Sunday, January 06, 2013

Code Nerds Chat about E-books on SlashDot

Here is a interesting post on Slashdot about "Death of Printed Books May Have Been Exaggerated." The post refers to Nicholas Carr's blog post "Will Gutenberg Laugh Last?" at his blog, Rough Type. I was interested in the Slashdot crews' comments about the post there, as much as the original report on Nicholas Carr's blog post. The SlashDotters' comments ranged from discussing their own preferences for print or digital (and they felt strongly both ways), to comments on how the e-books digital rights management (DRM)(like Amazon's Kindle and Apple) create a "closed ecosystem" and, some felt, manifest greed. A few others pointed out that authors do not necessarily ask for such DRM and can, in fact, opt out of it in some publishing schemes. Others pointed out a few projects on open source e-books. I particularly liked this succinct analysis of "dead tree" books:
They don't need batteries
You can buy them used without DRM
They smell interesting
Old books have their own story aside from what is printed in them
Each book feels different
Do not require infrastructure to maintain
I don't have to buy something to reads my book- I just buy the book, the "reader" is free.

Posted on New Year's Day, 2013, Carr refutes his earlier post reporting on a Pew Internet Study that e-book purchases had risen and assuming that print reading was declining. However, Carr found newer data that showed the opposite trend, and also read more deeply in the Pew study and thought it showed different outcomes:
the printed book remains, by far, the preferred format for American book readers. Fully 89 percent of them report that they read at least one printed book over the preceding 12 months. Only 30 percent say they read at least one e-book — a percentage that, perhaps tellingly, has increased by only a single point since last February, when the survey was last conducted. The study did find that the percentage of American adults who read e-books increased over the past year, while the percentage that read printed books fell, but the changes are modest. E-book readers rose from 16 percent to 23 percent, while printed book readers declined from 72 percent to 67 percent.
Carr also reports that various U.S. publishers were reporting drops in sales of e-books and rises in sales of print books, though apparently the reading devices are selling well. Carr speculates on possible reasons:

1) E-books may be more suited to some types of reading than others, and perhaps work best as a complement to print rather than an outright substitute; He also recognizes e-books are ideal for certain situations, like plane trips;

2) Early adopters have already made their move to e-books and the remaining population has no interest in moving to digital -- he quotes a report by the publisher Bowker in a publishing news article;

3) Advantages of print have been underrated, while the advantages of e-books have been overrated;

4) Early purchasers of e-readers quickly filled them with lots of e-books and are still working on the backlog;

5) The shift from e-readers to tablets is depressing sales of e-books because tablets can do so many other things;

6) E-book prices have not fallen as much as expected

(and Carr updated his post with a link to a Wall Street Journal article about print vs. digital books in which he asserts more boldly that print is here to stay.)

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