Classic Science Fiction Books on Audio, Kindle and Nook

First off, look at the PDF report I made:  Classics of Science Fiction on Audio, Kindle, and Nook.  [Excel version.] What I did was take the ranked list from the Classics of Science Fiction web site and make a spreadsheet adding columns for Audio, Kindle, Nook and In Print.  By “In Print” I meant there was a paper copy for sale.  I then looked for the books on Amazon, B&N and Audible.com web sites, marking their columns Yes or No.

The original Classics of Science Fiction list was pulled from a database of SF titles that had been recommended from 28 different sources.  The final list were all books that had been on at least 7 of the recommended lists.  What I wanted to know is how well these books are represented in ebook and audiobook editions.

Of the 193 titles, 143 can still be bought as old fashion books.  81 can be listened to as audio books, 69 read on the Kindle and 64 on the Nook.  So a little less than half are available as audio books, and about a third as ebooks.  That doesn’t sound too bad.

However, if you use just a Kindle for reading, two thirds are not available, so that does feel bad.  Or if you’re an audiobook fanatic, a little more than half are unavailable.

35 books were not available from any source and 35 books were available from all four sources.  I made the all sources blue, and the no sources red.  Some of the red books might be available from other sources like print on demand, for ebook readers other than Kindle or Nook, or even on the web as public domain. 

Many of the red titles were collections, so I don’t worry about them going out of print.  Often a writer’s short stories get recollected under new titles.  If I saw a new collection that appears to have most of the original stories I counted the old title as being in print.

What’s troublesome is the number of novels that are no longer available.  Should John Brunner’s Stand On Zanibar really be considered a classic if no one is selling it?  Some of these novels do come back into print every decade or so, so if this list was made again in a year it would all be different.  Yet, I would think with the advent of ebooks all books will become “in print” digitally.

Some of the short story collections really should be in print today because they are major collections that deserve to maintain their identity, such as:

  • Adventures in Time and Space edited by Healy & McComas
  • Before the Golden Age edited by Isaac Asimov
  • The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert A. Heinlein

Someday I might reevaluate this list and remove the books that people have obviously lost interest in, and remove most of the short story collections, and titles that really shouldn’t be listed as science fiction, like Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm.  They are on here because fans polls or critics included them, but I think they shouldn’t be.

I’m also surprised by how many famous SF books are not available on the Kindle or Nook.  Do some authors not like ebooks and refuse to let their work appear in digital editions, or are there legal problems, or do some publishers think ebooks compete too well with print editions?

What’s fascinating is some books are only available in audiobook editions, like The Lensman series from E. E. “Doc” Smith.

JWH – 9/4/10

Revised 9/5/10:  I replaced the reference to Frank Herbert’s Under Pressure to John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar because Chistopher Carey below pointed out that Under Pressure is also known as The Dragon in the Sea.  Thanks for that information.  I also found a little know hardback version of The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke.  I also added an Excel version because of a reader request.

I also changed the totals in various places.  I don’t know if it’s going to be practical to update the essay every time I update the spreadsheet/pdf report.

Ebook Economics

Big name authors are making ebook marketing deals like Open Road Integrated Media and Odyssey Editions, while Amazon claims they are selling more ebook titles than hardbacks.  Is there an ebook gold rush?  Is 2010 finally the year of the ebook?  I’m meeting more and more bookworms with Kindles and Nooks.  I ordered the new third generation Kindle the day it came out, and lucky for me, because it sold out in a matter of days.

If everyone reads on an ebook reader does that mean printed books will go extinct?

On several of my online book club groups we have been grumbling because of rising ebook prices.  Ebooks used to be like paperbacks – far less glamorous than hardback or trade editions.  After the Kindle came out, ebook editions started coming out concurrent with the hardback editions, but priced at $9.99.  Can you imagine in the old days if new books were published in hardback and mass market paperback on the same day?  Which would you have bought?

Are cheaper ebook editions published the same day as hardbacks too good to be true?

Publishers now want more money for ebooks because ebooks are replacing hardbacks, as well as trade and mass market editions.  It used to be you bought the expensive hardback because you wanted to be among the first to read a book.  Sure there are book collectors, but most people just give away their hardbacks when they finished them.  Publishers want the most money for a book when its new, even if its in a digital edition which has no collector value at all.

It’s now possible on Amazon to find Kindle editions more expensive than hardback editions?  WTF?  That doesn’t make sense, does it?  What will be the new cheap mass market paperback edition then?  If everyone reads ebooks will they slowly drop in price as their sales dwindle?  Instead of waiting for the paperback edition, people will wait for the $4.99 digital edition.

What does that mean for new book sales, used books and remaindered books?  It used to be if you waited a few months you could buy a new hardback marked down for a fraction of the original price.  $35 books would go for $7.99.  Or you could go to a used bookstore or a library book sale and get a copy even cheaper.

If a bestseller sells a millions digital copies, how many used and remaindered books will show up for sale?  Will physical books from before the ebook era become more valuable as less books are published on paper?  Or will people just prefer a Kindle edition?

I’m in four online book clubs and I try to read one or two each month.  Some books I can get at the library, but often I can’t.  My choice is to buy either new or used.  I can generally get used hardbacks cheaper than new mass market paperbacks.  But if I had a choice between a $5 used hardback and a $5 download I’m going to pick the download for the convenience.  However, if the choice is a $5 hardback or a $9.99 download my decision gets harder.  The idea of having a 3,500 book library on my Kindle is cool, but not when I think it will be $35,000.

I’ll never need 3,500 books on my Kindle.  I read about 50 books a year, and even if I live to be 90, that’s only about 1,600 books, but still $16,000 at $10 each.  I could save a lot of retirement money by going to the library or shopping for used editions.  But what if used editions disappear?

Here’s where the pricing of ebooks will effect me.  I want the latest yearly edition of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois.  At Amazon, it’s $26.40 for the hardback, $14.95 for the trade paper, and $9.99 for the Kindle.  If I wait it should show up at Edward R. Hamilton for $2.95-4.95.  Amazon has for years stopped me from buying it from my local bookseller because of the huge discount.  The trade paper is $21.99 locally.  If I want this year’s edition now, the ebook is $9.99, which is $12 cheaper (not counting tax) locally, or $5 cheaper from Amazon. That’s a pretty good deal.

But book publishers are balking at selling new books for $9.99.  If the Kindle edition was the same as the trade edition, wouldn’t it be logical to get the paper edition?  I could give it to a friend when I’m through, or donate it to the library.  But would I pay the same just for the convenience of having it on my Kindle?

Authors are flocking to agents to get special deals for their back list of books.  Royalty rates are 25-70% for ebooks compared to 8-12% for printed editions.  I wonder if writers would prefer to sell a million digital editions or a million hardbacks if they ended up making more on the digital edition.  I’m sure hardbacks will always be the most prestigious format.  Or will it matter?  I’ve bought hundreds of hardbacks I no longer own, maybe even over a thousand.

I’m starting to meet people that didn’t buy books before that are buying ebooks because they can read them on their iPhone.  That might be a novelty thing, or it might be a trend.  You have to carry your phone everywhere, but carrying a book everywhere can be a pain.  And if you are in the mood for a book and don’t want to wait for Amazon to mail you one, or find it at a local bookstore, will you just take the easy way out and buy a digital copy?

But look what happened to audiobooks.  Years ago about the only kind of audiobook that were for sale were miserable 2 and 4 cassette abridged editions that went for $25-35.  If you wanted unabridged editions you had to pay $50-$150 from a specialty seller.  Or rent them for $20-30.  Now I get digital audiobooks, unabridged for $9.56 apiece.  That’s how digital audiobooks have changed the economics.  But I buy my audiobooks from Audible.com (owned by Amazon.com) in 24 credit packs.  If I got them one a month they would be $16.  Audible is forced to sell a few titles for 2 credits per book, but I won’t buy those books.

You have to be crazy to buy CD audiobooks nowadays.

I’m thinking ebooks will shake out the regular book business too.  Non-fiction might hang in there because beautiful picture books look horrible on ebook readers, even the iPad.  Bookstores might focus on non-fiction.  And non-fiction books are the kind I like to see before I buy too.  I’m more likely to buy non-fiction locally, rather than order from Amazon.  Unless it’s $50 locally, and $22 from Amazon.

There are several economic revolutions going on at once with books.  When they come out with a digital ebook reader that makes non-fiction books look better than paper, that will cause another revolution, especially with textbooks.

Amazon is making deals with writers to sell classic old books for $9.99 for the Kindle.  Here’s a list of some titles to consider.  These are famous literary titles like Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie or The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer.  $9.99 seems too high for these old titles.  But the cheapest paperback of the Mailer book is $12.24.  Amazon also sells used paper editions starting at $4.86, but most sellers want $3.99 shipping. 

Thus $9.99 becomes a very interesting price point.  It’s cheaper than new paper, but slightly more expensive than used paper, but it conveniently goes on the Kindle.   If I searched around at used bookstores I might find a copy for $2-3.  But if I buy the $9.99 copy, Mailer’s estate gets a royalty, and Amazon and the publisher make money.  It stimulates the economy.  Plus it will sit patiently in my Kindle library not taking up any shelf space, not requiring any effort to move if I move, so it’s sort of appealing at $9.99.

Will low price and convenience kill off printed fiction?  But then, with ebooks, fiction should never go out of print.  In the end I predict ebooks will kill off the mass market paperback, seriously hurt sales of the trade edition, and hardback sales will be geared towards book collectors and libraries.  Slowly, the used book trade will retool for selling to collectors.  I think new books will sell for more than $9.99, that books that were sold as trade editions will sell for $9.99, and that as sales fall off ebooks will migrated down in price to be lower than the average cost of today’s mass market book.  We’ll eventually see $.99 – $2.99 specials.

JWH – 8/10/10

How Kindle and Nook Can Better Compete With The iPad

Last weekend I wrote “To Ebook or Not To Ebook” and I’m still agonizing over which ebook reader to get.  There are two main issues I’m still worrying over.  First, which book is the most comfortable to read for long periods, and second, which ebook reader is the most universal in terms of buying ebooks.  I imagine the light E-Ink readers, the Nook and Kindle, are easier to hold for long periods of time, but it’s obvious the iPad can read books from Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and many other smaller ebook sellers.  The iPad is almost the universal ebook reader and I’m leaning towards buying it.

My need for reading comfort might put me in a limited market so my buying desires are of less concern to ebook engineers, but I wished they’d consider them.  I have bad eyes, and back problems that make it uncomfortable to sit long in one position, and an arm problem that makes holding a book pain inducing over time.  I’m getting old and wimpy.  I’d love to sit and read for hours like I used to, but it’s a struggle.  That’s why I fear the iPad – many reviewers have complained its difficult to hold for lengthy reading sessions.

And, besides that, I don’t want Apple to just crush the competition, so how could the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony ereaders better compete with the iPad?

Universal Reader

First off, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders should make a cross license deal to display each other’s DRM material.  That way any Kindle, Nook or Kobo owner could buy and read books from all the leading booksellers.  The obvious solution would be a universal ebook format and DRM, but that might take years to hammer out.  It might be easier to add competitor’s software to each others readers.  Obviously, the iPad does it with ease.

The reason why I’m leaning towards the iPad is because I can buy books from all the major ebook retailers and read it on the iPad.  If the E-Ink readers want to compete they need to do the same thing.  It was foolish of Amazon to start the trend for proprietary readers.

Add a Handle with Trigger

The second way to compete with the iPad is make the E-Ink readers even more svelte and easier to hold.  I wished they came with a detachable handle so the ebook reader would look something like a church fan.  A nice handgrip with a trigger to page forward would make holding an ebook reader nicer, and make the page turning more convenient.  You can leave the back page button on the reader because it wouldn’t be needed that often.  I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine a handgrip handle would be more comfortable to hold than holding the ebook reader like a book. 

I’m talking about making the device comfortable for reading 8 hours at a stretch.  This is where the iPad is weak.

The Third Option

I’ve even thought of another option, but this one by-passes the E-Ink technology.  Keep the books in the handle and beam the content to a pair of special glasses via Bluetooth.  I wonder if it’s possible to make a pair of glasses that displays words that are even easier to read, something that helps the reader tune out the world and become one with the word.  In the music world we’ve moved the speakers into the ears, why not move the page right in front of the eyes?

Why Reading is Specialized

iPad fans lord their gadgets over the E-Ink readers claiming its a universal solution.  They ask why anyone would want a specialized device when one device, the iPad, can do so much.  I think the iPad is a revolutionary device, it moves the computer screen off the desk or lap and into the hands where it makes a big functional difference.  But is that the ultimate location?  And is it the right weight and form factor?

Bookworms like to read for hours on end, and the ultimate ebook reader will cater to that need.  I tend to believe the lower weight of the E-Ink technology gives it a chance to compete with the more glamorous and universal device of the iPad if they are optimized for streamline reading of text.

Many bloggers and journalists have written about the approaching doom for the E-Ink reader, but I tend to doubt those predictions.  That doesn’t mean I won’t buy an iPad any day now, but it also doesn’t mean I won’t buy a Kindle 3 when it comes out.  The new Pearl E-Ink technology is appealing.  It just galls me to think about buying ebook reader that can’t read all ebooks.

The Deciding Factor

To be honest, the universal ebook reader of the iPad sways me more than comfort of the smaller E-Ink technology readers, and I’ll probably buy an iPad for now.  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t buy an E-Ink reader too, especially if they become a universal reader.  I’m greatly disappointed that most books I’m reading right now aren’t available for any ebook reader.  That sucks.  But we’re living in transitional times for books and times will change soon.

JWH 7/4/10

To Ebook or Not To Ebook

This week Barnes & Noble lowered their price for the Nook to $199, and came out with a Wi-Fi only model for $149, and on the same day Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle to $189.  Unfortunately, the iPad remains $499.  Once again I’m thinking about buying an ebook reader, but there are so many things to consider that I’m left undecided.

For instanced, I’ve been to three local bookstores trying to find a copy of Texasville by Larry McMurtry without coming home with a book to read.  If I had an ebook reader, either Nook or Kindle, I could have started reading it immediately after realizing I wanted it.

Score 1 for ebooks.  If the book is available ebook readers win on instant gratification.

Score 1 for paper.  On the other hand, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell the ebook edition of Texasville for about the same price as the trade paperback edition, so I wouldn’t have saved any money towards paying back the investment of $149, $189 or $499.  Why buy an ebook when the real book is the same price?  I could read the real book and give it away or sell it, which I can’t with an ebook. 

Score 1 for paper.  I just ordered Texasville as a used hardback for 1 cent and $3.99 postage.  You can get used books but not used ebooks.

Score 1 for ebooks. If I had bought the ebook edition of Texasville, Larry McMurtry would have been paid.  Buying used cuts out the author.  If all books sold were ebooks then writers will always get their cut.

Score 1 for paper.  If everyone buys ebooks bookstores will go out of business, now that would suck, wouldn’t it?

Score 1 for ebooks. The price of The End of Biblical Studies is significantly cheaper for the ebook edition.  It’s $21.77 for paper and $9.99 for the Kindle, but it’s not available for the Nook.  Bummer, because I was thinking about getting the $149 Nook.  But that’s $11.78 I could apply towards the iPad, since it does have Kindle and Nook reader software.

Score 1 for paper.  I’m going down my Amazon Wish List to test things, and it’s score another point for paper, because The Year’s Best Science Fiction 2010 is not available for ebook readers.  Actually, paper will score many points here because many books on my Wish List aren’t available in an ebook edition.  That will change.

Score 1 for iPads.  There are books that are available for the Kindle but not the Nook, and other books like Darwin’s Armada that’s available on the Nook, but not the Kindle.  The iPad has software readers for most dedicated ebook readers.  But $149 + $189 is still cheaper than $499.

Score 1 for ebooks because they offer large print and that makes reading easier for me.

Score 1 for ebooks because they are environmental friendly.

Score 1 for paper because I can share books, give them away or sell them.

Score 1 for ebooks because they are easier to hold.

Score 1 for paper to save money.  By buying used, going to the library, getting books off the free table at work or borrowing books from friends I could significantly reduce my annual reading budget.  It’s even possible to spend no money on reading if I stuck with paper.

Score 1 for ebooks because they stimulate the economy.  Not only do you need to buy an ebook reader, but you have to pay for all your new books.  This is bad for libraries and bookstores, but great for publishers, writers and the economy.  The move to a Green Economy means creating as many environmental friendly jobs as possible.

Score 1 for iPads because they are good for magazine reading.

That’s 6 for paper and 9 for ebooks, with a leaning towards the iPad.  I’m leery of spending $499 for the iPad.  I spent $199 for the iPod touch and $399 for a Toshiba netbook and really don’t use either.  I’d hate to spend another $499 for another gadget I’d end up not using too.  But I’m wanting to read more but I can’t because small print strains my eyes.  An ebook reader promises help for this handicap.

Finally, my stand on giving up paper means I don’t read magazines like I used to, and I miss that.  I can read magazine articles online from my computer desk, but that’s not the most comfortable way to read for fun.  The iPad “appears” to offer a better solution, but I won’t know until I bet my $499.

I look at my wall of books next to my computer desk and I wonder what life would be like if all those books were inside an ebook reader.  Many of them are reference books with photos, drawings and diagrams – so I can only imagine those working on an iPad. 

I had to move my wall of books when we put down new flooring and all of those books were very heavy and hard to move.  It would be strange to hold all of them in one small device.

If I was born in a future age of ebooks, would my ebook reader at age 58 hold every book I had ever read?  That’s a weird thought.  Writing this is making me lean towards buying the iPad, and maybe even spending $599 to get the 32gb model, although I’m also tempted to hang onto paper for just a while longer until the iPad 2 comes out next year.

I keep thinking of more things to consider.  Will I take my expensive iPad into the bathroom to read?  If there are four best of the year SF anthologies to consider and only two of them are sold in ebook editions, will that force my buying decision?  Will I choose Dozois and Hartwell over Horton and Strahan because they don’t have ebook editions?

Once I buy an iPad will that make me prejudice against books that don’t have ebook editions?  It’s like my friend who took a rotary phone to show his fifth grade class and one girl asked “How do you send text messages?”  If I get used to an ebook reader and then pick up a book, will I think, “Where’s the button to change the font size?”

JWH – 6/27/10

Lightspeed – A new science fiction ezine

Lightspeed is a new online science fiction magazine edited by John Joseph Adams.  Adams was an editor for the print magazine F&SF for nine years, as well as ongoing editor of many exciting theme anthologies, so he has lots of experience looking for good SF stories.  It’s an exciting time for short story writers as they transition to online and ebook markets.  Lightspeed is a good looking site, offering a number of innovative options, including audio versions of stories, as well as the ability to purchase issues in a variety of ebook formats, including Kindle, iBook, ePub and Mobipocket.

Lightspeed

Reading Lightspeed online is apparently free, with “Our regular publication schedule each month includes two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with four nonfiction articles. Fiction posts on Tuesdays, nonfiction on Thursdays,” but you can buy the entire monthly issue for reading immediately on your ebook reader for $2.99.

I tried to buy the first issue online, with the hope of using PayPal, but aborted my order when asked for my address and no payment method was stated.  Since they take donations via PayPal that might be an option.  It would be nice if that information was at the top of the checkout page.

I’m thinking about buying an iPad, so I’m looking forward to seeing Lightspeed on the beautiful iPad screen.  I also discovered I can buy Lightspeed as a Kindle edition through Amazon and read it on my Kindle Reader for my iPod touch, so I purchased it that way for now.  That took less than 30 seconds, and maybe less than 15.  I wish all ebook magazines were this easy to get, and $2.99 is a very fair price I think.

I’m glad I didn’t buy the first issue online now because I would have had the hassle of downloading it to my computer, importing it into Stanza Desktop, and then going to my iPod touch and copying it over by WiFi.  The Amazon method was much more direct. 

So if you’re an ebook reader, check your different ebook stores for Lightspeed.  It would be helpful if the Lightspeed site had a page about all the various ways to get it on your ebook reader program and device.  This magazine is perfect for the iPhone crowd, and it would be extremely cool to see them combine their print and audio editions into an iPhone App.

I hope Lightspeed plans to distribute with Fictionwise because they are great at selling editions for almost any kind of ebook reading device, and they are a great site for getting all the major science fiction magazines in ebook editions.

Ebook editions might be the future of science fiction magazines.

JWH – 6/6/10

Books versus Ebooks

I love science fiction and futuristic ideas.  I love computers and neat gadgets.  I love reading.  So, you’d think I’d love ebook readers.  I’ve owned several, including a Kindle, but I’ve sold or given them away.  I’m still anxious to have another ebook reader, but I’m not so much waiting for the ultimate ebook reader as I’m waiting for the revolution in publishing that will create super-books that have to be read on an ebook reader.  Right now ebook readers have a few conveniences that might appeal to some bookworms, like being able to change the font size, carry many books around at once, going green and saving trees, but for the most part, reading an ebook isn’t different from reading an old fashion book.

What I want is an ebook like the magical books we see in Harry Potter movies, where the pages have moving photos and words and letters dance with animation.  I love reading about science and history and I believe that adding multimedia to the words I read would create a quantum leap in learning fun.  Actually, web pages are heading more in this direction than ebook pages.  Take for instance my blog here.  I can add videos, photos, maps, music to my page to spice it up.  I can link to other pages all over the web.  These additions are still clunky, so the page isn’t seamlessly animated like a book in a Harry Potter story, but I’m sure WordPress.com is working on that.

Last year I was at a book giveaway where I picked up several modern high school textbooks.  They were stunning productions, taking the potential of the printed page further than I’ve ever seen before.  No current ebook reader can come close to duplicating what they can.  If the iPad had a 15” screen it could, and if the layout was adapted, its 9.7” screen, it could theoretically compete well.  The iPad represents a new generation of ebook readers, and it has the potential for being a fantastic device.  Will it become the fabled Dynabook, we’ll have to wait and see.  Tablet computers have been around for awhile, but no one has really programmed the content to showcase the design.  The iPhone is a huge success because programmers maximized the design of their networked programs for the 3.5” screen.

Whether writers and publishers jump on the tablet ebook potential is a whole other story.  I was thinking about buying a Kindle 2 or a Sony ebook reader, but after seeing the iPad I doubt I will.  The iPad’s larger full color screen, able to show high definition video, play sound, and computer animation makes me think I could have a Harry Potter magical book.  But remember, the iPad is worthless without the content.  I’m surprised Steve Jobs didn’t commission a writer to produce an ebook that showcased the iPad’s real potential.  If I was just going to read novels, I’d get a Kindle.

I recently reviewed The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong.  It has 34 pages of footnote citations.  I own this book in hardback and unabridged audio.  I’d like to have an iPad edition that has both the text and audio narration built in, and hyperlinks to the full pertinent portion of the texts to all the footnote references.  Armstrong summarizes the work of hundreds of individuals over thousands of years.  I’d like links to their original work (it should all be in the public domain).  Also, if her research for the book included documentaries and interviews, I’d like the videos and sound recordings added.

But most of all I’d want two extras that I haven’t seen before, even on the web.  First, since the book is about The Bible, I’d like her annotation of The Bible presented and for each verse I tap with my finger I’d want Armstrong’s text related to that passage, and a listing of links to all the people who offered commentary on that verse that Armstrong reviewed.  Second, I want a time-line.  Armstrong is summarizing thousands of years, so I’d like a year by year listing of when various portions of The Bible was written, related history happened, or commentary took place.  That way I could read the text of Armstrong’s book in three orders:  As it was published in print, in time order, and in Bible passage order.

I’m sure other people can think of other features to add to this super-book version.  For example, having a fun trivia type game to test me on content would be an another extra feature.  Hell, another cool idea just popped into my mind.  Since The Bible has spawned endless denominations of Judaism and Christianity, I’d like a family tree of denominations showing how each sect got started and by whom.  All the philosophers and theologians Armstrong mentions created a spider web of interconnected ideas, with many branches forming new churches.

Essentially what I’m asking for is what’s already in the book that Armstrong wrote and her notes, annotated with what she read and studied to write the book.  I’m just asking to see the same information from a variety of angles, and to follow different paths through the information.  For example, Armstrong gives us a taste for many Christian thinkers, like Origen, but because her book is short, she flies by these philosophers rather fast.  Including the Wikipedia entry for each person mentioned would also be helpful.  This is the second book I finished this month that mentions the Christian theologian and heretic Origen, the other being The Rise and Fall of Alexandria by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid.  Neither paint him as well as his Wikipedia entry.

This would not be practical as a printed book.  I’m not even sure if EPUB formatting can handle it.  But when publishers start selling books like this, then people will see the obvious value of an ebook reader like the iPad.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the iPad is special.  I think HP, Asus, Acer, Toshiba, Samsung, MSI and other computer makers will quickly take over the market and create iPad like devices that are better and cheaper.  They might all be called iPads, like all copiers are called Xerox machines.

Ebooks should revolutionize the textbook and non-fiction book industry.  Each book should have multiple ways to read through the content, and reading might take place with the eyes or ears or both.  Can you imagine a fully multimedia math book?  Or what about textbooks for studying French and Spanish?  What about a detailed history of astronomy?

So far I’ve been talking about super-books.  But what if a publisher took the 10 best books on a subject, like The Bible, and blended them together to for a super-super-book?  Certain books would have fantastic synergy is woven together.  This would be perfect for college courses too.  Also, use the same techniques to annotate fiction.  Imagine what could be done with On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

The reason why ebook readers haven’t been convincing buys to many bookworms yet, is because they haven’t presented the potential of Reading 2.0.  Or is it Reading 14.0 by now?

JWH – 1/31/10

Libraries in the Age of iPads

If everyone owned an iPad would we need libraries?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the demolition of libraries, but with the advent of the internet and ebooks talk about the death of newspapers, magazines and books get more common every year.  If we don’t need those physical objects anymore, why do we need a building and institution to maintain them?  Think about it.  If books, magazines and newspapers disappear from our houses and move into Kindles, Nooks, and iPads, why would we go to the library?  Why would we go to bookstores, new or used? 

Modern libraries are about more than books, patrons also check out movies, audiobooks, music, and periodicals.  But all of those media types are now available on the iPad.  I know older people who grew up with libraries will immediate protest, but remember, us older folk are a dying breed and the up and coming generations are gadget afflicted.

Libraries used to be storehouses of knowledge and librarians worked to collect and preserve the printed word.  That’s still true of academic libraries, but public libraries have moved into an era of supplying what their patrons want, so as soon as a book is ignored for a specific period of time, it gets jettisoned from the collection.  Most people think of libraries as free books, free movies, free music albums, and free magazines and newspapers.  I think a lot of people think we should have libraries to provide a cultural outlet for the poor.  But the internet provides more free stuff to read and watch.

The death of libraries is pretty much unthinkable now, but don’t be surprise when city bean counters start making suggestions about closing them.  I grew up  loving libraries, and even worked in public and academic libraries.  They don’t seem as crowded with patrons as they used be.  I hardly go to the library anymore myself, not since the internet.  I saw the video of Steve Jobs presenting the iPad and showing off its ebook features and it struck me that devices like the iPad will be the library of the future.  When I was growing up futurists would talk about having a handheld device with the Library of Congress in it.  We’re getting spookily close, aren’t we?

The book is evolving too.  When it escapes the limitation of the page, adding multimedia and hypertext the book will no longer fit on a library shelf.  Printed books, newspapers and magazines might become extinct, but imagine what will replace them.  There is no reason to make a distinction between newspapers and magazines anymore.  That might become true for books and novels too.  Newspapers used to be frequently published information printed on cheap paper.  Magazines and journals had longer periods between publication and were printed on better paper, suitable for long term storage in libraries. 

The electronic page is not limited by time, paper quality or cost of printing.  Newspapers and magazines use to be text plus photographs.  Electronic publication is text plus photographs, video, sound recording, animation and other multimedia.  Go look at the iPad video and tell me if kids will even want to go to the library or read books and magazines.  And what about you?

ipad

I like the name iPad, just one vowel different from the iPod, but many of my friends have expressed a dislike for the name, and some of my women friends tell me the name brings up bad connotations with them.  I think Steve Jobs should have named it the iLibrary.

JWH – 1/28/10