E-Books, Electronic or Excluded?

By Peter, June 29, 2009 22:54


Being a CFO of a publishing company and also a gadget man, combined with MY love for reading, you can imagine that I have to discover the world of e-books and e-magazines. Combining all the good things in life. Reading, playing with one of your PC’s and feeling that it helps you with your work. But why is the world of electronic magazines so different from their books counterpart?

topnav-logoLLet me first lead you into the world of the electronic magazines. You can find different sites on the internet when you Google your way through the world wide web. Some sites with different names guide you to the same platform: Zinio (www.zinio.com). MOSTLY part American publishers try to make some extra money by selling their magazines on line. It is no add-on to the printed magazine, but it is an exact copy of the printed magazine itself, that can be read on the internet. You can choose to have the magazines you subscribed to, to be downloaded automatically to the hard drive of your PC (or Mac of course) or you can choose to leave the magazines on the Zinio server and read your magazines on every computer you like, wherever you are, as long as you are ‘connected’. To have all the magazines on your hard drive gives you the ability to search in all of your magazines for certain words or phrases. It is no wonder, that there are a lot of ‘special interest’ magazines published on the internet. The glossy, fashion or gossip magazines are bought by people that want to be entertained, that want to feel the paper and want to read the magazines from the end to the beginning and the other way around. Readers that read the ‘special interest’ magazines are more interested in the content of the magazine, than looking for the feeling a magazine can give. Therefore these kind of readers like the e-magazines the most.

magazinesThen something about the price policies. When I want to buy every month the American PC Magazine, I do not only need to be on time in the kiosk, but also hope, that the kiosk here in Holland is selling this specific magazine that month. If I am successful the whole year I have to spend approx. € 120 in total and I will have a huge pile of paper somewhere on the floor in my living room. If I buy on line an one year subscription, all the magaznies will be automatically brought to me, not wasting any trees and so ease to search for whatever item I am looking for. All I have to pay is $ 9,97 (= € 7,09 on June 29th, 2009) for the whole year! And above that, I can send anyone I want a copy of this magazine. Just what I used to do with my old magazines. I am still as enthusiastic as I was back 6 or 7 years ago when I started to read magazines on the internet. One other advantage: the e-magazines contain multimedia, something the plain paper cannot. And links to internet sites do not have to be typed over, just click it!

So happy with the e-magazines, with all their beautiful full colour photos, nice advertisements and easy to read software (any browser will do), so disappointed I am with the book counterpart. Just characters need to be transferred to the digital world. How difficult can it be to construct a reader for those books? It is obvious that the magazine publishers are exploring the possibilities of the paperless age and are willing to invest. The book publishing companies on the other hand are just fussing about the possibility that they might lose some money and underestimating their own customers.

iliad-handIn the first place there are several readers for several platforms: for pocket handhelds, for PCs and only a few for the Mac. Most known: Mobipocket, Microsoft Reader, Ereader and PDF. There are even ebook readers like the iLiad, that cost more that a normal Windows based laptop. And you also have to be a computer wizard to buy and to install your electronic books before you can even read the first page. To give you an example: I succeeded (after a long journey) to find a reader on the internet for my Mac that could handle mobipocket files. So I bought my first electronic book at the Selexyz site. After downloading the file and saving it on the Solid State Drive of my Macbook Pro I was unable to read the book, because it was locked and could only be read by the specific mobipocket reader. The maker of this reader does not know that there are more and more mac users out there. So I installed the Mobipocket reader on my Windows laptop and it worked.

Sun Tzu text via MobipocketNow I am looking for software (and I know it is out there somewhere) to remove the DRM (Digital Rights Management)  from the file, so I can read it everywhere on any platform. Illegal? I paid for the book, didn’t I? In real life my books are read by at least three or four readers, so I feel that I have the right to unlock the file for everyone (not that I will share it with everyone). All this piracy has been caused by the price. I see no discount at all by the publisher for not having any distribution costs or retailer costs for the products he sells. The publisher should be happy if everyone would read their books electronically. Imagine the trees it would spare. No longer any problems and discussions about reprint etc. Knowing your customers, eliminating the retail. This could be not only heaven for book publishers but also salvation. But what are they afraid of? That writers will skip the publishers? I thought that publishers had more added value than knowing where to print and how to distribute. Weblogs – like this one – are no threats for magazines either.

Book publishers are missing the boat if they do not act as one and make one piece of software that will work on all platforms. It is just a matter of time that there will be a third party that will provide this (legal or not, Chinese or not) and then it will be definitively too late for the publishing establishment.

Oh you want to know, how I read my electronic books? Ereader (English books) on iPhone and MacBook Air, Mobipocket (Dutch) on HTC Shift and Microsoft Reader on Windows Mobile Device. And I also have to be careful where I buy my E-books. Despite this chaos I still shop online, instead of downloading  the books illegally from the dark and misty usenet groups. Music has been brought to the Net, books will certainly follow; no doubt about that!

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