Some quick links

Taking a gander at how to handle footnotes in ebooks (O’Reilly)

A study at Princeton (PDF); using the Amazon Kindle DX to reduce paper consumption and enhance the classroom experience (full report here, also PDF)

And Suzanne Collins discusses how to use Twitter to get a job in publishing – great read!

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Standards & Amazon

Today’s DBW roundtable discussed standards – more specifically, a bunch of acronyms I need to begin to memorize, including ISTC, ISNI, NISO, IDPF, BISG, and GS1. (My head is spinning.)

An interesting point that I asked and had wonderfully answered by Todd Carpenter of NISO dealt with Amazon’s proprietary standard for its e-reader (.AZW) and how that would influence EPUB3’s development and use. Carpenter responded, essentially, that the value of EPUB stems from its ability to be used in different distribution channels. This in itself is valuable to publishers – you reach more devices through those channels, and in turn, contact larger audiences. Laura Dawson of Firebrand Technologies asserted that Amazon moving to accept EPUB on its devices is not happening anytime soon; Joshua Tallent agrees.

And why would it? This question boggled me because yes, Amazon is doing well without reading EPUB, and conversions from EPUB to .mobi/.azw can still happen through KindleGen. While I in general don’t particularly want a Kindle and don’t see myself using one in the future, the fact that it still doesn’t read EPUB bothers me. It bothers a lot of people because Amazon is ignoring a standard. But should we fault Amazon for ignoring what’s becoming considered a universal standard (as I see it) and creating their own?

This move bothers me as a reader (if I were a Kindle user) because I potentially have fewer options. I am limited to what’s available in the Amazon Marketplace unless I take to converting titles myself.

This move also bothers me as someone looking to become involved in ebook production because, hey, it means more work for me – work that is essentially unnecessary. But I suppose you can argue that work is still going to be there because, lo and behold, every e-reader renders an EPUB file in their own way.

Even though there are more people using the Kindle than other readers, I still think EPUB has the edge. Though the question that still lingers in my head is, who really wants EPUB? I am guessing this audience is somewhat limited (among average readers); I doubt the average Kindle user knows what EPUB even is. Though I could be wrong on both counts!

Courtesy of TeleRead

This makes me want to cringe. Wait, no, I take it back – it make me cringe already. Would it kill someone to hire a copyeditor/any editor? Seriously. I would like to hear Miranda‘s thoughts on the matter.

It’s these little screwups that I think undermines the integrity of ebooks. Print feels more legitimate because it’s on paper – what could possibly have gone wrong? Isn’t it expensive to print things?

Yes, it is, but it looks ten times worse (in my opinion) when there’s a mistake. In an ebook, you fix some code. In the print world, you stop the presses.

I could feel Adin’s tears from here.

I Heart DBW.

I recently finished a short live-tweeting session for DBW’s WEBcast on workflows for editorial and production. I really gotta give mad props to Matt Mullin and the panelists he has featured; every time I listen in, I get very excited for what I want to do professionally. I feel like I’m beginning to understand who I am within that realm, even though I haven’t made much of a mark yet. All this talk about workflow and QA and XML – it just makes me tingly inside. It gives me a lot of hope for what I want to accomplish after I finish my master’s in electronic publishing, because I find this shift in publishing incredibly exciting.

And it’s fascinating to see how simple live-tweeting an event like that is (except it’s really not – it’s harder than it looks!), and how I instantly become connected with people in the industry as a result of a simple hashtag. I actually shifted around my schedule at work so I can live-tweet the roundtable happening this Thursday. Don’t forget to follow @epubpupil for coverage!

Google enters the e-reader war(!)

Say whaaaaaat? The plot thickens! Courtesy of Publisher’s Weekly:

The Story HD is an e-ink device with wi-fi connectivity and beginning July 17 it will be priced at $140 and sold exclusively through Target stores. (emphasis added)

No kidding. $140 to compete with one of Amazon’s cheapest Kindles on the market. So it’ll be out in the wild… next Sunday? That’s odd. I hadn’t heard of this e-reader until now – not even speculation (though there are likely many reasons for that). And wait, Target?! Target? Even odder! I can see the Story HD in multiple retail sites – but an exclusive agreement with Target? That made me do a double-take.

But let’s continue:

But while the iriver Story HD is priced competitively, its design (which resembles the Amazon Kindle 2) and basic technology may seem a bit dated to consumers. Google eBooks is releasing its own e-reading device at a time when B&N (Nook Simple Touch) and Kobo (Kobo Touch Edition) have both released smaller (5”) black and white touchscreen e-ink devices with increased processing power and with social reading software aimed at heightening the enjoyment of reading.

The device reminds me of a huge calculator designed by someone from Apple waaaaay back when. It looks… okay. I’m just surprised they hadn’t tapped into the touchscreen UI already, but I guess even Google has to start somewhere. The pixel density is nice, though:

It has a 6 inch screen and is said to have 63% more pixels than other e-readers, offering sharper, more legible text and images. The device is said to have a more powerful processor (faster page-turns) and iriver claims the battery will last more than a month (6 weeks) on a single charge.

Now that most of the e-readers out there are touting a battery life of over one month (move over, Kindle) it’s getting much more difficult to discern which one of the devices is the mightiest. I think it’s going to come down to whether readers want to solely read or be able to do other things like browse the Web, play apps, listen to music, etc. Not sure where Google’s entry lies just yet.

Networking

I’d kill to go to this. I mean, I’m sure I could learn most of the stuff on my own – there’s definitely references out there – but I’d love to meet the professionals attending. I’d love to especially learn about workflows. If they could set up a webinar for a fraction of the price, I’d totally pay.

In the meanwhile, anyone want to spot a graduate student studying electronic publishing $600?

Speaking of networking, I may attend this little thing next week, despite being incredibly nervous about it. At least I finally have business cards.

E-Reader Wars

It’s amazing how intense the battle has become between the various companies slinging their latest devices for reading e-books. I remember the exact moment when I first heard about the Amazon Kindle. In fact, I said, “Really? That would never sell.”

… yeah, don’t put me in charge of business predictions, folks.

As you know, the Kindle is the leading e-reader among buyers. In 2010, the Kindle sold about 22 million units. Meanwhile, major-minor players like Barnes & Noble and Borders tried to play catch-up with their own respective launches. Then Apple’s iPad hit, and while iBooks makes it seem like a major player in the game, the fact that it’s more tablet than e-reader places it within an entirely different arena.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the Nook and Kobo – in fact, I own a NookColor and love it to pieces. I never liked the Kindle for aesthetic reasons; I don’t like black text on a gray background, the Kindle does look like a huge calculator, and while eInk is really neat, I’m not crazy about it.  I know a lot of my preferences stem from the fact that I’m a cartoonist and love the world of color too much – hence my current e-reader of choice.

For whatever reason, though, the Kindle has become insanely popular and continues to have a strong hold on the e-reader market. I see people reading all the time on their Kindles while riding the T – as a native Miamian residing in Boston, it is a lovely thing to witness on public transportation.

But what about the Kobo?

Honestly, I don’t know much about it. I thought Barnes & Noble had a lot of work to do to compete with the Kindle, but the Kobo is in an even worse spot. The company is doing good things, though: as a result of its “Read On Revolution,” Kobo donated 100 of its devices to a high school, as well as $3,000 worth of e-books.

Additionally, according to The Toronto Star,

In the U.S., Amazon.com’s Kindle is the market leader with a 41 per cent share, followed by Barnes & Noble at 27 per cent. Kobo ranks third somewhere “in the double digits.”

What are “double digits”? At least 10 percent, I guess. But Kobo needs to step up its game in order to really compete with Nook and Kindle. I have a pretty extensive selection of e-books through B&N, as well as magazines. Oh, and apps, including one of the angry bird variety.

What does the Kobo bring to the table?

Harry Potter and The DRM Dragon

I honestly haven’t had much of a chance to think about Pottermore since the announcement, but once I learned the Harry Potter ebooks would be DRM-free, I was subsequently intrigued, but even more perplexed.

As a reader, I’m perfectly happy sans DRM, of course – but I wonder what Bloomsbury is thinking when it comes to piracy. There are a number of avenues for individuals to download books illegally (which I will not list here!), so it will be a lot easier for users to share the digital versions of the HP installments without DRM within the files. I’m sure the publishers/appropriate parties can estimate how much they can expect to lose in illegal downloads.

After some quick Google-fu, I’ve just learned about digital watermarking. Very interesting… a lot more flexibility, and – gasp! – trust?

Why do we still have DRM again?

Regardless, I’m sure the “true fans” will legitimately purchase the books via Pottermore for their devices, and – this is an assumption – I bet the majority of folks with e-readers do not pirate materials. Money will come in, and as long as the content is not locked to a specific device, Rowling, Bloomsbury and Co. will have a fantastic opportunity to reach the largest audience possible.

Cha-ching.

PS: What the heck. Female 30-somethings pirate ebooks? (Courtesy of RWW.)

On Pottermore, Or: I should have expected that

As a fan of the Harry Potter series, when I first heard of the Pottermore website, my immediate thought was: “Hm. She’s doing more Potter stuff? Why? She doesn’t need the cash…” I was skeptical of the site, but I had no idea as to what it could possibly entail. I had caught a leak about Pottermore being some kind of MMO, which kinda-sorta piqued my interest, but nothing worth getting excited over.

Then, it happened:

NY Times – ‘Harry Potter’ Series to Be Sold as E-Books
Publisher’s Weekly – Pottermore Web Site to Sell E-Books in October
The Bookseller –  Confirmed: J K Rowling to sell Harry Potter e-books exclusively from Pottermore website

Of course. Of courseHarry Potter e-books. The thought of that is absolutely, positively, fantastically magical to me.

While some likely fictional people are unimpressed with the overall idea – this online network/community of new content for readers – the bigger, more important facet of this announcement warrants a lot of attention. E-books, guys! Harry Potter is coming to your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and – dare I say it – iPad! It’s a landmark that’s long overdue. Whether J.K. Rowling or her publisher is to blame, I don’t know. Nor do I care. But I know several thousand (at the very least) did.

What does this mean to publishers? What does this mean to readers?

I think this serves as a signal. With a series as popular and as permanent as Harry Potter turning to digital means in such a profound and personal way, publishers need to re-evaluate what that digital experience means to them in regard to their readers (and e-readers).

This could be the PR magic working on me, but I don’t think the digital medium, whether it be the web or the e-reader, can solely be a medium. It needs to present something else, something that goes beyond print – not just in form, but in content. We get that with many of our books, and I think even children’s books capture it best: an isolated space where content lives and thrives because of the interactivity it offers to young readers.

Yet I look at the stuff on my Nook and merely think “text on screen.” It’s my book, but it’s digital. It’s only another way of presenting the information I want to read. And I know a big part of it has to do with what the material is – obviously a personal reading experience lends itself more to an adventure series than a medical textbook – but are publishers doing what they can to go beyond bringing titles to a screen than just for convenience’ sake, or the chance to go “look at us, we’re digital now”?

That’s why e-readers (both the devices and the human counterpart, like myself) receive so much flack from those traditional foils: “I could never leave my [printed] book. I keep books for the experience of reading.” We haven’t figured out how to genuinely tap into and capture that experience within our devices.

Maybe Harry can help.

Two giants; one mighty, one fallen

Some news courtesy of Publisher’s Lunch: Barnes & Noble’s made about $7 billion this year, thanks to BN.com and their line of Nooks. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pool, Borders lost $35 million. Ow.

I hope Borders can slowly bounce back from their bankruptcy. (Wow, that’s more alliteration than I can usually handle!) I learned the Borders at Downtown Crossing was closing soon, which really saddened me. What the heck is going to go there instead? It’s huge! And while I’m looking forward to a somewhat decent sale, I don’t know where I’m going to put those books. Not a clue.