Did You Hear The Book About…?

January 4th, 2007 · 3 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Say what you will about the New York Times, but covering the obvious is something the publication never fears. Okay, possibly a bit on the harsh side, but today’s story about audiobooks and technology shift had us giggling. A little.

The gist of the story is that as more people get iPods, they turn to digital downloads of books rather than countless CDs. This has naturally been a boon for services like Audible (still the home of a really lousy user experience). It has also been a great deal for books — people are able to enjoy fine reading in new and different places. Climbing Mount Everest? You can take a book or ten to enjoy along the way.

So publishers are (slowly, it is the publishing industry after all) making the shift to downloadable-only versions of audiobooks. Which, the article notes, leads to a lower retail price (the cost of distributing the media is virtually eliminated, what with the bandwidth charges being borne by Audible and iTunes and Amazon). The actual cost of production — paying voice actors and engineers — remains high, naturally. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell help in this area by doing their own reading.

The article then gets amusing (yes, we are indeed easily amused). First, it definitively states that ebooks never caught on with readers. This is the sort of statement someone makes when someone doesn’t have a clue about the subject. It is sort of true that ebooks are the not the mass market reading medium of choice. This makes sense given the lack of true portability available — it’s still a choice of itty bitty screens versus lugging your laptop along.

But still, people are reading ebooks like crazy. Have we pointed you to O’Reilly’s website lately? Check out their “Safari” or “Short Cuts” features. At least one member of the BS household accesses digital books via O’Reilly on a regular basis. Heck, the mother-in-law went out and bought an ebook without even realizing what she’d done. It was the best choice for her at the moment.

Still not convinced? How about looking to the success of Ellora’s Cave? They’ve done so well selling erotica in electronic format that they’ve pushed into the print market for selected titles (apparently they’re moving in the neighborhood of 30,000 units a month). That despite difficulties with vendors who refuse to process payments for erotic content and, yes, a pretty lousy user interface. Hmm, do we spot a trend? Ebooks may not be the hottest thing with New York Times reporters, but they continue to find an increasing readership.

(We find the reporter’s statement particularly odd in light of the fact that he goes on to discuss how erotic audiobooks are finding a new, wider audience due to the privacy factor — nobody knows what you’re downloading and hearing. This is, as we’ve noted before, a key reason why erotica publishers are doing so well with ebooks. Buying sexy reading or listening material is simply not an easy, comfortable experience for many people.)

What is truly interesting in this article is the fact that publishers continue to link audiobook availability with hardcover success. A strange sort of snobbery continues to exist in the publishing industry, and hardcover continues to be the line-that-cannot-be-crossed. You know, you’re either in the club or not. Of course, this premise is largely negated by the fact that one of the audiobooks mentioned in the first portion of the article comes from a mass market paperback. Yeah, publishing is a conundrum wrapped in an enigma.

Which reminds us. Our morning crankiness would not be complete if we failed to note that, yet again, the NYT has once again used the term “bodice ripper”. For no apparent, logical reason. Makes no sense at all in the context of the story. At this point, it’s clear that the paper’s reporters lack imagination and education. There can be no other explanation.

[tags]publishing, audiobooks, ebooks, new york times, o’reilly, ellora’s cave[/tags]

File Under: Non-Traditional Publishing

3 responses so far ↓

  • lilli // Jan 7, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    i have yet to download an ebook, call me old fashioned (or just call me old) but i still like to feel the weight of a book in my hands, read great sentences over again, study the typeface and smell the ink and paper.

  • Diana Hunter // Feb 1, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I, too, like the smell of the ink and paper and the feel of a book in my hands. Yet on the plane, a book is just one more thing to carry. Ebooks allow me to take as many books with me on a trip as I have time to read rather than what I can allow in my backpack or suitcase.

    The point made in the article about erotica flourishing as a result of ebooks is a good one. Several of my readers will ONLY buy my ebooks, despite the fact that they can get a print copy at their local bookstore. It’s much safer to keep little eyes away from files on the computer than it is to keep them away from a book on the nightstand.

    Good topic, thanks!

  • Maximum Persuasion // Jul 18, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    I love reading regular books- but I must say, collecting electronic versions has its advantages.

    My little P990i carries at least 40 critical e-material that I can consult from for my client presentations.

    The alternative is lugging around a bunch of books that will break my back!