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Digital Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

posted March 5, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling E-books books publishing technology trends

A Picture of a eBook
Image via Wikipedia

People seem to have very strong feelings about digital media. It seems every day I read articles embracing digital media and articles dismissing it. And even within the differing camps there is discord—Kindle vs. iPad vs. whatever the e-readers from Sony and Barnes & Noble are called. Putting aside the nuts and bolts of publishing costs, I just don’t understand what the big deal is. If you want to read books on paper, then read books on paper. If you want to read ebooks, go right ahead. Can’t we all just get along?

One thing on which we can probably all agree is that the traditional publishing model is outdated and needs to be modernized. So, whichever tribe you belong to, you might find some humor in this tongue-in-cheek article from The Atlantic.

Alternatives to the Kindle and Sony Reader

posted July 28, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in E-books books publishing technology trends

I’m in the market for an electronic reader, and I’ve been looking at the Kindle and Sony Reader. They’re both well-built, attractive readers with lots of books to download. But, alas, they’re not perfect.

But are there other options? Well, yes. Here are a few that will be coming out soon.

Bebook 2

With both a touch screen like the Sony and a wireless connection like the Kindle, the Bebook 2 is one of the most advanced of the upcoming new readers. It’s produced by Endless Ideas in The Netherlands.

Cybook Opus

The Cybook Opus, made by the French company Bookeen, is one of the most stylish e-readers on the horizon. It also has an accelerometer.

Plastic Logic

If you want a lightweight reader with an 8 1/2 x 11 screen, this is it. Plastic Logic, a company founded in Cambridge, England, recently teamed up with Barnes & Noble, so there will be hundreds of thousands of books to download. Plastic Logic also makes flexible screens. One day you might be able to buy a reader that rolls up.


Editis Ebook

Okay, this one is a fantasy by Editis, a French publisher. But watch this short French film until at least 1:04, when the woman pulls out her magic orange reader. Thanks to the HarperStudio blog, where I first saw the film.

Re-Imagine Bookstores, Too?

posted June 23, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling books

It seems impossible that Shaman Drum Bookshop, which has been a part of the cultural/intellectual lifeblood of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for nearly 30 years, is closing its doors on June 30. Just as it seemed impossible a year ago that Cody’s Books, that legendary Berkeley institution, was really disappearing off the map. How is it that two such esteemed and longstanding independent bookstores, proximate as they were to two of the world’s most prestigious public universities (and all of the students, professors, and inordinately literate citizens who circulate through and surround them), could be rendered unsustainable?

From the backside: 
“We feel that a good bookshop
[like a shaman drum]
is another way of facilitating a change of consciousness.”

When Cody’s closed last June, Andy Ross, who owned the store from 1977 until 2006, recalled that when Cody’s was thriving (through the end of the 1980s), independent stores claimed 40 to 50 percent of the bookselling market; in the new era of Barnes and Noble and Amazon hegemony, however, the independents are down to about 3 percent. In An Open Letter from a Distressed Bookseller, issued in February, Shaman Drum owner Karl Pohrt explained that in an already unstable economic climate, the nail in the coffin for his bookstore came with the steep decline in textbook sales that resulted from a change last fall in university policy (requiring professors to post textbook ISBNs online a month before the start of classes, thus driving sales to online retailers). Even so, Pohrt acknowledged, “It has been clear to me for a while now that the current model doesn’t work.” As such, he concluded, “The question then becomes: What is the next version of a bookstore?”

After June 30 Pohrt will continue to promote literary discourse in Ann Arbor through the Great Lakes Literary Arts Center (GLLAC), a fledgling nonprofit (originally conceived as an outgrowth of Shaman Drum) that plans to provide a public forum for author readings, panel discussions, writing workshops, and other nonelectronic gatherings of people who are passionate about good writing.  As Carolyn Kellogg pointed out in her Jacket Copy post, however, even if the GLLAC fares well, “it still leaves the question of what role bookstores play in our communities today–and tomorrow.”  Looking ahead, Kellogg wondered, “Will our future literary lives be split between buying books online and hanging out at the local literary nonprofit?”

Baudelaire on Windows Mobile

posted June 18, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in books technology

Not everyone has an IPhone. It’s not even the best-selling smartphone brand (worldwide market shares are Nokia, 41 percent; Blackberry, 20 percent; Apple, 11 percent). So when the news arrived that IPhone owners could download Kindle books from, many people were left out.

Fortunately, until Kindle apps appear for other smartphones, there are good alternatives. Among the best are Mobipocket, a French company bought by Amazon in 2005, and eReader, owned by Barnes & Noble. Both have apps available for most smartphones, including my own, the Samsung Omnia, run on Windows Mobile.


I’ve been surprised by how pleasant and useful it is to read on a cell phone, despite the three-inch screen. Reading on my phone has been a slippery slope. It started with text messages, then e-mail, then the newspaper. When I signed up with Mobipocket, I decided I would start with a book of poems—short things to read when I was stuck somewhere and had nothing to do. With Mobipocket I was able to connect to the site and buy a book directly from my phone.

I love paper books, so in evaluating Mobipocket and eReader, the real test was whether I would use them. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. One evening at the grocery store, I found myself in the longest line of my life. I was stuck near the cosmetics and couldn’t even see the cashiers. As people grumbled around me, I decided this was the moment. I pulled out my phone. I opened up Les Fleurs du Mal. By the time I got a glimpse of the cash register, I had already read three curious, ecstatic poems by Baudelaire.