Note to Crain’s NY Business: Where You Been?

Hot on the heels of the Time article about how epubbing has changed publishing, another print news source has examined the ebook. As usual, I take a silly pleasure in reading Crain’s New York Business because it’s a newspaper devoted entirely to something I don’t know jack-all about, but I always learn something.

This week, there’s an article about… the “newest ‘it’ gadget”—e-book readers.

Really? Is it new? I would have said that a year ago when it was Jane in the wilderness trying to convert us from the trees, but since I fell out of my treehouse into the somewhat irritable embrace of my Kindle about 8 or 9 months ago, I don’t think I can call myself an “early adopter.” If the Kindle has sold out twice, is it “early?”

The article itself is such a general survey of the entire phenomenon that I have to wonder how far behind the coverage of the ebook market by mainstream business and print media really is. The distance probably isn’t measurable, but this article makes it seem like, in this specific case, a general survey of the stats isn’t nearly enough to bridge the distance between where ebook reading and epublishing actually is, and what mainstream media print outlets have to say about it.

Citing an erotica fan who found Ellora’s Cave five years ago, the article begins by mentioning the three most common methods through which people have arrived at ebook reading: from palm devices to ebook reader devices and/or iPhones.

The iPhone has become, according to author Matthew Flamm, “the most popular e-reading device,” and paired with the success of Sir Kindle, of the House of Fusspot, “electronic reading has suddenly gone mainstream.”

Has it? Or did it already do so a good bit ago? I’m with the latter, but then, I am within a community that is perfectly suited to ebook reading, as Jane so aptly recognized a long while back. (Note to self: ask Jane for next year’s lottery numbers. She appears to have The Sight).

Flamm details the advantages of e-reading, from lack of clutter to ease of travel, and the real point of awesome: reading a book on an iPhone doesn’t necessarily look like you’re reading a book. It looks like you’re checking email or looking at a calendar, unless someone can see the references to heaving bosoms on the screen. Eliot Borenstein, a NYU professor, noted that “staring at a phone during a meeting is somehow not as bad as pulling out a book.”

Good point, sir. Good point.

Mostly the article cites stuff that we romance ebook readers already know: the convenience of not being stuck with only one book, in case you’re not in the mood for it, or if you finish it on the way to work. 

The article is positioned as a “Here’s what the cool, savvy, and financially-attuned folks are doing for their reading” type of piece, and while it touches on cost and the options available for reading ebooks, it doesn’t really do a whole lot in the way of creating new persuasions for people who are curious to pick up an e-reader, but haven’t done so yet.

Mostly it’s “Hey! ebooks are cool!” Which, overall, is fine by me, but I wish mainstream print press would examine the issues raised by ebook publishing and e-print in general that point to some flaws inherent in their present practices—practices that might need to change if print media wants to survive, given that print has been in a steady profit decline for a long ass time. In short, print needs the prod of epubbing to take a hard look at its own printed undergarments. And so far print media seems to take a look at ebooks and say, “Oh, look, shiny!”

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    You’re forgetting that e-book readers have been around long, long before the Kindle.  The Kindle is the new kid who moved from another town and got popular really quick.  e-book readers have been around for at least five years, probably longer.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    Absolutely – I agree with you there. It’s almost as if Kindle + iPhone plus Smexxy Red Sony means that suddenly ebooks are viable.  Hur?! I think the article would have been much more impressive if it examined the issue from a different angle, such as the giant leaps from all involved parties (publishers, vendors, distributors) once the technology and the devices were met with reader demand – and vice versa.

    This makes my anticipation for the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference next month reach smacky twitchy heights.

  3. 3
    Jessica G. says:

    I don’t feel like getting an account to read the article. It’s a snow day, I’m allowed to be lazy.

    I love these articles on ebook readers. Most of them are so out of touch on what is going on.

    And I really really really want to go to this Tools of Change conference. Sounds like it could be really fun. Plus I can show off my Reader in its pretty cover I bought from etsy :)

  4. 4
    joykenn says:

    Yeah, Kindle has sold out twice and now there are lots of rumors that they’ll be announcing a new Kindle soon.  I bought one post-Oprah and will NOT BE PLEASED if they announce a new and improved model after making such a push to sell the “old” one.  The N Y Times speculates that the announcement will come on Feb. 9th.  Here’s the story.

  5. 5
    Jessica G. says:

    SmartBitches, are you going to be crashing the Kindle announcement?

  6. 6
    Emily says:

    The Kindle sold out twice, sure, but the initial run was hardly equivalent to that of a regular book’s first printing. Outside of perhaps a niche community of specific readers, how many people do you REALLY know that read their books primarily online? Kindle is doing to e-reading what the iPhone did to MP3 players.

  7. 7
    Emily says:

    On an electronic reader, rather, not online.

  8. 8
    ev says:

    Well, I am not impressed with the pics of the new kindle. I am one of those who is on the waiting list, however, I may just drop my name off of it.

    To me it looks much more clunky than my Sony, which I have gotten used to quite nicely. My only complaint still being that books are not always available at the time they come out in print but the prices seem to be better in many cases than even fictionwise is, and since Amazon is raising the prices (which is why I was going to get one and give Daughter my new Sony), I think I will just stick with my Sony.

  9. 9
    JoanneL says:

    I have to wonder how far behind the coverage of the ebook market by mainstream business and print media really is

    Based on NOTHING but a feeling… .. I think they haven’t a clue. I think that the publishing business as a whole is afraid to look away from their bottom line long enough to realize that they’re wearing blinders.

    I’m new to the ebook reader (baby-cooing at it now) but I’ve been reading ebooks online for as long as I could get them. Why are so few businesses & business mags talking about how to get the books and ereaders to the consumer faster, easier and with less trouble?

    If they just realized this is a great venue for income then there would be so many companys & ereader-products shuffling for top sales positions that you’d get dizzy trying to keep up.  I wish.

  10. 10
    J.C. Wilder says:

    Obviously Crain subscribes to the Publisher’s Weekly viewpoint, it ain’t news until I say so! PW recently reported that Amazon will suspend carrying ebooks in the Mobipocket format.

    Uh, that happened two years ago.

    So you’re going to the TOC conference? I went last year and was dissappointed. I met one of the leading marketing gurus and I was excited to hit his ‘revoluntionary’ workshop about online marketing….

    Sat there for ten minutes listening to him extole the virtues of BLOGS and CHAT LISTS while others scribbled furiously. *where the hell have these people been* Needless to say I walked out and hit the bar. Who cared if it was only 10am – they drove me to drink. :)

  11. 11
    joykenn says:

    I feel sorry for authors.  (disclaimer: my husband has a couple of books with his agent seeking publication.) They have to find an agent, preferably a good, well-connected one.  Hope and pray to get published.  Then after they find a publisher they don’t seem to have much control over their covers.  :Insert cover snark here:  Then the publisher decides on pricing, release of e-version, etc. etc.  It seems unless you are one of the big hitters, like La Nora, you work and sweat and agonize over every word or scene and get only modest payment and lose control over your “baby”.  I’m glad I’m only a reader and not driven by the obsession to write.

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