Going to where the readers are (how publishing is a service industry too)
Beginning in 2013, Dear Author will only review books that are available in both epub and Kindle formats. Let me explain why.
There are two primary reasons why all books should be available in epub and Kindle formats. The first reason is that competition is important for even (or especially) Kindle users. The second reason is that publisher, regardless of whether the publisher is the author herself, a traditional print first publisher, or a digital first publisher, should go to where the reader is.
Competition is important.
Competition is important to both authors and readers. First, the authors.
I argued a couple of weeks ago that Agency pricing helped spur both the self published market as well as the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. The reason for this is because if Agency pricing had never reared its head, Amazon might well have felt no need to develop its own publishing platform. It is true that Amazon bought Createspace in 2005, well before Agency was instituted in 2010. Further, Amazon had been in talks with agents well before 2010. But the KDP did not announce the 70% royalty platform until January of 2010, the same month in which Agency was imposed upon them. The program was not put in place until June 2010. It’s safe to assume that the announcement was made intentionally prematurely to show publishers that Amazon would aggressively move into the publishing space. Who knows what the royalty fee would have been if Amazon had not been pushed there by Agency. Who knows when the KDP program would have launched without Agency? In other words, competition is good for authors. If Amazon has no competition, there is little incentive for it to keep the royalty structure high. Amazon is working on razor thin margins and lowering the royalty structure, would increase its publishing margin.
Next, the readers.
Kindle was launched in 2007. It was slow, had an ugly keyboard attached, but featured an e ink screen. Nook introduced the Nook which featured an eink screen and an lcd display at the bottom. In June of 2011, Nook introduced the Nook Simple Touch, a touch screen device. The Kindle touch screen was announced a few months later. In November 2010, Nook announced the Nook Color, a tablet type device. Kindle follows with the Kindle Fire a year later.
This year Nook released the Glow Nook, a front lit e ink screen. Kindle rumors heat up that in September, a front lit Kindle would be introduced. (In order to give appropriate credit, it should be noted that Sony developed the devices with a keyboard, a touch screen, and a front lit screen before both Nook and Kindle).
Kindle’s software has often lagged behind that of the Nook, Kobo and Sony. For instance, Kindle did not have folders or collections like the Nook and Sony. Kindle did not have library access unlike the Nook and Sony. Kindle, in order to be competitive, has had to constantly advance its software and hardware in order to meet the new market demand created by new devices such as the Nook Simple Touch or the Nook Tablet or the iPhone and iPad.
Without competition, the Kindle readers would suffer with outdated software, hardware and access.
In sum, competition is important for both readers and authors. A robust competitive market means good things for everyone–lower prices, higher royalties, better devices.
Going to where the reader is.
In a letter to clients he [Mark Suchomel, IPG president] notes, “I only regret that we weren’t able to make up for all of the lost revenue when your Kindle titles were not available. We will continue to work hard for every last sale so that all of our publishers stay healthy moving forward.” To that end, IPG is waiving its distribution fee on the next three months of Kindle sales.
Hi Jane – couldn’t agree more. The difficulties which can be involved make me hesitate to tell friends with new kindles all the places they could shop.
I think you have cut short one of your paragraphs (which also makes my blood boil):
Further, in non US markets, Amazon often adds a surcharge of $2.00 that the author never gets a cent from. Thus non US readers are
punished again. Not only is the book that they want not available in their
Thanks, Jane for all the e-reading posts which really help us readers. And I too agree that authors and publishers should go where the reader is. And I too am one of those readers who has both kindle and iPad who don’t know how to strip DRM, etc. My regret is that at the start of my e-reading I bought e-books in Lit format (Microsoft reader) which I can’t read on my iPad, and can only read on my laptop! As a matter of curiosity, how many percent of DA reviews are books which do not have e-presence anyway? I would have thought very few.
Wonderful article!?!? One thing that makes me so mad is when I read: “if you don’t have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app on your computer!?!?!?” I tried to read an ebook on my laptop, never again. Sorry author you just lost a reader.
Great post and so timely! Just this morning I emailed the author of a book reviewed here on DA ‘The Anatomy of Death (aka A Dissection of Murder)’ by Felicity Young about whether or when it is to be available in epub. Her website gives print and Amazon as options only.
I am doing this at least once a month these days. I have enjoyed some lovely responses with direct purchase from authors offered but that misses the point that there is a real glitch in understanding of readers and markets that the option isn’t automatically provided. It is also a real misunderstanding of the eBook market outside America as well. Access to Kindles lagged way behind epub readers so they are a later arrival on scene here on Australia for example, and have the added burden of the whispernet fee increasing the cost of books.
Thanks for taking this stance in support of ‘e’ preferring readers and competition and growth of the eBook market.
I’m the person in the audience that Angela James was looking out for. I don’t understand what you’re asking for. I’m the quintessential don’t care reader, either reading on my kindle or in paper. And my kindle books are purchased at AMZ.
Are you advocating for a kindle button on a publisher’s website so that I could buy a book there, click the kindle button and the book would show up like magic on my kindle? That’s my level of non-expertise. I don’t buy anywhere else because I don’t know how to get the book on my e-reader and I’m not interested in learning how to strip/convert/side-load whatever. So is this what you mean? Thanks (and perhaps you’ve explained this in a past post — if so, just link me to it).
I very strongly support this move (even though I’m an exclusive kindle reader these days) as it will reduce the anti-Amazon thread derailing to a reasonable level … thus opening up space for my anti-geo restrictions thread derailments. Win-win! Seriously though, there are an order of magnitude more romances published every year than DA could possibly have time to review. Selection algorithms are clearly needed as this one seems both simple and fair.
Absolutely the right decision; if anything, I’d love for you to implement this policy immediately – but I realize you may have reviewing commitments and other considerations. I’m a Kindle owner, but I don’t buy Amazon-only books. I don’t want to support authors/publishers who aren’t interested in giving their readers other options.
I have a friend who can’t buy anything in the country where she lives. With the exception of books on Smashowords, it seems like literally everything is geoblocked. I am tempted to invite her here for some thread derailing because that is so completely wrong, I don’t even know where to start. Makes the Whispernet fee, which is annoying in its own right, seem like a minor thing.
quote “The reader should not be expected to convert, to email, to strip DRM in order to read the book they want on the device they own. The reader should not be told to read on their laptop, download another app, or shop at another store. The reader not only should not have to do this, they do not want to do this. ”
This is so important and missed by so many, especially those who’ve decided to limit their titles to KDP select. Some indie authors will skip entire stores and distributions because they feel the numbers aren’t worth the effort. They expect the reader to make too much of an effort to find, convert etc their book. I’ve even seen some complain that they don’t see the big deal, that it’s not that hard. I think that attitude is wrong on several levels.
I don’t blame readers for not bothering. It is too much trouble. And for many, too complicated. A personal example, I used to love the prices at Fictionwise, especially when they got one of their 50% off sales. But getting the titles on my tablet was such a time consuming pain, that now I shope elsewhere and pay full price just because it’s easier. And this leads to another point, it’s not just format we, as authors, need to pay attention to, it’s the stores our books are sold in. We need to distribute everywhere. I recently did a project for AllRomance, an exclusive title to their site for their Perfect Stranger series. It’s offered in all the formats for all the ereaders. They have great customer service. A great site. And all that didn’t matter. I’ve gotten so many complaints that it’s not in other stores that I don’t know if I would do it again. I want all my readers happy.
Hmmm, apparently I had more to say on the subject than I thought. And just so it’s noted, I don’t mean to diss anyone who chooses to go with KDP Select etc. It’s just not the right choice for me.
Going back to my coffee
Good move with that DA policy and too bad you can’t implement it right now. There are benefits to a competitive market and I support this decision.
This may be a stupid question but where would you self publish with an ePub?
@Beth: Nook. You can do it directly, I think, but mine are up at B&N via Smashwords. Also other ebook stores if you can get them to list your book. Also from your own website.
Jane, I wonder whether you’ve considered a similar policy for books that are only availably in print format, or books only available digitally? The same customer-first reasoning would seem to me to apply in both those situations. Also, as others have mentioned, geographical restrictions?
Great column! And I was at that RT panel with you, Sarah and Angela; I remember well how confused so many of the attendees were by the formats and the devices, when all they really wanted was an easy way to read books.
I don’t like the Kindle trend any more than I like anything Apple. I am seeing the writing on the wall, re: Amazon, even though I admit to be lured by convenience which in turn had me becoming a Prime member. All that being said, when given the choice I read in epub format. When I buy an ebook from Amazon, the first thing I do is strip DRM, convert, save to my PC’s hard drive, external hard drive and SkyDrive (cloud), and then upload to my (Android) tablet’s external SD card. Amazon is all about convenience and I am taking advantage of it now… while there is still any. As you’ve pointed out many times over, competition is advantageous for consumers in general. No competition usually means higher prices and lower quality as there is no motivation to lure (and keep) customers… There are no other choices, so why even bother. I couldn’t agree with you more on that POV. Diversity is necessary for a healthy market.
@Ros Clarke: Thanks!!!!!
@Ros Clarke: It seems to me that if DA were to restrict their reviews to books that are a) available globally; b) available in print; AND c) available in all digital formats, they would have very few books to review.
Personally, I’m happy they’ve taken step C. I’m a nook reader, and get frustrated when I realize that the book with the great review is only available from Amazon. I don’t do Amazon. And I am not going to read on my computer when I’ve got a perfectly good e-reader that goes everywhere with me.
As for points A and B, perhaps mention within the review, the tags, or the buy info could be an interim option for DA to consider. I’m in the US, but I understand how geo-restrictions can frustrate readers. (See point C above….)
As a Sony person, thank you. Just last week I figured out how to strip DRM from Kindle books so I can now convert them to work with my Sony, but it isn’t my preference.
Yes, I so agree with you! All of this gets even more confusing in Europe! In France, the format most used is ePub, in Norway, it’s the adobe reader with so many things to stop me from actually reading the book that I almost felt like crying before getting there. The adobe format is the worse in my opinion, for the longest time, the only chance I had to read Swedish or Norwegian books were directly on my computer, and since my computer is often used for work, and it is bigger than a book or a kindle or an iPad, and the screen is not the best for using outside, it really peeved me that I had paid for a book, and someone else was deciding how I could read it!
If you have any posts here sharing how I could put a book that is in the adobe reader format on to my kindle, I would be very, very happy!
Have a great memorial weekend!
@Sandra: Personally, I’m happy they’ve taken step C. I’m a nook reader, and get frustrated when I realize that the book with the great review is only available from Amazon. I don’t do Amazon. And I am not going to read on my computer when I’ve got a perfectly good e-reader that goes everywhere with me.
YES!!!! I’m a Sony reader who feels the same way about reading on my computer. If I am reading on a computer, I’m at work and they would definitely frown on the Kindle software being loaded to my computer.
Thank you! As a Canadian who does not own a Kindle, I will never buy ebooks from Amazon. Why would I do that and keep it out of my Kobo library? It makes no sense. I have enough to deal with having to convert it and stuff. So nope. Only Kindle? The author will lose a sale from me. It sucks, but I’m not going to give myself the extra headache. It’s not worth it.
@Eve Langlais: As a writer new to the digital publishing scene, I took what seemed to be the easiest and most affordable way out, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. KDP with the Kindle app on my computer has been extremely convenient for me as a writer.
I put my first digital title on Amazon and Smashwords, then decided to try Kindle Select for the second. To be perfectly honest, I can’t say I’m sold on it. About all it does is let you give away several thousand free copies, which I’m quite sure the readers love, and maybe it gets them to try a new to them author. But I wasn’t enough thrilled with it to try it again; the next title will go to Amazon and Smashwords. I agree that depriving potential readers of a choice is not a good business decision. :shrug: I’m still learning at this game, too.
@Jane — Personally, I’m waiting for the day when all this shakes out and there’s just one format for all e-reading devices. Let the device manufacturers fight it out the way HP and Dell and the other computer companies always have: who has the best screen, the most responsive keyboard, the most different models in the most price ranges, etc. Let the booksellers fight it out as to who has the best selection, the best customer service, the best loyalty deals, etc. And let the readers have true, unlimited choices, not a bunch of limitations.
@Linda Hilton – I would love for a universal format but I don’t see it happening. I try to think of a business based, competitive reason for Amazon to move away from its platform and I can’t come up with one. I’ve argued with some ebook people that if Amazon sold Kindle and ePub or even opened up its devices to accept ePub that it would cut into B&Ns market, particularly if it is true that Amazon sells its devices solely to move its content but proprietary content also drives customers to be Amazon only.
@Beth – Smashwords and All About Romance (for romance readers). If you have a certain number of books published, I think you can sell through Fictionwise. Kobo is coming with a service this summer I believe.
@Meri & @Keishon – the reason we aren’t implementing this policy immediately is because (and this is based on feedback from the DA reviewers) is seems unfair to spring the policy on authors now. Instead, we can give a half year’s heads up and then talk about why this important.
@Janet W – to get an ePub onto a Kindle, you would have to download it to your desktop, strip the DRM, and run it through a conversion program. Many readers don’t want to go that route and I understand this. So yes, basically it is not only learning how to side load something using the USB cord, but it requires another layer of technical proficiency. A reader doesn’t need to have those skills in order to read.
@Merrian – I am guessing that book is geo restricted. I see it available here at the US Penguin store for ePub. http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780425247297,00.html
This is a digital only policy and the reason for the digital only policy is that there are, from time to time, old out of print books that the reviewers want to review that are in their library. We don’t often post reviews of those and generally do so only if the book is fairly low priced on the secondary market. Out of print book availability is generally out of the author’s control and were published at a time when there were few options for publishing available to authors. In other words, they were going to the readers at the time.
DA has been a long time proponent of digital books and to exclude digital only books from reviews would be reversing our long time support for the format.
I don’t see that others have brought up the geo restriction issue before you, so I’ll address it in response to you, Ros. As articulated in my post above, there are multiple reasons to encourage broad digital format adoption. When setting policies, one has to consider the impact it has on all readers. For instance, if we reviewed only books without geographical limitations at least 65% of our readership wouldn’t get reviews of books that they are anticipating and desire to talk about. The impact on the DA readership of imposing a geo restriction review ban would be enormous and unfair. The impact on the DA readership of encouraging broad digital format adoption is minimal.
I have to agree with this position. Personally I think all these formats are insane, especially when we’ve got a perfectly good universally available format out there; .pdf. When I read your previous columns about epubbing and formats my eyes would glaze over. I appreciated your effort, but it made things sound so complicated that I fear they scared more people away from ebooks than anything. At least that’s the effect it had on me, and I wrote for an epub!!! I’m reasonably tech savvy, but the idea of cracking DRM or sideloading or whatever the hell it’s called doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Which is why I never bought an ereader. I always bought my ebooks in .pdf to read on my computer. I had dozens that I would not be able to read on an ereader. I’ve been a Mac user for nearly thirty years. I knew they were going to come out with something that meant I wouldn’t have to deal with all that crap, and they did. My only irritation now is that I’ve got five different readers on my ipad, but it’s not that big a deal. Stanza is still my hand’s down fave and I’m major bummed that it’s going away.
ARe is my preferred site for shopping as they almost always have .pdf which is my preferred format. Least fave is Adobe DRM. I accidentally bought a book in that format and all I can say is never again! (When I saw the word adobe I assumed it was .pdf.) I had to download something to my computer to even get the goddamned thing to work. Apparently if I get Calibre I can crack the DRM, but my ancient computer won’t run it. And again, I shouldn’t have to turn into MacGyver to read a goddamned book.
I also like ARe for sales. For me they’re second only to Amazon. All the different conversions are a PITA to keep track of, but I like to keep my readers happy. Some of them are outside of the States and reading on devices I’ve never heard of in obscure formats. Fortunately Smashwords has pretty much all of them. I don’t think I’ve sold any books at Kobo, Sony or Apple, and my sales at B&N are anemic, but I think it’s important to be there just in case. I have links to all on my site, again, you never know what people might need.
I’m doing KDP Select now that my book has been out for six months, but it’s just an experiment and I won’t be doing it again. I haven’t seen a significant increase in sales, so it pretty much defeats the purpose. For a niche writer like myself I don’t KDP select is a good deal.
@Roslyn Holcomb: Someone mentioned to me that Kindle Direct P Select is a marketing tool and that makes sense. Maybe for 90 days it is exclusive to Kindle to raise one’s profile and then make it available to everyone. I guess it is a form of windowing.
@Roslyn Holcomb: I loathe — seriously loathe — PDFs. It’s only good if one’s comfortable with reading it on desktop computer. It’s dreadful when a PDF is used to read on an ebook reader (in my case, a Sony 505 and a Kindle Touch).
I rarely if ever buy when a book is only available in PDF format. The last time I did buy was for Liz Williams’s trilogy after Nicole (@bloghappy) recommended those. I bought those because it was the only format available and I absolutely trust Nicole’s recs, e.g. I’m willing to tolerate if it promises a good read. Otherwise, I’d have said “PDF? No thanks. Bye!” the moment I saw the trilogy’s format.
On a different note: I don’t know if many authors realise this but since I live in England, it’s impossible for me to buy anything digital from B&N. Or at least that’s how it was when I tried three years ago. Thanks.
I agree 100% with this. I’m moderately proficient at tech, yet I still hate to side load, and only started using Calibre last year to take advantage of some Carina Press sales since they only sell ePub and I have a Kindle. Strip DRM? No thanks – that’s just one more chore that keeps me from reading. I love Amazon’s whispersynch so much that there has to be a really good reason (like a sale) for me not to buy from them. At the same time, I do not want to see all competition crushed, because it’s very true that they won’t do anything to improve the device unless they are forced into it by their competitors.
@Jane: Thanks, Jane.
I guess what prompted my comment was wondering what purpose this policy has. I suppose it may make some self-published authors reconsider their decisions. I’d be amazed if it has an impact on any other publishers. In which case, it seems like it’s a policy for the sake of the principle. And while I support the principle – I totally agree that publishers ought to do everything they can to make it easy for readers to read their books in the way that readers choose – it just seems a bit odd to me to make this decision in respect of one limitation but not others.
As the owner of both a Nook and a tablet with several different reading apps, I salute you!
That’s exactly the way I look at it. When my 90 days are up, the book will go to Smashwords and be available everywhere.
@Jane — As someone who is only moderately tech savvy — I know how to use *my* devices — I understand the reluctance of The Average Reader to have to go through a 12-step program just to read a book. I don’t know how to do it and I’m probably not likely to learn if I don’t have to. And if there isn’t much chance of the adoption of a universal e-book platform, maybe universality will come through a stand-alone device that reads all of them?? I don’t know what the patent limitations would be on something like that, but it just makes sense to me (and I could be totally wrong) that the trend will be to simplification and standardization. Someone will come along and see a profit potential in that and THEN it will happen.
@Linda Hilton: If your book is at Smashwords, all you have to do is check a box and it will go through their approval process for listing at B&N, Apple, Sony and Kobo etc. You don’t need to do anything. The royalties come via Smashwords. Easy.
From your keyboard to the techgods ears…erm…drives?
Seriously, for people like me–i.e., likely to call the internet help desk if it actually existed–all this formats and devices and limitations and bullshit just serve to discourage us to try new authors and new things.
@Maili, I haven’t read .pdfs anywhere except on my computer and ipad and it’s fine there. What happens on the Sony reader? I like it as an author because you know exactly what your book will look like to the reader. In all the other formats pretty much anything can happen when it reflows and make an absolute mess of your book. I guess I’m a control freak, but it drives me crazy that I don’t really know what the end user sees.
@Roslyn Holcomb: Find a friend with an ereader – any kind – and get them to show you how a pdf looks. It is not pretty. Because the pdf determines the page size, if you want the ereader to show an entire page it ends up tiny. Scrolling through a page is not what ereaders are designed for – it’s a total pain. Flowing text that the ereader can adapt to suit its screen size and the preferred font size of the reader is infinitely better.
I’m a nook owner, but I switched my debut novel over to Select (Amazon exclusive) when it was selling at Amazon and getting no traction at other storefronts. The free days tool created huge exposure right out of the gate, and though the following sales and loans through the Lending Library were fantastic for the bottom line, it bothered me knowing that I’d locked out a significant number of readers without kindles. Select is bad for readers, but it works to sell books, and it can work in a really big way. That is terribly seductive for an author.
My 90 days will be up in mid-June, and I’ve chosen to leave Select and to launch the next book everywhere. I’ll be honest, the idea of losing the quick and easy shortcuts to visibility scares me. No author wants to languish in obscurity. But readers shouldn’t have to jump through techie hoops or, worse, be told to get an app, to read what they want to read.
I find pdf format very hard and uncomfortable to read. That was the main reason I got Calibre and learned how to convert pdf files to epub and mobi so I can read on my computer and on my Kindle.
I have a Sony which I love. I am able to buy books at Amazon and use Calibre to convert them to ePub, but as easy as it’s now become compared to a few years ago, it’s still a giant PITA.
Which brings up a slightly off-topic pet peeve of mine. Author’s websites where when you click on the title of the book or purchase option you are taken to Amazon’s site. If authors want to use an affiliate link I have no problem with that. But not everyone wants to shop at Amazon. It particularly ticks me off when the author can’t even be bothered to have blurbs on her own website and sends me to Amazon when I click on the cover or title just to see what the book is about.
And I realize many authors just want to write or they personally use a Kindle and love its convenience or maybe they don’t even read digitally, but want to support readers who do. One of my favorite authors has digitized her reverted titles, but they are only for sale at Amazon and B&N. When I emailed to ask if they would be available at Sony, ARe, or even Smashwords she admitted she knew nothing about formatting, but would check into it. That was back in September, but I am trying to be patient. And yes I could buy them at Amazon and convert, but I would rather have DRM free ePub copies to start with.
FTR, I am not anti-Amazon, I often shop there for lots of stuff. I just don’t want them taking over the publishing industry.
@Roslyn Holcomb: If one thinks of a PDF as a print book for the screen instead of as an ebook, one starts to get a better handle on the dis/advantages of each. A print book (and by that, I mean a PDF) and an ebook (and by that, I mean an epub or mobi/prc/Kindle or any other reflowable HTML-based text) are radically different beasts. If one expects a print book to behave like a print book on a device made to optimize ebooks, one will be a) disappointed and b) frustrate one’s ebook-savvy readers.
A properly formatted ebook is reflowable in ways that don’t mess it up at all. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a print book (like callouts and sidebars, things that nonfiction drowns in), but it will get the job done.
I understand that PDF is the most popular format still and I also understand their appeal (and please note, I’m speaking as an author, interior book designer, ebook formatter, publisher, AND reader), but to say that a PDF is as good as or better than an ebook is really misunderstanding the nature of all the beasts, including the devices they’re read on.
A PDF on my phone? Oy.
I’m the average reader. I have a kindle. If I can’t get the book on a kindle, or purchase it in dead tree form, I don’t buy the book. Seriously, I just want to read and discover new authors. I’m not going to read on the computer, strip the drm or use another format to read a book. And from the comments, I can see that I’m not alone, regardless of what type of e-reader one prefers. I subscribe to the method of Keep it Simple Stupid. Don’t make the readers jump thru various hoops to try and read the books they want.
@Eve Langlais It is a bummer when you like an author (and I do Like your books!) and you find that you can’t read the books or have to do x/y/z to read a certain one.
@Roslyn Holcomb: When a PDF is loaded into my ebook reader, one of these three usually happens:
a) it has book contents in super-tiny text. Resizing/increasing text size usually distorts text or layout
b) layout or page breaks can be eccentric. A page can end up as a two-page page, with a break in between. As in, half a page per screen. Occasionally, a line or paragraph would have a page of its own.
c) it ‘jams’. As in, it freezes my reader
I also avoid having PDFs in my ereader as they take up so much space. For example, I bought a non-fiction book a while ago, when PDF was the only format available for this title, yet I bought another copy last year when it was finally available in epub format. See below for the difference of the same book:
pdf = 1.27 MB
epub = 348 KB
I’m not good with numbers and such, but even I could see the difference. Anyroad, I binned the PDF version in favour of the epub version. I didn’t know at the time that I could convert pdf to epub.
(Sorry for going off the track, DA.)
I’m confused. You don’t think books should be kept from readers, so you’re not going to review books that aren’t published in epub and kindle, right? So you’re making the choice not to bring certain books to the readers to protest companies that don’t pub their books in all formats… because that limits readers. Sound to me like you’re limiting YOUR readers access to certain books. True, they can go elsewhere to get reviews of kindle-only or epub only books, but that makes this whole thing seem like a pointless exercise.
I don’t think a single e-book standard will happen for a while, because I think there’s still plenty of room to innovate. There are plenty of things you can do with an e-book that you can’t do with a print book. Some of them matter more for certain types of books more than others. For example, dynamic indexing matters more for non-fiction.
I’m surprised at how many people say they won’t read on their computer. I love the Kindle Cloud because I can read on my Kindle, my Ipad, my laptop or my desktop depending on where I am. The sync doesn’t always work but when I’ve gotten hold of a really good book, it’s nice to be able to read a few chapters on my desktop at the office between clients and phone calls and BONUS, I look busy. :-)
Jane, this is a great discussion. Thanks so much!!!!
Happy to find out about Smashwords
@Maili I did know that .pdfs take up a huge amount of space, I’m guessing it’s because they’re image files.
@Moriah Jovan I know that the various formats were created for reading on devices like phones and such, but is that still an issue? I’d gotten the impression that most people are reading on an ereader of some sort these days, if they’re reading ebooks at all. If that’s not the case, then yeah I know it’s impossible to read a .pdf on a phone. Actually I thought the issue was moot as it pertains to Kindles and Sony readers as well as I didn’t think they read pdfs. From what I’ve seen, and I’ve only formatted one book, reflowable text is a massive PITA as you have to ensure that it reflows the same way for all devices. Of course, for those of us who primarily deal in text, this is no biggie, but for that image laden quilt book I’ve been kicking around? Not so much. I’ll probably wind updoing it in iBook for that ver reason, which will, of course, limit it to the Apple App store. And even with text I don’t like having no control over where the words will fall on the page. Reflowable text creates a lack of control that I simply hate, and fixing it? Oy!
@Roslyn Holcomb: Ereaders aren’t generally the best for image-heavy books. They’re basically designed for reading text. So, yes, if that’s what you’re producing, I’m okay with you offering more limited formats including pdf (I have several knitting books in pdf form and I only use them on the computer). But for text-based books, reflowable text is essential. Every reader has their own preference for font size, for portrait/landscape, and so on. Formatting isn’t fun, but it’s really not that hard, and it is part of the work of publishing a book. What you see as having control over the presentation of your book is actually preventing some of your potential readers from accessing it. Is that really what you want?
@Beth: For me, part of the issue is that I spend enough hours at a computer because of my job. Some days, I just don’t want to spend even more of my time looking at a computer screen…or I literally can’t look at a computer screen anymore, because the hours I spent doing it at work have given me a headache. Also, my computer chair is way less comfortable than my couch or bed. As far as reading at work goes, that’s never something I’ve been able to do. If I start reading something, I risk getting too caught up in it to remember to do my work, which my boss would probably frown upon.
@Roslyn Holcomb: If you’re working on image-heavy instruction manuals, that’s a whole ‘nother issue and not really pertinent to people who read fiction. I specialize in formatting nonfiction books for reflow in EPUB and Kindle. It can be done, but I, for one, would not want a nonfiction book in digital at all.
I don’t really understand what you’re asking here:
because you’ve answered your own question. If they’re reading on phones, there is *increasing* need for reflowable forms. If they’re reading on non-tablet ereaders, the screens are too small to fit a PDF and still read comfortably without scrolling, so the reflowable formats are a must there, too. PDF for people who do not read on a tablet or computer screen is a non-starter.
Even disregarding an argument of what’s best or what people *should* prefer, limiting your offerings to one format really isn’t good business sense. Notwithstanding image-heavy nonfiction, forcing a reader to read it the way you want him to read it is, well, arrogant.
Nods. I don’t get e-books I can’t get easily onto my Kindle to read. So it’s either Kindle friendly ebooks or second-hand deadtree books for me.
And I don’t like reading on my computer, it’s just not as comfortable as reading on my Kindle.
I support this decision. I use to buy self published books such as an Author’s backlist from SmashWords. I no longer do. I now am force to buy from Amazon because Authors have either pulled their books from the site due to KDP Select or they only post the updated fixed version of the book to Amazon. This is frustrating for Readers specially when the only way I can get the fixed or improved version is to buy again from Amazon. I want to support these author’s who releases their books themselves but it seems to do that I have to buy from Amazon to make sure I get the quality I paid for. I’ve gone back to buying eBooks released by a publisher because of these issue. It’s just wrong for Readers to buy a book only to find out it’s a mess then see the fixed or improved version a month or so later at Amazon then go back to SmashWords and find the titles is no longer available. I realize this isn’t a epub not available issue but it does show how the Authors need to go to where the Readers are and not the other way around.
@MoriahJovan, my point is I think the percentage of people reading on phones, pdas and the like is decreasing. Once ereaders got down below $200 and with tablets becoming more prominent it seems to me at least that reflowable text has become unnecessary. Hey, maybe .pdf isn’t the answer, but the need to accommodate reflowable text is rapidly going away. That’s not a matter of expecting readers to read the way I want, but simply acknowledgingthat reading on phones became outdated quite a while ago and is becoming more outdated as tablets get cheaper. Further the market is rapidly moving away from single use ereaders and into tablets. That being the case all these various formats are pointless and serve only to encumber the reader with countless formats. Will there always be people who prefer to read ontheir phones? Of course. There will also be people who prefer to read print books. Having reflowable text to accommodate an increasing minority of readers, while scaringthe hell out of new readers is well, silly. When I wanto buy a book having to weed my way througha half dozen formats is the last thing I want.
@Roslyn holcomb: I actually think your numbers are wrong. The number of people reading on their smartphones is increasing and PDF only looks good on a 10″ or above tablet. A screen that is 7″ or below needs reflowable text and those devices actually dominate the market. I can tell you from DA’s own readership, that half of the iOS users read this site on their iPhones or iTouches rather than the iPad. The number of people owning a smaller sized mobile screen than 10″ is probably by a factor of 10 or more.
I read Roslyn’s comment and was coming to say the same as Jane. What publishers and retailers understand from reader research is that the phone is actually the most used device at this point, not decreasing, but increasing.
Roslyn, if you have seen research that indicates what you’re saying, I’d be interested to see it, if you’d share the links. It’s always helpful to see a variety of data on this.
@Roslyn holcomb: Further the market is rapidly moving away from single use ereaders and into tablets.
That may be true. But the tablets are getting smaller. It’s more like e-readers are becoming multi-functional. And like others have said above, it’s one thing to read a PDF on a computer monitor. I do it all day long at work, where all our files are scanned and stored digitally. It’s another beast altogether on a nook, even a nook tablet. The text just does not format properly; the fonts are too small, and its a royal PITA, all the way around.
Jane and Angela, as I said in my initial post, my experience is that fewer are reading on their phones. I got that impression from talking to readers. Maybe it’s an age demographic or something, but most of my readers find the notion of reading on a phone laughable. Even the ones that have spartphones think the screen is far too tiny. My readers tend to skew toward ereaders with an eye toward a tablet of some sort. This falls in with what I’ve read in the media about tablets replacing ereaders altogether. I don’t have any links in particular, but there are dozens of articles about the subject. Like I said, .pdf might not be the answer, but certainly a single format of some sort, that does not involve reflowable text will make ereaders far more adoptable.
@Sandra, tablets are getting smaller. Supposedly a 7″ ipad is on the horizon.
Hear hear! Thank you for such a well-articulated and sensible post, Jane. You rock~
@Roslyn Holcomb: I don’t see reflowable text going away anytime soon, especially as readers age and want to do their eyes a favor by adjusting typeface and font size. I love having that capability. Sometimes after staring at a computer screen all day, my poor eyes need something much easier to focus on, and reflowable text makes that possible. I believe that tablets, especially an Apple kindle-killer, will serve to bring more people into digital reading, but the size of the tablet will not eliminate the desire for text adjustments. People want to be comfortable.
@Jane, and another point we might want to consider, the people who read this blog are more likely to be the “early adopters.” people who crack, sideload and what have you as that is what you had to do in the early ebook days. People new to the market like my readers and possibly the woman you talked to at the confernce are probably a lot less likely to use a phone, or at least that’s what I’m being told. Why bother with attachments and the like when a reader can be had for less than $100?
I’m sure the phone is the most used device right now, but presumably we’re all looking to the future and I find it hard to believe that new readers are going to be interested in reading on their phones.
But Lucy, as far as I can tell all the ereaders and tablets allow you to adjust the font size. I have pretty much all the apps on my ipad and I adjust the font size readily. I’m nearly blind and I blow my font size up and read without my glasses at night. It seems to work fine.
I think you’re really missing the point. By choosing not to review a book, DA isn’t preventing anyone from reading anything. What they are doing, however, is ensuring that the books they do review are available to everyone in their audience when it comes to format. (Geo-restrictions seem to be a much too big a dragon to slay in that regard.) On the other hand, authors and publishers are automatically limiting their audience when they choose to not allow readers to read in the format of their choosing.
I honestly cannot wrap my head around why this is even an argument. It’s not that difficult to offer more than one format, and if it’s your “publisher” who is limiting you as an author, then I think you should either reconsider your publisher, or just accept the circumstance. After all, if you honestly think that Kindle-format is strong enough on its own that it’s all you need to sell, then surely DA’s new policy isn’t about to put a dent in that.
@Roslyn Holcomb: Ereaders DON’T allow you to change the font size on a pdf. You can only change the size of the whole pdf. Which then doesn’t fit on the screen. Which is what makes it so irritating. Reflowable text allows you to change the font size while still retaining the ereader functionality.
I would love to see a standardised format for ebooks. I just don’t want it to be pdf.
@Linda: “I had paid for a book, and someone else was deciding how I could read it!”
I love this line-it expresses perfectly how I feel.
I hate reading on my computer. I hate it with a flaming passion. While I love my iphone, I don’t enjoy reading on it, and I don’t feel I should *have* to hurt my eyes to read on my phone when I have a perfectly good Nook. I don’t know how to strip DRM or convert from mobi to epub…again, I don’t feel I should have to.
I appreciate that you at Dear Author are looking out for the reader.
I also don’t get the hate for reading on a desktop. It only takes a couple of hours to read a book, so if a book I REALLY want is only available in non-kindle format it’s no big deal to read it on the desktop. I wouldn’t want to read all my books that way, but I only run into one or two a year where I have to do it.
Also, my anecdotal experience is that phone reading is going way up. My kids have kindle apps on their ipads and ipods and it’s very common for them (or me) to start reading a book on the kindle, forget to take the kindle in the car, so re-download it onto the iphone and keep reading there until you get home and go back to the kindle. Also, when one device runs out of battery, we all just move to another device while it’s recharging. I prefer the kindle but I don’t think the kids really care what they read on.
*Applause* I have a nook color. I own $$$ worth of nook books. I am busy–I work, I write, I have toddlers, and a life. I usually buy books while rocking a toddler to sleep or once I’m in bed and realize I need something new to read–I’m not going to get up, boot up the computer, read the sample on my computer, download, strip if necessary, side load, and hope it looks ok. No, I buy so much that I *have*to buy on sample. I read the sample, I click buy. Occasionally, I will buy from ARe or other outlets when there’s a sale, but I can download ePub files direct from those to my nook. I tried rooting my nook early on, but ended up with an unstable device and still no way to one-click download from Kindle, so I un-rooted it.
I have friends, including close friends, who have chosen to go with KDP for a variety of reasons. But I still won’t buy from KDP authors, even ones I love. I think KDP ultimately hurts readers. When my Nook Color dies, I might get a device that can read both Kindle & epub, but I don’t want to be forced into it. I think choice is a good thing.
@Roslyn Holcomb: On my kindle the whole pdf page just gets bigger. This is fine for when I’m reading manga or comics, not so much for anything else. Also none of the pdf I have work with text to voice. Digital books in pdf format seem to have the most issues with adapting for people with , or at least that’s been my impression.
I *do* know how to crack DRM, and do so regularly, because I like to back my books up. I like to read either on my Kindle or my Sony. I *don’t* like reading on my computer monitor, because I prefer eink when I’m going to be staring at a screen for a long time. If a book is only available in PDF, I probably won’t buy it, because converting from PDF is always a chancy thing. I don’t think reflowable text is going anywhere anytime soon. I mostly buy from Amazon, because one-click is easiest, and I can generally find the books I want there – but I also buy from Baen and other small publishers. I think it’s important that a book be available in multiple formats, however, because not everyone wants to be hassled with stripping and converting.
but, Roslyn, I hate pdf with a white-hot passion.
To say that pdf doesn’t reflow isn’t quite true. All you have to do when you create a pdf from an original text document, not image scans, is check the reflow box. To do that, you need to actually use Adobe Acrobat and not use the pdf creators that are basically “printing” to pdf, like you’d do with Word. I’m fully aware that most pdf ebooks are not created with reflow. I just find it a shame that they aren’t.
The thing is, if you aren’t designing a pdf with reflow, you’re designing for a fixed size. You can’t assume people will want to read on a PC or a tablet (if the tablet they have even has a decent pdf reader. Some are pretty bad and the page turning, remembering what page you’re on, etc is buggy. Much less some having a lack of bookmarking or commenting).
But designing a fixed page size doesn’t take into account what technology may do in one year, much less two or three. This market changes rapidly. Who knows how it will look in two years. Currently, the phone market is moving toward larger devices, as well. So, while people may laugh at the idea of reading on a 3″ screen, I’m finding that my 4.3″ Android phone is very nice. It’s small enough to be portable but large enough to read with no trouble, no glare in the sun. The Galaxy Note is 5.3″ and is about the size of half of a trade paperback. It’s a great device for reading. Yet, I hate reading pdfs on those screens. They don’t reflow so the text is too small. When you zoom in, the page turning will zoom out. It’s just a pain. I don’t even try anymore.
Once again, don’t underestimate the usability of the actual software for reading. Some of the acrobat readers just aren’t created for reading ebooks.
Coming from a background of creating applications with ease-of-use in mind, I just find expecting users to want the format you want for the reason you want, is a disservice to your readers. I have the technical knowledge and have downloaded books, removed the DRM, and loaded them on my preferred reading device of the time. This has ranged from a pocketpc with .lit books, a blackberry, a smart phone, an android phone, and now a Nook Color.
Now, even though I *can* easily do otherwise, I prefer to buy straight from my Nook Color. It’s easy. It’s there. I don’t have to spend time moving things around on my PC. My point is, even having the knowledge of how to read a pdf on any device I want, a kindle book on my Nook, or whatever, I still just prefer to buy and read however it’s easiest. Today, that means, Nook Color and/or 4.3″ screen Android phone. If an author only releases to kindle, I’m not likely to buy it.
@Roslyn holcomb: Actually no, reading on phones isn’t outdated. The new large screened phones (e.g. Galaxy Note, Latest HTC with 4.7 in screens) are mini-tablets and much more likely to be carried and used to read on commutes, when waiting, etc. I want a book I can keep in a cloud, read on my phone while I am out and on my e-reader at other times. In my case I will have a phone like this, an e-reader and PC/laptop not a tablet and I want to be able to read on all devices and share books between them
PDFs are awful, I have several non-fic text PDFs and they are unreadable on my phone or my e-reader and so have to be read on my PC only. Even converting them doesn’t help because the formatting becomes so messed up.
You are reasoning from your own experience and desires not from the real world of your potential readers.
@Merrian, actually I’m speaking from the real world experience of my actual readers. Most are not early adopters and are coming to ebooks late. Most are in their thirties and forties with no interest in reading on a phone. And most have stayed away from ebooks because all this talk about formats, cracking DRM and sideloading is only so much gibberish to them, and scary gibberish at that. I have an ipad, so formats don’t matter one way or another to me. However, my readers are being frightened away from ebooks because of the format issue. Thus, I think that somebody out there should be working on a single format for people to use. I believe this is the reason you will see tablets rapidly replacing ereaders; people don’t want to be tied to a single format and they don’t want tobe limited as to where they can shop. They want what they want when they want it with a minimum of fuss. Ereaders with a proprietary format don’t allow this. So either all these confusing formats will go away, or ereaders will go away.
All I can add to this conversation is that indie authors who are not on Smashwords lose my sales. I rarely, if ever, buy from the Sony store because it’s a hassle to open up the Reader program, click over to the store, log-in, use Sony’s horrendous search format, and buy ebooks from there. Plus, I rarely find low prices at the Sony store–I’ve seen ebooks there that cost 30-80 cents more than on AMZ or Kobo–and it’s even more rare for them to have coupons. An author who takes the time to upload to Smashwords goes directly to my “Library” because I know they are thinking about readers in general, and not just the income they make from their ebooks.
Eggs, for me there are a couple of reasons. First, it’s comfort thing. I can’t sit at my desk for hours on end. Second, my nook is portable, I read while my kids play out back, or while they’re at karate.
That’s what epub is the result of via IDPF http://idpf.org/ All of the main digital devices uses this format. Except the Kindle.
Which circles us back to what Jane said earlier in the thread
@AngelaJames, I can think of a very crucial reason for AMZ to adapt epub; loss of market share as people become increasingly reluctant to be tied to one device. I think this will be the main thing driving readers away from ereaders.
I know this is beside the point, but I’m aghast at people’s technical ignorance. I’ll never understand why people would plonk the money down for a computer or gadget they don’t want to learn to use. Owning a computer without knowing what an attachment is or how to take a backup or how to sideload an ereader is like owning a car and not knowing where the windshield washer fluid goes, how to fix a flat or how to replace a wiper blade. Any idiot can do these things, and knowing how leaves you much more self-reliant.
I don’t think Amazon is in any danger.
@Ridley, I’m not sure whether most people don’t know or simply don’t want to be bothered. Presumably most of us can learn to do pretty much anything, but what percentage of us want to try. I grew up on a farm. I have the technical know-how to raise, slaughter and butcher pretty much any animal. If I were hungry and needed food I’d do it, otherwise I’d much rather get my meat at the butcher. My guess is most readers are that way. Would they crack, sideload and whatever else in a pinch? Sure. Do theywant to be bothered regularly? Hell no. Some people are tinkerers. Others ar point and shooters. I would hope we could accomodate both.
@Ridley: While on a personal level, I can totally relate to what you’re saying. (I’m actually one of those readers who, despite owning a Nook, will not buy anything from BN but will find the cheapest alternative. I also download all my book files, strip all DRM, and convert everything to be nicely tagged and cleaned up in Calibre.)
At the same time, I’ve kind of made up my mind that not knowing how to do these things doesn’t necessarily make a person an idiot or stupid. It’s just that people have their priorities and comfort zones. Working in a service field, I know there really *are* people who don’t know how to do “simple” things like refilling wiper fluid on their cars. I’m confident, however, that if they were bothered enough to, most of those people are competent and intelligent enough to learn. But whether they’re bothered enough to simply varies from person to person . ;)
Wanted to add, however, that as an author, I wouldn’t want to chance any possible sale on whether or not those people care to be bothered. And, back to the topic at hand, I think it’s ludicrous that an author would take issue with a review blog on this matter, over their own choices on what format they sell.
@Beth, I’m sure you’re right, but I think I read somewhere that the Kindle costs nearly as much to make as Amazon charges for it. The profit margin, to the degree that there is one, is very slender indeed. Presumably the Kindle Fire will rectify that issue and it may well be that the cheaper versions will go away entirely. If that were the case making the Fire epub enabled shouldn’t be that difficult. And isn’t B&N working on a tablet as well? From what I understand eveyone ischasing the ipad, and presumably Apple is working on whatever is next. That’s why I see a single format coming much sooner than later. There’s too much money being left on the table as readers hesitate. Nobody wants to buy the Betamax.
@Ridley: Some of us are really that dense–or, as Cara said, simple prefer to learn to do other things instead of those so very simple things.
Considering that B&N has had a tablet out for over year at the very least, I think it’s safe to say that yes, they are working on a tablet.
It’s also been said by Angela James up there that there is a universal format. ePub. But apparently that point was entirely missed. And also missed was the point that Amazon is the only one who hasn’t adopted it, in favor of their proprietary format.
@SuzanButler, the Nook is not a tablet, it is an ereader. A tablet, like the Fire or an ipad allows a reader to do more than just read a book. As I understand it B&N has partnered with Microsoft for a Nook that will run the next version of Windows. That would take it beyond a single use device and it will become a tablet. Not sure if it will still be called a Nook, though. And I certainly noted and responded to Angela’s statement about epub format. I think Amazon might change its mind as it is challenged by a decreased market share.
You might be thinking of the Nook Color, there is a Nook Tablet as well-very similar to Kindle Fire
I give you the Nook Tablet. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/nook-tablet-barnes-noble/1104687969
@roslynholcomb: I know that this comment may have no impact on you, but for anyone reading the thread and wondering, I’ll just reassert my previous position.
Anything with a less than 10″ screen does not read PDFs well. Ask any reviewer who gets Kindle Arcs from NetGalley. They are hated by reviewers because the non reflowable texts are virtually unreadable. Anything less than a 10″ screen is not good for PDFs, regardless of whether it is a tablet or a dedicated ereading device.
@SuzanButler, I stand corrected.
@Jane, I understand the problems with pdf, which is why I’ve been commenting on epub. We need a single format, I don’t particularly care what the format is as long as it is easy to use and doesn’t scare readers away. I suggested pdf as that format because it is widely available and would be familiar to everyone, however, if epub is the industry standard I have no real qualms with it, except the flowability issue, but it is what it is. And I do believe Amazon might bend on this issue eventually. They’ve shown themselves to be remarkably protean in the past.
And make it easier for Kindle people to buy books from websites other than their own? Why on earth would they do that?
@roslynholcomb: And I do believe Amazon might bend on this issue eventually.
I wouldn’t hold my breath. Amazon is still the 900 pound gorilla in the e-reader market. As long as they hold the majority of the market share, they have no incentive to change formats. And from a business standpoint, they don’t want to. As mentioned upstream, it takes effort to convert from Kindle to e-pub or vice versa. People don’t want to be bothered. They want the one-click convenience. And as far as the cost of the Kindle is concerned…. King Gillette proved long ago — give the razor away and you’ll sell the replacement blades for years.
Honestly, I don’t see reflowable type going away anytime soon, since it is the best for reading prose on a screen period, even for computers and larger tablets, and since there is an industry standard reflowable format (Epub). Nothing unreflowable is ever going to work right on an ereader, since it allows for multiple type sizes, and reflowable type on a computer allows the user to adjust font size and “book” size independently of each other, while the size of a document without reflowable text is limited by how big it has to be for the text to be legible.
And honestly? Buying books for Amazon or BN is just about as easy as buying anything else (a little too easy my bank account would probably argue). I don’t need to worry about formats if I buy through my ereader or through an app on my computer or phone–it comes in the right format right then.
I haven’t seen this option brought up in the convertion conversations. I bought pdf versions for years before I got a Kindle. Now, if I want to reread, I just use the free Kindle email address Amazon gave me for converting. I email the pdf attachment and Amazon coverts it for my Kindle. There is no charge. I don’t know how well this works for other formats though.
Conversion. Oops. :)
@Ridley, I already stated why they would bend on it, competition and market share. The same reason Amazon (or any other company does anything). As Jane pointed out, the KDP model came about because of competition and loss of market share. As more people realize they don’t have to be locked into a proprietary format or single use devices they will fall out of favor. Everybody is creating tablets in preparation for this eventuality. If your biggest competitor (ipad) can do something, ie read all ebooks in all formats, it makes sense to position yourself so that you can do the same.
@Ella Drake: Are you talking about the ability to reflow a page at a time, where the text fits the device width and continues to a second or third page? Because a lot of fiction pdfs have that. But I don’t know of a way to make the entire document reflowable (if there is one, I’d be thrilled to know about it). The single-page reflow creates a lot of half-empty screens.
@Jane: I could not agree more. I have gone through every possible way to read pdfs, I believe. I’ve tried a variety of pdf software programs on a desktop, laptop, notebook, 10″ tablet, and a 7″ tablet. I’ve also used the Kindle DX, 7″ Sony reader, 6″ readers (Sony, Kindle, nook), Samsung Galaxy Note, and iPhone. The 10″ tablet is by far the best, with the Kindle DX working well for fiction but inconsistently across pdfs with photos, graphics or double columns of text. My husband has an 8.9″ tablet which works for many pdfs but not all.
For anything smaller than 10″, I have to hope for reflow, crop the page, or turn and read landscape. Cropping the page falls into “beyond just reading the book” in this conversation and reading landscape slows down the page turns in many programs, both in e-ink and tablets. Plus you have to keep scrolling or pushing a button to move to the next part of the page and then find where you were in the next page fraction. In other words, it is an inferior reading experience to ePub or mobi.
I should say that the Galaxy Note (5″ screen) is the first device of its size that I can read pdfs on without going crazy. Cropping the page and reading in landscape works pretty well, and the page turns aren’t bad at all. But then it has a relatively huge screen and fast processor for a phone. Cropping didn’t make the print large enough to be comfortable on the iPhone’s screen.
@Dani Worth: I used that function for a while, but the quality of the converted document really depends on the original file. Some are fine, some are horrible. After a few horrible ones I gave up and went back to reading the books as pdfs.
@Sunita: Yes, reflow can work over an entire document. You’d need to create the pdf in Adobe Acrobat, use the correct tags, and select the option to make the entire document reflowable. Then, you’d have to use a pdf reader that supports full reflow. As you mentioned in your comment replying the Jane, not all pdf readers are created equal. So even if a pdf is created with reflow, the pdf reader may not support it. (and mostly likely doesn’t support full reflow unless it’s Adobe Acrobat)
My experience is a bit longer than many. I’ve been reading e-books since years began with the number “1.” From that vantage point having only two main formats to swap between is heavenly (I won’t dignify PDF as a book format, it’s the fetal form of a paper book). If you looked in my folder of original formats it looks like a history lesson of ebooks. I know how to gut these formats and turn them into what I need because, as an early adopter I had to learn that skill. Formats came and went almost faster than I could get a book read. I feel positively lazy now that I can purchase almost any book, drop it into Calibre, and be reading a few seconds later.
I guess all I’m saying is that while ebooks might not be where we want them they are evolving. I can see the progress we’ve already made and look forward to future improvements in the form.
@roslynholcomb: @Ridley, I already stated why they would bend on it, competition and market share.
Ya know, following that logic, Apple should have given up their proprietary operating system and converted to Windows years ago….
Economics 101 — there are two basic ways companies choose to compete in the market place. At one end of the scale is price, where companies try to underprice each other with similar products. The other is differentiation, which is when companies try to sell for a higher price, by stressing their product’s uniqueness. Guess where Amazon fits on this scale.
@Ros: I share the frustration of PDFs on smaller-screen devices. But on the iPad, they work really well.
@Sandra: But Amazon doesn’t sell at a higher price. As others have said, they sell the Kindle at or below cost in order to generate customers for their books. The books are usually priced at or below the competition. The work on a very thin profit margin.
I’m not necessarily defending Amazon’s use of its proprietary ebook format, I wish I could read other formats on my Kindle. But I am saying that it doesn’t fit your model of a unique product at a higher price. It’s more a unique product at a lower price that locks users into buying almost exclusively from their stock.
I get around the problems by having more than one ereader. We have aK3 with keyboard (which I love–don’t like smeary touch screens), a Kindle Fire, a rooted Nook, an Acus epad, and old Kobo (we rarely use), and my husband reads on his Android phone.
Amazon’s proprietary format is actually kind of irrelevant to the core discussion, which is what readers want.
What readers want (besides the books themselves) is a frictionless buying experience, which they get with Amazon. Add to that a selection of titles that blows the pants off anything B&N and Apple can come up with. If their purchase process has too much friction, they can even bring themselves to abandon the book.
She also pointed out that she has been trying to figure out a business reason for Amazon to give up that proprietary format and can’t think of a single one.
Amazon’s format, proprietary or not, isn’t truly relevant to the discussion. Amazon’s frictionless buy-and-read-anywhere capability is its value and what gained them market share so quickly.
@Ella Drake: Thanks very much for the info. I have a feeling that very few of the pdf creators I get material from use this feature, but at least I know it’s available.
@Sandra, your analogy is flawed. For one thing Windows is an inferior product. Most companies don’t adopt another company’s practices when it is inferior to their own. Apple is known for many things, including being an absolute asshole about ownership. If they didn’t develop their own format it is a tacit acknowledgment that epub is the standard.
Pretty much eveyone knows that mobi is crap. At the time that Amazon developed it epub was either in its infancy or hadn’t been developed yet. It’s not unheard of for a company to change course when better technology comes along. Apple did it several years ago when it switched platforms.
Apple is heavily pushing their capabilities for image heavy books, Amazon will want to be in a position to compete, and mobi isn’t even close to the answer. Apple has a growing inventory of absolutely gorgeous image heavy books which will draw a very lucrative market; children. Will it be a huge chunk of the market? Nope, but Amazon doesn’t want the next generation to get accustomed to reading on an ipad instead of a Kindle.
There are rumors abound that the next generation Kindle will read epub. These rumors were fueled by the fact that the new Kindle previewer does read epubs. (It set my mind whirling when I was uploading my book back in January. Putting that capability in makes no sense unless they’re planning to do something with it.) Some say it’s Amazon’s way of running it up the flagpole to see who salutes. Obviously they have to have a way to accomodate their legacy readers. I have no idea, but you don’t put something like that in for nothing.
No, it doesn’t. It converts them to MOBI via KindleGen.
@MoriahJovan, I thought the same thing until I read this blog. I’m no epub expert, but she apparently is. Her tutorials are stellar. Anyway, this is her post on the subject.
And if she is to be believed not only will Amazon adopt epub, they more or less already have.
@roslynholcomb: As a reader, I’ve been aghast at your comments. You seem to be arguing that limiting your books to a single format is a good thing for your readers. And you base this on speaking to your readers. But can you honestly say that you’ve spoken to every person who’ve ever read one of your books? Or will ever read your books?
I can tell you – that no matter how you argue the opposite – most readers who read digitally HATE .pdfs. HATE. With the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Do you have any clue what it takes for a reader to convert a .pdf? It’s a long multi-step process that includes cropping white space, learning something called “regular expressions,” and converting it to a format that I can read on my ereader that is much easier on my eyes.
Also, I read on my iPhone all the time. And I am in your readership age demographic. In addition to that – my mother reads on her phone and her iPod Touch all the time.
Roslyn, the problem with tablets is that they’re too big and too heavy for a fair number of people. I can hold my 7-oz Kindle for hours; after about 30 minutes with a tablet, my hands ache. One of the advantages of ereaders is that they’ve made reading accessible to a lot of people with disabilities or even minor issues like my wrists.
And Apple is developing their own format, particularly for image-rich books. Plus, they require that if you use their tool to create their specific format, you can’t sell the books any place other than the Apple store. Talk about proprietary!
(and not everyone wants image-rich documents. I can’t think of the last time I read a book with pictures, and I think the last time I looked at a magazine was in a doctor’s office. )
It would be nice if all the ereaders went to epub. Mobi may be crap, but it’s perfectly adequate for the long-form pictureless fiction that is the bulk of my reading.
@Ridley: Ridley!! Changing the wiper fluid in my car is Not easy.
THANK YOU! As someone who ranted to you and the readers here about the damn Kindle restrictions I totally appreciate what you are doing! In Canada we have Kindles that have insane restrictions or extra costs and the bulk of the people I know have a Kobo. Easy to use and although buying from Kobo is the pits, there is at least selection!
Thank you again.
@MrsJoseph, as I’ve said repeatedly, I’m arguing for a single format. I don’t care what that format is, just as long as it’s a single one. Many people have made their loathing of pdf known. Great. People with knowledge of the industry indicate that epub is the way to go. Great again. Once again, I don’t care what the format is, as long as there is only one. Multi formats scare people away. Until this is shaken out there will always be those who are leery of ebooks.
@Becca, Apple’s restrictions are the very reason Amazon has to go epub, or some other open format. If they hope to undercut Apple they have to offer authors an opportunity to sell image heavy books without those restrictions. They can’t do that with mobi. That may well be why their new system looks so much like epub. I dunno.
I agree that most people on this blog aren’t interested in image heavy files. We essentially read an ebook much like we did a paper book, but we’re not the audience they’re gunning for. We’re already here, and aside for an occasional hiccup like agency pricing we’re not going anywhere. But as Jane regularly points out, the competition is not other books. The competition is other media. How do you compete for the entertainment dollar which includes video, gaming and who knows what else? You don’t do it with books that essentially have looked the same since Gutenberg. You have to incorporate media.
I don’t read image heavy books either. But you know who do? Children. And they read a lot of them. My 7 year old goes through a book a day. I’d love to have all his books in digital format. If nothing else his room would be neater. This next generation that has been inundated with imagery since birth are not interested in the same old. Their attention spans are shorter. They have too much “other” available to them. The last thing Amazon wants is for the next generation to grow up reading on an ipad. That’s what the B&N deal with Microsoft is about, the textbook market.
And yes, tablets are heavy, but like everything else they’ll be evolving constantly.
I think we all agree that a single format would be wonderful – but until there is one, I think it’s a great idea for DA to only review books offered in multiple formats. And that’s really what this conversation is about.
I’m honestly not trying to be critical, but I’m still trying to figure out who this decision benefits besides the DA reviewers. They will have fewer books to weed through when deciding what to review. That’s actually a pretty good reason, so I can live with it, but I don’t get the stated reasons. What this means is that those who read epub exclusively will have to look elsewhere for reviews of book only released in epub, and kindle-only user will have to do the same. People like me who have ereaders for both will have to look for both kindle only and epub only books elsewhere. I know that doesn’t make a big difference because in the grand scheme of things not that many books are reviewed here, but it seems pointless other than to narrow the list of books for possible review. DA taking a stand on ebook formats isn’t going to impact when or how the industry will deal with the differing formats in the future.
Honestly, I’m okay with whatever you want to review. I don’t read YA so I skip those reviews and that’s just fine. This just feels like a grand gesture rather than something substantive.
@roslynholcomb: @Sandra, your analogy is flawed. For one thing Windows is an inferior product.
You know, you really can’t have it both ways. You’re saying that Amazon will have to give up mobi for e-pub, because that’s what everybody else uses. Then you say that Apple shouldn’t have to give up their operating system, despite the fact that no one else uses it, because Apple’s system is a better product. If people bought based on what was perceived to be the better product, Sony would have won the Betamax – VHS wars hands down.
@Carrie: @Sandra: But Amazon doesn’t sell at a higher price. As others have said, they sell the Kindle at or below cost in order to generate customers for their books.
It’s not an either/or situation. Pricing – differentiation operates on a continuum, with businesses that compete solely on price at one extreme, and those who compete solely on differentiation at the other. My point is that Amazon uses one-click buying and an unique format to difference themselves from the other digital retailers. That doesn’t mean that they want to price themselves out of the market for what is, essentially, a commodity.
All this talk of a file format standard for ebooks is pretty funny considering Apple still sells music in their proprietary AAC format.
When you create the market for something, your stuff becomes the standard. That’s why people use Windows, iTunes and Kindles. They’re too lazy to figure out technology enough to figure out they’re getting ripped off. I mean, christ, is there a more heinous piece of software out there than iTunes? But it looked pretty and was marketed brilliantly, so people think it’s the best option available. (protip: it isn’t.)
Although, I take issue with the “Windows is inferior to Apple’s OS.” That really depends upon what you use your computer for. If you’re the people who are tech clueless, it doesn’t matter either way. Buy the brand that fits the social image you’re trying to project. If you’re doing software development or graphic design, get a Mac. If you want to play games or like to be able to customize your computer easily, get a PC. We have both brands of computers. It’s not an either or.
Oh, it’s TOTALLY okay if Apple’s evil. Just not anybody else.
@Moriah Jovan: Pretty much. Someone else mentioned this in the long thread derailed by AoV and anti-Amazon sentiment.
Why does Apple get a pass for completely cornering the music download market but Amazon’s evil for doing the same exact thing with the ebook market? I don’t even think Amazon’s share is even at the level of Apple’s. Do you know anyone with an mp3 player that isn’t an iThing? I know many more people with non-Amazon readers than I do people with non-Apple mp3 players. I can also name many websites that sell ebooks that aren’t Amazon. I can’t do that for mp3s. How, exactly, is Amazon evil but Apple’s ok?
YES!!!! Exactly what I have been trying to get across to authors’ whose books I genuinely want to read. I usually use goodreads, dear author, smart bitches, UFI, and Everything Urban fantasy to find the books I end up purchasing. If I can’t find a book when it comes out or it is not in a format I can use I usually forget about it or skip it! I post the following at goodreads every single time an author does not make their book available for the Nook. I got so annoyed with not being able to get the book when I wanted it.
—I am not sure why authors’ don’t take advantage of every single avenue of publication open to them. I know that if I come across a recommendation from goodreads or a friend I check the book out right away, if it is available and is interesting to me, I buy it. If it is not available for me to buy on the Nook, I don’t and then…I forget about it. Essentially the author has lost the chance at a sale, because I am not going to remember that I wanted a particular book 1 week from now much less 3 months from now when the author finally gets around to putting it up on other vendors sites. I don’t read or buy Amazon books and I never will because I don’t agree with Amazon’s business practices (and I own a Nook and 1 e-reader is enough for anyone!) Anyway this was a rather long rant to simply say, this book looks good…too bad I won’t be able to read it. I think I’ll be posting this note on every book that I look up here that looks interesting to me but is not actually available for me to purchase!
@Ridley: I have never had an Apple product before I bought my iPad last year and then only because I had to for work. I had a Rio Karma, ripped my own, and bought DRMd music from Wal-Mart. THEN Amazon swooped in and saved me from Wal-Mart’s pathetic dabbling. Now I just use my Android phone and buy all my music from Amazon. If it’s only available at iTunes, I don’t buy it. (Don’t get me started on an iTunes rant.)
But you know, that reminds me of something that’s been in my craw for a long time, and I wonder how many people know this (but I will tell you whether you want to know or not):
Unless you go through a distributor like Smashwords or All Romance eBooks, you MUST have a Mac to be able to upload anything to the iBookStore. Since I have published three titles that are seriously graphics-heavy and will not pass size requirements with anybody but Amazon (more on that later), I have to buy a Mac (further! one that can run the latest OS! which means practically new! not used!) to do so. How’s that for proprietary?
(And for those of who say, “Well, just buy a Mac,” I will, as soon as somebody grants me the money.)
Onward. Amazon and size limitations: WHY can I upload a MOBI file to Amazon that is (in EPUB form) 82MB, but can’t upload it anywhere else (B&N, Smashwords, ARe) because of size restrictions? Because the MOBI format compresses the shit out of a file. Same content and same images with the same resolution at the same size. Think of it. 82MB in EPUB : 5MB in Kindle. And still looks beautiful on the iPad.
So in my case, there is a technical reason some of the titles I’ve published are only on Kindle and my own ebookstore. Trust me, if I could get them up on the EPUB-only sites, I would.
Over the last few years, I’ve grown to appreciate the diversity in formats and don’t resent them. In fact, I no longer want there to be a universal ebook format. There is a place for all three of the major formats and I believe the purchasing tension is useful for competition. The trick is for each vendor to make purchasing as frictionless as possible.
I am a relatively smart 33 y/o woman and I know just enough to blow my computer to smithereens. I have an old sony ereader and don’t use it. I had the sony reader app and nook app on my android but now that ive changed to an iPhone. I can’t read my sony books. And I can ready my nook books on my sony reader.
It’s a bunch of wtfery I tell you.
I don’t know how to strip drm. I really don’t think I should HAVE to learn just so I can read books I’ve purchased on the same dang Device
@Carrie: Really? You’re concerned because you want to be able to look for books that are specifically only available in one particular format? That… well, it’s different, I suppose.
This decision benefits readers in that, when a positive review of a book goes up, and I read it, and think, “hey, that sounds like something I’d totally love to read!” I don’t have to deal with the disappointment of discovering that I can’t read it, because it’s not available to me since I don’t own a Kindle and that’s the ONLY place said book is available.
It’s happened, and it sucks. Sooooo, yeah. That’s how it benefits readers. And I’m preeeeetty sure that DA isn’t going to be hurting for books to review and share under this new policy.
@Carrie: This is also an acknowledgement that DA has a wide readership outside the USA (about 35% of DA readers come from outside the USA I believe). We are a readership who would like to purchase the eBooks reviewed but can’t if they are Amazon only.
Amazon,Kindles & the mobi format are the primary ereading tools in the USA. Elsewhere epub and other devices such as Kobo have been the doors for opening the eBook world to readers. Kindles have only been widely availble here in Australia for around the past 3 years. Amazon also charges an extra whispernet fee on books purchased. Kobo and the epub format are dominant in Canada for example.
I can rant with the best on geo restrictions but would also like to point to a change that is exacerbating their impact. Traditionally Australian Publishers would look at books doing well and choose to buy them for our market based on that.
Whether self, Indie, Small Press or Agency published, books have a marketing push that is increasingly internet based. The interwebs that unite and link us now introduce these books to non-US readers through reviews, blog tours, etc at the same time as they are launched within the US publication region & via this marketing push. This means readers want them at the same time as everyone else. Amazon and Book Depository mean we can now import print copies directly without waiting for an Australian or English or Commonwealth Territory publisher to select the book for their schedules even when we can’t obtain eBook versions.
I have heard now that two things are arising from this occurence. Firstly, it is seen as winnowing out the hard core of dedicated potential purchasers making the value of the book to the local publisher doubtful. Secondly the promotional push for the book is over so there isn’t anything for the local publisher to leverage off. Increasingly this means that books by well known authors in well regarded series are not being taken up by other English speaking territories. This means that we will never legally get the eBooks in any format for some of the great UF series.
And now I have to go cos my building fire alrarm is going the fires are arriving !!
I think many US-based authors don’t realise how expensive it is for international readers to buy Kindle ebooks. Kindle is almost always significantly more expensive than Kobo or Smashwords.
There’s also widespread misunderstanding of what and where I can buy Kindle books. When I’ve complained about the surcharge at Amazon.com, I’ve had authors tell me to shop at Amazon UK, for example. The UK Kindle store only sells books to UK customers. I’ve also had authors tell me to shop at Sony, Apple or Barnes & Noble. Again, no can do. If they want to sell to international readers, Kobo, Books on Board, and Smashwords are the way to go.
Where an author most definitely loses a sale from me is on a Kindle-exclusive novella. While I *might* consider purchasing a full-length novel with the surcharge, it’s not worth it for a novella that US customers can purchase for $0.99 or $1.99.
@Sarah Tanner: Let’s not forget AllRomanceebooks – if the publisher/author allows worldwide sales, they are quite happy to sell worldwide ^^
@Estara Swanberg: Allromance is a great place to buy books, and so long as the publishers upload them, they offer just about every format available. They even give instructions/help on side loading. If readers sign up for their newsletter they’ll also find out about great sales and giveaways hosted on their site. It’s a great option for readers worldwide :)
I read exclusively on my nook. I probably buy at least 10-15 ebooks each week on average (I read fast). I also follow my favorite authors on FB and Twitter, and whenever they announce a new release on Amazon, I ask if it will be available for nook because I want to be able to read it.
Thank you for this review policy change. At least now I know when I find something of interest on DA, I know I’ll be able to get it on my nook one way or another.
Why does Apple get a pass for completely cornering the music download market but Amazon’s evil for doing the same exact thing with the ebook market? I don’t even think Amazon’s share is even at the level of Apple’s. Do you know anyone with an mp3 player that isn’t an iThing? I know many more people with non-Amazon readers than I do people with non-Apple mp3 players. I can also name many websites that sell ebooks that aren’t Amazon. I can’t do that for mp3s. How, exactly, is Amazon evil but Apple’s ok?
But Ridley, Apple isn’t getting a “pass.” Many people disapprove of Apple and avoid patronizing Apple.
AuthoronVacation, you can decide to give whoever a pass, as can anybody. On my case apple sells music without drm, sells any music to me and does not hide secret fees because of my geographical location. Amazon does not even sell things to me, when it does hides a fee which can triple the cost of the book, and puts drm on things. I do not like buying from amazon, and won´t. And in many cases where books are available on amazon only, I take a good look at my TBR pile and do not buy.
I do not owe an author, any author, to buy or even read their book. If they go amazon-only in publishing, their choice and best of luck. But I am not buying. My choice.
I just posted a full-on rant on another website about ebooks and their cost and distribution and how ebooks are being managed in an incredibly archaic and corporate (i.e. NOT people-friendly) manner, so this blog speaks to me!!!