Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

eBook Odds and Ends

I am still digesting and working on a post regarding the Google BookSearch Settlement.   If you have thoughts on it, feel free to email me (jane at dearauthor.com).   I’m fairly concerned about the future impacts and my initial feelings are ones of concern.   Today, though, I thought I would give some bullet point items about ebook technology and some brief thoughts about the current slate of ebook reading programs for the iPhone.   I’ll be doing the annual eBook Reader Purchase Guide in the last two weeks of November (after the Google BookSearch Settlement post next week).  

Dorchester eBooks

There are three major romance publishers who either do not release their books in ebook format or do it irregularly.   Those are Dorchester, Tor, and St. Martin’s Press.   Keishon noticed that Shomi books were appearing in the Kindle and Sony stores.   Upon further searching, many Dorchester books are available for the Kindle. There are C. L. Wilson‘s books in Kindle format and more. I have heard that Tor will be coming out with eBooks, first in Kindle and then other formats.

I asked one print publisher why Kindle is getting so many books first and was told that Amazon will convert the book to ebook format for the publisher. I don’t know if this is true for all publishers. For example, Grand Central provides the ebooks in ePub to vendors and then the vendors must wrap the ePub container with the requisite DRM (i.e., MS Lit, eReader, Mobi, etc). I guess Kindle and Mobi (both owned by Amazon) are just more on top of the game.

eBook Sales Are Booming

According to IDPF, eBook sales are growing. This quarter sales were $13 million compared to the same quarter last year sales of $8 million. The numbers are derived from the sales reports 12-15 trade publishers who report their numbers to IDPF. While the numbers are small compared to the overall size of the publishing industry (over $1 Billion in sales), each positive quarter is promising for this segment of publishing.

The Classics iPhone App

Recently a new ebook reader app was added to the iPhone Application Store. Classics runs $2.99 and contains a library of thirteen books. While the books are lovingly coded into an iPhone friendly format, I found the application to be highly irritating. The animation for page turning cannot be turned off (you can see the animation at the previous link) and there is no adjustment for font size. There are actually no preferences which the user can set. This application is unusable for anyone who wants to read anything other than the selection provided by the developers. Further, if you want to control your own reading experience, you are better off downloading the “classic” titles off Project Gutenburg for free.

Stanza

Each iPhone ebook application has its strengths and weaknesses. Stanza’s strength is the neat coverflow feature; the ability to edit the title and author of a book straight from the iPhone; and the ability to organize the books into collections on the iPhone. It’s weakness are that each book has to be converted individually; getting ebooks from the computer onto the iPhone requires the book to be “opened” on the desktop and for the iPhone and the computer to be on the same network; and no notes feature.

iPhone Bookshelf

iPhone Bookshelf has the best “bookshelf” feature. iPhone Bookshelf allows you to setup a bookshelf on your home computer that can be accessed anywhere you have cell signal. Further, it reads a ton of different formats without manual conversion, meaning I can drop an html file for a book I downloaded from Samhain without converting it manually. This sets iPhone Bookshelf apart, in my opinion, and makes it worth the $9.99 price. With the update, there are few crashes (although it does hang from time to time at the end of a section); the ability to “go to” any part of the book; and “live” html links. The weakness is the hanging; no notes feature; no ability to edit title and author; no collection, tagging, etc.

Fictionwise’s eReader

Of the three, the eReader program is probably the best reading application. With the update, there is a great bookmark/highlight/notes feature. The way to take a note is to press your finger on a word and wait a second and then drag to highlight the text you want in the note. Sometimes the keyboard does not appear for notetaking, rendering that portion of the application unuseable from time to time. The weaknesses of the eReader program is that the notes portion doesn’t always work; no ability to edit title and author; limiting font sizes (small, medium, large, etc); no ability to form collections, tagging, etc.

For the iPhone Bookshelf, I would like the ability to edit the title and author straight from the iPhone as well as tag books with paranormal, favorites, etc. It would be great to be able to create a “playlist” of books that I want to read. It would also be great to be able to share that “playlist” with others. For example, we have a Recommended Reads monthly feature and I would love to be able to share that list with other users of the iPhone in a short and pithy way.

***

Those are my thoughts for today. Later on, I’ll be posting an update from Liquid Silver on the changes to their eBookstore. I’d love to hear from readers of eBooks as to what they wished they could change about their existing eBook reading software and what they absolutely love.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

22 Comments

  1. Kimber An
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 07:51:12

    I’m surprised Tor doesn’t have a regular eBook program, considering their a big Science Fiction publisher. There are certain groups of readers to whom eBooks are going to be especially appealing. Isn’t it obvious a reader who loves any flavor of Science Fiction is probably going to like anything new and techy?

  2. Jules Jones
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 08:23:05

    The Tor ebook programme has a somewhat chequered history. The problem is that Tor as an entity was seriously interested in ebooks, and started messing about with them a while back — but Tor is part of a conglomerate, and when the suits in the corporate parent discovered that a) Tor was playing with ebooks, b) the books were, shock horror, *DRM-free* (pass the smelling salts), they closed the programme down. It’s only just been revived, and I suspect they’re treading carefully to avoid triggering another panic reaction in Mahogany Row.

  3. Emmy
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 09:43:52

    I liked Tor’s summer program, and even bought a few print backlists as a result, so it was a win-win for both of us. I can’t think of any book in my print library from either Dorchester or St. Martin’s, so the lack in my ebook library is singularly unconcerning.

    I’m still confused about the conflicting post re: booming book sales vs bookstores going out of biz in the bad economy. Who the heck are book sales growing for, then?

  4. Hortense Powdermaker
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 11:39:42

    I'm still confused about the conflicting post re: booming book sales vs bookstores going out of biz in the bad economy. Who the heck are book sales growing for, then?

    It’s ebook sales that are booming, while print book sales are slowing.

    I think ebooks are at the tipping point, and we’re about to see the kind of exponential growth that gets the poor farmer from one grain of rice on the chess board to more rice than the planet can produce by square 64. If ebook sales double every year, they’ll be close to $2 billion in sales by 2015 and $15 billion by 2018.

    At some point, print book sales will also start to slow exponentially – possibly sooner than we think, given the wretched economy. The whole model of giant advances + years to get to print + distribution to bookstores + pulping mass quantities of books (up to 40% of a print run) isn’t going to last another decade.

    Bezos has done the math.

  5. Jusy
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 11:42:41

    I was sad to read that Kindle will come out first for ebook formats from those publishers. It’s great to see how much the publishers care about the pioneer readers of ebooks. As for Kindle and Mobipocket being owned by Amazon, now I understand why Mobipocket versions are more expensive than Kindle. I don’t like Kindle limiting me to reading an ebook on a single device.

  6. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 11:47:00

    Kindle… Mobipocket… Sony.

    How about us people who are living outside the USA, for crying out loud? I want my Shomi books too!

  7. Anne Douglas
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 12:24:56

    Who the heck are book sales growing for, then?

    Me, for one. Many strictly e authors are not as far behind the 8ball as you might think…

    I think I’ve offered before, but for anyone overseas wanting a reader, I’m happy to be your USA mailing address, and drop ship it to you. (I can give you eBay/Paypal references showing my reliability). The reason? I’m an ebook author, why wouldn’t I want you reading on an eReader and getting the word out? :)

  8. Leah Hultenschmidt
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 12:55:01

    There’s a post about a bunch of Dorchester books available on Kindle–Shomi, paranormal, historical, etc.–at http://www.romanticreads.net/1/post/2008/10/kindle-editions.html. From what I understand, it typically costs a few hundred dollars per title to convert everything into the DRM formats, but Amazon–probably in its effort to have as many titles available as possible–has been doing conversions for free or very little cost from the digitizing it had already done for the Search the Book program. And now I think Sony is working hard to catch up.

    Mrs. Giggles – email me; I’ll get you what you need.

  9. DS
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 14:12:37

    It’s possible to search by Publisher and format on Amazon. St Martin’s Press has 609 books available in Kindle format. Dorchester has over 1280. TOR has 328.

  10. JulieLeto
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 15:01:14

    When I want a manuscript converted for my Kindle, it takes about five minutes or less. I send the manuscript to Amazon and they email it back to my Kindle, all nice and converted. I read a “real” book on there recently and it doesn’t look all that different from a manuscript, except the coding is consistent, whereas in a manuscript, you might have weird paragraph breaks every so often and no cover.

    So Amazon put something in place to make conversion quick and easy–and that’s why they can do it easier for publishers. Very smart, IMO.

  11. orannia
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 17:11:19

    I'll be doing the annual eBook Reader Purchase Guide in the last two weeks of November (after the Google BookSearch Settlement post next week).

    As someone who has less knowledge than an…amoeba…when it comes to eBook readers but who is thinking of purchasing one for Christmas (for me :) I will be anxiously awaiting your guide Jane! Thank you very much in advance.

    Mrs Giggles – I also live outside the US. I’m guessing there is a valid reason why we can’t purchase a Kindle? Does it have to do with support Amazon provide for it?

  12. MB (Leah)
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 18:06:28

    Jane, I’m so glad you did this post. I’ve been debating between buying an iPhone or an Acer EeePC for travel purposes so I don’t have to take: phone, ebookwise, computer and iPod, and your info on the iPhone ebook applications was very helpful to me. Thank you!

  13. trish
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 18:31:02

    I am willing to believe that eBook sales are booming!

    I just bought some ebooks at Fictionwise this afternoon and was amused to see a huge warning message, informing me that the Mobipocket format I had selected was NOT compatible with the Kindle. I assumed it was a sign that there were a lot of new Kindle customers floating around out there who had run into problems.

    I have a CyBook that I purchased after a lot of research (I live in Canada, so the Kindle is not an option yet). I found that I had to sacrifice a few brain cells in order to learn to navigate in the ebook universe. It must be difficult at first for some of the new Kindle owners who are brave enough to leave Amazon.com to figure out all of the different file formats. I’m sure Oprah didn’t warn them!

    Your posts about eBooks and eReaders were very helpful to me when researching my choices – thank you!

  14. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 20:15:03

    Anne Douglas and orannia, Amazon is pretty clear that only folks in the US can purchase anything digital on their website, including Kindle material. I have no idea why they do this, but that’s the way things go. The cost of a digital reader is also very prohibitive, especially after converting the price to my local currency! I’d take even DRM books at the moment over ebooks designed exclusively for Kindle/Sony use.

  15. XandraG
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 21:05:07

    I really, really hate DRM. I just had my first unpleasant experience over at eharlequin – since I’m running Ubuntu Linux, and Adobe just hasn’t bothered to develop its “digital editions” for its linux pdf viewer. eHQ’s response was not heartening. I’m sticking with my small publishers with no DRM, TYVM.

    Mrs. G, chances are your limitations have everything to do with DRM – the laws outside the US treat DRM differently or not at all. Amazon may be unable to deal with DRM restrictions on an international level. It sucketh, though, of that there’s no doubt.

  16. Jane
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 21:48:27

    @Mrs Giggles: I could organize a buy for international readers. Apparently you can buy the Kindle editions and download to your computer and then transfer to the Kindle via USB or SD Card. You can’t use the wireless service. Let me know if anyone is interested.

  17. Ann Somerville
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 22:00:11

    Apparently you can buy the Kindle editions

    You can’t buy Kindle content if your credit card isn’t on an American address. Pain in the arse. I guess it’s to do with distribution rights or something.

    You could buy the Kindle and load it with content from places other than Amazon, but since it’s a pricey ereader, unless you’re getting that added functionality, why would you spend so much on it?

  18. Jane
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 22:05:16

    @Ann Somerville: I know you can buy a Kindle copy with a GC. Could you buy yourself a GC and then use it to buy the Kindle book?

  19. Ann Somerville
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 22:32:01

    You can’t buy Kindle content as a gift, only the Kindle, which the recipient has to activate. So far as I can see, you cannot buy Kindle content without a Kindle. Relevant excerpts from the help:

    Is Kindle available to customers outside the United States?

    At this time, we are unable to offer the Amazon Kindle and associated digital content from the Kindle Store to our international customers due to import/export laws and other restrictions. When you place your order for an Amazon Kindle, both the billing address for the payment method and the shipping address for the delivery must be recognized by our systems as valid U.S. addresses. To successfully purchase digital content from the Amazon Kindle Store, the 1-Click payment method listed on the Manage Your Kindle page must be a credit or debit card issued by a U.S. Bank with a U.S. billing address. We value our international customers and hope to make Kindle available internationally in the future.

    Can I give Kindle and Kindle content as a gift?

    We make it easy to send Kindle as a gift:

    1. Place Kindle in your Shopping Cart.
    2. Click the Cart icon at the top of our web site when you are ready to complete your purchase.
    3. In the Cart, check the box next to “Add gift-wrap/note.”
    4. Click the “Proceed to Checkout” button and follow instructions to complete the purchase.

    Designating your Kindle purchase as a gift ensures that the device is not automatically registered to your Amazon.com account, which means that purchases from the Kindle Store made by the gift recipient will not be charged to you, and prices for the Kindle purchase will not appear on the packing slip. When the gift recipient opens Kindle and turns it on for the first time, he or she will need to register Kindle to an active Amazon.com account at http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle.

    If you’d also like to give the gift of reading material for Kindle, you may want to give an Amazon Gift Card. Your gift recipient will be able to apply the Gift Card balance to his/her Amazon.com account and make purchases from the Kindle Store.

  20. Ann Bruce
    Nov 10, 2008 @ 18:30:54

    Mrs. G – The Sony can read both DRM and non-DRM PDFs (EC, Samhain…basically all the e-pubs). I don’t know about the other big NY pubs, but Harlequin sells their e-books to non-US residents.

    I haven’t gone for the Kindle because, well, it’s still ugly and non-US residents can’t buy Kindle e-books.

  21. Sarah
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 01:17:49

    Thanks for this. I have been PROMISED an iphone for my b-day next year and wanted to know how and why and all that.

    We don’t get Kindle here which is frustrating and formats for some publishers do not go on my laptop. Readling on my laptop is ok but hardly comfortable. Worse still was going into a local store and asking if they had a device I could read ebooks on and it was like I’d gone back in time. They did not have a clue. We truly are at the other end of the earth! :)

  22. mikaela
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 16:04:48

    I have been contemplating buying an e-bookreader, probably Sony. But I am hesitating since I have a feeling that they will evolve. Plus, I live in Europe, and have no money right now. It is annoying to read on the computer.

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