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Tag Archives: eBooks

Have eBooks become must-read articles?

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Electronic books have been around a lot longer than most people think, dating all the way back to the late 1960s when the concept of the Dynabook (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynabook) was first mooted. It’s only been in the past few years, however, that there’s been real traction for the eBook concept, speeded along by devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Kobo’s eReader and the willingness of publishers to come on board with electronic publishing.

Formats come and formats go — it’s somewhat hard to buy a cassette tape outside of roadside truck stops, for example — but will the rise of eBooks put paid to the format they’re supplanting, namely the printed book? Amazon certainly seems to think so, and to give them credit, they’ve got some impressive stats to back that up. The company is already one of the world’s leading book sellers, and it recently announced that sales of Kindle eBooks had overtaken its sales of both hardcover and print books combined. For every 100 physical books sold, Amazon’s stating that it sells 105 Kindle eBooks.

Impressive figures, and I’ll admit that I’ve been doing a bit more Kindle (and iBook and Kobo) reading than print reading of late, but that’s largely been due to some (but not all) digital books that I’ve been after being cheaper in digital format. That’s not a given, and that in itself is a barrier to adoption; most consumers, no matter the economics of the argument, will baulk at paying more for a digital eBook with minimal transmission costs than they will a physical book. There’s still also the challenge of lending. If I want to lend my mate a book I’ve enjoyed, I simply pass it to him. For him to borrow a Kindle book, I’ve got to pass him the entire Kindle, or authorise my account on his device — at which point I’ve got to trust he won’t start buying books on my credit card!

What do you think? Are print books likely to go the way of the LP, assigned simply to dusty specialist stores?


The Perils Of Digital Buying

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Late last week, the company behind the Borders and Angus & Robertson book chains put them into administration, citing mounting losses in the physical retail space. Online sales of books (and other items) may have played a part, and to a lesser extent, because it’s still quite a nascent market, e-book sales.

Borders Australia was a keen seller of eBooks, promoting the Kobo platform as its own, as well as selling Sony’s e-readers in its stores. One of the first stories to emerge from the collapse of Borders in Australia came from Kobo representatives (it’s actually a Canadian company) stating that Australian Kobo e-book purchases would still be valid and could still be accessed even if the physical Borders stores went under. I’m not sure what’ll happen to the physical stores, but the spectre of online sales vanishing in a puff of data centre is something that I suspect we’ll all have to face in the not-too-distant future.

Considering that it’s now possible to buy books, movies, music and software as purely digital goods, spread across devices that may have their own storage or may rely on “phoning home” to a specific server to verify that you’ve got the rights to play them, it’s a problem that’s only going to grow in scope. As an example, Nokia made a lot of noise a couple of years ago with its “Comes With Music” service, which promised unlimited music downloads for specific phone models as long as a subscription was paid, but the take up of the offer (and Nokia smartphones in general) hasn’t been great. Nokia’s virtually axed the service outside of a handful of countries (Australia’s not one of them), so if you pick up a Comes With Music phone, you’ve got a lot less value than you might think, especially if you’ve not verified your playback rights, or if your PC dies on you.

With physical goods, you’ve always got something that you can open up to read, pop into a player to listen to or view, and, naturally enough, sell on to other people. Digital goods don’t have those benefits, although they’re easier to buy, sometimes cheaper and much simpler to store. Good backing up is obviously essential, but be wary if you’re buying goods that require some kind of DRM validation (Digital Rights Management); that could come back to bite you if the DRM service goes offline.


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