InDesign CC will do live ebook indexes!

We are excited to announce that the next version of InDesign, InDesign CC (Creative Cloud), will be able to use embedded index markers to create live linked ebook indexes, using the EPUB export.

The linked epub index feature is illustrated live at Terry White's Top
Five Favorite feature video at
Terry White is Adobe's Worldwide Creative Suite Design Evangelist.

Dave Ream and I met with the Adobe InDesign Engineers in September last year to facilitate this feature, and ASI is ecstatic
that Adobe was able to implement it in time for this release of InDesign. Adobe's Chris Kitchener and Douglas Waterfall are heroes to the indexing community for their work to get this feature live and ready to go.

If you want to thank Adobe for this feature, there is a commenting feature on Terry White's blog. Leave a note for Terry about how exciting this is, and how much indexers appreciate it.

You can also tweet the news using the hashtag #indesignindexingrocks
and #indexing, mentioning our Facebook URL:

Please help us thank Adobe by leaving a comment on ASI’s Facebook page. We'll be sure to send a link to Chris,
Douglas, and the Adobe team.

This feature will only be available in the Creative Cloud version of InDesign. Desktop versions, ending at CS6, will not have this
capability. InDesign CC is expected to ship through subscription in late June.

Where am I blogging now?

Life has gotten very intriguing. I’m now co-chairing the ASI Digital Trends Task Force, focusing on eBook and eContent indexing and search, as well as working on the ePub 3.0 Indexing specs. If you are interested, come join our new conversation at LinkedIn. We have accumulated a lot of statistics, studies, trends, research, and data, and will be updating the progress we are making for eBook active indexes. No more dead indexes in eBooks!

Personally, I'm posting news and information about indexing, taxonomies, and word geekery of all sorts on
Wright Information’s Facebook Page. Come visit me there.

In other news, the Ning network has gone dark. After two years of fun, we decided that the network platform had gotten too expensive and not innovative enough. Goodbye Ning. it was a great learning experience, though!

I can't stand the blithe write-off

Jeremy Horwitz doesn't get it at all:
The iBooks-formatted book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, for instance, can be stretched to a 3518-page tome or reduced to 223, just shy of the actual book’s 244—mostly because it’s missing the original’s index. And thanks to a magnifying glass icon at the top right of every page, the index is arguably unnecessary: you can search for any word in the book and get a complete, clickable list of its occurrences, plus links to Google and Wikipedia, and an integrated dictionary that can define virtually any word you touch.

One word searches work SO WELL on Google, why not on an ebook?

From the Obsolete Anonymous self help group meeting

Is Print Dead?

Print Industry: Look, this isn't about me. All of you guys have become irrelevant. Technology marched on, and you didn't march with it. But that WILL NOT happen to me. There will always be bookstores, and dead tree books. We'll continue to sell hardcovers at luxury prices, and pay artists 6% to 15% royalties on whatever list price WE deem appropriate. And the masses will buy our books BECAUSE WE SAID SO! WE SHALL NEVER BECOME OBSOLETE!!!

Buggy Whip Industry: Amen, brother! That's what I keep trying to tell these people!

CDs: (whispering to LPs) I give him six years, tops.

More here...

I love New Yorker cartoons

From the April 19th edition

Paul Theroux on fiction in the age of eBooks

TA: What does the advent of the e-reader mean for reading—for the health of narrative storytelling as a form, for the market for fiction, for the future of books? E-readers certainly make it easier to tote lots of novels and other texts while traveling. But don’t we lose something—in sustained concentration, or in a sense of permanence, or in the notion of a book as an art object—in the migration away from the codex?

PT: Movable type seemed magical to the monks who were illuminating manuscripts and copying texts. Certainly e-books seem magical to me. I started my writing life in the 1940s as an elementary student at the Washington School in Medford, Massachusetts, using a steel-nibbed pen and an inkwell, so I have lived through every technology. I don’t think people will read more fiction than they have in the past (as I say, it’s a minority interest), but something certainly is lost—the physicality of a book, how one makes a book one’s own by reading it (scribbling in it, dog-earing pages, spilling coffee on it) and living with it as an object, sometimes a talisman. Writing is one of the plastic arts, which is why I still write in longhand for a first draft. I can’t predict how reading habits will change. But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive—no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.

More of the interview here

What is a book?

Nice post from Dick Margulis:

Have you been trying to follow any of the many recent discussions about e-books and e-readers, about access to knowledge and protecting authors’ rights, about book scanning and copyright? Are you confused?

Me too.

What confuses me is that putatively smart people are making such simplistic prognostications and arguments. End of the book as we know it indeed! Please. I don’t think so.
The rhetorical problem, it seems to me, is that we have a word, book, that represents not one category but many categories of objects, both concrete and abstract, both physical and virtual. Most people who work with books of one sort see their grove of trees as the whole forest.

This is an easy trap to fall into: if you spend your life in the world of genre fiction, then books means genre fiction. If you spend your life in research libraries studying the history of fruit fly research, then books means obscure, long-forgotten monographs in danger of being deaccessioned and lost to history.

He goes on to list genres and what he thinks might happen to them. Interesting!

The future of publishing, and how do we reach the authors?

There are lots of next-decade projections, but I think Mark Coker is right about some of this:

1. 95% of all reading will be on screens

2. There will be fewer bookstores, though books will be more plentiful than ever before.

3. The entire book supply chain from author to customer will become atomized into its component bits. Value-adders will continue to find great success in publishing. Dinosaurs, leeches and parasites will be flushed out of new publishing ecosystems faster than ever before.

4. Most authors will be indie authors

5. Successful publishing companies will be those that put the most total profit in the author's pocket. No, not the highest per-unit royalty percentage

I don't know about the screen percentage, but I think 2 and 3 and 4 will have to come to pass. 5, I don't know about. Watching my sis-in-law try to market her books (and she has had 17 published, so it's not like she's new to this) and watching the industry just not work any more in the traditional way means that she is going to have to become Indie to survive. I don't know how many other authors are waking up to the same realization.

So, indexers, do we start marketing to authors? How do you reach Indie authors?

Mike Shatzkin's predictions for next year in publishing

Read the whole thing here

It is customary for those of us who do crystal-ball gazing to make some calls about the year ahead at around the time the celebrants head for Times Square. I am not a man to flout custom. Here are some of the things I expect we’ll see in 2010.

1. At least one major book will have several different enhanced ebook editions. This will result from a combination of circumstances: the different capabilities of ebook hardware and reader platforms, the desire of publishers and authors to justify print-like prices for ebooks, the sheer ability of authors and their fans to do new things electronically, and the dawning awareness that there are at least two distinctly different ebook markets: one just wants to read the print book on an electronic screen and the other wants links and videos and other enhancements that really change the print book experience. (Corrolary prediction: the idea of an enhanced ebook that is only sold “temporarily” in the first window when the book comes out, which has been floated by at least one publisher, will be short-lived. Whatever is made for sale in electronic form will remain available approximately forever. Or, put another way, if you have a product that requires no inventory investment that has a market, you’ll keep satisfying it.)

4. Ebooks will require a new industry directory (and it won’t be printed.) Driven by new entrants in the field, self-publishing, and unbundled aggregations of print books, the gap between the items listed in “Books in Print” and the items that should be listed in a directory of “Ebooks Available” will continue to grow. There has been a robust conversation in a corner of the book community about whether all ebook editions need ISBNs, but that’s really only one part of a much larger metadata problem. In 2010 we are likely to see at least one serious effort to deliver a new online directory for ebooks.

6. Ebooks become significant revenue contributors for many titles. By the end of 2010, ebook sales will routinely constitute at least 20% of the units moved for midlist and the lower tier of bestsellers and at least 10% of the units for really big bestsellers. (These are predictions for narrative writing; illustrated books and kids’ picture books will lag considerably.)

7. Circumstances will outrun the ebook “windowing” strategy. By the end of 2010, the experiment with “windowing” ebooks — withholding them from release when the hardcover comes out — will end as increasing evidence persuades publishers and agents that ebook sales (at any price) spur print book sales (at any price), not cannibalize or discourage them and, furthermore, that this withholding effort does nothing to restrain Amazon’s proclivity for discounting. (Amazon can’t quit with so many competitors joining them; see number 11 below.) There will also be steadily increasing evidence that most readers distinctly prefer either digital books or paper for their narrative reading and the real minority is the people who routinely read both.

There's a lot more, go read him!

Kindles and publishers - will they get it together?

From the Washington Post

Readers want books that are plentiful and cheap, publishers want to preserve their profit, and authors want a larger share of revenue. The conflict has created a strident internecine battle inside the publishing industry. At issue are the price and timing of e-books, and who owns the rights to backlist titles. While publishers, agents and Amazon.com bicker, there is little time for conceiving new content that satisfies customer demand. If the book business doesn't tune in to that demand, it could wind up as a transitional source for the e-readers.

We know that readers want content, because it's clear they're not dazzled by the device. Consumers have made Amazon's limited and rudimentary device a hit, which speaks to their desire for books that are cheaper and easier to obtain. It surely isn't the device's design or functionality. Both are closer to the computer aesthetic of the 1980s than today's digital world. The Kindle may have lots of titles available -- but good luck using the device to decide what to read next.

But publishers have ignored this demand. In response, several conglomerates have aggressively moved to protect their legacy. Macmillan recently announced a plan to delay the publication of e-books and offer enhancements that will justify a higher price. This tactic is aimed at Amazon's policy of trying to set $9.99 as the expected price for an e-book. Most are priced much higher -- but that's beside the point. Amazon and publishers are fighting over this fiction, not the reality. Because Amazon's customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company's list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00. But publishers can't hear this, because they're a little distracted right now.

eBooks outsold print this Christmas

From the Guardian...

Spare a thought for the humble hardback this Christmas. It seems the traditional giftwrapped tome is being trumped by downloads, after Amazon customers bought more e-books than printed books for the first time on Christmas Day.

As people rushed to fill their freshly unwrapped e-readers – one of the top-selling gadgets this festive season – the online retailer said sales at its electronic book store quickly overtook orders for physical books. Its own e-reader, the Kindle, is now the most popular gift in Amazon's history.

Lots more on the trends...

Magazine digital readers

From the NYT:

Sara Öhrvall runs the research and development at Bonnier Corporation in Sweden, a company that publishes a number of magazines in the United States, including Saveur and Ski Magazine. She sent along a video of a virtual prototype of a re-imagined magazine. It’s all theoretical: A device capable of displaying the magazine as conceived does not exist, so the demonstration is achieved with some dark-room magic.

The so-called Jesus Tablet, the One We Have All Been Waiting for from Apple, will reportedly be out some time early next year. Will it be the game-changer the iPhone was? Hard to say, but you can bet it will go nowhere unless publishers have some content ready that will jump up big and pretty when it is launched. The Bonnier approach shows real promise. Simple, easy interface with a minimum of buttons. Of particular interest, at least to nerds like Decoder, is the ability to “rub” content, which then “heats up” and offers options for deeper investigation. Let us know if you think they are on to something.

There's a video...

Delaying ebook publishing to sell the hardbacks

From James McQuivey,

Frankly I am surprised that it took this long. But today, we read in the Wall Street Journal that two major publishers have decided to pull a music industry mistake. Simon and Schuster and Hachette Book Group have announced that they will not release most eBook editions until the hardbacks have been on shelves for four months....

Correction: This move is about the past of your business.

I have two very important messages to offer the book industry (most all of them clients, so I'm trying to be delicate here, the way a group of friends running an intervention for an alcoholic have to act even if it involves summoning tough love). The first message is the hardest to hear and it will make me some enemies. But the second message offers some hope and I encourage you book types to give it a fair hearing, because I have history and economics on my side.....

Message #1: Dear book industry, I'm so sorry to tell you this, but your books really aren't worth $25. Just like newspapers weren't really worth what people were paying for them and magazines, either. And CDs, and DVDs. These were all worthy of a high price when analog economics were the only economics. When people understood that they paid $25 to get some paper, ink, and a binding, all of which had to be warehoused, shipped, and slotted on shelves in warm stores with muzak and imported coffee odors wafting through the environment.

A digital book suffers from none of those impediments. Therefore: it should be cheaper. Stop glorying in historical prices and accept the fact that a digital book should not cost $25 unless it comes with some awesome, exclusive premium that makes it worthy of such a price. Otherwise, $9.99 is darn awesome a price to pay, given how cheap it is to deliver an eBook (which has fewer bytes in it than a TV episode sold for $1.99 on iTunes). ...

Message #2: You can actively window in a way that doesn't alienate consumers. Just as I want you to charge a fair price for your digital content, I want you to be able to sell physical books for as long as a majority of consumers still want them. So here's my proposal: Rather than creating artificial scarcity by holding eBooks back four months, why not dynamically price your offerings so that a consumer who really wants that new Stephen King book on his or her digital reader can get it the same day as the hardback.

Android eBooks next?

More here

Android ebook coming soon.

If you had doubts that Android was taking over the world, this should help to convince you otherwise as Google’s OS (which was only released one year ago) is now spreading to the ebook reader market, as Netronix is planning to release eBook readers sporting Android.

Netronix, a Taiwan company better known for their network equipment, have recently ventured into eBook readers. Their current incarnation is selling well, with them reporting to DigiTimes that they are moving 60,000 a month. Netronix is now working with Texas Instruments to work on an eBook reader that will run Android.

eBook sales in one author's life

From Joe Konrath, the publisher of the Jack Daniels books:

My five Hyperion ebooks (the sixth one came out in July so no royalties yet) each earn an average of $803 per year on Kindle.

My four self-pubbed Kindle novels each earn an average of $3430 per year.

If I had the rights to all six of my Hyperion books, and sold them on Kindle for $1.99, I'd be making $20,580 per year off of them, total, rather than $4818 a year off of them, total.

So, in other words, because Hyperion has my ebook rights, I'm losing $15,762 per year.

His total sales and calculations are here.

Thinking ebook first

From Mike Shatzkin - read it all, it's good...

Up until what seems like five minutes ago, the static print version was where all the money was. But with the IDPF reporting industry-wide year-on-year gains of 300% of ebook sales through August and Crain’s saying Random House had an 700% year-on-year increase of Kindle sales through September, the day when ebook sales are financially significant has apparently arrived and the point when those revenues could be more important than print revenues is in sight. So it may be time to change the objective of the author and editor from “how do we create the best possible print book” to “how do we create the best possible ebook?”

This will require some radical changes in thinking.

1. “Space” will no longer be scarce. That means that nothing of value should be discarded; the question becomes how to best employ any thoughts, writing, or images, not whether to include them. (Warning of a likely unintended consequence: putting mediocre material in the finished product can become a temptation and that does not achieve desired effects.)

2. Background material of any kind will become useful. For fiction, that might mean more in-depth character descriptions or “biographies”. For non-fiction, that might mean source material.

3. Multiple media are desireable. Anything that is relevant to the book in video or audio form or art of any kind should be included. If rights and permissions are a problem, then linking out to the material wherever it is on the web becomes an option.

4. Linking is essential. The author should be recording deeplink information for every useful resource tapped during the book’s creation.

5. New editorial decisions abound. Should the reader be given the option to turn links off (to avoid the distractions)? Does it “work” if linked or multiple-media elements become essential to the narrative of the book? And, if that becomes the case, what are the work-arounds for the static print edition? Should “summary” material be added, such as a precis of every chapter than can be a substitute for reading the whole chapter? (That could help somebody skip and dive their way through a non-fiction book, particularly.)

6. How should all of this complexity flow? Books are pretty straightforward: you start at the beginning and turn pages until you get to the end. But ebooks can allow different sequencing if that becomes useful. Can we have beginner, intermediary, and expert material all in one ebook that “selects” what you see by what you tell the book you are?

7. When is the book “finished”? An ebook that is continually being enhanced and updated by the author, perhaps even by the addition of relevant blog posts (to imagine a situation which would be very easy to execute) is a great antidote to digital piracy. But it would surely separate the ebook from the print, which couldn’t keep up with that kind of change. As ebook consumption becomes more common, though, authors won’t want their books to be out of date and they will recognize how easy it is to add new material. O’Reilly Media already includes free “updates” in the ebook purchase price of their books. How long will it be before a trade publisher makes a similar offer? Or before an author requires it as a condition of doing their next deal?

Cool book interface

And it has an index feature, but not implemented well in the example.

Bloomsbury auctions


Amazon's snatching back books

Amazon and the Kindle are examples of a new way to store and use materials, somewhat like cloud computing, where your content rests out in the cloud, and so is available to you everywhere. The problem with Kindle taking books back while you are sleeping is that it was showing the world that you have no real local storage, and millions of people thought they owned those books now, locally.

This is why I hesitate about truly being in the world of cloud computing.... I have seen too many crashes, too many faulty software upgrades, too many things go wrong with just local and network storage. What if the cloud site goes down? What if they upgrade an application, and it is a bad upgrade? Do you lose all your data? What if they decide a certain app is not worthwhile, and they pull it while you sleep? No more data for you?

Jamais Cascio of Fast Company agrees....

You couldn't have spent more than a few seconds online over the past few days and not have heard about Amazon remotely deleting copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindles of people who had purchased them. It turned out that the publisher selling this Kindle version didn't have US rights (the copyright on the books has expired in most countries, but not in the US), and the current rights holder demanded that Amazon do something about it. Since Amazon is in constant communication with the millions of Kindles out there, they did what any centralized provider of a service could do--they zapped the infringing copies not just from the storefront, but from any Kindle on which they could be found.

Now, the Kindle is not a cloud computing system, but the Amazon-Whispernet-Kindle infrastructure mirrors many cloud features. More importantly, this incident is indicative of what kinds of trouble can emerge when we reframe "content" as "service." As numerous pundits have noted, the physical book analogy would be Amazon breaking into your home and taking away a book you'd purchased (leaving you a refund on your desk, of course). But a Kindle book isn't a physical book--it's a service, one that (as the Kindle license makes clear) you don't really own.

The cloud computing model may be a wonderful system when it works, but it's a nightmare when it fails. And the more people who come to depend upon it, the bigger the nightmare. For an individual, a crashed laptop and a crashed cloud may be initially indistinguishable, but the former only afflicts one person and one point of access to information. If a cloud system locks up--or if a legal decision, change in ownership, or service provider whim alters the rules unilaterally--potentially millions of people will lose access....

For me, a resilient cloud would be one where the data lives simultaneously online and in local storage, and is in a format that can easily be read (and edited) by both cloud software and local applications. Simply put, it's a retreat from thinking of content as a service. This isn't where the computing world is heading, however, and as we've seen in the last few days, we may well be giving up more than we think for cloud convenience.

The evolution of ereaders

Great article and analysis here, with predictions, by Larry Dignan

Forrester outlines the following timeline:

2007-2009: E-reader adoption is driven by early adopters.
2009-2011: More mainstream folks buy e-readers as features like animation, content ports to other wireless devices and the $199 price point is breached.
2011 and beyond: Video and color appear and the $99 price point becomes reality.
2013-2020: The green movement drives e-reader usage.


Some statistics on eBooks

From Alan Watt at Wattpad: (and note, these statistics cover the Wattpad reader application only)

Our first report covers both country and handset/manufacturer data with some fun facts attached to the end of the report. We expect to expand the report to include more axes of information in the coming months.

Here is the highlight:

• In terms of usage, Indonesia is the top country (39%), followed by US (28%) and Vietnam (9%).

• Java devices are still the most used mobile platform for reading e-books. 63% of e-book usage come from Java devices while iPhone usage grows to 33%.

• Nokia dominates the top device list with 4 of the top 6 are Nokia Series 40. iPhone claims the top spot.

• iPhone dominates US e-book usage with 78% of iPhone usage comes from North America. Nokia still dominates the rest of the world.

• Blackberry usage grew over 400% since the launch of App World. Indicates the effectiveness of an application storefront.

As you can see, although e-reading on iPhone dominates the headlines of US media in the last few months, e-reading is truly a global phenomenon and it is more than “just the iPhone”. ...

Here are some fun facts that you might find interesting too:

• Usage typically surges on weekends by 10%

• Daily usage peaks in the evening at bed time (local times).

• Blackberry users read the least per day as shown in our average daily number of sessions. Perhaps preoccupied by the influx of emails! Blackberry users have about 1.6 session per day, while iPhone users have 2.3 and Java phone users read the most with 2.6 sessions per day.

The Kama Sutra is too much for Apple

Apple is blocking a new ereader application for the iPhone on the basis that it is possible to download the Kama Sutra from Project Gutenberg, which is "inappropriate." Shouldn't they block their own Safari browser?

If you’re wondering why Eucalyptus is not yet available, it’s currently in the state of being ‘rejected’ for distribution on the iPhone App Store. This is due to the fact that it’s possible, after explicitly searching for them, to find, download from the Internet, and then read texts that Apple deems ‘objectionable’. The example they have given me is a Victorian text-only translation of the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana.

More, including all the Apple official emails, here....

Amazon's Kindle and IndieBound top two iPhone apps

Both book-related! How cool is that! From GalleyCat:

Less than two weeks after surprise news that Amazon.com, Inc. acquired the company that created the iPhone reader, Stanza, the Apple App Store landscape has shifted. Stanza--the former number one Book app--is now ranked #3 in the free application category, while the American Bookseller Association's indieBound application is #2.

The indieBound iPhone app allows shoppers to find nearby independent bookstores, browse in-print catalogs, and buy from independent bookstores.

I think I need to go check out indieBound!

Emma in a new ebook reader format

Another online ebook interface - this one is rather nice and easy to use.

Steven Johnson on digital reading, and self indexing

With books becoming part of this universe, "booklogs" will prosper, with readers taking inspiring or infuriating passages out of books and commenting on them in public. Google will begin indexing and ranking individual pages and paragraphs from books based on the online chatter about them. (As the writer and futurist Kevin Kelly says, "In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.") You'll read a puzzling passage from a novel and then instantly browse through dozens of comments from readers around the world, annotating, explaining or debating the passage's true meaning.

Think of it as a permanent, global book club. As you read, you will know that at any given moment, a conversation is available about the paragraph or even sentence you are reading. Nobody will read alone anymore. Reading books will go from being a fundamentally private activity -- a direct exchange between author and reader -- to a community event, with every isolated paragraph the launching pad for a conversation with strangers around the world.

This great flowering of annotating and indexing will alter the way we discover books, too. Web publishers have long recognized that "front doors" matter much less in the Google age, as visitors come directly to individual articles through search. Increasingly, readers will stumble across books through a particularly well-linked quote on page 157, instead of an interesting cover on display at the bookstore, or a review in the local paper.

Imagine every page of every book individually competing with every page of every other book that has ever been written, each of them commented on and indexed and ranked. The unity of the book will disperse into a multitude of pages and paragraphs vying for Google's attention.

Full article here -- great thoughtful stuff!

Shared Book Technology allows community annotations

SharedBook.com is opening up books to annotation:

This is wikipedia-type capability with a spin that publishers and authors will really like. With wikipedia, the edits and annotations from “the crowd” (or from whomever is allowed to mess with the wiki) actually change and revise the content itself. With SharedBook’s annotation technology, the original published content remains locked, and the changes are appended as footnotes! The footnotes can be associated to a chunk, a paragraph, a word, a symbol, a diagram, a picture. Whatever you like. And using the capability to manipulate content into a one-off book that SharedBook is known for, a reader can order up a printed book with whichever of the footnotes the reader wants in their own copy of the book. They’re then numbered consecutively and gathered at the back of the book.

Barnes and Noble joining the battle?

CrunchGear has a story on Barnes and Noble's thoughts on their own ebook reader, and analyzes the business model for reader publishing:

Sony has tried to enter this space with multiple partners for years and while I agree that their products are fine if you’re a big old pirate, I doubt many of us have PDF versions of the latest bestseller lying around. Just as iTunes changed the way the average consumer gets music onto their music player, the Kindle changes the way people interact with ereaders. Whereas the old music/book paradigm was, essentially:

1. Find a service that isn’t full of spyware
2. Search for songs/books of dubious quality
3. Worry the police will arrest your unborn babies
4. Download music/book for free
5. Install drivers
6. Reinstall Windows
7. Plug in MP3 player/reader
8. Drag music to player/reader
9. Eject player
10. Discover the music is ten minutes of a twenty second loop of Gwen Stefani singing about Harajuku Girls/Discover that the book is written in German
11. Repeat

The iTunes/Kindle paradigm is:
1. Buy device
2. Buy music, maybe rip a CD, download a book, whatever! Drink a nice glass of brandy, maybe?
3. Play music/Read book
4. Repeat

Which process do you think is more lucrative?

Ebook reader and format wars, nth edition

Mike Shatzkin says:

It is also critical to keep in mind that the ebook market for consumers has not happened yet! Publishers are seeing sales of about 1% of their revenue. I am a bit abashed about how over-optimistic I have been about ebooks for the past ten years (a by-product of having personally read more books on devices than on paper, by a factor of about 4 to 1, in the 21st century, and about 40 to 1 since I got my Kindle.) I can see ebooks getting to 7-10% of the units sold for consumer books in the next 3-to-5 years and I’m the optimist.

And with 85% of even that incipient market having not happened yet, most of which will be read on devices that haven’t been delivered yet (including future versions of Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, etc.) and, further with whole business models (subscriptions, book-of-the-month plans, bundling of titles together, offers by publishers to give ebooks away with print or audio books) which have hardly surfaced yet, we can only imagine what more changes we might see between now and then.

He goes on to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Amazon, Apple, and Google in the market-to-be.

Stanza review

Stanza is a free ebook reader available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and downloadable for use on PCs and Macs. I've downloaded it onto an iPod Touch, and have been playing with it. So far, I have not located a book with an index in it for free, and since I'm being a cheapskate, I haven't bought a book yet.

The prices for downloadable books are a lot higher through the services available to Stanza. It's definitely not the 9.99 Amazon price. I have heard that Amazon is keeping prices artificially low to stimulate Kindle purchases, and this seems to be born out by the pricing I'm seeing for books elsewhere, like Fictionwise and O'Reilly. But there are tons of free books to be downloaded, more than enough to keep me busy. If I find a free one with an index, I'll post about it. I'm not paying $24.00 for a book just to see the index - ;-)

Page turning in Stanza is much nicer than on a Kindle. You have several choices, sliding, curl up, or none, and you can choose the amount of time for the page turn. The fonts are nice, resize easily, and you have many choices for them. Flipping the Touch sideways gives you a wide view of the book, but I like the vertical view.

One of my favorite touches is that you can choose a paper background for the book's image. You can have marble, old parchment, clouds, all subtle effects that don't interfere with reading. I like the parchment and the beach sand ones, they look like paper.

There is a dictionary available when you are on wi-fi, and looking up a word is as simple as pressing it with your fingertip. I'm not finding a note-taking feature, but there is bookmarking.

Fairly nice interface! I think I could read in a doctor's office for a little bit with this. I don't know if I would do more than an hour with it, unlike the Kindle's kindly screen.

Kindle in my own hands

Well finally, I got to play with the Kindle 2.0. Spent about an hour with it. One thing I didn't realize is that with the new speaker ability, yes, it will read books to you in a acceptable-but-computer-sounding voice, but it will also play audio books. I didn't know that. There wasn't an audio book on there, but I was reading about it in the instructions that come with it. It would have been nice to to listen, and you can play background sound (music) while you are reading something else.

My friend says she has read an entire book on it, and said she could fall into reading easily. I asked her if she could "disappear" into the book, and she said yes. I felt the response time was slow - turning pages takes a moment, and the screen flashes black with a negative image of the next text in white on it, then resolves itself into the next page. That is annoying and totally breaks the flow of reading for me. I found myself scanning instead, and not reading as if I was reading a novel. The screen is remarkably easy on the eyes. The text is crisp, and the resolution in the monotone images is very nice. The fonts are nice. Changing the font size was well done - the leading and spacing resolved itself nicely to each new size. The line length was pleasant. While I was on a page, the reading was pleasant, but that page change and shift to black? Well, maybe you get used to it, but it is slow, like a slide transition effect in powerpoint.

I also used it to access the web. VERY SLOW. This was in a good signal strength area, and it takes you to a specialized page for Amazon, one optimized for Kindles. The iPhone is much faster at this, and resolves pages normally. I went and took a look at our own Indexer's Network page. The Kindle sets up the page vertically, with each linkable item in a column. So instead of our menu bar across the screen at the top, it listed the links down.:

My page, etc.

Then we hit the recent member icons, and each was listed in a box down, Then the latest activity. I didn't make it down far enough to look at the blogs. That would have been in the next county. So for web browsing, it is slow and annoying. I don't think it is feasible to use this as a web replacement, to look at your email for instance.

I didn't find an active index in any of the books on the friend's list. Many of the TOC's were inactive as well. So it really varies - the publishers can either prep a book well with hyperlinks, or just stuff it on the Kindle without. The one index I found had all the page numbers removed, and the only way to actually search for the terms was to use search. As we all know, that's not great, but it did show each term in context - somewhat helpful to choose a location to read. I believe the first kindle did not show you terms in context when you searched, only a menu on the side that listed location numbers.

You navigate with a menu key and a little square widget that moves up, down, or sideways to select items. Again, I found this very slow. Widgeting up or down to a word to search, or to put in a bookmark, seemed awkward and slow - and my friend didn't seem much faster at it. "Wait a minute, let me bookmark that before we do something else," and then the slow widgeting about to place the bookmark. I didn't look up words. I suspect that would be really useful, but with all the widgeting about to get the word selected, it seemed a pain. On my little Palm PDA, there is a touch interface, so I could just touch where I want to edit or do something. This was more like being in Word and moving your cursor letter by letter with the arrow keys. Once in a horizontal line of text, it did jump word by word. I kept yearning for the end key, or a triple click, all the nice features we have gotten used to in our indexing software.

It will display PDF files nicely - the first edition had problems with that. You still must email yourself the pdf, but the one I looked at retained all the special characters in Swedish, and my friend, who translates from Swedish and Norwegian, said it was wonderful for that. The pdf she had received had been in single space and small characters, unworkable for her, and putting it on the Kindle meant she could enlarge it and read it. It was solely a text PDF, so I didn't see what happens with pictures within a PDF.

All in all, I think they need to up the speed of response. I know, I'm picky, and I also read very quickly. Watching the screen go black then white is really disruptive and takes quite a while, much longer than a page flip. I was starting to feel as though I must be hyper, waiting, and really, I'm not. (At least I don't think so.... I could be hyper and you all have been gentle with me and hid it from me all these years.) I guess when I read, I am on to the next thing and expect the interface to be there already, because with print, it already is and has been waiting.

The Book Glutton's Unbound Reader

The Book Glutton is showing off its new Unbound Reader, an online book reading site that allows you to read a book with a group, make comments on specific passages to share (or not) and chat while reading certain sections of a book. An interesting concept, I'm not sure if I would ever coordinate actually reading at the same time as my friends, but I would love to read other people's comments on passages.

Below is an image of the reader.

This would be a very cool experiment for a book club.

Kindle vs. iPhone (and no, I don't have either... )

At some point, the warring formats and digital rights management are going to come to a Betamax vs. VHS battle. Kindle gets you books and gives them to you as long as you use their device and their format, and is still kluging PDF files. The iPhone was similarly closed to innovation until the 2.0 release and the iPhone app store, and is now able to take all kinds of book formats with Stanza, as well as allowing you install other fun things to waste your time that you should be spending indexing.

Unless the Kindle opens up, I don't see it winning this war. Reading books aloud to me is not the major feature I would have jumped for in this release. I would have jumped for good internet access, but I guess there's no money to be made there.

Karen Templer on the Readerville weblog thinks that there will be an iPhone app for Kindle books soon, but that it will come with a price - you will have to have a Kindle to use it. This will not be convergence, or a clear winner.

Reading various accounts around the web of the Amazon press conference this morning, I’ve seen some lamenting that there was no announcement of an iPhone app, with the suggestion that was expected. Certainly the remarks last week begged speculation, but the more I think about it, the less I think they’re on the brink of simply making Kindle-format books available for other devices. That’s what they’ll have to do if they want the whole Kindle concept to survive for the long term, but it seems to me that, for now at least, they’re deeply invested (literally and figuratively) in the device—in making Kindle-format books available to Kindle owners. So while I can see them releasing an iPhone app this year, I don’t see it as standalone access for the purchase and enjoyment of Kindle books. I see it as a way to enable people with Kindles to sync those books onto their phones when going places without the Kindle. (In fact, here’s how PW put it: “… Bezos said Amazon is working on ways to sync the Kindle to other mobile devices.”) In other words, an iPhone app will cost you $359, Kindle included.

And no one mentions the index, anywhere, ever. It's discouraging.

Lists of free ebooks

Teleread keeps a very nice list of sources for ebooks in almost every available format.