With the launch of Amazon’s Kindle three years ago, many people are beginning to wonder if books are going to become a thing of the past.
The downloading of an e-book, or books online, has become wildly popular, and now news sources are buzzing over Amazon’s recent announcement that they sold 80 percent more e-books than hardback books over the past year.
Digital books for Amazon’s e-reader Kindle are outstripping hardback books in the US, at a rate of 143 e-books for every 100 hardbacks over the past three months.
“This is incredible, considering we have been selling hardbacks for years and Kindles for 33 months,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com.
It seems as though the trend is moving toward the small, handheld device that has the capacity to hold up to 1,500 books. Amazon advertises that the Kindle was created to provide readers an easier way to read and store their books, and customers seem to agree.
Chelsea Burke, a user of the Kindle, said that its advantages are “its light weight. I like to carry books around with me to read on the metro, but” she laughs, “it started to interfere with what purse I could carry with my outfit, and that just wouldn’t do.”
On their website, Amazon advertises Kindles to be “slim, lightweight, and simple to use.”
Jim Crane, a man who carries his Kindle to and from work in his laptop bag, says it has been a great buy. During his hour-long commute into Washington D.C. and back again in the evenings, he said, “I just read more now overall. I used to not be such a big reader.”
Though the Kindle itself may seem expensive upfront at $189, it may create a larger ripple of savings. John Lee, a college graduate living in New York City said that he looks forward to “devices like Kindles bringing down the cost of books,” much like the trend when music was taken out of record shops and became readily available online.
Students have found Kindles to offer an alternative to lugging around a heavy backpack, which has notoriously caused back problems in the past.
“They don’t have all my textbooks available yet,” Matt Breining a college student, said, but there are plenty of “books I read in my lit classes. Sometimes that can be four books per class, so it helps to have them all together like that.”
Readers have found advantages. But others reacted to the idea of e-books eclipsing traditional books with much resistance.
Brenda Goen, a mother and lifelong reader, says that “there is just something about [the Kindle] that can never be the same as reading a book. There’s something physical about the experience-even the smell of the book counts.”
Some claim that they find e-books hard to read from. The results of a recent survey conducted by Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group found reading speeds to be “10.7 percent slower on a Kindle than an actual book.”
But concerns go beyond personal enjoyment of the product. “If books became less popular, I can see smaller, local booksellers going out of business. That would be a tragedy” said Alexander Hamady, a recent DePaul graduate who majored in French. Many who feel connected to local bookstores in Chicago share this same sentiment.
However, book lovers needn’t fear the extinction of their beloved books just yet; the representation of numbers is a bit skewed here. It only mentions hard books.
An article written in Wired Magazine chided Amazon for neglecting paper book sales in their advertising, writing, “It shows that they completely disregard the big advantage of the paper book: buy it and it is yours. Whereas a Kindle book is pretty much still the property of Amazon, and can be deleted from afar whenever it likes, a paper book can be lent, resold and used to prop up a wobbly table.”
Amazon’s sales of paperback books accounts for a vast majority of it sales-an amount that dwarfs the number of downloaded e-books.
So for people like UVA student Nicole Puskar, who keeps her favorite books on her bookshelves like “a collection of old friends” as she calls them, will still have plenty of paper to hold despite Amazon Kindle’s successes.
As a business operator in need of publicity and visibility, what can you demand more from an advertisement with interactive special effects, voice description, value-added introduction by films and animations, and even access to orders? With all the above functions achieved with only few clicks, is there anyone still interested in traditional printing advertising?
Chang Hsien-min, sales director of Taiwan’s I-Mei Digital Multimedia Magazine Production and e-Commerce Company, notes at an exclusive interview that “the company has made it!” adding that some Japanese technology manufacturers are now discussing details for further cooperation with its cutting-edge digital multimedia magazine.
The creation of the digital multimedia magazine has marked a new era for traditional publishing business still mired in recession with an innovative presentation of content and advertisement.
Traditional printing advertising is so limited for its frame and capacity that cannot meet customers’ needs in the increasingly competitive globalized market. Therefore, how to value-add traditional advertisements with educational and attractive features is still a task waiting to be done.
In fact, e-Pub, the mainstream format of e-books nowadays, and the earlier PDF format are just digital presentation of printing materials. Despite transformative as it claims, for advertisers, the impact is hardly seen.
To release the traditional advertising from its limits, Taiwan’s I-Mei, with its depth of technology strength and innovation capability, holds the key to the future of the publishing industry.
“The reason why I-Mei can win widespread recognition from domestic and overseas partners is that the software company excels in integrating various techniques of digital content with creativity. The new era digital and multimedia advertising combines animation, video and even reality 3D technology, all of which are tailored to customized requirements,” notes staff from the software giant.
Until now, several business operators from the US and Japan have expressed their interests to cooperate with I-Mei over its supreme technology on digital publishing. Its seems that Taiwan’s software industry will be boosted again.
Since Amazon proposed the Kindle, an e-book reader, to the global market, the trend of digital publishing has swept through the world. As Apple followed Amazon’s step with its sensational iPad this year, the e-book industry is turning another new chapter with upgraded multi-media and digital functions. Therefore, the model of grey-scale reading based on e-ink has seen hit hard for failing to keep up with the advanced technology. The advent of flat-panel computers also stirs up the fledging e-book industry. However, digital content is still the key element to a sustainable development of the e-reading market.
Despite contents varying, most of them cannot meet modern readers’ expectations. Taiwan’s I-Mei Digital Multimedia Magazine Production and e-Commerce Company, with its strong technology strength, is determined to dazzle the world with its cutting-edge multimedia and digital e-books. Some Japanese publishers are now discussing details of cooperation with I-Mei in an array of products including cloud-computing services and digital multimedia magazines. Why e-book giant can win recognition from international manufacturers as the once-famous e-Pub format is losing its market? Jack Wong, general manager of the Taiwan’s software giant notes that “I-Mei, with its supreme digital, animation, audio and visual, and virtual reality technology, is now transforming the digital content to meet various requirements from learning to commerce, inviting customers to have a taste of the unprecedented reading experience that even surpasses e-books with its interactive and entertaining functions.
Wong notes that the company is now considering to expand its operations and business relationship with internationally renowned technology giants including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Apple, Google, Amazon, Sony, Barns and Noble, and Taiwan’s Asus, Acer and a spate of local publishers and companies, on digital publishing business and the construction of cloud-computing technology services.
Therefore, products from the Taiwan’s software company including digital and multimedia magazine, children books, and catalogue can meet various requirements from customers. Wong furthers that it is the reason why I-Mei can be so popular in the competitive market of digital publishing. To share the industry with its technology, I-Mei is going the launch a product presentation on July 19 in the National Central Library with the Association of Taiwan Digital Publishing Alliances.
By Tom Kaneshige
Ryan Lawson, director of technology, would like to get his hands on more than 700 iPads for the entire student body at Brother Rice High School, a private all-boys Catholic school in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. It would be a crowning achievement after five years of searching for the perfect laptop for students.
But the iPad has a serious failing grade: no remote monitoring.
Lawson sent an e-mail to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, as well as his Apple rep, asking if Apple plans to bring this enterprise-class feature to market. No response from Jobs, but the Apple rep told him that a lot of people have asked for remote monitoring although he’s not aware of any specific Apple projects.
“Now that could mean it’s a top secret Apple program that’s coming out tomorrow–who knows with that company,” says Lawson. Nevertheless, he’s left waiting for more options.
Apple Goes to School
The education market straddles the line between consumers and the enterprise. In other words, it occupies the gray space of Apple’s dominant strength and notorious weakness. History shows that students comprise the most critical market for Apple. As young people grow up with Apple products, they naturally take those products into their adult lives.
Over the next couple years, Apple will need to shore up its iPad for education lest the Cupertino company risk losing this core market. Apple’s education market has been under siege lately from cheap netbooks. Yau-Man Chan, CTO of the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, told me last summer that he saw a rise in netbooks around campus among undergrads.
With its similar price point, the iPad was supposed to reverse this trend, say industry analyst. So how is the iPad faring? At the high school level, not so well. The iPad holds a lot of promise, says Lawson, but its lack of remote monitoring features keeps the iPad from entering the classroom.
A Wired High School
Founded in 1960, Brother Rice recently renovated many of its classrooms filling them with state-of-the-art technology. Almost every classroom has a digital projector and Wi-Fi, and most classrooms have touchscreen SMART whiteboards that let teachers deliver lessons and write in digital ink.
Over the last five years, Brother Rice has been exploring a one-to-one laptop scenario whereby all students would have a laptop that connects to the teacher’s master laptop, as well as whiteboards and the Internet. The laptop would have to be cheap, ultra-portable and manageable.
The big idea is to have students conduct browser-based research, participate in discussions, take virtual field trips at institutions around the world, use app tools for math and science, write essays, take notes, and read e-books and PDF handouts.
“So far, we haven’t found the right solution,” Lawson says. “We flirted with netbooks, and at the time netbook batteries just weren’t there with a two or three hour battery life. When you have 700 boys going all day, you’ve got to have a 10-hour battery life. I don’t have 30 [power outlets] per classroom, and even if I did I’d probably blow fuses.”
Two Big iPad Flaws
In early January, John Birney, president and former director of technology at Brother Rice, told Lawson that he wanted the iPad to be the laptop of choice. Lawson replied, “Please let Apple announce the product before we announce a program based on it.”
When the iPad was released two months later, Lawson’s long search seemed to be over. The iPad had almost everything Brother Rice wanted in a student laptop. It cost only $500, and the battery boasted 10 hours. Moreover, Brother Rice’s Citrix server could deliver Office 2003 and Office 2007 on the iPad, Lawson says.
Lawson bought one for teachers to play with. Their response was unanimously troublesome: Though teachers loved the iPad, they warned they couldn’t use them in classrooms unless they could remotely monitor student activity. “They needed a remote access control panel to watch what Johnny, Timmy and Billy were all doing on their screens at any given time,” Lawson says.
Lawson looked into remote monitoring for the iPad and read up on the enterprise features of the upcoming iOS 4–but he found a solution wanting. He says iOS 4’s enterprise features have more to do with mass configuration, wireless app distribution, device wiping, and multi-tasking support, but not remote monitoring.
Apple does have remote monitoring built into Mac OS X, which is based on Apple’s dual-screen VNC technology. This lets IT admins set remote access passwords and turn on remote access. “It would be perfect for the iPad,” Lawson says. “But iOS 4 is very locked down.”
Waiting for Apple
Remote monitoring on the iPad, where a program starts on boot and runs in the background, needs to be part of the operating system and not just an app that can be turned off, Lawson explains. That’s why he believes remote monitoring will likely need to come from Apple itself, perhaps as a service built into the iPad.
Another hurdle to iPad adoption: High school academic book publishers are slowly moving to an e-book format compatible with the iPad. At Brother Rice, parents spend up to $500 a year on books. If enough e-books were available on the iPad, Lawson says, that cost could be dropped to $150 a year, making the return on investment (ROI) of an iPad inside of two years.
Brother Rice teachers collectively use some 200 books. “Right now, only six books are e-book ready,” Lawson says. “I’ve talked to textbook publishers, and they told me they’re working on it. The magic number for ROI is about half of the 200 books. By September of 2012, it’ll definitely be there and maybe earlier.”
Book publishers are getting their act together, but will Apple? Lawson’s one-to-one laptop initiative has a self-imposed deadline of next fall, giving him 15 months for Apple to build remote monitoring into the iPad. There’s always a chance that a third-party developer can come up with a solution, he says. Or maybe Google, Microsoft or Hewlett-Packard will deliver a product with remote monitoring.
For now, an iPad without this enterprise feature is a deal breaker. “We can’t put in something if we can’t do any monitoring,” Lawson says.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Tom at email@example.com.
Ask, a Japanese famous publisher, yesterday visited the Association of Taiwan Digital Publishing Alliances (ATDPA), exchanging ideas on the e-books technology and the future of e-publishing.
The business tour was led by Amaya, general manager of the publish company, with Kohira and Takahashi, aiming to get a clear picture about the emerging industry in Taiwan and discuss further details for possible cooperation.
“The production capacity of ATDPA in e-books is awesome. The association should be lauded for its efforts in Taiwan’s digital publishing industry,” said Mr. Amaya, adding that he expected more exchange on techniques and research with the digital giant in the future.
Amazon announced yesterday the launch of a new publishing imprint, to be called AmazonCrossing, that will release foreign-language books translated into English. It’s the second such imprint from Amazon, after AmazonEncore, which takes self-published books and re-publishes them for a wider audience.
AmazonCrossing is an interesting case–it’s not necessarily a traditional Amazon move, meaning it’s not particularly tech-focused. Instead, Amazon’s filling a niche left vacant by traditional publishing companies, who feel translated books are often too expensive and low-selling to bother with.
Publishers say the number of books published in translation each year remains low. Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for Alfred Knopf, an imprint owned by Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc. publishing arm, estimated that fewer than 5% of the 150 new titles that Alfred Knopf is publishing in 2010 will be books in translation.
But many classics and even pop-literary successes have been translated–the Wall Street Journal, which originally reported the story, names Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami, and Stieg Larsson as examples (I’d add Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Javier Marias, and Milan Kundera to the list) of more popular foreign-language writers.
Sounds like the typical problem is that of cost and sales: Traditional publishers often assume translated foreign works won’t be as successful as English-language works, and translation can often be expensive. It’s not mentioned how much Amazon intends to pay for translations, but evidently they think there’s a market for these books, which will be released both in print and in e-book formats.
The first AmazonCrossing book, “The King of Kahel” by French author Tierno Monenembo, will be released this November.
Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).
Recently, Scott Turow, the best-selling author of legal thrillers, including “Innocent”–his just released sequel to “Presumed Innocent”–was named president of The Authors Guild. That Turow, a practicing lawyer, was named president is probably no coincidence, considering the myriad issues that authors and publishers now face as digital books and e-book readers not only disrupt the marketplace but leave it vulnerable to that nasty little vermin commonly known as piracy.
In an interview with Media Bistro’s Galley Cat (see video below), Turow talked about how author royalty rates for e-books were too low, but the larger problems for authors and publishers involved piracy. “It has killed large parts of the music industry,” he said. “Musicians make up for the copies of their songs that get pirated by performing live. I don’t think there will be as many people showing up to hear me read as to hear Beyonce sing. We need to make sure piracy is dealt with effectively.”
Why this suddenly more-alarming tone? Well, though Turow recognizes that the iPad has clearly taken the e-reader to a whole new level, he doesn’t specifically single out the iPad as the No. 1 catalyst for pirating. But I am.
To put it in the context of the music world, it goes something like this: You remember the first MP3 players to catch on? They were from a company called Rio and the early ones used SmartMedia memory cards as their storage medium. Then there were more Rios, and most of them were really pretty good (I still run with a Rio Chiba). I look at these players as the Kindles, Nooks, and Sony Readers of the e-reader world.
But then the iPod showed up. Sure, there had been piracy ever since people started burning CDs, but the iPod was the big accelerant. You can say what you want about iTunes ruining the music industry with its 99-cent single-track downloads (why buy the whole album for $10, when you can buy just the two good songs on it for $2?), but the fact that so many millions of people were carrying around iPods that could store thousands of songs only fueled the transition to fully digital music, no discs attached.
As e-readers go, Amazon won’t let us know exactly how many Kindles it has sold, but most estimates put it in the 2 million to 3 million range, give or take a few hundred thousand. Apple sold a million iPads in a month. And though sheer numbers and critical mass are important, what’s more alarming is what the iPad can do. No, it can’t support Flash, but it sure does a nice job with PDF files and a host of other document formats that can be easily imported to the device via the appropriate app, most of which cost less than $3. (GoodReader, which I use for PDF files, costs 99 cents; you transfer files to the app via iTunes.)