eBooks: looking for users

Discuss the latest feature articles in Genii.

Postby sleightly » 07/31/02 07:50 AM

I am looking for current users of magic eBooks to share their experiences with the various products currently available. What eBooks do you currently own? What eBook reader do you use? What do you like about the products currently available? What do you hate? Which formats work best for you? What features do you find valuable? Useless? What would you like to see in an eBook? How do you use an eBook: as a research tool, primary reading material, or other?

I am in the process of writing an article on eBooks that is slated to appear in a future issue Genii. I am researching the various formats and incarnations that are currently available as well as looking at future releases.

My plan is to do a fairly comprehensive examination of the differing formats currently available (HTML, PDF and OTHER), and identify their relative pros and cons.

I also hope to profile the various producers and their philosophy regarding the release (or re-release) of printed material in an electronic format.

Other topics tentatively to be discussed include: author rights, copyright, portability, cross-platform capability, indexing and searching, compatibility with print versions, and additional features not available to print-only versions (audio, video components, etc.).

My goal is to produce a balanced, unbiased view of the products currently on the market and hopefully encourage consumers to express their perceptions on current product as well as wants/expectations for the future.

Anything assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

If you are aware of any other angles that deserve attention, and that I have not mentioned, please let me know. I am very interested in producing a thorough feature that will educate readers on the benefits of eBooks.

***Rather than filling up this thread with responses, I invite anyone wishing to participate on this project to contact me by email at eBooks@absomagic.com. I look forward to getting a variety of consumers involved in this feature.

Thanks in advance for your help in this matter.

Andrew J. Pinard
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Postby Matthew Field » 07/31/02 12:44 PM

Andrew -- I haven't used e-books other than the pdf and html versions, and here is my quote: "E-books bite the big one."

MArtin Lewis published one of his dad Eric Lewis's notebooks as an e-book. Filled with great material, lovely color illuminations of the text, I've looked at it once. Digital Pabular? A bitch to read, pages too wide for the screen, I've looked at it once. Digital Linki Ring? Ditto.

I've printed out every goddam e-book I really wanted to read and bound them in binders. The one from Lybrary.com was horrible to print out, a bunch of separate files, problems with page sizes, but I did it anyway (this was Racherbaumer's "Sticks and Stones").

Some day, when e-paper becomes a reality and I can take the thing into the small reading room with the porcelain throne . . .

As for now, as Nero Wolfe would say, pfui.

Matthew Field (A manly-man's magic book editor)
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Postby CHRIS » 07/31/02 01:13 PM

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
The one from Lybrary.com was horrible to print out, a bunch of separate files, problems with page sizes, but I did it anyway (this was Racherbaumer's "Sticks and Stones").
Matt, I am not sure what you did printing the Sticks & Stones, but LybraryReader allows you to print the whole ebook in one swoop. No messing with single files.

I agree that an HTML document printed does not particularly look good. However, to be fair, the original Sticks & Stones doesn't look that nice either.

On the other hand, blindly printing out an ebook misses the point of ebooks. You remove all the benefits ebooks offer.

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Postby Guest » 08/01/02 12:23 AM

Andrew,
I use the microsoft reader and have no problems with that whatsoever.
The thing I like about the eBook format is that once I've downloaded I can forward a copy to my office PC for lunchtime reading. I'm a one man band so I don't have managers peering over my shoulder all the time at work.
As for titles I have one of Peter Duffies eBooks from Library.Com and also download the monthlies from Allmagicreader.com.
All the best
Ian
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Postby mop krayz » 11/01/02 04:30 AM

The ebooks I have seen mostly fall in 4 categories:

1. PDF. This seems to be the most sensible option. PDF is an industry standard that is also platform independent. The nicest ebooks I have seen are in this format.

2. HTML. Very plain in design, but they have the advantage of being platform independent.

3. Microsoft ebook reader books, nice look but awkward navigation.

4. Standalone Executable fiels. These work only on PCs. If a new version of Windows comes along there's no guarantee that they will work.

Recently a number of clubs and groups are publishing their newsletter/magazine in electronic format as this cuts down on cost.
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Postby CHRIS » 11/01/02 07:19 PM

Mop,

have you seen any of my Lybrary.com ebooks? I was just curious how you would compare them with the other ebooks you have seen, since I have built in some unique features such as text-to-speech, combination of digital facsimile with converted version, kick ass search engine and a few others.

You can get a free demo from my website in case you want to take a look.
http://www.lybrary.com/

Chris Wasshuber
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Postby Dave Egleston » 11/02/02 12:06 AM

Hi Mr. Pinard:
This is a subject I'm passionate over. I buy and read between 4,000 and 6,000 dollars worth of books annually for the last 20 years, most of them novels - lately, lots of magical publications (I wish I was smart enough to argue with Mr. Kaufman and Mr Racherbaumer about the future of magical publishing and what the consumer is willing to pay for a quality magic book) - I know the "wave of the future" is going to include the use of electronic media - however right now I'm not smart enough to work one of these pieces of crap and I want to read a book, not feel like I'm playing a video game
I tried to use an ebook when Barnes and Noble was selling them and including 3 free downloads with the purchase - I had it for 5 days and sent it back -
The number one problem with the unit was glare - if there was sunlight or an incandescent lamp nearby- unreadable - and since I read mostly in my car, (parked) the unit was worthless -
Same problem with reading in bed.
Because I'm an old man I could never get the size of the page right to make it comfortable to read - making the unit unreadable.
Another problem I had a couple of times was inadvertantly pushing the buttons, raising hell with the display screen.
Now to completely display, for all to see, my complete stupidiy: I don't know, nor care to know, what the heck a PDF, HTML, or stand alone file is and I certainly don't know how to manipulate an ebook to accept a download from a different than standard file - whatever that means.
I just want to pay my money and open a beautiful book and start reading.
A couple of other things - You can't really leave a ebook in your car - In central California - It gets up to 150 degrees and greater inside a parked car - that raises heck with my PDA so, I could only imagine what it would do to one of these units and the other thing is: I certainly wouldn't want to lay it down while I went on a coffee break - it would be gone in a heartbeat
Now by the same token - I can see where a downloadable magazine or newspaper could work
Also maybe for Textbooks - but for pure reading pleasure give me a book.
There are several repair manuals that are published on CD-Rom and are easy to read on the laptop when in a work environment and that is acceptable in most cases - because some of our repair manuals used to require up to 10 feet of shelf space per X-Ray room
I know there are a couple of advocates on this board for ebooks - and I'm sure they're rolling their eyes and saying unkind things about me and my attitude but, I'm not a creator, author, or salesperson - I'm the guy that supports those people and their endeavors with my purchasing power - until there is a standard format and readable screens - I'm not going to spend my money for this product
By the, Chris W. I've tried to access your Lybrary site from the hyperlink you've incessantly provided all over the web - My computer won't accept it for some reason - although, I can access other sites when using the hyperlink supplied for their websites

Dave
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Postby CHRIS » 11/02/02 08:01 AM

Dave,

could you tell me what browser, version and operating system you are using? I am still working on Opera compatibility for my website. IE and Netscape should work as long as you have JavaScript or JScript enabled and the version number is not 2.x or 3.x

BTW, there is nothing wrong with prefering books over ebooks. You mention that you read a lot of novels. A novel is in my opinion the last I would get in electronic form. Textbooks, reference books, books that I use more than once are better to have electronically, in my opinion. Because I can then search in them, take them with me on trips, ...

One important point with ebooks is that they are DIFFERENT to books. And since we humans are all 'habit animals', we are not good at changing our habits even if it would be good for us, there is a big hurdle to not just try out ebooks, but really make use of them by changing and adopting our habits. This is not to say that ebooks are all great and good. There is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of reading devices as well as in terms of ebook design, contents, multimedia, ...

This habit hurdle makes me believe that it needs a generation change for ebooks to really break through. I am convinced that such a generation change is imminent. Kids grow up with computers and PDAs. They are doing their homework online by researching the internet, submitting their homework electronically, signing up for classes electronically, ... and they grow up with various forms of ebooks and electronic content. They do not need to change their habits, they grow up with using ebooks. It might then come to a reversal, that many will find books are lacking all the neat features ebooks offer (searching, printing, text-to-speech, ...).

It will be interesting to keep this thread and revisit every 5 to 10 years. I have already seen a good trend towards ebooks in the last 3 years that I am sure we will be presented with a completely different situation in 10 years down the road.

Chris Wasshuber
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Postby Guest » 11/03/02 02:59 PM

Chris,

It might then come to a reversal, that many will find books are lacking all the neat features ebooks offer (searching, printing, text-to-speech, ...).
hey, that's right, books are really lacking that printing feature. What a pity! And searching? Well, I'm my own search engine and I'm smart enough to use the index and contents pages from time to time. I think, most book "users" do the same. Text-to-speach? Come on! Those metallic computer voices simply drive me mad.

E-Books are like cyber-sex. If nothing else is available, you may take it into consideration. But it's just not the real thing.

Uli
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Postby CHRIS » 11/03/02 06:47 PM

Originally posted by Uli Weigel:
And searching? Well, I'm my own search engine and I'm smart enough to use the index and contents pages from time to time. I think, most book "users" do the same. Text-to-speach? Come on! Those metallic computer voices simply drive me mad.[/QB]
Uli, I don't know how large your library is, but I know that I started to forget where exactly I read something after about the 50th magic book. That was many years back. Now my library is many times larger than that. And if I don't remember in which book I read it, an index is not of a whole lot of use to me.

You are missing another important point. You can search and find relevant passages in ebooks you haven't read. Think for example about something like The Sphinx magazine. 52 volumes, 597 issues, about 20,000 pages. I doubt that anybody will read these pages from the beginning to the end. But if you have it in electronic form, you could search in it and thus make good use of it, utilize it as resource. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few decades one can buy the 'Library of Congress on disc'. Nobody would buy this to read everything, cause it ain't possible. But it would be a heck of a research tool.

Text-to-speach? Come on! Those metallic computer voices simply drive me mad.[/QB]
Then you haven't heard the latest voice engines from Lucent. We have come a far way from the 'metallic' ones. Yes, they are still computer generated and one can hear that. But the voice and it's quality is not the important point. Text-to-speech enables new and unique uses of ebooks. Imagine for a moment you are blind or visually impaired. For these people text-to-speech is heaven sent. Suddenly they are not limited to a small set of books but can read anything they like, as long as it is in electronic form.

And even for most of us who are not visually impaired, there are lots of interesting new ways of studying magic if one has text-to-speech available. Think for example you try to study a new move. With one hand you need to hold open the book which is bound such that it doesn't lay flat, then you try to hold the cards and coins, plus the rubber band in your hands, and then you need to read the text in the book. And then at the most critical point you are required to turn the page. With what? Perhaps you are skilled with your toes :-) Anybody who has studied from books has experienced such situations. Text-to-speech makes this so much easier. You start the speech where you want it to start, set the tempo such that you can follow along, and can fully concentrate on your hands and use your hands. Since the ebook does it's own page turning you can even take a glimpse from time to time of the illustrations.

But again, this needs a habit change. The first time you try this it will feel akward, unusual, strange. After the third, fourth time you will recognize that you are much faster in picking up skills and that it is much easier to acquire new moves. I know, I went through these stages. Now I am much faster and more efficient in my learning.

Remember, it is not for everybody, and it requires a habit change, which are many not willing to accept.

Chris Wasshuber
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Postby Jamie Badman » 11/04/02 06:59 AM

I agree with Matt Field. E-Books are a real pain.

BUT... I only refer to the genuine 'E-Books' - those designed to be read on a computer.

Well produced Acrobat documents, while still technically E-Books are superb, provided you have a decent printer to dump them out on.

The advantages are they are cheaper/easier to produce (bringing the cost down accordingly) and when you buy one, you get it NOW!

The best examples of E-Books of this type out there are Tom Stone's. They are excellent; well produced, print well and look good.

Jamie.
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Postby Dave Egleston » 11/04/02 05:43 PM

[QUOTE] [ posted November 02, 2002 07:01 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dave,

could you tell me what browser, version and operating system you are using? I am still working on Opera compatibility for my website. IE and Netscape should work as long as you have JavaScript or JScript enabled and the version number is not 2.x or 3.x
/QUOTE]

Chris -
I don't think you read my post very carefully - I screwed up trying to understand how to use a stupid ebook device - I certainly don't know what the heck all those words (above) you wrote to me means -

Also, I think I stated (in a roundabout way): If it takes more than pushing a couple of buttons - I'm not interested in using it -

As for your question about why I couldn't get lybrary.com to magically appear on my monitor - I can only answer - I double clicked the hyper-link you put in your original post/advertisement and got a blank screen and the word "done" in the lower right corner - However, I can type the address and come to your website -

I read through it and admire your initiative - I'll never get used to using it and probably would quit using it if I saw an advertisement in my "book" - I buy my recreational books for enjoyment and escapism - Not to be hammered to spend even more money

Good luck in your endeavor
Dave
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Postby CHRIS » 11/04/02 06:55 PM

Dave,

thank you for giving my site a second try and letting me know that it worked fine. Having a broken website is the worst thing that can happen to an online business. I'm sorry for bombarding you with technicalities.

One thing I am curious to find out. So you are a book guy. Great. Your presence here online tells me that you can operate a computer, log on and type, find your way around the Internet, click hyperlinks, and a lot more. What is it that makes you use the computer to go online but not for ebooks? This is an honest question. I don't want to change your mind, I just want to understand you better.

Is it that you can interact with magicians which you couldn't do otherwise? Is it that you find interesting information online which you couldn't otherwise? What made you take the technical hurdle of operating a computer?

Chris Wasshuber
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Postby Dave Egleston » 11/06/02 11:29 PM

Chris,

Yes I can navigate somewhat around the internet, but the first time anything doesn't happen the way I think it's supposed to, and one of my daughters aren't around to help/blame, then I'm done for the evening

I was one of the first people in central California to own an ebook reader - When I heard what this reader could do and how much money I could potentially save on the cost of new books - I couldn't buy one fast enough!! It was expensive but so what? I would save that much money in the first two months of use, I spend that much on new books almost every month - The first disappointment: A very slim selection of books available, and hardly any newly published bestsellers and I just checked - Still slim pickns'

As I have stated in the previous post - I shipped it back to Barnes and Noble in less than a week after reciept - I couldn't read it in my van - Because of my job I do about 30% of my reading in my vehicle during lunch or waiting for a customer to release the room I'm trying to repair - and because of the excessive sunshine we get in California - The glare off the screen made this device less than worthless, I couldn't see a thing and just tightened my jaws because the thing cost me almost 400 dollars!! Thankfully B & N took it back and credited my account

So - once again, Chris - I admire your fore sight and believe you might have a winner as far as a business with it's eye toward the future goes, however - For a stupid old bastard like me who has no patience, and can't see worth a damn, and incidently, loves books - This thing is not for me
and quite truthfully - I don't see Mr Kaufman letting you digitize his books to sell at a greatly reduced price

I do have some repair manuals on cds and can read them because of the big screen on my laptop rather than have 20+ printed manuals for some of the machines I'm responsible for. But the first time I tried to access them from a disc it didn't work - I could get the table of contents to come up - but not display the pages I needed for the repair I was doing. When I went back to the shop - I had our nerd take a look at the laptop, and had to put up with his superior attitude while he tried to explain that I needed ADOBE ACROBAT READER to be able to use the discs - whatever the hell that is - So I told him "Ef U" just load it, and now it works ( so I guess I do know how to run a program to make a computer work!!) - The whole time our nerd was explaining how the program he installed worked - all I heard was "nnananablahblahblah"

So, that,Chris, is why I hate ebooks and ebook readers - It's not a personal attack on you - It is a testimony to my monumental ignorance and refusal to give up my beloved books

Dave
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Postby CHRIS » 11/07/02 07:20 AM

Dave, thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

Chris Wasshuber
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Postby Mike Powers » 11/08/02 01:41 PM

I rarely look at ebooks on my desktop computer. However, I've loaded up my Pocket PC with ebooks and videos. It's got a 128 Meg card in it which holds an unbelievable amount of info.

I've got several of Jon Racherbaumer's ebooks, Erdnase, Expert at the Card Table .... and many, many, more. All these books are in my pocket. They're with me when I travel and I can read them on the plane.

The ability to play video clips in Real Media or MediaPlayer is way cool. The internet is absolutely loaded with video clips and it's fun to load a bunch of them onto the Pocket PC and watch them while my oil is being changed etc.....
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Postby CHRIS » 11/08/02 07:26 PM

Mike,

since you mentioned video clips on PocketPC. Would you think that an ebook like "Card College" with many short video clips ranging from 5 seconds to 50 seconds would make a good PocketPC ebook? Do you think that the video quality is sufficient to be useful?

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Postby Guest » 11/28/02 04:47 AM

Chris,
I own Jamy Ian Swiss' Genii book review on e-book. I think it's great and love the fact that there are several years of book reviews in one compact disc. I like the way the reviews are broken down by year, author, titles, etc.. Very good product. I think the addition of photos and short movie clips might be good as well. Overall, I think its a great product. BUT nothing beats a sit down with an open book and a deck of cards! That's my opinion of course.

Roberto
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