Ebooks - the pros & cons...

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Tim Ellis » 01/07/10 05:40 AM

We have had great success with our Lecture Notes, selling hundreds during tours and getting great feedback from people who say they've really enjoyed them.

Now we're on the verge of releasing them as Ebooks but fellow creators tell me it's the wrong way to go...

They say we'll sell a few, then they'll be passed around the internet forever.

Now a lot of people are saying they are done with making Ebooks and are going back to making "real" books as they are harder to copy.

What are your thoughts?
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Postby mrgoat » 01/07/10 07:35 AM

Those people are right. There is no future whatsoever in distributing printed words electronically.
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Postby Seuss » 01/07/10 09:29 AM

tom stone would seem to be the right guy to ask
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/07/10 08:19 PM

mrgoat wrote:Those people are right. There is no future whatsoever in distributing printed words electronically.


Why?
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Postby Magic Newswire » 01/07/10 08:31 PM

Bad news. The consumer electronics show, which is currently taking place in Vegas, is flooded with eReaders like the Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble. With the possibility of an Apple Tablet announcement later this month, that adds one more significant player to that market. There was a study done by the NY Times in which they discovered that they couls stop printing the hard copy of the paper, send every subscriber a Kindle and save millions a year.

Personally, I'll always enjoy dead tree media, but don't fool yourself into thinking that this is not a trend to pay attention to.
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Postby Mark Collier » 01/07/10 08:33 PM

Tim Ellis wrote:
mrgoat wrote:Those people are right. There is no future whatsoever in distributing printed words electronically.


Why?



I'm guessing because sarcasm doesn't translate well to the forum. I know, I've tried.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/07/10 09:03 PM

Yes, Mr. Goat was being sarcastic. Have a look at our other thread on this subject and you can see all the links I've posted to the new eReaders coming out this year.

Tim, unfortunately I'm stuck in the same rut of thinking as you, however as has been convincingly pointed out in the other thread, all your stuff is already bootlegged in digital form on the internet . It's just a question of whether you control the distribution and make the money or not. Also, people were swapping songs illegally until iTunes came along and started selling legal downloads at a can't-resist price. They're selling huge amounts of legally downloadable music.
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Postby SteveP » 01/07/10 09:16 PM

A couple of thoughts. If you distribute your lecture notes as an ebook, then yes it's certainly going to be easier to pass around for free, however don't think that they wont scan them from your printed version. I was shocked to see The Magic of Michael Ammar out there a few years ago as a PDF. That's a big book! All the issues of Magick are out there in individual PDFs.

A few years ago Michael Ammar paid me to scan every issue of the MAJ because he's made them available as a download. That was first and last project like that for me. What a pain that was. I got paid, I can't imagine these guys doing it for free. Amazing.

Security on PDFs are a joke. If you password protect it, you just piss off the customer because they have to enter a password every time they want to read it. Also, it's easy to remove a password from a PDF, just as it is easy to remove watermarks, and email addresses embedded on every page.

From a personal perspective, I'm finished with ebooks. I don't want to have to be near my computer to learn a new routine, so I'm going to wind up printing it out. I have several binders full of ebooks. Plus I have them all backed up on CDs. It's not worth it anymore AND they're expensive. Why are people charging $40, $50 and up for an ebook? I can get a real book for that amount.

A couple of months ago Richard Osterlind stopped selling his ebooks and is only offering printed versions of his Mind Mystery Guidebooks.

I hadn't checked Ammar's site in a while, but every MAJ issue is there for download, but I also know he had all the issues rescanned at a higher resolution because they have been complied and will be released as a book.

Maybe it's just us guys over 40 who are burned out on instant downloads and are feeling sentimental over traditional books. Sure Apple has a new product coming out, the Kindle is out there, but I don't see Barnes & Noble & Borders stores shutting down anytime soon.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/07/10 09:44 PM

Borders is already near bankruptcy.

There's no question in which direction things are moving.

You have to forget about reading eBooks on your computer: that's not what people want to do and that's not what they're going to do.

Go and look at all the links to the new eReaders I've put up and you'll see what the future is going to look like. I can tell you this: it's not a shelf lined with printed books.
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Postby SteveP » 01/07/10 10:02 PM

Well if a company like Borders goes down, is it a sign that people are reading digital books more or are they just buying their books off the internet? Because our little industry is so small, years ago we saw dealers closing their stores and some just doing internet sales. If Borders didn't have the huge overhead of retail outlets and just sold over the web, would they be doing better financially? You're closer to that industry than I am. I'm just looking at it as a consumer.

But then let me ask you this - what's the future of Kaufman & Company? Are you looking at digital books down the line or would you rather just stop publishing?
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/07/10 11:38 PM

Richard makes a good price about iTunes selling music at an affordable price - but what's 'The Right Price' for ebooks?

Our printed notes (36 pages, full colour) were $20.

They contain a dozen tricks plus several essays etc.

The ebook is expanded, has colour photos, embedded urls and bonus tricks & essays and runs almost 70 pages.

It might even have a video clip or two in it?

Should we still sell it at $20... or more.. or less?

I've seen a lot of ebooks out there that are one trick for $25 (a bit like the one trick DVD trend) and the producers say they sell several a week!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/08/10 12:04 AM

You have to price it so that it's EASY to make the purchase. Has to be less than the printed piece because your overhead is less.
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Postby Paul Gordon » 01/08/10 01:31 AM

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Postby Magic Newswire » 01/08/10 01:42 AM

Even Xeroxed lecture notes have a "perceived value." You sell it for what people will see as a good value for the content. Adding extras might actually be a way to charge more. For example, have a look at a prototype of Sports Illustrated on a tablet device.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/08/10 01:53 AM

That demo with Sports Illustrated on the tablet is amazing. Note how large the tablet is by comparing it to the size of the hands--big.
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Postby Magic Newswire » 01/08/10 02:10 AM

There are several versions that are being proposed in a tabloid size. By comparison, the mythical Apple Tablet is alleged to be in the 10 inch form factor.
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Postby Magic Newswire » 01/08/10 02:59 AM

BTW.. here is one of the products that is getting tons of attention at CES. A tablet/laptop hybrid that appears to be in the same form factor as the SI Video:

(Can you believe it.. I do more than magic! ;-)
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/08/10 05:28 AM

There are definite advantages to PDFs, as well as the well documented disadvantages.

From the cottage industry end of the spectrum, where I sit, the main bonuses of epublishing are initial investment and distribution. Acrobat 9 is not a cheap piece of software, but it's something that would be needed to make a book anyway, and I don't have to front up a couple of thousand pounds to print and store loads of books. PDFs mean that I can deliver a product to the other side of the world while I sleep and my customers don't have to wait a week for a package to cross the ocean.

It is important, however, to realise that although the book has an 'e' on the front, it is still a book, and we need to put as much care and attention into its production as if it were bound in cloth. We owe it to our customers to do the best job we can to put across the information - it is the glut of poorly produced ebooks that is poisoning the public's perception of them. Quality will stand out.

Security will always be an issue for epublishers, simply because there is none. I mentioned this in the Wesley James thread a couple of years ago - there is no way to lock down a PDF, and once you realise that it's easier to get on with life. When I was younger I harboured a dream of fencing in the Commonwealth Games. If I hadn't been injured there's a chance I would have mde it, too. Now I realise that it's not going to happen and it doesn't bother me anymore.

PDFs are going to be passed around. The thing is to make it so that it's not worth it to steal. Pricing of secrets is always going to be a contentious issue, but having a lower, impulse price point seems to be better (at least to me). I always think it's better to sell five copies at ten pounds than one copy at forty pounds.

By far the best advantage to PDFs is the ability to embed video content along with the written word. Mike Close pioneered this with Closely Guarded Secrets and took it a stage further with the Work series, which I am now carrying on. It matters not which camp your audience is in - books or video - now you can get the best of both worlds of explaining the routine in the detail of a book and then show what it looks like in real time on a video. Acrobat 9 now converts all embedded video to FLV and the Reader 9 has a built in flash viewer, so you don't even need to bother with codecs or file formats.

(Here's a hint to anyone thinking of going down this route - when you register your copy of 9 Pro, Adobe send you a benfit package. Choose the 30 day sub to Lynda.com and watch their Acrobat training videos. It will cut your learning curve into pieces. I digress)

Finally, make sure that your eBook will look good when it's printed out. There are still people of our generation who will like to read on paper (I'm one of them) and it's always nice to have something to read (I'm finding the Taschen book to be perfect bathroom reading material...)

People may still like tangiable things - Tim, I can look over my shoulder at my bookshelf and see the notes you gave me in Melbourne in 93 - but the world is changing. As long as we produce good quality material and avoid the drek perhaps there's a future in epublishing after all.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Paul Gordon » 01/08/10 05:46 AM

Dear Ian,

Correct me if I'm being daft, but what's the point of buying a pdf and then printing it out. Surely the printer ink, paper etc add up; not to mention the home-binding? And, even if you comb-bind it - they look pretty naff. To me, it only seems to benefit the author/publisher because the process costs him zilch. Example:

A friend bought/got the "illegal" Close-up Card Magic pdf. He printed out all 270 pages and stuffed it in a folder. After doing my sums, I worked out he could bought a copy of said book for only 5 more! And, obviously, he'd have had a good-looking book.

(Yes, I know pdfs are easily searchable etc...)

Hope all is well...see you in B/pool.

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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/08/10 06:10 AM

Again, the benefits of PDF are distribution; I can get books from America in seconds, and it goes the other way too, and the lower initial investment for the publisher.

Over the last few years I have bought many ebooks, the vast majority of which either would not have made it to print or I would not have bought as a book. I print them out on a double sided laser printer and store them with my other books. The price point is another thing - I'm far more likely to try out an unknown writer if it only costs me ten dollars, than if I were to spend forty dollars on a book. This way I get to discover hidden wonders, and the drek rate, although I do own a lot of drek, is quite low.

As for comb binding, I have always felt that the words on the paper are more important than the binding. I have the five original Workers books, which are comb bound. That does not make them any less valuable in terms of content.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/08/10 06:20 AM

Oh, and as for cost of printing - my Dell CN3100 printer has an advertised cost per page of 1 cent in black, and 7.4 cents colour. Assuming that your PDF of Close up Card Magic was in black and white, it would cost under 3 pounds to print (adding in the cost of the paper). Most eBooks are a lot smaller than 270 pages!

Take care, Ian
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Postby mrgoat » 01/08/10 06:41 AM

Richard Kaufman wrote: They're selling huge amounts of legally downloadable music.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/ja ... ecord-high

More singles sold than ever before. THAN EVER BEFORE. 98.5% as downloads.

The piracy argument is now more spurious that it ever was. As Doctorow said, obscurity is more of a worry than piracy. Music is so so very easy to pirate, yet more people than EVER BEFORE bought a single this way.

If you release something it will be pirated. Unavoidable fact.

The trick is to release something that is so well priced it is easier to buy it legally than it is to find a torrent, download it over hours or days in some cases, unrar it, find out it isn't what it said it was, rinse, repeat and finally get it. Or pay 1.99 and get the lecture notes in seconds.

Legal streaming on Hulu etc does this well. iTunes does this well.

The magic community should all get together and create itunes magic store. But it won't.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/08/10 08:04 AM

$1.99 price point is great if you're going to sell thousands, not so hot here in the magic community where it's hundreds.

(Snakebabe reported her new app sold 80,000 in the first few days. I can't imagine any magic pdf doing those numbers - even if it was $1.99!)

Ian - you have the 1993 lecture notes?! 'The Secret Diary of Tim Ellis'? That must be a collector's item by now.

That's one benefit of "real" books over pdf's, they do become collectible.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/08/10 08:25 AM

Check eBay soon for an original green cover issue of Tim Ellis' 1993 lecture notes 'The Secret Diary of Tim Ellis'...

Or not.

I spent a week working Bourke St Mall in 93, and visited you and Kristina in the shop along with Barry Govan. After the Harry Allen lecture (dealer dem) we had a session in the side room of the shop, and you gave me the notes as a parting gift. I still dip into them, and applied many of the tips therein.

However, Bourke St sucks for street performers and I hotfooted it back to Circular Quay...

Take care, Ian
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Postby mrgoat » 01/08/10 08:25 AM

Tim Ellis wrote:$1.99 price point is great if you're going to sell thousands, not so hot here in the magic community where it's hundreds.


Right, best forget all about it then and stick to paper.

That's that sorted!

(I mean, it wasn't just a pointless number I made up, it is based on loads of research and stuff? It could well have been 2.99, or 4.99, or 9.99. Point is, if you really don't get it, is that you have to make it so cheap that pirating it just becomes unattractive. CD singles physically used to cost around 4.99 on CD with 6 remixes you didn't want. Now, they are 99p and have sold more last year than EVER BEFORE. You do the maths. It's the mixture of cutting edge device and the store to legally and EASILY buy from that made the ipod and then the iphone work in terms of unit sales and then content sales afterwards.)
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/08/10 08:43 AM

Oh I understand what you're saying Mr Goat.

As the old saying goes, we have already established that, now we are just negotiating price.
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Postby mrgoat » 01/08/10 09:00 AM

Tim Ellis wrote:Oh I understand what you're saying Mr Goat.

As the old saying goes, we have already established that, now we are just negotiating price.


My hunch would be half the price of the physical book. But the joy of electronic publishing means you can test and measure really easily.

Get your site, get 4 different versions of it made. Serve these 4 versions using google website optimiser. Have one at 99c, 2.99, 5.99, 9.99 - (or whatever figures you want), see which version yields more sales.

Or send 4 versions of an email to your mailing list.

Asking us what we think is fairly pointless. Ask your audience and they will tell you with their wallet.

IMHO, as ever.
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Postby Andrew Pinard » 01/08/10 07:03 PM

Ian Kendall wrote:Mike Close pioneered this with Closely Guarded Secrets and took it a stage further with the Work series, which I am now carrying on.


Just want to point out that Martin Lewis was the first to embed video in a magic PDF in Personal Magic Vol. One, a reproduction in facsimile of his father's notebooks in color. Both Eric and Martin Lewis are featured on the CDROM. Michael followed up with Closely Guarded Secrets and expanded on the use of video (more clips) integrated with the text.

ajp
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/08/10 07:11 PM

Absolutly, but as I recall, Personal Magic had the videos in a folder on the CD, not embedded. I'd have to dig out the CD to check.

But yes, you are correct about Martin putting video content with digital text and I apologise if I caused any offence.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Michael Close » 01/08/10 07:13 PM

Chris Wasshuber released a digital version of Card College 1 with embedded video that preceded Closely Guarded Secrets. I believe that CGS was the first ebook to be specifically written with the combination of text, photographs, and video in mind. This approach was continued in the first three volumes of The Work and the Torn & Restored Card ebooks. Used correctly, I think the combination of text, photos, and videos provides the finest method of teaching possible; it makes an ebook a unique teaching tool, one that supersedes merely converting text to a digital format.

Just my two cents.
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Postby Andrew Phillips » 01/08/10 07:29 PM

There is one other thought that perhaps I could add; if the content of the Pdf is the only place this material was going to be released then it could be as a reputation builder. It could be as part of a campaign to build interest in other products, services, etc.
This would mean that knowing it is going to be passed around like mad could then make it a benefit. Using the thoughts of Chris Wasshuber to imbed vid, etc. would make even more valuable than printing a forty dollar book.
So when you do your calculation for the price of the pdf versus a book you could add into that each person you are advertising to as well. Then to each person they pass it to and so on...
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Postby Ian Kendall » 01/08/10 07:42 PM

And I'm getting my historical backside handed to me this evening. I didn't realise that CC1 came out before CGS.

Time for bed, Zebedee.
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Postby Magic Newswire » 01/08/10 07:52 PM

PDF is not the only format guys. There are others that offer DRM and such if you think that's a better direction to go in.
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Postby Andrew Pinard » 01/08/10 08:09 PM

Ian Kendall wrote:I didn't realise that CC1 came out before CGS.


No problem Ian, I just like to point it out when a reference like this arises.

In Martin's book, there is a link at the top corner of the title page of effects with a video example that reads "Video Clip". Clicking on the link launches the Quicktime video. While perhaps not as elegantly implemented as some of the titles that followed (Close's titles are particularly well integrated), it was technically the first magic e-book with embedded video.

Personal Magic (Martin Lewis/Magikraft)= copyright 2000
Card College 1 (lybrary.com) = copyright 2002
Closely Guarded Secrets (Michael Close) = copyright 2004

Sleep well! ;O)

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Postby SteveP » 01/08/10 09:49 PM

Magic Newswire wrote:PDF is not the only format guys. There are others that offer DRM and such if you think that's a better direction to go in.


Dodd,

DRM in our industry is a joke. Just about anything you could want is yours for the asking, for free. Any new release, within a couple of weeks is available in multitude of places. The major studios can't do it, what makes anyone in the magic industry think they can do it?

DRM equals inconvenience. It means having to register or enter a password or having to deal with a watermark. It says to the majority of honest customers "We don't trust any of you, so deal with it." DRM just encourages hackers to get past it (which they ALWAYS do). DRM provides a false sense of security to the creator.

If you want to prevent your material from getting out there for free, then don't release it. That's the only way. Everything else is an exercise in futility.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/08/10 10:21 PM

Well guys thanks for your feedback.

ELLIS IN WONDERLAND - the ebook - will be out some time next week at our online store

http://www.australianmagician.com/store

It is about 74 pages, has over a dozen tricks plus essays, humour and bonus articles.

Colour photos, illustrations, hyperlinks AND I'm going to try to do an A4 version (for Aussies and Europeans to print out) and a LETTER version (for the Americans)


Hope you like it!
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Postby Magic Newswire » 01/08/10 11:02 PM

Steve Pellegrino wrote:
Magic Newswire wrote:PDF is not the only format guys. There are others that offer DRM and such if you think that's a better direction to go in.


Dodd,

DRM in our industry is a joke. Just about anything you could want is yours for the asking, for free. Any new release, within a couple of weeks is available in multitude of places. The major studios can't do it, what makes anyone in the magic industry think they can do it?

DRM equals inconvenience. It means having to register or enter a password or having to deal with a watermark. It says to the majority of honest customers "We don't trust any of you, so deal with it." DRM just encourages hackers to get past it (which they ALWAYS do). DRM provides a false sense of security to the creator.

If you want to prevent your material from getting out there for free, then don't release it. That's the only way. Everything else is an exercise in futility.


I agree. Just mentioning that PDF is not the primary format for material purchased for these devices.
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Postby Frank Yuen » 01/09/10 01:35 AM

Tim Ellis wrote: AND I'm going to try to do an A4 version (for Aussies and Europeans to print out) and a LETTER version (for the Americans)


There's no real need to go through the trouble Tim, format it for A4 and just make sure the top and bottom margins are adequate so that nothing will get cut off when printing to letter size (all that would happen to the side margins is that they get a little larger). People always have the "fit to page" option when printing as well.
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/09/10 04:23 AM

Thanks for the tip! It will save me some time!
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Postby Tim Ellis » 01/12/10 01:37 AM

It's FINALLY finished and available at

http://www.australianmagician.com
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