ENTRIES TAGGED "ebook"

Digital publishing and the loss of intimacy

The cognitive overhead involved in reading a book has increased tremendously

Reading used to be an intimate experience. Even Amazon, the pioneer in digital publishing, branded its Kindle with a child reading alone under a tree. Books were specially designed to disappear into the background as much as possible, helped by a laundry list of conventions as to language, punctuation, format, and structure, thus allowing readers to direct all their attention and cognitive powers to the text at hand.

The first digital platforms made a decent job of emulating the traditional experience. Certainly, the overhead of managing an Amazon account is something readers could do without, but allowances had to be made. Black text on a white screen was still the reference, and great pains were taken to ease users into this new experience: options were few, and the physicality of the book was heavily reflected in the shape and size of the device.

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Comments: 15 |

The book as a standard of quality

It's time for the industry to agree on maintaining certain standards

Publishers have long commandeered respect for the quality of their work. Traditional processes may be cumbersome, reliant as they are on an infinity of minute, specialised steps, but they have helped maintain consistently high standards, at ever-lower prices. Authors may sometimes hold fantastic positions, but publishers have largely upheld their part of the bargain: giving them a clear, intelligible voice.

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How can we redefine the book?

Where does the "book" stop and the "application" begin?

A book may no longer be a physical object, but its ordinary definition remains straightforward as a “written composition that is intended for publication”. Traditional or digital, we feel confident in our ability to recognise a book.

We barely remember today that early electronic platforms offered fewer visual options than the printed page, and encouraged the release of text-only editions from which even the original covers had been removed. Four short years after the launch of the original Kindle, LCD screens were becoming quite popular in mainstream readers. Today, they are almost everywhere, some of them brighter and sharper than their desktop counterparts.

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Losing the book as a symbol

Publishing needs to build new symbols for the digital age

Transitioning the publishing industry to digital technologies involves lifting the words out of printed pages, and pouring them into the amorphous containers we call ebooks. Books are no longer the tangible, brick-shaped presence they were: they must, instead, be stretched and poured into and onto any device fit for reading, from the laptop to the Kindle to the phone.

In fact, “the book” no longer designates the physical expression of the text, but the text itself, a self-contained bundle of information, whose structure and boundaries have been jointly defined by the author and the publisher. Picking up a book where you left it no longer involves picking up the same object, but rather the same text on whatever device happens to be at hand.

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Ebooks and the future of research

Society cannot afford to lose its distributed knowledge backup system

Knowledge cannot progress unless it is aware of its past: a knowledge-seeker must reference the works of previous generations. Literary scholars return to manuscripts, musicians to partitions, artists to museums…

The continued availability of reference works underpins our entire research system. It has become so ingrained in our methods that it barely registers on our list of values to uphold. Yet, that very availability has dissolved into a mirage, to surprisingly little protest.

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Comments: 2 |

Selling direct starts with community

Direct ebook sales require a fundamentally different approach

“Why would I need to know who buys my books?” — some publishers have asked (and still are asking) this question. “I have my distribution channels and am quite happy to give them my ebooks too.”

If this statement surprises you, you are most probably (at the least) contemplating a direct sales channel. Traditional publishers have been migrating to the digital retail world by following the same principles that were applicable to print book sales. As a result, not many of them have been successful. Direct digital book sales require some fundamentally and radically different approaches.

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PDF is still “better”

Until eBooks are redesigned exclusively for the screen, print and PDF will continue to provide a better user experience

A few weeks ago, I surprised myself. I had decided to learn a new code language, and O’Reilly of course has a great little book about this particular language, so I pulled up the eBook files, and almost without thinking, I loaded the PDF onto my iPad, rather than the EPUB. And my brow furrowed as I tried to figure out why I had made that choice, because as an eBook developer—as a CSS and web technology devotee—shouldn’t I also be a devoted EPUB user?

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Comments: 14 |

The sorry state of ebook samples, and four ways to improve them

A good ebook sample can turn a browser into a buyer.

Joe Wikert: "My gut tells me the revenue missed by not converting samples into sales is a much larger figure than the revenue lost to piracy. And yet, the publishing industry spends a small fortune every year in DRM but treats samples as an afterthought."

Comments: 4 |
It's time for a unified ebook format and the end of DRM

It's time for a unified ebook format and the end of DRM

Proprietary ebook formats and rights restrictions are holding consumers back.

The music industry has shown that you need to offer consumers a universal format and content without rights restrictions. So when will publishers pay attention?

Comments: 43 |
Now available: Best of TOC 2012 anthology

Now available: Best of TOC 2012 anthology

The free "Best of TOC 2012" collection charts the digital evolution of publishing.

"Best of TOC 2012" explores the ideas that are shaping the content world, including: the adaptation of publishing, digital's legal issues, new tech and tools, and thoughts from the edge of publishing.

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