Tag Archives: E-book

Getting the Book Invented

So, Douglas Adams was talking about eBooks way back in 1993.

Getting the Book Invented…

This hilarious animation was prepared for a competition run by The Literary Platform. The goal was to design motion graphics to accompany a prophetic recording by Douglas Adams from 1993, in which the great writer was detailing the invention of the electronic book.

via ebookfriendly:  Getting the book invented properly

So you’re considering switching to eBooks?

Here’s a graphic I picked up from Online Universities (thanks to E-book Nation). The data is specific to the USA but I think it’s worth anyone considering possible purchase of an eBook Reader, or a tablet for reading purposes, reading through it.

For example, you might conclude from this that such a purchase will probably mean you read a lot more. That you are more likely to buy new books than just borrow them. That you will be able to get books more quickly and there will be more to select from.

However, you will be less likely to share your books with others. And you will prefer to use a printed book when reading with a child.

(Click twice on image to enlarge).


Brought to you by: OnlineUniversities.com

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What’s in store for eBook readers

Dedicated eReader or an iPad?

I think many New Zealanders have joined the digital reading revolution. They are purchasing eBooks on-line and reading them on a tablet, such as the iPad, or a dedicated reading device, an eReader.

Personally I think eReaders are a better device for reading – because they don’t provide distractions. Anyway, here I just want to comment on what we can possible look forward to, or expect, in upcoming eReaders.

The major eReaders available in New Zealand all do their job well. The current standard is built-in Wi-Fi and a touch screen. Choice really seems to come down to aesthetics and not actual performance (for example, the major criticism of the Sony appears to be a shiny plastic bezel which could annoy readers). Book formats could also be another factor – choosing between Amazon’s mobi and the alternative ePub open format.

Retail prices for some of the current models in New Zealand have dropped recently. It’s that time of the year  – look forward to announcement of new models in the next few months. Currently I have no idea what to expect. Haven’t picked up any rumours yet. But here are some possibilities worth considering:

Glowlight!

Barnes and Noble latest eReader is the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight. This has  LED lights embedded into the side of the frame. Power drain is low so battery life isn’t markedly reduced. But its a great idea – especially for those with who have sleeping partners but enjoy reading in bed.

Personally I enjoy the fact that eReaders are not backlit as tablets are. Apparently that makes reading harsher. And the dedicated eReader experience is more like reading the printed page. But in bed, or on other low light situations this innovation would be great.

Barnes and Noble does not sell their Nook eReaders in New Zealand but the fact that these new eInk screens are being produced makes uptake by Sony, Kobo or Kindle likely in the near future.

Colour screens

Colour eInk screens are a possibility in future eReaders. The technology is available. These screens won’t have the brilliant colour of backlit tablet screens but should be an advantage for some books – especially comics and technical books with images. However, manufacturers of the smaller screen eReaders may prefer to produce an alternative tablet or backlit screen model, such as the Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox and Nook  colour. For them this may represent the best approach to the market.

Larger screens

The Jetbook Color has a 9.7 inch screen

This is something we have yet to see in New Zealand. I feel there is a market for these – the 6 inch screens are ideal for novels and relatively straightforward non-fiction. But text books, and many other technical books would be far better on the larger screen. Such a screen would also by ideal for pdf formats – and we often have to read other documents besides novels – especially if we are students or researchers. And a larger screen displaying a full pdf or document page will probably work better a 6 inch screen with material we need to refer back to. Something to do with storing the place on the page of an image or piece of information on a page in our memory.

Non-dedicated tablets may be preferred by many people. However the larger iInk screen dedicated devices would have the advantages of longer battery life (using the iPad as a portable device must have its drawbacks because of the battery), less distraction and more comfortable reading. High prices for large screen eReaders could be a drawback, at least until they are more common.

Ectaco Jetbook Color under trial in a Russian classroom

A hopeful sign is that the 9.7 inch Ectaco Jetbook Color e-Reader,the only touchscreen Color E Ink eBook Reader in the world, has come on the market overseas. It is being evaluated for educational purposes in some US schools and a large number of Russian schools. This eReader is clearly targeted at the education market as it comes preloaded with many text books and educational aids. The US Defense Department is also using itReviews indicate that this could be a useful dedicated device.

Removal of DRM

Journalists are speculating that the days of Digital Rights Management (DRM) are numbered. A few publishers have already abandoned it and competition, or is it antagonism, between Amazon and many publishers could lead to its widespread removal. It’s a complex issue but publishers seem to think DRM enables Amazon to achieve monopoly control and to enforce use of their eReaders and eBook format.

Some people, including many authors, really hate DRM. Readers resent the inability to really own the book they have bought as DRM often enforces use of a single device, prevents lending or passing books on to friends and family, and often makes side loading (loading books from other sources, even in the proper format), complicated.

However, computer savy readers usually have no problem removing DRM. And there is a high motivation to do so. Not for piracy or any other illegal use. But to enable use of different formats and books from different sources. As well as legitimate sharing.

Just imagine buying a print book (pBook), going to read it at home and finding that some of the pages are uncut. Easily remedied. But imagine downloading an eBook and finding that your eReader will not open it. No, not a format problem. Maybe some images in the book are is the swg rather than jpg format.  Or there are a large number of embedded fonts which cause the eReader to crash. (Actually the poor conversion of many books to a digital format is another bitch I have about publishers). I have had both problems and let me tell you that eBook sellers like Kobo don’t exactly have a functioning help department.

In such cases the books can easily be corrected by the computer savy reader once the DRM is removed. Why should they be prevented from do so?

On the other hand I know from my friends that many owners of eReaders don’t give a stuff about DRM. They may not know it even exists. They are happy to use the device as a simple attachment to a single provider, purchase all their books from that provider (usually Amazon), and never go hunting for other sources. DRM is probably a non-issue for them.

Conclusion

I suspect a glow screen may be the next common feature – in fact this has already been rumoured for the Kindle. So I would not be surprised to see it in upcoming local eReader models.

Colour and larger eInk screens would be nice. However, I suspect this may not happen soon if tablets, like the iPad, continue their market dominance. On the other hand, institutional and educational pressures could bring the price of larger screen, colour, eReaders down. That is something I would like as the ability to easily read text books, technical articles, pdfs and reference material in a larger format would be really useful.

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A universe in an eBook (or app)

If your are into science books – and enjoying the advantage of eBooks (or planning to), this is a web site you really must bookmark.

Download The Universe has just been launched. Science writer Carl Zimmer is the “fall guy” (his description) – but it brings together an impressive list of leading science writers. As Carl describes its aim it will be “an online forum, featuring incisive reviews of science-themed apps and ebooks, that will serve as a guide to the future of scientific information”

Here is a list of the 15 writers involved – some you will no doubt recognise. Check out others through the links.

Carl provides an interesting analysis of the evolution of books in his essay A New Kind of Review for a New Kind of Book – the first post at the site. He says:

“Ebooks are once again redrawing the boundaries. Walk into a book store and look at the science section. Most of the books are between about 200 and 400 pages. Most are created by large publishing houses. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about a 50-page book, of course. It just doesn’t fit comfortably into the publishing business–a business that has to contend with costs for printing books, storing them in warehouses, shipping them to book stores, and accepting returned books. Ebooks create an economic space for the very short book (and the very long one). They also allow authors to reach readers without having to persuade a publisher that their book will earn back an investment.”

He also talks about the new possibilities introduced by tablets.

One limitation indicated by Zimmer’s essay:

“Here we review science ebooks–broadly defined, except for ebooks that are just spin-offs of print books.”

Pity – although I guess those books probably get reviewed quite widely anyway.

via Keep up with the latest science e-books and apps with “Download the Universe”.

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New book formats

The last few days I have been reading a novel in the pBook format. It’s been an interesting experience as since I got my eBook reader over a year ago (see The joys of eBook readers – the Sony PRS-650 Touch) I have read very few pBooks.

People talk about the attraction of a pBook’s smell. Can’t say I noticed that. But I was frustrated that my habit of checking the meaning of new words with a simple click to a loaded dictionary was not available. It is so much more effort to take a dictionary down off a bookshelf and look a word up. I see this will also be a hassle with footnotes and endnotes in more technical books.

Mind you – it was by no means an unpleasant experience – and I do still have a pile of pBooks yet to read.

But I can really relate to the kids in the Cam Cardow Cartoon trying to get WiFi on a pBook. Have a look at  The original e-reader – The Digital Age – sorry, can’t embed it here for copyright reasons.

While on the subject of new ways of reading book – have a look at this video on the medieval help desk. The problems that readers had when the had to progress from scrolls to books.

Help desk – introducing the book (2 min 40 sec)

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Problems with pdf eBooks – metadata issues

I have become increasingly dependent on my eBook reader. Consequently I now have quite a few eBooks – and many of them are in the pdf format.

While most eReaders will display pdf formats there can be issues. Because these don’t have flowable text they are probably more suited for devices like the iPad

I don’t have an iPad, but I do have many pdf eBooks. It seems to be the most common format for free and out-of-copyright books. As well as technical books and scientific papers.

So, I have had to confront most of the problems eReaders have with pdf and the problems format conversion programmes have. And, despite the fact that a huge problem is that pdf documents come in different flavours, there is usually a work around – providing you are sufficiently motivated to spend the time required.

Here, I just want to deal with the metadata issue. Fortunately the workarounds here are simple.

Metadata

The metadata includes information on the book or document title, author, publication date, publisher, etc. It is meant to be incorporated into the ebook file – but very often, especially for pdf documents, there is no incorporated metadata, or the data is not suitable. Add the fact that many pdf files do not have descriptive names (eg. my eBook “The Philosophy of Science” by George Couvalis has the file name 0761951016.pdf ) and no wonder I found that I had accumulated a large number of pdfs, scattered throughout my hard drive,  I could not identify without opening them.

If your files have metadata included a cataloguing programme or an eReader will display the correct information, whatever their file name. If not you are usually stuck with the non-informative filename.

Fortunately, changing or adding metadata to a file is quite simple. Here are two places you can make the changes – in the cataloguing programme and in the file itself.

Cataloguing with Calibre

Most serious eBook users eventually get hold of the free programme Calibre. It’s great for format conversions, keeping all you eBooks in one easy place, searching for books to buy, and many more things.

A while back I found its very useful cataloguing feature (see Calibre tips and tricks: article on cataloguing). I use this to produce a catalogue of all my books, in an ePub format which I then transfer to my eReader. It has hyperlinked authors, titles, and other useful information on each book. This includes short reviews, publishers information, cover images and format information for my collection.

It’s great for searching through my collection at leisure when I am planning future reading, or checking what I have. I update it often.

Once a book is added to Calibre the metadata can be added or edited very easily. This happens through automatically consulting on-line databases and the metadata available includes reviews, publishers information, cover images, etc.

This is all very useful – but the metadata changes occur in the Calibre database, not in the file (unless the conversion process is used). Transferring the eBook from your computer to your eBook reader does not transfer the Calibre data itself.

This requires editing the file.

Editing pdf files

The editing required to alter or add metadata is minor, but usually beyond those without programmes like Acrobat. But here’s a simple tip. Download and use BeCyPDFMetaEdit.

This is a simple programme enabling minor editing of pdf files. It ” allows editing of several settings like the metadata about author, title, subject and keywords of the document. Furthermore, one can customize the viewer preferences, the bookmarks, the page labels, the page transitions for slide shows and the encryption/permissions of a document.”

I have found it ideal for this simple job.  Only a few seconds are required to check and update the metadata before transferring the file from Calibre to my eReader.

I no longer have to go through the painful process of opening and checking books on my eReader just because the only information available is the file name.

Editing ePub files

I have found this is not usually necessary. But when needed I use the ePub editor Sigil. This is very useful for anyone wanting to get into eBook creation in more detail. It has its own learning curve but the metadata editing is simple. Just go to Tools>Meta Editor and make the required changes. Don’t forget to save the file.

See Also:
Calibre – eBook Management
Calibre tips and tricks blog
BeCyPDFMetaEdit.
Sigil

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The joys of eBook readers – the Sony PRS-650 Touch

Well, I finally succumbed and got myself an eBook Reader. I am certainly not one of those who take up new technology early. Mind you, eBook Readers have been in New Zealand only since last May, so I do feel like a rapid uptaker in this case.

Of course the late arrival in New Zealand has more to do with rights management than technology. But the wait means that now eBook Readers have arrived many of the technological problems have been sorted. (And it has given me time to research the subject).

So far there are just four eBook Readers on the local market (the Kobo and two Sony models), plus the Kindle from Amazon. And they aren’t easy to find in local shops! I did my own comparison and decided on the Sony PRS-650. Here are my comments on this model, together with my general experience of using an eBook Reader overt the last few weeks.  It’s not a detailed review (I haven’t had hands-on experience with other Readers) but you might find it useful if you are contemplating purchase of an eBook Reader.

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Are ebooks taking off?

Martin Taylor at eReport reports this amazing statistic (See US stats show 9% ebook share, grim news for print):

The latest US book industry sales figures from the Association of American Publishers show ebooks are now tracking at 9% of domestic trade book revenue for the 8-month period January to August 2010.

To put this in context I have plotted the ebook share of  total consumer book sales in the US for the last years.

This certainly looks like ebook sales, and presumable sales of ebook readers and similar devices, is taking off in the US.  As Martin points out Amazon’s Jeff Bezos claims that when both printed and e-book formats are available their  sales are about 35% ebooks!

Mind you, I think this sudden increase may be partly caused by the more recent  availability of improved ebook readers, devices like the iPad, and on-line ebook stores. If so, we might expect the increasing trend to slow and some sort of equilibrium reached in the next few years between sales of ebooks and printed books.

Unfortunately in New Zealand we are well behind. Ebook readers, and the iPad, have only become available this year. So far there are just four ebook readers on the local market (the Kobo and two Sony models), plus the Kindle from Amazon. And try to find them in the local shops!

On the other hand the price of the Kobo has dropped $50 recently suggesting that we will soon see more competition, and lower prices, in the New Zealand market, as overseas.

Footnote: I was interested to see that science writer Carl Zimmer is experimenting by releasing his most recent book purely as an ebook. (see Brain Cuttings). He found it quick to produce and it’s certainly quicker for the reader to obtain.

If this catches on with authors I am going to have to splash out and get my own ebook reader.
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Bright future for books

Isony_ereader_PRS-500 am sure this is true. It’s the details of that future I find confusing. People in the publishing industry are talking about being on the cusp of a change. Similar to that which previously hit the music industry (see Is the e-book reader a new chapter for literature?).

There’s no doubt digital formats are taking off. But, that doesn’t mean the printed book is doomed. And many details of electronic book readers are still not sorted out.

The big issue is of course copyright and digital rights management. This has meant that while digital book readers are becoming more common in the USA (eg. Amazon’s Kindle) they are not yet being sold in New Zealand and most other countries. That’s frustrating for people who want practical examples. Some New Zealanders have brought e-book readers overseas – but I usually want to try before I buy.

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