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Barnes and Noble Drops Ebooks 411

Posted by michael
from the one-step-forward-two-steps-back dept.
computx writes "I just recieved an email from Barnes and Noble that they will no longer sell ebooks and I have 1 month to download the books I have purchased. Wow!"
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Barnes and Noble Drops Ebooks

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  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:11PM (#6914001) Homepage Journal
    and I have 1 month to download the books I have purchased.

    You must have a really slow internet connection.

  • Bathroom Reading (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brahmastra (685988) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:11PM (#6914006)
    E-books aren't popular because they are inconvenient. Have you ever tried reading in a bathtub or on your toilet seat with an e-book?
    • Re:Bathroom Reading (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Uksi (68751) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:13PM (#6914026) Homepage
      With my Palm, yes! Must've read four books w/ it in locations ranging from subway to bed to toilet.
      • Stoplights are my favorite. Traffic, don't notice it anymore. Dangerous, probably. Sure beats the guy I see with his business section every morning.
      • by CGP314 (672613) <CGPNO@SPAMColinGregoryPalmer.net> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:28PM (#6914229) Homepage
        The palm is the only device I find comfortable to read. Why? Because it doesn't shine bright, white light into my eyes. Reading on a computer screen is like looking into a floodlight that someone has taped letters over. I wish more webpages defaulted to a black background with light text. Much easier to read.
        • Tools->Internet options->Accessibility->Ignore colours specified on web pages
          Tools->Internet options->Accessibility->Ignore font styles specified on web pages
          Tools->Internet options->Accessibility->Ignore font sizes specified on web pages

          I'm assuming that you're using Intarweb Exploder, on the basis that there's a fair overlap between that demographics and those that don't understand that markup is a set of hints, not dictats.

        • by OrangeTide (124937) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:43PM (#6914384) Homepage Journal
          Black backgrounds also cause eye strain. You should strive to have a more neutral background that is closer to your ambient environment.

          You could crank the brightness down on your monitor so bright white was closer to the ambient environment, but then everything else is too dark.

          A piece of paper does fine since it only reflects the light available in the room, it doesn't create any additional light (obviously) and even absorbs a little bit of light.

          We need displays that can match this much more closely, of course people have abandoned reflective displays on laptops. Since they are impossible to read in low-light, even if they are much easier to read in direct sunlight. This is pretty much the kind of display your palm uses. I don't think this OLED thing is going to fix anything either, maybe the electronic ink might be the future for reading a lot of text on a display.

          When programing either do a fairly neutral gray on black. or a somewhat interesting color on a dark grey. The later seems to cause me fewer problems on my CRT. (my LCD's "black" is pretty bright still:)
        • by ryanvm (247662) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:00PM (#6914541)
          Reading on a computer screen is like looking into a floodlight that someone has taped letters over.

          Who are you, Gollum?
        • Off White (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dragonsapp (307227) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:25PM (#6914853) Homepage
          I agree, white is not the best color for reading on a computer, but black is not the solution.

          Try this out: 255 255 240 or #FFFFF0

          It's close enough to white that it looks "normal" but doesn't cause as much strain. Also, with the way our eye work, when it's the closest color to white on the screen our eyes fool us into thinking it's acctually white.

          Try it sometime. Works best to make your document editor paper this color and then place a white picture farther into the doc. On a blank page let your eyes get used to the color then scroll down to the white pic. You'll be amazed at how the colors seem to shift though you know they didn't change.
          • Re:Off White (Score:3, Insightful)

            by EelBait (529173)

            Why not just turn down the color temperature on your monitor from 9300K to an easier-to-read 6500K? That's what those settings are for!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:29PM (#6914237)
        With my Palm, yes!

        At first I thought you meant something else involving using your palm in the bathroom.

      • Re:Bathroom Reading (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mgg4 (704335) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:49PM (#6914434)

        I also use a "Palm" device (Sony Clie). I have over 90 books stored on one memory stick, including a full dictionary and NIV Bible, and the chip is just over half full.

        Having the ability to read the unabridged text of these books without having to drag a bookcase around is VERY COOL.

        • Re:Bathroom Reading (Score:5, Interesting)

          by gladed (451363) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:17PM (#6914762) Journal
          Just got back from a 3-day Christian men's camp this weekend. A group of us were debating a particular point of theology and someone said "now what's that verse...".

          Naturally, I whipped out my Zire 71, did a full text NASB search and found and quoted the verse. In about 10 seconds. While we were walking. In the dark.

          I'm sure people resisted the move away from rolled-up animal skins, too...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:14PM (#6914038)
      Yes i have, and with a laptop it's easy!

      The only real complaint i have is when i get back to the board room, my laptop smells like shit.

      However, I would have to say that is an invovenience for others, and not myself. So no big deal.

    • by M.C. Hampster (541262) <M.C.TheHampster@NOSPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:16PM (#6914067) Journal

      I think this is defniately the holdup for eBooks. Without a portable device, you are tied to a computer to read them, and even with them you are tied to battery life plus the possible eye strain associated with looking at a little screen to read.

      I know some people that talk about the allure of paper, and the sentimentality they have for holding a book with paper, but personally if I could buy eBooks and download them into a nice sized reader that had acceptable battery life and a nice, easy to read screen, I'd prefer that. I'm guessing the device exists out there, I'm just not willing to pay a few hundred bucks for it yet.

      • by Zathrus (232140) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:36PM (#6914312) Homepage
        I know some people that talk about the allure of paper, and the sentimentality they have for holding a book with paper, but personally if I could buy eBooks and download them into a nice sized reader that had acceptable battery life and a nice, easy to read screen

        The "nice, easy to read screen" cannot be emphasized enough.

        Most portable electronics have tiny screens with low resolutions, horrible DPI, and glare issues. And they suck down batteries.

        Newspaper print is generally the worst in terms of DPI for printed material, and even it exceeds 2400 DPI. I distinctly recall talking to a friend of my father who was in the newspaper business. He was wondering when I thought traditional printed newspapers would be in significant danger from portable devices, home printing, etc. I, as a know-it-all geeky CS student, said it'd probably be about 10 years before the display technologies got there.

        Well, it's roughly 10 years later and we're really no closer than we were. Printing has certainly improved, but not as dramatically as I expected. Display technologies have gone more or less nowhere -- LCD has come down in price and power consumption, but the resolutions haven't gone up dramatically and there's been no really new technologies in that time period. Sure, OLED and similar are on the horizon now, but they don't promise a solution to the resolution issues. Printed circuits, electronic paper, and other technologies are also closer, but still probably a decade or more away.

        Paper is here to stay for quite some time.
      • A Palm with weasel reader is precicely what you want. There are many many books out there (some legal, most not.) And they compress nicly. Weasel gets you 4 diffrent sizes (I personally prefer the large, bold size, right now.)

        My m505 has 12-20 hours of battery life on a nice 1-2 hour charge (e.g. when sleeping.) A great backlight, and a slot for an SD card. While yes, I do read hardcovers once in a while, I actually find the palm more convient than paperbacks. All the words are arranged evenly on the scree
      • Re:Bathroom Reading (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Lesrahpem (687242) <iadnah.uplinklounge@com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:59PM (#6914530) Homepage
        I can say that I've found a great use for e-books. I have pdf's of several very large and obscure books like the Lesser Key of Solomon, Crowley's Equinox, 777, The Golden Dawn, and other books (whose names I won't mention since few people would recognize the names). I've found this to be very useful, since these books are expensive, mostly available only as hard back, and a pain in the ass to carry around or store. Having them as e-books saves a ton of space and time, especially when looking for something in them.

        I think the best market for e-books are libraries. Imagine going to the library and being able to grep the entire contents of the library to find books related to the subject you're looking for. Libraries have been lacking any really effective way of indexing since the concept of library came about. If they used e-books it would eliminate the problems almost entirely. Honestly, use grep, sed, awk, and a sql database and there you go. That's what I do for the books I have.
      • Re:Bathroom Reading (Score:3, Informative)

        by Gogl (125883)
        While I agree that looking at a little screen can cause eye strain, reading an actual physical book can cause eye strain too. I seem to remember anecdotes in history class about how Lincoln (an avid reader) suffered eye troubles because he read so much. What's more, he didn't have so many handy lights at night to help him read. Palm Pilots and the like at least typically come with backlights (or frontlights or whatever).
    • When I'm in the bath tub, there is no time to read, I'm too busy mastur....

      oops
    • I'm on my toilet right now! Ha!

      I don't know how B&N e-books work, but doesn't this mean that you'll never be able to "install" the e-book on another computer, since you can't unlock it shaking hands with their server? I may be getting confused; B&N may not work this way.

      If I Recall Correctly, all twelve of B&N's e-book customers should demand their money back.
    • Exactly! "Maxim Online" in Plucker format and "PilotMines" are bathroom fodder. I even have a Palm crossword puzzle for extended sessions. But an e-book? No way.
    • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:18PM (#6914098)
      E-books aren't popular because they are inconvenient. Have you ever tried reading in a bathtub or on your toilet seat with an e-book?

      No kidding. After I carry the tower, the keyboard, and all the cords in to the bathroom, the LAST thing I want to do is go get the 50 lb. monitor!

      Then when I'm done I have to lug it all to bed for some light reading, just to wake up 15 minutes early to reassemble the office.

      EBooks suck.
    • Convenience depends on what you're doing. As a previous poster pointed out, yes, you can read them while sitting on the toilet if you're using a PDA (though I wouldn't trust myself with it in the tub).

      As a very frequent international traveler, to me nothing sucks more than running out of reading material in a non-English speaking country. With ebooks, I always have a good supply loaded onto my laptop & PDA, ready to go.

      It's still not quite as satisfying as holding a book, but it's pretty close

      • Blackmask.com (Score:5, Informative)

        by tuckerclerico (667874) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:27PM (#6914222)
        Cripes.

        Go to http://www.blackmask.com [blackmask.com].

        Thousands of *free* ebooks.

        Who cares if B&N drops 'em? Blackmask has the good stuff, everything's free, and they're in six (at least) different formats for nearly every device under the sun. Plus no stupid DRM.

        • Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

          by KalvinB (205500)
          If you're looking for old public domain stuff, BlackMask is fine. But places like B&N sell the new stuff that Blackmask can't just give away.

          The fact is you could spend your whole life reading public domain books.

          Some people however, would rather read the new stuff that you can't get for free and are happy to pay for it. Apparently, not enough people fall into that category.

          So yes, to some people, B&N dropping e-books DOES matter and Blackmask can't supply them with what they actually want.

          You
    • 2. It is uncomfortable to read from light-emitting screens for long. This problem may be overcome in the future with "electronic paper" and such
      3. Sense of ownership. Most people prefer to have a physical item as a proof of ownership. I hope this cultural preference will change because it really is a waste of reasources to store books on printed papers and music on CDs.

      Tor
    • Those who read on the toilet get piles. Good luck!
    • I won't go to the bathroom without my laptop. I have a barstool in front of my toilet that's the perfect height for it. And with a TV that can be seen from the bathroom doorway, I could spend hours on the toilet if I so desired.
    • Reading in the toilet? BS! First, you can do it in your toilet with you palm or even a notebook. Second, reading in the toilet was never important factor in the book publishing industry. Content and its orientation for specific readers - that's what's important.

      In case of eBooks, the way of reading adds something to the formula and as a result the most viable customers for eBook would be people who love (or just used) to read from the screen. Guess who? That's right - computer engineers and web artists. A

  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    How much cost is associated w/ Ebook distribution?
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sixdotoh (584811)
      server space, maintenence of servers, customer service, support . . .
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Badge 17 (613974) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:15PM (#6914059)
      The risk of them being illegally distributed, for one. Advertising. Staffing, typing blurbs. These are not non-existant costs... and unfortunately the profits from ebooks are. I don't blame them - we don't have a good hardware device for ebooks, so they're not profitable.
  • Bad Support (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:13PM (#6914029)

    At least they gave one month of service...
    Still, that's not very long to "support" your products, even if they were a flop.

    They must have stopped selling them because Everyone was pirating copies of Light in August, Huck Finn, and Robinson Carusoe. Poor BN couldn't make enough money :(

    • Re:Bad Support (Score:3, Informative)

      by KingPrad (518495)
      I can't see a lot of people "pirating" books that are in the public domain and available on numerous sites around the web, most notably the Gutenberg Project. Purchasing free books in a text format doesn't seem very smart. They could easily download them from Gutenburg in pure text and convert them to the desired format such as PDF or RTF. I'm sure such converted format books are available on the web too.
  • drats (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The eight people who bought ebooks will be VERY inconvenienced.
  • by PenguinPooper (627246) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:14PM (#6914037)
    I can understand why they are dumping them. Who needs a whole book filled with e and E ?? They should start using some of those other letters too !
  • by segment (695309) <sil@politr i x . o rg> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:14PM (#6914039) Homepage Journal

    Considering all the file sharing on Kazaa, and other P2P programs, I for one am not surprised that BN would drop selling them. I wonder how much money is lost for eBook sharing? I also wonder if some 'coalition' (like the RIAA) is going to step in and scream 'No more downloads!' when it comes to eBooks.
    • Not as much as libraries!

      Those places offer books for FREE! you dont even need to pay for the bandwidth!

      I hope that "some 'coalition' (like the RIAA) is going to step in and scream 'No more downloads!' when it comes to " libraries.

      After all...its not a free country or anything.

      I sure dont want those new technology-based kids READING BOOKS...they may turn out to be not ignorant.

      Why not put as many books online as possible and offer them for free.

  • First I read the /. article about the spacecraft being dropped, and saw that photo. Ouch! Now B+N have dropped some ebooks? Man, those things usually aren't built as sturdy as the satellites. That's gonna be ugly.

  • eBooks... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FileNotFound (85933) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:14PM (#6914047) Homepage Journal
    ...would have been great had readers been umm readable and cheap and had the format been widley available.

    I'd love nothing more than having all my college books in eBook format, and preferably for half the price... But it doesn't make sense to pay $300ish for a reader with fairly limited battery life and the pay prices for books which in my opinion are still unreasonable.
    • I'd love nothing more than having all my college books in eBook format,
      Oh my, I would've never made it through two degrees if all my books were digital... I'm a big fan of the team work session: go to the lab, break out the books, and throw out whatever makes no sense to you. It's much easier to do this when everyone can flip through books, make little annotations, point things out by finger, and bookmark for later reference. Of course...

      and preferably for half the price...
      Now THAT I would give up t
    • Re:eBooks... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dagmar d'Surreal (5939) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:21PM (#6914802) Journal
      Come on... Lots of people find the Palm handheld displays quite readable. As to cheap, check Ebay. You can buy Visor Deluxes all day long for under $30. Those have 16Mb of RAM which is enough to hold a dozen paperbacks. If you want to go as "high" as $80 you can get a Handspring Edge, which is 2x as fast, has a more durable case and better backlight, is lighter, and is rechargeable by leaving it in the cradle for an hour or three a week.

      As to free software for reading, you've got your choice of Weasel Reader and Plucker. Both are quite easy to use, and come with tools to convert other formats into what they need to read them.

      The only reason companies are finding eBooks unprofitable is they're discovering not too many people are interested in paying the same amount of money to buy an ebook (and not get the paperback) as they would to buy a paperback. Add to this that most of these nits are selling ebooks in proprietary protected formats that may or may not be readable in 5 years (paperbacks are certainly readable 5 years from now) and you have to wonder if these companies are beginning to make executive decisions based on the opinions of the interns from the "special" school.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:15PM (#6914057)
    I recall my one experience purchasing ebooks. It seemed like a fantastic idea. I saved on shipping, and would get it right away.

    The DRM management in both the Microsoft and Adobe Readers made it so annoying that it took days for me to be able to read what I purchased. A combination of buggy software and lousy online support ended my enthusiasm. In the end, I decided to go back to good, old-fashioned books.
    • by pi_rules (123171)

      The DRM management in both the Microsoft and Adobe Readers made it so annoying that it took days for me to be able to read what I purchased. A combination of buggy software and lousy online support ended my enthusiasm. In the end, I decided to go back to good, old-fashioned books.

      This posting reminded me that I wanted to try downloading a book in audio electronic format sometime soon. My buddy lent it to me on tape but I would much rather have it in .OGG or .MP3 so I can listen to it at work when I'm al

  • My Poor Eyes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CGP314 (672613) <CGPNO@SPAMColinGregoryPalmer.net> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:15PM (#6914058) Homepage
    I don't blame them. I love to read (plug for my book reviews [colingregorypalmer.net]) but reading on the computer stinks. It hurts my eyes, and I would never read a book in the positing that I sit at my desk. And I'm not about to lug my laptop along to read during commutes on the tube.
    • by pheared (446683) <kevin AT pheared DOT net> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:19PM (#6914114) Homepage
      ...but reading on the computer stinks.

      That explains all of the RTFAs on Slashdot.

      But, it doesn't explain Slashdot.
      • ...but reading on the computer stinks.

        That explains all of the RTFAs on Slashdot.


        I think that may be true. I know that when I read something on a computer screen, I lose my place and my interest more quickly. When I discovered that the GREs had a reading section on the computer I was really annoyed. I know I would have had a higher score if the reading section was printed on paper.
  • Inflexibility (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChrisHanel (636741) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:15PM (#6914061) Homepage Journal
    This is what happens when you refuse to give people the fair use they deserve when they buy their E-books... nobody bothers, and nobody makes money.

    Besides, i can just walk into the local B&N and sit and read half of any book before the store closes. :) Gotta love those comfy chairs.

    • Couple weeks ago, the local "manager" gave me a hard time about leaving the store. Seems he was upset that I would try to walk out with the book I WALKED IN WITH without paying. I had a good laugh at his expense.

      But agreed, I buy about 50% of the books I browse through.
  • by chia_monkey (593501) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:16PM (#6914082) Journal
    I wonder what's really going on at Barnes and Noble. My roomie is a manager there and she said they were reducing the size of the computer section big time. Now they're dropping eBooks. Is this just an odd coincidence or is B & N moving more toward a "traditional" bookstore and coffeeshop mix (meaning does management think computer related stuff isn't "traditional")? Does anyone know?
    • My guess would be that the rate at which computer books are outdated means that it probably doesn't make sense for a traditional bookstore to carry them. Add to this the fact that people who are going to buy advanced computer books are more likely to be the kind of people to save money buying them online and you get a computer section reduced to dummies books and visual quickstarts.
    • Wasn't their computer section crap to begin with? Can't make any money? Here's a hint: there is not much market for 2 year old technical books! Yes, it's true! The computer book market is _different_ from the romance novel market!
    • she said they were reducing the size of the computer section big time.

      I don't blame them. The computer section of a bookstore always looked like a big money sink for the store. Too many too books that are outdated almost as soon as they hit the shelves with a very small audience to purchase them.
    • I'll bet they lose pretty big in this area. Lots of subject matter to cover combined with a short shelf life make this area of interest hard to service compared to other more traditional interests.

      Sure, I buy computer books just like everyone else does, but I am generally interested in the new ones and I buy less now that the net does what it does so well.

      Just a thought or two...

    • by dasboy (598256) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:59PM (#6914528)
      Barnes and Noble booksellers (NYSE symbol BKS) is not the same as bn.com (NASDAQ symbol BNBN). They are separate companies with separate management. BKS does however own about 38% of BNBN's stock. BNBN is a joint venture between BKS and Bertelsmann. Don't feel bad, the fools (Motley and otherwise) at Fool.com and Forbes magazine don't seem to know the difference either -- and they are both selling investment advice!
  • by PierceLabs (549351) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:16PM (#6914083)
    Noone really wants to download a PDF and page through it at their desk and I don't know too many people taking laptops to the toilet, bathtub, or park in order to read. The problem isn't really with eBooks per-say, its that there really isn't a convenient way to view the content.

    Some of the new OLED technology may make eBooks more practical for consumers, but right not they just aren't convenient enough and the eBook readers only add insult to injury as many consumers (myself included) just don't see the point in buying a device to read a book as opposed to just buying the paper book and not having to worry about charging it up before making a coast-to-coast flight.
    • buying a device to read a book as opposed to just buying the paper book and not having to worry about charging it up before making a coast-to-coast flight.

      that's if you're even allowed to switch it on these days...

      I have a Palm Zire 71... read a lot of e-books on it... the display is a heck of a lot better than that on my old M105... I'm still waiting for a cheap practical large display device though...

      the only thing that worries me about companys deciding to close down selling e-books is that of books

    • Noone really wants to download a PDF and page through it at their desk and I don't know too many people taking laptops to the toilet, bathtub, or park in order to read. The problem isn't really with eBooks per-say, its that there really isn't a convenient way to view the content.

      I agree, PDF stinks for online viewing. There's nothing worse than scrolling up and down to read multiple columns on a page. But there is this fairly ubiquitous little alternative called HTML. I can't figure out why it doesn't see

  • evolution? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxmo74 (597969)
    that's sad. I always believed that ebooks, anyway an electronic form for books, would have been really successful. This apparently demonstrates the countrary. Or maybe this just underlines that the "ebook" form was not good enough. Personally I find very usefull to have ebooks, large PDF's, big text only files of something that is pubblically available. We can talk about RFC's, manuals, 80 years older novels, poems and so on. They are useful for research, studying (school/uni books cost really a lot of mone
  • by bizcoach (640439) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:17PM (#6914096) Homepage
    I don't think e-books are going to die. When offered for sale, e-books are great products for small businesses, and when given away gratis they're a great marketing vehicle. However the business dynamics of e-books are very different from paper-based books. Selling e-nooks does not make much business sense for a company like Barnes and Noble. Some other company will be kind of e-books. :-) Greetings, Norbert.
  • . . .because I downloaded all my favorite books off of Kazaa and iMesh.
  • I don't think e-books were ever widely promoted, with the exception of a couple of titles. Couple that with the fact that reading an e-book simply doesn't have the same feeling as a regular book, and it's not so hard to see why these things haven't taken off. I think, in time, the concept will eventually become popular, given enough technological improvements and mass marketing.
  • by Paul Bristow (118584) <{paul} {at} {paulbristow.net}> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:21PM (#6914145) Homepage
    This is exactly why I only buy unencrypted e-books and sci-fi magazines from Fictionwise [fictionwise.com]

    Their Multiformat books are available as:
    Adobe Acrobat (PDF) for Macintosh and PCs
    Palm DOC (PDB) for Palm compatible devices
    Palm iSilo (PDB) for Palm compatible devices
    Microsoft Reader (LIT) for PC and PocketPC devices
    Franklin eBookman (FUB) for Franklin eBookMan devices
    Hiebook (KML) for Hiebook devices
    Mobipocket (PRC) (currently available for Palm, PocketPC, and Franklin eBookman devices)
    Rocket (RB) for Rocket and REB/1100

    I think I have a faily good chance of being able to read at least one of those formats in a few years time, and unencrypted Acrobat files can be transcoded into html easily.

    Please note: Even though these books are not protected I have bought over a hundred books and short stories here and mysteriously failed to put them on kazaa or even give copies to my friends.

    I am (shock horror for SCO, RIAA etc) both an open source programmer and I support copyright. Without copyright the GPL is meaningless.

    • This is exactly why I only buy unencrypted e-books and sci-fi magazines from Fictionwise


      That's funny. The format is use is 100% unencrypted, and 100% compatible with any reader. And, I get to buy them from my LOCAL retailer. The format I like is called "paper". It's only been around for a few thousand years, but I think it's going to catch on one of these days.
  • I guess that's good news for others, like PeanutPress [palmdigitalmedia.com] and Baen.
    Yes, I occasionally buy (or bought) ebooks, even though they're a pain in many ways (no first sale, can't lend them to others, don't work well in the bathtub), because it is convenient to always have a book or three I haven't read yet on my PDA, which I carry with me anyhow.
    I've only purchased about 50-60 ebooks so far, which is way less than the number of paper books I've bought in the same period. Still, they're a nice supplement.
    Now if only
  • I refuse to buy e-books because of the way DRM schemes restrict fair use. DRM means you can never really own most ebooks, and I refuse to buy something I cannot move freely and without intervention from device to device. I'd only make exceptions for things which are indispensable.
  • Just wait (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sixdotoh (584811) <sixdotoh.hotmail@com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:24PM (#6914187) Homepage
    e-books have never enjoyed any kind of success. They were dead from the beginning.

    I believe there are many reasons for this. A big one would be that most people do not enjoy staring at a computer monitor reading for long hours at a time. This can become very uncomfortable, especially for people who work on computers all day to begin with. I read three 300+ page novels (Star Wars fan fiction, the Snotzenexer Trilogy, awesome stuff, check 'em out) on a computer screen, and pretty much the only reason I did that was because I didn't really have the capability to print those pages.
    anyway

    Another big reason, is that most people don't seem to like the idea of paying for something that is just some digital document that just sits on your hard drive, and doesn't seem to be anything more than a typical word processing document.

    Then there's just that psychological factor of books, turning pages, seeing the book on your shelf, being able to hold it in your hands. In this day and age, with so many people doing all kinds of work on computers, the idea of coming home and curling up with a cup of coffee in front of your computer monitor is a whole lot less appealing than in your bed with a book in your hands.

    So while e-books have obviously failed this generation, I do not believe that publishers should totally give this idea up. They should wait for a little bit, and then push this idea on this new generation coming up. If they can get the kids to grow up with this concept, books will become far less prominent. ahem.. I shall leave now

    • The reason is simple. A product of any kind has to satisfy a demand. What demand or problem were e-books filling? They pretty much offer nothing (other than searching) that books don't offer, plus a shitload of extra money and complexity. They're pretty damn pointless, actually.
  • While the costs, profit margins, and filesharing probably had an effect.

    I think the true killer to this product is that technology just isn't up to doing recreational printed material. The readable font-size and eye comfort factors are still inferior to good old ink on paper. And it will still be that way for a few generations of screens.

    I say there won't be a comeback for a good 5-10 years.

  • This makes me happy as we run a startup service trying to compete with them. PayLoadz [payloadz.com]. Now we just have to get rid of those damn Amazon buggers before they patent it!

  • by ragingmime (636249) <ragingmime@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:29PM (#6914235) Homepage
    The eBook is too young to die.

    The eBook isn't dead - it's just immature. Anyone remember the Apple Newton? I don't mean to offend the legions of devotees that the machine apparently has, but the fact of the matter is that it was too young an idea to succeed, and we had to wait until US Robotics came out with the PalmPilot to see that kind of computer enter the mainstream. The same thing happened with Windows 1.0. I could go on and on. The problem with these kinds of things is that some solid ideas are lacking things - battery life, maybe, or size or reliability.

    I think the same thing is happening with eBooks - they're too bulky, expensive, battery-hungry, difficult to read, and just generally inconvenient to read when compared with books. Not to mention that I don't like shelling out a few hundred dollars for a machine to read eBooks when I could use that money towards twenty or thirty paperbacks. And as many people have said, paper does have its charm.

    I can see the convenience of eBooks, and it seems like some early adopters have, too. But they're just not ready for widespread adoption yet.
  • The basic problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Musashi Miyamoto (662091) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:33PM (#6914271)
    The basic problem is straightforward. The public believes that the prices that they charge for e-books are too high.

    When you do not recieve a hardcopy of a book, you don't feel that it is of the same value. Just today, I was reviewing a book on Amazon that I was interested and found that it is available in electronic format for 2/3 the price. However, that is TOO MUCH MONEY for what you are getting. Without a physical book:

    - you cannot read it elsewhere
    - you can lose it with an accidental keystroke
    - it is more difficult on your eyes (in most cases)
    - At times, you are not in control of the media. In cases of some digital music, DRM allows another company to possibly "disable" your music at a later date, if they decided to change the purchase terms.

    Those are major downfalls. If a book cost $20, I would be much more willing to purchase an e-book if it were $5 instead of the more likely $15. That, however, is probably below the cost of "manufacture" for the book, which is unacceptable to most publishers. However, the product they are selling is not equal in value to what they are trying to charge.

    What I suggest is making the e-book an incentive 'add-on' to a physical book. Sell the physical book for $20, but then throw in the e-book as a bonus, or for around $2-$3 extra. That way you not only have the physical volume, but also a searchable e-book.

  • by mbourgon (186257) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:34PM (#6914284) Homepage
    www.webscriptions.net. Just because B&N doesn't want your money doesn't mean that nobody does...
  • by StenD (34260) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:35PM (#6914289)
    Baen Books [webscription.net] has an electronic publishing program that works for them and their authors. For $15 you get all of their books for a month (generally 6 titles, although 2-3 are usually reissues or the paperback release of a previous hardcover). If that's too much of a committment, individual books are available for $4-5. You can download the books in HTML, Palm Pilot, Rocketbook, RTF, and MS Reader formats. There's no DRM involved - Jim Baen figures that if he makes the books available at a reasonable price, people are generally honest and will pay for them rather than pirating them. They even give away electronic books in the Baen Free Library, and their authors have reported that they're seeing increased sales in their backlist, even from other publishers, that they can only attribute to appearing in the BFL.
  • eBooks done right (Score:3, Informative)

    by RocketScientist (15198) * on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:35PM (#6914292)
    OK, this has been covered ad nauseum. But if you really want eBooks, done the way that they should be, with no DRM, and an outright friendly redistribution policy that amounts to "Make copies for your friends and hand them out, as long as you aren't charging for them that's great", then go to Baen Books [baen.com] (follow the big "Free Stuff Here" link).

    They seem to be making money on them. They sell the eBooks cheaper than the real paper ones (the problem with BN's was that they were ludicrously expensive) and you can get the full eBook whenever the hardcover comes out. Actually, you can get the book in pieces before the hardcover hits stores.

    In addition to giving away free books, they also have free sample chapters of upcoming books.

    You can read all about the how-and-why of it here [baen.com] on Baen's site. Go read that link. It's absolutely indredible. It seems that Jim Baen gets it. We'll wait and see who else does.

    I've been reading Baen's eBooks for about a year now. Reading on a desktop PC with a CRT does suck. Reading on my PowerBook's LCD is awesome. It's not without some inconvenience (batteries, not being able to read in the john), but it's comfortable and easy, and it's way cheaper than buying the whole book (they offer individual titles for $5 each, or $15 for their selection of 5). I usually have enough magazines and stuff laying around to read in the john anyway.

    If you purchase a selection you can download it in MS Reader shareable format (no DRM). Or HTML, or RTF. Whatever. No DRM on anything. There's no Adobe PDF, because Jim Baen doesn't like PDF (never have heard that story).

    If you purchase the latest John Ringo Posleen series book (Hell's Faire) in hardcover you get a CD with the first 3 books on it, along with a boatload of other books (like a dozen books on one CD). And the license is "not for commercial redistribution", so you can use it, read the books, make copies for your friends, whatever.

  • by Bowie J. Poag (16898) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:35PM (#6914299) Homepage


    Barnes & Noble is rapidly falling down my list of "places I like". They're succumbing to all the same horseshit that companies like Music Warehouse, K-Mart did -- They spend less and less time being concerned with their core product (books & periodicals), and spend more and more time trying to sell me peripheral foo-foo shit like DVDs, Playstation games, and cotton candy in a bag.

    About a year and a half ago, I went into a Music Warehouse looking for a Zeppelin CD.. A classic, an album that any place calling itself a "music warehouse" would be insane not to have. I walk inside, and what do I see?

    A glass case on a pedistal, with a pair of Reebok shoes lovingly placed inside of it...like i'm supposed to fall to my knees and start jerking off to it. After walking through 6 of 7 aisles of DVDs and and *childrens backpacks* I get to the back of the store. What do I see? An entire *wall* stacked floor to ceiling with hundreds of copies of a single Britney Spears CD. At that point, I just walked out.

    Pretty much the same goes for Barnes & Noble these days... I cant go in there and find books they *should* have. What I *do* find, is plenty of DVDs, backpacks, cake, Playstation games, and cotton candy..in a bag.

    No doubt, they're getting rid of eBooks to make room for something else neither your or I need. Like some more glass pedistals with Reebok shoes inside.

  • by dieMSdie (24109) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:38PM (#6914323)
    I bought one, once upon a time. Didn't want to wait for the harcover version. Hilarity ensued:

    1) Price was the same as hardcover, $24.95 WTF?

    2) You could only read it on the PC you downloaded it to. WTF?!?

    3) You could not make a backup of it. If it got hosed, kiss your $24.95 goodbye WTF!?!??!?!

    No more of that crap for me.

    And the funniest thing about all this? You can download a DRM-free version of just about any book you want for free on IRC and other places. The publishing industry need to quit following the RIAA's footsteps and instead learn from someone who is doing it right [baen.com].
  • Why eBooks? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:39PM (#6914337) Homepage
    I see a lot of posts complaining about how eBooks aren't so great. I've put close to $400 into eBooks in the past couple years which is a lot more than I've put into dead trees. Perhaps I can explain why.

    You see, I read a lot and I go different places. 50 books is a lot to haul around if I'm not sure what I want to read next. A laptop is a lot less so. An Internet-enabled computer at the other location where I can get back to the secured section of my home page is even less cumbersome.

    "Ah ha!" some of you are now saying. "Most eBooks are locked down so you can't just pick them up from the password-protected part of your web page!" Well, that was true of Barnes and Noble's offerings. That's why I spent very little money there.

    I spent quite a bit of money at places like Fictionwise and Baen's webscription service. All of Baen's stuff comes wrapped in a pleasant HTML format that's easy to use. Some of Fictionwise's stuff is still locked down, but you know what? Most of that is available in the Microsoft Reader format, and the cracking program discussed on Slashdot a while ago is easy and quick to use and it does a reasonably competent job of converting to HTML.

    So, while I am sorry to see Barnes and Noble drop out, I want the folks at Baen and Fictionwise to know that they can expect more cash from me. A lot more.
  • Baen Books [webscription.net] does well with ebooks. They have a "webscriptions" page where you can purchase ebooks individually or a month of ebooks on a serial subscription model. There are even freebie books available.

    With the month of ebooks, you get about 5 or so books for $15. Two of the books are usually new, and released in parts. 3 months before paper release, you get 1/2 of the book. 2 months before paper release, you get 3/4 of the book. 1 month before release you get the entire book in ebook format.

    Man

  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7 AT kc DOT rr DOT com> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:48PM (#6914422) Homepage
    The real reasons ebooks are having a hard time getting noticed are drm and pricing.

    MS has jacked up DRM to the point that its nearly impossible to use an ebook if you arent willing to pirate it. Many book publishers havent figured out that if an ebook has 0 portability (another drm issue) or is only useful for a certain amount of time..its value is far less than that of even its paperback equivalent. Even $10 for a half meg text file is way too much IMHO. Amazon, Baen and Peanut have the right idea with many books priced at only 2-3 dollars. Even fictionwise is at least semi-reasonable but B&N has never seemed to get the idea.

    As for convenience, e-books are much better suited to the palm or pocketpc than full size computers. I believe that in many instances e-book reading on a portable device is better than reading on paper. Note taking, highlighting and reviewing are much easier not to mention most devices remember where you left off if you have a tendancy to fall asleep reading.

    There is a market for e-books, but much like the RIAA and the record companies, the publishers and sellers just have to get over the old model of doing business and accept the reality of the new market.

    One thing I would like to see happen is maybe having publishers inlude a mini cd or secure url for an official digital version with the hardback editions. The costs would be minimal and it may do alot to generate awareness, they could even keep their DRM intact.
  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @03:54PM (#6914481) Homepage

    I've looked into it seriously for the last couple of years, and so have other authors of my acquaintance; with a few exceptions, eBooks just don't pay the bills.

    From the consumer standpoint, reading an eBooks is unpleasant. I get a nasty headache reading for sustained periods from even the best displays. Handheld devices are too small, large screens aren't portable -- and an "old fashioned" paper book doesn't require power, nor will a "real" book become unreadable because of changing formats and hardware standards.

    I see ebooks as a suplement to -- and not a replacement for -- paper books. Audio books have found a very comfortable place in the market; ebooks, I'm sure, will find their own niche.

  • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:13PM (#6914709)
    I downloaded it in seconds without having to go to the store, in fact I wouldn't be likely to find it in a store (Old H.L. Mencken stuff. I'm sure I could find it but I'd have to do some serious hunting around, or "special" order). It runs under Linux with my existing choice of "reader" (vim, so sue me) because it's in a standard format (ASCII). White text against a black background is easy on the eyes with a decent monitor and high refresh rate. I can grep it. It'll be easy on my back when I move and I didn't have to build more shelf space to house it. If it lose it somehow I'll just get it again.

    Ain't Project Gutenberg great?

    Keep your damned propriatary stuff.

    Downsides? Yeah, you know. I can't curl up in bed with it. That part does suck. If I really want I can print it though, then give the printed version to a friend ( or even sell it, legally) when I'm through with it.

    E-books are just spiffy when they're the right book, in the right format, for the right price and for the right usage.

    It's just that B&N can't deliver that kind of e-book.

    KFG
  • It's the form factor (Score:4, Informative)

    by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @04:53PM (#6915135) Journal
    In a few years someone will come out with an ebook reader that looks like a typical hard cover novel. It will have a slightly curved, crisp black on white, 300 dpi, two page display that has the same contrast ratio as a printed page.

    THEN ebooks will take off. When you can "curl up" with one, and no sooner.

  • The problem? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @05:22PM (#6915501) Homepage

    I have to wonder if the problem isn't pretty much the same thing as the RIAA's - they are attempting to apply 19th-century business logic ("Business=Sell Things") to 21st century business, where a lot of the things being sold aren't, uh, "things".

    A number of posters have pointed out that people selling E-Books are having trouble "because they can't control distribution". Fundamentally, that's because an "E-Book" isn't really a "thing" in the traditional sense of the word.

    While the market of internet users seems primed to jump for a RATIONAL commercial venture (I think Apple's music service is a step in the right direction, though not QUITE there yet), this is because of the advantages involved in digital media (such as "being able to easily make a lossless copy to bring with me on a trip", or "seeing music/writing/etc. that I want and being able to get it for myself in a matter of minutes"). "Old Media"'s obsession with only selling "things" gets in the way. The purpose of DRM, after all, is really just to make an awkward 'wrapper' around intangible digital data to make it behave like a real "thing". Sorta. But in so doing, you lose the benefits that make digital media interesting to people - I suppose cement-headed executives are still clinging to the notion that they can force the public back to physical CD's and such regardless of the public market's desires.

    If the **AA can get it through their evidently thick skulls that when online, they should quit trying to "sell songs" or "sell books" or "sell movies", but instead try selling "song/book/movie access service" at a REASONABLE price, I think they'd be a lot more successful at making money and reducing copyright violations ("piracy"). WIthout obnoxious DRM restrictions, I'd be quite happy to pay roughly the same as video rental costs to download a 'moderate quality', unrestricted-for-personal-use movie (say, $3.00-$5.00 for 'new releases', $1.00 for older movies, $0.50 for TV show episodes, $0.25 for a good-quality MP3/Ogg song, $0.50 for a typical fiction paperback novel in electronic form, etc.). Sure, that's somewhat less than I'd pay for pre-made physical media, but without the cost of physical media and shipping, that ought to STILL be quite profitable, not to mention being sold at a rate that would make 'pirating' the material about as "profitable" as getting a free gumball out of a gumball machine...

    This is not to say that I think people should be ALLOWED to re-distribute materials still protected by reasonable copyright (what's "reasonable" is, of course, a whole other issue) without permission. I just think the "Old School" industries need to quit obsessing about it and get on with adapting to the market, and things will be a lot more tolerable for both them AND us. (Why dredge through a P2P application looking for a bad-quality copy of a movie 'for free', which may or may not turn out to be a 'fake' planted by the **AA when one can get a decent quality version for a few dollars or less direct from the copyright owners?)

    And I still think the legislature needs to grep through the laws on copyright and simply replace every single "copy" with "distribute" or "distribution" as appropriate, since the doctrine of "fair use" implies that the problem isn't really 'copying' but the distribution of those copies...

  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <jhummel@NospaM.johnhummel.net> on Tuesday September 09, 2003 @05:41PM (#6915662) Homepage
    Granted, I usually just get the ones from peanutpress.com (I'll forgo the link - you guys can cut 'n paste).

    They fit on a Palm, I think Windows CE devices, and can even be read on a windows/OS X box. (No idea if Linux support is even offered, though I doubt it for some reason.)

    My previous Palm Vx was a great eBook, and my Tungsten is even better. I can put it in a pocket, read on the train, toilet, and the rest. And they tend to have modern books (I'm about to break down and get Tad Williams "War of the Flowers".)

    Most of the book reviews I've written for /. come from peanutpress.com libraries. And they're usually a few bucks cheaper than the meatspace versions anyway - and I don't waste a tree.

    Just my $0.02.

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