwidth in a contiguous media spectrum that runs from tweets and blog posts on one end to printed and bound books on the other.

> if media formats keep evolving at an increasing pace,

The first major player who realizes that people don't want to buy "e-books," they want to buy the *information* in those books and really don't care what format it's delivered in -- and will happily pay a little extra to get the content in a format-agnostic form -- will own the market.

Eventually you won't buy a book: you'll buy a license to the content, and then be able to read the same book on your tablet over breakfast, on your phone on the train to work -- or what the hell, if they ever really get text-to-speech debugged, you'll be able to stream it as an audio book to your car radio.

Anonymous Josh October 30, 2013 1:58 PM  

Ever think of publishing AToB as a multi-volume hardcover so the individual volumes weren't such behemoths?

That defeats the whole purpose.

Anonymous GG October 30, 2013 2:04 PM  

"Sorry I'm a caveman, I can only read print books, refuse to (or maybe am just unable to) read ebooks..."

Thank goodness I am not the only one. We frequently have storms and power outages around here and I have learned the hard way to keep some printed reading material on hand. Once you loose power and your batteries run out, that's it. I can cope, my younger children, not at all. They don't know how to write a paper check, play a game with an actual deck of cards, address an envelope, etc. They are literally no longer able to function in the non tech world and literally do not have the memory or experience of a time before say, 20-30 years ago.

Anonymous Harsh October 30, 2013 2:10 PM  

Meantime I am busy stockpiling my diabolical library of hardcover acid-free books so when the zombie apocalypse, my place will be the little monastic oasis of actual learning on the corpse-riddled prairie.

When that happens I'm coming over to your place. I'll bring brandy.

Anonymous Akiro October 30, 2013 2:11 PM  

Tell me about. There are no records left from the Hyborean age.

Blogger JartStar October 30, 2013 2:14 PM  

Whomever comes up with a text to speech program which sounds very close to the real thing will be a mutli-millionaire.

Anonymous Josh October 30, 2013 2:15 PM  

I can cope, my younger children, not at all. They don't know how to write a paper check, play a game with an actual deck of cards, address an envelope, etc. They are literally no longer able to function in the non tech world and literally do not have the memory or experience of a time before say, 20-30 years ago.

Have you thought about teaching them to do those things?

Blogger Crowhill October 30, 2013 2:16 PM  

The price for a paperback is usually more than the price of the ebook + printing, which means that the publisher gets more revenue from a paperback ... except, as you note, they have the risk of having to eat the cost of lots of print copies that don't sell.

So the missing element here is print on demand. If print on demand gets cheaper, and if paperbacks continue to bring in higher prices than ebooks, then the future of printed books may not be as dismal as you suggest.

Anonymous GG October 30, 2013 2:24 PM  

"Have you thought about teaching them to do those things?"

Cute, Josh. Actually three of them are now grown and on their own. Also, it's a different world now days. The skills needed to survive are different. Why teach them how to balance a checkbook when they can just put their thumbprint on their iphone and pay for their latte before they even arrive at the store? Yeah right, and what could possibly go wrong there?? I can hardly wait to send not only my finances, but my finger prints into cyberspace.Why not a DNA sample too? I'm sure somebody will be happy to take good care of them.

Anonymous dh October 30, 2013 2:25 PM  

The problem with print on demand is that the capital cost is high. Labor + equipment is very expensive.

Also material costs are WAY higher. Sheet-fed paper, like used in POD, is 3-3.5x times the cost roll-fed paper used in offset lithography for trade paperbacks. Covers are especially bad price difference wise - printing a four-color process trade cover on demand is perhaps 10-20 times the cost of a medium size run of lithographic versions.

All things being equal, POD has started to reach the point of diminshing returns. To achieve a smaller and smaller reduction in per unit costs, the equipment is increasing in capital and labor costs. Which means, the cost will continue to fall as the market matures, but we are probably not going to see large or even largish reductions in POD costs.

There are some people doing really interesting thing with traditional offset lithography for trade books, but making it appear to be more like a digital print on demand. There are also new presses that are high-speed inkjet based, roll-feed, and operate more like offset than other presses. Both offer some hope. But these have huge 7 and 8 figure costs. Kodak before bankruptcy had an interesting set of presses that could have disrupted the textbook business even further, but they failed to make it to market in a big way before they ran out of money and not sure what has happened since they went into re-organization.

Anonymous Michael Maier October 30, 2013 2:27 PM  

"E-readers are transitional devices. In the long run only Luddites will keep their Kindles and Nooks. Most people will read e-books on their phones or tablets, and e-books will occupy just one slice of bandwidth in a contiguous media spectrum that runs from tweets and blog posts on one end to printed and bound books on the other."

I mean ANY e-reader. Tablet, phone, I don't caer, I hate them all. And I'm not a techno-phobe, either.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2013 2:34 PM  

Ever think of publishing AToB as a multi-volume hardcover so the individual volumes weren't such behemoths?

If I was a woman, this is the point at which I would burst into tears and shriek "it's as if you don't even know me AT ALL!"

Anonymous Josh October 30, 2013 2:36 PM  

If I was a woman, this is the point at which I would burst into tears and shriek "it's as if you don't even know me AT ALL!"

It's not your fault

Anonymous O.C. October 30, 2013 2:39 PM  

> I don't caer, I hate them all.

And you wouldn't have sex with Scarlett Johansson, either.

Anonymous Jack Amok October 30, 2013 2:45 PM  

All things being equal, POD has started to reach the point of diminshing returns.

Oh ye of little faith. Things do tend to take non-linear jumps, especially when entire industries are in the process of refactoring themselves.

Blogger Crowhill October 30, 2013 2:48 PM  

@dh, interesting comments on POD.

If POD can't create what we normally think of as a paperback at marketable rates, perhaps we'll see the development of a new print format.

Anonymous Daniel October 30, 2013 2:56 PM  

Digital makes format irrelevant. Readers who want their books in print will continue to get their books in print. What this means is that publishers who have relied on gouging overproduced formats (such as print) will stop printing books.

This is a very different thing than saying books will not be printed. POD costs are not the deciding factor: marginal returns on books, by format, is the deciding factor.

Therefore, as long as you prefer to pay double the ebook rate for the print format, your print books will be available. There's no diminishing returns on POD: POD is already profitable at the margin - as profitable, if not slightly more, than the $3.99 ebook. Ebooks of less than $2.99 are at such a low, slow profit at the margin (ebooks have identical production costs as print, until you get to the relatively small publishing/distribution costs.)

For example here are my costs to produce and distribute one book in the two formats:

Same - Labor (at $100/hr.) - $10,000
Same - Front cover - $150
Print only - Back Cover - $25
Print profit/unit (-printing costs): $2.05
Ebook profit/unity (-distributor costs): $2.76 (average)

I sell more ebooks, at a slightly higher profit than print, in this case. I have other books that have a higher profit margin in print. But I would be crazy to nickel and dime my readers who want print, just because I don't make quite as good of a profit off of them.

Ebooks are a major disruptor to the old model...but the thing they made easier and cheaper is...paper books.

Just like the old "paperless society" created an explosion in paper, the digital book has open the flood gates for printed books.

Never before in the history of print could an author or publisher decide to correct an error in the print edition, make the correction that day, and have the "new" book selling to buyers.

Once the POD cracks into lithography - you will see a small surge, not a decrease, in the availability of print books.

All digital did was transform the massive mallet tactics of the mass market into a more personalized form. Chaos for the gatekeepers - mallet-wielders to a man (or, now, more likely, a woman) - but for everyone else - readers and writers? A better way to get exactly what the reader wants into his hands.

Whether they thumb the page "virtually" or with the good old fashioned risk of papercuts? That isn't up to the industry anymore. It is up to the readers. And, depending on who you ask, that split is 50/50, and set to stay that way for a long time coming.

I am not an outlier: I purchase both print books and ebooks. 90% of those...are beneficiaries of digital technology. The only ones that aren't are the ones I get at the used book stores...whose inventory I scan...on the internet.

The Cola Wars weren't fought over whether or not people should drink pop, but they should have been. The Digital Wars aren't over which format is "better" for the market. It isn't VHS and Betamax. It's both.

Anonymous RP-in-TX October 30, 2013 2:59 PM  

Eventually you won't buy a book: you'll buy a license to the content, and then be able to read the same book on your tablet over breakfast, on your phone on the train to work -- or what the hell, if they ever really get text-to-speech debugged, you'll be able to stream it as an audio book to your car radio.

Amazon is pretty close to this now. I can sync Kindle books to pick up where I left off on all of my devices and can sync the text with some of the Audible audio books on my Kindle HD. Give them another year or so and it'll work pretty much as you describe.

Anonymous RP-in-TX October 30, 2013 3:06 PM  

They don't know how to write a paper check, play a game with an actual deck of cards, address an envelope, etc. They are literally no longer able to function in the non tech world and literally do not have the memory or experience of a time before say, 20-30 years ago.

A few years ago I amazed my nephew by showing him how to play solitaire without Windows XP. He was stunned that you could play the same game with actual cards.

Blogger Doom October 30, 2013 3:10 PM  

McRapey? Who cares. Although it is always pleasing to see his sort begin tasting a little reality. For him, in this case, that reality is that the publishing industry has been supporting fraudulent writing for far too long. It IS where the money is, one way or another, but not where good writing is. Whether Soros buys them and burns them, and yeah he could afford it, in order to swing what is even available to the rest of us, or for whatever reason, the publishing industry has been bankrupt for a very long time. Oh, true, some decent (okay) houses, I suppose. And a few decent books get through, but the majority is crap on paper.

No, I am just pleased to see another powerful gatekeeper, and the systems that have supported it, fall. News media, Hollywood, probably the Democratic party, and hopefully even the Republican party... falling. It isn't just economic reality, it's the sheer weight of the hubris of those industries, and the fraudulence they have sold out to and tried to sell, all of which is falling like a house of cards in a hurricane.

I can't wait until McRapey and the rest of the troupe of counterfeits realize that all their dollars are worth even less than the quality of their books. I do hope, however, that the blinders drop enough that these people can understand it all before they drop into the oblivion they were useful idiots in creating. On earth or in hell, they will know.

Anonymous Daniel October 30, 2013 3:15 PM  

If POD can't create what we normally think of as a paperback at marketable rates, perhaps we'll see the development of a new print format.

It already does. "Marketable rate" is whatever someone will pay. People are paying for POD books. You are also losing sight of the profits that resellers can make on new books that they can't on digital.

After all, Vox may be providing the hardback out of love...but I'd be surprised if he uses the hardback royalty checks for firestarter. Puny is relative, and sideshows can sell enough tickets to be worthwhile.

So, while the death of the $19 paperback (!) may be foretold, the death of the paperback itself is a bit premature.

John Barth and a thousand other fairly smart folks have been jumping the gun on the "Death of the Novel" for almost a hundred years now, and she ain't dead. The paper book is not a buggy whip. Yes - having a thousand of them cracking the floor of your den (do people have dens anymore?) will likely go the way of Fahrenheit 451, but good riddance, right? But the true portability (immune to dead batteries, network connectivity, even - to a marginally disgusting degree - toilets) of the paper book, the percentage of readers who draw tangible pleasure from turning the pages (vs. the percentage of readers completely annoyed by book formatting - who have been that way since before ebooks - Licklider, I'm looking at you.)

So, just because Licklider is finally getting his books (same content as the ones on paper) in the way he wants them doesn't mean that Stephen King isn't suddenly going to be rendered unable to stir his sticks and pick up a paper book somewhere.

I would note that Licklider's been dead for a quarter century, and his mention that:

"The print on paper form is embarrassing, because in order to distribute information, you’ve got to move the paper around."

indicates that he may have died of humiliation. The great innovation he heralded...just happen to make the printing of paper books about a jillion times easier than it was in the bad old days he was trying to get us away from.

Anonymous Porky October 30, 2013 3:18 PM  

dh, shouldn't you be working on the Mechanical Hound rather than musing on new ways to make books?

Anonymous Jack Amok October 30, 2013 3:19 PM  

Ebooks are a major disruptor to the old model...but the thing they made easier and cheaper is...paper books.

In particular, the "cost" of the author actually writing the book is the first and most essential expenditure. Being able to amortize that expense over a larger number of units will reduce the overall cost of all units regardless of format.

Anonymous dh October 30, 2013 3:20 PM  

Mechanical Hound

What is that?

Anonymous Daniel October 30, 2013 3:22 PM  

You can already license books across platforms. Not only that, you can subscribe to a library of 100,000 books for a monthly rate of $10 at Oyster Books. Stop paying and lose your access, but if you read more than one book a month, you come out ahead.

If you think this somehow is a paper book killer...you aren't thinking things all the way through.

Anonymous Lover of thumb drives October 30, 2013 3:43 PM  

How will a lack of internet access wipe out the thousands of books on your hard drive? I have 200 books on my phone alone.

Crash !

Blogger hga October 30, 2013 4:01 PM  

GG et. al.: it's not like you're physical books are entirely safe. I can much more easily and cheaply back up my electronic format books than my physical ones, which require a fair amount of money to my insurance company and an inherently painful claims and repurchase process.

I can for not very much at all get geographic redundancy, e.g. the critical files of one computer who's disks were lost were duplicated at a backup vendor's site in Denver.

For real paranoia about problems with the net, and the inability for most of us in the US to do that for all our stuff because of stingy telco and cable duopoly transfer caps, we can do off the Internet backups to disk or tape (LTO-4) for what I consider to be reasonable cost.

A big enough disaster at your home will take everything out that's not copied to your network backup vendor, unless you put copies in a safe deposit box or whatever (I lucked out in that while my disk backups were in another room and got trashed, the main computers managed to survive; tape has again become affordable enough I've returned to using it).

Get your critical stuff stored on the net and everything backed up locally to a disk or two and you'll be in pretty good shape. At the very least you can make sure you won't lose your electronic books, the space they take is not really big nowadays.

Anonymous Daniel October 30, 2013 4:08 PM  

We are all getting very confused, because publishers are avoiding printing some books. They are doing it for good business reasons, but not because paper is intrinsically bad or unprofitable. The good reasons are: their current printing model is insane - print batches of books and force-distribute them to remaining stores, and hope for reasonable returns. It is very expensive to print 10,000 books, when only 2,000 of those will be profitable, for example.

Much lower risk to do ebook only - yes you will lose those 2,000 print sales (and likely not make them up in ebooks - not even close), but you also won't run the gamble of having 8,000 non-profitable books printed at cost.

Printing books is an albatross for big publishers because the way they do it is no longer good business. This does not mean that printing books is an albatross.

If HBG simply a) knew how many print books it would sell of a certain title in a year and b) knew where and c) printed about that many books, they would gladly print these author's books in advance, and at profit. There problem is that they don't know these things and their old model can't adapt to the new. Much easier to clear the decks of the now virtually free content-providers, and deep dive into ebooks, thereby bypassing the costs of the distribution system until those channels clear and they can figure out how to make money in print again.

Meanwhile, independent and smaller presses see no reason to make books however their readers like them: the profits are similar per unit, and the audience for both formats is wider.

Mumford and Sons, after all, is available on CD, vinyl, mp3 and at iTunes. The only reason to avoid one of those formats is if you've got some sort of bad contract that risks more money than you might make. Interestingly, the retail price of the same album is $8 CD, $10 mp3, $11 at iTunes and $13 on vinyl. The digital end-product versions aren't more expensive due to the packaging...

Anonymous Jack Amok October 30, 2013 5:28 PM  

GG et. al.: it's not like you're physical books are entirely safe.

Indeed. I have a multitude of old CDs, the music of my misspent youth (sorry Vox, no Psykosonik in there). Every once in a while I pull one out and discover it's scratched. Then I go and buy mp3s of the two or three songs I actually like from the album and have copies on my computer, my phone, my mp3 player, a usb stick, and a cloud store.

Anonymous Ferd October 30, 2013 5:39 PM  

At present i am reading "Notable Essays of the 18th Century " printed in 1887. I found it in a library used book sale.

Will we be able to read the present literature in 2139?

If Al Gore has his druthers i suppose we will all be burnt to a cinder or drowned as the oceans rise. So, guess it don't matter. We will have all gone to our just desserts as it is. Unless, Google had down loaded our consciousness into it's files.

Blogger Eric October 30, 2013 6:38 PM  

All I can think of is that you'll get it professionally edited and you'll get a professional cover, and if it sells well enough, they'll move it over to the print branch. Of course, by spending a little money, you can do the first two yourself and the latter will happen if it sells well enough.

I've always heard the real reason you want a publisher is marketing. Is that not true?

Anonymous jack October 30, 2013 6:40 PM  

Michael Maier: Each has his/her preferences. Now, I love this Kindle paper white I picked up some months ago. The main reason: It saves my aging eyes with the very readable internal light. And the battery life is decent. And, I can carry it around easily.
I'm not a fan of smart phones, tablets, etc.
I do, on occasion like to read in print. But not terribly often these days.

@Vox: congrats on the amount of sales of Throne. Its deserved as the nicely long novel is excellent and the next 4 sequels won't come soon enough.

Also@ Vox; How will a lack of internet access wipe out the thousands of books on your hard drive? I have 200 books on my phone alone.

With the Kindle system, as you well know, much is archived on their 'cloud' system. I've not had it fail me yet; that said, my computer times were often spent dealing with Microsoft and cursing them. I don't trust the archive Kindle system at all, so I back up everything to dvd [two of them, in fact]. To date I've had no trouble retrieving from dvd and reading on either Kindle or the Kindle read app on my laptop. Also, with the internet gone so will the feature of syncing to farthest page read. I guess they do this through the site since you can turn off wifi and that feature is not there anymore.

@Jartstar. My older kindle, the non-lite one, had a reasonable text to speech. They did not see fit to carry that over into the newer Kindle paperwhite. The old kindle will still do this text to speech. I think you can get text to speech on the Kindle fire. So, maybe it was a marketing decision to try for more money from the faithful.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2013 6:51 PM  

With the Kindle system, as you well know, much is archived on their 'cloud' system.

I don't do walled gardens. But even Kindle lets you pull it off the device.

Anonymous VD October 30, 2013 6:52 PM  

I've always heard the real reason you want a publisher is marketing. Is that not true?

Not in most cases. The real reason is distribution into the bookstores.

Blogger tz October 30, 2013 7:45 PM  

Kindle can delete whatever it wants when it wants (and you are connected via wifi or via their "whisper" net - would that be GOSS/IP?).

I remember "shareware" that used Kagi, and I can't remember the other. Encrypt after the first chapter, add watermarks, and just have a portal for the unlock key. There is a new ransomware that does something similar ;). The big thing with eBooks is not the publishers but that the publishers are unnecessary middlemen. Legacy.

With teleportation, a bridge is unnecessary, as one can go pier to pier.

Anonymous The Next to Last Samurai October 30, 2013 7:46 PM  

Chortle.

I like Kindle for two reasons. We have limited shelf space. And have you ever taken a book to a waiting room and had it turn out to be boring? With a real book, you're stuck; with Kindle, I can move on to another. At the same time, I am aware of the ephemeral nature of Kindle. It could con out. Amazon could decide to wipe it clean and there would be nothing I could do about it (I live in the U.S. and can't afford nearly as much justice as Jeff Bezos can). So I use the Kindle for convenience and for important material, I buy a real book.

Blogger hga October 30, 2013 8:14 PM  

jack: I do not trust any DVD media, even MAM-A Gold, the format pushed CD-R technology a little too far. For stuff I really care about, if I'm going optical, I use Taiyo Yuden made in Japan CD-Rs. But you have to be careful in procuring them, because of their earned reputation there are plenty of counterfeits out there.

Or at least the above was the situation as I knew it a few years ago, I've switched to disk backed up by tape (with as mentioned the most critical stuff to an off-site backup vendor), and don't use optical discs for archival purposes. I have no information on Blu-ray recordable formats. But in any case it should be noted the newer the format, the less we really know about its longevity.

Ultimately you want diverse redundancy, at least two different types of media you trust, and at least two different locations that won't be simultaneously taken out by anything you're likely to survive. And since all these types of media are perishable due to old age, move your data from one copy to another, if you use tapes keep some forever and keep adding new ones to your pool, etc.

And make sure you can recover your data, or as I like to say, no one cares about backups, they care about restores.

Anonymous Idle Spectator October 30, 2013 8:28 PM  

Out with the old printing press, and the paper fruits of it, the books.

In with the new printing press, the internet.

Anonymous map October 30, 2013 8:43 PM  

The majority of reading is done by women. Women like to trade paperbacks with each other. How does the ebook facilitate that?

Anonymous Heh October 30, 2013 8:50 PM  

A few years ago I amazed my nephew by showing him how to play solitaire without Windows XP. He was stunned that you could play the same game with actual cards.

And then he said, "This sucks... why did anyone ever do it this way?"

Anonymous RP-in-TX October 30, 2013 9:23 PM  

It was during a day-long power outage. He didn't have anything better to do. It kept him quiet for a couple of hours.

Anonymous lurker October 31, 2013 1:11 AM  

A Wardog's Coin ebook would be cool if the front cover had some animation, like the fire could flame up continuously and the coin move back and forth a bit.

Blogger halojones-fan October 31, 2013 1:30 AM  

"There will always be a small percentage of book lovers who demand hardbacks, but if I'm a publisher who faces the possibility of eating some 5,000 paperback returns, why take that risk?"

This is not a surprise at all. Print books will become a luxury item (which was, as with much else of modern life, predicted by science fiction.)

And we will be shocked at how quickly it happens. It used to be that everyone who wanted to get anywhere that wasn't next to a train rail had to ride a horse. And then the automobile was invented, and it was clunky and weird and unreliable and nobody took it seriously. And then suddenly more and more people had automobiles, to the point where anyone who rode a horse for transport was either vastly rich or shockingly poor. And then even the poor people had automobiles; riding horses became an affectation of upper-class, high-wealth people.

Anonymous lurker October 31, 2013 6:16 AM  

More front cover animation. ATOB front cover would look cool if the green eye emeralds glimmered occasionally. And ABM would look cool if the outer wheel spun clockwise, the large yellow star counterclock-wise, the three inner spheres clockwise. Might be something if most all books are going digital?

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