Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tor's free e-book program


Simon Owens at Bloggasm sent me this note this morning:
I remember seeing one or two posts of yours about Tor's experiment releasing free ebooks [actually I've never posted about that, but I have posted about free ebooks in general]. I got a chance recently to talk to several Tor authors [he quotes three, out of the 20 so far whose books have been given away] and asked them whether the ebook releases boosted sales. My article on the subject was posted over here. Anyway, I thought this was something you and your readers might find interesting.
Do go read Simon's article, and also have a look at this one from John Scalzi on the same topic.

For me, it all comes down to this: business models should be built on actual data, not anecdotal evidence. Tor has released 20 books now under this program, and we (the blogosphere debating this) have hard data (actual numbers) for zero of them, and anecdotal evidence for three, two who saw sales increases and one who didn't. (The two who did, probably not coincidentally, have very large web presences, and plugged the giveaways themselves online.)

I'm delighted my friend Toby Buckell saw a surge in numbers for his book -- but he's not reporting hard numbers. A mass-market paperback by a new author a year after release is doing tremendously well if it sells 100 copies a week as reported by Bookscan (that is, the book is selling 5,000 copies a year), so if such a book sees a spike doubling that -- to 200 -- then that's 100 additional copies.

For a $7.99 paperback at 8% royalties, a hundred copies sold is $64 gross for the author, minus a 15% agent's commission, for a net income of $54.

John Scalzi (a hugely popular author) tells us his books are selling hundreds of copies a week in mass-market. So let's say he's moving 20,000 units of a book a year (400 copies a week). A 33% bump is an extra 132 copies moved.

That's not to be sneezed at, but the income for the author is $72 (based on a $7.99 paperback), after agent's commission; one might enjoy a nice enough dinner out, if one didn't order wine. (John got a smaller -- 20% -- bump on another book, and a tiny bump -- 9% -- on a third; still, the total in his pocket would have been [actually, will eventually be, once Tor pays royalties four months after then end of the January-June 2008 royalty period] on the order of $200 for all three books.

What might be interesting, if John and Toby's numbers are generally true, is the fact that the actual bump, if any, might be a fixed number of copies -- around 100 -- regardless of the author's stature.

But, as Simon explicitly says, "Not all Tor authors I spoke to saw such impressive numbers, however." Daniel Abraham saw no sales change.

What's missing here is an important time-factor point. Do people really grab the free ebooks the week they come out? Yes, of course. Tor, in fact, has contrived it to make it difficult to do otherwise. Do people then drop everything and immediately read the free ebook they just acquired? And then decide immediately that they must have the sequel?

Doubtless some do (I have little doubt that many who read the first book in Toby's or John's series do want to read the subsequent volumes; both are very fine writers). I don't know about you, but my to-be-read pile isn't hours deep; it's months deep. I've grabbed every one of the Tor freebies myself -- and haven't read a one of them yet (except for the titles I'd already read in print form, prior to getting the ebook freebies); they're still down in the queue. To claim that the proximate spikes are causally linked to the giveaways require people to immediately read the books and make a purchase decision (or a purchase recommendation to someone else) based on them.

Sales data for any other product is always reports as compared to the same period last year, because seasonality affects sales; we're not getting any of that data, either.

Nor are we seeing how much flux is normal. We've got data points from two authors here; without knowing the normal fluctuation range -- both from week to week, and as compared to the same time last year -- the significance of the "spikes" are in doubt. And, remember, if books do routinely go up and down in sales with equal probability, by pure random chance, two random authors are going to both be up often anyway (and another two -- any two of the 17 authors in this program for whom we have zero data now -- will likely be down).

The assumption behind reporting these spikes is that sales are flat over many weeks, but if the normal sales pattern over two months reads like the following, then a couple of positive bumps is just noise: up 10%, down 20%, up 10%, down 30%, up 15%, up 15%, down 20%, up 20%. We just don't know, because not enough data is being given. (And John Scalzi points out that Bookscan sales in general for SF were up 6% across the entire category the week he looked at the data.)

What's really significant is what the one person who has all the numbers does next: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the head of SF publishing at Tor, does have the Bookscan (and other) sales data week by week for every title Tor has given away under this program. He also knows how many downloads each of these ebooks has had -- a hugely significant number to this debate that we don't have access to.

Back in February 2008, he said that Tor will terminate the freebie-book program later this month (July 2008). Now, of course, he's got several months' worth of additional data for all the authors whose work they gave away since he said that -- not just data on John Scalzi and Tobias Buckell and Daniel Abraham (the ones we've heard about), but also on Kage Baker and Jeffrey Carver and David Drake and Jane Lindskold and Robert Charles Wilson and a dozen others.

PNH is a bright man: if giving away ebooks uniformly across the board is indeed generally and significantly increasing sales, wouldn't one expect to see Tor change its collective mind and continue the program after the launch of their new site on July 20? And wouldn't one expect them to still be doing it a year later, on July 20, 2009? Those will be very interesting indicators.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I understand that people want it to be true that giving away ebooks significantly boosts print sales. I'm just not convinced that a case has been clearly made that it is in fact generally true, and I won't be convinced until there are a lot more hard numbers.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


49 Comments:

At July 10, 2008 12:21 PM , OpenID hyperpat said...

While I certainly agree that we don't have hard numbers for the effect of this program, I do know its effect on me. Namely, Peter Watts' Starfish caused me to go out and get the rest of the series. And I would have gotten Starfish itself in dead-tree hardback format if I could have found one in reasonable condition at a reasonable price. And this is only the first of the offered books that I've actually read.

Buckell's and Scalzi's works don't count, as I already had their works and the sequels. Why? Because I previously knew about these authors and had favorable impressions of their work. Watts I knew only from Blindsight, which had not totally wowed me to the point where I'd automatically pick up any other work by him. So here at least we have a single data point (me) that says that this form of advertising worked in this particular instance.

Will it work for everyone? Unlikely. There will more than likely, given human nature, be those who grab these free e-books and run, people who otherwise might have actually purchased the book. But given the low visibility of most authors within the sf field, and the even lower visibility of any new work by said authors during the period when it is actually available in the stores (large promotional campaigns for such authors are very unlikely), I think (opinion!) that this type of promotion will be a net positive in getting the author noticed and increasing his sales, though it may not be for that particular book, but rather for books he writes afterwords.

Though I understand that BookScan is reluctant to release numbers other than to their clients, as that's what their business is, it would be nice if they did so after some suitable delay, say six months, to where eventually we could get enough real data to determine the effectiveness of such programs.

 
At July 10, 2008 12:37 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hyperpat wrote, "While I certainly agree that we don't have hard numbers for the effect of this program, I do know its effect on me. Namely, Peter Watts' Starfish caused me to go out and get the rest of the series. And I would have gotten Starfish itself in dead-tree hardback format if I could have found one in reasonable condition at a reasonable price. And this is only the first of the offered books that I've actually read."

This is an interesting point. Free eBook distribution by one's print publisher may in fact be compensating, in some small way, for said publisher failing to get the author's books decent distribution in print form -- but I hardly think that's what authors want. That is, given the choice between having their books widely available in print book stores, or having them be hard to find there and getting a few hundred, or even a few thousand, copy boost from some online giveaway, most authors would take the former, I think.

We live in interesting times when author after author being published by the biggest houses in the SF&F field are saying their number-one biggest problem is obscurity (which presumably means lack of shelf-presence in traditional bookstores).

 
At July 10, 2008 12:44 PM , Blogger John Scalzi said...

"PNH is a bright man: if giving away ebooks uniformly across the board is indeed generally and significantly increasing sales, wouldn't one expect to see Tor change its collective mind and continue the program after the launch of their new site on July 20?"

PNH is indeed bright, but he's also a cog in a multinational publishing empire, so any data on the matter will likely have to go up and down the corporate food chain before it's spit out as a new Tor policy. So what Tor does here in the short term is likely not to be responsive to that new data.

I don't think we're ever going to see much in the way of empirical data that definitely pegs these giveaways as a positive or a negative; the marketplace is too noisy, information-wise, and the purity of the discussion is not helped by people like Toby and me, whose Web presences are their own self-sustaining things at this point.

As far as it goes, I can say that the electronic edition has not been an absolute negative (i.e., that it's directly and obviously cut into sales) since in general my sales on OMW and the other books (on a weekly basis) have stayed above the level they were at immediate prior to the e-book release. What I can't say is whether it's been a damper (whether I would be selling more had not a free version been put online) or a promoter (I'm selling more than I would otherwise) because as noted the inputs are too noisy. In more or less the same timefame I was also nominated for a Hugo, for example -- one may reasonably suggest that would be a positive influence on sales of my work in general. And so on.

My own position on all this, based on my own anecdotal data-gathering, is that it is useful for an author to have something up for people to check out for free, as a no-risk intro to that writer, and that it is no more a drag on sales, etc than someone checking out one's work in a library would be. I don't think it's necessary to have everything online -- just something representative. If people like that thing, they will otherwise seek out your work.

 
At July 10, 2008 1:01 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Well said, John. Although, in fairness, I was using "PNH" symbolically, meaning "Tor Books." If Tor Books -- the company -- becomes convinced this works as a way of making money, the boss of Tor, Tom Doherty, is only one step below the publisher of Macmillan (the parent company).

The fact that Macmillan said no to Tor becoming involved with the Baen scheme a while ago has been taken by those who are evangelists for free-ebook-giveaways as being proof of shortsighted, blinkered, old-school thinking on the part of Macmillan (then, Von Holtzbrink), rather than a sound business decision based on having looked at all the available data (the hard numbers, not the anecdotes that substitute for same online).

But they didn't get to be Macmillan without having some business savvy. So, I politely disagree when you say that what Tor does next isn't really indicative of how the numbers have turned out. I rather suspect it is quite indicative. No publisher these days sees something that is generating revenue and says, "Good grief, we must put a stop to that!" :)

 
At July 10, 2008 1:08 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

And, as for having samples of one's work online, John: quite so, and I was rather a pioneer of this, having significant samples of my work on the Web since 1995.

Lots of my short stories are here and the opening chapters of all my novels are here.

I totally agree with the principle of letting people try a sample before they buy. What I question is whether giving away entire books actually generates significant revenue for most writers. It's become received wisdom that it does -- but there's no data for us to look at to back that up.

 
At July 10, 2008 2:04 PM , Blogger John Scalzi said...

"No publisher these days sees something that is generating revenue and says, 'Good grief, we must put a stop to that!'"

Well, they might if the data are suggesting it generates revenue, but not enough to outweigh the suits' inherent (and not necessarily negative) conservatism regarding free distribution.

My own expectation is that Tor will look at the data and see that they are fairly non-conclusive in terms of sales, or rather that they see the biggest bumps from the authors who are also self-promoters. Whether that means they continue the program, abandon it, or simply use it strategically, I suspect it might take them a little while to digest it and move forward (mind you, it might not. But publishing is not known for its breakneck speed in decision making).

 
At July 10, 2008 2:38 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

As to what the data will show, John, your hunch is the same as mine.

As to publisher decision-making, remember, Macmillan has already signed off on letting Tor give away free ebooks (or they wouldn't be doing so now). Yes, it might have been a program that was designed with a built-in kill date -- but we don't know that. If they stop, the decision to stop will be interesting, I think.

A hypothetical conversation that I don't think is the way these things work:

Tom Doherty: "We're having real success with giving away author's books online. It's making money for us and the authors."

His boss at MacMillan: "Okay, let's stop and assess."

Tom: "If we stop, we'll lose momentum; we've got people showing up every week now to download an ebook -- if we stop, we'll lose that audience. I think we should go on."

His boss at MacMillan: "No, let's stop and think about this. It was one thing to let you do this for 20 consecutive weeks; it's quite another to let you do it for another 8 while we evaluate this in two months of meetings. Better we should stop now. Besides, who reads books in the summer, Tom? That's crazy talk! You won't lose any real momentum, I'm sure. So, let's just kill it for a few months while we all think some more about this. We can easily start again later."

Tom: "But we just spent tens of thousands of dollars creating a new web presence, and this is what's been driving people to the site. We wouldn't want this thing to sink without a trace, the away the Tor Amazon.com store did a couple of years ago, would we?"

His boss at MacMillan: "Oh, Tom, Tom, Tom, don't worry about that. People don't come to web sites for content. No, let's just pull the plug here. Everything will be fine."

If giving away ebooks is significantly working as anything more than a way to harvest email addresses (the original design goal of the exercise), I suspect it will continue. And if it doesn't, again, I think that's at least as meaningful as any of the other anecdotal evidence that people are trying to build a case based on.

Of course the best thing the evangelists can say right now, should Tor stop doing this, is that a major publisher abandoning a free-ebook giveaway program after a five-month trial is not significant in any way, no, not at all. :) Just, y'know, it's how things happen in publishing, see?

But the reality of publishing is that it works according to Newton's First Law of Motion: it takes a deliberate effort to start something, an it takes a deliberate effort to stop something.

And, I should think, especially so in this case: after all, again, this is all leading up to Tor launching a free interactive web community, right? And what's the first question going to be from user after user if the big launch-day event is stopping giving away ebooks?

"How come?"

 
At July 10, 2008 3:15 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

I guess my concern here is this: I dislike that in the general discourse around this issue what are almost certainly outliers (Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, and Tobias Buckell) are taken as the norm, while data points that don't support the case are ignored (I bet we'll see almost no mention of the Abraham's result in future discussions, for instance), and while reasons are put forward to make the business decisions of publishers seem irrelevant (Macmillan nixing Tor being part of the Baen program being characterized by people who have never been inside a publishing office as insanity on the part of Macmillan; Tor ending its giveaway program after a few months being of no significance).

I understand why readers would like this to become more and more common: free books are free books.

And I understand why authors -- especially authors who are making relatively little money from their work (and I don't mean Cory, John, or Toby, all of whom are successes, but rather some of the other authors who have become evangelists for this) would want to convince themselves that there was a quick-and-dirty, easy solution to their marketplace woes.

Yes, the appeal of this notion is obvious. But we don't have the numbers to know whether it really works on a routine basis (even the successful authors involved aren't actually giving us the numbers: Cory talks about "printings," not copies sold, and others are giving us percentages, but, as John pointed out on his site, a 33% bump on 3 copies is just 1 copy).

And so I watch with great interest to see what moves are made by those who have years of Bookscan and other sales numbers, and have hundreds of authors sales histories on file, and who know the number of copies printed (something authors rarely know), shipped (again, something authors rarely know), sold (even that, we know only with a considerable time lag, and with the fudge-factor of an often unspecified reserve against returns), and who know how many ebooks have actually been downloaded (which those authors who aren't hosting the books themselves don't know).

For me, watching what the players who actually have lots of hard data do is the most telling indicator I can think of without having access to hard data to analyze myself.

 
At July 10, 2008 5:19 PM , Blogger Peggy said...

Interesting discussion.

Do people then drop everything and immediately read the free ebook they just acquired? And then decide immediately that they must have the sequel?

In my case I have a folder on my laptop full of interesting-looking ebooks that I haven't cracked open yet. My problem is that I do most of my pleasure reading either in bed or outdoors by the pool or in the park. Neither situation is particularly conducive to reading on a laptop , especially when I have a stack of hard-copy books in my "to read pile". I'm hoping that I enjoy at least some of the books enough to seek out the sequels, but realistically, those purchases wouldn't happen for another few months. It seems like analysis of the stats to see if there are any long-term effects on sales 6 months or a year after distribution of the e-book might be revealing.

 
At July 10, 2008 9:25 PM , Blogger hdonw said...

Ok, so I've pulled one line out of all this that caught my eye.

". . . lack of shelf-presence in traditional bookstores)."

I went to Chapters today to pick up some more summer reading and guess what? In both the science-fiction and fantasy sections, there was about an equal amount of empty shelf space to book space.

I thought I'd walked in on the last day of a 75% off closing out sale.

It was pathetic.

 
At July 10, 2008 10:18 PM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

The other thing of course that this does is get _Tor_ mentioned a lot (apart from the effects on any particular author).

Mentioned in an extremely positive way, too, of course.

If they use the books as part of a community site like Baen does, the goodwill could be quite profitable longterm, perhaps?

e.g. For people just reading the stuff, publishers are just publishers. Just another company. Tor obviously publishes lots of books, and lots of good ones, but if some Brazilian company buys them next week and they become Toao books run by different people but still publish the same stuff in the same way, mostly - would we care?

What Baen seems to do to me is be aggressively pro-reader, which gets them actual fans, as opposed to people who just buy their books.

Some of the smaller publishers like Nightshade and Subterranean obviously have some elements of this strategy, too.

At the other end are the major publishers with websites that don't exist, don't work/are horrible, and don't answer email, etc.

 
At July 10, 2008 10:43 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Blue Tyson. The Baen example is very interesting for publishers. Thing is, Baen publishes a much narrow range of books than does Tor; there is something that is identifiably a Baen Book in terms of contents. That's not really as easily said about a Tor Book -- and that makes it harder for Tor to create a sense of community amongst its readers. (Not to say that they shouldn't, or don't try -- but it's hard to imagine what a "Tor's Tavern" would be like compared to the existing "Baen's Bar.)

 
At July 11, 2008 12:22 AM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

Sure.

Although clunky, their forum still has sections for different authors, interests etc.

While I couldn't care less about the technical details of the payload of spaceship-to-spaceship missiles except while reading a book, and am not going to discuss that, there are other parts I am interested in.

Whether Tor would have a Tor Romance, Tor Urban Fantasy, Tor Epic Fantasy, Tor SF, Tor biographies of famous androids sections, or whatever, remains to be seen soon I suppose, as far as community sections go.

The Baen Free Library has Catherine Asaro and Karen Koehler alongside Larry Niven and John Ringo.

I am neither American or a right-wing military SF fan by any stretch. Science fiction history though, certainly - along with humorous fantasy, and superhero stuff.

So there's Cordwainer Smith and James H. Schmitz and Leigh Brackett and A. Bertram Chandler and Dave Freer and Eric Flint and Martin Scott there, along with Doc Sidhe and The Spider.

Tor has gone for a fairly broad range of stuff in their free ebooks - even tie-ins. No DRM reader friendly multiple formats, too. If there was ever going to be a 'Tor Free Library' then those 20 are a pretty decent start.

The basic approach still holds I think, even if executed differently and on a larger scale.

I don't really care if epic fantasy or paranormal romance or mundane magical realism exists, likewise (in general, with the odd exception), speaking of some stuff Tor does/might do.

Tor should have the odd possible potential 'historical' project they could do, too, in the future, of their backlist people.

 
At July 11, 2008 1:33 AM , Blogger Tobias Buckell said...

Hi Rob, yeah, you're right about the hard numbers. And b**kscan, which I use for tracking, would prefer I didn't spout the numbers off everywhere, as they make their living off their data, so I did try to convey in the interview that *what* that bump is not all that, erm large, but it certainly didn't *harm* the sales, which has been a hypothesis of many.

Years ago some people who thought I was an internet denizen with certain allegiances why my book wasn't CC'd and for free, and I said b/c I post the first 1/3 of each of my novels for free online, if you can't make up your mind I'm worth the money after reading 1/3 I wasn't your huckleberry. I also thought releasing a first book in a series a great way to drum up business for a later book.

With books disappearing off shelves so fast and not getting reordered, I really think right now being unknown is the greater danger. I see authors starting out and disappearing in a couple books, and at that point throwing the book out for free is like stop loss prevention in my POV.

Another thing I've blogged about before is the #1 corollary between the effectiveness of a free eBook driving attention/sales/money your way is the platform of the author in question, as you said. Scalzi and me do have very strong internet presences, which lends itself well to 'priming the pump,' ditto Doctorow and Stross. They've spent years building audiences (I'm sort of a junior version, I only get 1,000 people a day on average, they get tens of thousands if not more). As a result, I can think of 3-4 authors without crazy internet presences on that traffic level who've done giveaways and not seen those same snowballing results. However, they have felt that it hasn't hurt, which was what a great deal of the debate was around, for a while.

Anyway, I think of myself as a compromise candidate with all that, having tested one book, giving away the first 1/3 of each one as it launches for browsers to get caught up in it, and trying to rely on hard data and figuring out what is going on. It's not about rhetoric for me, but trying to leverage myself into a higher bracket than low midlist.

 
At July 11, 2008 1:34 AM , Blogger Tobias Buckell said...

Oh, and thanks for plugging the cover on your blog! Someone IM'd me and was like 'dude, Rob Sawyer has your book all up on his website!'

 
At July 11, 2008 6:55 AM , Blogger Eoghann Irving said...

"What's missing here is an important time-factor point. Do people really grab the free ebooks the week they come out? Yes, of course. Tor, in fact, has contrived it to make it difficult to do otherwise."

Actually that's really not accurate. I have an archive of the Tor newsletters in my email account and at one point I had to go back and download about 6 weeks worth of the books in one go.

I have no way of knowing how many people might have done similar things, but it's not difficult so I think it would be foolish to assume that everyone grabs the books that week.

 
At July 11, 2008 10:03 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

"Foolish" is an unpleasantly unnecessary word, Eoghan Irving. I agree that it has actually been possible to download the Tor Books for longer than the stated period -- but there's been no general link for older titles on their site, and the wording in their email newsletter implies that the books are available only for a one-week period (and, if you got to ebook-discussion sites like Mobileread.com, you'll find people complaining that they "missed" a given week's title).

Indeed, Tor's current notice on their website underscores that the titles have been, in appearance, ephemeral (even though if you could dig up the old URLs, they still worked): "Our current free book is Soul by Tobsha Learner; next weeks free book is Darkness of the Light by Peter David, and in the last week of our giveaway program, well be making all the books in this program available one final time."

 
At July 11, 2008 10:21 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Blue Tyson, on Baen's (very effective) community building, but, I say again, what worked for Baen is unlikely to work for a much more diverse publisher, such as Tor.

If one really and truly thinks that there's as much diversity on the Baen publishing list as there is on the Tor list, and that consequently it's going to be as easy (or even on the same order of easiness) to build a community of Tor Books readers as it was of Baen Books readers, then I simply disagree -- which is perfectly fine, of course. :)

What Baen has done in my view isn't so much as being pro-reader as actually made the readers take ownership of Baen. For instance, Baen's Universe magazine makes most of its money not from subscriptions or single-copy sales but from memberships in the Baen's Universe club. They have managed, in a way that's going to be very difficult for Tor, to make readers brand-loyal.

You suggest a "Tor SF" section. But, see, Tor SF is way more varied in type and content than Baen SF ... it just is. There's a reason why there is huge variety in Tor cover styles; there's a reason why all Baen books have a distinctive graphic treatment, so you can spot them at a glance on the bookshelves.

(Tom Doherty, the publisher of Tor, by the way, is a silent partner in Baen; if I remember correctly, he owns 25%; this is not an us vs. them thing; rather, it's two different business models -- which will necessitate different approaches, and reap different rewards, in terms of online community building.)

 
At July 11, 2008 10:21 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Toby. Great to see you here, my friend! :)

 
At July 11, 2008 10:59 AM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

By pro reader some of the thing sI mean are :-

Have a web site that exists.

Provide a web site that works.

Announce all your books.

Have a catalogue that is up to date.

Sell books in all the formats the users want.

Make the prices sensible.

For electronic books, make them easy to use, in multiple formats.

Give previews, descriptions and contents online. (It is quite unbelievable in the past how often the contents of anthologies/collections aren't listed by publishers).

At least have somewhere to talk about the stuff.

Answer their email, or even online questions.

I have emailed questions in the past to all the bigger publishers.

Reponses received = zero.

There were some imprints that until very recently failed all of the above, I think, or close to. :)


Nothing to do with magazine clubs, whatsoever. Although that is obviously a clever thing to do. As is selling more expensive ARC access. I don't see why the latter at least has anything to do with a more narrowly focused publishing list, as opposed to having authors with enough fans to want to get stuff early.

Nothing to do with an us vs them thing, either.

I am not sure why you are hung up on the variety thing. Do you think people's heads will explode if there are forums where people are talking about horror retrospective anthologies and detective novels on the same website? Or do you mean the publishers or web people couldn't cope?

The internet won't run out of space if they have those for most of the authors, either. :)

Baen didn't blow up either when they had a webscription with John Ringo, Lois McMaster Bujold, David Drake, Philip Jose Farmer, Eric Flint, John Dalmas and a theme anthology.

Why would a several times bigger Tor package that was a good deal stress people? Or given they have many more books, SF/Fantasy/Horror or whatever packages?

I never claimed equal diversity, either, just said they had enough of a range to interest me. And that the free library has a fair spectrum from romance to macho, some kids stuff, serious, funny. etc. (No horror though).

If most people only read a few books here and there, it will be mostly that limited range they are interested in presumably? - with the possibility to discover other stuff being a bonus for the publisher. For major publishers, no one person will be interested in general in buying more than a small percentage of offerings.

From the sound of the Tor thing they will do some short stories by their authors, or make some available from their books perhaps.

There are arguments against for and against consistency of packaging, collecting vs 'Oh! Pretty! I'll buy that one' etc. and others that I am sure you know a lot more about than I do.

The all books available in one week will be an interesting thing for the bookscan trackers, anyway. :)

 
At July 11, 2008 11:27 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks for your perspective, Blue Tyson. We'll see what develops over the next little while (i.e., how the Tor website turns out). But I'm not "hung up" on anything, old boy. I'm just a guy who is curious about all this. :)

 
At July 11, 2008 12:08 PM , Blogger Eoghann Irving said...

"it would be foolish to assume" is an expression that I use all the time. This is the first time that it has ever been suggested it is somehow unpleasant. It's really quite an innocuous little phrase.

To the larger point though, if I downloaded the books late, other people will have too. I can't estimate how many, but I'm not THAT special.

 
At July 11, 2008 12:43 PM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

No worries then old bean.

Definitely should be interesting, what?

:)

 
At July 11, 2008 12:57 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

You're missing my larger point, Eoghann Irving. :)

I was conceding (to those who wanted to make the case that the spikes in print sales immediately following the freebie release of a Tor ebook was causally linked to the ebook release) that even if everyone did what Tor clearly wanted them to do -- downloaded the ebook during the week in which it was the "current" giveaway -- that in no way established that everyone then immediately read the recently acquired ebook, and next immediately decided to go out and right away buy the same book or its sequel in a print edition.

Indeed, such would assume that those who read ebooks are agnostic about ebooks vs. paper -- that they'll switch back and forth readily between reading electronically and reading printed books. I very much doubt that's generally true, based on (a) my own experience, and (b) the comments in the various ebook communities I hang out on (Teleread, Mobileread, Fictionwise.com's Yahoo! Group, etc.).

In other words, it strikes me as more plausible that we'd see a jump not in print sales but in ebook sales of the second volume in the series in question -- at Fictionwise.com, Mobipocket.com, eReader.com, etc. And no one has reported that phenomenon.

The supposed causal link between posting an ebook and immediately seeing a jump in print sales hasn't been well established, in my view, nor does it even make intuitive sense. (As John Scalzi rightly pointed out, his own data in this experiment -- one of two authors whose experience might support this -- is well muddied by the fact that about the same time Tor released the freebie of Old Man's War, the sequel The Last Colony was nominated for the Hugo Award.)

And it would be foolish to believe otherwise. :)

 
At July 11, 2008 6:43 PM , OpenID mjlayman said...

You're completely missing the reason Tor is giving the ebooks away. They're to draw people to the new site on the 20th. If they get people to buy more books by the authors, that's good, too, but it's not the purpose of the giveaway.

 
At July 11, 2008 6:47 PM , Blogger Tobias Buckell said...

In other words, it strikes me as more plausible that we'd see a jump not in print sales but in ebook sales of the second volume in the series in question -- at Fictionwise.com, Mobipocket.com, eReader.com, etc. And no one has reported that phenomenon.

Right, but Tor doesn't sell eBooks of most of their [at least not of my stuff], so we can't set up a data test of that, sadly.

Neil Gaiman today posted his data and results of his free experiment:

http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/07/results-of-free.html

 
At July 11, 2008 6:50 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Nobody's missing anything, mjlayman, and the point you're making has been made repeatedly earlier, by myself and others, including in my original blog post ["harvest email addresses (the original design goal of the exercise)"], and in my comments in the comments section ["creating a new web presence, and this is what's been driving people to the site"], etc. etc. :)

What we're investigating is whether the giveaway has had the side-effect of boosting print sales (as some have claimed) -- and how a savvy publisher would respond to that revelation, if it is indeed true.

 
At July 11, 2008 7:06 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks for posting that link, Toby.

(Here's the URL Toby posted as a hyperlink.)

This is noteworthy, though: "The reason that independent booksellers were the only places they could see it having an effect was that some of the chain stores were doing a promotion that my books were also in, which fogged the results for them."

I'm not sure that this variable has been properly controlled for or accounted for. The assumption is that given that two promotions were going on for Neil's work simultaneously, one online and one in chain stores, and that a bump was seen in both chain stores and indepdendents, that the bump in the independents must have come from the online promotion and not from people seeing the chainstore promotion but preferring to give their business to their local indie.

I'm not sure that that's a valid assumption to make.

 
At July 11, 2008 7:11 PM , Blogger Tobias Buckell said...

Right. And of course, Neil has a rocking platform :-)

 
At July 12, 2008 3:35 AM , Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Hi Rob. I've been mulling these questions lately on my own blog, http://starrigger.blogspot.com/, and one of my readers pointed me to your discussion, which is fascinating and far more analytical.

As the pub date approaches for my new novel, Sunborn, I've been pondering the possibility of my own free book program. (Sunborn is the long-delayed fourth book in my series The Chaos Chronicles, and the first three books are out of print. So it seems like a no-brainer to offer those, at least, as free downloads. I've been contemplating offering the new book, as well. But you make some very good points here that may argue against that final step.

I wonder how most writers have actually produced their free downloads. (Scan the final book in? Input all the copy-editing changes to the manuscript file?) Tor now keeps PDFs of new books, but that hasn't been the case in the past.

Best--Jeff Carver

 
At July 12, 2008 9:32 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Jeff.

Good to see you here, my friend!

A couple of points that I hope will help you if you undertake this.

First, I've long thought that the current publishing model is going to undergo a seismic shift. Most authors don't have the final text of their books in electronic form: they've only got what they submitted prior to copyediting, and that's it.

Ever since my first book -- meaning, for 17 novels now -- I have painstakingly updated my master electronic files to include the copyediting changes I approved of (the ones I didn't stet), and I continue to update the files every time someone points out a typo.

So, I have electronic versions that are accurate reflections of the published book (including all front and back matter), and are even more correct than the published versions, in terms of typos. These have proved handy in the past when publishers have reprinted old books of mine originally done by other houses (Tor has redone my Golden Fleece, originally a Warner title, and all three volumes of my Quintaglio trilogy [Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, and Foreigner] which were originally done by Ace).

But, more to the point, I have been taking these steps -- for 18 years now -- to be ready to do my own editions of these books, electronically or otherwise, should the business climate seem appropriate for that.

Right now, the e-reading audience is still skewed toward early adopters, who are forgiving of typos, formatting glitches, bad copyediting, and so on. They're so hungry for reasonably priced or free content that isn't old public-domain Project Gutenberg stuff that they're willing to forgive a lot.

But, as e-reading moves into the mainstream, the audience will become more demanding (imagine someone trying to sell MP3s of music today that are just ripped from vinyl LPs, full of hisses and pops). Just a word to the wise: prepare for the future.

Second, PDF is the worst format for e-reading. It doesn't reflow to margin changes, it forces font-size choices on the reader, etc. etc. Few who acquire book-length e-texts print them out. More and more, they read them on portable devices. If you haven't seen the stunning display quality of an Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, iRex iLiad, or Bookeen Cybook, you owe it to yourself to go have a look. (Me, I own an iRex iLiad.)

Now, again, we're still in an early-adopter era: people are willing to actually do work in order to massage a book into a readable form. And so, if an author makes HTML or RTF available, the eager e-readers will go through the process of converting those formats into something they can use.

But if you really want to give away ebooks -- want to actually have them widely read, not just now but as the audience for such things transitions past early adopters to those who insist on simply being able to immediately start reading comfortably on their device of choice -- then don't just post a PDF; that's merely giving lip service to the idea of electronic publishing. Instead, make available a proper, fully formatted ebook file in Mobipocket and eReader (formerly Palm Reader) formats.

Otherwise, you end up being at the mercy of a community of users who might, or might not, do the conversion for you, and might, or might not, make it available. I recently struggled through a pretty crappy conversion to Mobipocket of a novel by a Tor author (not one of the books offered in the program, but rather, as in your own case, one of the author's books that he had released outside the program), and right now, I'm reading the nonfiction book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It by Jonathan Zittrain; the author released it for free as a PDF, which, again, is the worst format for e-reading on an ebook reader (ironic, given the book's title).

And so, I'm reading a crappy, quick-and-dirty conversion to Mobipocket done by a third party (the guy who did it admits it would have taken many, many hours of work to make a clean conversion from the PDF, since he didn't have access to the actual source of the book -- and it wasn't worth his time).

But if you're going to do this -- and want results -- make it plug-and-play: make the books available in formats those who actually read ebooks use.

I was asked a couple of years ago if I'd be willing to be taken to lunch by a guy who had decided to turn his money-losing print SF magazine into an e-publication ... and was disappointed that most of his readers hadn't followed over to the new format; he wanted to know what he was doing wrong.

My first question to him: do you read electronic magazines? If you don't do it yourself, you can't possibly know what those who do are looking for (it's like that classic advice that you and I have both had to give to our students: you can't possibly sell an SF novel or short story if you don't actually read the genre yourself; you'll never guess what people want, and your intuition -- in that case, based on what you've seen in movies and TV -- is bound to be wrong.

As it happens, there are some good souls who have done quick-and-dirty conversions for authors they like. As more and more authors do this (as more and more authors misinterpret, say, the Tor ebook-giveaway data as being, as someone on Mobileread crowed a couple of days ago, a "vindication!" that this distribution method boosting print sales is now a proven, rock-solid fact), there will be fewer and fewer people bothering to do the conversions for the authors, or doing them well.

In summation, I guess I'm saying gently, if you're going to do it, I suggest you do it right: give people clean, corrected texts in popular ebook formats -- Mobipocket (which Kindle can use), eReader, maybe Sony -- if you really expect them to read many hundreds of pages electronically.

Yes, people will read short samples on screen on webpages (in HTML); that's mostly what I offer on my own website, although of late, I've started offering RTF, as well -- to the horror of some, who think I'm inviting people to pirate my text -- so that the visitor can at least easily synch to their Palm/PDA, and so that savvy users can import into Mobipocket, etc. But I'm not yet giving away full books.

I guess my cautionary note in all this is one I've already made: people should beware of lulling themselves into thinking they can overcome their marketplace woes by a quick-and-dirty solution ("Hey, I can fix this career problem in ten minutes!" File, Save As, PDF -- bestsellers' lists, here I come!). There's only spotty evidence that this has ever worked, and there's no good evidence, in my view, that it routinely works.

Norman Spinrad, who famously told a lot of his colleagues he had "this ebook game" "all figured out" a couple of years ago had, as far as anyone can see, zero success with his attempts at viral marketing, giving away large chunks of his books online -- another negative datapoint that no one ever brings up when trying to cite how this new paradigm is a success.

But a guy who has his website at an address that begins "ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages" (that is, who hasn't registered his own short domain name, and expects people to type in that mouthful), who styles hyperlinks as "click here to," and whose whole website is in boldface red text on a black background hasn't done his homework about how people find, read, and enjoy text online.

Do yours; increase your chances of success.

Best of luck!

 
At July 12, 2008 6:07 PM , Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Rob -- Good to be here. And your advice seems very good, also. I started out doing what you did--entering the copyediting corrections in my files, and even the galleys-changes. But it just got too hard to keep up, with already not enough time in the day for writing, with kids and all, so I didn't. I wish I had.

In all this, the often unasked question is, just how much time should a writer spend doing this sort of thing (which also includes web site updates and blogging), knowing that it inevitably takes away from writing time. I don't know the answer, but I ask myself the question a lot. I've been meaning to revamp my web site for at least five years, and haven't gotten to it yet.

The application to the question in this context is obvious: how much time is it worth spending to create nice, clean e-books in a variety of formats? I don't know what's involved in converting to Mobipocket and Ereader formats (what software you need, for instance), but I do suspect it could turn into a real time-sink. Maybe it's easier than I think. But at this stage of adoption, I wonder if it isn't better from a time benefit/cost perspective to offer the work in html, pdf, and maybe rtf and let the downloader convert as needed. (Since, at this point, it's not yet the average reader who will even think of reading a book electronically.) I have put a few things on my aging PDA that were in html, and found that it worked well--except for not being able to mark my place. For that, a Word doc is better.

I don't know that putting up work in RTF is any more inviting piracy than putting it up in html, or just having it published on paper. The pirated works of mine that I found were mostly scanned from books. Some were stories lifted straight from my web site, complete with the "do not distribute" notice. One was PDF'd from the html source, literally with the html tags as part of the text. I have been plagiarized once that I know of, and that was from a printed edition of a story. So it seems that if your work is in the public in any way, it's ripe for pirating.

That's not something I'm losing sleep over, since as others have said, I'm more worried about obscurity than piracy. And as I said to my agent, I guess I'd rather go to the poorhouse from giving too much away than from languishing in obscurity. That said, I'd rather not go to the poorhouse!

I guess on balance I lose more sleep over the apparent graying and shrinking of SF's readership than I do over any of these marketing questions.

Best--Jeff

 
At July 12, 2008 6:24 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Very thoughtful comments, Jeff. Many thanks!

Converting to Mobipocket (I'm told) isn't hard. The software is free, and, basically, you simply convert it from a Word file. Converting novels isn't all that difficult, since people won't get too angry if a novel doesn't have a hyperlinked table of contents, and most don't have footnotes or illustrations, of course.

Converting to eReader is apparently not quite so easy.

Yeah, on piracy, if it's out there even in print, it'll be pirated. Sad, but true.

On how much time one should spend on all this online stuff, that's very hard to say. (I ask myself the same question about the cost -- in time and money -- of going to SF conventions, and, in fact, stayed home this weekend from one in Toronto I was asked to be a special guest at so that I could get some work done.)

You mentioned the graying of the SF audience. I'm always surprised at how little push ebooks are given toward the elderly. Me, I do almost all (90%) of my book reading as ebooks these days and the number-one reason for me is that I can increase the type size to a point (pun intended) that's comfortable for my almost-half-century-old eyes.

The two best things about ebooks, in my view, are every book becomes a large-print edition, and it's easy to read in the dark (on many devices) without disturbing your spouse. These aren't the concerns of kids; they are the concerns of the middle-aged and elderly -- and yet I've never seen an ebook campaign specifically touting those features.

The third big ebook plus is that you can have a giant library without taking up physical space; I have 300 book on my Palm, for instance, and about 10,000 ebooks (almost all of Project Gutenberg, formatted as Mobipocket) on my hard drive. Again, thinking of the elderly as market, emtpy-nesters who are downsizing their homes might very much appreciate having so many books without them filling their places -- but I've never seen ebooks marketed to the middle-aged and older crowd on this basis, either.

 
At July 12, 2008 6:48 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Oh, and if people want to get those 10,000 Gutenberg titles formatted as Mobipocket (mostly, I should note, with right-justification hard-coded as on), see here. It's a cool, inexpensive collection on DVD [the entire Blackmask library]: just US$19.99, plus US$4.00 shipping anywhere in North America.

 
At July 13, 2008 6:38 AM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

So publishers don't send you guys the final electronic version like they do with the final paper variety?

They refuse to, just don't bother, or what?

Sounds like a good thing to have in a contract.

Have to agree with Mr. Sawyer though - if doing it seriously, then multiple formats is a must. Probably more so for novels, too. (As opposed to - hey, my story was nominated for something, here's a pdf so you can have a look).

html version is good for people browsing it online

text works for anything, if not as pretty

rtf can be useful

pdf good for those who actually do like to read them - or perhaps more likely to print them, which is its strength, of course

Look at what Small Beer, Nightshade and Baen have done with some of their ebooks - perhaps they might provide some pointers on conversion?

The Gaiman/Abraham 'weird software shakybrowse online' is not much fun to read, certainly. It may work better for Northern Hemisphere people with heaps of bandwidth speed maybe.

 
At July 13, 2008 10:15 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Blue Tyson. Since time immemorial, publishers have considered the licensing of their typesetting to subsidiary / foreign publishers to be a revenue center. See, yes, the author owns the underlying text, but once the publisher has started doing layout and design, etc., the publisher considers that to be their property.

It used to be that hardcover publishers and mass-market publishers were mostly different companies -- and one way the hardcover publisher recouped some of its investment in a book was by selling the typesetting film to the paperback house.

As others have observed, publishers have a lot of inertia. But if you said to them, "Hey, will you give me the electronic version that you've prepared of my text, just so that, y'know, I can make money off it after you and I part ways," the answer isn't likely to be, "Sure, yeah, of course, why not?" Instead it will be, "Well, if you do ever sell the book somewhere else, we'll certainly cut the new publisher a deal on that file."

Now, granted, producing typesetting film used to be very expensive, and required whole paper manuscripts to be copyedited (at the publisher's expense), manually keyboarded (at the publisher's expense) proofread (at the publisher's expense), laid out and designed as type (at the publisher's expense), and produced as typesetting film (at the publisher's expense). Much of that is simpler/cheaper today -- but it's still the publisher's contribution to the project, and, traditionally, they have not just given it away to the author in a form ready for making money by somebody else.

(I am fortunate in that I have a full-time assistant who actually does the keyboarding of copyediting corrections into my master manuscript files for me; it is tedious, tedious work. But if you think commercially published books these days have a lot of typos, mistakes, and inconsistencies in them (and they do), manuscripts that haven't been professionally copyedited and proofread are even worse.)

 
At July 13, 2008 1:33 PM , Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

To elaborate on Rob's comment, until recently the publishers didn't necessarily even have electronic copies of the final typesetting. My understanding is that Tor only started a year or two ago getting PDF files to archive after books are finalized. (I have asked for a copy of the new book in PDF and hope there won't be a problem getting it.) That means for all my older books, even the publisher doesn't have final electronic copies.

I have inquired into whether usable files can be obtained from the printer, and am still awaiting an answer on that. But my first Chaos book was published in 1994, and it's likely that only films exist for that.

So I may be hiring my own assistant (my teenaged daughter) to update my files. But while I have the copyedited ms. here, I don't seem to have the marked-up galleys, so I may be asking her to help me do a side-by-side reading to help spot final corrections. Yeah, you want tedious.

Alternatively, it might be quicker to scan and OCR the actual book. I experimented with that a little bit with some pretty old OCR software, and it did better than I would have guessed. Probably newer software would do even better.

 
At July 13, 2008 1:38 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

I've used the OCR program OmniPage Pro 14 from Nuance, and had very good results from it -- and 14 isn't even the current version. But, even then, scanning 300 or 400 pages is tedious, and getting the paragraphs to reflow properly across page breaks is fiddly work.

 
At July 14, 2008 1:04 PM , OpenID hyperpat said...

First, I'm a member of that 'greying' (greying, hell, let's try no hair at all) generation. And I fit that demographic that e-book manufacturers should be looking at closely - I'm 60, starting to look at retirement homes, and wondering where I'll place my existing library (about 3300 volumes). E-books should be a no-brainer, as reading long text files on a PC screen is hard on my eyes (I wear tri-focals, and yes, tiny print just makes this tougher), and a well designed reader should be able to alleviate this problem, as well as the storage problem.

However, the various dedicated e-book readers I've seen all have one major problem: cost. Until there is some consensus about formats (every new reader seems to have it's own dedicated format, though the Kindle is better than most, as it accepts several formats, and converting PDFs to Kindle format is possible, though not without some bugs), I am very leery of buying one of these, as it's likely to be superseded by the next great machine, like, next week. The only semi-universal format today is the PDF format, but it does have problems, as while I can make the text size bigger, the inability to set a bookmark and the havoc magnified text sizes plays with scrolling down are major negatives.

So until they manage to come up with some universal format that any e-book reader can handle without formatting or traversing problems, I doubt if I'll be buying one. Which leaves me with using e-books for sampling purposes only, unless there is simply no other way I can obtain a copy of a book I wish to read.

 
At July 15, 2008 12:51 AM , Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

One thing I would add to hyperpat's critique of ereaders is this: I am not only reluctant to plunk down the money a reader costs, I'm seriously annoyed that they keep coming out with new readers that try to tie you to one source. I'm sorry, if you want me to spend hundreds on a reading device, you'd better make it easy for me to buy books wherever I want--not just your store. I don't buy paper books from just one store, why should I buy e-books from just one store?

Unless I'm mistaken (and I suppose I could be), both the Sony ereader and the Kindle try to keep you on an umbilical. Wrong! Bad dog! I'm not adopting.

(Okay, if woot offered one for a fraction of the cost, I *might* bite. But I wouldn't sacrifice my principles. Just bang them up a little.)

Jeff

 
At July 15, 2008 10:52 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Those are excellent points, hyperpat and Jeff. One of the biggest reasons I push the eReader (formerly known as Palm Reader) format is that books bought in that format are not tied to a particular device.

I own five devices for reading ebooks (RCA REB-1100, Franklin eBookman 911, eBookwise GEB-1150, Sony Clie TH55, iRex iLiad 2nd edition). Of those, only the Clie is really versatile: it lets me run both eReader and Mobipocket, and the eReader books can be read on any computer I own now or in the future (the Mobipocket ones have to be unlocked to a specific device).

If I was designing an ebook-reading device today, it would use electronic ink but run Palm OS, which allows any number of ebook reading platforms to be installed.

My eye is on the announced ereaders from Astak -- especially the 9.7-inch version, which will supposedly run Windows CE, which means it, too, will support any of the existing ereading software (just as a Palm does). But so far, these readers are only announced; they're not yet shipping.

All that said, I have gotten enormous pleasure from my ebook reading devices. I spent more on a 50" HDTV than all of them put together, and the ebook readers have given me greater joy. I'm reading more now than I ever did (because I've always got my Palm with me, and can catch reading time in odd moments that otherwise would have gone to waste, and because I can read in the dark in the middle of the night without disturbing Carolyn).

 
At July 15, 2008 10:56 AM , Blogger Tobias Buckell said...

I've been calling out the iPhone on my blog as being potentially (has a better screen than any pda I've seen) game changing eReader.

eReader just came out for it and I'm not super impressed. Waiting to see what other eBook makers do for the iPhone. Letting me set up payment and browse/buy eBooks right from the phone, that would make me a happy man...

 
At July 15, 2008 11:48 AM , Blogger Blue Tyson said...

Of course, you could live somewhere where this technology might arrive in two years - and at double the cost.

Whereas Old Palms are pretty easy to get.

 
At July 15, 2008 11:52 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Toby. Yeah, the eReader software that was just launch last week for the iPhone and iPod touch is a very preliminary version, apparently, with few features. We're promised by the makers that a lot more is coming -- but it's a land-grab situation right now: everybody rushing to stake a claim in the new territory.

(The eReader software for Palm OS and PCs is quite robust and feature rich, although it, too, could use an update.)

 
At July 15, 2008 1:05 PM , Blogger josh said...

I'd like to add another factor here: Watch the Skies is a really good promotion. This has two effects, as I see it. First, someone might make a judgement, without even reading any part of the book, that it is a great book just because it is being offered as part of the promotion. Never heard of Crystal Rain? Well, it's being offered in the same promotion that includes Spin and Old Man's War, so it must be good. Second, the fact that there is a limited free offering might make people more inclined to check out the books. As it is, I've downloaded every book that I've gotten an email about. If Tor had said, "We're realasing 20 of our books under a creative commons license." I probably would have gone to their site and only downloaded the ones I was interested in. I think it's important not to mistake the publicity of Watch the Skies with the publicity of just having a free eBook available. I see that Tobias Buckell says the first third of all of his books are available for free. I didn't know that before today. But I read the first 20 pages of Crystal Rain last night because it was part of this promotion.

 
At July 15, 2008 1:07 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

A truly excellent point, Josh. Thank you!

 
At July 15, 2008 5:32 PM , Blogger Alison said...

Tobias, the iPhone screen is brighter than the Sony Clie TH55, but is not otherwise better, and the TH55 had excellent support for book readers. The Nokia 770 and 800 are substantially better but not so portable. Nevertheless, I do think the iPhone is game-changing, because it does so much else as well; people for whom a bookreader is an optional extra will install one on the iPhone.

eReader on the iPhone is not terribly good yet. Bookshelf is much better, and much more versatile, but costs a little money. Less than a paperback in the UK.

 
At July 16, 2008 5:49 AM , Blogger Tobias Buckell said...

I stand corrected on the Sony Clie, I didn't manage to come across it :-)

 
At July 24, 2008 2:21 AM , Blogger Jeffrey A. Carver said...

Rob, just following up on this thread, I posted several blog entries following Readercon, where I was on a panel with some folk we both know on the subject of e-books, e-piracy, etc. That's at http://starrigger.blogspot.com, if folks are interested.

Tor, by the way, has put up all the free e-books on one page, for a last giveaway fling, this week only. I've put the direct link in my most recent entry (above); don't have it at my fingertips just now.

Finally, I took your suggestion on the DVD of 10,000 classic books from the nice lady in England--and I've got a bunch of them right now on my PDA, along with some of the Tor books. First time I've used MobiPocket reader. It's nice.

Jeff

 

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