E-books, Boom or Bust?

By: Linda A Lavid

Kindle is out and sales are heating up, but how hot? Mum's the word on details, but the buzz remains. Specifics: Amazon's Kindle is an e-reader that holds 200 e-books, 19 newpapers and almost 400 blogs. Got enough reading material? Although estimates indicate they're selling 40K units a month at $350 a pop, who's buying? I don't know anyone yet. But I live in Buffalo. We're a meat-and-potatoes kinda place. No matter how wonderful this e-reader is, the price is not cheap. Heck, even laptops are less expensive. Still, like most electronic gismos, the cost is sure to go down.

Another concern is the actual number of books available for download. Publishing companies are scrambling to digitize back list books. But will there be water water everywhere and not a soul to drink? Surveys indicate that 82% of book readers prefer paper books. No surprise. Toss a book in your pocket, briefcase, purse and you're good to go - no batteries, no cords, no online connections, no worries the device could be stolen. While most downloads cost $4 to $10, add that to the expense of the reader and you got some serious cash outlay. Especially when the public library is within walking distance.

Recently, I became convinced that e-book downloads were terrific for the international market where the cost of shipping books is prohibitive. So I uploaded two of my books to LuLu and one to Amazon's Kindle. Uploading a PDF file to Lulu was seamless, quick and easy. The upload to Kindle was problematic. The PDF conversion was a mess: text hither and yon, weird spacing, dropped lines. Apparently, this is not unusual because specific directions followed that if the manuscript needed further formatting, it should be downloaded and reformatted in HTML. Huh? Anyways, I converted the PDF to Word and resubmitted. The file still had problems but paled to the PDF upload. I was able to make the corrections but it took another hour. Clearly some bugs remain.

In any event, Amazon is spearheading a movement, but will they be the only ones? Apple, Microsoft and any other computer-savvy company could take on the charge. Not to mention the other e-readers who have been schlepping around for the past ten years. Meanwhile online Barnes and Noble no longer offers e-books. Odd.

The end game? Stay tuned. This could be another revolution a la Gutenberg (they scoffed at moveable type, metal letters too) or end up like helium airship travel. Ka Boom.

Linda's Website

Linda is the author of Composition: A Fiction Writer's Guide for the 21st Century, yes an e-book is available... Download for $3.75

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