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...).