ebooks - the last two years - your opinion

Discuss general aspects of Genii.

Postby Guest » 12/16/06 12:51 PM

I just purchased 2 Sony readers.
Am I going be able to download from Chris's site with the Sony?
Thanks,
Tom
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Postby Ian Kendall » 12/16/06 12:54 PM

Personally e-books provide a quick and efficient method of delivery. As I've said before, the first thing I do when I get a new e-anything is to print it off and file it in a binder.

I've noticed in the last year or so a couple of e-books that have been laid out on a square 800x600 size page, obviously going for screen reading. These did not print well. I much prefer A4 or letter sized books and if neccessary, the CTRL+L command.

I have to agree that Mike Close's output is at the top of the tree.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 12/17/06 09:49 AM

Originally posted by silverking:
As for back-ups, and only if you buy from lybrary.com, Chris does that for you by making your book available from his site any time you need it.
I find that concept holds a unique potential, offering up ones entire library (lybrary?) from any data terminal in the world.
That's great, and it could be a remarkable thing for scholars especially, but it's a different issue than regular backing-up. Having one's book collection dependent on the continued operation of one company's website (and also requiring an internet connection and a terminal) is just compounding some of the problems presented by e-books.

Make back-ups, store them in a fire safe, and back them up every year or two. That's a far better way to ENSURE that they'll still be readable ten years from now than to depend on the fortunes of someone else's website.

--Josh
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Postby Guest » 12/17/06 10:28 AM

This has been a very enlightening thread, as one that has produced more than his fair share of ebooks I'd like to bring out something that's been explained to me in so many words; "To gain genuine credability and respect in this craft, you must publish tangible books..."

I've heard this from several sources and recent events in my world have caused me to have to re-explore that option. Yes, it will create a product that is far more expensive to produce; No, it is not nearly as "convenient" as having a disc or download file you can slip into your lap top or whatever, and take with you wherever yuo happen to be. But, there's still something to be said about the psychology and yes, the convenience of a real book.

I have a new tome coming out officially in March that is nearly 400 pages in total. To say that in ebook terms negates the visual impact a patron has when they see a hefty composition that has some actual wieght to it. Paying a few hundred dollars for a disc, for me at least, makes me feel a bit "empty" and robbed. By the same token, having a physical something in my hand that look substantial and feel substantial... well, those feelings, psychologically at least, seem to fade away. Too, the production of "physical evedence" as it were, lends a bit of something to one's posterity and how both, your peers view you as well as how history itself will remember you.

While many of my "tool" type manuscripts smaller booklets will continue to be sold by Loren at the MEVPRO web site, my heftier tomes will see ink via personal publishing actions as well as one or two PRINT ON DEMAND type resources. In truth, I do not know why any author/publishing source isn't offering that option, in that POD is so simple to arrange and the cost readily off-set in price.
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Postby Guest » 12/17/06 11:03 AM

Josh, my service at Lybrary.com to provide a permanent storage for ones bought ebooks has to be seen as added service, not as replacement for a sound backup strategy. It is yet another safety net assuring ones investment in ebooks without any further cost or work.

Backing up has nothing to do with ebooks. Anybody who has a computer, and that means all who read this thread, should have some form of backup. For some a few CDs will be sufficient. For others it is an external USB hard disc. For me, it is three layers of backup. One stored in Europe on a yearly basis, one every week and one done automatically every 15 minutes for my working directories.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Ian Kendall » 12/17/06 11:21 AM

On a slightly related note; I used to be the Support team leader for the Storage team of the fourth largest bank in the world. I was responsible for backing up about a terabyte of data each night, and that instils a certain mindset into the techhead.

I've had to recover many hundreds of critical files that people had lost, and almost the same amount that people had not backed up (and therefore, usually, lost). On the downside, I've seen USB backups wiped in error and many disk failures.

There is no substitute for backups. There was a phrase when I was a pilot; the three things that don't matter are the sky above you, the runway behind you and the fuel back in the pump. To that I would add the unused backup media on your desk. Be safe with your data.

/panic mongering

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 12/17/06 11:47 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Josh, my service at Lybrary.com to provide a permanent storage for ones bought ebooks has to be seen as added service, not as replacement for a sound backup strategy.
Precisely my point.

Backing up has nothing to do with ebooks. Anybody who has a computer, and that means all who read this thread, should have some form of backup.
Er, Chris, you're making a dangerous assumption here: that everybody keeps all their ebooks on their computer at all times, and therefore automatically backs up their ebooks every time they back up their computer.

I would not make that assumption, which is why I think it would be responsible to use your "survey" to remind people to back up their ebooks on a frequent basis.

--Josh
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Postby Guest » 12/18/06 04:54 AM

Originally posted by Craig Browning:
"To gain genuine credability and respect in this craft, you must publish tangible books..."
Craig, I don't believe this will hold true for the near future. If you look at the Card College ebooks I prepared, which have hundreds of video clips integrated, it is obvious that such ebooks cannot be printed anymore, because video is hard to capture on paper :-) Or look what Michael Close has done recently following Lybrary.com's lead.

More and more ebooks will make better use of the medium and integrate audio and video in a form that printing will become impossible. Or think about a dictionary. With hyperlinks one can make it so much more useful. I am thinking here of the "Encyclopedic Dictionary" where we have inserted thousands of hyperlinks to make browsing and following cross references highly efficient for the reader. Other ebooks will be so large that printing is economically unjustified.

So in many ways ebooks will transcend paper such that printing will become altogether impossible.

And do you really think that authors of such digital only works have any less pride than a paper book author? And if these ebooks are really good and influential they will certainly also get the credibility and respect.

A good analogy are software engineers, who are craftsmen entirely in the digital domain. They are just as proud, respected and esteemed as any other accomplished craftsman.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
preserving magic one book at a time
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Postby Guest » 12/18/06 09:00 AM

Just my .02...

I'd never been a big fan of e-books and had never really considered them to be the wave of the future. The idea of sitting in front of the PC reading a "book" just didn't make any sense. That position began to change when I purchased Michael Close's "Closely Guarded Secrets." The integration of video with the written word made such a radical change in how I was "reading" that I now see this as something I'll become involved in....by purchasing e-books of this type.

NOT YET THO'.....the final item needed is a low-cost reader that hopefully will be on the market soon. Assuming that it will support the video (and audio) it will be the icing on the cake. This will allow me to upload and take the reader-thingee with me as I now do with "real" books.

Guess it won't make it for Christmas...

Adrian
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Postby Guest » 12/19/06 03:35 AM

Originally posted by Tom McDonagh:
I just purchased 2 Sony readers.
Am I going be able to download from Chris's site with the Sony?
Thanks,
Tom
Tom, and any other folks who have purchased one of the new e-ink screen ebook readers. It would be great if you post your experience, likes and dislikes, of this new screen technology and the reader in general.

The specification says that you can transfer PDFs to the Sony reader. That means all our PDF ebooks would be game. Let me know if you are successful.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Guest » 12/19/06 05:19 AM

Chris, the service you offer at your site are great, I won't argue that. I'm of the ilk that information is information no matter what form it comes in (though I prefer tangible "somethings" to work with). Too, aside from my own preference in having actual "things" in my life vs. virtual things, there is an ego gratification about it... maybe its just the fact that I'm a die-hard romantic but...

The other reason I expressed what I've said in the previous post, is that I've actually had a fair number of folks that I respect in this business (folks with names) look down on me because of the "immaturity" of doing eBook releases vs. the mature committment one makes in creating and selling a "real" book. I fully understand how that's bunk; either format still entails much of the same work and effort to create. But members of the Status Quo still seem to believe that only a hardcover and lots of dead tree pulp combined with ink, equates to being a genuine contribution.

This new book of mine, for reasons that will be understood when folks read the introduction (by Marc Strivings) has to, in my opinion, be a physical composition. I feel this way about both of the encyclopedic projects I've been working on but not so in other instances... and aside from prosterity, my other reason for going with print is protection of content; I have a means by which to encode and identify each copy and thus, know who scanned and distributed which copies so that legal recourse might follow. Electronic publications seem rife with theft in that so many in today's world take pride in being a proficient hacker and not respecting the "locks" as it were, to the details. Our modern culture being filled with many a spoilt soul that believe it their right to exploit what I and other contributors of this craft, have cried, sweated and bleed over and that's just not right.

Anywho... gotta run! ;)
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Postby Guest » 12/19/06 12:24 PM

Originally posted by Adrian Kuiper:
....the final item needed is a low-cost reader that hopefully will be on the market soon.
Adrian, what is low cost for you in this context?

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Guest » 12/19/06 04:36 PM

Originally posted by Adrian Kuiper:
Assuming that it will support the video (and audio) it will be the icing on the cake.
Part of the problem here is that e-ink, as it stands, is black(ish) and white(ish). Since the embedded video in e-books is usually in color, e-book readers that use e-ink to display videos and color photos won't, at best, be doing justice to the original images -- and, at worst, will fail to communicate important information that happens to be color-related, such as with the PDF w/embedded video that accompanies Bob Kohler's "Human Phone Number".

--Josh
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Postby Guest » 12/19/06 04:58 PM

Originally posted by Adrian Kuiper:
....the final item needed is a low-cost reader that hopefully will be on the market soon.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Adrian, what is low cost for you in this context?

Chris....I'd have to say something under $200.00. Truthfully, I've not researched these things so I have no idea what they're going for now. At my price I'd definitely be interested.

Adrian
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Postby Guest » 12/21/06 03:56 PM

Originally posted by Josh Mandel:
Part of the problem here is that e-ink, as it stands, is black(ish) and white(ish). Since the embedded video in e-books is usually in color, e-book readers that use e-ink to display videos and color photos won't, at best, be doing justice to the original images -- and, at worst, will fail to communicate important information that happens to be color-related, such as with the PDF w/embedded video that accompanies Bob Kohler's "Human Phone Number".
Josh, the bigger problem is the slow speed of the e-ink display. It takes about 0.3s to 1s to refresh/change the screen. This means the color is the lesser of the problems. The speed prohibits the viewing of video. This is strictly for replacement of paper.

I think they are working on a color version, but that will be another 3-5 years, if you ask me.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/21/06 05:28 PM

Let me wade into this interesting thread.

In my research for the book on Theodore DeLand, I have been making much use of Ask Alexander's electronic versions of turn-of-the-century magazines. I have found them to be an invaluable resource and, if they weren't available to me, I would have purchased Chris's Digital Sphinx by now.

I also have a real file of The Sphinx, and my work with the electronic file hasn't prevented me, or kept me, from perusing the actual magazine in a comfy chair on many occasions.

Next, on to Mr. Jennings Takes It Easy. This is a work that I have contemplated as doing as an eBook for some years. The idea of being able to imbed small video clips of Larry doing some of these items (video that could never be included on a DVD, for example) is very appealing. However, you can't really sell enough eBooks like this to make it pay, and so the publication of an actual hard cover book is inevitable. The natural and logical end result of this is that the eBook would be included inside a pocket in the hardcover printed book. Of course, this increases the price of the whole project both at the manufacturing and retail levels.

The whole thing is still very unsettled.

When I began editing Genii in 1998, I was still printing out my text files in order to do all my editing on hard copy (it was the only way I could do it), then later inputting all the corrections. Over the course of the last nine years, I have found that I can edit just as well by reading the text on my computer. This relates to the reading of eBooks because I spend much more time reading off the screen (and the digital flat Sony monitor I have has made this much easier because there is zero glare and no flickering).
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Postby Guest » 12/31/06 04:00 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
However, you can't really sell enough eBooks like this to make it pay, ...
Richard, that is an unsubstantiated claim. I think the time is ripe that if you have top notch new material, enhanced with video clips, published as high quality ebook for a reasonable price, you will sell quite a bit. And taking the reduced production cost and investment cost into account you would be able to turn a good profit. At the same time you will use the most appropriate format to release this material.

Best,
Chris....
A blessed and prosperous New Year
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/31/06 07:21 PM

Okay, tell me how many copies of some of your ebooks have you sold? I know some of your authors, and know how many you've sold. I don't think you want to compare numbers with me in public.
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Postby Guest » 12/31/06 08:28 PM

Originally posted by Chris W.:
... if you have top notch new material, enhanced with video clips, published as high quality ebook for a reasonable price, you will sell quite a bit.
I tend to agree, but what is it that is doing the selling here? The format (e-book), or the fact that it is top-notch material supplemented by video at a reasonable price? Granted, the video portion is part of the e-book format, but which would sell better if prices were the same, a printed book with a DVD or an e-book?

Clay
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 12/31/06 09:34 PM

A printed book will always outsell an eBook, whether it has a DVD included or not.
That will eventually change, but eBooks just don't sell very well right now.
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Postby Guest » 12/31/06 10:16 PM

While I like the idea of imbeded video clips in a book of instruction, there is also the preceived difference in buying a "real" book vs an e-book: tangibility.

The "real" book you can hold in your hands and, lets face it, if printed on good paper, it will easily last for 100 years or longer with no change in accessability to the information contained.

On the other hand, e-books are a very new technology that has changed several times since they began and will certainly change in both the near and distant future. An e-book that is read today will not be accessed by the same technology in 10 years and certainly not 25 to 50 years, yet printed books that several hundred years old are as readable today (given the changed language) as they were when they were new. This is a problem I have yet to see addressed by the advocates of e-publishing.
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Postby Guest » 01/01/07 08:50 AM

I am not claiming that one can sell more copies of ebooks than books today, but that the overall profit you can derive is similar and potentially a lot more.

For example, "Card College" ebook sales have reached a level one would expect a good new magic book to sell today.

For a book like "Jenning's Takes it Easy" think about printing/binding and distribution costs. I don't know how many pages the book will have, but with a print run of 3000 I would estimate a price per copy of ~$7. Add to this the DVD which is for 3000 probably another buck or so, depending on packaging options. So a total of ~$8 per copy. Assume for now that the retail price should be $50. For the book publisher who sells mainly through distributors he will get only 40% of that or $20. Substract the $8 and you are left with $12. Then substract another buck or so for royalties and another one for marketing and you are left with roughly $10 per copy profit for the publisher. (Not included here are the costs to write and illustrate and so on, because they are the same for book and ebook.) So in total a publisher has to invest about $25k for the printing to get about the same in profit back once everything is sold. I don't want to get into details like time value of money, but it is very clear that to publish a book means a substantial financial risk mainly due to the printing cost.

Compare this with an ebook. Assume the ebook is sold at a reduced price $42 (to reflect the reduced production cost). Since you are offering this as download and not as a physical product you have essentially no reproduction costs. The total price difference for book and ebook customer is increased by the lack of s&h costs for the downloadable ebook. Since anybody in the world has access to an online shop, the service of distributors and other retailers is less benefitial and you can use a direct sales model taking all of the profit. In the end you will make 4x profit per ebook sold. That would mean you would only need to sell 750 copies of the ebook to get the same profit as with the book option. On top of it you do not have to invest $25k upfront. From a financial point of view, the ebook option makes a lot more sense than the book option. Any author who derives royalties from revenue would also be well advised to consider ebook options because the publisher can pay higher royalties due to reduced cost and risk.

I think more and more authors will find out that the ebook option can very well turn out to be much more profitable than the book one. I just paid all outstanding royalties to my authors. Some made a substantial amount and I anticipate that this will further increase in 2007.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Guest » 01/01/07 02:35 PM

Chris,
You neglected to mention a big expense: post-production storage costs.

If you write a large book that's a slow seller it will continue to cost you money to store the unsold copies until they are all gone.
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Postby Guest » 01/01/07 04:09 PM

Bill,

The distributor stores the books. So in my calculation that is indirectly taken care of by assuming you only get 40% from the retail price from the distributor. But you are correct, if you would sell books directly to retailers and individuals you would need to include warehouse cost.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/01/07 09:00 PM

Warehouse costs are minimal: about a penny and a half per month per book.
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Postby Guest » 01/01/07 11:34 PM

Being a bookseller, I know I am biased. I realise that there is great magic that won't otherwise see the light of day unless it's in the form of an e-book. But bless those folks still putting out those hardbound, cloth copies of magic books.. the real deal. There is NOTHING like learning from an actual book. E-books, dvds... I might love the magic in them, but I can't stand the format!
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 06:08 AM

Originally posted by Tim Furneaux:
hardbound, cloth copies of magic books.. the real deal.
I am not sure what you mean with 'the real deal', because ebooks are just as real as books. The information is the same and often enhanced with audio and video, can be printed out in case you need the paper, searched, hyperlinked, taken with you, ...

Best,
Chris....
preserving real magic one book at a time
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 07:04 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Clay,

There are two major developments with displays happening right now... Hope this helps.
Chris, a belated thank you for your update! I look forward to embracing the technology as it makes the life of a researcher easier. On that note, if memory serves, I believe you or someone else commented in another thread that Google (or a company like Google) was busy digitizing the literature of the world. Is this still going on? Does anyone have an update on the progress of such projects?

On this and earlier, related threads, several folks (including me) have pointed out that the aesthetic and tangible nature of a printed book* presents a great challenge to those who would have e-books replace printed books in the market. In response, some have argued that the progression of music storage, retrieval and delivery technology (iPods, etc.) proves that John Q. Public will embrace e-books as the primary source of reading material. But for the reasons discussed in those earlier threads, comparing iPods and their ilk to e-books is inapt.

Will, as Chris argued a while back, e-books largely replace printed books, thereby relegating printed books to ultra-luxuries? Only time will tell, and Ill make the bold statement that we wont know the answer in my lifetime, no matter how cheap or effective e-book readers become. IMHO, the answer to this question does not depend on e-reader technology, but rather on how willing readers are to dispense with the classic experience of reading a book.

Because the experience of reading a book is not limited to the mere extraction of information, I respectfully suggest that Chris comment ebooks are just as real as books. The information is the same... completely misses the mark when it comes to a response to Tims point (which I interpreted as there is much more to a printed book than its text.)

Clay

* It feels odd to write printed book, but such a term, which would have been a pleonasm a generation ago, is no longer redundant given todays publishing technologies.
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 07:20 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
I am not sure what you mean with 'the read deal', because ebooks are just as real as books. The information is the same and often enhanced with audio and video, can be printed out in case you need the paper, searched, hyperlinked, taken with you, ...
Really, Chris? You're not sure what he means? Seriously? Truly?

I find that incredibly hard to believe. I think you're being deliberately obtuse in order to do what you've been doing for years: beating down anyone who says anything remotely disparaging of e-books.

--Josh
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 07:34 AM

Certainly I know the difference of a book and an ebook, but to call one 'real' and the other thus implicitely 'un-real' or 'not-real' is simply incorrect. They are both real.

Best,
Chris....
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 07:35 AM

Josh,

While I believe that Chris enthusiasm for e-books sometimes, among other things, outruns his acknowledgement of some very real practical problems facing his projected level of their acceptance, in defense of Chris, Ive never witnessed him beating down anyone who says anything remotely disparaging of e-books. On the contrary, IMHO Chris has been pretty gracious about taking criticism and pointed comments. Which leads me to hope that he will squarely address my comments in due course.

Clay
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 08:04 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Certainly I know the difference of a book and an ebook, but to call one 'real' and the other thus implicitely 'un-real' or 'not-real' is simply incorrect. They are both real.
Oh, okay. So you knew perfectly well that he was talking about a tangible, printed book, but you felt that by pretending to not understand, you had yet another opportunity to advertise the e-book's transcendent virtues, just in case someone had missed these in any of your previous posts.

I get it now. Thanks!

--Josh
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 08:15 AM

Originally posted by Magicam:
While I believe that Chris enthusiasm for e-books sometimes, among other things, outruns his acknowledgement of some very real practical problems facing his projected level of their acceptance, in defense of Chris, Ive never witnessed him beating down anyone who says anything remotely disparaging of e-books.
Hi, Clay,

By "beating down," I didn't mean hammering with harsh or intemperate words, I mean hammering with repetition (both on the GENII forum and in other magic fora as well). No criticism of e-books may simply be left to stand, or as a "last word"; every single one is attacked or countered (although, as you point out, usually in a very polite fashion), so that the last word is always, ALWAYS one in support of e-books, often with other self-serving advertising verbage, and always, ALWAYS with a link to the business.

It's guerilla marketing, and, on one hand, I suppose admiration for tenaciousness is due. On the other hand, it's perilously close to trolling.

--Josh
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 09:57 AM

Clay,

Google is scanning tens of thousands of pages each day. I don't think they will produce a lot in terms of magic information, but in total books scanned they will certainly reach their goals. This project takes a couple of years. A similar project has been started in Europe, mainly driven by the French National Library. They are behind in terms of actually scanning, but they are currently testing the best scanning technology and will then later start to scan.

As I have stated several years back, the transition from book to ebook is a generational change, and will therefore take about 30 years. Humans are bad at changing their behavior. How hard is it for many to change their diet and excercise habits, although they know it would be good for their health? The same is true for books. Here the example of my family. My father and mother are not comfortable with computers. They have a laptop to write a bit, but are not online, don't know what Google is and can for all practical purposes be called computer illiterate. If they look for information they consult books or ask friends. Me and my brother started computers in our early teens and a bit before that with programmable calculators. We use computers in our daily lives, we use Google and other digital information resources to search for information, but are still attached to printed information in many ways. My son who is almost 6 had for more than 2 years his own computer, which he is at times more apt at using than myself. Make no mistake, we have more children books in three languages than the school library. So we are not depriving him of the printed information. But he grows up learning to appreciate the power of digital information in a very fundamental and natural way. I think he will work mainly with digital information and will see the printed form as the last source to consult.

Or take Richard's anecdote about the production of Genii. He has changed his working habits to a primarily digital based environment. It takes a while, but once you have experienced the power of the digital information it is hard to go back.

Improvements are incremental. Banks provide digital statements rather than paper. Business information (presentations, documentation) is today in many business created, processed, read and archived electronically. End users are still printing out some of that, but again, this will slowly change. I don't print out emails. In fact I print out less and less the better I get with archiving digitally.

Also ebooks themself will become better. We still need to learn how to create great ebooks. Most ebooks today are merely what would have been printed on paper now in digital form. But they do not take advantage of the electronic medium. This will slowly change and ebooks will become nicer looking, easier to use, hyperlinked ...

On the reading device my opinion is that once a $100-$200 e-ink screen device is available we will see a clear and noticeable increase in ebook usage. It won't be a revolution so that everybody will move to ebooks, but it will be a step function measurable in terms of total market share or revenue and many more will use ebooks.

Also, where many have a misconception, selling information is not always a zero sum game. The introduction of ebooks will in many cases not necessarily cannibalize book sales, but will actually expand the market. Lowering prices, increasing availability and access naturally expands the market. Somebody in India for whom a book is too expensive, might be able to buy the digital version for half the price and no s&h costs. The publishing economies will allow more material to be published as ebooks than printed, a.s.o.

I also predict that there will be a market separation. Certain material is better printed and certain material is better kept digital. A nice photo book will for a long time be served better by a printed book. Any works of reference, textbooks, non-fiction, is probably better served in the digital domain. In the end I anticipate that the hugely favorable economics of the ebook will win out over the book. This might take two or three generations. I mentioned the following fact in some other thread here, but let me repeat it (despite the fact that some don't like repetition), because it supports what I just wrote. Scientific journals are today distributed, stored and accessed predominently digitally. 90% of all major research libraries (that are ~5000 worldwide) have digital access to science journals. 50% have exclusively digital access, and 40% a combination of digital and paper. The remaining 10% is paper only. The trend is strongly towards digital and in about 5 years it is assumed that this will be essentially 100% digital for all libraries.

It's coming, faster than you might want or believe.

Best,
Chris....
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/02/07 11:07 AM

Here's when we'll see the change (and you can look back to both VHS players and, right now, to DVD players to validate this): when the price of the "player" (in this case, "reader") drops to a level that most people are comfortable with, you will start to sell more product. In the case of "readers," that means less than $75.

People bought VHS players because it gave them access to something they could never have before: TV and movies on demand.

People buy DVD players (as low as $30!!!) because they've been convinced that the quality is better and because the cost of the movies is the same or less than going to a movie theater.

e-book "readers" face an entirely different challenge because you have to convince people they need them. Most people simply neither need nor want them--we all have hundreds of books already. If I want to read one, I pick it up. Simple. The whole thing is going to be a very hard sell.
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Richard Kaufman
 
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 11:25 AM

Richard - you are right. The price of the hardware required needs to drop to attract more then the early adopters and gadget freaks. However, something else will happen too - printed matter will simply go away as the price of the readers drops to nearly nothing and the quality of "print" and user experience improves to the point where most users will not notice a big difference in picking up a reader or opening a book.

It is now almost impossible to buy any form of computer software - even huge high-end corporate systems - which include hard copy manuals. Users didn't like it at first, but vendors rode rough shod over users with claims that it was easier to update PDF files than printed matter (cheaper too!)

Within a generation, you can be pretty sure that there will not be too many publishers producing printed books of ANY kind. The printed book will go the same way as the printed photograph - albeit slower!

Bob
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 11:53 AM

While I owned a small publishing company some time back I did not involve myself with magic books because I thought the intense editorial attention necessary and potential sales numbers were too low to justify the time taken away from books that would sell multiple thousands for books that would sell in far fewer numbers.

At the time I researched the numbers the average magic book was selling 1,000 units and not always quickly. Some publishers printed editions of 500 aimed at more narrowly focused markets, sometimes going back for a second run of 500 that didnt always sell out.

As time passed, the market became saturated with product, something Jon Racherbaumer wrote about some years back. Given that the market remained more or less the same size, saturation simply meant fewer sales, given that there were always limited discretionary monies to be spent on product. That discretionary money became diluted by product and we saw, for the first time in amateur magic history, books being discounted to the buying public.

While a few titles in magic have sold more than 1,000 units, their numbers are few. A handful of titles have, I believe, sold in multiple thousands and they have done so over a long period of time. Their authors are names in amateur magicor the current flavor of the day. I know of one title that has sold around 20,000 copies, but that has been over something like a decade and the re-print runs were 2,000 at a time. There are not many titles like that and most magic books seem to have a life of around 1,000 units with maybe an additional print runs years later, if at all, witness the time it took for certain Kaufman titles to come back into print. Todd Karr still runs editions of 1,000 as does Caveney.

While eBooks allow for the option of keeping a title available forever (I wont say in print because they arent, they are available), in Chriss model, the buyer is required to pay nearly the same amount of money as a printed book to have less in hand than if he paid the additional $8 for printing and got a DVD along with the hardbound book. There doesnt seem to be any benefit to the customer in saving a mere $8.

While eBooks have the additional benefit of hypertext and implanted movies, it remains to be seen if people are willing to trade out the convenience of a printed book for the perceived benefits of hypertext and moving illustrations. I think, in many ways, were talking about apples and oranges. The fact that many/most of the worlds science journals are produced electronically merely speaks to the fact that journals provide information to their readers more efficiently in electronic form, that libraries simply do not have the room to store decades of journals that will be read occasionally or rarely, and that the majority of readers of scientific journals have access to and are comfortable with reading material on a screen. The market for science journals is a model that does not apply to magic books except in the idea of preserving and making available old magic journals.

Chris has done a marvelous job in making The Sphinx available to new generations of readers for a fraction of the price that obtaining the real magazines would cost. For less than $500 one can read information that, in printed form, would run $4-6,000 and is generally unobtainable, regardless of the price as only a handful of complete sets exist.

If ePublishers want to capitalize on the potential for eBooks, one of the things they should do, and something I believe Chris has done in many instances, is to make the price well-below what a printed and bound copy would run. This is especially attractive for old and hard to find items where the information is of primary importance, not the book as an artifact. Ive bought several things from Chris that fit into that category. I spent a small amount of money and had what I wanted almost instantly. For the researcher who wants the information, nothing is more efficient.

A couple of years ago Byron Walker gave me a tour of his library. What Byron has is the end result of the hard work of Earl Rybolt, Lloyd Jones, and himself.three men working over decades to amass a library such as can be found few, if any other place in the world. Libraries like that have always been the province of a handful of individuals with the finances and drive to accumulate such collections. However, with the digital age, Byrons may be the last of its kind as Ask Alexander looms large on the horizon.

Ask Alexander, a massive database of scanned magic books and magazines, puts a large question to the idea of individual e-books in the first place. Not now, and not in the next few years, but when the price for access to Ask Alexander drops to the point where the average magician can afford a yearly subscription possibly in one specialized area of interest like cards, coins, illusions, etc., - when the hobbyist can have access to an entire library of information that he could not possibly create in his lifetime for any amount of money that will be the time when the market for eBooks and printed books to a great degree, will be determined.

This will require a change in how we view books, not as artifacts to collect and posses, but as devices to impart information. When cheap and easy access to the material combines with easy to store and read devices that at least mimic the action of reading a book, when the hunt changes fully to a desire for information as opposed to a hunt for information AND a printed artifact, then, and only then, will digital publishing come of age.
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 12:20 PM

Bob,

Excellent point with computer system manuals not being printed anymore. I have seen also gadget manufacturers to move away from manuals. All you get is a note to go to a website and download a PDF.

Another interesting such bit of information is that in Europe all drug descriptions (the ones you get in this tiny font with any drug you buy) must be available online so that old people can easier read them by increasing fonts or get text-to-speech access.

I think also that soon there will be no more phone books. I haven't looked into one in the US for about 3 years.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 12:32 PM

And on Chiss idea that ebooks are as real as printed books: not so.

A printed book exists in my hand, in a real and tangible way. It is accessible to me without intervening technology. An eBook exists as long as I have an electronic device to store it and access it. While the methodology for producing books has changed over the centuries from hand-set individual letters to digitally-controlled presses, the basic concept of a book printed words on paper - has not changed since Guttenbergs day because it is a system which cannot be any simpler than it is.

Ebooks are not simple and have a number of problems inherent in the product.

While books can be destroyed in a variety of ways mildew, insects, fire, flood an ebook is viable only as long as the storage and access methodology is supported by manufacturers. Electronics have a built-in obsolescence factor that the market often resolves to the detriment of the consumer.

Betamax was a better technology, but VHS became the standard. Now, a few years later, videocassettes are going the way of the Dodo; replaced by DVDs. DVDs look to be replaced shortly by Blue Ray DVDs that store more information on a disk. Analog television is being replaced with High Definition TV. These new formats require new machines to play them, thus, every few years the consumer is forced to pay to play, or watchor read. Books I bought as a child still work. I dont think that twenty or thirty years from now anyone who owns an ebook from today will be able to say the same thing.
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Postby Guest » 01/02/07 12:33 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
e-book "readers" face an entirely different challenge because you have to convince people they need them. Most people simply neither need nor want them--we all have hundreds of books already. If I want to read one, I pick it up. Simple. The whole thing is going to be a very hard sell.
That might be true for novels, but not necessarily for non-fiction books which are largely information driven where searching and finding stuff is often at the center of interest. And that is clearly better served by an ebook than a printed one.

But for all segments, the convenience of having several books in a package the size of a book is a significant advantage. When I travel, I like to have several books with me because my mood at one time is to read a novel, at another time to read some news, later to study the latest card tricks, and next day to read a magician's biography. In paper that means lugging around a whole bag of books to satisfy my reading pleasures. With ebooks it is today a small notebook computer or even just my Palm Pilot, and hopefully in the future some e-ink reader that is lighter, sleeker and uses less power. Couple this with a lower price for the contents and you have quite a good sales proposition. I don't think it is a hard sale.

Of course, there will be always some who don't want the ebook. There are some who hate CDs and only listen to records. There are some who loath TV and only listen to radio. And there will be some who will never open an ebook. But in 20 years the majority of people will have read an ebook of some kind and many will draw pleasure, information and a great time from ebooks.

Best,
Chris....
www.lybrary.com
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