Wednesday, March 2, 2011

EBOOKS OR NO?


Hi folks,

Thought I’d change it up a bit and see what people’s opinions are on ebooks. I recently visited Helen Ginger’s blog where she talked about libraries making available for loan books on e-readers. You can see her post at:


Helen wanted to know what people thought about libraries making ebooks available for loans to patrons. Here’s my reply:

Helen, I agree (partially) with the bookstore owner who said: “There's always going to be a certain percentage of people that want their hands on a paper page… They want to be able to lay in bed and read their book--they want to be able to feel that page and turn that page."

I agree that there are always going to be a certain percentage of people who want their hands on a paper page... although, as the population shifts in age, that demographic will shrink... but I disagree in part with the portion of his/her statement where he said folks will want to be able to lay in bed and read their book. The truth is, it's just as easy, if not even easier, to read a Kindle in bed, especially if you furnish it with a light. Even without a light, it's just as easy and perhaps even more so to read a Kindle in bed than an actual book. You don't have to worry about the pages flipping over and losing your place, etc.

I fought the ebook revolution for a long time--thinking nothing could replace books--but since using my Kindle, have found I not only buy even more books (from an average of 2 books a week, I'm up to almost an average of 4--but it's infinitely easier to carry around and read in all kinds of places than an actual book. Like it or not, I think it's here to stay and increasingly, more and more people will gravitate toward ebook readers. Print won't disappear, and I think a time will come when the percentages of each will "settle into place," but it will take over more and more of the market. Print will always be here in one form or another, as there are many advantages of print that electronic versions can't satisfy and won't be able to in the foreseeable future--for instance, I mark books up for learning purposes (writing techniques) and while it's possible to skip around on a Kindle, it's also a lot of trouble to do so at the present time. When they come up with a way to turn down corners to mark places to go to quickly, that will be a big plus. There are other areas ebooks don't currently work as well as print, but I imagine they'll figure out ways to make them even more convenient in the future.

What do y’all think?

I’d love to see comments/opinions on any of the following areas:

1. Do you think ebooks will ever take over the lion’s share of the reading experience…

            A. For fiction?

            B. For nonfiction?

2. Do ebooks benefit writers or harm them?

3. Will ebooks eventually result in more readers or less?

4. What are the advantages of…

            A. Print over ebooks?

            B. Ebooks over print?

5. What, if anything, would convince you to buy ebooks over printed novels/books if you don’t currently?

6. Any other thoughts on ebooks vs print?

I think it will be interesting to see what people think about this.

Blue skies,
Les

P.S. I'm well aware that I'm kind of late to this party. Kazillions and even dozens of blogs have talked about this stuff. But, just curious what you folks think, especially if you've changed your mind about ebooks. Next time, I'll talk about the effect the recent comet had on our dinosaur friends... Is this the end of Tyrannosaurus Rex as we know that lil' guy? Is that new thing they're calling "the wheel" going to last or is it just a fad? Other up-to-date, late-breaking news like that...

14 comments:

Raquel Byrnes said...

I think eBooks benefit new writers like the science fiction/horror magazines used to in years past. Many a break out novelist got their start as a serial writer or short fiction contributor to those magazines. They weren't paid much, but given an opportunity to get their work out there.

With eBooks, the low initial cost and agile pricing feature gives newbie writers a chance to get their stuff out there.

However, the lack of editorial staff can be a killer. If you don't pay for a professional to look over your stuff they you could hurt rather than hinder your career by putting something out there that isn't market ready.

In my humble opinion...eBooks are a good thing.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hi, Les

Like you, I fought the ebook wave for quite a while. However, I finally broke down and tried a Kindle--and I love it! I love its portability, its ease of use, its highlighter function, and how quickly I can get a book I want. I've never been good at patience. LOL

I agree with you that eventually print and ebooks will find their niche and settle in, but I don't think electronics are going anywhere--especially with the younger techno generation. I also don't think it will hurt writers too much in the long run. Prices are already starting to balance more. The ebook version of many popular new releases is $10.99 now, which is very close to the pre-order and sale price of the hardbacks.

It's easy to hesitate on principle because we love books so much, but as more people try the ereaders, more will be hooked.

Ann Best said...

I'm 70. It's not easy to change at this age. But, I love my Nook. Everything you say here applies! It's easier on my eyes, too. I LOVE it. But I think print books will still be around, for some kinds of books. It'll definitely be interesting to see what happens in, say, the next five years. I hope I'll live that long!
Ann Best, Long Journey Home

Helen Ginger said...

Les, I have a feeling a lot of people are like me. I originally thought I would never read an ebook. I love print books. Then my husband got an iPad. It's easy for him to slip into his briefcase when he travels and he always has a book or two waiting on this virtual shelf. He reads more now than he did before the iPad.

He's an early riser and one thing I love is coming downstairs in the morning and seeing him sitting in the dark reading by the light of his iPad.

I think I will get an eReader. I'd love the iPad (my DH uses his as a mini computer, as well as an eReader), but it's so expensive and I'm a penny pincher. But I do want to try one out.

As to your 6 questions:
1. At the moment, I think they're used mostly for fiction, but I can see them being used for nonfiction, esp for college students.

2. eBooks are beneficial to writers. It's another outlet for our books.

3. More readers.

4. People keep saying that an eReader can be slipped into a purse, but they can also be slipped into a briefcase. And you always have a book ready to read.

5. All I need is an eReader and I'll start reading eBooks.

6. At this point I don't see print books disappearing, but they may become more uncommon as the years go by.

Helen Ginger said...

Good gracious, Les! My apologies. I didn't realize my comment ran so long, until it posted.

Alice said...

My daughter sent me a nook for Valentines. I didn't think I would ever want one either. I love it. I do still like a real book. Especially my books on how to write. But I have a couple of them in my Nook. The biggest thing that bugs me is the battery does not last as long as they claim. Of course I read for hours when I am reading. I'll read till I finish, and end up at the kitchen table with the nook plugged in. (not exactly comfortable)

I do believe that e-readers will eventually dominate the market. However, how do we get an author signed copy? Huh?

Actual books will be an indulgence, a luxury. Although, in all honesty except for the shipping cost I don't see a big difference in price for an e-book. I guess the price of the e-reader makes up for that. But I love getting a book in an instant and sitting on my ass to get it.

Also, living in a motor home limits my space for books, especially with my sewing machine, fabric, patterns and the rest that goes with it. I think I have more cupboards and bins underneath filled with my stuff than my hubbys got.

Another thing that bugs me, most people send a link to Amazon for a book. I used to buy from Borders till I got my nook. What is so damn great about Amazon? How about some links to Barnes and Noble?

Okay, I'm done. We got Blue Skies here in Florida.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I'm an eBook gal. I'd be a hypocrite, since both my releases, and my two forthcoming, will be primarily eBooks (one will be print, too.) I also have edited an online magazine for 5 years and we have people asking us for it on Kindle. (Might go there. Might.)

I read downloaded books on my iPad all the time. I like my 1200 page fantasies. And you know what? They don't weigh any more than a small paperback or Facebook does on my iPad.

But here's the clincher: my daughter has some vision issues. She was reading my old, tattered, childhood copy of Narnia. She didn't really like reading it much, though she loves the story. She commented offhand that the print was really small. So I downloaded the book for her and she's reading it in inch-sized font with color illustrations and constantly ASKS to read it. She's now bolting through the book.

IMO, all textbooks should be available in eBook (save the poor kids' backs) and paper. My 12 yr old son has a terrible time with handwriting. Next year he'll likely be carrying a small laptop to class. It'd be super cool if all his texts were on it as well, eh?

I have a friend who's a 27 yr old college student. We just discussed this. The idea of reading through an entire textbook is completely foreign to him. There's simply too much information. So he goes to what best applies, with some diversions (think coursing through websites with links and following your own path of interest and need through the links). My son never cracks text books. When he does his research, it's all online, like mine. He's even learned to not trust Wikipedia! (Good lad) My prediction is by the time he graduates, all books will be online or in eBook version. I think academia is slow and publishers make a shitload on textbooks. Kids in college spend upwards of 1000-2k on textbooks per semester now! It's my belief eBook pricing will bring that down to something reasonable, and it'll be so easy to have absolutely up to date information.

Fictionwise, my prediction is that soon, sooner than five years and maybe by next year since the economy still sucks, most books will have to prove themselves electronically before going into print. My publisher has already gone this direction. They have a print option with a clause stating how I can force it (me making the investment in it. I'm cool with that; I need paper books for cons and it's a small investment to make for the success of my book and series.) I expect primary sales will be in eBook.

I'm not anti paper book (Just bought 15 of them last night, in fact, and I have a 500+ library in my office.) But no matter how the big publishers like to spin it, eBooks are so much cheaper to produce it's a no-brainer. Hell, if it costs as much as some of them claim, they're doin' it wrong!

I'm not big into self-pubbing because by far most of it is utter crap. I still think stuff should be vetted by editors. Even Joe Konrath, who is the biggest proponent of them all, has the numbers to prove it, and claims to get help with editing, isn't turning out perfect products. If he can't after so many books, why would some newbie?

I'm a big "time in the trenches" girl (Joe's numbers are astounding, but he spent a long time in the trenches), and self-pubbing trunk novels is not doing time in the trenches. If you can't take receiving hundreds of rejections, you shouldn't be a writer. Period. So I'm old school that way. :)

Les Edgerton said...

Great comments, folks!

Raquel,great point about the benefits to new writers. They really can help build an audience.

Shannon, (love your haircolor btw... as a former hairdesigner and platform artist for Clairol for many years!)and that's a selling point for me also--that they're starting to get the prices right.

Ann, you're only two years older than me, so we probably look at many things alike!

Helen, so glad you chimed in! You know it was your post that prompted this! You know one thing that I didn't mention is another asset for the ebook reader--you can upload your own WIP on it and work on it from anywhere--even more convenient than laptops, sometimes. I know a lot of agents use them to upload submissions they want to read and it makes it very handy for them to have a bunch of mss in one small place to read on the train ride home.

Alice, you're a lucky mom to have your daughter send you one! All I get for my birthday or Christmas from my son is a phone call to come jump his car... As far as author signings, a few months ago, I saw on someone's blog what some writers are doing--they're signing the Kindle or Nook itself!

Sex Scenes (I LOVE using your blogname!)That's another benny to ebooks--that you can enlarge the print to whatever you want it to be. If I may, though, I'd like to stick up for textbook publishers--most involved in that industry don't make much money, including the writer, the publisher, the bookstore, etc. The discount is only 20% as opposed to 40% for trade books. The reason they're priced so high is mostly because the market is so small for each particular book. Like trade publishers (who enjoy less than 3% return on investment annually) the real money is made by the trade union works involved--the lumberjack, the lumber mill, the paper company,the printer, all the folks in production, etc. All of those folks get their money up front, with not much (if any) risk involved. Nothing against that, but sometimes publishers get a bad rep when they're not deserving of such. It's really a wonder publishers keep on publishing, actually. Almost any other industry makes much more on their products than publishers do.

Great comments, all! Thank you so very much!

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Good points about the small market for textbooks. It's not something I've really considered. It'll be interesting to see if eBooks brings that price down.

For me it's more about the convenience of online and eBook reading. On a kindle, iPad, etc a reader can make margin notes, highlight stuff, bookmark pages and use linked glossaries and TOCs to go where they need to quickly. The efficiency is amazing! Plus not having to carry an armload of books. I carry my iPad with downloaded books back and forth all the time to my mountain house and it's so convenient to grab one thing.

I'm reading a paperback right now (and loving it) and so I'm still doing the paper thing, too, sometimes! :)

euclid said...

Yes, I agree with all that. ebooks are here to stay. They will add an extra dimension to the writer - reader universe, increasing the overall market size. Paper books will survive - to some extent, anyway.

Les: You should have said: Will the wheel survive or is it just a fad GOING FORWARD?

Les Edgerton said...

Betsy (Sex Scenes--I love that name!), good points. And, most folks aren't aware that textbook publishers make relatively little. Probably are like me--with a kid in college, I cringe when I see his textbook fees. I always tell my college kids to go to www.abebooks.com and see their prices. Always cheap. One day, when I was writer-in-residence at the University of Toledo, one of my students came up and told me she was really happy because she'd found one of her pharmacology textbooks (new price over $900) used for only $500. That seems a bit high for abebooks, I said. Oh, she said, I didn't go there. I knew they wouldn't have it. We were outside my office so I said, let's just go in and see. When I dialed it up, they had four copies. The most expensive was $250 and the cheapest was $175. I think I'm going to be sick, she said. Tried to tell you, I said. I've never found a book they didn't have and most are available for a buck or two. I've even found brand-new hardcover bestsellers which just hit the bookstores for a buck. (Review copies being sold)
I've had lots of students come up and thank me for turning them onto abebooks--many have said it saved them literally thousands of dollars.

Euclid, you crack me up! I would never in a trillion years utter something like "going forward." Sounds like one of those New Agey media cliches like "at the end of the day." I'm throwing up in my mouth... :)

Elle Strauss said...

My husband started reading books on his iphone and because of this has started buying books. He always went to the library before, but buying e-books is so easy and so instant. I think people with e-readers buy books more often which is good for authors.

Helen Ginger said...

Being able to upload your own manuscript in progress is just another reason to covet an eReader.

Julie Musil said...

I'm still a fan of reading paper books, but I would imagine I'll own a Kindle in the future. My writing partners both have them, and not only do they download and read book easily, they also perform writer tasks on them. Pretty cool.