Subject: ebooks
From: "Tony Keene" <>
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2010 07:23:05 +0100
Hi all,

 I went to a talk in Bern by Prof. Peter Atkins (who is a prolific textbook 
author in chemistry) and it was a real eye-opener on some of the expectations 
of e-books. He claimed that printed books would be gone in less than 15 years 
(and the three bears...), but worryingly, he outlined just how content could be 
manipulated to maximise earnings from e-books. Of the many ways he explored, 
you could buy an e-book and find that you have the most stripped-down version 
possible, then having to pay extra to get the rest of the content (such as 
pictures, expanded text, animations), plus methods for making e-content only 
available through annual subscription. His talks with service providers hinted 
at some fairly harsh digital rights management methods that could mean that if 
a publisher wanted to, you could find yourself paying many times over for the 
same content if you wanted it for more than a certain amount of time, which is 
what appears to be happening now with in-car navigation 
 Now, despite the adulation this chap receives in some quarters, I have a very 
low opinion of his methods (such as his desire to ban second-hand book sellers 
and to charge considerably more for having answers to questions set in his text 
books). However, publishers are businesses and as such, they will always try to 
maximise their earnings, so it might not all be fanciful.
 I've not got a problem with e-books, but I think some sort of protection for 
consumers should be enacted before they gain much more popularity.
 As an example (with a very small sample size), the book I published a while 
back has sold 43 paper copies, but only three e-book copies, so maybe paper is 
still more popular at present...
 On a slightly different note regarding the weight of some bird guides, it 
looks like some books have fairly high-weight paper, which while increasing the 
life of the book, adds a lot to the weight. I wonder why publishers don't make 
more use of advanced paper technologies, such as thinner, lighter plastic-based 
papers, such as those a lot of currencies are now printed on? Finally, why on 
earth do publishers here insist on giving many field guides soft covers that 
are larger than the text block? Any use at all in the field and it looks like a 
wombat's chewed it (I'm looking at you, Simpson and Day...).


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