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The Smell of E-books March 11, 2010

Posted by dataduchess in reading.
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I came across this essay from last week’s New York Times, and admittedly, only read the first paragraph before I was inspired to write this post. Here’s what it said:

People who reject e-books often say they can’t live without the heft, the texture and — curiously — the scent of traditional books. This aria of hypersensual book love is not my favorite performance. I sometimes suspect that those who gush about book odor might not like to read. If they did, why would they waste so much time inhaling?

From methyl_lives' flickr stream Licensed under Creative Commons

Any guesses why I just had to respond? It’s no secret around here that we are big readers. And, I think pupfiction would agree with me that there is definitely something sensual about reading a physical book. Since I was a kid, I have recognized the different smells of books, and the scent of a brand new book is right up there with fresh from the oven apple pie and Final Touch Fabric Softener as one of my all-time favorites. Library books have a distinct smell as well, and though not as pleasing to me as a brand new book, still pleasurable in its association to the joy of reading a good book.

So why would the author of this essay claim that people who love the smell of books must not like to read? I know I am not the exception to the rule when it comes to enjoying the feel of a book. And for the record, I like reading eBooks too- I use the Kindle App on my iPod Touch, and will consume any written words in any form. Enjoying the scent of a book doesn’t change that.

What do you think? We’ve asked before what you think of eBooks, but let’s ask again… how much does the medium of your words matter? And have you ever noticed the smell of books?

iPad’s First Victory February 1, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Just as we had predicted (with the help of Flavorwire), Apple has helped to force the e-book market into a new model, taking power away from Amazon and back to the publishers. While this seems like a victory for us as readers, breaking the monopoly that Amazon held over the e-book market, it means increased prices across the board. As library denizens and vigilant defenders of copyright this might not mean much to us but is it enough to force more people into committing e-book piracy? In The Millions article “Confessions of a Book Pirate”, the “book pirate” says that he does, “not buy DRM’d ebooks that are priced at more than a few dollars, but would pay up to $10 for a clean file if it was a new release.” Key words: up to $10. The “pirate” has a lot of good arguments about why e-books should be cheap, including the very convincing one that e-books cost little to nothing to reproduce. While angered e-book fans may be tempted to illegally download copies, publishers are happy with the decision, so happy, in fact, that they have agreed to limit their digital profits. So while the prediction that iBooks and the iPad will break the monopolization of e-book sales has come true, the other prediction, that iBooks will do to the publishing company what iTunes did to the music industry, has turned out to be completely false. By putting prices back in the hands of publishers, Apple has done the exact reverse –empowering and assisting the already struggling publishing industry. Are Jobs and his cohorts the silent saviors of the publishers or is this thwarted prediction a necessary result of destroying Amazon’s vice grips on the industry?  What do you think?

From AdaFruit's Flickr stream, Creative Commons licensed

Read the New York Times full article on Amazon’s new ebook policies here.

iBooks: the Run Down January 28, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Ever since watching Steve Jobs announce and describe Apple’s latest project yesterday- the iPad – a tablet computer, I felt compelled to talk about iBooks (an e-book reader app) and how it may affect the e-book market. But alas, 700,000 blogs and web sites (or somewhere around there) had already done it! So I am going to sum up Flavorwire’s “5 Ways the Apple iPad Could Change e-Books”.

From Engadget.com

1. iBooks will allow publishers more control over e-book pricing by creating a formidable opponent to Amazon.com (although there are some fears that iBooks will turn e-books into the market that iTunes turned music into).

2. The iPad will use a new format for e-books which could change the market by forcing competitors to adopt the same standards, thus creating a universal e-book format, or, iBooks could attempt to monopolize the market.

3. The iPad does not have an e-ink screen like Kindles which means, unfortunately, that it is hard on the eyes, but fortunately, that color is possible. (Maybe I don’t know enough about these e-ink screens but couldn’t turning down the brightness of the iPad have the same effect?)

4. Lots of major publishers have already signed on.

From Engadget.com

5. The iPad starts at $500, and while this is much more expensive than a Kindle, the iPad is, after all, a computer, and not just an e-book reader.

There are also numerous concerns about Jobs lack of showing textbooks on the iPad. The Kindle has been tested in many colleges and universities and students like it because it enables the taking of notes in the margins. Not so for the iPad (or at least not yet). ZDNet questions whether the iBooks will be able to get Apple back into education and raises some good questions of the limits of iBooks and the iPad.

What I was most excited about was the new New York Times app which makes the newspaper available in a format that looks once again like the paper you used to get thrown onto your front lawn.

From Engadget.com

What do you think about the iPad? Did it live up to the hype?

For more information on the iPad check out pictures and descriptions of the live event from Engadget here.

What the National Book Awards tell us about the publishing industry November 19, 2009

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I can’t say the winners of the National Book Awards even made it to my TBR. Perhaps this is because, as the Times states,

This year’s nominees had some in the publishing industry wondering about the relevance of the National Book Awards, in part because most of the titles had sold so little and few people had heard of them. The biggest selling finalist was Mr. McCann, with “Let the Great World Spin” selling 19,000 copies in hardcover, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales.

19,000 copies sure pales in comparison to Twilight’s 85 million copies sold worldwide (even quartered for the sake of considering only hardcover this still far surpasses Let the Great World Spin), or Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which sold over one million copies (presumably hardcover) in the first day. What does this mean? Has the National Book Award become arcane and meaningless; is it an award solely for erudite academicians?

This train of thought led me to research the criteria for the National Book Award and here is what I found on their website: “Juries develop their own criteria for awarding the National Book Award and discussions are held independent of the Foundation.” Granted, the panel is composed of authors of that genre but the selection of the judges itself sounds political and elitist as well: “Judges are nominated by past National Book Award Winners, Finalists, and Judges and then selected and recruited by the Foundation’s Executive Director in consultation with the Board of Directors.” Should the finalists really be choosing the judges?

Obscure choices aside, talk at the National Book Awards was reported by a few sources to revolve around the kindle and the growing popularity of ebooks, in defamatory tones. Looks like the writers finally understand what the musicians have gone through for a while. And like the musicians, the writers need to understand, like Cory Doctorow does (and like all librarians do), the need to evolve in order to stay relevant.

On a side note and to follow-up on our previous post about the public voting on the “Best of National Book Awards Fiction”: (another lackluster choice, in my opinion), the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog reports,

Flannery O’Connor won the “Best of the National Book Awards” prize. Ten thousand people voted on the National Book Foundation’s Web site to nominate the best award-winning work of fiction in the last 60 years. The six finalists were Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow,” Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” “Collected Stories of William Faulkner,” “The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty” and “Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories.