New York Systems

I'm David. I live in Astoria. During the day I work at a startup. Other times I visit bookstores.
This blog is my curio collection, sort of. I'll have a place of my own for essays... someday.

Posts tagged #ebooks

Lovers of ink and paper, take heart. Reports of the death of the printed book may be exaggerated.
Oh wait, it’s Nicholas Carr, he of such insightful articles such as “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and the book The Shallows. Never Mind E-Books: Why Print Books Are Here to Stay -

I’ve got some reading to catch up on.

One of the downsides of reading an ebook can be finding weird formatting, spelling mistakes, and other things that got lost in the digital translation. However, word started going around last week about one of the more bizarre changes we’ve heard of — apparently, in the War and Peace on the Barnes and Noble Nook platform, every instance of the world “kindled” has been replaced with “nookd.” Since “nookd” isn’t a word as far as we can tell, it seems that someone was trying to remove references to Amazon’s competing ebook platform from this fine piece of literature.

It’s the (lazy, cheap) publisher’s fault — Barnes and Noble quite obviously doesn’t automate such a process, as I have a number of O’Reilly books on ePublishing that mention Kindle specifically by name on my nook. 

Nook version of ‘War and Peace’ replaces all instances of ‘kindled’ with ‘nookd’ | The Verge

But there’s something even more perplexing about Amazon selling The Hunger Games and other huge bestsellers for free. The Kindle lending program upends the conventional wisdom about Bezos’ business goals for e-readers. Most people think that Amazon is selling Kindle devices at cost in order to make a profit on the sales of books and movies. But if Amazon is also giving away a lot of media for free—4 of the Top 10 books in the Kindle Store can be had for free under the Kindle lending program—then what is its business model for Kindle?

New Nook Simple Touch with ‘GlowLight’ front-lit screen revealed by store signage | The Verge

A reminder: I know nothing. (Really. They don’t tell us front-line salesmen anything.)


"Who Decides What Gets Sold In The Bookstore?"

I just found out that Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is rejecting my new manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams and won’t carry it in their store because inside the manifesto are links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography.

Quoting here from their note to me, rejecting the book: “Multiple links to Amazon store. IE page 35, David Weinberger link.”

And there’s the conflict. We’re heading to a world where there are just a handful of influential bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Nook…) and one by one, the principles of open access are disappearing. Apple, apparently, won’t carry an ebook that contains a link to buy a hardcover book from Amazon.

That’s amazing to me. It must be a mistake, right?

Oh Seth. Oh, poor poor Seth Godin.

Hasn’t someone at Amazon mentioned it to you in your ‘exclusive partnership’ with them? Amazon and Apple aren’t running “bookstores”. They’re running content services for their devices. Completely different.

Totally, completely different.



Coming & Crying

(Which you can go get here, now…)
(I know!)

Hey, remember this old thing? If you missed out, or just want the book on your e-reader thing, it now exists. Hooray! Thanks to MGG for doing ALL OF IT, TOTEBAGS* AND ALL.

*Is there a better totebag slogan than, “I like books and have feelings”? Besides, “I prefer not to,” obviously. There is also, for the boldly human, “I like sex and have feelings,” which all this time later only makes me slightly embarrassed. In a good way.

Good people, good book. Don’t have first hand experience with the tote bag, but I’ll assume it’s good too. Go check it out.

Social ereading idea:

The nook ereaders all have prominent “search” buttons on their main menus that are completely superfluous, because both the library and shop views have search functions. So kill that button and replace it with a social hub: here’s a list of all the books you’ve finished lately but haven’t reviewed. Here’s books your friends finished and reviewed. Want to share a highlight from one of these highlights on Facebook?

Here’s something that I don’t think a lot of people working in what are euphemistically referred to as “content industries” — books, movies and television of all kinds, and more specifically the delivery of those said items to consumers — are aware of:

Customers don’t care about your excuses.

They don’t want to have to understand what an mpeg4 file is, or that there are two different book formats out there and which one the kindle supports and which one nook does and where do those free books Google has work, or even want to contemplate the intricacies of taking a movie they “own” (on DVD) and watching it on their Kindle Fire.

“I was told it reads books. Why don’t the books my friend gets from the library work?”
“I thought this could play movies. How come I can’t watch my DVDs on it? Don’t I own them?”

If your answer is not something along the lines of “put the media *here* and press a button,” you are failing your customers. They don’t want to be told that books bought on one device don’t work on another device that you support, as is sometimes the case with children’s books or magazines on the actual nook devices versus the phone apps. They don’t care if it won’t look all that good; they just want the option. (Well, they want it to look good, too. But even if it doesn’t, they want to know that it’s possible.)

Shockingly, music has nearly reached this fluid state, at least in the mp3 form. Everything reads mp3s, they’re easy to make from physical media, and they’re sold from many places unencumbered by DRM. This is not what most people a decade ago would have predicted for music on computers. (Notably, easy access to mp3s has done little to curb interest in streaming services, which have the walled-garden problem in an entirely different way.) For this, we probably have Apple and Amazon to thank above all others — iTunes for making mp3 purchasing commonplace, and then Amazon for forcing the issue with regard to DRM, or more specifically the lack of it.

The fundamental disconnect here is two different ideas of what goes into delivering content to a consumer. Someone who works as a publisher looks at media and sees a complex web of rights, payment, distribution, and technical limitations, with a dozen players and phalanxes of lawyers. A user sees “a thing that I paid someone for, and now it’s mine to do whatever I want with.” Rental v. ownership. One of the most common questions I get about ebooks is about the incomplete mapping of the metaphor of ‘book’ onto the ‘e’ part of ebooks — “Why can’t I give this to someone else, like I can a real book?” Nothing I say at this point — nothing! — is a good answer. If I say something about rights management, the response is “well, I paid for it, didn’t I?” If I wax sympathetic, it just feeds their desire to treat the ebook file exactly the same as a printed copy. (The limitations applied to ebooks in this case are perfectly legal, just not logical to the average reader.)

iBooks Author, and its limiting EULA, are a perfect example of the conflict between the tech and the traditional. Ebook creators want to create one file and make it available to anyone who wants to pay for it — if they have to distribute it through seven different digital storefronts, fine, that’s a hurdle most are willing to clear. But those storefronts, each operated by a separate tech company (and  yes, Barnes and Noble’s nook business definitely falls into that category) want to differentiate in how they offer ebooks — to compete on breadth of content, not just quality of service. So the neat ebooks that iBooks Author can create are only allowed to be distributed (for cost) through Apple, for iPads and iPhones. And Apple is perfectly within their rights to require this. But now users have yet more fragmentation to deal with in the ebooks space — iBooks only work on Apple devices. While publishers squabble, the experience for the end user suffers.

The magic solution for this, of course, is probably impossible for now: One format for books (analogous to mp3, it doesn’t have to be the most technically accomplished format, just the one that everyone decides upon), access to the files in an unencumbered format (the actual digital file — a single blob of .epub or whatever), and readers that will read that format on any screen, even across manufacture lines (there is software read an .epub on a PC, an eInk screen, an LCD tablet). Modify the various technologies and formats in there for the applicable media, and you have a recipe for happy consumers, who can choose between technical platforms on their own merits, and not feel locked in to their respective media libraries.