Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Will You Ever Buy Mostly E-Books?

What can I say, I'm on an e-book kick lately. This week's You Tell Me is a poll, but EXPOUND in the comments section like you've never expounded before!







59 comments:

K.C. Shaw said...

I don't think ebooks will ever entirely replace paper books, but ebooks are definitely in our future. I give it another decade before they're really useful, though. We're still in the equivalent of the cell phone's bag-phone-plugged-into-the-car phase, ebookreaderwise.

Scott said...

I answered Never, but it really depends. For technical or certain reference books, I've already mostly replaced my books with PDFs or online sources. For example, although I have a couple of pretty good dictionaries, I usually go to a computerized dictionary first.

I also think that poetry's future might be electronic. It's usually short, which makes it easy to read electronically, and publishers just don't have much financial incentive to publish poetry. Problem is, of course, that most, but not even close to all, self-published (online) poetry is crap.

For regular reading, such as novels, stories, or nonfiction I'm reading either for fun or research (which is often even more fun than "fun"), gimme books.

I have tons of research material in PDF form, but I rarely use it because it's less enjoyable to read than in book form, even if I print it myself--which can be more expensive than buying the book, by the time you buy printer ink, paper, and a binder.

Kaytie M. Lee said...

I will probably get to the point where I have to buy some ebooks (I see myself buying nonfiction that way) but I will always prefer regular books.

Elle said...

A year and a half ago, I swore I'd never read an ebook--I like my paper, thank you very much! But in the last six month or so, I've changed my mind quite a bit. Unless I'm buying one of my all-time favorite authors I go e-book, usually Mobipocket or eReader depending on the discount. If I love it, I'll buy the actual book (you're welcome, my favorite authors!). I absolutely cannot read a book from my computer screen so I load it into my Palm. It's much easier on the eyes, and it makes me look busy ;)

Loren said...

Yes, when the portable reader is as convient and easy on the eyes as a book. They're not there yet.

Susan Sundwall said...

Okay, this is like asking which do I prefer - blueberry pie or pumpkin? I like the both and want some of each. The pumpkin I can scoop from the pie plate and walk around eating while I'm doing other things - even when it's piled with whipped cream. The blueberry, on the other hand, is for devouring from a deep plate, snugged in my chair, as I savor the sugary blue juice and flaky crust. If I'm alone I'll even lick the plate.
And another thing; how do you give an e-book as a gift? My Amazon order just arrived with books for Christmas gifts(including Kim Long's "Almanac of . . ." Thank you for putting us on to it, Nathan) and I just don't see how I could give them in e-book form.
So - both. Pumpkin and Blueberry.

getitwritten_guy said...

I wonder if the e-book will replace paperbacks, with hardbacks shifting position in the market to become a 'luxury' item.

That's how it went with manual wind watches and to a lesser extent stereo turntables. They never really disappeared from the marketplace, but are now mostly high-end items that trade on a certain chachet.

Josephine Damian said...

Give you one guess as to how I voted.

Nathan, so glad you're doing polls. Did you know agent Donald Maass asks lots of poll questions of his audience whenever he gives a talk? He's always taking the pulse of readers, trying to get a handle on what books they buy and why.

I'm looking forward to Santa bringing you a Kindle thingie. Curious to see how user friendly you find it.

Luc2 said...

Never say never. There may be a day that some books won't even come out in print, leaving me without a choice.
Still, I voted never.

Precie said...

Never. I like paper. I like being able to hold a big fat book in my hand. I might be willing to buy e-books...but not mostly.

brian_ohio said...

Nathan,

I'm rarely able to buy books due to these little people running about my house demanding things like milk and sweets.

I belong to three different local libraries.

What do you see happening to our beloved libraries?

Sophie W. said...

I'd like to see an e-book reader that didn't drain your pockets with uploading, downloading, reloading and page loading fees. Also, a clicky wheel. The only reason I bought an iPod was for the cool clicky wheel.

That said, I'll probably only buy books that are only available in e-book format for my e-book reader. Too much screen time is bad for the eyes. (Says the girl who spends 3 hours a day staring at her computer.)

Topher1961 said...

I haven't paid total attention to this since I first read about it in Publisher's Weekly. Once you purchase the books, will you be able to "lend" it out?

spyscribbler said...

Definitely, if only so I can carry around two hundred books at once. :-)

Plus, I can't afford a house big enough to hold all the books I want.

Matt Osborne said...

I don't think ebooks can ever replace paper books. A electronic gizmo like Kindle is just as easy to ruin as a book, and possibly less portable. Books are one of those perfected technologies that have staying power. That said, ebooks have a future - one that's probably analogous to dime novels. They'll become a haven for hacks and pulp artists, and a generation later their readers will be nostalgic.

Erik said...

I honestly don't see why people care about the medium. If it was up to me, all my entertainment would come in the form of barroom banter - stories told to me by strangers. All this mass media stuff, from books to teevee to magazines, requires you to use your imagination. So use it, fer godsakes!

Tammie said...

Okay I said Maybe - how's that for a definite answer :o)

Spyscribbler - carry 200 books at once - now that I like!

erik I have visions of your work on bar room napkins after that post. I'd read'em!

Independent Book Report said...

Being with a large e-book publisher (Samhain, born from Ellora's Cave) I've quickly learned the value of e-books. Not for those volumes you KNOW you're going to keep (like my hardcover Harry Potter collection or my beat-up but collectible Annotated Alice), but for those you know you'll read and not read again. I look at my tiny house and the piles of books on the floor that need a new home and I think "Yes, I need an e-book reader".

I just found out that, as a writer, I can use it as a tax-write off, since I mostly buy tween fantasy, which is what I write. They call it 'market research' HA!

I'd buy a Kindle if they weren't so dang expensive. For now, an ebookwise will do for me.

James said...

I'll bet the majority of people commenting haven't seen an e-ink display yet. They're really good, absolutely as readable as paper, very sharp with high contrast and no refresh/flickering at all. Once you see it, a lot of doubts will disappear.

But here's where I see it going. Even though I'm not opposed to e-books, the reader that I would buy hasn't been made yet. It would need to have the same wireless functionality as the Amazon Kindle, but be reduced in bulk considerably. I don't want any border around the page and just the most minimal of buttons/controls. It also needs to be black, not sure why that's important, I just don't want it looking like a piece of hospital equipment. It would also be using the next generation of e-ink displays, which can do colour (and even refreshes fast enough to do video - JK Rowling eat your heart out). Could even be flexible or foldable while we're making a wishlist. Basically, it's a about two revisions away from what I want right now.

The second thing is, I wouldn't stop buying books. I'd still want a nice library of classics, books that mean something to me or are straight up essential. You can't have a house with no books in it, it's not right. Similarly, too many books is oppressive, that's why people thrown them out.

So in a couple of years I'll have a little e-reader (made by Apple, no doubt) and a bookshelf that has awesome written all over it. Totally going to happen.

Andrew said...

I probably would have said "never"... but then again, I remember the first time I downloaded an mp3, and I thought, "This has its uses, but I'll never give up buying CDs. Never never." And oh, how ironic that has become.

Then again, perhaps the analogy doesn't hold. If you have a CD, it's easy to transfer it to mp3s; if you have mp3s, it's easy to make them into a CD. That means it's easy to share the stuff you like with your friends, and while we're less likely to give music as a formal gift, we can still give it as a favor. So far with ebooks, there's no easy way to transfer, and there doesn't seem to be one in the making without major changes to the process.

Heidi the Hick said...

You know I'm one of those booksmellers.

Heather B. Moore said...

I've just learned to never say never.

My 10-year old is dying for an IPOD. That's just crazy. $250? She got an MP3 player, much cheaper.

But I am tempted to buy my kids a computer--just so they'll stay off mine. Never thought I'd get to that point.

So ebooks are definately intriguing. Especially if there is a backlight on the Kindle and I can read in a dark car without disturbing anyone (when I'm not driving of course).

Megan said...

I don't want to be "Britney Platinum Blonde Call Her" personally. Or anybody on Brody Jenner's phone list.

Sam Hranac said...

As of this post, the poll stood at 89% Never or Maybe and 7% Absolutely.

This from people that read a blog about the publishing industry. What would be the response from people coming and going from a grocery store (beyond, "get the F^@& out of my way!")?

Nathan Bransford said...

sam-

I'd look at it another way. 44% never, but 51% say either yes or maybe. If half of people by half of their books as e-books that's going to result in a significant change in the book industry.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I've read a few and yes, I still read better on the page than on the screen. E-books are great and serve their purposes but I suspect that, for me, they will always be like audio books: Fine for some, but I prefer the real thing, heavy in my hand.

(did I expound enough, or should I write another chapter? This WAS sort of short for me)

Jen said...

Quite honestly, no. LOL. It's not necessarily because I don't think the technology will improve and be close to "the real thing." It's just that I'm in front of the computer _all the time_. It's nice to put all gadgets aside and just sit with a book without the inclination to pop on my email, etc. A reader would probably help, but I dunno... I like the smell of fresh, shiny books. (g)

Conduit said...

Because I'm a decisive person, firmly grounded in my own beliefs, I voted 'Maybe'. Because, y'know, they kind of might maybe some day, but then they might not, so I don't really know...

Here's something that's just occured to me. A lot of where civilisation is today is born of a few huge advances in technolgy, like the mastery of fire, the invention of the wheel, and the printing press bringing enlightenment and education to the masses.

We'd still be in the dark ages if someone hadn't thought of typesetting words and printing them on paper. And in the few centuries since then we've invented cars, aeroplanes, radio, television, computers, the Internet, space travel, and blogging literary agents.

We'd have none of those things without the printing press, and here we are debating whether or not a piece of mass produced plastic is going to finally kill off a method of communication that has essentially changed very little since its inception.

Mmmm, smell the irony.

Julie Weathers said...

No. I enjoy the look and feel of books.

I have books from the 1800's I adore, carefully. Where is the pleasure in looking over a screen? I love the worn covers and pages showing the books were read and loved by many.

Give me lots and lots of books to curl up with and surround myself with.

Of course, I am also one of these people who mourns the passing of letters, handwritten and treasured.

Karen Duvall said...

I checked absolutely, but I'm concerned about quality. I've read a couple of ebooks recently from small ebook publishers and they were extremely poor. The authors were obviously not yet ready for publication, but they were published anyway. That's a concern. I know some startup electronic publishing companies will buy anything they can just to build inventory, and that's a bad thing for readers.

JaxPop said...

E - books will 'take over' but I think the option for either will remain available for a long time. There will probably be a premium added for the paper versions (tp prod acceptance?). That makes Conduit's 'Maybe' pretty safe, though I can't smell the irony all because of Susan's pies. When the e-book thing takes off & since the cost exposure for production & distribution would be greatly reduced, maybe publishers would take more chances with their acceptance of writers & their (well written)work. I gotta go buy pies now.

Karen Duvall said...

Speaking of ebooks, I see publishers are now selling eARCs prior to release of the hardback edition. Isn't that interesting? Is it ethical to sell ARCs? If everyone who's interested in reading the book buys the ARC, will the hardback hold as much appeal? Lots of food for thought. Read about it here:

http://arcaedia.livejournal.com/130842.html

Simon Haynes said...

I answered Never even though I've put a considerable amount of effort into my ebook reading software. (Doesn't matter which - I'm not here to self-promote.)

The idea of ebooks is great ... entire libraries in your pocket, read anything anywhere, buy without leaving your chair, lower prices, etc, etc.

The reality is different. Books are a physical product you can buy, hold, sniff, enjoy. And they still have a value when you've read them ... you can pass them on to family, friends, others. You can line your house with bookshelves and set out to collect certain editions. You can get them ... gasp ... signed.

If you're buying something to read, then ebooks will do the job. But to me, wanting to read a book is only about 60% of the reason for my purchase. The other 40% varies, but none of it is met by ebooks.

Dead Man Walking said...

No way. It'd feel too much like 'work' if I read on a Kindle...sorta like I was multi-tasking at work on my Blackberry.

I love the feel of paper. I love how its edges grow dark over the years. I love poking through boxes full of paperbacks and hardcovers at flea markets. I love cover art with its raised lettering. Most of all, I love having bookcases full of the ones that wouldn't let me toss them into the yard sale box.

SeaWriter said...

My research habits involve opening lots of books at the same time and spreading them out on the desk with book marks and post-it notes sticking out everywhere. I'm willing give E-Books a chance, but how many Kindles will it take for me to hit my comfort zone as described above? Maybe I need to start thinking more linearly as I work. Or, maybe I can't. This question seems to be laden with hidden stressors for me, I'm beginning to realize. Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,
I actually had a quick question completely unrelated to your blog topic (sorry!). I've been trying to research Curtis Brown Ltd, but I can only ever find info on the UK branch. Is the US branch planning on creating a website? Is there somewhere I could find a list of who reps what? Whenever I search, I only see the same two or three names over and over again, but I thought there were more agents? Thanks for your time!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have and I will continue to. I just recently found out that some countries don't have printed books in stores like we do in the USA. ha. Are we spoiled or what??? I also discovered that books cost a fortune in some countries. Ebooks are a better choice.

Chumplet said...

I suppose I should exhibit a little support, since my first two releases start out as e-books. But there's nothing like a real book. Nothing.

Hope Clark said...

Paper, for sure. However, when the industry ever gets smart, it will come up with a reader that someone 40+ can read, that can support any ebook format (or at least a common one), and is reasonably priced. They are no where near that yet. Bought a Rocket Reader, got burnt when they went under. Never again until the industry gets it right.

Reid said...

Probably not. Until there's an E-Book I can read in the bathroom, there will always be a place for paper books in my house.

Other Lisa said...

I agree with whoever said that e-books are great for those books that you intend to read once and toss. I get a lot of free books that I read and recycle - stuff I'd never buy, never want to take up space on my shelves.

Also for traveling, when I read them and leave 'em behind.

Also if I need a book in a big, tearing hurry and can't find it at my local bookstore and don't have time to order it.

I say this as a person who owns many, many paper books and plans to keep buying them.

Peter R said...

The only advantage an e-reader can have over a real book, for the general population, is weight. So until an e-reader resembles a folded piece of stiff card, which when forded out can have a left and right page visible at the same time, I don't see it catching on. Also to be really convenient it would have to incorporate other functions such as GPS, maps, photos, video, films, tv, and be something you can write on like a piece of paper. We are a long way from this yet.

The other thing which will really drive the e-book is when publishers can make more profit out of an e-book than a paper book.

Peter
MervynBright.co.uk

CarBeyond said...

I'm curious.
As an agent, do you ask for electronic submissions or need them printed out?
So far, I have not heard of many instances of agents or editors who accept submissions other than paper

Anonymous said...

I would love to have my entire library compact so I could bring it everywhere. Why wouldnt I, why wouldnt you? The only problem right now is the price. I'm am so cheap! Unless a book is hardcover and attractive I dont spend over 10 dollars for it and I would never normally spend even more than 6 dollars for a paperback. I love hunting for books at used bookstores. Once I found a signed copy of Vivian Vean Veldes ( or however you spell it book's) it was only a dollar fifty. I'm pretty sure the people who worked there had no clue it was signed. So unless the e-books are really cheap I would never use my money on them.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second!!!!!!!!!!
Now I'll have to to descibe the concept of books to my kids!!!
I never thought I'd see the day.

Vinnie Sorce said...

I can't afford new books so e-books are out unless they end up at the quarter rack at the library book sale...

Sam Hranac said...

Interesting question CarBeyond (how many publishers and agents accept e-query). The number appears to be growing. I wonder how many print out the submissions they REALLY want to read.

Impy said...

I don't think it's likely I'll ever pay for electronic books regularly, but not because I'm so devoted to paper books, just because I'm used to finding my electronic entertainment for free.

Additionally, I don't see the ebooks being necessarily a terribly sustainable model for publishers. Not only is it difficult to protect electronic content from unlawful distribution, coming up with and maintaining a systemic method of distribution is bound to be expensive, and the likely result would be a system too inflexible to keep up with the market and changing technology. Plus, there already are several electronic distribution models that cut out the middleman, with varying degrees of success, and a publisher would have to offer far more than their shiny name to compete with those models effectively, at least from an income and reputation standpoint.

I know that if I were a writer, I would never even consider selling my electronic rights to a publisher unless what they were offering me was better than I knew I could do on my own (that just makes sense, right?) Based on my experiences in webcomics, that means they'd need to not only have an extremely solid plan for protecting my material from unlawful distribution as well as encouraging lawful sales, they also would need to be offering me extremely healthy advances and royalties... I would expect to be making on the higher end of five figures a year at least by allowing them to handle my electronic distribution for me.

I realize that sounds much too high from a print market perspective, but my husband and I currently make our entire living from VOLUNTARY payments for an otherwise free electronic distribution product, and that has perhaps given me a different perspective on the electronic market. It may not be the most stable income ever, but if my husband and I are doing that on our own, I don't think it's unreasonable to require that publishers show they can do at least as well before handing over those rights.

Rachelle said...

I voted "absolutely." I LOVE my paper-and-ink books, and I hope I always have the opportunity to buy them. However, one of my biggest heartbreaks is that I will never own a house large enough for both my family and my books -- at least not all the books I WISH I could keep. (Unfortunately the rugrats take first priority. Darn them.) Every year I give away boxes of books, sadly waving good-bye as the Goodwill truck fades into the distance. Once e-books are the norm, I will NEVER have to get rid of a book again.

Linnea said...

I was watching a program last night on the influenza pandemic of the early 1900's that killed millions worldwide. Part of the method used to track the killer, isolate it and make a vaccine, depended on notes made by doctors who tended to the dying. The doctors notes were published in printed volumes so scientists could study them at a later date. It occurred to me that ebooks are too transitory and that what can be read in an ebook today might not be readable ten years from now as the technology changes. Paper and ink are permanent. I can and have read books over 100 years old. I doubt I'd be able to do that with an ereader. I'll likely read some ebooks but I will always have a library of the real thing.

Erik said...

Conduit sed:
We'd still be in the dark ages if someone hadn't thought of typesetting words and printing them on paper.

Yes, all that you said is true. A little time spent understanding the Reformation, the 30 Year's War, and its net effect on the development of three continents shows the importance of the press. Publishing the Bible in vernacular languages was the key to ripping apart the largest empire the world has ever seen.

Fast forward to today, and it seems to me that everything moved along at a reasonable pace after that, more or less according to Hoyle. While the technology grounded us nicely and made other things possible, the really interesting bit was the splash the press made when it first arrived.

So if you feel nostalgic for the printed page, remember that there's a decent chance we might live to see the new technologies really turn a corner in ways that are unimaginable now. Charles V might not have seen it coming, but I think we can.

Nathan Bransford said...

Linnea-

Paper's not permanent either, if you take the long view!

Danette Haworth said...

I've bought a few reference pieces in the form of e-books.

Linnea said...

You're right, Nathan. Paper isn't permanent. But a 100 year old book has character and history. When you pick up a 100 year old book you know that particular book has been read for 100 years. You can see it on the flyleaf in the handwriting of its first owner, the first time it's given as a gift, the first time it's sold in a used book store, the stains, little tears and bends in its pages. Books have 'soul'. Ebooks are nothing like them. Maybe it is simply because I love history that ebooks will never replace a real book that I can hold in my hand.

Anonymous said...

Nathan,

I love to feel the pages between my fingertips, run my hand down the page, smell the book (as Heidi said). The reading is a whole multi-faceted sensory experience for me.

Also, I feel that any house, without the books jammed in the bookshelves of many kinds and types, lining every wall, is a house lacking in soul.

Reading an e-book for me would be like making love to a robot. That might work for some, but it just doesn't get to the "heart" of the matter for me. ;)

Isak said...

I like hanging out in bookstores, losing hours of my life exploring the books inside. That's a habit I developed as a kid, and I'd hate to see it go.

But then, I think about things like PDF files and rich text format, and eBooks aren't that far off. I suppose if they can somehow figure out a way to simulate that experience or, ideally, preserve it, I wouldn't have a problem with buying eBooks on a regular basis. (Sure would save space by not having huge bookshelves filled top to bottom in my house...)

LindaBudz said...

I like that the technology could make "small" books available for years to come. No more going out of print! Also that it can help save trees.

CarBeyond said...

While thinking about this topic, I actually collected a complete large garbage bag filled to the brim of breakage with junk mail and old bill and bank statements over the last year.
Now, I would want to keep my best books always,
but if i am going to save trees, please let's get rid of bills and junk mail first, NOT books!!!

Melissa said...

I said never, but honestly for myself I typically buy ebooks. But I never buy ebooks for my kids, something about being able to sit with them and let them turn the pages and look at the pictures is the only way I can go with them.

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