Are Ebooks Dead?

I am fascinated with the emergence of the Ebook market and try to read everything I can on the subject. I would have loved to attend the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference this week (my brother was there), but now that they are putting some of the addresses online, I am doing my best to catch up. Here is a great presentation on Ebooks and how technology is impacting the publishing industry.

Are Ebooks Dead? -Skip Prichard (Video length: 19:52)

Michael Hyatt of Thomas Nelson Publishing has a good summary of the conference here: The O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference, along with some great quotes from the conference. The money quote as far as I am concerned? “Obscurity is a bigger problem for authors than piracy.” (Tim O’Reilly; see also linked article below) As the book industry enters the digital age, publishers need to look carefully at the early missteps taken by the music industry and avoid making the same mistakes.

What are your thoughts on Ebooks and how they will change book reading and publishing?

Related article: David Pogue Revisits DRM Question about Ebooks


  1. Donna says:

    Hi Ray,,Eric and I were just discussing EBooks the other day and although the technology is very exciting, there is something about a book, especially one that smells,,yes, yes, Eric and I smell our books.
    I am pretty sure we have also had this discussion, I love a book, the feel, the smell, holding it, turning the pages,,the feel of the pages,,ect,,can you tell I love books????

  2. Eric says:

    ‘The money quote as far as I am concerned? “Obscurity is a bigger problem for authors than piracy.” ‘

    I’m not sure I agree with this. It seems like every author (or musician or anyone else earning royalties) suffers from piracy. Some also just happen to suffer from obscurity. But will Ebooks reduce this problem? Good recommendations get passed around by word of mouth, regardless of whether it’s a print book or an Ebook. If someone suffers from obscurity, it’s likely that’s because they are either not very good, or their topic only appeals to a niche market. Unless, of course, I misinterpreted the quote entirely 🙂

    Regardless, I will be one of those old fogeys wandering one of the few print bookstores left in existence, steadfastly refusing to even try an Ereader!

  3. Ray Fowler says:

    Donna – Yes, I know Ebooks don’t smell like real books. Maybe they can invent a spray that smells like old books? 🙂

    Eric – Sadly, I think Ebooks will increase piracy of literature. Digital formats just tend towards piracy more than other formats (ease of copying, etc.)

    At the same time, one of the unintended consequences of piracy is less obscurity. I think about when I was in high school and someone would tape a record album of songs they liked and pass it on to me (piracy/bad). But one of the good consequences was I really liked some of the artists and started buying their stuff. I first heard Bruce Cockburn through a pirated tape (bad), and eventually bought all of his albums, and then later re-bought them on CD (good). Now the ends don’t justify the means, but I think the point of the quote is that, yes piracy will happen with Ebooks, but authors should fear obscurity more than piracy.

    Word of mouth happens as people read books or hear music, and digitally that happens a lot quicker than with other means. For example, Amazon has a feature where I can download the first chapter of any Kindle book to my Kindle for free. I digitally sample the book, and then often end up buying and reading the whole thing. This is a definite plus for authors.

    A lot of this aspect of Ebooks has to do with DRM (digital rights management) and protection from piracy, and whether DRM reduces piracy or increases obscurity more. David Pogue has a good article with a real life example on this here: David Pogue Revisits DRM Question about Ebooks

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