After seeing this post about the death of the hardcover, and the projected future of electronic readers and books as high-priced luxury items, I'm left officially bummed out.

I can't imagine a future where you curl up with a handheld electronic gadget instead of a book. I guess I don't want to. For someone who publishes an e-zine, I'll openly admit to limiting my onscreen reading time because it hurts my eyes.

Do you guys thing crimeficreader is being melodramatic, or do you think the dreaded future is closer than we want to admit?

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They really ought to hire you as their spokeswoman!
ooh, karen. so interesting! my december release is coming out in paperback and ebook format. i'm kind of excited about it. it will be interesting to see the sales figures since none of my previous books have been available as ebooks.
A pretty good SF novel about eBooks and the future is Ben Bova's Cyberbooks. And it's a mystery novel, too.
Here's a review of dedicated e-readers on a romance blog:

I'm actually looking forward to buying a e-reader soon--it would be nice to go on vacation with a single e-reader instead of lugging a bunch of books. But I don't think that buying a device would keep me from purchasing hardcovers or paperbacks.
Well, Amazon's Kindle is supposed to be released tomorrow (Monday) - though we've heard that before. If you have a spare $400 in your pocket, you might try it out. Or you might wait and see if the sucker works....
E-books have their place, no doubt. Just like fiction on the web, in magazines, on audio, in paperback format, and hardcover. It's just another format.

Will any of those go away? Depends on if people can make money off it. When hardcover reaches a point in the industry where there is simply no reason to make them, then they'll stop. When it's not only cheaper, but also just as marketable, to print paperbacks entirely through POD, then the bookshelves will be stacked with pre-programmed chips you can run through a machine. When e-books can consistently sell better than paperbacks, we'll be downloading all of our novels.

Right now, it is still cheaper to mass produce paperbacks and hardcovers than it is to get the public to convert to e-books. The readers are expensive, they don't work right all the time, they run out of power, and they're loaded with DRM so you can only read certain publisher's books on them.

That's part of the problem. Instead of having one business with it, you now have two. The publishers want to make money, so they want to be readable on as many devices as possible, and the tech companies making the readers want exclusive content deals in order to sell their tech. It's not in the interests of the publishers to do that with any more than a token number of titles as an experiment.

The main reason, beyond it's fanatical fanbase, that Apple was able to do so well with the iPod, is that it had iTunes. You could get a lot of content to put on the device. Now that music producers are moving away from Apple, making their own distribution systems and selling content that can work on any MP3 player, Apple's going to lose market share. They're still going to have their fanatical fanbase, sure, but not having exclusive content that can only play on the iPod will allow other companies to come up with better players that can reduce their share.

I see ebooks working in much the same way. Aside from there having to be a bulletproof reader, the content is going to have to be open. Otherwise, it's not in the publisher's interest. And we're a long way off from that happening.

Case in point, the Sony Reader ( If they keep making tech like this, paperbacks and hardcovers have nothing to worry about.

The guys who go first and make the innovations are the ones who have all the problems. It's the guys who show up after all the bugs have been worked out and the market's been established who really make the money. As the saying goes, pioneers get the indians, settlers get the land.
And then, of course, there's this.
Which is out today!
Dan's right. This thing looks pretty amazing.

Check it out on amazon:
I take it back. Kindle is doomed. Until something like this can go backwards in technology (let me put my stack of paperbacks next to the bed into it) it doesn't have a chance. With an iPod, you buy it and fill it up with your own cds for a while, make your own playlists.
With this, you buy it for $400 and then you *get* to buy more books on Amazon to put on there.
No, I don't think that will fly. Already on their site I see about 200 negative reviews and no one's even held the thing yet. Ouch! People don't like it.
Then there's this.

Ah, the iPod of books. Indeed. How many times have you been sitting on a train or at a café table with a book, and wished to high heaven that instead of a single measly book, you had a playlist — perhaps comprising 2 pages of Schopenhauer, 3 pages of Dan Brown, a paragraph of Cormac McCarthy, a scene of Pinter, and a single brilliantly chosen sentence of Martin Amis?
Having read through all these responses, I still think that the problem is not cost but apathy. I started in hc, got lots of good reviews, but few buyers. Then I switched to pb: the reviews dried up or became very short and the sales didn't improve beyond what was to be expected from returning readers. Word of mouth is agonizingly slow. Reviews work much better! So I'm back to wanting future novels (not in this series) to be hc.

The problems with electronic publishing are manyfold: lack of comfort for readers (eye strain), cost of equipment, ease of plagiarizing existing books, and the current reputation of publishing material that did not find acceptance among print publishers. Perhaps there is also another problem down the line: if reading happens on the run (like text messaging, for example), books will have to become shorter, simpler, and much more fraught with attention getters of various sorts. It won't be quality stuff.


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