Monday, 26 March 2012

Is Kindle another Betamax?

Some notes on epublishing

When people talk about epublishing it makes me think of the old Betamax video system that battled with VHS and lost. I suspect there will be many ‘Betamaxes’ in the epublishing world while the new technology finds its way. We need to keep up with developments so, last week, I went along to the Leicester Writers’ Club to listen to an epublishing discussion.

Chris Meade spoke passionately about the need to explore this new technology rather than just post up old style books on ereaders. He showed us some exciting children’s story apps being developed for ipads and his work on if:book further explores digital opportunities with literature. A recent project involved David Almond working with groups of school children in conjunction with if:book writers to create instant ebooks. He explains it much better himself at his website, Book Futures.

The author, Amanda Grange, is making use of ereaders to upload her backlist. She uses Amazon’s software for Kindle and assured us that it’s easy once you know how [isn’t everything!] What she likes about Kindle is that you can get up to 70% of the royalties. The downside, of course, is that you have to publicise it yourself.

Stephen Baker, from EBooks by Design, specialises in converting into eformat those books that need a bit more design, ones that have pictures, charts, tables, specialist fonts, the sort of things that Kindle can’t handle. His rates seem reasonable too. You can find him at EBooks by Design.

John Martin, from Leicester libraries, spoke about elibrary books. I was amused that they self-destruct* after three weeks but saddened by the refusal of Amazon to allow Kindle books to be included. This means that at the moment estocks are limited but library services are ‘in discussions’ with Amazon and have a determination to keep up with all the latest technological advances which is excellent news.
*OK, so they don't actually self-destruct but they do disappear off your ereader on the due date.

I came away from the evening with a tingle of anticipation for the future. The way forward with ereaders still exists in the minds of boffins but it’s going to be developed and soon and I’ve no idea in what way. How exciting is that!


  1. I wish people didn't think that Kindle is the only option. It's much more likely to be the VHS of the e-reader world because everyone's already using it as a generic noun (like hoover and biro) even though it's specifically the Amazon brand name.

    Even though it's not the best reader on the market it'll get to the top because its name is in common usage.

    OK - I'll get off my soapbox now.....

  2. Hi AJ, I agree with you that its name is in common usage but the reason for that, as I see it, is that Amazon have managed to grab a vast area of the book market, have issued Kindle for exclusive use with their books and haven't, as yet, been challenged. The Kindle is so sedentary compared to the potential of ereaders. Its supremacy just can't last.

    OK - I'm getting off my soapbox now too!

  3. How odd that I will be linking to your blog at two events this week on new media and you are talking about technology!! What a fast changing world it all is..

  4. The thing with Betamax is that it was widely agreed to be the better system, but VHS got lucrative rental deals and so flourished!

    On the ereader question, one of my worries is that technology will advance so quickyly that books I buy today will be unreadable in 10 years time - the way some computer programmes are useless on today's computers. No one seems to ask or answer that question. It seems daft to have to buy a book again to keep reading it. I speak as someone who loves reading books again and again!

  5. Hi Susan, I didn't know we were meant to be linking up. How? when? where? Oh dear my technological 'know-how' seems to have gone all 'not-know-how' right now!

    Hi Annalisa, the only sure way to be able to read your books again in ten years time is to buy them in old-fashioned paper format, I guess.

  6. My ereader is actually the ipad, but it is through the use of the kindle app so I guess saying it's not a kindle, is defunct.

    I love technology and I love seeing how far we have already come. No matter how things change though, people will not stop reading, it's just how they read that may change.

  7. Hi Ros .. it'll be interesting to see how ereaders, technology etc develop - there'll be lots of changes that's for sure ..

    Glad you were able to get to the local Writer's Club - sounds fun and informative .. cheers Hilary

  8. I love my Kindle! :)

    It's really exciting to see all the changes going on in the world of publishing these days :)

  9. I do worry about Amazon taking over the world but buy most of my books through them these days.

    My ereader is my iPad and although I have different ereading apps on it, I find the Kindle app by far the best. We live in interesting times!

  10. Usually my eyes gloss over when reading anything about ereaders. It just feels like another world to me. (I know, I have to catch up with the times.) But I found your post very interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

    I passed along the Lucky 7 Challenge to you today on my blog. Click over if you're interested.

  11. An interesting discussion. Hope to follow your links later to find out more. I have Kindle on my desktop and laptop. Access to a book *instantly* and for 1 dollar or less is hard to pass up!

  12. There used to be a word processor called Amipro. It was very similar to Word but better. And it didn't have all the bugs that Word has. Sadly, Amipro vanished and we have to struggle with Word. But at least we were able to convert our Amipro documents to Word format. I'm hoping we'll be able to convert our ebooks when the time comes. ~Miriam

  13. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on technology. I'm Canadian so I have Kobo ereader but on my desktop and laptop I have Kindle app and VirtualSource Bookshelf app. It's too bad that for different publishers I need different applications...

  14. I cringe when all eReaders are called Kindle too... I use a Kobo and adore it! I don't adore that I can't buy books for it on Amazon though. That makes me a sad panda.

    I'm in Ohio and we have a couple decent eLibraries online, which I use all the time. But, the catch is there's always a wait for the good books. And the time limit on ours is 14 days, so if you get a thick book, Read Fast.

  15. I haven't gotten a ereader yet and don't know when I will. The way things change technology quickly becomes old not long after it comes out. The digital movement has opened a world of possibilities that are mind boggling.

    I took your request to be a blog listed in my marketing series and am going with your suggestion of "nostalgia"--that's where I'll be linking to your blog. Thanks!

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  16. Gosh, I HOPE Kindle isn't the new Betamax. (I LOVE my Kindle!) Um, and I still have some Beta tapes. And a whole bunch of VHS. And 8-tracks. And records. Crud.

  17. I use the iPad for ebooks, but only get to it at strange hours, because I share with my husband. Interesting comparison with Betamax, though I hope it will be around a lot longer. Julie

  18. Hi Ros,
    This is a really good post and sums up the evening really well.
    Even as a technophobe I too came away with a tingle and a little more understanding of all the exciting possibilities which await authors, publishers and readers.

  19. Hi Rosalind, I am a complete novice where EPublishing is concerned. I just manage to read books on Kindle which I downloaded for my PC.

  20. It's a whole new world, but think it will be a while yet before hard copies disappear. Although I have a Kindle and totally enjoy it, I still like a REAL book in my hands. I suppose the younger generations won't be so nostalgic.