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Electronic Books
Posted: 11 April 2011 02:08 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I got an iPad about six months ago, and I’ve become a convert to electronic books. I was really skeptical that e-books would replace paper for anything other than pleasure reading. The best reading app I’ve seen, although I haven’t tried all that many, is the Kindle (there is a Kindle app for iPad; I haven’t actually used a Kindle device to any extent). So far, the problems I’ve encountered have been:

1) No page numbers, which makes it hard to reference. There are numbers that indicate the place in the text, but these are only good for that particular Kindle edition. I guess the same issue applies with print, but the lack of tangibility to the e-book makes this seem like a major drawback.

2) Kindle editions are published by Amazon with little or no bibliographic info. This is especially a problem with the free or very cheap public domain works. I’d really like to know if an edition is a reasonable one or a piece of crap. I’ve run into some truly awful Kindle versions of Shakespeare that misattribute speeches to the wrong character, etc. (I think these are 18th and 19th century editorial errors that are being replicated, but because you can’t tell what edition it is, you can’t judge the quality. It’s not a big problem for the free books, because there you can simply delete it without loss. But even for those that cost only a buck, I hate to spend any amount of money for a piece of crap. I’d gladly pay a few bucks more to know that this is the Penguin 1965 edition, edited by John A. Doe, for example.

3) Sloppy reproduction. I’ve seen errors—lacunas, duplicated text, really low-quality images and charts—that would never be tolerated in a print edition. And these in full-price editions of new books, not in the free public domain ones.

Overall, I really like reading on the iPad, which surprises me. Any other positive or negative experiences with ebooks?

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Posted: 11 April 2011 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have to say that the drawbacks you’ve listed decrease my already minimal interest in e-books.

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Posted: 11 April 2011 07:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, but these are not intrinsic to ebooks. Just to how they’re currently being produced and marketed.

[Edit: added missing “not"]

[ Edited: 11 April 2011 01:50 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 11 April 2011 07:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yes, but these are intrinsic to ebooks.

I think you’re missing a not there.

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Posted: 11 April 2011 10:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I wonder where the errors creep in.  I assume books are thoroughly proof-read before uploading, so maybe there’s a glitch in the software?

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Posted: 11 April 2011 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I assume books are thoroughly proof-read before uploading

Almost certainly not the case.  I expect they just upload whatever file they find lying around for free.  Even brand new books don’t get thoroughly proofread these days.

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Posted: 11 April 2011 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Similar problems exist with some “real"(i.e. hard-copy) books produced by print-on-demand publishers from OCR scans, as well.

A friend of mine describes an example here.

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Posted: 11 April 2011 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Frequently on Google Books you’ll see one of the frontmatter pages with the image of the fingers of whoever placed the book in the scanning machine. That’s actually rather endearing.

And contrary to what the publisher said in the link that Dr. Techie provided, I actually like the facsimile pages, even if they’re from a marked up library copy, much more than an OCR edition. The facsimile gives me confidence that the book is as it was originally published. Facsimile editions also include all cover page info, which is frequently stripped from OCR editions.

[ Edited: 11 April 2011 01:57 PM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 11 April 2011 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’ve seen the iRivers Story, quite pleasant to use.

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Posted: 27 April 2011 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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whatever your feelings about ebooks are, you do have to admit, they save a lot of trees.

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Posted: 27 April 2011 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Until recently, the publishing business has been the book business. Just as until recently, the music business was the record business. The problem is the media isn’t the same as the content and just as people no longer need to buy plastic disks to get music, people no longer need to buy paper to get words. There is no question the book business will go the way of the record business. Both will exist in the foreseeable future in some form, but their glory days are over. Adapt or die; such has it always been and such it shall always be.

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Posted: 27 April 2011 12:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Very true.  Authors, rather than publishers and agents, will decide what’s available, and readers will decide what to read.  There will always be a place for hard-copy books, but I agree that ebooks in some form or another are here to stay. E-publishing makes financial sense for self-publishers since the tiny profits on hard-copy books make self-publishing uneconomic.

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Posted: 28 April 2011 03:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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There are critical differences between music media and hard copy books.

Music media does not exist independently. It requires a support infrastructure of devices to play it and standardization of media types. E-books are the same. This means only a small number of formats will be supported at any given time and once the industry as a whole has abandoned a format, it is uneconomical for independent labels to publish in that format. But hard copy books do not. Once published, they “work” all on their own.

And don’t forget about print on demand. It is now economical to publish hard copies in very small print runs, one or two at a time, as needed.

I think what we’ll see is that hardbound books will largely disappear. A niche market will remain for archival/library copies and vanity purposes.

The traditional paperback market will continue, at least for the more popular books. Paperbacks are, after all, cheap and very convenient. No power required. No compatibility issues. You can read them on the beach without worrying about sand destroying your device.

But the bulk of the publishing industry will switch to e-books and print on demand.

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Posted: 28 April 2011 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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For some uses, and some users, the issue of long-term accessibility will be an issue.  The electronic version of my PhD dissertation is, as a practical matter, inaccessible, because it was stored on 5.25 inch floppies (and written with a long-defunct text editor called PeachText).  The printed copies, of course, are still completely accessible.  I have books over a century old in my personal collection that are a bit fragile but still quite usable.

Yes, I realize that I could have maintained electronic accessibility of my dissertation by recopying it every time a new generation of storage medium displaced the old one, but let’s face it, most people who own books/music/etc long term don’t want to have to do that.

“This is gonna replace CD’s soon; guess I’ll have to buy the White Album again.”

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Posted: 28 April 2011 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Ultimately, the shift from print to digital is going to redefine the whole idea of “books.” Exciting times for bibliophiles! The printing press has been re-invented!

Books? You mean Apps.

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Posted: 28 April 2011 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’d classify that as a different type of medium, a form of multimedia. It’s not a “book.” I don’t think that multimedia apps are going to replace books wholesale. Written language is too efficient a means of transmitting information to go the way of the dodo. Of course, that’s not say there won’t be a place for multimedia apps, only that they won’t eliminate the book.

Regarding long-term accessibility, it’s much easier to preserve electronic files today, now that high-volume storage devices are available. I’ve got a couple external hard drives that hold all my archived info. (One for the music/archived files that don’t fit on my laptop’s hard drive and one for backup.) Copying that is relatively simple, although it takes several hours. Of course, there are still potential problems with outdated file formats, but given the ubiquitous nature of MS Office files, pdfs, jpeg/tiff, and mp3 formats, that’s not been a problem for me in the last ten years—but may be in years to come.

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