e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

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CHRIS
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e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » October 29th, 2004, 7:44 pm

After almost 5 years of publishing magic & gambling e-books, I wanted to get some feedback on how you assess the last five years of e-book developments.

Some of the questions you could try to answer:
- Do you think that e-books made a positive development over the last 5 years?
- How large do you think the magic e-book market is (what percentage do you think buys e-books)?
- Do you think there is a future in e-books?
- Where do you see the major issues problems?

Chris Wasshuber
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Wheeler » October 29th, 2004, 8:20 pm

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Some of the questions you could try to answer:
- Do you think that e-books made a positive development over the last 5 years?
- How large do you think the magic e-book market is (what percentage do you think buys e-books)?
- Do you think there is a future in e-books?
- Where do you see the major issues problems?
I think e-books have made a positive development, if it weren't for e-books, I probably would still be without copies of "The Phoenix" and "The Pentagram". I'm still a book guy, but admittedly e-books have been a nice addition. There are for instance, some real gems that aren't easy to find anywhere else but on your site.

The biggest problem is simply that I don't enjoy staring at a computer screen for hours on end, and as things stand now (at least for me) thats the only way to read e-books conveinently (yeah I know I can print them out, but the Jinx is a lot of toner :) )
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby BlueEyed Videot » October 29th, 2004, 10:31 pm

E-books and I just don't get along. My computer is (due to job requirements and my love of bleeding-edge hardware) not a laptop, and therefore not in a good location for learning/practicing magic. I have three places I read magic books. One, at my closeup table; two, curled up in my favorite chair (in front of the TV where I also view magic DVDs); and three, in bed.

I own 2 e-books: "The Phoenix/New Phoenix/Skinner's Notes", and Michael Close's "Closely Guarded Secrets". I decided after my first, 'The Bird', that I didn't enjoy the experience of perusing Adobe-formatted E-books. It just doesn't seem, uh, organic enough. After long reading sessions I found I would develop a headache/neckache, and my eyes hurt. No adjustment of chair, keyboard, or monitor seemed to alleviate my symptoms. Yet, oddly enough, I found I could study my Tannen's bound reprints all day with nary a twinge. Have I been too imprinted on physical books?

I purchased my second e-book, "Closely Guarded Secrets"--because it wasn't available in a bound version (and I'm a big Close fan)--and promply printed it out and had it spiral bound. Ahhh. Heaven. I've referred to the animated clips a couple of times (secretly wishing for a CGS DVD much like the Workers videos) to resolve some handling details, but for the most part, I'm very happy with Ol' Spirally. Opens flat on my close up table, and read pages turn behind for easy chair/bed reading. I will say, however, that Mike Close did an absolutely astonishing job formatting his e-book! Hence its transferrence to hardcopy (I took the liberty of printing it one-sided) produced a wonderfully laid out book. Thanks Mike!

Yes, I'm jaded. I suppose I should mention that my day job involves sitting in front of several different computers performing software quality assurance engineering. Between debugging GUI software and looking stuff up in online IBM DB2 UDB and Oracle manuals, I do a lot of eyeballing. Yet, I never seem to suffer doing that as much as I suffer with my two magic e-books.

Maybe I'm just too old--I'm 52--and too set in my ways. But then again, there are things that you just don't get from ebooks (sorry Chris). There's a certain feel of a good book. A certain aural pleasure as one pages through it. And then there's that musty-booky-library smell that greets me like an old friend each time I pull a tome off the shelf. Seeing he previous owner's notes, dog-eared pages, rips and scrapes. Leaving my own notes, dog-eared pages, rips and scrapes. Gives a book character. A personal history, if you will.

I guess that's what I'm missing from e-books. Maybe I'm a heretic for saying this--Racherbaumer douse me with absinthe and drive a stake through my heart--but e-books have no soul.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Brad Henderson » October 30th, 2004, 12:07 am

I was talking to some Britannica reps at a trade show and a study just came out proving that the physiological act of reading a book aids in retention. I know, for me, that it is uncomfortable to read on the screen. Couple that with the fact that it is near impossible to remember "where" one read an idea, the efficiency factor just isn't there. The Brit. takes 8 page scroll downs for a single page. You loose a lot of tools in trying to recall information that way.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Ian Kendall » October 30th, 2004, 1:10 am

I think the most important advantage of e-books is one of distribution. Since the Interweb has effectively erased any borders, e-books allow fast and easy delivery anywhere in the world.

I have several e-books, and I print them all out and file them in a binder (and for CSG I strongly recommend generating friendships with people who have access to commercial full duplex colour laser printers :) )

I do not enjoy reading on a PC screen, though. These days I see e-books and e-notes as a natural evolution of the photocopied manuscripts of yesteryear.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » October 30th, 2004, 7:29 am

Wonderful stuff, please keep it coming. Beside the absolute evaluation 'e-books good or e-books bad' (for whatever reason), I would be particularly interested in your perception of 'have e-books improved'. Meaning, even if you do not use or like e-books, have they become slightly more attractive over the last years? Do you see some positive developments? Or is everything as bad as it was? Likewise, if you like e-books do you think they have become even better over the last years? (One positive could be that there are more magic e-books available today than there were 5 years ago. Or what about contents, layout, sales channel, service, awareness, ...)

Richard, no need to appologize. I have an honest interest in your thoughts and opinions, regardless if you like or do not like e-books.

Brad, thanks for sharing this very interesting information. Do you know by any chance where this study has been published? Intuitively it makes a lot of sense.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Michael Close » October 30th, 2004, 11:06 am

My thanks to Richard Hart for the kind words on CGS. I should clarify one point. The layout for CGS was done by my wife Lisa, not me, and I agree that she did a beautiful job.

Wait until you see the results of the next project she's working on.

Best

M. Close

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Guest » October 30th, 2004, 7:14 pm

Chris, I find I use them more as a supplement than a replacement. I have the hardbound and e-version of quite a few books. I use them from a pure convenience side of the equation. Going out of town or to a magic gathering? Grab my laptop and I've got a lot of resources to read if I'm traveling, or if I'm at a gathering of magicians, I can quickly go to the laptop and find something I'm looking for at that moment.

I rarely sit and read from them the computer if I'm at home, even though I find reading from the LCD screen of a laptap is far less taxing on the eyes as a normal monitor.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Matthew Field » October 31st, 2004, 3:49 am

Chris knows I'm not a fan of e-books, but I have found them useful on occasions when I am on the road and can't carry physical volumes (at least not more than one or two). I spent three months in Florida last winter and e-books kept me good company (notably "Pabular") and during my recent move to England, in the month between the time my books were shipped and their arrival, I had a dozen e-book volumes to use on my laptop.

But, having said that, I find it unappealing to read books on the computer screen. I paid quite a few dollars for Chris's Sphinx reissue (and it is highly recommended to one and all) but I still haven't spent much time with it. Either the pages are tiny on the screen or they're cut off in odd places so they're large enough for the print to be readable. Either way, unpleasant. Same goes for the huge Linking Ring set and the recent M-U-M disk.

I can't imagine that, given a choice, I would opt for e-books. I commend Chris for his efforts at making the classics available in affordable e-book editions, but I am very glad I have most of those books in hard copy.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » October 31st, 2004, 2:58 pm

If we want to distill it down to one reason, then is it fair to say that the major drawback of ebooks is _the reading experience_?

Most can see the superiority of ebooks in searching and in the their small footprint. Let me ask you all a hypothetical question:

Assume you would be able to buy a set of DVDs with say 10,000 magic ebooks on it. You buy these obviously not to read each and every ebook, but to be able to search and then read certain sections. Without specifying what such a set of DVDs would cost, who would consider to purchase it? Who would think this is a good idea?

I think that eventually the economy of ebooks will allow many people to own many more ebooks than they own books today. Think about the scenario of everyone having a 'Library of Congress' at home, ready to be searched and read. That means that we will buy ebooks, not so much to read them, but to be able to later search in them. This would be a very different usage model than the one with books. Does anybody want to agree or disagree? Any thoughts on this issue?

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Dave Egleston » October 31st, 2004, 5:11 pm

Originally posted by Michael Close:
My thanks to Richard Hart for the kind words on CGS. I should clarify one point. The layout for CGS was done by my wife Lisa, not me, and I agree that she did a beautiful job.

Wait until you see the results of the next project she's working on.

Best

M. Close
I am finally going to KINKO's and print out Mr Close's book - (I haven't been able to enjoy Mr Close's CGS because of the uncomfortable position I have to assume when reading from a TV screen), I found out from Chris Aguilar they'll do it for about 10-15 dollars

I wish authors would print it out for us and charge 20 dollars more.

E-books are unparalleled in today's technology: however we have a couple of pantie waists at work who are suing our employer because of the eyestrain and headaches caused by reading page after page of e-manuals rather than the old fashioned "spread the schematics across the wall/table" style of troubleshooting - Hard to find a printer capable of printing out 15 pages of readable schematics at midnight.

What Mr Wasshuber has always championed is the searching capabilities of ebooks, and I can't agree with this more - I DO plan on buying complete files of several of the magazines he is offering just for that search function - but I'll never be able to enjoy an evening of just reading through old magazines randomly as I can with my 40+ years of Genii's ( Of course, 5 inches of shelf space versus 12 feet of shelf space would make my wife a little happier)

So to answer your question Mr Wasshuber: Ebooks are no better than they were 5 years ago as far as reading comfort goes, but ebooks are inevitable and if you just accept the fact that you'll have to wait another ten years before the first wave of ebooks consumers are old enough to buy ebooks -- You'll be fine.

Tried not to ramble too much - but that goes against my nature

Dave

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 1st, 2004, 5:24 am

Dave, thanks for pointing out that people who work with schematics, maps or other large documents are particularly handicapped by ebooks, due to the small screen size.

Let me share here that Lybrary.com is also working on improving the reading experience of ebooks. I have started with a friend a company who is developing a new digital document viewer. Something inbetween a PDA and a laptop which is particularly adapted to reading ebooks. It will address some of the problems that are typically mentioned. One will be price of such reading device, the other will be battery lifetime. The screen issues are tougher to solve. Here we will have to wait for new technologies to become mature, like e-ink screens or similar.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby mrgoat » November 1st, 2004, 9:27 am

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Dave, thanks for pointing out that people who work with schematics, maps or other large documents are particularly handicapped by ebooks, due to the small screen size.

Let me share here that Lybrary.com is also working on improving the reading experience of ebooks. I have started with a friend a company who is developing a new digital document viewer. Something inbetween a PDA and a laptop which is particularly adapted to reading ebooks. It will address some of the problems that are typically mentioned. One will be price of such reading device, the other will be battery lifetime. The screen issues are tougher to solve. Here we will have to wait for new technologies to become mature, like e-ink screens or similar.
Interesting. Other large electronic companies have totally failed to produce a portable ebook reader and many have tried.

How far down the line are you with this? I never got past the fact it cost almsot as much as a laptop, yet was a 'one app' box.

Now the new ibook is only 700 bucks or something ludicrous I really can't see how you cna do it cost effectively but would be really interested if you did!

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 1st, 2004, 11:06 am

Originally posted by mrgoat:
Interesting. Other large electronic companies have totally failed to produce a portable ebook reader and many have tried.

How far down the line are you with this? I never got past the fact it cost almsot as much as a laptop, yet was a 'one app' box.

Now the new ibook is only 700 bucks or something ludicrous I really can't see how you cna do it cost effectively but would be really interested if you did!
Fair question. What makes me think I can do it better than so many other large and established companies? The main insight is that all these new palm-computers are fully featured computers. That is why they cost several hundred dollars a piece. The one we are working on is only a viewer. Meaning there will be no or very limited editing possible. This limitation allows us to significantly reduce the price.

We are building our first prototype. All hardware components are more or less selected and we are currently putting them together. Then we will run some software tests and decide if we have a shot going ahead.

Price target is below $100 end consumer price. What is very encouraging is that we most likely will be able to do that. Our prototype, single quantity, will cost around $50-$70. This tells you that even in a small series production we will very likely make $100.

Also, it will be a completely open architecture. So if anyone is familiar with programing an ARM processor or wants to develop or port software, drop me an email and you can be part very early on.

Chris Wasshuber
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 1st, 2004, 11:30 am

Real books are currently much more portable. You can take a book with you from room to room or even on a trip and easily continue to read it.

Also, you dont have to worry about the battery life of a book. There are some new screen technologies that use very little power, but currently they sacrifice quality for longevity.

E-books are still relegated to either non-copyrighted material or where the publisher has bought in to the concept. Given the ease of theft with e-books, many publishers are reluctant to release their material in this form even given the greatly reduced publishing costs.

E-books can be printed and bound, so theyre often a cost effective way to get information that can eventually be converted to hardcopy form. And of course e-books are much better for navigation and searching. Those are the reasons that I've purchased a lot of e-books from Chris.

I dont think e-books will be in mainstream usage until someone can develop a reader with a high quality color screen that is at least 7 inches by 9 inches (approximately 18 cm by 23 cm) with at least 100 dots per inch resolution that can run for 24 hours on a 4 hour charge. It has to weigh less than 4 pounds (1814.4 grams) and hopefully much less than this. You also have to be able to drop it from a height of 4 feet (approximately 1.22 meters) onto a hard surface and still have it work.

My specifications might be either too stringent or too lenient, but those are all the issues I have with the current state of technology. For example, I might be willing to sacrifice color capability for much longer battery life. However, I don't know if the market would accept a monochrome screen.

Those specifications are even more important to me than whether the device has wireless capability, although I do think any reader should have either have 802.11g built in or allow a wirless network plug-in (powered off by default) or it wont stay competitive in the market for long. 802.11g is just the currently preferred wireless technology. This is sure to change in the future.

I know a lot of what I wrote would drive up the cost of the device. I think this is where we're headed long-term. There will be many in-between devices along the way. If you make your device inexpensive enough then perhaps you can get good market share and ride the wave of new technologies. It's always good to be first!

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Duncan » November 1st, 2004, 12:01 pm

The trick of course would be getting someone to shell out the $75 - $100 for the reader in the first place. That's where having a library of titles would be a real bonus.

I wouldn't spend $75 or an e-book reader but I might spend it on a complete file of the Jinx that came with a reader...

And then, since I had the reader already I might spring for the full price copy of another e-book, and another.

Give them the telephone. Sell them the service. Sell them a laser printer for $100 and toner cartridges for $80.

It's a business model that works.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 1st, 2004, 3:26 pm

I don't know where the final price will be in the end, but in a few years, I think a very simple digital document viewer could be in the $30-$40 price range, not much more than a hardback book.

Of course demand in features and screen quality will keep the price stable, and only the features improve.

I don't agree with color screens. 99% of all books are black and white, not even greyscale. If the resolution is good one can use dithering. The problem is more a resolution and screensize problem. E-ink screens have 150dpi resolution. That is already very good. I remember my first HP inkjet printer had 140dpi highest resolution.

I also think that with a low power design and perhaps some energy scavenging techniques, one could make a digital document viewer work almost continuously. We are working to reach 20 hours of reading, with several power options (battery, rechargable, maybe fuel cells)

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby JonP » November 1st, 2004, 4:21 pm

Q: Do you think that e-books made a positive development over the last 5 years?

A: Absolutley. Particularly in terms of making available out-of-print publications available in a practical usable form. The ability to search alone is very valuable.

Q: How large do you think the magic e-book market is (what percentage do you think buys e-books)?

A: Not as large as it could be. The publishers need to offer the kind of value-add that Mike Close did with CGS. Some e-books I just won't buy becuase of the pricing. One I looked at the other day was (approx) $35 e-book (download) and only $40 printed (including postage!). That is just plain silly. Lybrary's pricing seems reasonable to me, but too many magicians/publishers just seem to offer the e-book format to increase their margin.

Q: Do you think there is a future in e-books?

A: Absolutley and I think CGS shows the way. I spend much of my working life with e-books of one sort or another and they are too convenent to ignore. I browse the e-version and print those sections requiring more detailed study.

Q: Where do you see the major issues problems?

Insufficient value-add relative to price.
Portability - I take a laptop everywhere I go, but not everybody does. No e-readers that I have seen to-date are worth the effort.
Piracy - it takes a lot of effort to copy a book. Copying an e-book is relatively trivial and most copy protection schemes only annoy the genuine purchaser without impact the crooks at all.

Just my 5 cents worth.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Richard Kaufman » November 1st, 2004, 7:57 pm

All valid points made by JonP in Canada.
But, we will see "readers" come down in price and improve greatly in practicality--it's the wave of the future and there's no holding it back.
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Chris Aguilar » November 1st, 2004, 8:50 pm

I would prefer to see the books in digital form be available via some form of inexpensive "print on demand" system. I don't see the screen requirements (with their issues) being solved anytime soon and would frankly prefer something that isn't going to run out of battery on me or strain my already poor vision.

If Chris W. offered inexpensive hardcopies (even spiral bound ones) of his offerings, I think he would find a market for that. As simple as it is to go down to kinkos or whatever, some of us simply don't have a lot of patience for this sort of thing as it turns buying a book into a two step process before one can enjoy it as one wishes (in my case from the printed page).

It seems onerous to me to pay the price of a hardcover book $35-$45 for an e-book only to have to turn around and spend my additional time and cash to turn it into something more useful to me (i.e. hardcopy). While I do like the idea of video clips, I see no reason why they can't be put on inexpensive cd's in something like vcd form and offered as a supplement at a small additional fee.

Search capabilities are great for huge collections (Jinx, Linking Ring), but I find a well written index nearly as efficacious when it comes to a normal size book. Besides, "scanning" a book by flipping through it is a pleasure in itself that it will be hard for any e-book reader to truly duplicate.

If one truly must do their best to make an e-book readable, I would suggest using Chris W's methodology of keeping the text in an open format such as HTML which allows one to easily search/resize/and otherwise control the reading experience. I do not believe one needs the bloated wonders of the pdf format to put together a nice e-book as clips can be embedded/hyperlinked with html with minimal effort.

A rather appealing package is offered by Paul Cummins and Doug Conn with their book Tricks of my Trade . Rather than try to have an "all in one" solution of an e-book or an html format, they offered both! And at a price of $25 for both, one does not feel bad about spending the additional $10-$15 to have it printed out. I would like to see more of this, but have yet to see it offered by other publishers. I realize it's more work for them, but it truly makes buying the e-book more of a value proposition as one can enjoy the html format for the screen while having something in pdf format that will print out in nicely formatted book form.


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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 1st, 2004, 9:14 pm

I agree with much of what has been written regarding the drawbacks of e-books/advantages of physical books. To me, the two key advantages of e-books are text searchability and the relative low cost for scarce and out of print books and magazines. There is another benefit and that is the preservation of content for high-acid-paper books. Who knows if some of the printed matter of the late 19th through mid-20th centuries will ultimately survive except by electronic means.

As I wrote in my Magicol review of Chris Roterberg CD-ROM, bibliophiles and bibliographers might also express the hope that future e-books better reflect the physical make-up of the book. As an example, I noted that the CD-ROM version of the table of contents for Latter Day Tricks was placed at the front of the book, whereas the physical book contains the table of contents at the rear. Admittedly, this may be a minor point (and it surely reflects my bias as a bibliographer and does not detract from the e-books utility), but the accurate e-presentation of the physical layout of a book might someday solve a bibliographical mystery if, heaven forbid, physical copies of such book no longer exist. Although not the case yet with magic books, some important bibliographical questions on some of the classics of literature have been answered (in part or in full) by the mere location of a leaf.

Keep up the good work, Chris.

Clay

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 2nd, 2004, 5:01 am

Originally posted by Chris Aguilar:
Search capabilities are great for huge collections (Jinx, Linking Ring), but I find a well written index nearly as efficacious when it comes to a normal size book.
Chris, for a single volume I agree with you. But once you have several books or say a small library, then even if each book individually would have a good index, it would be very inconvenient to check each book's index. With a medium sized library it would become impossible.

That is why I am convinced that the number of ebooks you have increases the utility to you more than the utility of each ebook individually. It is similar to the network effect that say email experiences. The first person with email was a sorry slob, because there was nobody to send emails to. The more who have email the more value each and everyone gets out.

The more ebooks you have, the more they are hyperlinked together, the more connections you can explore, the more results your searches will return, a.s.o. Books do not show this 'network effect' at least not in the same magnitude as ebooks do.

It amazes me everytime I search my collection of more than 200 magic ebooks. Although I have read almost all of these books/e-books, searching has become an essential part. I truly believe e-books allow me to get more out of my investment than a book could. Searching is increadible powerful. The internet has shown that. The successes of Yahoo and Google demonstrated it. You can build your own resource center with ebooks in the field of your interest, and use it in ways that are simply impossible to do with books.

Sorry for the rant.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » November 2nd, 2004, 6:21 am

Perhaps more useful, Chris, would be an open search index. People could go to your site and plug in a search. They'd get results that tell them which books contain matches, and give a little bit about the context of the match (4-5 words on each side might be good enough) to give the user a better idea if this would be useful to them. Then, if this seems like something they would want, they could purchase the ebook in question.

The only downside to you would be the potential that the user would go out and buy the hard copy of the book rather than your digital copy. To offset this, you could perhaps have make the search engine accessible only to those who have signed up for a subscription to the service. You could even allow free searches of books that are long out of print and/or extremely rare to give people a taste of the power that is available with the full subscription.

Just an idea...

-Jim

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 2nd, 2004, 8:14 pm

Jim, I think your suggestion is a fine one. Particularly with about 200 ebooks offered on my site, this starts to make a whole lot of sense. Sort of like a mini-Google for magic. Or something similar to the search-inside of Amazon.com.

I am not sure how many would pay a modest annual fee for such a service, say $10 a year.

I will be thinking along those lines. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Marco Pusterla » November 3rd, 2004, 5:19 am

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:
Jim, I think your suggestion is a fine one. Particularly with about 200 ebooks offered on my site, this starts to make a whole lot of sense. Sort of like a mini-Google for magic. Or something similar to the search-inside of Amazon.com.
Hi!
I think Jim's idea is brilliant and could be very useful. I don't think there will be many people searching for information then going out to buy the hardcopy, this for three reasons:

1) many of the books Chris is offering are hard to find and, often, the printed copy is far more expensive than the electronic one; and
2) if I'm looking for information, I want it
NOW, not a month later when I've been able to acquire a hard copy; and
3) with the hard copy, I would still have to read all the book to find again the information I was looking for originally.

My two cents...

----
Marco Pusterla - http://www.mpmagic.co.uk/
Marco Pusterla - http://www.mpmagic.com

Ye Olde Magic Mag: magic history and collecting magazine.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » November 3rd, 2004, 6:30 am

Originally posted by Marco Pusterla:
I don't think there will be many people searching for information then going out to buy the hardcopy, this for three reasons
And don't forget that Chris would already have the folks on his site already. Home turf advantage and all that.

-Jim

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Guest » November 8th, 2004, 12:02 pm

I am not a fan of ebooks, and will never buy another one.

Reasons:

I don't like sitting at a computer for hours reading text. Print it out you say? Ok...but most of these books are 50-100 pages...that is quite expensive and non-utilitarian.

Also, the makers of said books are not proficient in Adobe. The format and layout of these books are often TERRIBLE.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby mrgoat » November 9th, 2004, 4:18 am

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
All valid points made by JonP in Canada.
But, we will see "readers" come down in price and improve greatly in practicality--it's the wave of the future and there's no holding it back.
People have been saying that for ten years. No ebooks in Borders yet...wonder why?

I don't mean to poo poo Chris's plans to launch a reader himself, where every single device a big electronics comapny has made has failed.

But, I just can't see a crippled Palm pilot as a killer device.

If he pulls it off where Sony et al have failed it will be an awesome coup, but I am just a jaded sceptic. :)

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Richard Kaufman » November 9th, 2004, 8:20 am

mrgoat ... I'll be smiling broadly when you eat your words in the next 10 years! :)
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Robert Allen » November 9th, 2004, 10:40 am

I suppose it will be a numbers game: if enough people use ebooks then it will be considered a success, but for me I can't see not using a paper book. As mentioned before:

1. computer displays of all kinds are either hard on the eyes or lack resulution. Plus you need a device to display, which requires power, and weight.

2. call me a bit strange (you won't be the first) but I like the utter quiet of sitting down with a book. There's no cooling fan hum, no high frequency whine from a power supply or voltage transformer for a display.

3. books work when there's no power.

4. I'm one of those people who buy books just based on their looks, having numerous reproduction volumes related to old/'real' magic just because they look cool on the book shelf or to flip through (including a first edition, signed, leatherbound of the Necronomicon produced as a mass market paperback). Specific to performance magic, I love the old glossy paper Supreme publications. I just love turning those pages and looking at the pictures.

The day that a flexible, lightweight, silent, low power, bright 'display' or 'device' becomes available cheaply I will revisit ebooks. Something about the size and weight of a pad of paper. It's going to be a while before something like that is available.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Jonathan Townsend » November 9th, 2004, 10:50 am

I have some strong feelings about this one. Tactile feelings that is.

I can take books with me to odd places where I can read a few pages when I have just a bit of time. Late at night, who wants to fire up the harsh glare of a CRT or LCD? Likewise, who wants to take a tablet PC or palm pilot onto the couch or bed to read a few pages before dozing off?

These tactile and subtle visual issues are the obstacles to my using ebooks as anything more than quick reference sources. I read a novel off my laptop screen once. It was horrible. Sorry, there is nothing like the soft reflected light from paper. And the subtle nuances of fonts and paper grain also contribute to the effect of reading as we know it.

I will use both. Though for different purposes.
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 9th, 2004, 12:37 pm

I have read entire books using my Palm handheld at night. It has the advantage of a built in light source and I can lay my head on the pillow and read. I do have a handheld with a 320 X 480 pixel screen with adjustable brightness. That helps make using a handheld bearable.

As I wrote in my last post, in general I do prefer the portability of a regular book. It is rare that I will read an entire book using my handheld. I only mention it because its possible that my early conditioning has formed my preferences. Perhaps in the future, everyone will read electronic media all the time.

A properly designed portable reader might catch on, though Im not sure that it will catch on now. I think it might be too early for usage to become widespread. Theres not enough content available. However, there won't be enough content until theres a good enough reader!

Bill Duncan is definitely on to something when he mentioned the service aspect of this. The largest content providers are likely to create a proprietary standard and win the market for their device. The more content you provide; the more power you will have.

The text-based e-books in the Gutenberg project are open source, i.e. they cannot be sold. Still, it might be worth writing a program to preprocess them into a form your reader could use. Then youd instantly have a huge amount of content.

I expect youve already thought of all of this. You also might want to create and ISO, or ECMA standard for your e-book format. (Of course, open standards are a double-edged idea, perhaps proprietary is better?). Perhaps XML instead of HTML, but still allow backwards compatibility for HTML? That way, you can always automatically move to any format in the future. By the way, my Dad was director of two city libraries (at different times) before he retired in 1992. Im an electrical engineer. Ive thought about e-book issue for about 28 years. Recently, I became convinced that the final standard for e-books WILL be some form of XML because of the way it allows both tagging interspersed data and the way it can be either reformatted or have its presentation altered dynamically. I believe that RSS uses XML, and I think there are already several proposed XML document formats.

Chris, I have only one complaint about your current products. I do not like that your current e-books rely on javascript. Id rather completely forgo the search capability and the bookshelf capability just to have the books use only regular HTML. Recently I upgraded the operating system on my computer to use Windows XP Service Pack 2. Internet Exporer now makes me approve running javascript each time I load a different e-book. Its really annoying.

But the worst part of the javascript is that it prevents me from viewing the books on my handheld. Given that youre now making your own reader, I dont know if you have any incentive to make the books without javascript. Ive considered preprocessing the files to remove the Javascript and make it so the pages each link forwards and backwards and also back to an index page, but I dont know if my purchase agreement allows me to do that. Of course, I wouldnt be able to sell that, it would just be for me.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby mrgoat » November 10th, 2004, 7:21 am

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
mrgoat ... I'll be smiling broadly when you eat your words in the next 10 years! :)
:) I would wager the following:

a) Chris's device will fail*
b) There will never be an ebook reader that is not a PDA or a laptop - ie a dedicated,standalone ebook reader won't exist
c) Nothing will replace the smell of my copy of Greater Magic

:)


*But if he pulls it off, I'll be in the queue to buy one eating humble pie!

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Robert Allen » November 10th, 2004, 8:05 am

15 years in the future...

"Robert peruses the ebook selection at his local mini-mart but there's nothing that catches his eye. What he's really here for....ah! there it is, is a new cartridge of Olde Booke Smell for his reader. Let's see, should I get Library of Congress, or British Museum Restricted Collections..."

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Richard Kaufman » November 10th, 2004, 8:08 am

Well, your response doesn't make sense: "There will never be an ebook reader that is not a PDA or a laptop - ie a dedicated,standalone ebook reader won't exist."
THEY ALREADY EXIST! They currently cost too much and are bit too large, but technology will take care of that sooner than you think.
While nothing will replace the smell of your copy of Greater Magic, once schoolchildren start reading text books on "readers" instead of hauling around 15 pounds of large clunky textbooks every day, the end of the printed book will be a done deal. Those kids will grow up without the nostalgia or attachment you feel for a physical book. Their attitude will mirror those who have an Apple iPod: who wants to carry around 30 CDs and a clunky player when I can have a tiny iPod that does the same thing?
And they'll be right.
And you'll be left eating your words.

AFTER NOTE: I just reread my post and it sounds quite harsh. Didn't mean it to be.
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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Robert Allen » November 10th, 2004, 8:34 am

I don't have a particular side on this debate, but I will note an article in todays New York Times web edition "Even Digital Memories Can Fade". It's about problems with digital data on magnetic and CD media that can start to fade after even 5 years, and the problems that archivists are having doing their jobs. This doesn't bring up the issue of changing data formats over the years.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Eric Rose » November 10th, 2004, 10:59 am

A year ago a friend and I were discussing the concept of virtual readers and decided that the way to go was not a reader, but rather a miniature projector system that could project the text onto whatever surface you wanted. A month later he went to the Consumer Electronics Show and, sure enough, a company had a virtual keyboard that was nothing more than a laser display on a table that used optics to locate your finger strokes. The technology is moving so quickly that we can't even imagine what we'll be using in 10 years. (And, Richard, my kids will be thrilled to avoid the chiropractic bills associated with 15 to 35 pound backpacks.)

Oh, Chris, in regards to the original question - sorry, but e-book reading still feels oppressive to me. CGS is a great step forward, but we're still so far away....

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby CHRIS » November 10th, 2004, 6:26 pm

Predicting the future is tough, but since we had already some concrete predictions, let me add mine:

1) The e-book market will continue to grow - slowly but steadily. It won't be a fast growth like the DVD or the cell phone. That is the main reason so many ambitious oversized entries into the e-book market have miserably failed. They assumed growth rates of 50% or more.

2) Eventually (in about one generation, that is 30 years) the e-book market (revenue wise) will be larger in size than the book market. Several of the fundamental reasons have been mentioned: youngsters grow up with computers/internet, production is much cheaper, distribution is cheaper, a.s.o.

3) Books will not go away. A book is a wonderful effective product and it will be hard to completely displace it from the position it is occupying. Technology could eventually achieve to make ebooks appear indistinguishable from books, but this is a long long time in the future. In the meantime customers will make various tradeoffs. For some the benefits justify ebooks, for others they don't.

4) Just as radio didn't kill newspaper and TV didn't kill radio and internet didn't kill TV, radio or newspaper, ebooks will not kill books, not in a general way. There might be certain areas where e-books could completely replace books very soon, like in the textbook market, or in the reference book market. In general it is much more likely, as has been mentioned earlier, that ebooks will exist side by side with books. Certain features of ebooks cannot be replicated with books and vice versa. Searching, size and weight cannot be replicated with books. Tactile characteristic, look and feel and smell, dropability, burnability, tearability, ... will not be replicated by ebooks.

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby magicam » November 10th, 2004, 9:28 pm

I love books qua books and don't care much for e-books, even though e-books do have characteristics (like text search, ease and expense of distribution) which are unavailable with a real book. No knock on Chris or anybody else who believes in e-books I'm just disclosing my bias.

Jonathan Townsends comment re the tactile aspects of a book really hit home for me. And the smell of a book, aaah. Glad to know others share that idiosyncrasy

With the awareness that the pundits predictions have been proven wrong time and again when it comes to the future, I offer the following:

Richard Kaufman wrote:

While nothing will replace the smell of your copy of Greater Magic, once schoolchildren start reading text books on "readers" instead of hauling around 15 pounds of large clunky textbooks every day, the end of the printed book will be a done deal. Those kids will grow up without the nostalgia or attachment you feel for a physical book. Their attitude will mirror those who have an Apple iPod: who wants to carry around 30 CDs and a clunky player when I can have a tiny iPod that does the same thing? And they'll be right.

You might be right, Richard, but if you are using the analogy of music as the primary basis for your prediction, it seems faulty to me. Music is aural in nature, and books are visual in nature. Nobody cares how they store and recall their music so long as they can hear their music. And all the iPod and others have done is to make it easier to store and recall music, but they do not change the very nature (auditory) of music. So, unlike music, where Mott the Hoople sounds the same on high quality vinyl as they do on an iPod, in reading this thread, it seems that the primary objection to e-books is based on how visually dissimilar they are from books. In other words, thus far e-books very poorly mimic (if you will) books. Moreover, I would argue that they fundamentally shift the nature (functionally and visually) of a book. IMHO, the same can't be said for improvements in music storage technology, which is all the iPod represents.

Faulty analogy or not, there are functional aspects to a book which will I doubt will ever be replaced by an electronic reader. For a researcher (lets take kids doing a term paper since Richards prediction focuses on school kids), how is an e-reader to duplicate the convenience of having a dozen books spread out on the table, pages open and marked for ready access? What about the researcher in the library? Is she going to have one e-reader for hundreds of books she wants to consult? What about making annotations in a book as one reads it?

Assuming that an economical reader can be produced, how big will it be? Chris W. says that searching, size and weight cannot be replicated with books. I agree on the searching comment, provided that full text search capability is available (not all e-books have this feature). And it seems that lighter weight may also be a winner when it comes to e-books with a qualification (see my next comment).

But when it comes to Chris implication that small size is an advantage of an e-book, is this necessarily a good thing? How many of us will relish the eye strain resulting from staring at a screen for hours? What about the eye-strain from small font size? And what about illustrations? How many of us want to see a schematic of a Morritt illusion or a beautiful color poster on a 3x5 e-reader? Or take the case where sleights are being taught and there are five sequential illustrations of a sleight in progress on a single page? What superman has the eyes to see the detail for that page? Does this mean that each sleight would get its own e-page so it would then be legible? What happens to the continuity and functionality of the illustrations if that is done? What about books with even basic illustrations (i.e., nothing special from a visual point of view) which have text on the opposite page explaining or discussing the illustration? Who wants to repeatedly scroll back and forth between pages in order to read the description and see the illustration? I dont. And if you have to reduce the size of the e-page so much so you can see both pages, then maybe the font size and the illustration become illegible. I wonder if the resolution on a small screen can really do justice to certain illustrations in an e-book.

So is the answer to some of these concerns a larger e-reader? If so, aren't we then almost coming full circle, back to arguing in favor of the printed book?

Chris W. wrote:
2) Eventually (in about one generation, that is 30 years) the e-book market (revenue wise) will be larger in size than the book market. Several of the fundamental reasons have been mentioned: youngsters grow up with computers/internet, production is much cheaper, distribution is cheaper, a.s.o.

I disagree, in part because it seems to me that, functionally, an electronic reader will never match that of a printed book. But I assume Chris comments are based on more than a feeling from some yahoo and on market research. When computers were in their modern infancy, the pundits predicted the paperless office. That never happened, and due to e-mails and the like, we are all now swimming in more paper than ever. And if that proves anything, it proves that human beings want the touch and convenience of the printed word on paper. Based on that reality, I just cant see how somebody can convincingly argue that e-books will become more popular or have larger sales than regular books. If people insist on printing out what they initially see on the computer screen, what is so unique about an e-book so as to conclude that people will forgo what is already printed in favor of the computer screen? That argument just doesnt make any sense to me.

Chris W. also wrote: 3) Technology could eventually achieve to make ebooks appear indistinguishable from books, but this is a long long time in the future.

It will indeed be a long, long time in the future, Chris! When that happens, Ill also be able to keep my pretty young wife looking (and feeling) the same age. After all, what you seem to be suggesting is that e-books will someday be able to be autographed, numbered or signed by an author, lovingly inscribed as a Christmas gift to a family member, bound in fine leather, printed on fine paper, include fine engravings, include hand-colored plates, be extra-illustrated, have all page edges gilt in gold, have foldout illustrations, have life-sized reproductions, be offered in special boxed sets, etc. It aint gonna happen.

Finally, Chris W. wrote: In the meantime customers will make various tradeoffs. For some the benefits justify ebooks, for others they don't.

For the reasons given above, I believe that there will always be trade-offs.

Finally, none of this is intended to be personal, just a strongly worded statement of my convictions on this topic. I could be wrong about all of this, but assuming I live for another thirty years, I hope (for my sake) that Im right.

Clay Shevlin

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Re: e-books - the last 5 years - your opinion

Postby Bill Hallahan » November 11th, 2004, 2:56 pm

There are two things being discussed here. Whats going to happen soon, and what will happen eventually. Below, Im writing about what I believe will happen eventually.

Magicam wrote:
Faulty analogy or not, there are functional aspects to a book which will I doubt will ever be replaced by an electronic reader. For a researcher (lets take kids doing a term paper since Richards prediction focuses on school kids), how is an e-reader to duplicate the convenience of having a dozen books spread out on the table, pages open and marked for ready access?
There is no reason a person would be limited to one reader. They could have many spread before them. Readers will become a cheap commodity.

Magicam wrote:
What about the researcher in the library? Is she going to have one e-reader for hundreds of books she wants to consult?
E-books will be vastly more convenient, because you wont have to go to the library at all. The library will come to you! Books will be available through wireless networks. Also, storage media will allow you to store hundreds of thousands of books, or more.

The computer I am using right now could store every single book in a major city library, including all the high resolution images in color. (I have almost half of one terabytes!) Today, an SD card the size of a postage stamp can store several thousand books, or several hundred books with lots of detailed images. This is just now. Expect information densities enormously larger in the near future.

You'll be able to carry the contents of several libraries in the e-book reader of the future.

Magicam wrote:
What about making annotations in a book as one reads it?
While early readers almost certainly won't implement this, there is absolutely no reason that future readers couldn't allow inline annotation. I already have programs on my palm handheld that do this, albeit not for reading e-books. The technology exists today. It's only a matter of market acceptance and economies of scale before this could be put into production. And a postage sized piece of memory could store everything you write in your entire life today! The annotations could stay in the reader but appear in the appropriate books when you view them.

Magicam wrote:
But when it comes to Chris implication that small size is an advantage of an e-book, is this necessarily a good thing? How many of us will relish the eye strain resulting from staring at a screen for hours? What about the eye-strain from small font size? And what about illustrations? How many of us want to see a schematic of a Morritt illusion or a beautiful color poster on a 3x5 e-reader?
This is a straw-man argument. A good reader would be roughly the size of a typical book, not 3 X 5, although I expect there will be many readers with many sizes available in the future. And a good reader, unlike a book, would have adjustable font size, which would allow the reader to trade off the amount of content displayed versus the font size.

Magicam wrote:
When computers were in their modern infancy, the pundits predicted the paperless office. That never happened, and due to e-mails and the like, we are all now swimming in more paper than ever.
I work in an office with little paper. We do print documents at times, but this is just for reviews in meetings. The people with laptops dont bother printing the documents. Even though we still use some paper, the bulk of our design, transactions, and storage are done electronically. The vast majority of the engineering manuals I used to use are now online. I no longer get boxes of books from manufacturers. I still do have books in my office, but far fewer than I used to have. There was much more paper in the offices I worked in 20 years ago.

Of course, paper is the preferred information repository for legal information today. Even that might change someday with digital signatures.

Magicam wrote:
Chris W. also wrote:
3) Technology could eventually achieve to make ebooks appear indistinguishable from books, but this is a long long time in the future.
It will indeed be a long, long time in the future, Chris!
You could be right about this. Electronic paper exists now in development labs. It might be a while before this is economically viable. It might happen soon too.

Magicam wrote:
It will indeed be a long, long time in the future, Chris! When that happens, Ill also be able to keep my pretty young wife looking (and feeling) the same age. After all, what you seem to be suggesting is that e-books will someday be able to be autographed, numbered or signed by an author, lovingly inscribed as a Christmas gift to a family member, bound in fine leather, printed on fine paper, include fine engravings, include hand-colored plates, be extra-illustrated, have all page edges gilt in gold, have foldout illustrations, have life-sized reproductions, be offered in special boxed sets, etc. It aint gonna happen.
I agree, e-books won't totally replace books.

However, Michael Close has made an e-book with video inline to demonstrate sleights. Try that with a conventional book! (His e-book is great too).

As Chris already wrote, each new information source has not replaced previous sources, but merely provided another media form.

The eye-strain issues actually favor e-books. The lighting issues favor e-books. The information content issues favor e-books. Picture resolution on glossy paper is better in conventional books, but not by much, however e-books can allow links, ease of search, and video (probably no video in the first wave of portable e-book readers). Content availability, battery life, and ruggedness, are really the only issues that I think are holding e-books back today.

I agree with Chris that color doesnt belong in an e-book reader now, but I also believe that in the future it will be a critical differentiator and those readers without color will go by the wayside. It might be some time before that happens though. The technical issues are significant. Color screens use a lot of power compared to monochrome screens.


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