An American Editor

November 29, 2010

Factors to Consider When Deciding What eReader Device to Buy

I’ve been pretty lax recently about writing articles for this blog. I’ve been busy trying to wrap up end-of-the-year work and deal with the holidays. The next week or two will be devoted to getting my holiday thank-you gifts mailed to clients.

However, I have been reading messages and blog posts telling people interested in buying their first ereader device which device to buy. I find most of the advice both wrong and unhelpful, so I thought I would give it a try.

First, let’s separate dedicated from multipurpose devices. If you won’t be satisfied with a dedicated device, then don’t consider a Kindle, Sony, Kobo, or nook or any eInk device. Look at an LCD-screened device such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy or a laptop computer with an application. Essentially these are regular computers with ebook applications.

Among the dedicated devices — and there are a lot of them — for United States and Canada buyers, four stand out for consideration: nook, Sony, Kindle, and Kobo. Choosing among these four is a safe way to go; the companies are likely to be around for years to come. The real question is how to choose among the four. Each has its pluses and minuses, and contrary to what some bloggers, commentators, geeks, tech reviewers, and posters (hereinafter collectively referred to as bloggers) think, Kindle is not the outstanding or obvious choice. Rather, it all depends on how you will use the device and what is most important to you.

Consequently, the place to begin is by deciding what features are most important to you. Is it price? If price of the device is most important, then none of the Sonys are apt to meet your need because each of the Sonys is more expensive than the nook, Kobo, and Kindle.

Is it wireless connectivity? If yes, then my question is why? Yes, it is nice to be able to download to the device directly from the ebookstore rather than having to download first to your computer and then copy the book from your computer to the device via USB. But how often do you think you will really use this function? I generally buy books once or twice a month, so the wireless on my Sony 950 gets used at most twice a month, which isn’t very often. And even with the wireless, I prefer to first download to my PC because that way I have a copy of the book on my PC as a backup copy; if I download it directly, then the only copy is what exists in the cloud, which means I have to hope that it will always be available for downloading to my device. I haven’t forgotten when Amazon deleted all copies of one edition of 1984 because the copy violated copyright even though customers had paid for it.

Would you prefer touchscreen navigation or arrow navigation? Each of the devices has a dictionary. But how they access the dictionary is different. The Sonys use touchscreen technology, consequently I double-tap on a word and the dictionary definition pops up. On the Kindle, I have to use direction arrows to move to the word I want to lookup, select the word, and then select the dictionary function. For me, the tradeoff between wireless and touchscreen is worthwhile because I access the dictionary regularly, but buy books occasionally.

Some bloggers emphasize that Amazon, on average, has the lowest ebook prices. This is certainly true, but meaningless — just as it is meaningless that B&N’s ebookstore has more than 1 million books (many of which are the free public domain books available from Google) — unless the books you want to read are available at a price you are willing to pay. What does it matter to me if Amazon sells vampire romance novels for $50 less than any other store if I would never buy such a book? If ebook price is the key, then the best thing to do is to check out the pricing at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and Sony of the last 10 books you read and the next 10 you would like to read. (An easy way to do this is to use Inkmesh, an ebook comparison tool.) In my case, buying the books at Sony would have cost me $3.50 more in total than had I bought them at Amazon, not a significant difference to me. Also, price is not the only factor to consider: regardless of the number of books available at each store, not all books are available at all stores, so you need to make sure that the books that are of interest to you are available.

Screen clarity is another issue. As of this writing, the Kindle and the Sonys have the best screen clarity. Both use the newest version of eInk screen, commonly referred to as the Pearl screen. Eventually nook and Kobo will also adopt this screen. Some bloggers wonder about fingerprints on the Sonys because they are touchscreen and they complain about the visibile fingerprints on the LCD touchscreen of the iPad. My personal experience is that this is not a problem. After a month of constant use (averaging 4 hours every day), I still didn’t observe smudges on my screen except in one corner where I was constantly double-tapping to add a bookmark.

Another issue is device build quality. If this is paramount, then I think there is no choice but to select a Sony. The Sonys are well-built solid devices that do not feel like cheap plastic. This is one of the things I dislike about the nook and the Kindle — both feel cheaply constructed. Note that I said “feel” — I opted to buy a Sony and so have no long-term experience with any of the other devices as regards build quality. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that my 3-year-old Sony PRS-505 is still going strong and appears to be brand new; my new Sony PRS-950 is built of the same metal components as the 505 was.

The last issue I’ll mention is local library access. The Sonys allow you to borrow ebooks from your local library (assuming your local library has them to lend). The other devices do not.

There are several other important considerations but not room enough to delve into all of them. Perhaps the most important one left is that of formats. Format is important because the more universal the format, the more bookstores that are available for you to shop at. The nook, Kobo, and Sonys all read ePub format. The nook adds an extra layer of DRM (digital rights management) “protection” to its books so that buying a book at B&N to read on the Kobo or Sony requires an extra step to strip the DRM. However, any book you buy at Sony or Kobo can be read on the Sony, Kobo, or nook device as is; any book bought at B&N can be read on the Sony or Kobo device if the DRM is removed, which is very easy to do, as well as on the nook. Amazon, on the other hand, does not use the ePub format and it is not easy to strip the DRM from an Amazon book. Consequently, for the most part, if you buy a Kindle, you are restricted to the Amazon bookstore and to ebookstores like Smashwords, Feedbooks, and ManyBooks, which provide DRM-free books in formats compatible with all of these devices. Those who are very tech savvy can find ways to strip some of the DRM from Amazon books and convert the books, but not from all of the books that Amazon sells. The widest ebookstore selection is available to devices that read ePub. However, if you only ever plan to buy ebooks from Amazon, then the Kindle is your best bet.

Ultimately, I suggest you look at the information available on MobileRead’s Wiki to learn about each of the devices available. Information about Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s nook, Kobo’s Kobo, and the three Sony devices (PRS-350, PRS-650, and PRS-950) is available by clicking the links. You would also do well to join MobileRead and read what owners of the various devices have to say for and against the devices. But under no circumstance should you simply buy a device without first analyzing your reading habits and getting a device that matches your habits most closely. It is likely that once you buy a dedicated device you will find you are reading more than ever before — this seems to be the one common thread that joins all of the various device owners: ereading devices are so pleasurable to use that the amount of time spent reading for pleasure increases.

Happy Holidays!

November 10, 2010

The Internet and Free: A Problem That Will Grow

Cook’s Source magazine has been the topic of conversation in recent days for grabbing a copyrighted article written by Monica Gaudio off the Internet and publishing it without permission or compensation. When Ms. Gaudio complained, she was told that she should be thankful Cook’s Source “improved” the article by editing it and then publishing it with attribution. Cook’s Source‘s editor wrote:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!

Ignoring the grammatical errors in the Cook’s Source response, which, considering he thinks Ms. Gaudio should pay him for his editing, adds insult to injury, the real question is whether Cook’s Source is simply reflecting a viewpoint that is becoming more commonplace among Internet users.

There has been a lot of uproar in recent years regarding software, book, music, and video “piracy.” On one side of the argument are the copyright holders whose works are “pirated,” and on the other are the consumers who do the “pirating.” (We need to be careful about using the term pirating or piracy because its use implies that the act is wrong. I want to use it here in a more neutral sense, the sense that it is simply a descriptor of action not a conclusion as to whether the action is right or wrong.)

Are the Internet and the posting of material online changing expectations? From what I observe of “consumer” attitudes, the answer is yes. Increasingly, Internet users expect these things to be free and freely usable — a phenomenon that seems to have an inverse relationship to the user’s age; increasingly, copyright has only meaning between companies and not between copyright holders and consumers.

The situation is exacerbated, at least in ebook world, by agency pricing and DRM. I suspect that there is less piracy of books that fall closer to the low-price-DRM-free side of the curve than of books that fall closer to the high-price-DRM side of the curve. The situation is also exacerbated by such things as YouTube and Wikipedia, both of which encourage sharing and free use. Consumers become accustomed to free use of intellectual property. There is also the problem of a decline in understanding among the general population of what constitutes intellectual property that is protectable and why it should be protectable. Is there any reason other than corporate greed to keep extending the protection life of Mickey Mouse?

Ask a teenager whether the sweater in Macy’s is free (or should be free) and the response usually is no, it costs money. Ask the same teenager whether the text on the Internet is free (or should be free) and the answer turns 180 degrees. The major difference, at least for books and text, is that to the upcoming generations words shouldn’t cost because no one owns them. When the discussion turns to copyright, they are either befuddled or they are familiar enough with copyright to say that it was OK to protect words when the protection was limited but with today’s extensions that make the protection nearly permanent, copyright has no meaning. Besides fair use is in such a state of disarray that few people have any understanding of where it ends. (I know of several publishers who unilaterally declare that x number of words constitutes fair use, with x changing depending on the book and the publisher. Of course, x applies to words quoted from books from other publishers, not from their books.)

If you think about it, the protection extensions in copyright law are contrary to capitalism and free market thinking. Society is willing to tolerate a limited extension, but not an extension that makes it more or less a permanent monopoly. Although Monica Gaudio is right that her work is protected by copyright, Cook’s Source is simply reflecting the capitalist-free market position that when copyright exists into absurdity (i.e., forever), it should be viewed as not existing at all.

This dilemma will never be resolved absent a recognition by the producers of copyrighted material that they are encouraging consumers to pirate their work by their demand for never-ending and increasingly restrictive protection. Consumers look at the ever-narrowing of their rights and take the only tack they can — they ignore the restrictions. The Republicans say that the midterm elections demonstrate that the Democrats don’t hear the people, perhaps the Republicans should listen to the voice of the consumer and reverse course on the DMCA and copyright laws — instead of pushing for increased protections and more onerous burdens on the consumer, they should push for a return to the original limits and a more relaxed view of fair use and what consumers can do with material they have legitimately bought.

October 27, 2010

An eBook Primer: Part II

Yesterday’s article, An eBook Primer: Part I, explored ebooks and ereaders in general. Today’s addresses the issue of ebook formats. Today’s article first appeared on Teleread‘s website and was written by a Teleread staffer. The article is reprinted with permission from Teleread and is copyright 2010 by North American Publishing Company, the parent of Teleread. To reprint the article, please contact Teleread.

Future instalments of the “primer” will also be reprinted. I hope you find them valuable and informative.

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TeleRead E-book Primer Part Two: Formats

By Chris Meadows

Ebooks_stack_lg You may be old enough to remember a time when there were two different formats of video tape–VHS or Betamax. If not, you’re almost certainly old enough to remember that there were two different competing high-definition DVD formats a couple of years ago–HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.

And you’ll know that in both cases, you had to have the right player to play each format: Beta tapes would only play in Beta players, VHS tapes would only work in VHS.

It’s much the same way with e-books, except that instead of only two competing formats, there are at least a dozen. Fortunately, only three of those really qualify as important enough to worry about right now, or else this article would be a whole lot longer!

 File Format vs. DRM Format

E-books actually have two different types of format: file format and DRM format.

File format is like what we’ve talked about above—the different ways to put e-book files together developed by different companies, kind of like the difference between VHS and Beta. The main e-book file formats I will be talking about today are PDF, MobiPocket/Kindle, and EPUB. Some e-book readers will read only one kind of file format, while others will read several.

DRM format has to do with Digital Rights Management, which is a kind of lock that some companies put on their e-books to prevent buyers from copying them and passing them on for free—or reading them in a competitor’s e-book device.

Not all e-books will have DRM, but most of the ones you buy from big e-book stores such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble do. Some e-book formats can have different forms of DRM applied to them, depending on which store you buy from. (For more information on DRM, see the TeleRead DRM Primer.)

If you want to read an e-book, your e-book reader device or application must be compatible with both the file format and the DRM format of the e-book.

The only e-book readers that can read files in multiple competing file and DRM formats are the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, simply because they can run reader apps from all the different companies.

The interaction of these two different kinds of format, and the restrictions on what kind of readers can read both of them, is what has made the e-book market so complicated for first-time buyers. (It is also why the Kindle is such a popular reader—when Kindle owners buy e-books from Amazon, they just work without all that confusion.) The reason I’m writing these primers is to try to simplify some of that.

There are far, far more e-book reading devices available than just the Kindle, Nook, and Sony. There are readers from brands you’ve never heard of, far far more than I will be able to cover in these primers. If you want to know whether you can read an e-book with your device, you need to find out what formats the e-book is in, and what formats your device can read.

A great place to find out more about e-book formats is the MobileRead wiki’s e-book formats page.

PDF Format

Adobe’s PDF (Portable Document Format) files have been in use for a long, long time. They allow book and document producers to standardize the appearance of printable files, so they can be sure the files will look exactly the same no matter where or how they’re printed out. This is especially useful for paperwork, such as forms that must be filled out.

They are also used for e-books, especially in the role-playing game industry, for the way they can exactly represent the printed page on a computer screen. This is useful for books that have a lot of specific formatting (such as the charts and tables from role-playing games) or otherwise just need to look nice.

While the 8.5″ x 11″ form factor of most PDFs means they’re not ideal for reading on most computer screens, they’re still better than nothing. The form factor also means they often look cramped on smaller e-book reader screens. This is why most e-books are sold in other formats, and if another format is available you would probably be better advised to get it than to get PDF.

Popular e-book readers with some PDF compatibility include the Kindle, the Sony Reader, and the Kobo Reader. Computer programs that read PDFs include Adobe Reader and Adobe Digital Editions (for DRM-protected PDFs). There are also PDF readers for the iPhone and iPad’s iOS, such as GoodReader and Dicebook. Their larger screen size means that PDFs often look best on the iPad or the Kindle DX.

PDF and DRM

Some PDF files have Adobe’s Adept DRM on them, which means they have to be read on Adobe Digital Editions. Most PDFs are not DRM-protected, however.

MobiPocket/Kindle Format

It might surprise you to know that the super-modern up-to-date Kindle actually uses one of the oldest e-book formats still in continuous use. This format started out as a modification of the PalmDOC format for Palm Reader, to allow HTML-like text emphasis and other tagging. It was used in MobiPocket Reader for the Palm PDA, later expanding to other PDA platforms, until Amazon purchased the company several years ago.

Subsequently, Amazon made some changes to the format and now uses it in the Kindle. The biggest change is that the Kindle uses an entirely new, incompatible DRM scheme from the original MobiPocket DRM (see below).

MobiPocket format is often referred to as PRC or MOBI format based on its file extensions—especially in the tech specs of compatible e-book readers. (It’s actually erroneous to call it PRC, because PRC was a container file format that could have contained any of a number of different Palm database files. However, since almost nobody else uses the original Palm formats anymore, most .PRC files encountered these days will be MobiPocket.) Kindle format is sometimes called AZW.

There are official MobiPocket reader apps for the PC, Palm, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile. DRM-free MobiPocket files can be read by a number of other apps for PC, Apple, or iOS, including Calibre, Stanza, and FBReader. However, there is no app for iOS that can read MobiPocket-encrypted e-books.

The Kindle can read DRM-free MobiPocket books (such as the ones Baen has available on its Free Library and Webscriptions), but not e-books with the original MobiPocket DRM on them. Likewise, DRM-protected Kindle e-books cannot be read on any of the MobiPocket readers, though there are Kindle Reader applications that read Kindle books for a number of different platforms including PC, Android, and iOS.

MobiPocket/Kindle and DRM

The original MobiPocket DRM format was one of the most widely-used formats for selling e-books in the days before the Kindle, on stores such as Fictionwise, eReader, BooksOnBoard, MobiPocket.com, and others. However, none of these books can be read on the Kindle without first cracking the DRM (which is illegal under current US copyright law).

The Kindle DRM format is used for the Kindle and its related readers. As mentioned above, it can be read by the Kindle and Kindle Reader software, but not by anything else.

EPUB Format

EPUB has come to be considered more or less the “standard” e-book format of the publishing industry. It is the main e-book format currently used by Sony Reader, Adobe’s Nook, Borders’s Kobo Reader, Apple’s iBooks, Adobe Digital Editions, and a number of other reader devices and applications. Most e-books you can buy now (from anyone except Amazon) will come in EPUB format of some kind. About the only e-book device that won’t read EPUB is the Amazon Kindle.

However, even this “standard” has problems; it is saddled with no fewer than three competing DRM formats, meaning that if you bought the e-book from a store that uses DRM, odds are you’ll only be able to read it on devices or programs that work with that particular store.

EPUB and DRM

There are three different DRM formats for use with EPUB:

Adobe Adept is the first DRM format, and the one used by Adobe Digital Editions, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, the Sony Reader, and the Kobo Reader, as well as a number of lesser-known e-book devices.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook/eReader DRM uses the DRM that was originally developed by the eReader e-book store for use on its own special e-book file format (later bought by Barnes & Noble just as MobiPocket was bought by Amazon). As noted above, it can also read titles in Adobe’s Adept DRM.

The iBookstore uses the same Fairplay DRM that Apple used on music and currently uses on movies and iOS applications.

Except that the Nook can also read Adept, e-books sold in each of these DRM formats are entirely incompatible with readers that use the other two formats (though DRM-free EPUB books, such as those sold by Baen, can be read by all three). If you buy a DRM-locked EPUB book from the iBookstore, you can’t read it on the Nook or the Kobo, for example.

Other Formats

The above formats are the main formats currently used by the “top five” e-book devices or applications, and hence the ones you’re most likely to encounter if you buy any well-known e-book device or app: Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo, or iPad/iPhone. There are a number of other formats that are still in some limited use, such as eReader or Microsoft Reader (LIT), but it is rare for anyone using one of the major e-book reading devices or apps to encounter them anymore (and this primer is complicated enough already!). At present, PDF, MobiPocket/Amazon, and EPUB are the main ones to worry about.

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October 8, 2010

On Books: Brandon Sanderson and David Weber — 1 Up, 1 Down

If you recall, a few weeks ago I wrote The Problem Is: Publishers Don’t Read eBooks! in which I swore I would not again buy a TOR/Tom Doherty/Macmillan book in both hardcover and ebook formats. Well, I did, and I was shown, yet again, that TOR/Tom Doherty/Macmillan only cares about something other than quality. Maybe I learned my lesson this time.

I am a big David Weber fan, ever since I was introduced to the Honor Harrington series. Because Weber is a favorite, I buy all of his new releases in hardcover so I can read them and add them to my permanent library, something I can’t do (i.e., add them to my permanent library for eternity) with a DRMed ebook. But Weber’s newest book, Out of the Dark, was released just as I was leaving for the Finding Your Niche conference. I wrestled with not buying the ebook version (the hardcover was already on its way as I had preordered it) but I lost the match and bought it in ebook form so that I could read it while at the conference.

Exactly what was wrong with Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings ebook is wrong with Weber’s Out of the Dark ebook: no one read it for errors after converting it to ePub (and probably not after converting it to any other format, although I don’t know that for certain). I can hear the call of TOR: Suckerrrrr! Suckerrrr! How difficult is it to fix problems like “A” rather than “a” in the middle of a sentence?

Enough — let’s move on to a review.

Brandon Sanderson’s book is an interesting read. The Way of Kings is disjointed in that you go back and forth between characters and scenes without something connecting them. What is the relationship between the various characters? Where will their paths intersect? The answers lie in volumes 2 and 3 of the trilogy.

At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t stick with the book — it is long, 1008 pages — because of the disjointedness, but instead, I found myself compelled to keep reading. The Way of Kings demonstrates why Sanderson is the new force to be reckoned with in fantasy fiction; it’s just too bad he is hooked up with such a sloppy publisher. Sanderson’s narrative is compelling and interesting. Each segment almost stands on its own and someday I will discover the connection between the characters who appear to be the primary characters of the story. In the interim, however, I’d give The Way of Kings 4 stars (out of 5). The writing is taut but leaves too much up in the air to warrant 5/5, plus Sanderson needs to take some responsibility for the poor ebook formatting. He and/or his agent should have insisted on review-before-release rights.

David Weber’s new book, Out of the Darkness, however, is a major disappointment. Here is hoping that subsequent volumes live up to the PR claims.

Weber’s new series was touted as another Honor Harrington series, implying that it had the punch and quality of the Harrington books. Sadly, it has the punch and quality of a wet noodle in a paper bag. I expected the book to at least match the Harrington books but hoped that after years of honing his writing craft, it would be even better. It is much worse than even the first Harrington book.

In Harrington, Weber created a character about who we could care; one who was interesting in her own right and who had interesting and compelling associates. Out of the Dark, in contrast, has no character about whom I care. The plot is somewhat trite and too much of the text is an exposition of military hardware, as if the hardware was to be the star of the series. I didn’t read the short story that was the original basis for this series (I’m not a lover of the short story form), but perhaps this worked better as a short story and should have been left there. Or perhaps Weber has too much to do in writing additional volumes for his other series, such as the Safehold books and the Disciples of Harrington, whose books are of infinitely better quality.

Combining the poor quality of the ebook with the less-than-stellar story, I would give this book — by stretching a bit — 2 stars (out of 5). I think if Weber wants to salvage his reputation as a master of military science fiction, he needs to work hard to improve this new series in future volumes. For those of you unfamiliar with Weber, this is not the book to buy. Better to read nearly any other of his novels. For those of us who are Weber fans, the only reason to buy Out of the Dark is to have a complete collection of Weber’s novels; otherwise, best to pass on this book.

Like Sanderson, Weber, too, needs to insist on review-before-release rights for his ebooks or find a more caring publisher. The combination of a lackadaisical novel and poor ebook quality could start a decline in interest in Weber’s work, especially when a novelist like Sanderson is available.

September 13, 2010

Are eBooks a Bargain?

A common conversation point in recent months in discussions about the merits and demerits of ebooks has been “ebooks are a bargain.” Are they really?

I grant that my reading habits are probably atypical. It has been at least a dozen years since I read a book from the top 10 general fiction bestseller lists. (I have no idea whether any of the science fiction or fantasy books I have read were on bestseller lists in their categories.) So when the pricing wars were on and bestsellers were selling for $9.99, my response was a decided ho-hum.

Besides, what makes a bestseller? It’s the number of copies wholesaled to bookstores, not the actual number of copies sold to consumers. Granted that sometimes there is a correlation between the two, which becomes evident when you can’t buy a first printing copy and need to settle for a 13th printing edition. But most books don’t get out of the first printing — bestsellers or otherwise — and the bestseller lists are momentary lists, that is, they don’t reflect the fact that many of the books printed end up on the bargain/remainder tables within a couple of months of release.

I, for one, would be much more impressed with bestseller status if I knew that the status reflected consumer buys and not bookstore borrows. And my time is coming because of ebooks.

eBooks don’t require print runs. A single digital file given to Amazon substitutes for the 5,000 print copies. Consequently, one day bestseller lists will be more meaningful because they will reflect sales to consumers.

This has been a roundabout way of getting to the question at hand: Are ebooks a bargain? Like what is really a bestseller, ebooks equaling a bargain is a complex question. The answer is a resounding maybe. Let’s set aside all the limitations of ebooks that do not encumber pbooks, such as first sale impossibilities, DRM, the inability to share with acquaintances, lack of permanence — all attributes pbooks have over ebooks — and concentrate on the price question.

Dollarwise, ebooks that are not published by the upper tier traditional publishing houses can be significant bargains. I don’t see it as a bargain if a book published by Del Rey or Bantam sells for $8.99 as a pbook and $7.99 as an ebook. On the other hand, when I buy a book at Smashwords for $2.99, I view that as a bargain if the book is readable. And that is a key consideration — readability. I assume, and not always correctly, that a Bantam book is at least readable. I might not like the book, but the book is readable. I don’t have to recognize that the author meant “there” not “their” each time “their” appears in the text. That is, I don’t have to act as interpreter.

Increasingly, that is becoming less of a problem with the ebooks I find at Smashwords. It’s not that the problem has disappeared — it hasn’t — just that it is less. Of course, when I spend only $2.99 for an ebook, I have to be prepared to do a little of the work myself. It is the tradeoff. I suspect that the quality of less expensive ebooks will continue to rise (certainly, they cannot decline very far) as readers turn away from the expensive to the inexpensive ebooks.

I expect to see a dichotomy in the publishing world. I expect to see fewer fiction pbooks published in coming years, with the concentration for fiction being in ebooks. I also think that nonfiction books will be the primary pbooks, at least for the next decade, until the devices used for ereading are capable of handling the demands of more than text. I am aware that ereading-capable devices like the iPad may be suitable for nonfiction, but are these the devices that serious readers who sustain the nonfiction market will want to lug around? I think devices capable of straddling the needs of readers and nonfiction books are still in the planning stages.

With that shift of fiction to ebooks and away from pbooks, ebooks will become bargains. But until that shift occurs, the bargain ebooks are ebooks not published by traditional publishers; they are the ebooks published by authors directly to consumers and by small ebook-dedicated publishers.

It is possible to spend a lifetime reading ebooks that cost less than $2.99; in fact, it is possible to spend a lifetime reading ebooks that are available free. All you have to do is not want to read either pbook “bestsellers” in ebook form or not read ebooks by the traditional top-tier publishers. From experience, I can tell you that it is easy to avoid those high-priced ebooks; I rarely spend more than $2.99 for an ebook and have been quite pleased, overall, with what I have purchased.

To answer my question, yes, ebooks are a bargain if you buy smart.

September 9, 2010

Surrendering to Amazon: The “Strategic” Decisions That May Give Amazon the eBook Market

In the world of eBookville, few decisions will stand out as more colossal blunders than two decisions, one made by Barnes & Noble, one by Sony, that may result in their giving the ebook market to Amazon on a silver platter.

Oh, I know — both B&N and Sony are still operating ebookstores. But at least one of them will not be standing in the not so distant future and when that happens, the reason(s) why will be traceable to “strategic” corporate decisions that even a sixth grade dropout would recognize as dumb strategy. It’s a good thing we don’t need to rely on either of these companies to lead our economic recovery!

“What are these decisions?” you ask: Barnes & Noble’s decision to adopt ePub and then add its own flavor of DRM and Sony’s decision to adopt ePub but not update its firmware to include the B&N flavor of DRM in its latest hardware release. Instead of recognizing that Amazon is a common enemy that is promoting its own proprietary file and DRM schemes that are incompatible with everyone else, Sony and B&N, with the acquiescence of Adobe who needs to share some of the blame for not insisting that B&N either not add its flavor of DRM or that Sony must upgrade to include the B&N flavor, have acted as if each alone can take on and conquer the Amazon juggernaut. Clearly no one at either company will win an award for brilliant strategist of the minute, let alone the year.

If anything, they should be uniting to knock Amazon down a notch or two. Instead they are dividing the field, making it easier for Amazon’s juggernaut to roll over them. You would think that B&N’s quarterly report would have caused a lightbulb to at least flicker in Leonard Riggio’s mind, but apparently not. And Sony has a perfect opportunity to both increase sales of what I think are superior ereading devices and tackle the problem by simply updating the firmware in the new models — even if it doesn’t offer the update to prior models, it needs to offer it in the new models.

I know that neither Sony nor B&N want their customers shopping elsewhere, but that is simply shortsighted. All they have to do is look at the pbook operations of both Amazon and B&N to recognize how foolish that position is. Both pbook operations have marketplaces where competitors can sell pbooks. Now why would that be if it wasn’t a good idea? How hard is it to transfer that thought process to the ebook market and recognize that Sony and B&N should be using the same flavor of ePub and DRM — especially as the bottom line now is that B&N customers can shop virtually everywhere other than Amazon and Apple, and Sony customers can shop virtually everywhere other than Amazon, Apple, and B&N. (Is it so hard to see something wrong with this scenario?) .

Neither customers nor businesses are loyal to anyone but themselves; this is the reality of today’s marketplace, especially in light of the easy access to competition provided by the Internet. Using incompatible DRM schemes doesn’t mean that the consumer will buy solely from your store. Sure some will, but not all, and those that will would do so regardless of whether they had easy access to other ebookstores. I’m not suggesting that Sony or B&N should give convenient wireless access to competitor stores, just that the books their devices will read should be more universal.

It is pretty clear that neither is on a sure path to overtake Amazon in the U.S. ebook market. B&N has lots of troubles and this is just one more trouble that it could have avoided with a bit of careful thinking. Sony is an electronics giant — not an ebook giant. Yes, there was a reason why it created its own ebookstore in the birthing days of ebooks, but now they should rethink the “strategy” of trying to tie Sony Reader customers to the Sony ebookstore. It will do Sony no good to have the best devices available but no buyers because people perceive that the Sony ebookstore isn’t as good as the B&N or Amazon ebookstore, regardless of how well it stacks up.

Sony’s real shot at stardom is to concentrate on the hardware and promote the universality of access its Readers provide. Encourage purchasing at the Sony ebookstore by making it easy through wireless access and applications for multiple devices, but boast of a customer’s ability to shop anywhere except at the two stores run by the Amazon and Apple, which want to limit consumer choice, not expand it. Sony and B&N need to become the white hat guys and make Amazon and Apple the black hats.

To my mind, having Sony and B&N work together to their strengths is a competitive combination that would stand a good chance against Amazon. Let Sony do the hardware and B&N run the bookstore. Forget the nook and forget the Sony ebookstore. OK, it ain’t gonna happen, so can we get the next best thing: B&N and Sony using the same flavors of ePub and DRM. At least then there would be some competitive pressure on Amazon and the possibility of more, especially as other device manufacturers — outside of Amazon and Apple — would follow suit. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

So one day in the not too distant future we will see B&N raise a white flag, surrendering the market to Amazon, and the pundits will look back and sigh over how it could have been avoided if only two dumb decisions hadn’t been made and then stuck to as if the decisions were immutable gospel.

The ultimate loser, of course, will be the consumer, because when there is one company left standing, prices tend to go from competitive and low to uncompetitive and high. Shall we set a date to gather in New Orleans for B&N’s funeral procession?

September 7, 2010

Is This the Time to Take the Plunge? New Reading Devices Appear

Within the last 60 days there has been a bevy of announcements of new ereading devices. Amazon announced what is popularly called the Kindle 3 and Sony has announced 3 new models — the 350, 650, and 950. How far behind other makers will be is hard to tell, but the upcoming holiday season should be a good one for device buyers.

So the question is this: Is this the time to take the plunge and buy a dedicated ereading device if you don’t already own one? The companion question, of course, is if you own one that is more than a year or two old, is now the time to “upgrade”?

I’ve made it clear any number of times that I am not a fan of Amazon. But that doesn’t mean the Kindle isn’t a good device — it is. For me, the Kindle continues to suffer from the same design flaws as always — (1) it reminds me of my laptop with its physical keyboard and (2) it doesn’t accept DRMed (digital rights managed) ePub files that let me shop at, for example, Barnes & Noble unless I strip the DRM from the B&N file and convert the DRM-stripped file to a format the Kindle likes. But if you shop for books exclusively at Amazon (a practice that I think has bad ramifications for all consumers), the Kindle is a good device, especially the new K3 with the enhanced eInk screen called Pearl.

Amazon’s new Kindle has several things going for it. First, the greatly improved Pearl screen. Second, the device has been made thinner and lighter and smaller, although the screen size (6 inches) remains the same. Third, is Amazon’s great customer service, the envy of the industry and something B&N and Sony should be emulating. Fourth, ease of use. And, finally, great new pricing — top-of-the-line (covers both WiFi and 3G forms of wireless) comes in at $189 and the WiFi-only version comes it at $139.

Sony’s three new devices — the 350, 650, and 950 — are greatly improved versions of current models (the 300, 600, and 900) and are also known as the Pocket, Touch, and Daily Editions, respectively. Each also represents a different screen size: the 350’s screen is 5 inches, the 650’s is 6 inches, and the 950’s is 7.1 inches. Like the new Kindle, these are the new Pearl screens.

Unlike the Kindle, which is menu and button driven, the Sony’s use a new touch screen technology on which you can use either your finger or an included stylus. If you love your touch screen cellphone or iPod-type device, you are likely to love Sony’s touchscreen technology as well. For those of us who aren’t acquainted with the technology, there may be a short learning curve.

Sony also has its flaws. Perhaps the most significant flaw is the failure to include a firmware upgrade that would expand the DRMed ePub capability to include the B&N flavor of DRM. This is significant because there are now 3 major places where one cannot buy ebooks for their Sony without stripping the DRM from the files: B&N, Amazon, and the iBookstore.

The inability to buy DRMed books from Amazon is an industrywide problem; Amazon has chosen to limit access to Kindlers and those willing to strip and knowledgable about stripping DRM and converting file formats. But B&N and the iBookstore sell flavors of ePub and Sony should have made at least the B&N flavor available. I think what Sony is missing is the point that there is a format war (think Betamax vs. VHS or Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD) and that winning the format war ultimately is more important than keeping customers from visiting other bookstores. (In this regard, the iBookstore doesn’t even amount to a blip on the radar screen. Steve Jobs and Apple would rather go down in flames than give up any control.)

The second flaw is in pricing. The Sony devices are more expensive than its competitors, although I think better built. The 350 is $179, the 650 is $229, and the 950 is $299. However, unlike the Kindle and the Nook (B&N’s entry), the 350 and 650 are not wireless. In this regard, I think Sony is right that most people really don’t care about wireless, not when they think it through. But it is the one point on which every reviewer downgrades Sony and upgrades Amazon. I think for a small (relatively speaking) group of readers, wireless is the decider, but if my experience is any guide, the lack of wireless isn’t even noticed. The Sonys are smaller and lighter than the Kindle but seem to be better quality in terms of build and components — and this is what Sony is banking on. The ultimate question will be whether consumers will think it is worth $40 more for a touchscreen and no wireless or $40 less for wireless but no touchscreen.

As I have said before, I own and love using a Sony 505 that soon will be 3 years old. My 505 works today as if it were fresh out of the box. It is solidly built and has several more years of life in it. But I think the time has come for me to upgrade. I thought about breaking down and going for a Kindle, but it isn’t going to happen. Instead, I’m likely to buy the new Sony 950 with its larger screen. It costs what my 505 cost 3 years ago and if it serves me as long and as well as my 505, it will have been worth every penny. My 505 won’t be going into retirement; my wife has claimed it.

How will I justify the price of the 950? One way is that I will be canceling my print subscription to the New York Times. Instead, I will subscribe to an electronic version of the print edition that I will receive on the 950 every morning when I’m ready to read the paper, not when my carrier gets around to delivering it. That will save me at least $25 a month, which means that in 1 year I will have earned back the cost of the 950.

But I began the article with the question whether now was the time to take the plunge. With the new improvements to the Kindle and Sony devices, I think the answer is yes — if you want a dedicated reading device. There are a lot of good, free and inexpensive ebooks available for all of these devices. If your reading interests extend beyond the bestseller lists, you can get a rapid return on your investment as well as be exposed to new authors.

I do suggest, however, that before deciding on any device that you compare features side by side. Kindles will soon be available in Staples and Target stores and Sonys are available at Best Buy, Office Depot, and Target. Don’t let reviewer hype of one feature sway you — check for yourself and think about how important a particular feature is or is likely to be to you. I don’t buy ebooks every day and when I do buy them, I tend to buy them in bunches of 3 to 5 books. To plug my 505 into my PC via USB simply is not much of a hassle, so wireless doesn’t count much in my decision-making process; other things are more important. You need to view these devices with your own priorities in mind.

Now is the time to think about the holidays and if an ebook reader is on your wishlist, to place your holiday order. For the Sony devices, see the Sony Style Store (350, 650, and 950), and for the Kindle, see Amazon (Kindle 3 and Kindle 3G). If past holiday seasons are any indicator, as soon as you decide which you want, preorder it. These readers have tended to sell out fast.

August 12, 2010

Sony, Sony — Wherefore Art Thou?

The “big” news ebook reading devices recently has been Amazon’s new Kindles with their Pearl screen. OK, ebookers got the point: Amazon is moving right along in its attempt to capture the wallets of all ebookers. Which raises the question, here in the United States, “Sony, Sony (and Barnes & Noble, as well) — Wherefore art thou?”

Not a hint, not a misspoken word, not anything leaked to eBookland about a response by Sony and/or B&N to Amazon’s new Kindles. I, for one, am desperately seeking solace, especially from Sony, that there will be new competitive devices forthcoming. As I have made clear in prior articles, I am not a willing Amazon (or Apple) buyer.

But I need to know that my expectations will be met. I love my Sony PRS505 reader. It’s now 2.5 years old and works as well as the day I received it as a holiday gift. It has never been repaired and never failed to delight. My wife waits in the wings to take it over as soon as I buy a new reading device, and my credit cards are itching to be used to do so.

(For what it’s worth, I am also pleased with the service I have received from the Sony Reader eBook Store. A few weeks ago I bought the second and third volumes of Brian Ruckley’s Godless World Trilogy only to discover that the type size couldn’t be enlarged and the fixed size was much too small for my eyes. I assumed it was a publisher problem so I e-mailed the Hachette Book Group this past Sunday, with a copy of my receipt for the books, asking them to fix the problem. On Monday I received a response saying they had checked the original files and could find nothing to cause the problem so they had contacted Sony and asked Sony to check it and contact me. On Wednesday I received a telephone call from Sony saying the problem had been fixed and I needed to redownload the books, which I did. Kudos to both Hachette and Sony. Now, back on track…)

What I have been waiting for is a device with an 8- or 9-inch screen from a company that I think will be around for more than a week or two. Everyone and everyone’s aunt is producing 6-inch screen e-ink devices, and if that is all that Sony or B&N are going to produce, I will not buy a new device until my 505 dies; I’m not looking to buy a new device just for the sake of buying a new device.

I want that larger screen so I can switch my New York Times subscription from print to electronic and read it comfortably. For me, this is the driver behind my desire for a new device. And no, I do not want a multifunction LCD screen device. I already own several.

The situation is this: Amazon is king of the hill right now. It has the leading device and bookstore and gains ground every day. B&N desperately needs to at least maintain its market share and preferably grow it in the one growth area in publishing — ebooks. Every day it remains silent about device plans and every day that passes without a new device becoming available (at least for preorder) is another day that Amazon increases its market lead.

Sony, which isn’t noted for its ebookstore but is noted for its quality electronics, will soon take on the mantle of Wile E. Coyote in the ebook reading device tug-of-wars unless it does two things: First, is put out a firmware update for all of its already sold and available devices that updates the ePub DRM schema. Sony owners need to know that Sony is not asleep and that it is committed to the ePub standard and the way to do this is to release an update that will allow Sony owners to access the B&N ebookstore without stripping DRM. This is the easy fix to owner anxieties for Sony.

Second, it needs to “leak” to the press and the blogosphere information about any forthcoming e-reading devices. Get the buzz going; give ebookers a reason to hold off purchasing a new Kindle. It doesn’t need to be a full-blown, detailed initial announcement but it needs to be sufficient to maintain interest. Perhaps a leak-a-week until the big news event.

The strength of Amazon is in its ebookstore, not in its Kindle. The Kindle simply provides a means to access Amazon’s strong point. Sony’s strength is in its electronic devices, its readers, not in its ebookstore. The ebookstore simply gives Sony Reader owners a place to make use of the device. But unlike Amazon, which craftily takes advantage of its strength, Sony turns its strength into a weakness by being so rigid in its information release schedule. Sony needs to loosen up — especially now that the new Kindles are available and have been getting good press.

B&N needs to find its footing. Contrary to its corporate “wisdom,” releasing its ebooks in ePub form but adding its own flavor of DRM was not a smart move in B&N’s fight against the Amazon behemoth. By adding that flavoring, B&N gave Amazon at least a year’s free ride to build sales share. We will never know with certainty, but I’d bet that had B&N emulated Sony in terms of ePub and DRM flavor, B&N’s ebook market share would be at least 25% higher than it currently is. The battle would have been truly joined between B&N and Amazon and Sony’s ebookstore would be drifting into a netherworld.

Sony needs to regain momentum and spark interest in its products. It needs to immediately begin leaking information about forthcoming products to prevent ebooker defection to the new Kindles. B&N needs to get its act together in nearly every sense, and it, too, needs to begin leaking information about its plans. If they do not maintain ebooker interest in their respective products, it will soon be too late and it will be an Amazon world.

July 8, 2010

Valuing eBooks: Is it a Sensory Problem?

This topic has been broached before (see, e.g., Valuing a Book: How Do Publishers Decide on Value?, On Books: Deciding to Buy or Not Buy (III), and The eBook Wars: The Price Battle (IV) — Value) and is likely to be broached many times in the future. It is a worthy topic that just won’t (can’t?) go away.

What brought it to mind again was the confluence of several events: I had to replenish my tea supply, a Smashwords July sale was being promoted, I read an article about the price of coffee, I went to see a terrible movie (and also a good movie), and a few other similar events.

Like many coffee drinkers who believe Starbucks is the barista and who are willing to pay $4 for a cup of joe, I like my tea with breakfast and the newspapers, and I don’t hesitate to spend a premium price for a premium cup of tea. Yet the pleasure that the coffee/tea brings is fleeting. A few moments after imbibing and the thrill is gone (as B.B. King would say).

Similarly, I saw 2 movies over the holiday weekend, one very good and the other exceedingly poor, yet these, too, were fleeting entertainments.

Yet, books are different. The thrill of a good read doesn’t disappear after an hour; a good story can captivate us for many hours — not only as we read the story but as we think about it long after we have finished reading it and as we discuss it with friends or recommend it to others. Nonfiction books may be books that we regularly return to for some factoid. Books do have a fading quality, but that fade occurs over a long period of time, unlike that luscious cup of tea with breakfast that fades quickly.

We all recognize this, even if only subconsciously. We often think about a book we read as a child or in high school, and we can still recall some of the characters and much of the plot — even if we haven’t reread the book in 50 years.

But in the pricing scheme of things, books, particularly ebooks, are significantly more price sensitive than our coffee. We who are willing to spend $10 a day on a couple of cups of coffee, hesitate to buy an ebook for $10.

There are lots of excuses — who knows if the ebook is really any good, the ebook has DRM (Digital Rights Management) that limits our use of it, publishers are greedy, and on and on. Aren’t the same excuses, however, applicable to that cup of coffee? How do we know in advance that the coffee isn’t too strong (or weak or burnt)? Isn’t our drinking the coffee like DRM — once drunk you can’t share it with a friend? Isn’t $4 for a cup of joe a greedy price when once can buy other coffees for half that price? And, besides, we know it doesn’t cost $4 to make that cup of coffee.

Doesn’t the same hold true for movies? Even the price of a movie rental is often more than the price that many ebooks. And we rarely go to see a movie alone, so the cost really adds up. And we willing pay the movie price — whether box office or rental — even though we know we can’t duplicate the movie, we can’t share it with friends over the Internet, and we can’t watch again in 3 weeks without paying again, and paying the same price as we did originally.

What makes ebooks different? That’s what I don’t understand. If anything, I would think the values should be reversed. The transience, for example, of the cup of tea versus the long-life of the ebook should indicate a reversal. But it doesn’t.

There was a time when books were so valuable that only the very wealthy could afford them. The books were gilded in gold and silver, painstakingly hand crafted, and highly sought objects of art. Although this esteem diminished with the advent of the mass-produced hardcover followed by the even more mass-produced paperback, the aurora of esteem didn’t wholly disappear — until the Age of eBooks and the inability to of a reader to see a finely crafted book and to hold it in his or her hands.

Perhaps that is the problem — ebooks lack a sensory touch. The cup of coffee exudes smell, a smell that pleases (hopefully), along with a taste that pleases (again, hopefully). Plus there is the sense of touch, of holding the cup in our hands and knowing that we are holding a cup of coffee that is desirable. Similarly, movies appeal to our visual and aural senses. But to what sense does an ebook appeal?

Really none. The traditional sensory reactions that we have toward a print book — the smell, the feel, the sound, the look — all disappear in the current incarnation of ebooks. Most readers agree that cover design and interior design of a pbook are important parts of the experience of reading, yet both are missing from the ebook experience.

I’ll grant that it shouldn’t matter — after all, aren’t we reading for the pleasure of reading and stimulating our mind — but the lack of the traditional sensory experience, the sensory experience that we grew up with, is, I think, the cause of our discontent with ebook pricing. All else, I suspect, is just our way of expressing that discontent because we don’t really recognize the root cause.

Of course, this will change over the next decade or two as ebooks become the standard reading method and readers lose their connection to the print book, but for those of us trying to make that transition, I expect we will continue to undervalue ebooks (and concomitantly overvalue other transient experiences) because we miss the sensory experiences we have become accustomed to associating with reading. I think readers need to become more accustomed to the ephemeral experience of ebooks. Once readers do and once readers recognize that ebooks are valuable simply for the mind stimulation they provide, then ebooks will be valued in the marketplace as they should be, with a lessening of the pressure on very low pricing.

June 15, 2010

From One eBook Market to Multiple eBook Markets: Who Wins?

Amazon has announced its new AmazonEncore and AmazonCrossing publishing ventures and has signed J.A. Konrath for Kindle distribution. Now Barnes & Noble has followed suit with PubIt! as a self-publishing platform with B&N distribution. eBooks are fragmenting the book market and the loser is the reader.

Amazon and B&N are only the beginnings of the upcoming slugfest. Each will try to entice both new and established authors to abandon their relationships with traditional publishers and publish their ebooks exclusively on one of these new platforms. At first glance, this looks great, especially for authors like Konrath who are midlist authors with allegedly declining sales. The problem is that these new ebook platforms are fragmenting the book market for the consumer.

Will Amazon make Konrath’s ebooks available for everyone or just for Kindle owners? OK, it doesn’t take much imagination to answer that question based on Bezos’ past practices — most of the reading world will not have access to the ebook for reading on their dedicated device. How long will it be before Amazon decides that although the future is ebooks, the present requires both e and p, and so wants exclusive rights to both versions? Or is that already part of the deal?

Traditional publishers, including the big 6 (5 of whom, in cahoots with Apple, are already screwing readers with the agency pricing model) have lots of faults but the bottom line is that they are better for readers than Amazon, B&N, or Apple ever will be — because they distribute their product to everyone. Granted I may not like their pricing policies, their insistence on DRM, and the ebook windowing, but I sure like those unfriendly policies a lot better than Amazon’s insisting that I buy from it and if I want a dedicated reading device that I buy the Kindle.

I can hear the uproar now: Amazon makes it easy to read on nearly any device through its different device-specific applications — as long as I don’t want to read on a competing dedicated ebook reading device. But if I wanted to read on my PC or my laptop or my cell phone, why would I have bought a dedicated ereading device? Why should I be forced to kowtow to Amazon?

But the issue isn’t can I read it on my laptop computer or my tiny cell phone; the issue is can I read it on the dedicated reading device of my choice. Ultimately, I think financial survival of authors — other than the big blockbuster authors like Stephen King and James Patterson — lies in the hands of those readers who buy more than 1-3 books each year; that is, the dedicated, avid reader, the reader who buys and reads lots of books and who will buy a dedicated reading device.

Authors who sign exclusive deals with Amazon, Apple, B&N, and other similar ebook publishers/sellers should be boycotted because of the harm they are doing to their fan base and to readers in general. How many of these reading devices will I need in order to read new works from favorite authors? Why should I be forced to use an inconvenient method to read just because a favorite author has signed an exclusive deal? Why should I reward the author for the hurt caused me by the author’s greed?

I don’t disagree that authors should be compensated — and compensated fairly — for their efforts. I’ve never hesitated (well, not too often) to purchase a hardcover book that interested me simply because of price. But I am much more cautious about what I spend on ebooks because of all the restrictions and because I do not want to reward flat-out greedy authors who sign exclusive deals that prohibit interested readers from purchasing their books. Konrath, for example, has lost my business.

A fractured ebook market is not good for either readers or authors, yet authors, when offered these exclusive deals with Amazon, seem to have a great deal of difficulty looking beyond today. Perhaps an author will see a short-term boost in sales, but I suspect that over the long run these exclusive platform deals will hurt authors. They certainly will hurt readers.

The rejoinder, of course, is that the books will be available for a lot less money than traditional publishers would charge and the author will make more money. I expect that both are true, certainly in the formative years. But I always have niggling in the back of my mind this: What will happen when 60% or more of the ebook market — both publishing and selling — is controlled by a single company? History tells us that when that occurs, consumer prices tend to rise and wholesale prices tend to decline. Didn’t we see that, for example, with Microsoft’s pricing of Windows and Office?

Too many consumers think that Bezos and Jobs are really their best friends, business leaders who are really only on the lookout for what is best for the consumer. Today that may be true, but will it be true tomorrow if Amazon forces B&N out of business, or if Amazon gains the type of dominance in publishing and selling of ebooks that Microsoft has in consumer operating systems?

Exclusive deals between authors and hardware+publisher+seller companies are not in the reading publics’ best interest. I believe that consumers are best served when publishers are separated from the sellers.

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