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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One thing on which we can probably all agree is that the traditional publishing model is outdated and needs to be modernized.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.

An iPad is an Apple. A Kindle is an Orange. What Is an Orizon?

posted February 19, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in E-books books technology


Inundated with a never-ending stream of tech news, it’s easy to confuse apples and oranges, so here’s a simple thing to keep in mind. The Amazon Kindle is an e-book reader. The iPad is a multipurpose tablet that can be used for many things, including reading.

In fact, the iPad doesn’t come with an e-reader app. If you want to read a book on it, you will have to download Apple’s iBooks app from its App Store. It will be interesting to see how many people will never bother to download the iBooks app and how many people will never use the iPad for book reading. It’s worth remembering this comment about the Kindle from Steve Jobs in the New York Times.

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

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The Latest in Library Science

posted September 8, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in books technology trends

 Cushing Academy, a prep school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, has decided that its traditional library is way too yesterday. As reported by the Boston Globe, Headmaster James Tracy believes paper books have become antiquated, in the way that scrolls once became obsolete with the advent of the printing press. What’s more, books take up too much space. So the 144-year-old institution is getting rid of its collection of more than 20,000 books, becoming one of the first schools in the nation to convert almost completely to digital media resources. “We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology,” Tracy said.

The Cushing library will be replaced by a $500,000 “learning center” that includes three large flat-screen TVs for projecting Internet-based information ($42,000); laptop-compatible study carrels ($20,000); and 18 electronic readers from Amazon and Sony ($10,000). Learning will also be facilitated by a $50,000 coffee shop (to be built in the spot where that old dinosaur, the reference desk, used to be) featuring a $12,000 espresso machine.

empty shelves

Outcry is not just from bibliophiles. Even many Kindle enthusiasts and other techy types are chagrined by the sweeping nature of the Cushing decision, wondering why the school could not have struck a balance between books and new media.

Notable among those who see the book purge as “a tremendous loss for students” is William Powers, media critic for the National Journal and author of “Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal” (a 75-page position paper written in 2006, when Powers was a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy).  In it he argues that paper is not just a vessel for content, or an old human habit, but rather a sophisticated technology that fosters a cognitive reading experience not available through electronic media. According to Powers,

There are modes of learning and thinking that at the moment are only available from actual books. There is a kind of deep-dive, meditative reading that’s almost impossible to do on a screen. Without books, students are more likely to do the grazing or quick reading that screens enable, rather than be by themselves with the author’s ideas.

I’m inclined to agree, but then I think you can hear music better on vinyl, too—while you sit on the couch admiring the artwork on the gatefold cover.

An eBook Reality Check

posted September 3, 2009

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

So much talk these days about ebooks. So much speculation, in both despair and excitement. Do we need a reality check?

Here are a few facts to keep in mind.

According to Bowker, in 2008 ebooks represented only 0.6 percent of all books sold in the United States. The majority of buyers were men, and more than half were between the ages of 18 and 34. This year ebook sales will still be less than 2 percent of the U.S. book market.

Here’s something else to ponder.

Most people prefer paper. According to a recent survey, only 37 percent of Americans are interested in buying an ereader. Here in France I’m often at the beach and see one person after another stetched out in the sun reading a paperback. Not an ereader in sight.

Yes, ebooks are likely a big part of publishing’s future, but for now dead-tree books, as some people disparagingly call them, are how almost everyone reads novels, biographies, cookbooks, self-help books, and titles in every other publishing category, and that’s not going to change overnight. For many people the battle between Amazon and Sony (and other smaller manufacturers) is taking place on some sparsely populated island of technogeeks.

Not to be insulting. I’m about to buy an ereader myself, and I’ve already picked out the first book I want to read on it (L’élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery, published by Les Editions Gallimard; in the United States The Elegance of a Hedgehog published by Europe Editions). But when I think of ebooks, I’m often reminded of this video, the funniest in my opinion of the mock battles produced by Green Apple Books.

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.