Forgive the cliché, but it seems the one constant in the realm of publishing these days is change. Every day brings at least one new story about digital publishing and ereader technology, but today two especially interesting ones came to my attention.
Branded e-bookstores coming to Germany. One of the reasons independent booksellers have trouble breaking into the ebook market is a lack of branded eBookstores or e-readers. (OK, there's Google's eBookstore, which independent booksellers can use to create their own stores, but just try shopping there directly from your Nook or Kindle!) A German company plans to help independent bookstores sell iRiver Story HD readers that are linked to their own eBookstores. Will it be a hit? Will there be a similar service stateside? I'm probably not the only one eager to find out. If your local independent bookstore sold a branded ereader, would you buy it?
Ask an author on your Kindle. Amazon has rolled out a new Kindle feature that allows you to ask an author questions about their book. The answers will appear on Twitter and on the author's Amazon page. Currently in Beta, the feature is only available for a handful of writers (photos here) but it has interesting ramifications for the business (and, possibly, for authors' productivity). So far, there haven't been many questions posted to the authors' pages, though I'm sure that will change. Whether the questions will be interesting to other readers or the authors themselves remains to be seen.
Anyone else a tech news junkie? What am I missing?
At BookPage, we have a Nook Color and a Kindle at our office, both of which I have used extensively. And I usually have a book or two on my iPhone. I like the convenience of reading digitally enough to consider purchasing a dedicated e-reader of my own. But I've been hesitant to take the plunge. A recent essay by Mark O'Connell on The Millions does a beautiful job of explaining some of the conflicts a reader might feel when going digital. First, he outlines the positives.
There is, obviously, something to be said for being able to walk around with the complete works of Tolstoy on your person at all times without fear of collapsed vertebrae or public ridicule. There is also, just as obviously, something to be said for having immediate access to a vast, intangible warehouse of books from which you can choose, on a whim, to purchase anything and begin reading it straight away.
No page is its first page; no page is its last. . . . [I]t has the uncanny, shape-shifting potential to encompass all of them, to embody them all both individually and as a whole. Unsettlingly, it makes all those other books appear suddenly unnecessary, superfluous, seeming to haunt them with the imminent prospect of their own redundancy.
The piece gradually evolves into a sort of elegy for the book.
The insatiable desire for ever more and ever newer forms of convenience that drives our global economy and our technological culture leaves a scattered trail of obsolescence in its wake. As much as I don’t want my bookshelves to become part of this trail of obsolescence, I can already see early warning signs of my own desire for convenience — for instantly getting what I want, for not having to deal with mere objects in all their cumbersome actuality — beginning to outrank my love of the book as a physical thing.
I could go on quoting, but you should really click over and read the whole piece.
Overall I don't think that ebooks are a bad thing—as one of the many intelligent comments on O'Connell's essay points out, for one, they have the potential to offer many more people access to many more books (provided they can spring for a digital device to read them on). And hey, if you're really nostalgic for the book form, you can purchase a beautiful vintage book e-reader cover, which, as the seller says, "shows you still appreciate the real thing!"
Where do you stand on the digital divide?
p.s. Today is Borges' 112th birthday -- check out the Google doodle.
We want to hear from our blog readers, too . . . fill out this survey about how you read, and we'll report back on The Book Case with the results in a couple of weeks.
For the record: Although I'm a blogger and love multimedia platforms, I'm still reading on dead trees. But ask me again in May after my 10-day trip to Argentina. I may cave after trying to fit 15 books in a carry-on suitcase.
The device will now come in two colors -- white and graphite -- and prices start at just $139 for the wireless-only version. (The WiFi and 3G version is still $189). This is a dramatic price cut for a device that cost $259 just a few months ago.
The new Kindle ships August 27.
Other changes: a smaller size (with the same 6-inch reading area), lighter weight of 8.5 oz, better contrast and an astounding one-month battery life. No word on whether the lag time between "pages," my one major issue with the Kindle 2, has been improved, however.*
Critics might ask why the web browser is still described as "experimental" or why they're not interested in accommodating or developing multimedia e-books, but I think Bezos is right to focus on building the best reading device he can instead of trying to compete with devices like the iPad.
Perhaps I need to forget about the iPod Touch I'd been saving for and get a Kindle of my own? Then again, the advances in e-readers are coming so hot and fast that it might be worth my while to hold out for $99 or less.
Anyone tempted to finally take the plunge and buy the new Kindle?
*ETA: Publisher's Lunch mentions "20 percent faster page turns" but I haven't seen this noted elsewhere.
Anne Rice has become the latest author to release a "Vook" (see an earlier post about Vooks here). She's chosen an out-of-print short story, set in 1888 London, to republish in the new digital format. "The Master of Rampling Gate" is selling for just 99 cents right now (regular price $4.99), and I have to admit the preview, which includes one of the accompanying videos, is pretty interesting (not least for the revelation that such a thing as a "Gothic historian" exists).
You can choose among three views: just the text, just the videos, or a mix of both.
Throughout the text you can click on words and be taken to Wikipedia links explaining them, just in case you don't have a visual reference for "mullioned windows" or "Victoria Station."
I'm curious to see what kind of a response you readers have to something like this. Interested, or not a chance? At 99 cents I am tempted to give it a try, although Vooks don't seem quite as impressive after Penguin's announcement yesterday of their ebook vision for the iPad (I want that travel guide!).
After the jump, the YouTube trailer for "The Master of Rampling Gate" and an embed of the Penguin UK presentation (via).
Media coverage of twitter—which was ubiquitous when they discovered it earlier this year and hasn't let up much since—tends to focus on the sensational. Like Senators caught tweeting during a presidential address. Or celebs using Twitter to to break up. But there's a very interesting literary community out there expressing themselves in 140 characters or less. Including, of course, BookPage (@BookPage). At any moment, booklovers are tweeting out book news and links to articles or blog posts you'll want to read, announcing giveaways or just discussing the latest bestseller.
Excellent newbie guides to Twitter have already been written, so in honor of Follow Friday, after the jump we'll share a few of our favorite tweeters and keywords (aka hashtags) to get you started in the Twitter community. This being the end of a long week I'm sure to have left someone out, so please add to the list—or share your own Twitter name—in the comments!
People/publishers to follow
@Maud Newton (of Maud Newton)
@mikecane (ebook news and opinion)
@RonHogan (of GalleyCat)
@[your favorite author—they're probably on there!]
(enter these into the search field to find every tweet using that tag)
#fridayreads (on Friday afternoons, learn what everyone plans to read over the weekend)
#litchat (afternoon book discussion)
#reading (to see what people are reading anytime)
#tbc (the twitter book club! They're currently reading Zoe Heller's The Believers.)
You can also use hashtags like #bouchercon and #romcon to track current or upcoming book events.