Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, December 7, 2007

This Week in Publishing 12/7/07

I'm not the only one on an e-book kick. Forbes recently featured a slide show on the present and future of e-books, which includes some pretty snazzy devices. Including this one: the Readius, a device about the size of a cell phone that features a fold-out, flexible e-ink display, coming soon! Yowza. The Readius will also stop global warming, cure ebola and ALTER THE FABRIC OF TIME AND SPACE. Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the tip.

And GalleyCat has another rundown of reactions to the Kindle in the LA Times and Post, including this quote from Jonathan Franzen: "I can see travel guides and Michael Crichton novels translating into pixels easily enough. But the person who cares about Kafka wants Kafka unerasable. Am I fetishizing ink and paper? Sure, and I'm fetishizing truth and integrity too." Just so we're clear: ink and paper = truth and integrity. E-books = LIES!! ALL LIES!!!

Moonrat gives a great breakdown of the terms "sell in" and "sell through" and about how you gotta have the sell in if you're going to have the sell through. Trust me, she makes it make sense.

Via Publishers Lunch, a company called Paperspine is angling to be the Netflix of books, with book rental subscription plans starting at $9.99. No word yet from the company that offers book rental subscription plans starting at $0.00 -- Your Public Library, Inc.

This week's Publishers Weekly features a tremendous article by Oscar Villalon about why Northern California is an awesomer place for books than anywhere else. Among other insightful points about our impeccable literary pedigree, he notes that we Northern Californians spend more money per capita on book purchases and booze consumption than anywhere else in the United States. (Let's just say I'm doing my part on both counts.)

And finally, how could I NOT link to this one. As if we needed proof: monkeys are smarter than you. Also funnier.

Have a great weekend!


David said...

There was that monkey that almost caught me when I was a kid. He had a collar around his neck, connected to a chain, connected to a fencepost, which is why I got away. So that proves I was smarter than that monkey.

On the other hand, I was throwing sticks at him, which is why he came after me, so maybe I wasn't all that smart, after all.

(I don't know why I was throwing sticks at him. I don't remember that part. I mainly remember those enormous teeth and crazed eyes. Maybe he was a chimp. Maybe I was a chump.)

Ulysses said...

The same things concern me with e-books as with digital photos. I've been a geek long enough to realize that protocols and formats that are popular today are outmoded tomorrow (eg: vinyl, 8-track, and now CD seems to be going that way). With both books and photos, I want to keep them, to be able to read/look at them years from now.

Years from now, though, will my 2015 ebook be able to read my 2008 copy of Bartleby the Scrivener? Paper books present words in a format easily deciphered by the eye alone, with no need for decryption software, LCDs, electicity, or impending obsolescence.

David said...


In the cases you quote, the bigger problem is the hardware. As long as the formats are properly described somewhere, software can be written to convert content. For e-books, the content is a digital file, so the hardware changes shouldn't be a factor.

Anonymous said...

ulysses - I was going to say it but David beat me to the punch. I have some files done on Comodore 64 in WordStar in 1984... I still can read them by converting to HTML using an open source converter.

Anonymous said...

Paperspine doesn't sound like a bad idea for people who are housebound or who don't care to own a large collection of books, but I'd have to wonder about the shipping costs. A copy of War & Peace is heavier than a Beverly Cleary novel.

McKoala said...

Jonathan Franzen: what a snoot. Classifies books into the erasable and the non-erasable. Kafka must survive! The books people actually read can go!

I'm disgusted by his comments.

Lisa McMann said...

Hmmm, Paperspine. They must be including a royalty payment to the author in the fee then, no?


Thanks for the heads up, Nathan. Also, the link to Moonrat was great. Bookmarking.

Lisa McMann
WAKE 03.04.08

Patrick McNamara said...

The trend I'm seeing lately isn't for e-books but audio books from the net, many being distributed as podcasts. One of the most popular podcasts is for an audio book series called 7th Son. It seems people would rather listen to a digital download than read one. And it almost doesn't seem to matter what. The reading I'm doing of Beowulf on my Podcast Ping podcast ( has been doing well.
And it really doesn't take more than a microphone and a computer to record one.

Isak said...

Believe me, if I could, I'd move to Sausalito in a heartbeat. Less than an hour from wine country and redwood forests...I don't remember seeing many people reading, though.

Nice lesson in literary economics from Moonrat.

Erik said...

Once you accept that we are a type of chimp, and nothing more, all the other comments about absolute truth and beauty become a little more amusing. And desperate, IMHO.

(I realize that the berry berry sophisticated among us will equate my comments with mental illness or something. That's fine by me.)

Richard Manning said...

Thanks for the heads up on the Readius device. The e-book debates will continue for quite a while (several more years, at least) because it will be that long before the real e-book emerges. By that I mean the e-book that contains the winning display technology going forward. My guess is it will be a rollable/expandable display, but probably not of the type found in the Readius.

A must-have for e-books: integration with existing devices. People are reaching their limits as to how much electronic crap--cell phone, iPod, Blackberry, etc.--they're willing to carry around.

Amazon deserves a round of applause for producing the Kindle. The display is very cool as is downloading content via the cell network. But the fact that it is an e-book and nothing more ultimately relegates it to the also-ran pile.

My one major Kindle criticism: Its physical form is utterly lacking any aesthetic virtues (i.e., it's ugly as sin).

dernjg said...

Conclusion: NorCal Monkeys are well-read junkies.
And a side-note, I do like that the article notes that Eureka is Northern California, but I've always let San Francisco join the party. Sometimes I'm even OK with Monterey being a part of it.
But never Fresno.

Josephine Damian said...

Nathan, I went to my university library today to get some books for my term paper for next semester (I like to start next semester's term papers on the same day the last semester ends).

Anyway, they only had one "book" on the topic - a f---ing e-book version of the text!

When I thought about how I rapidly page through these research texts, and use post-its to mark the sections that apply to my topic, I began to realize that wasn't going to be an option on a computer screen, or any type of reading gizmo.

So I found a real version of the book available through inter-library loan, and put in a request. The 20-something college student who worked at the lib. and helped me said she wanted no part of e-books either, which I thought interesting.

Other Lisa said...

On a completely unrelated subject, if you want to read an eviscerating review of one of those NYT notable books, here's an "Atlantic" review of Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke."

I haven't read the book, but if the language quoted is indeed representative, I'm not gonna.

Kathleen said...

Josephine - I have worked with .pdf documents that have a post-it function. It is extremely useful because it has search capabilities that hard copy post-its do not. Seems to me this technology will be very useful for e-books, and would likely be available in an e-book future.

also, yay Northern California!

L.C.McCabe said...


Thanks for pointing a link out to the PW article on the San Francisco Bay area as being a wonderful place for writers.

I agree.

I love living here and I concur that we are part of a marvelous literary community.

I especially liked the ending of the article:

"The writing life here is not about succeeding at the other guy's expense; it's about helping each other out. New arrivals are embraced, not viewed as threats. That might sound hippy dippy, but what you call it doesn't matter. This generosity alleviates the lonely, often frustrating grind of writing. It's not a utopia, but often it feels close to something like that."

Being a member of the oldest professional writers club in America, I will agree with that assessment. The people I've met in the California Writers Club (from any of its seventeen statewide branches) have been gracious with their time and advice. Likewise, I do my best to share my knowledge and try to inspire those just learning the craft whether they are young students or older people who are finally dedicating the time to write.

Oh, and living north of the Golden Gate is heavenly. I pass by vineyards everyday on my way to work, and the gorgeous Sonoma coast is only a short drive away.

Natural beauty, culture, fabulous food, world class wine, and collegiality are found all in this area. What else could you possibly ask for?

Oh, yeah, affordable housing!

(I'm glad I bought when I did.)


Josephine Damian said...

Kathleen, thanks for the heads up. I guess one of my biggest problems is that I only have dial-up where I live, and that makes it more diffucult.

Still, I use colored post-its to mark parts I'll use for intro, conclusion, etc., and I can go to a section quickly that way. I'm afraid this dog is too old to learn new tricks.

Other Lisa, I was in a book store and checked out "Tree" - read the first few lines and was unimpressed as well - I scratched it off my TBR list.

Anonymous said...

With eBook readers, I have to wonder how well they hold up in -50 celsius weather. Cuz that's how cold it gets here (once you factor in the wind.) Without the wind, it only reaches -35 celsius, or thereabouts. (Sorry, don't know the conversion formula to change it to farenheit.)

I ask because I have left both my laptop and my digital camera in the trunk of my car on reasonably cold days -- only -10 to -25 or so. The memory on both things were destroyed. I lost all my pics on my camera and I had to reformat and reinstall windows on my laptop.

If I chuck an eReader into the trunk and leave it there for a day or two -- am I gonna lose everything when it warms up again?

Justin said...

I'm planning on going to teach in Japan for a year, and I'm saving up for a Kindle. The only reason is because it's easier than lugging my entire library across half the globe and finding space for them in an apartment that's likely to be the size of my kitchen cupboard.

That said, I'll still always prefer regular ol' paper and ink. I like the tactile sense of turning pages, highlighting things or making notes in the margins. I LOVE books and I think (and hope) they won't ever be fully done away with.

Still, it's neat to read about all these new kinds of e-books coming out.

That book rental service just sounds ridiculous though. I'll just stick with my local libraries, thanks.

Erik said...


Solid state atteries all die right around -20C, and there's nothing that can be done about it as of now. What you can do is to plug them in to your car lighter, which is good to about -40C (the old fashioned lead-acid batteries still work to that temperature). Otherwise, you simply have to keep them warmer than that, ideally no less than about -10C.

Don't worry about wind chill, that's based on a the heat loss on a 2m tall ceylinder 1m across (roughly the shape of a human). It means nothing to a non-heat producing thing or a thing of a different shape.

Jennifer L. Griffith said...

Interesting that someone thinks they can compete with "free". I love libraries, but I guess there is a market for laziness...not wanting to drive to the nearest public library. This ought to be telling of our society, in my opinion!

Morgan Dempsey said...

On "fetishizing ink and paper" it really is kind of a fetish thing. Friends of mine are violently opposed to e-Books, saying that the tactile experience of turning a page, of smelling the ink and paper, is an integral part of the reading experience. It's like someone who can't get it up without hosiery being involved somewhere.

I agree with the sentiment, though. I can easily see myself churning through the latest trash that SFF has to offer, but if I were to sit down with Faulkner, I'd like to hold the book. There really is just "something about it."

As a side note, e-Books don't allow people to show off. How can someone know you're reading a drop-name like Proust or Voltaire if you're staring at pixels on a screen? What they need to do is have a scrolling LCD on the back displaying the author and title of the book. Gives you a reason to take it to Peet's and sit there while sipping your breva cappuccino.

Anonymous said...

RE: Comment #5

You're right to be skeptical. I checked out that website, and for $9.99, all you get is the right to browse their site. Renting books then costs $1.49, each. And they don't even have new releases because they won't send hardcovers. In searching around, I also found Their comparable plan starts at $14.99, but there are no stupid charges beyond that. Oh, and they do have hardcover new releases.

cmerrill said...

Doris Lessing. Nobel speech. A culture of books.,,2223780,00.html

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