Readersforum's Blog

September 11, 2012

Choosing your first ereader

  By Arthur Attwell

So you’ve decided that that many people can’t be wrong: it’s time to get an ereader. But which one? The industry of ereaders and other mobile devices is filled with big and small companies promising you the world, and you don’t trust half of it. The cruel truth is that no one can tell you exactly what’s best for you. Everyone’s preferences are different. You simply have to figure it out for yourself, and this might be an expensive journey. That said, if you’re going to take the plunge, here’s my two cents’ worth. It might help you dodge a few bullets along the way.

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June 14, 2012

War and Peace ebook readers find a surprise in its Nooks

Between the lines … a reader with a Barnes & Noble Nook. Photograph: Richard Levine/Alamy

A ‘search and replace’ by Barnes & Noble switched every mention of ‘kindle’ with the name of the company’s ereader, ‘Nook’.

By Hermione Hoby

From one small corner of the internet this week comes a tale of an ebook glitch so deliciously absurd I’ve had to keep reminding myself that it is, in fact, true.

A few days ago a blogger who identifies himself as just “Philip” took to his site to recount his experience of reading War and Peace – specifically, a 99¢ version as sold through Barnes and Noble’s Nook store. A contextually important reminder: the Nook is Barnes and Noble’s answer to Amazon’s Kindle and the two devices have invariably been pitted against each other in a kind of ereader war.

When, however, Philip came across the line, “It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern”, the Kindle/Nook rivalry wasn’t foremost in his mind. Instead, he thought he’d just stumbled on an unorthodox verb-translation or some other minor textual hiccup. It was only when that rogue “Nookd” struck again that he realised, via the text’s search function, that every instance of the word “kindle” or “kindle” had, in fact, been changed to “Nook” and “Nookd”.

Which means Tolstoy has been subjected to indignities – and absurdities – such as this: “When the flame of the sulphur splinters Nookd by the timber burned up, first blue and then red, Shcherbinin lit the tallow candle…”

Our blogger writes: “I was shocked. Almost immediately I found it hilarious … then outrageous … then both.”

Was this an instance of egregious, not-so-subliminal advertising on the part of the Nook’s marketing department? It really does seem like the sort of satirical, absurdist flourish that David Foster Wallace might have dreamed up: a kind of product-placement as anachronistic and sacrilegious as CGI-ing iPhones into the hands of Tarkovsky characters. But the truth is both more prosaic and more funny.

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May 6, 2012

Nooks, Books, and Schnooks

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 2:02 pm

Is Microsoft’s new alliance with Barnes & Noble folly? Or could it hurt Apple and Amazon?

By Matthew Yglesias

When the market closed last Friday, a share of Barnes & Noble was worth less than $14. By the time the opening bell rang on Monday, that same share was worth more than $25. A couple of days of trading have seen the price settle around $20.

These gyrations are a powerful reminder that financial markets move not only based on highly uncertain forecasts about the future, but also because of the whims of a handful of individuals. Specifically, the book retailer that looked to be on death’s door has been rapidly rescued because someone at Microsoft decided to get into the book business. On April 30, the cash-rich tech giant unexpectedly announced that it was pouring $300 million of startup capital into a new Barnes & Noble subsidiary in exchange for a 16.7 percent stake in the new company. According to basic math, that made the bookstore chain the owner of 83.3 percent of a $1.7 billion company, sending the overall stock price leaping. Beyond giving a shot in the arm to the ailing retailer, this at least holds out the prospect of transforming the e-book industry just weeks after the Justice Department transformed it with an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and several major publishers.

The partnership came together so swiftly that the companies involved didn’t even bother to come up with a name for their new venture, instead provisionally titling it Newco. Newco is made up of Barnes & Noble’s Nook business and its college division, plus a bunch of Microsoft’s money and patents, along with presumably some expertise.

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October 5, 2011

The future of reading: iPad, Kindle … and hardback

The hardback novel: surprisingly resilient. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

It’s not a surprise that ebooks are booming, nor that mass-market paperbacks are suffering. What’s fascinating is how well hardback books are still selling.

By Peter Preston

Can it be good news or bad news that the six Booker prize contenders have already sold a record 37,500 copies, some 127% more than 2010′s chosen sextet managed last year? Bad news, sniff some, because high-minded quality ought to come first. Good news, say bookstore owners, beaming all the way to the bank and getting ready for a Jamie Oliver Christmas bonanza. But maybe the crispest conclusion is simply that this is fascinating news. Because the last time I looked, traditional books, involving words printed on paper, were supposed to be dying as the tornado of digital destruction swept on.

Monstrous gloom is still easy to find, sure enough. Take the latest book sales revenue statistics – for June – from the Association of American Publishers. They show adult paperback cash sliding by an eye-watering 63.8% in 12 months, nearly $85m gone missing. And hardcover sales are down 25.4%, too, while ebooks, via Kindle, iPad and Nook, boom away, up 167% for the month, a $50m rise.

Yet even America, in the teeth of the economic storm, can find some comfort in the relative resilience of many hardback categories, as well as books for children. And while the tablet surge may not quite be covering the losses on printed pages yet, it’s still buoyant enough to allow cannier differential pricing. Factor in the happy thought that ebooks don’t sit around in warehouses waiting for pulping, that demand and supply are cost-effectively matched, and there are some new reasons for a cautious grin.

And Britain? Here, too, the Kindle is surging forward: sales up 20% last year, and this year Amazon.co.uk says it is selling 242 ebooks for every 100 hardcovers. Enter last week, on the US horizon, the new all-singing and dancing Kindle Fire plus two updated ebook versions, priced ever more competitively. The worldwide rate of change is fast, fast, fast.

Yet observe that, according to the Publishers Association, UK book sales were only 7.5% down for the first three months of 2011, and only 4.9% down in revenue terms. Moreover (a consistent, significant theme) hardbacks aren’t suffering nearly as much as paperbacks.

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September 7, 2011

Humans Pay Fearful Price for Cheap E-Books

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:28 am

By Richard Curtis

A while back we wondered what was going to happen to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad when the next generation of e-readers replaced them. “If what’s happening in Europe is any guideline,” we wrote “it will end up in a toxic e-waste landfill in Asia and Africa where the destitute, many of them children, will scavenge it for scrap. These scavengers incur horrifying and often fatal skin, lung, intestinal and reproductive organ ailments from the plastics, metals and gases that go into discarded cell phones, televisions, computers, keyboards, monitors, cables and similar e-scrap.”

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August 22, 2011

The Future of Printed Literature: A Digital Dilemma

By Mia R. Benenate

On July 18, 2011 came the announcement that Borders, the second largest book retailer in the United States would close its doors for good following a chapter 11 filing and the liquidation of more than 200 stores on American soil. Borders, a favorite store of mine since early childhood, didn’t have the financial leverage to keep up with competitors Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
As a young girl entering a Borders store, I came to associate the brand with learning and escapism, and of course the soft lighting, aroma of coffee, and contented people browsing the shelves that were a staple in my local branch. It was a place I came to think of as “mine,” where I could go to focus intensely or lose myself entirely. Later, it became a place I would associate with music as well as literature, as I entered my teenage years and spent equal time in both sections of the store. Borders became a place that I identified as an extension of the literature I held so close to my heart, and thus, the most influential brand of my early years. 20 years after entering a Borders for the first time, I work with words as an editor, and still remember the chain fondly. And perhaps because of my professional position, it comes as no surprise that the chain is closing.

As of May of this year, Amazon’s book sales are primarily electronic, meaning that the bulk of literature purchases are through the company’s branded e-reader Kindle, versus print. Barnes & Noble recently debuted their own e-reader the Nook, and I wonder if they would have found themselves in a position similar to Borders had they not gone digital as well.

As an executive in the publishing industry, I am well aware of the daunting and often prohibitive costs associated with publishing printed material. Especially in the digital age. What remains a highlight of my reading experience — and a point of professional pride — however, is the feel of a book in my hands and the smell of freshly printed pages as I turn them. As a passionate consumer and publishing insider, I know how much sweat is put into each product that winds up on the shelves; the words and imagery within books are just the starting point.

Reading is a visceral experience, which to me is as important as the story itself. When I purchase a printed book, I own it. When I purchase an e-book, I feel like I’m borrowing someone else’s intellectual property.

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August 17, 2011

What Will Publishing Look Like in 2021?

Posted by Anne R. Allen
In the comment thread of my post on What Readers Won’t Miss from Corporate Publishers When They’re Gone, “Ghostly Girl” asked the above question. It sure is a hot topic..
What will happen in the next ten years? Will corporate publishers stumble along into dodoland? Will bookstores become a faded memory? Will all writers become entrepreneurial self-publishers? Will everybody who’s got a novel in him/her get fifteen Warhol fame-minutes on a bloated, crap-laden Amazon.com?
Things do look dire for corporate book publishing and brick-and-mortar retail sales at the moment. Early in the week we heard the Borders chain has finally shuffled off its mortal coil, and on Thursday, Publisher’s Lunch reported book sales suffered another huge monthly drop—especially for adult hardcover and mass market paperbacks.
This has made the future of publishing a hot topic of discussion everywhere I go. On Wednesday night, a friend in my critique group asked what the Barnes and Noble of the future might look like. Most said “Barnes and Who?” or “What’s a bookstore?”
But I disagreed. I predicted Barnes and Noble will survive—in a rather different configuration—maybe a combination of a much-expanded Starbucks café and an Apple-like outlet, displaying a variety of Nookish products, X-boxy things, coffee-related paraphernalia—and one book.
Written by Snooki.
Turns out I might be something of a clairvoyant. In that same Thursday issue of Publisher’s Lunch there was also news of a big-money auction of a hot new literary property, shorthanded as, “Pippa Middleton’s Pilates Coach.”
So. Maybe publishing isn’t so moribund after all. At least some Big Six guys are still partying like it’s 2009.
I had to look into it. Pippa Middleton’s Pilates Coach sounded like a brilliant satire of our shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture—maybe some uproarious comedy about fictional idiots spending millions to learn Pilates from the coach, “who’s coaching the girl, who’s related to the girl, who danced with the son of the Prince of Wales.” (Paraphrasing the classic song from 1927.)
But a quick Google showed the celebrity-crazed idiots aren’t fictional. And the book is not meant to be funny. And it’s coming soon to a Barnes and Noble near you.
                                                       …read more

December 22, 2010

E-Book Invasion to Eliminate Brick and Mortar Bookstores ?

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 1:23 pm

A story about Barnes & Noble and similar large book store chains feeling the heat due to lagging sales and the increased popularity of online competitors such as Amazon.com and e-book sales caught my attention a few days ago.

Six years ago while I was attending a writer’s conference luncheon, an industry expert announced to us that smaller chains and independent bookstores were in danger of extinction, being replaced by the mega-bookstores. “If you can’t imagine your book finding a place on the shelf in Barnes & Noble, you haven’t got a chance for success in this business,” she announced to a room full of hundreds of aspiring and published authors.

For more than a decade the publishing industry has been changing dramatically, printing fewer titles, tightening markets, taking fewer chances on new concepts or unknown authors. We expected all those changes with the merging of many of the largest publishers into even larger media groups. I couldn’t imagine e-books replacing printed books then, or ever people preferring to browse websites for books over browsing through a bookstore.

Barnes & Noble and similar large bookstore chains that I once disdained for their influence in publishing industry are now sort of a guilty pleasure of mine….read more

December 16, 2010

Mike Shatzkin discusses ways e-book sellers can differentiate

In publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin’s latest blog post, he reflects on the way that changes in the e-book market (most notably agency pricing) and the relatively similar features of most e-book readers (barring the occasional pet peeve or badly-formatted title here or there) mean there is no longer any particular advantage to the reader in buying from one e-book store over another….read more

December 10, 2010

Kindle Is Most-Shopped E-Bookstore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 7:41 pm

According to our poll, the Kindle store is (very unsurprisingly) the most shopped e-bookstore right now, with 36% of respondents saying it’s their top choice for e-books.

What is slightly surprising, however, is that in second place is the “other” option, which allowed respondents to enter their own text. Almost 24% picked this option, and the most popular responses among them were Kobo, iFlow Books and Books on Board….read more

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