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Tag: E-Books (41-50 of 53)

Simon and Schuster delaying release of eBooks

In an effort to boost sales of its hardcover titles, Simon & Schuster announced that it will delay the eBook editions of its early 2010 books until four months after the hardcover release. It’s likely a smart move for the publisher: With the popularity of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle surging, more readers are purchasing eBooks for the low price of $9.99, rather than the price of the books’ hardcover equivalent, which often exceeds $20. “We believe this publishing sequence will benefit the performance of all the different formats in which these titles are published,” Simon & Schuster said in a release, “and in the long term will contribute to a healthier retail environment for the greater book buying public.” Some books on the publisher’s January to April 2010 schedule include You: On a Diet Revised Edition, by Michael F. Roizen; The Skinnygirl Dish, by Bethenny Frankel; Point Omega, by Don Delillo; House Rules, by Jodi Picoult; and The Shadow of Your Smile, by Mary Higgins Clark.

Amazon Kindle's popularity fires up

Looks like readers are hoping to save some trees this season. According to Amazon, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the company has sold a whopping 48 Kindle books for every 100 physical books it has sold this season. That number has risen significantly since May. Just six months ago, Amazon was selling just 35 Kindles for every 100 physical books sold.

It’s an impressive number, especially when you consider the price of the product. Consumers are expected to pony up $489 for the latest Kindle model.

But it looks like the Kindle’s power might extend beyond the publishing industry. The subscription-only publishing biz site Publishers Marketplace reported last week that Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life has apparently become the first self-published Kindle book to be acquired by a production company. (Producer Eric Lake optioned the rights for the L.A.-based outfit Hiding In Bed.) Though Hiding In Bed has yet to return EW’s calls regarding specifics of its plans for a film adaptation, McQuestion’s Life follows a restless Wisconsin housewife who befriends a psychic and a harried mother of five.

Barnes and Noble's Nook sells out before release

If you were waiting until after Thanksgiving to start shopping for the holidays (silly you) and were hoping to pick up Barnes & Noble’s new e-reader, the Nook, for the technophilic book-lover in your family, you may be out of luck. According to the B&N website, “the hottest holiday gift is out of stock.”

The devices have been disappearing like $259 hotcakes, selling out well before Black Friday and the device’s predicted release date, Nov. 30. Those who order the color-screen reader after last Friday will not receive theirs until the New Year, with the site currently predicting a ship date of Jan. 4.

This initial sales success positions the Nook as a top alternative to Amazon’s Kindle, especially since Sony recently announced possible delays for its own e-reader, the Daily Edition. The Kindle experienced similar stock depletions during last year’s holiday season.

With all these units being sold, it’s clear that e-readership is up and the phenomenon is more than just a passing literary fad. Even with hardcovers selling at $9 a pop, consumers are still flocking to get their hands on these portable libraries, and, I’ll admit, even a Luddite like myself has entertained jumping on board the biblio-file bandwagon.

How about you guys? Will e-readers be the new iPhones, ascending rapidly from luxury techno-gadget to completely ubiquitous companion? Or will you give up your glue-and-paper copies only when the librarians pry them from your cold, dead hands?

Why do all the e-readers have such terrible names?

Want to stick a book in your Nook? Me neither. It just sounds uncomfortable.

After what I assume was thousands of man-hours of marketing research, the best Barnes & Noble could come up for their new e-reader was a word that already exists and has nothing to do with their product? I, for one, can’t wait for the Borders Cranny.

Plus, Nook, like Vook, just sounds unpleasant. Sure, they’re derived from “book,” but that word was needlessly ugly in the first place. Literature is one of the most beautiful aspects of human culture. The word that describes its most basic unit should be like an elegant dancer, not a homely Germanic dwarf. But even though we’re stuck with it, that doesn’t mean these companies have to follow suit.

The names of other major e-readers aren’t much better. Amazon’s Kindle seems intended to antagonize traditional book-lovers by subtly mocking the flammability of paper. The arbitrary capitalization of the iRex iLiad is Homer via an IM-ing 12-year-old. The Sony Reader is dull and obvious. The Bebook is a stutterer’s nightmare.

Not all technological developments spring out from their creators’ heads fully formed. The flashlight began as the “electric flowerpot” and the zipper was originally given the boring name of “slide fastener.” So maybe it’ll get better.

What’s your take? Am I just trying, by nook or by crook, to find a way to complain? Any suggestions for better names? The Panasonic Codex? The Sharp Wit? The Canon Canon? I guess it’s harder than it looks.

Stephen King on the delay of his e-book and the $9 price wars - can bookstores survive?

44574551In the latest skirmish in the e-book war, Scribner announced this week that it will delay the e-book release of EW columnist and perennial best-seller Stephen King’s new novel, Under the Dome, until Dec. 24. That’s almost six weeks after the hardcover edition goes on sale November 10. “We think that this publishing sequence gives us the opportunity to maximize hardcover sales and at the same time allows people who receive a reading device or gift certificates as a holiday gift to enjoy the digital edition,” says  Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Scribner (an imprint of Viacom’s Simon & Schuster). In an exclusive comment to EW, the author himself was more blunt: “It’s time to give the smaller bookstores a little breathing room (although not much chance of that, with Walmart offering Dome for nine bucks.)” He’s referring to the fact that Walmart (as well as Amazon and Target) this week began offering his book, along with nine hot titles, for as little as $8.98. The retail price of King’s book is $35, which means these retailers are taking a loss on each book.

King is not alone in his concern about the impact the $9 price wars will have on traditional booksellers. The recent price-chopping has led the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores, to file an official complaint with the U.S. Justice Department, charging that the three retail behemoths are engaging in “illegal predatory pricing.” In a letter released yesterday, the ABA went on to say that the practice was “damaging to the book industry and harmful to consumers.” A top publishing executive tells EW: “They had no choice. Bookstores are simply under siege. On one side, they’re facing the threat of e-books, and on the other they’re staring in the face of these three ugly superpowers.” David Young, the CEO of Hachette Book Group USA (publisher of James Patterson’s upcoming I, Alex Cross, another one of the $8.98 titles), told the New York Times: “I do think this massive devaluation of the industry’s crown jewels could very quickly be extremely harmful. And I would not be alone in thinking that.”

How can traditional bookstores compete against giant retailers who are willing to sell books at a loss (a luxury that books-only retailers can’t afford to do)? And is it fair for publishers to fight back by delaying the release of e-book versions of new titles like Under the Dome? What do you think?

Barnes & Noble's new reader lets you lend e-books

barnes-noble-nook_l“Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folk have lent me.” So said Nobel literature laureate Anatole France, and quite rightly. Looking through my own bookshelves, I can count more volumes than I’d like to admit that I’ve passively pilfered, even if I swear to myself that one day I really am going to track down that friend from third grade and give him back his copy of Goosebumps.

Now, the ancient tradition of shelf-sharing has been extended to the e-book. Barnes & Noble revealed their Nook yesterday afternoon, confirming, among other things, the presence of a “lend” function. Users will be able to loan out their e-books to a friend for a period of 14 days, but, as with p-books, they will be unable to access the title during that time. And since the lending period is capped, there’s no worry of your purchase becoming a permanent fixture on your buddy’s coffee table or lost somewhere behind his washing machine.

The feature, as well as a color screen, gives the Nook a bit of a leg up over the equally priced Kindle, and it’s good to see a viable competitor enter the market for what could quite possibly be the future of reading. Now that one more difference between traditional books and their electronic counterparts has been struck down, I think we might see some bibliophiles getting more comfortable with the idea of biblio-files. The New York Times is reporting that people with Kindles are purchasing, on average, over three times as many titles as they were before the switch, so the format clearly isn’t going away anytime soon.

It’s interesting to see e-books working backwards to approximate the experience of real books, trying to find a happy medium. Maybe soon readers will come equipped with must-emitters that periodically spray the combination essence of yellowing paper and attic mildew into your face as you read. One can only hope.

What do you think? Does the lending feature make you want to give in and buy an e-reader, or are you happy to stick with the comfort of the original, paper cuts and all?

Walmart and Amazon get into price war: $9 hardcovers

Your high school English teacher may have told you that the value of a good book was immeasurable, but Walmart and Amazon have a feeling that it hovers somewhere under 10 bucks. The two online giants have begun a deep-discount war that is more reminiscent of neighboring delis with erasable sandwich boards than retail behemoths.

Walmart fired the opening salvo on Thursday with a promotion offering their top 10 pre-ordered books (including Sarah Palin’s memoir and new books from Stephen King, James Patterson, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton) for only a sawbuck — including free shipping. Amazon responded to the broadside by matching their price, but as of this morning, both deals had slipped down another notch to a staggering $9 per popular new hardcover. That’s over two-thirds off the cover price of Palin’s Going Rogue, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, retailers are hoping will provide a shot in the arm for somewhat sluggish book sales this fall.

While this might seem like just some good old American capitalism at work, it’s also a cause for reflection. These are two of the largest outlets for book sales in the world, and although it might spell better deals for us, the consumers, it’s hardly an auspicious sign for the vitality of the industry. It’s even worse news for independent booksellers who aren’t able to compete at anything near the level of Sam Walton’s little corner store. But maybe the most interesting aspect of this is its implications for physical books themselves. Amazon’s pricing for these hardcovers is now lower than the $9.99 tag on most Kindle editions. Is this a sign that e-books are starting to have a depreciative effect on the genuine article? The inevitable might have just inched a little bit closer.

What do you think? Are you happy for the change in your pocket, or are you worried for the change in the market?

Amazon settles suit with teen in Kindle-ate-my-homework case

Remember a few months ago when Amazon deleted a bunch of e-books from Kindle owners, including (ironically) George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four? Well, the company just settled a lawsuit filed by one of those affected by the preemptive move: Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old high school student from Michigan who claims he made “copious notes” in his Kindle which were no longer connected to the relevant passages of the text and therefore rendered useless. Gawronski, who already received a $30 gift certificate in the wake of the deletion flap, will collect $150,000 (his reps indicate that after subtracting lawyer fees, the proceeds will go to charity). Still, that’s not bad compensation for losing a book that the teen admitted to the L.A. Times last July he was “between a quarter and halfway through” reading. I wonder if it’s too late for me to sue my family’s Labrador for mauling my much-marked-up high school edition of Animal Farm just days before freshman-year midterms.

What is a Vook and will it change how you read?

vook_lIs a Vook:

A)   An endangered bird

B)   What you hear when Zsa Zsa Gabor curses you out

C)   The latest development in digital reading

D)   None of the above

E)   All of the above (including ‘None of the above’)

If you chose A, B, or D you are incorrect. If you chose E, you created an impossible paradox that threatens to shred the universe to tatters. But if you chose C, DING! DING! DING! You win a prize! Namely, I drop this tired ‘Multiple Choice’ format and just tell you what the heck a Vook is.

Well, the answer’s in the name: Video+Book=Vook. (The math checks out.) Clips of a few minutes in length are embedded into the text of an e-book to create a multimedia experience. The videos can accompany the text or advance the plot themselves, and they are produced exclusively for each title. Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is releasing four vooks (two nonfiction, two fiction) today for purchase online or for the iPhone. Atria has developed the project with the San Francisco-based startup that originally conceptualized the format, and it hopes the Vook will become the go-to medium for subway riders and waiting-room attendees everywhere. So how does it stack up: Is it Kindle or kindling? I took a test run.

On the positive side, the configuration feels intuitive and easy to use. You can just read, just watch, or read and watch simultaneously, a task that takes a bit of getting used to even for my YouTube-trained brain. The format definitely lends itself better to certain types of books than others. Probably the most effective of the four inaugural titles is Return to Beauty by aesthetician Narine Nikogosian, a straightforward how-to manual for making your own mango moisturizers, white bean and olive oil face masks, and prime rib au jus body scrubs. (All right, I made up that last one.) The video demonstrations that punctuate the manual seem pretty helpful, particularly on something as portable as an iPhone. And all that kitchen cosmetology really makes me think that this layout would be perfect for cookbooks (or cookvooks, if you will). An easily navigable Food Network right on your countertop. I could see instructional, or even self-help, vooks as a totally viable alternative to trying to re-tar your roof with a book in one hand, a laptop in the other, and a TiVo-ed This Old House playing somewhere downstairs.

Sadly, the fiction titles don’t work quite as well. The first, a Jude Deveraux romance set in 19th-century South Carolina, tries to use video clips to provide atmosphere, with fluttering shots of cernuous willows and Southern manses set to the book’s narration. But since the text was produced separately from the videos, the clips feel a little redundant and even distracting.

The other novella, a thriller by Richard Doetsch, does a better job at integrating the two media, and the video’s content actually advances the narrative. Unfortunately, the clips are still too few and far between (and at some points cheesier than a Wisconsin state fair) to make you feel like you are experiencing something especially different or revolutionary. It certainly has potential, but it also has a ways to go before realizing it on the fiction front.

Book purists — or even e-book purists if those exist yet — shouldn’t be afraid of the vook taking the place of their cherished texts anytime soon. Atria and Vook intend it not as a replacement for lying on the beach with a Crichton or a Patterson, but as an in-between option, for when your bus is stuck in traffic or your kid’s soccer game goes into overtime. However, its release poses an interesting question nonetheless: Is this the first hole in the dam for our traditional definition of what books are? Can a single medium continue to exist alone in this increasingly multimedia world, or will reading inevitably end up looking less like Gutenberg and more like Google?

What do you think?

Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' breaks first-day records

Dan Brown’s latest historical/conspiratorial/symbological mystery had a stellar first day, selling more than one million copies in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Amazon and Barnes & Noble reported that The Lost Symbol broke their records for first-day sales of an adult fiction book. “Adult,” in this case, being shorthand for “not Harry Potter.”

The e-book edition also posted big sales, and is currently the top seller for the Amazon Kindle.

Suzanne Herz of Knopf Doubleday says that this kind of fervent response was absolutely what the publisher expected. “There is no comparison,” she said, between The Lost Symbol‘s success and the early sales of Brown’s other novels. Anticipating massive demand, the publisher had to go back to press immediately prior to release in order to print an additional 600,000 copies (bringing the total number to 5.6 million).

According to Carolyn Brown, spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble, the book exploded past previous first-day records. “No other adult fiction title even comes close.”  And what’s more, it may be spurring readers to buy other titles, too. “It is early, but so far we have seen a lift in sales of books about Freemasonry and secret societies, followed closely by those about early Christianity (Gnostic Gospels).  We think interest in these genres will continue to be strong as the topics appeal to Brown’s core audience,” said Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing for Barnes & Noble, Inc.  “As people read more from The Lost Symbol, we expect that the more esoteric titles and books about hermetics, noetics, quantum physics should start to gather momentum.  And  anything about the hidden mysteries and history of Washington are sure to see a pop as well.”

Brown’s sequel to his massively successful 2003 hit, The Da Vinci Code, a cultural symbol in its own right, finds his popular protagonist Robert Langdon back in the United States, returned from his two-book European vacation, and faced with another series of cryptic clues and shadowy goings-on. Fans are clearly excited at the prospect of another go-round with their favorite (likely by default) Harvard symbologist. Like one of Brown’s beloved ambigrams, whether read backwards or forwards, this spells major success for the author.

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