Tor author (and sometimes Futurismic blogger) Tobias Buckell has an interesting post talking about the effects of authors giving away their novels. There has been a lot of criticism of the practice by some writers and lots of praise from other corners. But with Neil Gaiman adding his superb bestseller ‘American Gods’ to the list of books you can legally download for free, are people shooting themselves in the foot or will this bring more income in the future through increased readership?
At the moment, it looks like the practice works. Two of John Scalzi’s books are up 20% and 33% in sales since the first one was released as a free ebook by Tor. As Charles Stross has mentioned, the fact that current ebooks are as much as a few hundred grams of chopped down tree, chemical treatment, ink printing, shiny cover embossing, a few thousand miles of transportation, part of the salaries of manufacturers, printers, truck drivers and shop assistants that make up the price of a typical physical book is simply insane. And that’s not even including the price of an ebook reader like the Kindle monstrosity. So until someone comes up with a £50 reader that gives you digital books for £3, £2 of which goes to the author, ebooks aren’t a business model. But they do provide clever authors with the chance to increase their reader base. What do you guys think? Would you purchase a book after you’ve been impressed by the free ebook version?
[image is the cover of Vernor Vinge’s novel ‘Rainbow’s End’, which you can find for free online here.]
Amazon’s Kindle ereader received a rather lukewarm reception. Although some of the concerns related to the high price of both the gadget and the ebooks ($299 for the Kindle plus prices for books not much cheaper than the hard copies they replaced), a lot of vitriol was directed towards the rather clunky design, which resembled something out of the 70s version of Battlestar Galactica.
Over at ‘Industrial Design Supersite’ Core77, they are having a competition to design sketches of e-readers that might live up to the kind of design standard mp3 players have led us to expect. The competition is open to both computer and hand-drawn designs and is open until Tuesday. If you are interested in an ebook revolution, maybe you should enter your own idea. If not, you can still check out some of the interesting sketches so far.
[via Treehugger, image from the contest]
Some media have crossed into the digital realm so completely the older version is struggling. Music seems to be first on the chopping block, with DRM-free mp3s small, easily transported and potentially cheaper yet still providing artists with a living, whether by the Radiohead route or by promoting their tours. Television is feeling the pinch, with UK police shutting down the popular link site tv-links earlier this week (although they don’t know if they can actually charge him with anything for just providing links to non-hosted content). The MPAA has been fighting new media for years but movies are becoming legally available on sites like Jaman and Joost.
As of yet print media hasn’t caught on. There’s some ebook piracy and sales out there but the share is small – authors like Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross have seen increases rather than decreases in their book sales by offering their ebooks for free. More and more people use blogs and online newspapers for current events but staring at a computer screen isn’t conducive to reading long tracts of text. Whilst the short story market is dwindling, there hasn’t really been a consistent idea about what will replace chapbooks and magazine.
Advances in epaper might be getting us to the point where that might happen. Bridgestone’s new epaper that bends and folds like real paper whilst displaying digital information is a really promising start. Together with advances in wireless internet coverage and computer size, epaper offers a promising new business model for fiction, especially shorter works. Imagine subscribing your epaper to posts on economy from the Guardian, breaking news from the Washington Post, sport highlights from nfl.com and BBC, fiction from Asimovs and Strange Horizons and maybe a few stories and posts from Futurismic, all arriving on publication to the paper in your hands, ready to read. But like all these new media markets, it’ll need to be sustainable, DRM-free and reasonably priced. Are we prepared to make that change?
[link and image via technovelgy]