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Books The Almighty Buck

German Book Publishers Cool To E-Book Market 158

Posted by kdawson
from the comes-after-eight dept.
Now that the Kindle is being actively marketed in many countries outside the US, reader rsmiller510 sends in his piece up on DaniWeb about the skepticism in Germany about the whole e-book phenomenon. A major difference from the US book market is that in Germany, book prices are regulated in an effort to protect authors, publishers, and small booksellers. As a result, publishers don't issue electronic versions of their books until the paperback edition comes out, up to 2 years after the hardcover — and then they sell the e-book for the same price as the lowest-cost paperback. An article on e-books in Spiegel.de notes a survey taken recently for the Frankfurt Book Fair, which found that "only one in 12 Germans has a clear idea about what an e-book is, and seven out of 10 of them would prefer a printed version over a digital one." 65,000 e-books were sold in Germany in the first 6 months of 2009, vs. almost ten times that number bought per week in the US, in what is still a small niche of the overall book business.
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German Book Publishers Cool To E-Book Market

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  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:51PM (#29786309)

    Ten times 65,000 e-books sold per week in the U.S. equates to about 34 million per year. Sales are really that high? Is this including magazines and newspaper, or just actual books?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      Also when you figure per capita, the US has almost 4 times the population, which makes US sales roughly 2.5 times better.

      Their sample is a bit skewed too. They took this survey at a book fair? Where people who love books go? It'd be less biased if it were a "reading fair", but that's like going to a classic car fair and asking people whether they'd give up their car for a new hybrid.

      • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:03PM (#29786401)

        Also when you figure per capita, the US has almost 4 times the population, which makes US sales roughly 2.5 times better.

        Umm, no. RTFA. 65,000 in six months in Germany versus 600,000 per week in the USA. Even accounting for population differences, the difference is about 120:1.

      • Also when you figure per capita, the US has almost 4 times the population, which makes US sales roughly 2.5 times better.

        I think your math is off a little. According to the summary, sales are 65,000 in 6 months in Germany, vs 650,000 (10*65,000) per week in the US. That would make annual rates 130,000 for Germany, and 33,800,000 for the US. The per capita rate is then 65 times higher in the US than Germany.

      • by Moridineas (213502) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:21PM (#29787041) Journal

        That's not really the same thing at all.

        The Frankfurt Book Fair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_Book_Fair [wikipedia.org]) is an ancient and massive trade fair. Today it's largely a place where publishers get together to work out trade deals. For instance if a German author+publisher wants his book translated and sold in the states. Tons of business generated here.

        Secondly, from the sound of the D.S. article, the survey was commissioned BY the Fair, not taken of random browsers AT the fair. Could still be biased, but I don't see what they would gain? The fair is about business.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by lavaboy (21282)
        The Frankfurter Buchmesse isn't just a "book fair". It's the largest publishers convention in Europe - runs for a week, and is only open to the general public on the last weekend. Calling it just a "book fair" is like calling CeBIT a computer fair or SF ComicCon a comics fair.
  • In the U.S., books used to be expensive because they were expensive to print, bind, and ship (or so I was told by a published author that I used to know). You would think e-books would be a lot cheaper, but from what I've seen, they aren't.

    I'm not sure why, but publishers seem to price e-books at only a few dollars below the same printed book's cost (from the little I've seen). This seems a very careful thing to do--there's no way e-book sales can cause any harm if they don't actually sell.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trepidity (597)

      For large publishers, printing/binding/shipping/warehousing costs these days don't run more than $1-3 per book, so it's not too surprising that the e-books would only be discounted a few dollars.

      • You're pretty much right for large publishers, but it absolutely depends on the book (length, size, color?, cover type, binding type) and print run size. For instance if you have a 200 page monograph, no color photos, 2-3 color cover, you can easily reach that $1-$3 (or less) unit price with even a small print run (1000 copies?).

        On the other hand, an 900 page textbook--no color, plain cover, 2000 copy print run last year cost the publisher i work for upwards of $8/copy. That's just for the printing costs an

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          On the other hand, an 900 page textbook--no color, plain cover, 2000 copy print run last year cost the publisher i work for upwards of $8/copy. That's just for the printing costs and does not include shipping, warehousing, or the production costs.

          Well, they make up that extra $5 by charging $160 to students that have no choice but to purchase the book or flunk their class.
          • Yes, and that's why many of the big publishers are stupid and self-defeating.

            $160 textbooks are ludicrous and only make people all the more desperate for alternatives (ebooks, used books, etc).

          • by hedwards (940851)
            Which is why some teachers like my mother use open source books. The cost to produce is probably higher, but the books end up being sold to students for somewhat less than $30. Which when you consider that a really good deal usually is at least double that, it makes a lot of sense. Plus, there's far more control over when they go into a new edition and can make minor corrections for things as needed, without necessarily requiring a new printing.
      • by Fizzol (598030) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:56PM (#29787359)
        The funny thing is publishers complained for years about the physical cost of books, and used it as a base for low writer royalties. Once that was taken out the equation by ebooks, then suddenly it's all about the cost of editing and layout and so on. Someone along the line wasn't telling the truth, and I'm not inclined to start believing the publishers now.
    • You would think e-books would be a lot cheaper, but from what I've seen, they aren't.

      You would, and I think ebook prices WILL fall. Part of the issue here is that when a publisher sells a book to a bookstore, a wholesaler, or Amazon, they sell the book at an average range of 10%-50% discount.

      When Amazon sells an ebook, they typically give the publisher (or author) less than 50% of the sale price. Ebook is sold for $10, the publisher maybe gets $4.

      Few books are sold as ebook ONLY, and publishers really don't make that much MORE (less?) off of ebooks, and don't want to cannibalize sales. Ulti

    • If companies are keeping eBook prices around the same price as their printed counter part, it is probably because they don't want to risk undercutting the printed media. Also, while people accept to buy eBooks at the price offered, they have have no incentive to lower prices. Generally you you only want to lower prices if the target market is not buying.

      From a consumer point of view, the printed version can work out to be cheaper, since you still have the possibility to sell it second hand or exchange it fo

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      You would think e-books would be a lot cheaper, but from what I've seen, they aren't.

      You misunderstand how capitalism works. First of all, you seem to believe all that nonsense about how the "market" works magically to bring prices to logical levels.

      The only markets that work as the theorists claim are Black Markets. At least there, the prices are based on factors that can be seen and measured, like risk, supply and demand. The so-called "free" markets are actually based on the illogic of desire, the eff

  • by gregwbrooks (512319) * <{moc.driht-tsew} {ta} {bgerg}> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:58PM (#29786357)
    If you artificially prop up prices for the benefit of a few, then competition and innovation that would benefit the broader consumer market can suffer.
    • by j-beda (85386)

      There is an argument that the continued existence of a healthy ecosystem of independent local bookstores and multiple publishers is a benefit to the members of the society that outweighs the increased costs. In this particular case I do not know the details of how well that ecosystem has been protected and how much of a benefit it is (both quite difficult to quantify I would imagine) nor the details of the increased costs.

      • by El Torico (732160) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:40PM (#29786721)

        There is an argument that the continued existence of a healthy ecosystem of independent local bookstores and multiple publishers is a benefit to the members of the society that outweighs the increased costs.

        What about academic publishing? Textbooks are now ridiculously expensive, and I don't see any benefits to society from this particular healthy ecosystem of independent local bookstores. On the contrary, these excessive costs are making education more difficult to obtain, which is a detriment to society.
        The plethora of small academic book stores (such as the local College or University bookstore) with no resulting bargaining power against the largest (or any other) academic publishers is a contributing factor to this problem.

        • The problem with US textbooks is professors shilling them in their courses.

          In my experience German textbooks, even translations of those US books, cost roughly a third of what you're paying.

          This is mostly because for undergraduate lectures universities generally buy enough copies of a book for the library that students don't need their own. That magically increases longevity and reduces prices for said books. If Professor X requires everyone to read Expensive Expenses, LXVIth incompatible to any other Ed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jipn4 (1367823)

        There is an argument that the continued existence of a healthy ecosystem

        What's "healthy" about a large number of small book stores with limited selection? And why do you need bookstores and publishers at all if there are electronic reading devices?

        In this particular case I do not know the details of how well that ecosystem has been protected and how much of a benefit it is

        I haven't been able to find any numbers on it either, and the people arguing for price controls don't cite any figures either. If they

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by macshit (157376)

          There is an argument that the continued existence of a healthy ecosystem

          What's "healthy" about a large number of small book stores with limited selection?

          Taken together, all the small (and of course, not all independent bookstores are small...) bookstores likely end up having a larger selection than the apparently-large-but-actually-kind-of-monotonous-and-generic selection of big chain bookstores. Moreover, because there's a lot more individual taste used in choosing books, there's better support for non-mainstream material; I imagine that's what the GP was referring to.

          And why do you need bookstores and publishers at all if there are electronic reading devices?

          I guess you're just trolling a bit, but like many people, I like bookstores, and am will

          • by Blakey Rat (99501)

            Taken together, all the small (and of course, not all independent bookstores are small...) bookstores likely end up having a larger selection than the apparently-large-but-actually-kind-of-monotonous-and-generic selection of big chain bookstores. Moreover, because there's a lot more individual taste used in choosing books, there's better support for non-mainstream material; I imagine that's what the GP was referring to.

            Where I live, the big chains have already killed-off all the mom-and-pop places. (Except

          • by jipn4 (1367823)

            Taken together, all the small (and of course, not all independent bookstores are small...)

            Oh, come on, what kind of bogus argument is that? When we're talking about the supposed importance of independent physical bookstores, what matters is not the selection of all bookstores "taken together", but the selection of my local bookstore, and, in my experience, that's even smaller at non-chain stores than in "generic" chain stores.

            Online, I can get anything I want anywhere, and I really don't care whether it's

            • by j-beda (85386)

              Oh, come on, what kind of bogus argument is that? When we're talking about the supposed importance of independent physical bookstores, what matters is not the selection of all bookstores "taken together", but the selection of my local bookstore, and, in my experience, that's even smaller at non-chain stores than in "generic" chain stores.

              That might be what you are talking about, but many of the people supporting these types of pricing systems are talking about the system as a whole rather than just your sm

              • by jipn4 (1367823)

                If there is only one maga-store that gains a monopoly people are concerned that there will be all sorts of negatives:

                Is there any evidence that price controls change any of that development? Where?

                - have to go a long distance to get ANY book since the mega-store only has a few big boxes

                That doesn't make sense. If people want to buy physical books locally, either the mega-store fills that niche or an independent bookstore does, regardless of price controls.

                - many small concerns go out of business eliminati

          • by b0bby (201198)

            like many people, I like bookstores, and am willing to pay more when buying a book in a nice environment.

            If there are enough people like you, then there's no need for a price control system since people will support their local bookshops by paying higher prices. The problem is that when you have price controls those who don't share your views are still forced to pay the higher prices. Maybe the German people as a whole like bookstores more than Americans do, but I doubt it, since they needed to impose this law.

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      There is a new ruling for German books sold in Austria that takes a stab at the law.

      http://www.thebookseller.com/news/84235-court-rules-out-austrian-fixed-price-imports.html [thebookseller.com]

      I do not respect this law or it's benefactors and am glad any politician here promoting such would become a pariah.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > If you artificially prop up prices for the benefit of a few, then competition and innovation
      > that would benefit the broader consumer market can suffer.

      No, the lessons are bigger than that.

      If you regulate prices you set the system at that moment into stone, the current winners and losers get fixed into law. Innovation becomes virtually illegal. It isn't just consumers who lose, everyone except the government blessed winners lose. And of course the government itself which gains power and can be as

  • by Starker_Kull (896770) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:09PM (#29786453)
    ...that hits all the same notes. E-books will take over the world, why are the German publishing houses sticking their heads in the sand, etc. I've thought about it quite a bit, since I have a strong personal preference for printed books, and have debated the topic with passionate advocates of e-books. I've come to a few conclusions:

    1) The advantages that printed books have over e-books in terms of convenience will go away over the next 15 years. Limited resolution (200 ppi e-ink vs. 600+ ppi for print), limited battery life, bulk, storage capacity, etc., not to mention cost (not just direct, but transportation, storage, disposal, etc.), will all favor e-books in 15 years. Resolution (my particular nit) will probably take the longest, but it will happen.

    2) I doubt a personal e-book 'reader' will last long in the marketplace. It's too big and bulky to be 'just' an e-book reader. Why not make it a web-browser? 95% percent of what you need to do that is there. E-mail? Terminal access? A cell phone with a bluetooth earbud? A movie watcher? It will become a general purpose computing device just like cell phones are becoming.

    3) It won't succeed until an Apple-like company makes it so stunningly easy to use and manage that its advantages are clear. A cellphone and a smart cellphone are quite similar, so the idea of an iPhone/Treo (a general purpose computer that happens to be a cell phone) was not so hard to get accepted. A tablet-like device has no commonly existing parellel right now, and the existing examples are weak, to put it mildly. It will have to be wildly simple and pleasant to use...

    4) Once most books are no longer printed, it remains an open question whether it will make censorship of ideas easier or harder. I haven't been able to come up with a convincing argument either way. DRM is also still an open question, although you can make a good argument that a DRMed device will fail in the marketplace. Maybe.

    There will be a great e-book reader one day, but it won't be called that. It will be part of a package that can do far more.
    • by AnotherUsername (966110) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:16PM (#29787007)
      I pray that you are wrong. I triy to imagine future anthropologists and historians trying to figure out what life was like during our time, and if your idea comes true, they will have nothing to base their studies on. Paper is valuable because, unlike a computer(which your hypothetical all-in-one e-book reader appears to be), it doesn't require electricity to read, file formats are a nonissue(as long as you can understand the language, you can read it), and as long as it is kept in good environmental conditions, it will last much longer in a usable form. If books ever completely go away, historical studies of our time are doomed before they begin.
      • When's the last time the internet went down? We store shit in multiple places spread across the world in a variety of formats. We are keeping more crap well documented and backed up than ever before. Journals of emo kids bowel routine, millions of pictures of cats, and singers that inexplicably barrel roll in their music videos. Trust me, in 50yrs people will just search: cult worship longcat 2002..2010
        If they want to research history from our time. Or do you think books would last longer? One big advantage
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015) *

          Or do you think books would last longer?

          Actually, yes. Well-preserved printed books can and do last for centuries. We have no idea if any of our current storage techniques will last anywhere near that long, manufacturers bombastic claims of extended lifetimes notwithstanding. What electronic storage (optical, magnetic, quantum, whatever) does do is allow for data to be more conveniently transferred to new media when the older stuff begins to wear out. But that requires a lot of maintenance and awareness ... Google seems to be doing well at it, s

          • by QuoteMstr (55051)

            What it comes down to is that if we want to make sure critical information is kept around in case civilization crashes, we'd better keep the important stuff on paper.

            That didn't help much the last time civilization fell. The classical world used papyrus and other kinds of paper extensively, yet the vast majority of what they wrote was lost by the time of the Renaissance. We'd know nothing of Aristotle without a few fortunate translations [wikipedia.org] that served as backups.

            The classical texts [fourmilab.ch] we do have were preserved b

            • The classical texts we do have were preserved by repeated copying, not through the durability of a particular physical copy.

              True, and I made that point in my original post. What I'm trying to say is that if our technological base is lost, we'll need something that can be read without needing power or spare parts. Maybe not paper per se, but surely we can come up with a more durable form of printed matter.

          • by houghi (78078)

            Actually, yes. Well-preserved printed books can and do last for centuries.

            Well, there you have the reason why publishing houses are so against it. What clearly must happen is that the lifespan of books must be shorter AND extend the copyright on them much longer.

            That way you and the people after you will have to buy a new version every time. Imagine that you are able to read a book in a few hundred years without buying the book. That would mean the writer would not get his share. This is all just for prote

          • by Zerth (26112)

            When's the last time you went down to the bookstore, bought a book printed on archival paper or vellum, and then placed it in a humidity-controlled/light-safe cave? Your last book probably was printed on a paper that will start getting fragile in less than 10 years, but the backing glue will probably crumble before that.

            Publishers don't want books that last 20 years, let alone 200.

          • I don't care if hard drives die in a year. Computers make reproduction and multiple points of failure waaaaay easier. Thats it's strength. I didn't say to stick this shit on CDs and put it in a warehouse, I'm sure that'd last a fraction of the time books do. BUT the internet is a living thing almost. It will protect a lot of data that has a even a low bar of importance. There was a story on /. about a guy saving all the crap on angelfire most of which I'm sure is totally worthless.

            NASA is losing closed inf
      • I pray that you are wrong. I triy to imagine future anthropologists and historians trying to figure out what life was like during our time, and if your idea comes true, they will have nothing to base their studies on.

        This assumes there's some catastrophic, civilization-rebooting event between now and then. I for one would rather pray that you are wrong, there's no such thing, and information is simply steadily accumulated, copied, and re-archived to keep it accessible with tech of the day.

        • by VJ42 (860241) *

          I pray that you are wrong. I triy to imagine future anthropologists and historians trying to figure out what life was like during our time, and if your idea comes true, they will have nothing to base their studies on.

          This assumes there's some catastrophic, civilization-rebooting event between now and then. I for one would rather pray that you are wrong, there's no such thing, and information is simply steadily accumulated, copied, and re-archived to keep it accessible with tech of the day.

          Not really, I recently saw an original copy of the Magna Carta [wikipedia.org] at the British Library. It's almost a thousand years old. OTOH I no longer have the tech to read floppy disks from little over 10 years ago, and even if I could I doubt that I could read many of the file formats stored, Tell me again how digital is better than paper for long term storage. No catastrophe has happened, just technology has moved on.

      1. Resolution is my nit as well. But in 15 years, I'm not entirely sure it still will be, regardless of whether or not it improves...

        Also, Computer displays had been getting higher resolution for a while, but for some reason OSs seem to like to stick with the "assume an 'm' is fourteen pixels wide (or some other hard-coded number)" paradigm. I want sharper text on my screen, not more text. I don't want to have to sit twelve inches away from a twenty-six inch display just because I used to sit that distance

    • by QuoteMstr (55051)

      Eventually, our devices will differ only by form factor. They will all be general-purpose computers capable of running the same software.

    • There's no question about DRM -- DRM requires proprietary software which does subjugates a user's freedom to read by giving that freedom away to publishers and their agents. The fix is free software: a free software eBook reader would give users control over their electronic copies of works. This outweighs all the alleged advantages of eBook readers because it means the ability to control what we're allowed to read with that device.

    • by Eighty7 (1130057)

      4) Once most books are no longer printed, it remains an open question whether it will make censorship of ideas easier or harder.

      The internet has been the greatest force for information dissemination since the printed press. Logically moving to electronic versions of books should increase rather than decrease propagation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aceticon (140883)

      An e-book doesn't look the same, doesn't smell the same and doesn't feel the same as a paper book.

      It's the same reason why those that can afford it have fireplaces at home: a good wood fire in a fireplace is a pleasure to one's senses.

      E-books are likely to sooner or latter dominate the utility space of literature (reference manuals, newspapers, magazines) provided they're cheaper than what they replace (which isn't happening at the moment). This is the same space where the Internet has already significantl

    • by am 2k (217885)

      3) It won't succeed until an Apple-like company makes it so stunningly easy to use and manage that its advantages are clear. A cellphone and a smart cellphone are quite similar, so the idea of an iPhone/Treo (a general purpose computer that happens to be a cell phone) was not so hard to get accepted. A tablet-like device has no commonly existing parellel right now, and the existing examples are weak, to put it mildly. It will have to be wildly simple and pleasant to use...

      Well, you can already have exactly the device you're describing, and it's called ... iPhone. I've been using my iPhone (with the app Stanza) for reading books while commuting for a while now, and it's much better than printed books (I've tried that as well, didn't work out, since carrying a heavy book around doesn't fly in public transport while standing, and having to switch vehicle every now and then). The downsides are of course battery (have to recharge every other day) and the small display, but to sol

  • This is something I do not understand. I am sure that the readers are easier to read than something smaller like, say, a smartphone or palm pilot. But, on the other hand, when I am at home I have my computer, and when I am mobile I don't want to carry something as large as an e-book reader around.

    I have done just fine reading e-books on things like Palm and smartphone. And an additional benefit is that they tend to support many more formats, not just a single, proprietary, DRMed format.

    All in all, I t
    • by rossdee (243626)

      I agree - I havr no real need for a portabe stand alone e-reader. I read (novels) at home, since I don't get a(n official) break at work, and I either walk to/from work or someone gives me a ride (less than 5 minutes. (BTW I work night shift.

      For those people that have long mass transit commutes, and hour lunches an e-reader might be more useful.

      I would (and in fact do) spend $5-6 on an e-book in HTML of PDF, compared with $7.99 plus tax or shipping for the cheapest dead tree version.

      I might buy e-books from

    • I started reading ebooks on my Palm III and Visor Edge. It was great, I could read a little bit anywhere and not have to mess with waiting for the books to be mailed or have to go to the bookstore to find out they don't have it. Plus I'm a last minute sort of guy, I go to the bookstore at like 9pm because thats when I decide I need a new book. Now I own two Kindles (one per person in the household). A dedicated reading device suits my lifestyle better than a PDA.

      I probably use my Kindle more than I use my m

    • For me the overwhelming argument in favour of e-books is ease of reading.
      I really like reading off a more or less paperback sized screen, as opposed to a small PDA screen. The e-paper is also a lot easier on the eyes if you're like me and read for hours on end. And unlike a computer screen or even a laptop, e-books are just as easy to read as regular books lying on the sofa, in bed, on the train, etc. A decent reader is about the size of a paperback and half as thick, so they are as easy to carry as a pa
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:14PM (#29786497)

    Here's the deal: Yes, Germany and Austria have a regulated market for books in German (only!), meaning no price-based competition as the publishers set a binding minimum retail price with only a few exceptions like going-out-of-business sales, damaged books and stuff, but the principle remains. Amazon may throw in free shipping, but apart from that must not undercut brick-and-mortar stores. Go figure...

    That said: the prices are set by the publisher. There is nothing to prevent them from having different prices for different editions. Just as a hardcover costs more than a paperback, an ebook could be even cheaper. Their call.

  • Other Issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trydk (930014) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:21PM (#29786547)
    Today I had a nice, long bath with John Grisham.

    Well, not the author in person, but his book, The Street Lawyer. Paperback version.

    I would have been rather more reluctant to do the same with a Kindle (or equivalent) edition, as I am pretty sure a dip in the water would render it beyond repair.

    I cannot be the only one who occasionally loses a paperback to whatever unfortunate events that pass me by. (Temporary insanity and such.) I have provided Dublin Airport with one (I got my camera back, which had been impounded by security guards), an assortment of hotels, planes and trains have got their share and for some odd reason I have never found my lost PDA. (The interesting stuff was encrypted, thank you very much.)

    The thing for me (and quite a few other people, I am sure) is that the loss of a paperback may be unfortunate but not a major setback, whereas the loss of an eBook reader is more than just annoying.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OrangeTide (124937)

      Try comparing the packing of a Kindle versus 3-4 paperbacks on a long journey. Some of us have to fly around quite a bit for our work.

      If you are into serial novels, it is great that when I'm done reading book 3 I can immediately purchase and start reading book 4. I might not want to buy all the books ahead, because sometimes the series just isn't worth reading all the way through. And more often than not the bookstores quit stocking my series before I'm finished reading it.

      I think the advantages of ebooks o

      • My copy of 1984 at home, cannot be destroyed remotely by amazon. Once they sold it to me, the only way they can get it back is to pry it from my hand, or burn my house. Now since we are all /. reader we all know it is not the same with DRM'd book (even if they ask to be forgiven afterward or whatever, the fact that it is do-able and has been done remains). Call me back when e-book are not DRM'd.

        Another advantage : when joe six pack ask me to loan my latest Grisham, I can give him my 6 copy. Too bad if he
  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:25PM (#29786573)

    ... only one in 12 Germans has a clear idea about what an e-book is, and seven out of 10 of them would prefer a printed version over a digital one.

    Maybe a higher percentage of Americans than Germans know what an ebook is - maybe not. But my gut tells me that we probably match up similarly in terms of preferring a printed book over a digital book, since I hear that all the time (even from a fair number of techies).

    I have no doubt the tech will continue to evolve until someone gets it right, and finally makes digital more convenient than paper. It's not there yet, except for the small number of people that use multiple books at the same time (e.g. students) - and even in those cases, DRM, non-availability of many titles, and other issues deleteriously affect their ebook experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Virak (897071)

      You seem to have completely missed the next sentence, which states that:

      65,000 e-books were sold in Germany in the first 6 months of 2009, vs. almost ten times that number bought per week in the US, in what is still a small niche of the overall book business.

      Sorry, but your gut is pretty severely contradicted by the actual facts. And "I hear that all the time" is not a reasonable basis for making conclusions, as people tend to surround themselves with similar people. About half the people I know use Linux,

      • While I certainly agree with you regarding the fallibility of a gut reaction, I think it's pretty obvious the relative sales numbers don't really tell us much because, as the article states, the German ebook market is artificially constrained - much more so than the American ebook market (which I realize has its own set of constraints). Relative sales numbers would only provide a valid comparison if factors like availability and price were similar across both markets.

  • by jaclu (66513) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:42PM (#29786757)

    Whilst not suitable for reference material, audiobooks seems much more suitable for portable usage. No big screen device to carry arround, and you get to keep your eyes for other purposes - driving, cycling, looking where you are walking etc.

    At least in Sweden, the audiobook scene have exploded the last couple of years, many books are released as audios at the same time as the first print hardcovers hit the bookstores.

    We even have a few online streaming services for listening to audiobooks directly from the phone/computer without the hazzle of first downloading or copying CD discs to the desired listening device.

    Not everybody likes to listen to books, and more odd titles propably wont be recorded, but for the titles available it's quite convenient.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by masmullin (1479239)
      This is also an audiobook vs real book issue. I think audiobooks totally have their place, but they are not w/o their flaws (you can stop paying attention and its hard to "reread the last paragraph" like a book).
  • No thanks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ISurfTooMuch (1010305) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:22PM (#29787057)

    I just don't see e-books catching on. Even if the technology matures to make them just as legible as a printed book, that isn't the thing that will make them popular. It's a convenience thing. For example, my wife just bought a few books the other day. Yesterday, she loaned one to her mom, who read it and returned it. And today, she loaned it to her sister, who took it back home with her, which is several hundred miles away. Now, while this process COULD be easier with an e-book, since you could easily transfer the file over the Internet, the publishers will never allow this. Not only that, but good luck selling e-books you've already read to someone else.

    Finally, there's the issue of longevity. Books can last for hundreds of years if they're printed on acid-free paper and properly cared for. With an e-book, while the file could be preserved, you run into the issue of making sure a reader manufactured, say, 200 years from now can still open it. I'm sure you could write data conversion software to keep the files current, but I think the publishers would resist, since they'd want you to buy new versions of the same work. And, unless you have multiple backups, one catastrophic media failure could wipe out your entire library.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I agree that all of these are valid issues, and I do think the 15 year estimate someone above posited is optimistic, however none of these are insurmountable. I think we probably will see wide-spread acceptance of ebooks/readers but it's gonna take a generation or two of people for whom online services like facebook, etc. have been with them practically since birth.

      My daughter can't believe my parents bought me an encyclopedia set when I was in high school... in her world, if it's not online, then it's got

      • I agree with everything you said. I don't think any of this is insurmountable, but I think that there are certain things that might get in the way. Publishers are the big obstacle, mainly because they see DRM on the one hand preventing someone from making unlimited copies of a work and on the other hand allowing for all these interesting new revenue streams.

        As for data longevity, this is something we've truly been horrible at. If I could find my Master's thesis from 1994, which was written in WordPerfect

  • by mseeger (40923) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:22PM (#29787059)

    Hi,

    since i am german and an ebook user for several years (iRexx Iliad), i would like to comment on that:

    • It is very hard to purchase german ebooks. Only a small percantage of all books is actually offered as an ebook. If they are published at all, the ebook version comes months or even years later.
    • The german book market is heavily regulated and publishers/authors are mostly happy with the status quo. The ebook is seen as "a disturbance of the force" and therefor not appreciated. Publishers already try to get lawmakers to extend the regulation to ebooks as well.
    • Germanys "Intelligenzija" (from which a lot of authors are recruited) is notorical hostile towards technology.
    • The primary clients for ebooks are geeks and technology friendly young adults. Those can read books in english. Since those are even a lot of cheaper, germanys ebook shoppers buy beyond the border (e.g. i have 200 ebooks from Baen [baen.com].
    • The trend of germans reading "english" literature is already demonstrated by Amazon Germany having an own category "English books". Patrick Rothfuss fulminant debut with "Name of the wind" costs 25 Euro as a german book or 7 Euro as an english one (both including S&H).
    • The early adopters of technology typically read a large share of Science Fiction & Fantasy... not a strength of german authors (few exceptions). SF&F is still frowned at, not considered to be "real literature" here. This also drives readers into exile.

    Like the music industry the publishers are currently comitting sucide due to the fear of death. By trying to preserve the status quo, they are scaring away a big part of their future customers. Ebooks are only a symptom here.

    I have purchased and read about 1.000+ books during the last 25 years. Due to a still progressing carreer, my budget is rising. But i am less and less inclined to spend it on the local market.

    Sincerely yours, Martin

    • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @07:36PM (#29788375) Journal

      Same kind of stupidity here, esp. the part about the intellectual elite. Fucking douchebags hate the internet, and the internet hates them in turn.

      I would point out that the US situation is not significantly different wrt ebooks. When you factor out the difference in book prices, US ebooks (and audiobooks) are still way overpriced, close to the hardcover price.

      Well in fact it's the electronic delivery that's fucked up. I love audiobooks, so that I can "read" while on bicycle, and I wanted to buy Bob Woodward's "the War Within." It's $24 in hardcover, and $20 through Audible.com. But I can't buy through audible, because the sons of bitches insist on fucktarded DRM, and don't support Linux anyway. So instead I bought it in CD format from a third party, for $10 shipping included. It's a complete waste, since I'm just going to waste time ripping it.

      Ebooks should be much cheaper than physical ones. Until they stop treating their customers like shit, they deserve all the piracy they get. Fucking fucktards.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Good post.

      Here's the money-shot: "Patrick Rothfuss fulminant debut with "Name of the wind" costs 25 Euro as a german book or 7 Euro as an english one (both including S&H)."

      German book: $37.50
      English: $10.50

      The industry will live only as long as the populace will continue to tolerate subsidizing it.

      That said, the Germans I know have a deep respect for books as matter - witness Inkheart, a (for Germany) wildly popular kids book about a love for books. Not the stories within, the actual BOOKS themselves,

      • by mseeger (40923)

        Nevertheless, this would suggest that there will always be a niche market willing to pay absurd prices for their books printed in German.

        Correct: A niche... that's what i ment with funeral eulogy. Currently the german book market is nothing but a niche; it has to collapse to become a niche market. Unluckily they are doing their best to achieve this.

        CU, Martin

  • I can't find any figures on it. How much do Germans read on average compared to Americans? To other nations? How much do they pay on average? Do price controls on books in Germany actually do anything other than make books more expensive and reduce the number of books Germans actually read?

    • I am German and live in the United States. Unfortunately I can't give you any numbers but I would guess that the percentage of avid readers is much higher in Germany than the US. Reading is extremely popular in Germany while it seems fairly rare in the US. I have only highly educated geeks as friends here and they tend to read a lot but as far as the general US population is concerned I don't think it is a very popular pastime. I only found that there are around 80,000 new titles being released every ye

  • books vs. ebooks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:31PM (#29787141) Homepage
    The whole dichotomy over printed books vs. ebooks just seems strange. You don't have to choose one or the other, you can have both. And you don't need a special ebook device; most of the key benefits of electronic books are available on an ordinary laptop with a PDF reader.

    This is, of course, assuming that the publishers and lobbyists get it right, and don't destroy the entire product category out of greed.

    Advantages of ebooks that you will never get in a printed book:

    • Text search. This is especially important in academics and research. You want to find where a phrase is defined and you don't want to read the whole book to find it. An index is a far inferior alternative.
    • Did I mention search? Well, it's not limited to just one book. You can go online to google books and search for a phrase in every book ever published. This achievement is stunning when you think about it. The fact that publishers seem determined to kill this golden goose with their greed is pretty depressing.
    • Portability. Sure, if you have one single book vs. one Kindle, the comparison is pretty favorable towards the book. But a Kindle can hold several hundred books, and a laptop can hold tens of thousands. When traveling, it's not even a question of books vs. ebooks, since 10000 printed books are physically impossible to carry with you. Oh, and of course, you can perform text search across all those books too.
    • Ease of copying and backup. The publishers hate this one, and try to do everything they can to prevent it, but for the user it's a boon.

    Of course, printed books have advantages too: higher resolution, low tech, can read in bathtub, doesn't matter as much if you lose one. So there is room for both formats in this world. What would make sense is for publishers to automatically supply the electronic rights to anyone who purchases a physical volume. That would greatly increase the value proposition in a book purchase, and (dare I say) expand their market and profits. It's frustrating that everyone except the publishers themselves seems to realize this.

    Well, that last bit has an important and noteworthy exception. In academic publishing (journals and such), it is the norm rather than the exception for publishers to provide electronic rights to libraries and institutions that purchase the corresponding physical copy. So there is hope that the rest of the industry can come to their senses in time.

    It's worth mentioning that technological progress (if not stymied by the copyright lobby) will eventually bring to ebooks all the advantages of printed books, whereas no amount of progress (short of replacing books with ebooks) will allow printed books to compete with the advantages of ebooks. The resolution of ebooks will improve, and it is at least conceivable that they can be engineered to last months on a single battery charge, or be waterproof, or become cheap enough that you wouldn't mind losing the hardware (the content will, of course, be easy to back up, once the DRM fetish subsides). So, for now, we have a choice of printed books vs. ebooks, but in the future I see ebooks taking over.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The whole dichotomy over printed books vs. ebooks just seems strange

      Some of the arguments here from people really come from those who have not actually tried the eink readers and really should not be commenting on them until they do. I mostly agree with your listed advantages and analysis but i think you missed the most important feature of ebook readers here and it has led to a very false premise.

      1)The key benefit of ebook readers are NOT available on PDAs and laptops. Eink technology makes the screen look like paper. That means that us technology friendly people who stare

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by David Jao (2759)

        Any technology that does not have this [e-ink] is simply a non-starter for most people. This is the SINGLE feature has allowed the ebook revolution to begin, period.

        It looks like we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I love e-ink as much as the next person but it is NOT the most important feature of e-books. It's not even fourth or fifth on the list. You can get all of the paper-friendly advantages of e-ink just by ... printing the book out on paper. Printers are old technology.

        The ebook revolution coincides with e-ink in terms of timing, but that's just because it took computers this long to catch up to the point where ebooks are becoming useful. Before a co

        • You totally missed the point. The reason ebooks have become popular in the market is because of this technology which removes the main reason people have not liked reading books electronically.
          Prior to this, EVERY SINGLE ONE of the things you mentioned already existed for ebooks. And they did not take off. Why? Because reading novels on an LCD makes most people's eyes hurt. It really is that simple.

          Your argument about academics is also missing the point. I am talking about mass market books here and not nic

          • by David Jao (2759)

            You totally missed the point. The reason ebooks have become popular in the market is because of this technology which removes the main reason people have not liked reading books electronically. Prior to this, EVERY SINGLE ONE of the things you mentioned already existed for ebooks.

            No, I specifically addressed this point. Even ignoring e-ink, the technology for comfortable ebook display on laptops was not there until recently. Small cheap laptops, PDF software supporting subpixel antialiasing, and widespread availability of ebooks on the scale of google books are all recent developments that just happen to coincide temporally with the development of e-ink.

            And perhaps that is it then? You are one of the few who can spend hours reading an LCD ebook after working a desk job doing the same without it effecting your eyes? I am pretty sure that is not the rule?

            I have excellent LCD monitors at home and work and could not fathom it without getting bad migraines.

            Almost everything I stated about LCDs being acceptable for ebooks was based on the use of small cheap LCDs, so for you to turn a

            • Then I have to agree to disagree. People have had laptops and PDAs for some time and have used them for long periods for reading as part of work.

              You are trying to say that the technology advances are a simple coincidence even thought the largest player in the market is hinging its whole strategy on its own version made at great expense. (with no LCD alternatives)

              I think this is far fetched. Beg to differ and all that.

              Still, interesting discussion.

              • by David Jao (2759)
                Definitely agree to disagree, and yes, interesting discussion. The way I see it, if Amazon started selling instant PDF downloads of books, without tying them to the Kindle, I think the response would be tremendously positive, and the money they stand to gain would dwarf their profits from the Kindle. So, from the point view of what could have been, e-ink displays are not the largest driver of customer interest. (Right now, they are the largest market segment, but that's because Amazon only sells ebooks in K
                • PDFs suck for electronic reading, unless the pages are the exact right size. If they don't fit your display device (eBook, laptop, iPhone, whatever), then you either scroll awkwardly or use a potentially inconvenient (or even unreadable) font size. Text and HTML work, and there are other more specialized formats that work even better.

      • For reading novels or regular literature my iPhone's resolution and backlit screen is just great... I haven't tried any of the eInk products - so I can't comment on that. I can say that they are too expensive to just be eReaders and too big for my personal preference in reading format.

        I like a small paperback format, so that there is just one column of text at the optimum characters per line for easy reading and it should be small enough to fit in a pocket (something I always disliked about novels until rea

    • I read my Kindle in the tub all the time; I put it in a big ziploc baggie and it stays perfectly dry.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @04:36PM (#29787193) Homepage

    The first link is to a lame, short, not very interesting blog post. The second link is to the full article (in English) in Der Spiegel.

    The Der Spiegel article criticizes the traditional publishing industry for price fixing (with some help from government), but it uncritically parrots the traditional music industry's party line about copyright violation, and then uncritically makes the analogy with books. It assumes that copyright-violating sharing of music is wholly to blame for the fact that the music industry isn't as profitable as it would like to be be, without mentioning the possibility that people were unhappy with the choices the music industry was putting out, and unhappy with being expected to pay $16 for a CD that only had 2 or 3 good tracks on it. It also never mentions DRM.

    In general, I don't think it's a good idea to lump together all kinds of books as if they were the same. Selling a Dan Brown book in hardcover is different from selling it as a mass market paperback, which in turn is different from selling a used copy, which is also different from borrowing a copy from a friend or from the public library. Copyrighted e-books are different from public-domain e-books, and then there are copyrighted books whose authors have intentionally made them free online (see my sig). There is a huge difference between a college textbook and other types of books; prices of college textbooks have gone up much faster than inflation in recent decades, and that's happened because the people who made the textbook selection decisions were the professors, while the people who had to pay were the students.

    Most published authors don't make much money from most kinds of books. Never have and never will. What the traditional publishers would like to see is a world in which that continues to be the case, but DRM on e-books makes it impossible for people to buy used books, share books with friends, or borrow books from the public library.

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @09:46PM (#29789099)

    as a neighbour from France, which is culturally kinda close I guess, I don't grok the idea of buying content, but not really owning it, being at risk of losing it at any time, either short-term (Amazon pulling it, my reader getting stolen...) or medium/long term (Amazon going out of that business, their readers starting to suck...)

    I'd like a Digital Ownership Law, clearly asserting
    - resale rights
    - loan rights
    - transfer rights (to another reader)
    - backup rights
    - standardized DRM with a backup infrastructure in case the initial provider can no longer authenticate content/users.

    Right now, Amazon's plan looks like MS's and Apple's: get user lock-in DRM / format / training / force of habit / DRM.

    I think the next generation of readers, wich will probably be more geared towards replacing magazines, and hopefully integrating the magazines with an on-line community, will have more appeal over here.

    PS: I am reading books an a Palm right now, so I'm not allergic to the concept. Buyers' rights just seem inexistant right now.

  • When I bought my iPhone and found eReader I gave up printed books for reading.

    My iPhone is much more convenient, easier to read (backlit is very nice in most situations ie: anything other than sunlight behind me) and the iPhone lasts for ~5-6 hours of reading and music listening with occasional browsing/phone calls.

    It never loses my place, I could write notes and bookmark pages if I wanted to. It's my phone so it's always with me and isn't conspicuous - so I can open up a book for any extra 5 min anywhere a

  • by Tom (822)

    The summary is a little unfair, I think.

    The "regulation" about book prices is not what you'd usually associate with the term. Specifically, it is a fixed-price model, which says that books can not be sold at discount except under certain circumstances. That is the main reason Germany still has thousands of small bookstores with employees that actually know something about books, instead of large discount chains that work on the WalMart principle. Second, the tax on books is lower than on other consumer arti

    • The "regulation" about book prices is not what you'd usually associate with the term. Specifically, it is a fixed-price model, which says that books can not be sold at discount except under certain circumstances.

      Actually, that's pretty much what I'd associate with the word "regulation" - the government sets a minimum price on a product or service, forbidding anyone from coming up with a better way to market the product or service.

      While having small bookstores where the employees know something about the bo

      • by Tom (822)

        the government sets a minimum price on a product or service,

        But that is not what happens here. The price is set by the distributor, not the government. The regulation in place simply puts limits on things like bulk sales, volume discounts, etc.

        The government doesn't determine the price. What it does do is ascertain that the price (whatever it is) is the same for everyone.

        • The government doesn't determine the price. What it does do is ascertain that the price (whatever it is) is the same for everyone.

          So, basically, you're saying the government is preventing me from selling my property for any price I care to set on it? Yah, that's regulation, alright.

  • I don't know if Germans would buy more e-books if more were available; there aren't that many to choose from at this time in the first place. I live in Germany and I've been buying a fair number of e-books in the last few years, but all of these purchases probably count toward the US numbers as I bought all of them from US-based online shops (such as Baen). Also, my employer has a Safari subscription and I've downloaded several books from there... which should again count toward the US numbers.

    And yeah, I w

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