Welcome to Monday Ebooks, in which the Editrix takes a most harmless delight.
First, the good news–a new gadget! Which, for us, is always fun.
Barnes & Noble has announced a new version of its NOOK Simple Touch ereading device, with availability in early May. The device is by all accounts slightly lighter–.5 ounces/15 grams–and some reports say the touch technology has undergone some slight improvements; but the big difference is the inclusion of an integrated reading light that illuminates the eInk screen. It is not backlit, like the NOOK Color and Tablet; it is simply an integrated reading light that illuminates the screen from around the side. It was designed for reading in bed, while your partner sleeps, undisturbed by the glow from your gadget.
B&N’s marketing of the new device is interesting: they compare it, quite properly, to the no-ads, wifi-only Kindle, which is the same price, $139, and point out that to have an equal setup with the Kindle, one must make additional purchases of a book light, a wall charger, and a nonglare screen cover, all of which are included with the new NST. That might be pushing things a little–those who have the ad-supported Kindle, which costs less, don’t seem to mind the ads, or at least that’s what they say on the Internet. We have not used an ad-supported Kindle ourself, but played with one in Target and found the advertising ugly and surprisingly intrusive–surprising because we had heard only good things about it.) The tech blogs, a suspicious group rarely pleased by any gadget that doesn’t have a picture of fruit on it, have given the new reader good reviews so far. We own a non-glowlight-equipped NST (SHUT UP IT WAS ON SALE) and can attest to it being a nice piece of kit, well-built and with excellent industrial design; it’s hard to go wrong with it, we think. That being said, we still prefer our NOOK Color for most reading. We subscribe to several magazines, some of which can only be read on the NC; our crafting magazines can be read on the NST, but suffer somewhat when displayed in black and white eInk. Also, the library setup and navigation on the NST is a bit clunky compared to the NC, though the actual reading experience on the NST is excellent, and the battery life top-notch.
And for our international Gentle Readers rolling their eyes at the Editrix nattering on yet again about an ebook reader not available outside the U.S.–Michael Cader of Publisher’s Lunch posted a photo of the NOOK meeting area at the London Book Fair this week; perhaps a harbinger of. . .
The other big ebook news last week was, of course, the the U.S. Department of Justice bringing suit against Apple and five book publishers, alleging that they colluded in price-fixing of ebooks. We are not a lawyer, and have no professional relationship with any of the defendants, so we don’t have a dog in this fight officially; though as both an author and a reader, naturally we are concerned. We are still taking in all the information and trying to make sense of it. In general, we have found the following links of interest.
Mike Shatzkin, a publishing industry consultant, breaks down some of the information and possible ramifications of the lawsuit.
This article in the New York Times explains why publishers are concerned.
Author Charlie Stross examines Amazon’s strategy.
And the best post we’ve seen is from author John Scalzi, who reminds all of us–readers and writers alike–that corporations, however attractive and friendly they seem, are not your friend.
I think the outcome will be that the “big 5” publishers will be forced to be more creative in how they approach their business. There is a tantalizing tidbit in Mike Shatzkin’s post about plans by publishers to give authors more tools and information. I think we’ll see a rise in literary agents helping their clients to self-publish, and possibly (one hopes!) the end of all but social DRM. We’ll also see publishers becoming more creative, as with Sourcebooks’ new romance ebook club. However, I do think books and publishing, like Celine Dion’s heart, will go on; we just may not recognize the paradigm in a few years.