Thursday, April 15, 2010

E-readers, iPads, chickens, eggs etc

Recently I took delivery of a Sony Reader. I had to buy it - new - on eBay as Australians can't buy it online from any official Sony website. Nor will Sony offer me any technical support for my shiny ruby eBay purchase because I'm not a 'real' customer. And I certainly can't buy e-books from the Sony store, but I can from Books on Board and other online e-bookshops who don't care that I live in Australia.

While I have bought a handful of e-books, I mainly use the Reader for work. I load it up with manuscripts and I convert all my submission emails to txt files and put them on it too. And I have to say that it's changed my life. No longer do I have to lug manuscripts home and wear out a shoulder joint in the process; no longer are my house and office adorned with piles of paper. I find that this new way of doing things helps me better keep track of what I've read and it's just more efficient all round. It also means I can take a smaller handbag on the bus (see above mention of shoulder joint for implied benefit) as the Reader is very small and slender.

One reason I made the decision to buy a Reader rather than wait for an iPad was because all I needed an extra device for was the reading. I already have an iPhone, which I love and adore, and I didn't want to buy a glorified, oversized iPhone just for the e-reader capability. Another reason was that the iPad weighs a lot more and isn't as compact in size, and thus the weight and size advantage of an e-reader over physical manuscripts or books would be somewhat lost. So, even though I'm an Apple loyalist - iMac, iPhone, iPod - I've demurred on this occasion, and I don't regret it.

I wish the Reader were available to more Australians, although I understand the difficulties of introducing an e-book-only device in this country: there just aren't that many e-books produced for the Australia/New Zealand territories. So if you were Sony you'd be thinking (collectively) that there's no point going to the trouble of making the device available if there's not a lot for people who aren't in the publishing industry to put on it. And while there isn't a device like it in this country - and Kindle doesn't count, really, because it's for Kindle books only - there's less incentive for publishers to create e-books. Thereby we come to the classic chicken-and-egg scenario, and frankly I don't think Sony should be the one to go first.

Australian publishers are slowly starting to produce e-books - although two (Macmillan and Allen & Unwin) have been doing it for a while - but it's not really fast enough. They're also not, as far as I can tell, planning to produce e-books for overseas titles for which they have the ANZ e-book rights, which is a source of frustration. Many is the time I've gone through the buying process for foreign English-language books on Books on Board, putting in my payment details, only to be presented with a screen saying that the e-book is not available in my territory. No, and neither is the print book. Except in the library, which is where I have to go if I want to read it. And that means the author doesn't get the royalty they would have received if I'd bought the e-book. Which will probably never be produced in this territory. Around we go again.

So we're still waiting to find out what's really happening here, but time is running out. And in the meantime I can't buy many Australian books for my non-Australian Sony Reader and I would really like to. I would probably buy more of them, especially if the price were lower than the RRP. But I can't. Cheep cheep.


Tim Coronel said...

Agent Sydney, what are you advising your authors to do with e-rights? Are you encouraging world e-rights going to the originating publisher? Or some new sort of contract that makes an e-book global *until* rights are sold and another country's e-edition is created?

I've recently written a post covering similar topics at Fancy Goods:

meyerprints said...

Theresa L said...

Various publishers have had standoffs with Amazon, resulting in Buy buttons becoming inactive for those publishers' titles until matters are resolved to Amazon's satisfaction. Is this part of a broader problem???

If ebooks could be sold at petrol stations, post offices, supermarkets - people would buy them if it were easy to do so. Australians are a mobile market. For starters, think of all the Grey Nomads, who spend big, to travel light. They want to have the grooviest gadgets and they have time to read (but no reliable internet where they're going)!

Agent Sydney, what can writers do? Get themselves agents to insist on particular conditions? Campaign? Cry? Or, keep waiting and hoping...

Al said...

The trouble with the sony e-reader is that the only drm it supports is Adobe's, and adobe charge every time an e-book is drmed, and most publishers won't allow e-books unless they have drm. So don't think that you aren't locked in to a platform - you are.

With the Kindle you can only buy books from Amazon, but you can convert documents to be read on it. Also the fact that you can buy books anywhere in the world using mobile networks is pretty cool.

The ipad can read any document and supports kindle, ibooks,ereader(via Stanza - B&N).
It heavy though, but is brilliant to use as a home browsing laptop replacement.
It also turns into a digital photo frame when you put it in its cradle.appenri

Anonymous said...

I read lots of e-books, but I've never bought one (they're all old ones that are out of copyright). I just read them on my phone and it's just fine.

However, I would love to be able to buy a hard cover and get an ebook with it, especially for my favourites. That way I can have a "reading" copy and keep my hard-cover looking pretty.

Am I lame? Well yes. Did you notice?

Sarah said...

I have a kindle and I do love it, though there are still a great many books that are not available in this format. It's light, easy on the eyes and I can carry around a multitude of books when I travel.

If I love the book, I by the hard copy and fondle it often.