What will the transition between print and e-books be like? How complete?

This question is another reason why I’m concerned about the technology.

Depending on how quickly the transition goes, the poor may be left behind. Sure, there are public libraries, but not everywhere. We shouldn’t “doom” the poor to only read news and important information from a technology that may not be accessible at all. (Granted, the boonies rarely get the NY Times either, but I think you see where I’m going here.)

How many books, or what type, will be left behind to rot away as print? Who’s thinking about archival concerns like backups (both personal and publisher) and format reading (the same people, perhaps, who think about acid content in paper and binding glue now?)?

Will there be any government oversight to make sure publishers and/or the e-reader companies don’t abuse their powers over their readers, and to what extent? Given the increased power the distributor gains, what will be allowed and what won’t? Or will a non-proprietary solution show itself without being trampled in court?

On a lighter note, what about baby/children’s books? How long will it take for a reader that can withstand drooling, banging, and fingers that have enough of a challenge turning the thick plastic pages of current baby books (or, perhaps, duplicate the tactile feel of “Pat the Bunny”)?

Feel free to address any questions I don’t have here!

I’m a librarian and I just got an email from our director about this subject yesterday. The entire countywide system owns 1,700 ebooks. This is in comparison to a countywide book collection of just north of a million.

The “transition” is at least a decade away. Probably closer to two.

Dunno, with the Kindle reader on my Windows 7 Phone, I’m probably going to make the transition to ebooks like now.

The number of ebooks on the cloud is simply staggering. There’s magnitudes greater number of ebooks on my own historic Chinese interest than there are in any kind of realistic print access.

Although, it still irks my drawers that companies are basically charging the same for ebooks as they do for paperbacks when the costs are not comparable.

How would one check out an ebook? Is it overdue if I don’t delete it after two weeks?

I just bought a new kindle from craigslist for $100 (from a re-gifter). It’s not THAT expensive, and they’re just going to get cheaper. The original kindle was $300, and it now retails for $139. Sooner or later, it’s going to get accepted as a regular appliance, the same as a TV or DVD player or cell phone or walkman (ipods aren’t QUITE there yet).

I imagine there is still going to be a ton of resistance towards ebooks. Some people have crazy attitudes towards paper books, and one of the worst beatings I ever received on this board was the thread I started about how I had hundreds of no longer needed books which I had to get rid of, and that it would be a lot easier to just throw them away than to lug a 30 lb box to a library/donation box. These same people who think that paper books are sacred are going to keep buying/collecting them, so there will still be a demand for them. Also I doubt certain books (like House of Leaves or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) would translate well to ebook format.

What’s going to get interesting is when books start to get published exclusively in ebook format. Really, ANYBODY can publish a book that way, and if Amazon gets some sort of plan set up to bypass the publisher completely, it may be more desirable for newer authors, similar to the way that many bands are now starting their careers without ever getting a record label.

The biggest benefit to the acceptance of ebooks is that there aren’t going to be any more LOST books, nor will there be a worry of books going out of print. As long as somebody keeps an archived copy of the file, it will live on forever. At this point in time, just about every new book is going to get an ebook version too, so the biggest transition obstacle is the backlog. Fortunately, ebooks have existed longer than kindles have, so this process has been going on since at least the 90s.
Oh, and as for that abuse of power concern, this is why I am NOT registering my kindle with amazon, and why the wi-fi will be permanently left off. Amazon has a reputation for poking around on people’s kindles and deleting stuff they don’t want on there, and I’m not going to give them that privilege (which is also why I will be acquiring my ebooks elsewhere than the amazon store).

I wonder why Amazon hasn’t made it mandatory yet? Is there a technical reason why they can’t?

This is very misleading. There may be more ebooks is some esoteric areas, but in general there are far fewer. In general only about 30% of the books (novels, popular non-fiction) I am interested in are available in ebook format. And nearly all of the textbooks and esoteric stuff I am interested in is also much easier to find in print.

Also, for paperbacks at least, the costs are comparable. It’s very cheap to make a paperback.

I’m waiting for the publishers to start marketing e-books directly like Baen does. I noticed that they sell their e-books for $6.00 a pop even for something just published.

It’s checked out over the Internet and the software (Overdrive) makes the book unreadable after three weeks.

In Amazon’s defense, they only did that once. They found out that someone who did not have proper rights to a couple books (“1984” and “Animal Farm”, ironically enough) had sold copies of them via Amazon Marketplace. They deleted the books from people’s Kindles and refunded the purchase price. And caught so much flack for it that I seriously doubt it’ll ever happen again.

(And, had you downloaded the book to your computer as well as your Kindle, you could still have it regardless of Amazon’s wanting to delete it.)

That said, of course you can avoid Amazon and the like altogether on an e-Reader if that’s what you want to do. But you’re going to seriously limit the number of books you can get if you choose to do things that way. Sure, there’s lots of public domain books out there, but if you want something that’s still under copyright, your choice is a bookseller (like Amazon) that imposes some sort of digital controls over the books you buy, or trying to find pirated copies of books.

And as far as the OP: I don’t think e-books will truly take off until someone figures out a library kind of concept for them. I know that there’s e-Pub books, but as Justin_Bailey points out, it hasn’t been really embraced by libraries yet. For most people, it’s simply too expensive to buy every single book you want to read. I love my Kindle, and I’d happily ditch almost all “real” books in favor of it, but heck if I can afford that, so to the library I go.

If the publishers can ever get their shit together, I anticipate that online commercial libraries will start popping up. Technologically, it’d be easy enough to have people pay a subscription price and be allowed to “check out” a few books at a time, for example. I gotta think the only reason we don’t see that yet is that the publishers are in a tissy over how they’d control their rights in that situation.

A “reputation”? Didn’t that only happen the once?
To the OP: I don’t believe print books are going to disappear in the foreseeable future. There’s not reason print and e-books can’t coexist.

No, it happened at least twice that they were caught at. There’s no telling if they’ve erased or censored other books and not been caught.

Even once was enough to make me lose all interest in buying an e-reader though. I’ll stick with physical books that can’t be remotely destroyed.

Books are already being published in ebook format exclusively, though at the moment this is basically like direct-to-video.

(See: Outies, which is a sequel to the Mote in God’s Eye by J. R. Pournelle, who is the daughter of J. E. Pournelle.)

Really? You think they’ve erased books that people have purchased and maybe even refunded the purchase price and nobody’s noticed? And what’s this about censorship?When has Amazon censored e-books?

The one time they did it was because they caught a third party marketer selling books that they did not have rights to sell, and thy got a lot of bad publicity over it. What possible motivation would Amazon have to erase books from a Kindle?

People talk about how they have hundred of e-books, of course one could vanish without you noticing.

They also erased a slew of books because they contained incest scenes. The bad publicity didn’t stop them from doing it again. And if they’ve done it twice I see no reason to assume they haven’t or won’t do it more often.

As opposed to, say, my physical books which can’t be censored with the press of a button no matter how much the publisher wants to.

Politics and religion, just like Walmart censors things.

They removed those books from the market, not from the Kindle’s, which is something any bookstore could do.

You seem to be suggesting that Amazon would delete e-book X on one person’s kindle, but not on anybody else’s kindle. That seems rather paranoid.

Heh, that happens to me with physical books all the time, regardless of whether I bought them from Amazon or some other place. Or I lend books to people and never get them back. I’ll take my chances with Amazon.

As enalzi said, those books didn’t disappear off Kindles, Amazon decided not to offer them through their web site. For the record, my local independent bookstore also doesn’t carry many books with graphic incest scenes, pedophilia, or other subjects that rile up the hoi polloi. But they’re cool and independent, so that’s OK, right?

Yup, and lucky for us, there’s tons of other places to buy such things, but they’re often not as cheap or convenient as Amazon.

As I said in that other thread, there are a million types of e-books and a million kinds of e-readers. Talking about Kindle and e-books as if they are one and the same is an absurdity that will lead this discussion into conclusions that have no foundation in reality.

Within a very few years every device that you own will be able to download e-books. I have a very cheap and basic cell phone that I keep in the car for emergencies and nothing else, and yet it can connect to the Internet, which means I could read some e-books today, even if only a line or two at a time. Everybody who can text on their phones will be able to read e-books and that will be billions of people soon, if not already. E-books and computers are essentially synonymous today. The rest is control and pricing and availability.

Those are non-trivial matters. Books are not websites, open to all. They are a product, written for money and the source of peoples’ incomes. Authors have to have a say in how their work is distributed and what share of the money charged and collected they will earn. How to do this is not at all obvious. It is contentious and difficult and will take years to work out. Who will be allowed to control this process is also not obvious. Few contracts until recently had in them any provisions that cover the conversion of books into electronic format. Does that mean that the author controls the process or the publisher? Court battles will last indefinitely.

Pricing is crucial. Many people have the notion that e-books should be as cheap as music singles. That’s unsustainable. Books take far more time and effort and individual authors can produce fewer of them. Book prices will probably fall somewhat but people will continue to complain. That means that piracy will probably increase. Piracy hurts everyone in the industry.

Which leads to proprietary formats. Anyone can move certain basic txt or pdf formats around any computer, many them easy to pirate. Kindles use a proprietary format that is harder that rip off. But the conversion software is currently very bad, and books with many typefaces, formatting, images, footnotes, or other deviations from one standard text do not emerge well onto a Kindle. Somebody will have to lick this problem to get more books converted successfully.

Two types of books are easily available today as e-books: recent books by large publishers who can jump through the hoops and self-published recent books by small presses or individuals who compose them directly for e-formats. That leaves about 99% of all other books out there dangling, waiting for the world to change.

Some will never make the transition, just as some music on vinyl never got converted. Most books eventually will see some sort of electronic form. Eventually will be a long time. Physical books also have many advocates and many advantages, more so than vinyl. They won’t go away as quickly or as fully.

The government will never got involved. Period. Content provider control over your books is a non-issue. Amazon was completely right - it was compelled - to remove a book it didn’t own the rights to. It handled the PR badly, but no morals were trampled on. Books vanishing because the big bad Them doesn’t want you to read them are as likely as books being removed from your home today. Somewhere, someplace, sometime, something bad will happen to someone, yes. I guarantee that. Still probably an improvement over today’s reality.

For the next decade or two we’ll have the best of both worlds. I can’t predict what happens after that.

I also just saw a story on CNN about how they are censoring Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn by removing all usage of the word nigger. It’s not clear if they retroactively sent out a censor patch to everyone who already installed those books, or if they’re just doing it for future purchases, but this is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. Regardless of whether or not you think it’s right or wrong to keep politically incorrect text intact, or decide what forms of fictional erotica are okay or not okay to read, that decision should lie with the reader, not the publisher. There’s a good reason my high school would make a celebration out of Read A Banned Book month (as opposed to other parts of the world who would celebrate BURN a Banned Book month instead), and Amazon sounds like they’re leaning toward the latter, in regards to their ebook availability.

Also, if you bought a paper book from Amazon, which they later discovered the publisher didn’t have the right to sell, would you be okay with someone showing up at your house, taking the book by force, and putting $5.99 into your hand? Would that even be legal??

As far as I can see, the only DRAWBACK from not registering my kindle is the inability to have a direct connection between my kindle and amazon via wi-fi, which is what I want to avoid anyway. If I wanted to use a web browser on a portable device, that’s what my phone is for. I can add/remove books via the USB cable when I’m at my computer…and believe me, there are plenty of ways to find ebooks other than through the Amazon store…