Day: September 4, 2009

Ebooks, heating up? People disagree!

Eoin Purcell

Seriously mixed up day for me on the ebook front, reading wise that is! I still find it hard to deal with the fact that there can be such differing opinions on ebooks as you’ll read here. On the one hand I read this considered post by Trevor Dolby on the Bookbrunch blog:

The simple truth is that at present these devices are not changing the way we read. No matter how much vested interests bellow at me in an attempt to change my mind, they are not going to persuade me that my cat is a dog.

No one can dispute that mp3 players revolutionized the way we listen to music. They did so because the technology was a clear advance. But books are uniquely suited to paper. All these devices do is mimic electronically what the humble ink on paper does. The only USPs are rather minor. You can have 100 books with you at any one time – how many books can you read over a week? And you can get new ones quicker. (I’ll save the price issue for another time.) I don’t think I’m unique in the use of my e-reader. It’s continually running out of battery power, it’s slow, and, crucially, I cannot advertise how clever and interesting I am to young ladies on the Tube, since there’s no cover.

I will go along with him on the basics there, perhaps the devices are not that nice looking or that clever and maybe, as he says in the final notes of the piece:

It is the convergent devices that will take over the market. The unannounced but pretty much certain iTablet and its equivalents will be the devices that we all read books on. OK, you say, so what about e-Ink – isn’t that supposed to be the major distinguishing feature? Well you are not going to tell me that Steve Jobs hasn’t made a call to a small team of boffins in Cupertino and said, Right fellas, I want a program that mimics e-Ink: stable and energy-efficient and looks like “the real thing”.

In five years the Kindle and Sony e-book will no longer exist. On our wafer-thin computers, like large iPods, we will be reading a book while listening to music. The phone will ring or mail will ping, the machine will ask if you want to answer, you will chat, then the machine will ask if you want to continue reading. As for battery life, these devices will recharge continually via wi-fi.

Then I read this piece in Publishers Weekly:

Of e-book downloads through July, 40% were made to computers, down from 48% at the end of the first quarter. Quickly gaining in market share over the summer were downloads to the Kindle. This was especially true in July, when downloads to computers plunged, while downloads to the Kindle soared. As a result, in July, for the first time in PubTrack’s monthly survey of consumers, Kindle downloads topped computers, accounting for 45% of all e-book downloads in the month. Also enjoying a spike in July were downloads to the iPhone, likely due to the release of the new 3G iPhone and accompanying e-book apps. That July spurt in iPhone downloads came after a lull in the spring and brought the iPhone’s market share at the end of July close to where it was in the first quarter. And while Sony created a lot of buzz last week with the announcement of its new wireless device (see p. 6), it has lots of ground to cover before it catches the Kindle, holding only a 6% market share at the end of July.

And as you can see that certainly suggests that we need to keep an eye on the Kindle and Sony and the convergent devices may not be as great as Trevor might wish. Finally I read this piece on the Thomas RIggs % Co. blog, An eBook Reality Check:

According to Bowker, in 2008 ebooks represented only 0.6 percent of all books sold in the United States. The majority of buyers were men, and more than half were between the ages of 18 and 34. This year ebook sales will still be less than 2 percent of the U.S. book market.

Here’s something else to ponder.

Most people prefer paper. According to a recent survey, only 37 percent of Americans are interested in buying an ereader. Here in France I’m often at the beach and see one person after another stetched out in the sun reading a paperback. Not an ereader in sight.

Now to me that Thomas Riggs post is the outlier of the pack. You only need to look at the industry stats on the IDPF website to see that although those 2008 stats are interesting, the Q2 2009 figures are almost 3 Times the Q2 figures. So where do these divergent views come from? How can people in the same industry on the one hand think a) ebooks are that big and b) ebooks are big, c) that the Kindle and Sony Reader are growing and d) that the Kindle and Sony Reader are dead.

Still thinking about digital.
Eoin

Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy on Colonial New York

Eoin Purcell

Great books deserve better reviewers than I
So I was recently sent a review copy of Thomas M. Truxes’, Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York which was published by Yale University Press in 2008. Needless to say I completely failed in my mission to read the book and write a review in any kind of decent timeframe.

But I did read it and it is wonderful. The book covers a fascinating period in Colonial history when the British Empire was fighting a war with the French Empire and American merchants were intent to benefit from the trading opportunities despite the heavy presence of British soldiers and the fact that in name at least they were engaged in treason.

A book that creates and sustains a brilliant portrait of 18th Century New York and brings to life the intriguing political and mercantile world of that city under British rule. Well worth reading, 7 out of 10.
For some more detailed review on the book, try here, here, here or here.
I also decided to try something I have been toying with for a while, a video review. It is my my first such effort and is decidedly patchy, but here, in honour of along delayed review it is.

I hope someone enjoyed that!
Eoin