E-Book Sales Closing the Gap, Quickly


Actual panel from the current "Mary Worth" storyline.

The death of print media is closer than you think. Amazon says it's now selling more e-books than paperbacks. At his Kindle blog, Dave Cassel crunches some numbers from Amazon sales:

Amazon had announced last July that they were selling more ebooks than hardcovers. But at the time, I'd complained that was misleading, since hardcovers make up a small percent of total book sales at any store. One analyst had calculated that there's usually three paperback books sold for every one hardcover book. With that information, it seemed like in July Amazon's ebook sales were only 60% of their paperback sales.

But not any more. In fact, Amazon explained today that for every 100 paperback books they've sold this January, they're selling 115 ebooks…

Of course, that still means that Amazon is selling fewer ebooks than they are printed books — if you combine the paperback and hardcover sales. But ebooks now represent more than 45% of all the books that Amazon is selling. If ebooks can just increase their share by 5%, Amazon will finally be able to announce that they're selling more ebooks than all print books combined…

And to achieve this milestone, Amazon didn't even count any of the free ebooks that people are downloading, which is presumably an enormous number.

In fact, if just one user downloads a free ebook for every nine paid ebook purchases — then Amazon is already delivering more digital ebooks than they are print editions!

Next generation Kindle will feature bound paper with illustrations.

Some perspective: While Amazon is the largest book retailer in the United States, its $6 billion in annual book sales is still less than half the U.S. total, which the Census Bureau estimates will come in just shy of $15 billion for 2010. (From 1992 through 2008, the size of the U.S. book market about doubled [pdf] in non-adjusted dollars.) Amazon is not the only purveyor of e-books, nor is its .azw format the only one available. E-readers are increasingly moving toward platform independence, and I understand one of these days you'll even be able to send telexes through your phone.

Still, that's pretty rapid growth, and it suggests the venerable book format—despite centuries of quasi-religious respect—will not prove any more durable than film, classified advertising or 8-track cassette turned out to be when faced with digital alternatives. (In a clear milestone for English usage, my kids refer to the Sony Reader as "the phone book.") That has implications for your wallet and for your culture.

Fuck you, Mary.

Back in the more innocent time of 2009, Brian Doherty noted one problem with e-books: the rent is too damn high. But it's not clear what would be a reasonable price for something that has effectively no physical production or delivery costs and that you will only keep until you upgrade to another device.

In the halcyon days of 2010, Peter Suderman discussed how books would evolve (or devolve) in an e-reader universe.

But I'm sticking by my assertion that e-readers themselves are way stations that will soon go the way of the Pong console. You can see that with every new generation of e-reader, which adds new writability and interactivity that make the devices behave more and more like those electronic brains our ancestors used to call "laptops." An electronic book is a metaphor for a book that you start reading on page 1 and keep turning the pages of until you're through. As people get more accustomed to the e-book, I think they'll realize that they don't need the metaphor. What format will take its place I don't know, but I'm betting it will be Smell-O-Vision.

Can't-do-that-with-a-Kindle bonus: The Guardian has an update on the edition of the Koran written in Saddam Hussein's blood.

NEXT: Obama Administration Says Health Care Law Is All Or Nothing. Judge Gives Them Nothing.

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  1. I stopped buying new books a long time ago. I have either bought used or got from the library.

    got a kindle for xmas, won’t ever buy a book again. But then, so far the shit I’ve read on the kindle I’ve gotten free from gutenburg.

    1. I think they really need to factor in used book sales too (though majority are by third parties). Of course, there won’t *be* any used book sales with ebooks thanks to DRM.

      Depending the book/subject and the price differential I’ll buy used (very good or better) instead of new. Though many times you can even find new at a fraction of the original cost.

      1. Lower end books will probably end up on some service like Netflix, the home of the old and/or terrible movie.

        While the page turning metaphor is an issue, the light emissions of laptops combined with the relatively intense power usage sort of tends to indicate that the ereader will be around for a while. When they will cross the line from ereader and becomes the netbook’s netbook is another issue.

        All I know is that that summer I worked in a library shuffling all those books around while I had a 20 gigabyte mp3 player in my pocket convinced me to my soul the paper book would end up being like fine wine or scotch; a thing for collectors, aesthetes, and/or snobs. That said, I would totally buy big, hefty leather bound editions of the western lit canon if I had the money.

        1. Netflix is also the home of the documentary and the obscure.

          The main reason books will endure is because it’s exhausting to read an 800-page novel on a computer screen.

          1. Have you tried a Kindle? Not the same as reading on a computer screen at all IMO. I transitioned from paper to Kindle this xmas and love it.

            1. and if your reading habits are like mine, you read old books, you can read it all for free. Gutenberg and IA have tons of stuff in kindle format for download.

        2. On the other hand, computers are the perfect medium for encyclopedias, dictionaries, poems and music videos.

      2. The death of used books is my least favorite thing about ebooks. I like to own the object and to be able to easily lend or sell it to anyone I want to. But it seems likely that DRM for books will work out about as well as it has for music.

  2. I am the last word in the home cinematic experience.

    1. Weren’t you supposed to kill the film industry? Slacker.

      1. That was his brother, BetaMax, that the RIAA mugged in an alley and beat senseless.

        1. They killed my whole family!

          1. Take me for a spin. I’m still sexy!

  3. Shall..We..Play..A..Game?

  4. I “heart” my kindle. I actually prefer reading on it to reading books.

    (f*cking tags)

  5. well shit, makes my job easier

  6. My coworker just got a Kindle recently and he loves it. My main objection to them is that…you can’t get them wet. If you want to read at the pool or in the hot tub, you don’t take your Kindle. If you get some water on your used paperback, who cares?

    Still, I may have to get one for travel.

    1. Yeah, this is a drawback as I LOVE reading in the bath.

      You can put them in a zip-lock or heat sealed bag, but I don’t trust that. I may have to silicone mine with Sylgard 184.

      1. Someone has to have the foresight to make a waterproof e-reader. You could read in the pool, the bath, the hot tub, at the beach, in the rain, while diving into water to escape gunfire, shark hunting, in a sensory deprivation chamber, and so much more. It’s genius!

        1. Wireless data transfer + inductive power transfer + sealed case/coating. I should really make one myself.

        2. Someone has to have the foresight to make a waterproof e-reader.

          Or you just wait 5 years and e-readers will come free in cracker jack boxes.

        3. Jeff Bezos himself reccomended the ziploc solution. I’ve done it, and it works just fine.

      2. I can’t make toast in the shower. It sucks.

        1. You can knock back a beer though, so what’s the problem!

          1. Or eat fries! I tried to find a link to the Kids in the Hall sketch where it ends with Kevin eating fries with vinegar in the shower, but I can’t seem to locate one.

            1. mmmmmmmmm fries with vinegar! Why do waitresses waitstaff look at me with scrunched up faces when I ask for vinegar with my fries?

              1. Tell them it’s just like salt and vinegar potato chips except softer, hotter and rectangular.

                1. Much like Warty’s penis.

          2. Beer in the shower is one of life’s great pleasures.

  7. Haven’t made the conversion – in fact, just got a couple new hardbacks for Xmas and my birthday.

    Yeah, books are like that crazy 1911 handgun design – NOTHING lasts forever.

    PS Happy 100th birthday, Model 1911!

    1. These new e-readers aren’t really a substitute for hardcovers. If you care enough about a book to add it to your library or if you use a book as a reference, a hardcover is superior.

      However, they are a pleasure to use if you are just reading through a book. For this reason, for many titles I have both hardcover and e-book; but I won’t ever buy another paperback again.

      1. Oh, come on. For REFERENCE, a book of any sort is inferior to digital storage in every single way. In the time it takes for you to simply thumb your way through the index to find what page the information you need is on, I’ve already finished reading it. Hell, by the time you’ve found the right VOLUME in the card catalog, I’m probably already done. There’s absolutely no contest.

        1. Paperback books, on the other hand, have one firm advantage over e-readers: Nobody cares about losing or damaging a paperback.

          If I go to the beach, I don’t even like to bring along a pair of sunglasses that cost more than ten bucks. I ***certainly*** don’t want a big easy-to-destroy $100 device with me, just so I can thumb through a pulp novel while I’m catching some rays.

        2. Tara, text search is useful, yes, but it has it’s limitations. Even careful search choices might not yield useful results. It’s not like digital media means the end of indexes and table of contents.

          I’m frequently using multiple books and keeping them open to reference between them or even using multiple sections of multiple books. You just can’t do that as easily or as efficiently as an e-reader.

  8. E-readers are the latest stuttering step towards the ultimate goal, which is Alfred Turing’s original concept – a device which handles multiple forms and functions of the transference of any type of information via digital means, regardless of which previously analog version that represents. Print, audio, video – any of it. With the reduction to the basest of simplicity – the one and zero of binary – the pathway is clear, despite all of the lucrative side ventures that have generated a heap of cash along the way.

    One of the biggest holdouts has been the simple audio delivery provided by the legacy analog telephone system (which is hardly analog at ths point), retaining its forms and mimicking the limited functionality of 50 years ago. Software alternatives have already overtaken much of this enforced antiquity, and severly eroded the economically driven base model that many bandwidth providers still marketing themselves as “phone companies” pass along on a technically unaware and unsophisticated (for all their self proclaimed hipness) public.

    It already is nothing more than bandwidth.

    Connectivity, and bandwidth access is the ultimate commodity, and the basic service. Simply presented with different shades of lipstick, and varying price tags.

    All of Steve Jobs flash and dazzle is, instead of progress, actually an impediment, given that he insists upon slickly marketing hobbled, limited devices which technically could function as true Turing devices, absent his imposed restraints – somewhat more of a diverse activity when it comes to Microsoft and the tag-along hardware vendors that rely on Bill Gates’ brainchild to provide them with both operating system and application software.

    I look back into the past, admiring the simplicity and directness of Turing’s original concept, along with a view of a possible future, which is quite possible, populated with Red Planet level tech – a portable, foldable, translucent and universal device capable of doing it all.

    Which we’re a lot closer to realizing than companies depending on the latest shiny and initially expensive specialty gadgets are loath to publicly admit.

    1. And yes – specialty E-readers are likely to be as quaint to our children’s eyes as the Sony Walkman Cassette players are to ours today.

      1. I was watching The Terminator on the tube the other day and almost broke out laughing in a fit of nostalgia when I saw Sarah Connor’s roommate bopping to a Walkman (right before Arnold, um, terminates her). It’s amazing people actually tried running with those things.

        1. “Pugsley, shoo! Go on. I’m going to make a belt out of you!”

          1. Too bad she got killed–her character was pretty yummy in her own Aqua-netted way.

        2. See also the dance scene from The House of the Devil.

    2. Every computer existing today is a finite-state automaton (due to their finite memory), and as we all know FSAs cannot function as Turing machines.

      1. and as we all know FSAs cannot function as Turing machines.

        Who is this “we” you refer to, Kimosabe?

      2. A function of design, which reinforces my point. Implemented distraction.

        1. Finite memory isn’t a matter of design…the entire universe taken as a whole has finite memory. A true Turing machine is an impossibility, unless your machine is going to transcend the universe itself.

          1. But a functionally useful Turing device is quite possible. And so far unavailable for mass consumption or utilization because of the economic advantage inherent in dragging out the progress towards that goal. You’re only letting your extreme definition of perfection obstruct your acceptance of the possible. But, hey, it’s H&R. That happens around here.

      3. I don’t think that you two are talking about the same thing. Tulpa is right about TUring Machines. WR is right about how nice it would be to have a machine that could handle all kinds of information and how stupid the specific finction devices (i.e. Apple products) are given present technological capabilities.

    3. “Red Planet”


    4. The limitations of the iPad are not the result of Apple’s nefarious plans to box you in. The reason why the iPad is the way it is, and why both it and the Kindle are selling like hotcakes comes down to a very simple explanation: Consumer demand.

      Most people don’t really WANT a Touring machine just yet, or at least not anything that tries to be one with current technology.

      Feel free to build one and see if anybody buys it if you don’t believe me.

      What people want is something which delivers content using interface metaphors they already understand and doesn’t force them to learn new skills just to operate it.

      1. Of course Jobs, Gates, et al, do not see themselves as ‘nefarious’, and are proud of filling a ‘consumer niche’ or ‘demand’ for their products – for the simple explanation that ‘they just work’. And it is true that the products they sell are streamlined and channeled towards certain specific everday, repetitive tasks that do not require additional capability to fulfill those limited desires – but as even Jobs’ himself has put it ‘because people don’t know what they want yet’ (paraphrasing), which does display a certain arrogance. The disappointment is not mainly from those who either ‘want it all’ or success based on those who just want it to do just what they want (which Jobs has told them is all they are going to get) – but because the devices are a step forward. I’m an Apple consumer, myself – a MacBook Pro – and it’s a quite nice machine, which didn’t require any specialized knowledge or training to simply enjoy, BUT – it had greater capabilities than I necessarily wanted or needed, in various directions and nuances. That flexibility was discarded for both the iPhone and the iPad. With the compromise made not at the discretion of actual consumer demand, but what Jobs could ship out the door on the 6 month Apple product cycle timeline, and thus reap benefit from immediately. Gates pioneered the tablet form factor concept, but was stymied because he was simply a software guy, and the hardware vendors were unable (at that juncture) to fulfill the ideal when he was pushing the concept.

  9. Another benefit of books made from dead trees is that they are notoriously difficult to unpublish if the publisher or the Censor General decides they aren’t fit for public consumption.

    Also, Amazon can’t automatically “upgrade” you to the “Person of African Descent Jim” version of Huck Finn.

    1. Which it THE advantage that hardcopy print editions will likely always retain.

    2. That’s more a problem with proprietary-format ebooks than the ebook concept itself. If you get an ePub or PDF format ebook you don’t have to worry about that.

      Also, Kindle burnings aren’t going to be nearly as satisfying to censors as book burnings.

    3. Breaking DRM doesn’t seem to remain a challenge for very long.

      For ebooks:


    4. This….

      Also, in the case of a zombie apocalypse, or some other type of apocalypse, books are going to be a whole lot more useful than electric gadgets that don’t work anymore.

    5. Preventing the publication of a physical book is much more difficult than preventing the publication of something in the digital ether.

      Also, although it’s nice to joke, “Person of African Descent Jim” is IMO preferable to the actual revision, “Slave Jim,” because Jim was a freedman.

      1. Sorry Jim, you’ll always be a slave in the new edition. It’s just more polite that way.

  10. It’s kind of strange that we, the most advanced civilization that the world has ever seen, will leave so few artifacts behind for those who arise after our civilization collapses. (and it will eventually collapse, you giddy optimists) First vinyl records, which in principle require no electricity to play, are replaced with cassettes and then CDs and then digital files. Now paper books are going to be replaced with digital files on media that do not last.

    Future archaeologists’ attempts to decode the CD format is going to make our struggles with hieroglyphics look like a piece of cake.

    1. linear PCM is pretty simple dude.

      1. Shhh…don’t interrupt Tulpa while he’s talking out of his ass.

        1. He actually does have a valid, although irrelevant point. Future archeologists will still have more permanent examples of present day cultural artifacts to author ‘pulled out of our asses by force of imagination alone’ studious works (aka wild assed guesses), just as we see today with speculations about ancient Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc. Unless you truly believe that their efforts were totally so altruistic as to completely omit the juiciest Lindsey Lohan style babble from all of their efforts. It is a function, so far, of human activity to discard, ignore, or become simply bored with the inane, and along with it parts and pieces that are relevant. Thus leaving an incomplete and often downright confusing for later generations.

          1. Just think of how confused they’ll be after reading His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra by Kitty Kelley. I know I was.

            1. That’s at least a couple of PhD’s worth, right there.

            2. Needless to say, if they anoint Tom Friedman as our civilization’s Plato, I’m gonna be pretty pissed.

              1. Since we’ll be dead, I don’t think pissed will matter. I’d more likely interpret it as the Lords of Cosmic Jest punking Einstein for his whole “dice with the Universe” crack.

            3. We should carve that in stone tablets so that future generations can benefit from its wisdom.

          2. Future archeologists will still have more permanent examples of present day cultural artifacts to author ‘pulled out of our asses by force of imagination alone’ studious works (aka wild assed guesses), just as we see today with speculations about ancient Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc.

            See also this.

          3. Well, there is the fact that the people living on Greek and Roman territory have had ideological reasons to destroy any and all evidence of their more off-color pursuits. Heck, the hastily-covered-up naughty parts of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, only a few hundred years old, had long since been forgotten before the restoration.

        2. My ass doesn’t react well to being interrupted.

      2. Of course, but the problem is that the future archaeologists probably won’t have a CD drive handy to even be able to read the bits — they’ll have to figure out how to read the thing just from the disc itself. And that’s assuming they only encounter plain text files or perhaps bitmap images.

        1. You know how we have a distorted idea of what Greek statues looked like because the paint has all come off?

          Now try to imagine what future generations will make of Times Square.

          1. Now try to imagine what future generations will make of Times Square.

            they will simply look at the gazzilians of digital pictures, movies, sonograms, and satellite images they have stored in the cloud 5.0.

            you guys do realize that in order for your future generation bullshit to work that we would have to have a complete collapse of civilization right?

            And if such a collapse occurred the fact that all the easy to get minerals and fuel have been used up so the likelihood of us getting up again out of the wilderness is almost impossible right?

            We will either have a continual line of our digital history or we will be so fucked that it really will not matter anyway.

            1. I already have 5 1/4″ disks I can’t read, and movies I can’t get codecs for anymore.

              I have a couple books from the early 1800’s that work just fine.

              1. Early 1900’s – but ditto.

              2. I have a couple books from the early 1800’s that work just fine.

                That was written a hundred years ago…there is no way anyone could read a book that old.

              3. Yeah, but how much of the INFORMATION on those 5 1/4″ disks have you actually lost over the years?

                Sure, you can’t run the obsolete spreadsheet app you had saved on one of them anymore, but I bet you still have your tax forms from that year stored in a newer format.

                Preserving the media is irrelevant. It’s the data that matters.

          2. There’s something just so brilliantly screwed up at us looking at unpainted sculptures and admiring their unpaintedness. When, in fact, the Greeks went in for gaudy colors the way the Indians do in their religious art.

        2. They’ll look at it under a scope and work out that it’s a simple digital format. Then decoding the PCM will be easy. A blu-ray on the other hand …

          1. And you just know they’re going to start with Mr. Bean and Michael Bay movies because you don’t need to understand the language to follow them. Only later will they develop the language and cultural familiarity to understand more fragile works of art like Citizen Kane, Con Air, and Casablanca.

            1. Just imagine their delight when they finally decode all the H&R comments.

              1. Just imagine their delight when they finally decode all the H&R comments.

                I have made arrangements to insure that will be the first thing they find and the first thing they decode.

        3. Future archaeologists will figure out how to rebuild a CD drive to read that old information.

    2. Gorzog! You were right! It was all Monkey’s!

    3. Books were already pretty terrible for that purpose compared to cuneiform tablets.

      Books are extremely perishable if not protected and periodically recopied.

      1. They seem to hold up better than papyri

        1. Ones printed and published on acid free materials, at any rate. Those that are, not so much. Many have already disintegrated in less than 100 years.

    4. I don’t know about that–we seem to be leaving a hell of a lot of trash behind.

      From one perspective, even our relatively extensive knowledge of Roman history is limited to a few preserved written sources and archaeological digs. It does remain to be seen how much of a written record we actually leave behind, though. I can’t imagine it will be extensive, and future civilizations will certainly cringe at the increasingly degraded state of our language just in the last 60 years.

      1. Degradation is one perspective – evolution is another. One could equally claim that Latin was ‘degraded’, or the same for middle or old English.

        1. I think it would be pretty difficult to argue that the overall decline in vocabulary and terms of expression–a process that is fairly obvious even when comparing something as innocuous as advertisements from 110 years ago with the ones today–could be equated with evolution as opposed to degradation.

          For instance, even as verbose as Gibbon was, he still managed to pack more varieties of meaning into one paragraph than modern historians can manage in one book. A cursory reading of even the frontier newspapers of the late 1800s shows a range of expression that modern journalists can’t touch, and our schools haven’t taught for decades.

          1. This assumes that the average Greek or Roman was as astute or colorful as Plato or Pliny. Practitioners of the art of expression have always been rare. That the art is less common or obvious within the massive increase in publicized communication present today is not, I think, a true yardstick.

          2. overall decline in vocabulary and terms of expression


            Shakespeare could never tell me the meaning of the word “MILF”.

            1. Hell, when I was in high-school ‘MILF’ was a separatist group in the Phillipines. Talk about getting fucked by the porn machine known as the Internet.

      2. Good point. I don’t know how much our plastic bags will fade in the intervening time, and those have some information on them usually. Heck, landfills are so densely packed they will probably preserve even cardboard boxes.

        It would be interesting if the archaeologists thought our advertisements and food package decorations were our greatest contribution to art. To be honest, they might not be wrong about that conclusion.

        1. You’d be surprised what survives a few feet down in a land fill.

          I saw a show on the teevee a few years ago where an anthropologist took her class to a landfill to dig for ‘artifacts’. A few feet down plastic is an unrecognizable rotted mess, but newspapers are perfectly readable. I think that perhaps the anaerobic conditions naturally preserved the paper.

          1. I think that perhaps the anaerobic conditions naturally preserved the paper.

            Or the fact that wood, which paper is made from, has been designed by the process of evolution to be resistant to bacteria.

        2. I have often though that landfills will be pretty amazing places to excavate in some distant future where the present has been mostly forgotten.

  11. I bought a kindel about a month ago. I have to say, it beats regular books in every way.

    I think e-books are overpriced, though. Considering that all of the drudgery of printing and delivering and warehousing and the uncertainties of inventories, etc, e-books ought to cost about 1/4 what paper books cost.

    1. A significant share of the cost of a book, new textbooks (as opposed to the 9th edition) goes to editing and then the author.

      1. Yeah, but ebooks often cost more than a normal paper back. I don’t quite see the point of that.

        1. Price discrimination.

          People who own e-readers are more willing to pay higher amounts for books. Production costs are irrelevant; it’s what the consumer’s willing to pay. As long as ebook distribution remains largely proprietary and e-reader owners are willing to spend more on books, that will continue to be the case. If a producer can separate out consumers into isolated market segments and prevent them from switching (whether it’s via market structure or law), he can capture more of what people are willing to pay. Airlines, MS Windows/Office, colleges, etc.

          1. And realistically… If I’m willing to pay seven bucks to read a cheesy Star Trek novel, why should I care if I’m paying for something that cost $3 to print and bind, or something that cost almost nothing to transfer to my reading device? How much it cost them to make has no bearing on how much I value the experience of reading it. As long as they tell a story which I consider worth paying seven bucks to read, I’m a satisfied customer at seven bucks.

            1. You can’t resell the ebook. I think that is a huge difference that requires a much lower price. But if people are paying those prices, then that’s what the price is. I can’t argue with that.
              But I am going to be an old stick in the mud and keep buying used print books and the occasional new hardcover.

    2. What the market will bear, etc., etc.

      Eventually the price of books will be divorced from the price of paper & printing and the waste involved (most paperbacks end up being thrown in the trash) so that should keep prices relatively low and much more stable.

      1. Yeah, the same can be said for music. The cost of a $15.99 CD can be broken down as follows:

        $0.17 Musicians’ unions
        $0.80 Packaging/manufacturing
        $0.82 Publishing royalties
        $0.80 Retail profit
        $0.90 Distribution
        $1.60 Artists’ royalties
        $1.70 Label profit
        $2.40 Marketing/promotion
        $2.91 Label overhead
        $3.89 Retail overhead

        How much of that do you think survives 20 years from now?

    3. The fact that you don’t need to physically go and pick up a book also means people will pay more money for it right now.

  12. Who needs an actual kindle? I just use the kindle app for my Android phone. The modern smartphone does all.

    1. I suppose the point is that the Kindle’s screen is designed to look like, and be sized like, paper and be easier on the eyes. I mean, I do not want to read a book on my Droid. At all. It’s too small, too bright, and kills my batteries.

      1. Qualcomm’s Mirasol MEMS array colour reflective screen looks interesting. Think it is entering production now too.…..or-display

        1. Oooohhh, that looks good.

      2. Frustrating limitations, eh? For a device that does not much really well. At this point, anyway.

      3. Its the combination of the Kindle in the Kindle app that is so great. I can keep my booked synced to both. Sneak in pages here and there throughout the day on my iPod Touch, and read at lenght at home on the Kindle. Kindle on iPod Touch equals a true pocket book.

        The only thing I don’t like about e reading is can’t read during take off and landings.

  13. Have you tried checking out a book on the kindle app? They actually sized the letters pretty nicely for reading on there. Brightness settings can always be toggled down (which will also aid power savings while reading). Although, that said, it is still likely to drain significant battery, so you do have a point.

    1. The Droid really is just too small. The constant page turning alone would be awful.

      1. You can afford a hot tub but you can’t afford a tablet?

        1. Maybe the hot tub purchase took up all the scratch.

        2. Maybe he got this model.

    2. I’ve tried the nook app, and while it will do in a pinch, it’s too small and bright. I’ve also read books on an old Palm with all it’s 16-grayscale monochrome LCD glory and many other devices. E-ink is the ‘killer app’ for dedicated readers.

      Unfortunately for those dedicated readers, E-ink is the future for pretty much all displays since it is so much easier on the eyes and energy requirements are so much lower.

  14. pBooks also > eBooks for people who annotate their reads. I have yet to read about a device or software that replicate the versatility and functionality of the graphite pencil.

    1. Note to self: stay off Hugh’s lawn. 😉

      1. You know, when I was coming up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, I never imagined that I would end up a techno-skeptical luddite. But despite owning a smartphone, a laptop computer, and a multi-functional gaming/media player, there is substatial evidence that I am out of touch with Kids These Days?.

        1. Given your TNG/DS9 heritage, I can’t imagine how you haven’t embraced the ebook realm.

          1. I’m not going to make an ass out of myself like I did in college by claiming I would never own a cell phone.

            I’m sure I will own one of the infernal devices at some point. The prospect of carrying my whole philosophy library around in my manpurse at all times is too exciting to preclude. But right now I have too many concerns/critiques and a lingering sentimental attachment to my dead tree books to make the conversion.

          2. Oh really? I kept around quite a few real, physical books.

            1. Yeah, but only for when the director of the episode thought you needed “business.”

              1. Nicholas Meyer has a bunch of great anecdotes about the pushback he would get over anything old school: Capt. Kirk couldn’t be shown reading a book, etc. The best was over the scene of the photon torpedo being manually loaded into a tube — which the Treksters insisted couldn’t happen in the 23rd century. He insisted, only because he thought it would look cool, and years later a conventioneer told him that was his favorite scene. Meyer asks if the guy wasn’t bothered by the anachronism, and the guy replied: “Are you kidding? Kahn had wiped out all their computer systems. They had to load the torpedoes by hand!”

            2. That’s just because the computer couldn’t handle Greek characters.

              1. HnR Rabbit Hole – I’d turn back if I were you!

  15. An electronic book is a metaphor for a book that you start reading on page 1 and keep turning the pages of until you’re through.

    I finally got a K3 for Christmas and I’m not sure how true this is.

    I think I underestimated the degree to which total portability and an infinitely stick bookmark would change my reading habits.

    There are only a couple of dozen books on my K3 so far, but I’ve already drastically altered my reading pattern based on the fact(s) that:

    1. All the books are present in my hand at the same time.

    2. The K3 remembers exactly where I am in all of them, all the time.

    In a way, I’m reading all the books at once now, like one of those guys in the park playing fifteen people at chess at the same time.

    Also, the My Clippings book on the K3 is immensely interesting to me. You can highlight text in any book you’re reading and it copies it to your My Clippings file / book. My own My Clippings file is starting to assume its own identity as a separate publication. With a little more control [the ability to shuffle the clippings, say] this file could turn into some weird hybrid of the best note-taking device ever and a William Burroughs concoction of randomized text. It’s almost a new art form. Reading the My Clippings file I think I feel a little like Hemingway felt when he read telegrams.

    1. Having an Oxford dictionary built in with a convenient look-up method is super handy too. Needs to be better at looking up phrases from book text though.

  16. “That is a rare Mary Worth comic strip where she advises a friend to kill herself.”

    1. Seriously, what is the point of that “comic”? If I wanted to expose myself to illogical, neophobic, and passive-aggressively-insulting claptrap, I’d call my mom more often.

      1. I couldn’t answer – I was unaware it was still being written / drawn. But I bet Mary does want you to call your mom more often…

        I don’t have anything against electric books, but I don’t like being an early adapter. I’ll see what tech wins, then buy.

        1. I can’t believe that supercilious old broad is still in the papers. That always one of the boring strips I skipped as a child.

          Wait…papers…I think we may have found the source of Mary’s bias.

  17. The page clicking…the infernal page clicking!

  18. After what Amazon did to people who bought Orwell novels for the Kindle I will never trust an e-reader that is wireless.

    One advantage of a real, physical, book is that it is harder to “delete”. Once you have it, you have it unless it is burned, ripped, or thrown away.

    1. You have it exactly backwards. An eBook is much, much, much easier to back up, and therefore HARDER for somebody to permanently “delete” than a paper one.

      If I burn your paperback of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” then you simply don’t have it anymore, and must rush to the bookstore to buy another copy.

      Whereas, if you have it on your iPad (or whatever), I would need to delete it from your iPad, delete it from the computer you sync the iPad with, and delete your backup file. Short of that, you could always recover it. Furthermore, if it’s a public-domain work on Project Guttenberg, you can always recover it anyway just by hopping on the Internet and re-downloading it or even reading it online via your browser.

      1. Tara,

        I was refering to a specific instance in which this was NOT the case. Orwell’s novels are (apparently) not in public domain and due to a dispute with the copyright holders Amazon decided to delete the books from Kindle owners who had aleardy downloaded them. If, on the other hand, they had purchasd a physical copy of the same book this could not have occured.

        I am not a luddite, far from it, but I do see advantages to keeping real, physical books around for quite a while longer.

  19. Question for you e-book fans:
    There isn’t a book in the house that doesn’t have a ‘fur’ of yellow-sticky ‘marginal notes’ hanging out the side; do the e-book formats allow for notes?
    Another: It’s pretty common there’ll be two or three books open comparing the statements of one to the other(s); would I need two or three e-book readers?

    1. Yep, and clipping/highlighting/sharing text and notes.

      Assume you would need more than one device for simultaneous comparison.

    2. That depends on which reader you’re talking about. Some of them don’t allow modification of the book.

      1. Right now, I’m looking at (had to count) seven books with the ‘fur’ next to the ‘puter, probably most all of which I’ll grab and compare when I next scribble. So e-books ain’t quite there yet.

  20. No love for the Nook? (fire away pervs) I have the color one and it is great. Highlights, annotates, dictionary, etc. It even has web access above and beyond the downloading of ebooks through BN.

    1. I really dig the magazines on the nook color (subscribed to Reason that way), but it needs some improvement. Navigation and zooming need some tweaking – especially when you are trying to do both. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve accidentally ‘turned’ the page just trying to move to a different part of the same page while zoomed.

      For straight-up page turning reading I prefer the original nook and it’s e-ink screen.

    2. There isn’t anything that the E Ink Nook does that the E Ink Kindle doesn’t do for $10 less.

      Nook Color is another freakin’ LCD, and I’m much, much happier with E Ink.

      1. The nook has expandable memory (although it is really stupid the way it handles it), can read ePUB (so you can check out books from a lot of libraries), and you can change the battery yourself (which makes the nook cheaper than the kindle if you ever have to change your battery).

        1. What he said. The ePUB format/library compatibility is what tipped the scale for me a couple of weeks ago to finally spring for the Nook. Still learning my way around, but just cracked the code on how to move e-book from library website to laptop to Nook.

  21. Just think about all of the trees that will be saved. No need for Al Gore.

    Paper mills –> victims of creative destruction?

    1. The air in Savannah just got a little less funky.

    2. Pretty sure it was David Friedman who mentioned that if you want more trees, increase the demand.

    3. I seriously doubt books consume a significant fraction of paper produced. Probably much more for newspapers and office paper, as well as non-writing uses like making paper towels and paper plates.

      1. A pretty significant portion must go to junk mail, fliers and such. I don’t know how they can afford it.

      2. Newspapers are on the decline, as well, thanks to these internets. I really don’t know, but I’m sure they’re a significant part, and soon, they’ll be no postal service. I think I heard Netflix was one of their largest customers, and with people now able to download movies directly to their idiot boxes

  22. Reason should just put up random Mary Worth panels for the Friday Funny. I know that I laughed way harder at the above comic than any of the friday “funnies.”


  23. Also, I totally want the Saddam Hussein blood Koran.

  24. Wow

    I think for the first time ever i got all of the jokes in a Tim article.

    1. Really? Even I don’t get the jokes in Mary Worth.

  25. My #1 reason for luvving my Kindle is that now when I go on long trips to Japan and Korea, I don’t run out of things to read halfway through the trip.

    In the old days, half my luggage on the way there would be taken up by cheap paperbacks. As I finished them, I would leave them in the house of some relative.

    I would always run out, though and end up combing the bookstores around the university in Daegu hoping to find some english books.

    Now with the Kindle, I can pack thousands of trashy books in my carryon.

  26. Nobody wants a Kobo? I mean, look at me. I’m a cheap alternative to those other brands. I’m also an anagram. I am proud, sticking my chest out, standing apart from the other e-readers consumers have the option of buying. I’m distinct. I’m supported by Borders ebooks. Whou wouldn’t want to buy me? I’m a Kobo!

    1. Sorry Kobo, no one believes you or Borders is going to survive into 2012.

      1. Don’t say that. Borders is a great place to shop for books. I was planning to go there tomorrow after I hit Linens n’ Things on my way to Circuit City to buy some HD-DVDs.

        1. Make sure you don’t forget to get some incandescent bulbs at Builders Square.

          1. Builder’s Square is a good one, but incandescent bulbs weren’t killed off by consumer choice so much as by the fiat of our enlightened masters.

            1. I’m not dead yet.

            2. They were already declining in sales before that law was passed. Though a lot of that might be landlords and employers trying to save on energy costs, rather than people choosing to switching over their own lamps.

        2. I plan on hitting Border’s pretty heavy when everything is on clearance.

      2. Sorry Kobo, no one believes you or Borders is going to survive into 2012.


        1. Either that or you will need a new calendar.

    2. I mean, look at me. I’m a cheap alternative to those other brands.

      $139 ain’t any cheaper than $139.

      1. Gee, I – I hope I’m not a pest, but I’m 119 dollars if you buy me in the store. I’m excited. We’ve dropped the price! Maybe one day, they will see fit to package me with my best friends, the fine products of the Oster toaster oven company. My mom is sure proud. She even calls me “Max” sometimes. Something about losers and basements and boxes and stuff …anyway, boy, you should hear the sounds she makes upstairs when SM comes over and talks to her about politics and philosophy and the classes he’s taking at the Venice Beach School For The Perpetually Rollerblading. He’s advocating for publicly-funded rollerblade paths throughout the downtown L.A. area. I agree! What could be better than rollerblading through West Hollywood in a pair of short shorts to cool off a bit?

        But I digress! Remember guys, when you’re searching for e-readers, don’t forget about Kobo, the chipperest chip chip cheroo for you!

        1. Thanks for the digression, Kobo. It was a pleasant 30 seconds.

          1. Now back to predicting the future, which even the best futurists cannot do.

  27. Thank god for our government or we may not have ever gotten to this point….who would’ve imagined…the internet, microprocessors…unreal.

    Why is this on this blog? What part did libertarianism supposedly play in this?

    I continue to be baffled as to why this blog touts advances that were due to the exact opposite of which your ideology espouses…protectionism, government investment and subsidies, government instituted “intellectual property rights” and so on…shouldn’t you be telling us how terrible the government is for fostering innovation which destroyed the free market of
    print media? Picking winners and losers and all that?

    1. Consumers still had to choose between print and electronic media, SadoMasochist. Try and wrap your little brain around that.

      1. It’s currently impossible to stretch something more than one molecule’s thickness. He’s gonna run out part way through the job…

    2. Neither the internet nor microprocessors were subsidized by govt with an eye to having them used by consumers. Both were developed for military purposes, as were the other common consumer tech examples of microwave ovens, GPS, etc.

      1. I think SMs point is that they were in fact developed under government programs?the only true source of innovation there is?and that there is no possibility that the market would ever have developed those technologies under any potential circumstance.

      2. Tulpa – exactly, thank you. Luckily we had the government to do this – or they wouldn’t have existed for re-purposing later.

        1. Or we might already have something better, if we weren’t wasting resources on things which there was no market demand for, and gathering the spin-off technology crumbs to start a tech revolution.

        2. Or we might have had them sooner as the military tends keep some tech back from consumers for security reasons. I would bet that most of the technology the military developed was born from private ideas, then co opted by the military.

        3. SM, I didn’t realize you were such a fan of the military! As Tara points out, if we had not wasted our money on pointless wars we might have been able to develop even better technologies. This is especially the case if we could have had fewer government regulations that stifle government growth in the process.

  28. Quibbles, Mr. Cavanaugh, from a 12-year ebook veteran. Shit, I’m old.

    The market for books ain’t $15 billion, it’s more like $25 bil.–those census numbers leave out academic sales. Also, Amazon’s #s count media (DVDs) with books, so not directly comparable. Additionally, apart from the UK and maybe Canada, Kindle’s numbers include all Kindle buyers (worldwide). If you’re selling ebooks, more than half your sales will be to persons overseas. Print ain’t dead in the States jes’ yet.

    Interestingly, Kindle is teh shit for academic sales. You literally can’t do many textbooky things on it, and the Kindle DX (letter-sized) got its ass beat by the iPad. Hard. Amazon really doesn’t have a lot of background in selling to schools, or universities, for that matter. NookColor is trying to compete for this $10 bil. market (academic ebooks) as well.

    You’re right, though, that dedicated ebook readers may not last. They’re getting cheaper to make, so the $99 ereader may soon be upon us, and it could well hit $49 by year-end. Dedicated devices may still be the best market of all–just ‘cuz you can’t get distracted by Angry Birds on Kindle–but more books will probably read on iPads and Android phones and whatnot.

    What’s fascinating is that Kindle, despite Amazon’s sales growth, is in many ways a market failure. They’ve gone from having around 80% of the ebook market at the launch of Kindle 2 in May ’09, to perhaps 60% these days, and Amazon’s gross take per book went from 50-65% (large and small press, respectively), to 30-65%, after Apple and Google entered the fray.

    This margin pressure has pretty much caused Amazon to lose its collective mind. They’re just getting dumb now.

    /But a shout-out to Kobo. They’re actually owned by Chapters, the B&N of Canada, and are also first-to-market in Australia + NZ. Borders is just part of the deal for them.

    //Fuck B&N, they pulled my porn. Bastards. Amazon pulled some of my porn. B&N… all of it.

    ///Apple’s doing a lot too, but this is a slashy overload as it is.

    1. Yanking documents will be the worst thing that happened to proprietary e-readers. Amazon et al will eventually have to sell non-proprietary versions of ebooks or they will die.

  29. To each his own! We can both like different things and agree to disagree! Nothing will change that!

    > Fuck you, Mary.


  30. Interesting to see what’s going to happen on the piracy front. I am aware that you can download 5,000 DRM-free books in less than 20 minutes. The Calibre ebook tool allows for seamless conversion between mobi, epub, etc so you can use on kindles, nooks, and yes, Sony Readers – which I have BTW 🙂

  31. Fuck you, Mary.

    Yeah, the alt-text pretty much says it all.

    I’ve had a Kindle for 2.5 years now. Based on my personal experience, people who pooh-pooh e-readers and say how much they love “the feel” etc. etc. of paper books fall into three categories:

    1. People who “just love books” but hardly ever read any.

    2. People who can’t afford an e-reader.

    3. People who decided they won’t like an e-reader without ever trying one.

    Mary, just try the fucking e-reader, you old bag.

    1. My brother loves “the smell” of new paper and fresh ink. Tim is more correct regarding smell-o-vision than he thinks.

      1. I love that smell too, but you can have my e-reader over my dead body.

    2. Some people (such as me) just like books and don’t need to buy every new thing.

      1. Given that an e-reader is a dedicated device, someone who truly ‘loves books’ can probably choose that to be one of the new things they do buy. There are inventions that seriously improve your life and as an avid reader I know my e-reader is one of those things.

  32. I got a Kindle for Christmas. The e-ink technology is very nice and not harsh on the eyes at all. It’s great for carrying multiple books around (use for travel makes all kinds of sense), and I’m using it for reference works and older (low cost or free) books. For instance, I downloaded all of Mark Twain’s 19th century publications at once.

    On the flip side, I don’t see paying full or nearly full price for electronic versions of new(er) books I want to own. Not adequately pricing down is what made peer-to-peer pirating of music so prevalent, and I expect books will end up going down the same path.

    All told, I don’t think this technology is quite where I want it to be, which is why I wouldn’t have bought the Kindle for myself. But it’s still a nice little device to have.

    1. …which is why I wouldn’t have bought the Kindle for myself.

      Did everybody get one for Christmas or what? I bought my niece a (non-color) Nook. Anyone own a Nook? Compared to Kindle what do you think?

  33. Book sales I think will skyrocket as ereaders take over. Users can actually find what they want, what they’re into. When I shop for books on my Kindle, I have so much more information about each title at my disposal, the reviews, etc. I used to actually purchase about one book a month before Kindle. But now, when I want a new book before bed I hit wifi and go pick one up. That’s a powerful amplifier for volume of titles sold.

    I will probably buy print books still; but they will be ‘keepers’ that I want forever. Plus, people have bookshelves for Status to some degree. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “A Brief History of Time” on a bookshelf, precisely because it was to be seen there (Wow! The owner must be smart!). Kind of like those infamous power-walls political losers love in their houses in D.C.

  34. thanks for useful article

  35. I bought a Kindle in November and immediately started buying all my non-fiction on it. I still intend to get real books for great works of fiction. I do like turning pages still.

    While I did like my new Kindle, it had a defective battery so I recently returned it for an 80% refund. I was thinking of upgrading to a Fire and then thinking of not upgrading at all as I started reading the books on my phone and computer. However, I do love the lightness of it and assuming the new battery works, the battery life is incredible. So I got a replacement Kindle touch.

    The e-reader won’t go away until you can get a laptop that weighs only 8 oz.

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