I'll be doing a session at the upcoming ScienceOnline 2011 conference on ebooks with David Dobbs, Tom Levenson and Carl Zimmer:
Here's the description:
Ebooks are by far the fastest growing sector of the publishing industry. The New York Times is about to launch a best-seller list exclusively for ebooks. New systems, such as Amazon CreateSpace, allow writers to directly place their ebooks in the marketplace. In theory, they could do away with the need for a conventional publisher. Thus, ebooks could potentially disrupt traditional publishing in the same way blogging disrupted newspapers and magazines over the past decade. In this session we'll survey the ebook industry, look some examples of science ebooks, and discuss some of the implications of this development. We'll try to identify ways in which the science online community can take advantage of this opportunity.
My concerns are basically about access and business models. How do we get ebooks into people's hands and onto their devices and who pays for it? The core issue seems to be that the publishers (and authors?) want to monetize every single act of reading. Libraries (and readers?) would prefer not to head in that direction.
Is this possibly emerging ebook ecosystem of business models just a last gasp attempt by content creators to grab all the cash they can before the Web completely blows up their ability to get anyone to pay anything for digital content? Or is it economically viable and sustainable in the long term for those content creators?
In other words, typical librarian's point of view? Maybe, maybe not.
Some very rough notes on what I plan to talk about:
- The librarian's perspective is the perspective of buying stuff and providing short- and long-term access to a wide range of audiences.
- authors write and "publish" ebooks but libraries have to get them into people's hands, er, on their screens and in their devices
- what are the business models for the range of "publishers" out there, from self-published to big mainstream trade publisher?
- is the trade book industry headed for the same fate as the music industry? Why or why not?
- ultimately, what's the difference between an ebook and the Internet?
- Scholarly vs popular & everything in between
- Key concerns:
- Open formats & standards vs closed, ie epub vs other formats
- device dependence vs. device independance
- long term preservation
Anyways, here's some recent and not-so-recent posts on ebooks and online business models that I'll be (re)reading to prepare for the session.
- The Death Spiral
- Who owns your digital downloads? (Hint: it's not you)
- 2010 Summary: Libraries are Still Screwed
- eBooks in Libraries a Thorny Problem, Says Macmillan CEO
- Feedback loops in eBook success
- The magical $0.50: Why ebook economics don't work in libraries.
- Reading alone: How ebooks will kill the smallest libraries
- Why are you for killing libraries?
- Ebook economics: Are libraries screwed?
- Are the days of the full-time novelist numbered?
- The Full-Time SF Novelist: Probably Not as Endangered as You Think
- The line between book and Internet will disappear
- Amazon's Newest BFF
- Local Bookstores, Social Hubs, and Mutualization
- Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable
- Why iTunes is not a workable model for the newspaper business
- The Collapse of Complex Business Models
- Ebook Locals and Tourists (hint: librarians should be locals)
- Friends, Romans, Librarians: Lend Me Your E-book (Part 1) and (Part 2)
- Your time is up, publishers. Book piracy is about to arrive on a massive scale
- The real cost of free
- Traffic and eBook checkout records SMASHED over Christmas holiday
Needless to say, this only scatches the surface of the available material on ebooks and, more broadly, business models for digital content.
Suggestions for more are, of course, welcome.