A change of heart on ebooks

Electronic books never really caught on. The most obvious reason is because glaring at a monitor for long periods tends to cause eye-strain. But another reason is because people read in bed; they read on the train; they read on the loo. And you can’t very well lug your computer to all those places. What about laptops? Of course, but one of those is still not exactly as versatile as a typical paperback novel, is it?

I’ve never been a fan of ebooks. I’ve read two in the past, and at some point in each case, I couldn’t stand the experience and resorted to printing the book out.

However, all that has changed with my recent acquisition of a Pocket PC. I decided to give the ebook phenomenon another whirl, and what do you know, I’m discovering that it’s a great experience. There are probably several factors that have led to my enjoyment. The screen is small, so that your eye isn’t roaming across a wide space and struggling to find the next line of text in sequence; the pixels are so small that they’re practically invisible, making the text resemble an actual page; the device can be taken anywhere, just like a book.

For the past week or so, I’ve really been enjoying my bedtime reading. There’s something atmospheric about being able to read a horror story with all the lights out. (Incidentally, the book I’m reading is David Moody‘s zombie novel, Autumn, soon to be adapted as an audio drama at Darker Projects.) I’d go as far as saying that I actually prefer reading from the Pocket PC than from a physical book.

However, I still don’t think there’s much market potiential for ebooks. For one, not everyone owns a Pocket PC or similar device. And personally, I just feel odd about paying money for bits of data; I feel cheated somehow. Maybe it’s because many books that I buy, I sell on eBay afterwards. And there’s not a lot of resale value in mere data. Besides, I checked out the ebook scene and it’s as DRM-infested as the online music stores.

Sony has recently developed an interesting ebook reading device that uses a new kind of display technology. Check out the Sony Reader. It’s cool, but I imagine it’s going to be one of those niche interest things. Perhaps ebooks will catch on a little more as iPod screens get ever larger. All I know is, I’m hooked.

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6 thoughts on “A change of heart on ebooks

  1. A.P. Fuchs says:

    eBooks are huge money savers, too, when buying fiction. Except when you buy from the major firms as their eBooks cost as much or almost as much as a hardcover novel. But for small press fiction, price ranges from $3-7 or so. Coscom sells its eBooks from $4-5, depending on length. If you haven’t checked out fictionwise, Darryl, do so here (this is hooked up to Coscom’s books, of course, but many others are there as well):

    http://www.fictionwise.com/servlet/mw?a=jump&u=/eBooks/CoscomEntertainmenteBooks.htm&id=281005

    Point is, I’m thinking of investing in one of these readers, too, as there are a ton of books I want but don’t have the funds to get every last one of them. But if I could get all of them for half price, then I probably would.

  2. Darryl Sloan says:

    Fictionwise looks interesting, but I have to say the prices put me off – even the cheap books. For a service that has no costs relating to the production of a physical product, I would want to be paying a lot less.

    I’d be interested to hear more of your own (Coscom’s) experience with Fictionwise, and ebooks in general.

    PDAs are great. I have turned into such a bookworm as a result. But be careful which make and model you choose. I had one a few years ago, and I didn’t like it at all. The pixels were like regular monitor pixels (text was blocky), whereas the Dell Axim crams 460×640 into a tiny 3-inch area. If you can afford it, I imagine Sony’s Reader will be the best, as it is purpose-built for ebooks. Not sure if it’s backlit, though. That’s a feature I really like for night-time.

  3. A.P. Fuchs says:

    Though I understand what you mean by eBooks not costing much by way of production, you also have to consider time was put into the cover and the formatting of the eBook, the same kind of time and effort used for a print book. As well, the author, publisher and editor all put time into the books, too, and should be compensated fairly instead of by, say, only 25 cents each or something. So though there isn’t a per unit print cost, there’s still time involved that needs to be paid for. Personally, I think $3-7 for an eBook is fair for fiction.

    The danger in pricing is if you price it too cheap, the buyer will think it’s worthless and NOT buy it. If you price it too high, then they won’t buy because it’s too costly. It’s finding the happy balance that’s the secret and from those I’ve talked to, the aforementioned $3-7 is a good price range.

    As for my experience with Fictionwise, it’s been great. They also pay out on time (quarterly), with sales records updated every week. They discount a title by about 15% for the first week its released to get new buyers on board, so that helps, too.

  4. Darryl Sloan says:

    Yeah, I guess I’d consider paying $3 for an ebook. A bigger put-off for me is the DRM (digital rights management) issue.

  5. Devon Kappa says:

    Now that you’re an ebook convert, how about selling Chion as a pdf ebook?

    I read Ulterior way back when it was released and enjoyed it tremendously. I look forward to reading Chion as well. However, $13 for a paperback (including shipping to the US) is not cheap. At the same time, I would gladly pay $4-5 for a basic, non-DRM pdf.

    In this regard, I agree with you wholeheartedly that DRM-infected ebooks are worthless. However, pure, unadulterated pdfs are wonderful. They can be read on your computer, on handhelds, printed, or any combination of the above. Complete convenience for the reader, with the added benefit of saving trees, printing costs on your end, and storage space (and money) on my side.

    Of course, if you choose not to offer an ebook, I may as well admit I’ll probably break down and buy a paperback. But just ignore that when you’re making your decision.

  6. Darryl Sloan says:

    Hi, Devon. Always nice when a new face drops by. I’m not sure there’s enough widespread interest to justify the set-up hassles of an ebook title. But …

    Since you’re running a book reviews blog, I would be glad to send you the existing Chion PDF for free, if you’ll consider it for review. Email me privately.

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