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Will Books Be Napsterized?

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the not-in-america,-we-don't-read-books dept.

The Internet 350

langelgjm writes "An article from yesterday's New York Times asks the question: will books be Napsterized? So far, piracy of books has not reached the degree of music or movie piracy, in part due to the lack of good equipment on which to read and enjoy pirated books. The article points to the growing adoption of e-book readers as the publishing industry's newest nemesis. With ever-cheaper ways to conveniently use pirated books, authors and publishers may be facing serious changes ahead. This is something I wrote about three months ago in my journal, where I called the Kindle DX an 'iPod for books.'"

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Already happened (4, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | about 5 years ago | (#29636223)

I travel most of the year and don't like to lug too many books around. But I always have my laptop (yes, the screen is not ideal, but still...). A surprisingly large amount of what I want to read -- even obscure academic monographs -- are already available as scanned or OCRed PDFs on websites based in the former Soviet Union. It is in fact quite rare for me not to find what I'm looking for, and just as with music from file-sharing services, I've already downloaded more books than I'll ever be able to get through.

Re:Already happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636315)

What sites? I'm poor. Help a brother out.


Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636947)

Cuz Kids are inhairantly dumn so there is no way this is gonna hapin in my live tioe.

Re:Already happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636317)

interesting, what websites do you use because i've never heard of this : )

Re:Already happened (4, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 years ago | (#29636457)

Well, Avax seems to be quite popular, even though for some reason they moved their domain from Russia to West Samoa, of all places. Hmm, I wonder what the reason might have been? ;-)

Re:Already happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636419)

You know, they haven't been the "former Soviet Union" for the better part of 20 years.

But what do I know, I'm just some coward living in the former British Colonies in America.

Re:Already happened (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 5 years ago | (#29636633)

And what would you say if I were a Georgian?

Would you ask about the peach crop?

The "former Soviet Union" covered a lot more territory than just Russia.

Also, if you can dig up anyone that was born in Colonial America your other remark might be more meaningful.

Re:Already happened (-1, Troll)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#29636545)

>>>on websites based in the former Soviet Union

Link please. It seems every time I want to find a book on isohunt, it isn't there. I need some ulterior sources. Ya know sometimes when I download this "stuff" I feel like a welfare recipient..... take, take, take.

Re:Already happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636853)

Link please. It seems every time I want to find a book on isohunt, it isn't there. I need some ulterior sources. Ya know sometimes when I download this "stuff" I feel like a welfare recipient..... take, take, take.

Well, duh. You're not going to find books on ISOhunt. You've got to go to PDFhunt instead.

It's been happening for a long time (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 5 years ago | (#29636565)

Even if only in analogue form (photocopies, usually of academic materials; at least in one of the former soviet-block countries...I think I can see a pattern here)

More on the "iPod for books" (5, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29636229)

The relevant part of my journal entry follows:

Now to other thoughts. I can sum these up simply: the DX is an iPod for books.

Think carefully about what that means. What are most people's iPods filled with? We'll not kid ourselves: pirated music. Of course pirated books and texts have been on the Internet for years, long before the MP3 reached its zenith. But just as the iPod made listening to those MP3s simple and enjoyable, to really enjoy a pirated book, you'll need an e-book reader, unless you want to read on the computer or print it out. Now, even e-book readers have been around a while; however, there are a variety of formats, and conversion between them is not always simple. PDF, on the other hand, is an extremely common and widely used format. This means that one could load up their DX with hundreds of pirated PDF books, all in one portable, simple to use package.

I won't be bold enough to call this a prediction, but rather a possibility: with the increasing adoption of e-book readers, particularly those capable of reading PDFs, we might witness digital book piracy on a much wider scale than before. I doubt it will ever reach the levels of music piracy, since books require a much larger investment of time to digest, but I do think it will increase markedly. The interesting thing about this is that while music piracy seems to cluster around recent and highly popular works, I don't think this will be as much the case with book piracy. Don't get me wrong; you can find all of J. K. Rowling's or Stephanie Meyer's works on The Pirate Bay, but you can also find the works of Isaac Asimov and Ayn Rand. Slightly older books such as the latter, despite not being classics of all time, still elicit continued interest. So, when book piracy increases, sure, we'll see this year's bestsellers being shared, but we'll also see a lot more books published between 1923 and 1980 being shared than we see music from that time. This also means that we'll see a lot of books that, while still under copyright, were written by authors who are now dead. And if the copyright debate turns toward digital book piracy with even partially the same furor it has over music piracy, it's going to be a lot harder to convince people to feel bad about violating the copyrights of dead authors.

If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks, lent to friends, and forgotten carelessly. The DX is the first step in that direction. Like all consumer electronics, the price will drop eventually (remember how expensive the first VCRs and DVD players were?). And the idea of having free, wireless access anywhere in the U.S. to a sizable library of public domain works at Project Gutenberg is pretty inspiring. Imagine expanding that idea so that anyone with an e-book reader had access to a universal library of books. It'll be possible... let's hope that copyright doesn't stand in the way.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (4, Interesting)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | about 5 years ago | (#29636429)

On the other hand, a well stocked digital library that functions like Netflix or like a physical library with a reasonable monthly fee could nip mainstream e-book piracy in the bud.

This isn't quite like Rhapsody or Zune Pass or similar music subscription schemes where you would end up with an annoying pile of encrypted data when your subscription runs out or the company folds. Well, it is, but most people are content with checking out a book once, reading it, and checking it back in.

Of course, something like this could only be possible with DRM and e-book reader support for that DRM, which despite what you hear on Slashdot, can be useful when implemented properly.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | about 5 years ago | (#29636489)

Explain to me again why a "digital library" that functions like Netflix needs any DRM? Functioning like Netflix would mean they mail you a physical copy of the book, you read it and mail it back, and they send you the next one that's in stock on your wish list.

I actually can see that potentially working, but I'm not sure what exact type of DRM you'd be using.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (3, Informative)

russ1337 (938915) | about 5 years ago | (#29636597)

GP is referring to the Netflix streaming service, not the DVD delivery service.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

PaintyThePirate (682047) | about 5 years ago | (#29636617)

It was an analogy to checking something out and returning it.

What I mean is a subscription plan where you can read the e-books as long as you are a subscriber to the service. When you stop paying, you can no longer read the e-books. Something exactly like Rhapsody or Zune Pass, except that people consume books differently than music.

I suppose it would also be possible to emulate the scarcity of physical books at a library by having a limit to the number of "checked out" e-books at a time and/or having due dates for returning them. Both would be annoying though, and an example of DRM implemented poorly.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

eiMichael (1526385) | about 5 years ago | (#29636577)

Of course, something like this could only be possible with DRM and e-book reader support for that DRM, which despite what you hear on Slashdot, can be useful when implemented properly.

Useful economically perhaps. Useful to the distribution of knowledge, not so much.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (2, Insightful)

russ1337 (938915) | about 5 years ago | (#29636651)

On the other hand, a well stocked digital library that functions like Netflix or like a physical library with a reasonable monthly fee could nip mainstream e-book piracy in the bud.

The publishers have a massive opportunity here, like you say, to nip piracy in the bud before it takes off. They'd need to partner with the leading e-book distributors (such as amazon) quickly, and grow that market share soon otherwise, napsterizing will occur simply due to the convenience.

Unfortunately the publishers want us to continue to follow their business model of purchasing hard books, and are reluctant to change their business model to suit the customers needs.

Also, the publishers are so fragmented, they'd never agree collectively agree on how to implement a new business model.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 5 years ago | (#29636519)

unless you want to read on the computer or print it out

I'd like to add that printing out most books cost more in paper/ink(toner) than actually purchasing the book. I have bought books if for only this reason (I hate reading on any screen). Perhaps, at least for now, this is the advantage to not pirating a book.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29636837)

I'd like to add that printing out most books cost more in paper/ink(toner) than actually purchasing the book.

Not the case for textbooks! I have seen 200 page textbooks running over 50 cents per page.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636695)

If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device [...]

Why would a Star Trek fan reading your posting cause me to know of something only he would know of?

Let's hope that copyright doesn't stand in the way (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29636699)

Copyright wont stand in the way, but the attorneys will.

But in the end, they will lose, unless we lose ALL control of our digital device and basic freedoms first. ( which is always possible ).

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#29636719)

>>>>If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks, lent to friends, and forgotten carelessly. The DX is the first step in that direction.

The Star Trek economy where everything mysteriously "appears" at absolutely no cost could not exist in the real world. If we had PADDs people wouldn't just casually throw-around their $100 gadget for fear of losing their investment.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636907)

The Star Trek economy where everything mysteriously "appears" at absolutely no cost could not exist in the real world.

There's nothing mysterious about it: it's the flagship of a large fleet. Money also flows freely for our current flagships. Most economies in the Star Trek universe still seem to be based around manufacturing, both because it results in a better product and because it's cheaper.

It's like FPGAs vs. special-purpose chips. The FPGAs can do everything, but they don't do it as well and cost a lot more than a mass produced special-purpose chip.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (1)

hldn (1085833) | about 5 years ago | (#29637053)

my ipod touch is an ipod for books. in addition to all the music and movies i have on there, i have hundreds of books as well. one device to rule them all.

Re:More on the "iPod for books" (2, Interesting)

Fozzyuw (950608) | about 5 years ago | (#29637067)

What are most people's iPods filled with? We'll not kid ourselves: pirated music.

The only person you're kidding is yourself. My iPod is 100% legit music. And yes, I'm more than tech. savoy enough to find everything I want for free. I'm willing to bet out side of one small demographic, most people's MP3 players are filled with legit music as well. You're making the same assumptions that record companies make. Congratulations.

Not for a while (3, Interesting)

schnikies79 (788746) | about 5 years ago | (#29636251)

When MP3's got big, they could be burned and listened to on any cd player or computer. Later MP3 playes got cheap. E-books can be viewed on any computer and most phones, but it sucks. There are no dirt-cheap readers out yet.

I've tried them onmy iphone, my netbook, my desktop and a palm. Each and every one suck equally when reading. Changing the contrast, brightness, it doesn't matter.

Re:Not for a while (2, Informative)

tabrnaker (741668) | about 5 years ago | (#29636335)

Try them on an N800 with fbreader. the pixel density on the 800x480 screen makes it quite enjoyable. Not for pdf's though

Re:Not for a while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636981)

If you carefully format the pdf, it's not bad at all, in fact, I'd read a few books that way in my N800.

Re:Not for a while (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 5 years ago | (#29636557)

I think that's the wrong way around - the reason we haven't seen more widespread piracy of books is because they're difficult to pirate. You have to scan them in. That's a huge pain.

With more books being sold in a digital format, we'll see more piracy. Then it will increase again when there are good e-book readers.

There wasn't a lot of music piracy before CDs delivered nice, easily copied digital music and the Internet provided a way to share it. Napster started up in 1999. There were very few mp3 players around then, but lots of people downloaded mp3s to listen to on their computers or burn to CD.

Re:Not for a while (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about 5 years ago | (#29636921)

Technology is converging to giving us better reading devices, not specially for ebooks, but for amount of information need to be read anyway. Before LCDs popularized reading in CRT really sucked. Palms, big screen cellphones, notebooks, LCDs improved on that. Ebook readers, good screen resolution cellphones, netbooks and tablets, even the XO are the newest improvement in that direction. Where you draw the line? Probably depend on how much you want to read that, but for a lot the tech is already here.

Re:Not for a while (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29637009)

The plural of MP3 is MP3s. Your MP3's means "that which is owned by MP3". That doesn't make sense. Learn the language.

short answer: no (4, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | about 5 years ago | (#29636261)

Recent reports of pilot programs with the kindle show the fundamental difference between the way people experience movies and music and how they experience books.

There is no tangible difference between a downloaded song/vid and one which is on dvd, tv, or radio.

This is VERY different from how books are experienced.

Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes. Additionally, and especially in the case of textbooks, interaction with the paper media is something which is important to readers. While its very logical in the case of texts with the capacity to scrawl notes in margins, highlight passages, and tape stickies to pages, there is also an emotional/comfort aspect to the interaction with the paper itself which is simply not there on digital versions.

Despite being a heavy tech head I will still print out any extended text to dead tree media because it's simply more comfortable and convenient to access in that manner.

While I'm about a generation removed at this point, the pilot programs with current university students show the same attachment.

I personally would love to see neurological and psychology experts convene a joint study on this to determine exactly why this is the case.

Re:short answer: no (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636507)

Maybe not for you, but since I got my Kindle DX I've been reading books four times as much as I had previously. Reading text on the Kindle is not taxing at all. I have literally spent a quarter of my weekend reading on mine.

Granted, I can't make notes in the margins for journals/papers, but with a legal pad beside me it isn't so bad at all. And who takes notes when they're reading novels?

Seriously, find yourself a friend who has one of these and give it a try before you knock it.

Re:short answer: no (1)

mindstrm (20013) | about 5 years ago | (#29636613)

Most of the E-book devices out there do not use video screens - they use e-paper. No battery consumption (for the screen) unless they are changing state (pages), not back-lit, and not a source of light themselves. Digital ink, basically.

Re:short answer: no (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 years ago | (#29636757)

When dealing with physical books it's almost inconceivable that you mishandle the book and accidentally "turn the page". When using an e-book reader it's very easy to accidentally push a button and lose your place. Or maybe there's a fear the device dies on you while reading.

E-book readers are $300 or $400 device you have to get to to read electronic books, why do that, when they can buy real physical ones at the bookstore for relatively little expense? If the book is for educational purposes, you will want it physical for easy access, and the ability to scribble free-form notes (typing is too cumbersome/inconvenient for such notes)

For entertainment purposes, it's almost inconceivable that you read more than one book at once... so what's the benefit in having a device that lets you store multiple books? To boot, the DRM-laden electronic books are almost just as expensive as the physical ones, and you can't lend them to friends. To boot, you can't place them on a photocopier and make copies of particularly interesting sections to use in a paper, personal momento, etc. You can do less with the e-books than you can physical ones.

I think there's a stronger feeling of ownership and control over a printed book. as if the text belongs to you, and reading is a very tactile experience, where you are involved.

Versus Music, DVDs, where you are basically a passive listener, just enjoying the sounds and images the machine is making.

You can rip a page if you don't like it, you can doggy ear, or bookmark pages with significance to you.

The book is on your shelf, it's more secure that way, you can always get to it whenever you want. Your dead tree book can't fail you, the batteries cannot die. No one really wants to steal it, and it's easily replaced, you can take it in public without fear.

It's easy to lend to friends.. just hand them the book.

You get two pages of text side-by-side. Typical e-book readers just provide you one continuous page, so the experience is completely different.

Re:short answer: no (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 5 years ago | (#29636779)

>>>Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes.

I thought the Kindle was supposed to mimic the look of paper? Doesn't it use electronic ink? (shrug). Maybe I'm thinking of some other e-book reader.

Personally I don't care where I read stuff. I read most of Asimov and Heinlein's work when I was a teenager on my Commodore 64 and a TV screen (i.e. blue colored and slightly blurry). I read Harry Potter on a laser printout that was shrunk to 9 pages per page. My coworkers said, "How can you read that?" but it didn't bother me. And of course I've read downloaded stuff on a modern PC during my lunchbreak. None of these mediums have stood in the way of me enjoying the book.

Re:short answer: no (2, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 5 years ago | (#29636877)

Reading text on a video screen is very taxing on the eyes. Additionally, and especially in the case of textbooks, interaction with the paper media is something which is important to readers. While its very logical in the case of texts with the capacity to scrawl notes in margins, highlight passages, and tape stickies to pages, there is also an emotional/comfort aspect to the interaction with the paper itself which is simply not there on digital versions.

Such an old, tired slashdot meme.

Netcraft confirms, in soviet russia, with natalie portman, MP3s will never become popular because they don't have paper media artistic covers and special liner notes to interact with, and needless to say they are very taxing to listen to because they don't have that "vacuum tube" sound. Also all music listeners interact with their paper media, just like ALL readers scrawl in their books.

Most smartphones will work just fine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636271)

Most smartphones with a touch screen would work suitably as a compact, portable e-text reader. The issue with such devices is that you would need to be myopic to read the tiny display without eyestrain for any period of time.

However, they are ubiquitously commonplace, the software to read e-texts is already available for them, (in many cases it comes stock with the phone's default software loadout. HTC smartphones ship with Adobe acrobat reader preinstalled) and current devices already have more than sufficient storage.

Where things like Kindle were SUPPOSED to shine, was in the areas of dynamic annotations, and ease of operation. (both of which a recent article suggested it failed at in a university trial.)

The real issue here, I think, is in the lack of excitement of reading a good book. Most modern consumers prefer the "I am done in an hour" movie version, instead of the "Read it in a few days" woodpulp version.

Making the woodpulp version digital does nothing to alleviate this bias, so ubiquity of new reader devices would not change that.

I think they already have been (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636277)

There are a huge amount of books out there that have been scanned and OCR'd. People have been scanning them for years before e-books or e-book readers existed. IRC seems to have a large amount, but I'm sure there quite a few on torrents and whatnot as well.

Re:I think they already have been (1)

glitch23 (557124) | about 5 years ago | (#29636659)

The technical ebook newsgroup has thousands of interesting ebooks and emagazines.

Linux users sucking Windows users cocks. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636283)

2001 Was the year of Linux on the desktop.
2009 is the year of my cock in your mouth.

Every heard of a copying machine? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636285)

Back in the 1980s, My college bookstore sold "books" that were copied from the original and binder-clipped together. When I asked about it, they said it was legal because the book was out of print and the professor insisted they sell it. Photostats have been around for a hundred years now, and the book publishers never imposed any kind of technology limits on copiers.

It isn't really the same thing (2, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 5 years ago | (#29636301)

Music is expected to be portable. You can listen to music while you drive, walk, work, etc. You generally can't read a book while doing any of those things; and for at least the first you are an idiot for even attempting such a feat.

Sure, electronic books could be pirated, but it seems unlikely that it would be as widespread, as there isn't really the same market for electronic books as there is for electronic music formats.

Re:It isn't really the same thing (1)

vxvxvxvx (745287) | about 5 years ago | (#29636353)

Movies are also a commonly pirated item, and not all that portable. I don't think books will be, but not due to portability issues.

Re:It isn't really the same thing (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 5 years ago | (#29636449)

Movies are also a commonly pirated item,

That is a valid point. However are they pirated on the same order as music? Your own experience may differ but I know a lot more people who have pirated music at some point in time than I do who have pirated movies. I rather suspect that in terms of degree of piracy, it goes something like music >> movies > software

That said I currently do not have any pirated music (I don't listen to mp3s, I buy CDs when I want something new (which is almost never)), pirated movies (buy 'em from the used bin at the movie rental place instead), or pirated software (the last software I pirated - many years ago - for some time has had an open source alternative that meets my needs).

Re:It isn't really the same thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636453)

Sure electronic books ARE being pirated.

There are two types, pirated printed books, and pirated electronic books.

Printed books are generally pirated by those who "think they are doing a service" Look up any automobile service manual on eBay. They are ALL pirated. They get away with it because the auto manufacturers aren't seeking a lawsuit against the sellers for copyright infringement.

I won't link it here, but the people selling the pirated material all get it from the same source... other pirated copies. It gets quite hilarious when they start reporting each other for copyright infringement. Which books are pirated the most? 's are. Manufacturer's shop manuals are.

Electronic books are heavily pirated as well, these are books that only ever existed as "ebooks" with the protection stripped out of them. You can find them on torrent sites usually as "1000 stock investment ebooks" , or "how to draw ebooks" and so forth. This is all pirated material, don't fool yourself.

What do people do with pirated material? Read it on their PC.

The most heavily pirated books on the internet aside from the shop manuals listed above are comic books and manga, often translated into a non-native language.

Re:It isn't really the same thing (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 years ago | (#29636805)

How about text-to-speech technology? I'm thinking of software that would take a book, synthesize speech, and render each chapter as a MP3. So you could consume the written book while driving (although you might not want to, since listening to an e-book or even music while driving is distracting and dangerous).

Bonus points if the software detects when a conversation is occuring and assigns specific voices to specific characters.

And also applies various adjectives to the speech when described...

E.g. if the book said 'In a rasping voice, he said "XXX"', the synthesizer process should adjust the voice to be more rasping for that message.

If the book said, 'X said laughingly, "blah"', the synthesizer should insert a chuckle.

Textbooks (4, Interesting)

mcelrath (8027) | about 5 years ago | (#29636325)

Apparently you aren't in an academic environment. You should see the USB sticks full of pdf and djvu textbooks that are being passed around. Convenient reading, maybe not. But search functionality? Hell yeah. Have you seen the indices of most technical (Ph.D. level) textbooks? They're usually shorter than the table of contents. I don't know about you, but I need to be able to search my textbooks. Most of these seem to be coming from library scanning operations in countries more relaxed about copyright, and can be found on some torrent sites if you know what to look for. If publishers were smart, they'd start distributing a CD/USB key with the pdf/djvu of the text as well. There's also a growing movement of free and open textbooks, and "print on demand" services. Authors don't usually make much money from the publishers anyway, and do the writing to further their own career, rather than for cash. So it makes a lot of sense to do free publishing.

I think in 10 years time, the printed textbook will be an anachronism, and getting paid by a publisher to write your textbook will be too.

Re:Textbooks (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 5 years ago | (#29636433)

Think of the middle men, you insensitive clod!

Re:Textbooks (2, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 5 years ago | (#29636497)

Have you seen the indices of most technical (Ph.D. level) textbooks? They're usually shorter than the table of contents. I don't know about you, but I need to be able to search my textbooks.

I can't tell you how much I had wished my undergraduate science texts had digital copies included for search functions. However I can also tell you that in some classes (organic chemistry in particular) it seemed that the purpose of the class was to memorize the book, so a search function would have been detrimental to that cause. And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

Conversely, in my PhD course work we have had almost no textbooks. Generally we use primary literature in those courses instead with only a couple exceptions (ethics, for some reason, had a textbook).

Re:Textbooks (3, Insightful)

tabrnaker (741668) | about 5 years ago | (#29636527)

And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

benzene ring

Re:Textbooks (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 years ago | (#29636711)

And for that matter how do you enter a benzene ring into a search query?

You can't, but remember, that's nothing a good night's sleep couldn't fix.

Re:Textbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636929)

+1 for the kekule reference!
(well, i hope it was intentional...)

Re:Textbooks (1)

mcelrath (8027) | about 5 years ago | (#29637005)

Yeah you should see the gymnastics I go through trying to find concepts which may exist in other disciplines but are given different names. Can't search for equations at all. But even if I could, different disciplines generally don't give the same symbol to the same concept, or may express it in totally different ways, so it requires a lot of mental gymnastics to see they might be talking about the same thing. Someday search engines will be this smart. But by that time they'd be able to automatically generate some darn good papers too...

Re:Textbooks (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636543)

Yeah, I agree. And let me throw in my experience (I am a grad student right now).

First off, I have noticed that Chinese and Indian students have outright pirated paper copies of books. Yup, that's right, full paper softback copies of all the hardback books that are being sold in the university bookstore. They get them from back home in India or China for about $9. That's compared to the hardbacks that push $160 for engineering texts on Amazon, let alone the bookstore.

Secondly, it is more and more common for students to have PDF copies of textbooks, AND the solutions books that normally are for professor and/or TA use. There is an active "underground" community online of "I will trade you X book for Y and Z book". All in PDF form.

I registered for a class, and my bookstore was out of the book. They weren't planning to order it for the summer semester. I went online, and the hard copy was $150. Available in 20 (!) days from Amazon. Google books had the textbook online, but huge sections were missing.

After about 20 minutes of googling, I was able to find the full PDF version of the textbook online. Downloaded 25MB of PDF, and I could start reading the chapters for class. And, as the parent post said, search through it for extremely quick content lookups.

Yes, I feel bad about getting the book this way, but it was the only way I could get the book immediately! :(

I ended up not using it much because the Professor's lectures were so thorough, but with the ease of getting PDFs of textbooks online, soon students are not going to be ashamed of downloading text, especially when they will download music illegally for a $1 song, when textbooks are 200 times more expensive (like for some Biology/Chem books).

Re:Textbooks (3, Insightful)

iammani (1392285) | about 5 years ago | (#29636949)

For $DIETY's sake they are NOT pirated copies. Indian and Chinese editions of books are sold cheaper by the publishers themselves.

Here is an example of such a case... Distributed Operating Systems & Algorithms by Randy Chow costs $98.80 in the US, amazon offers it for $88.92 [1]. While in India I can purchase the same, marked as Indian edition, for Rs. 423 [2], ie, $8.88.

[1] []
[2] []

Re:Textbooks (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | about 5 years ago | (#29636563)

Additionally to the search advantages, pdfs and dejavus are a lot easier to carry around than paper books (remember the weight limit on luggage for airplanes...). If you are a PhD student or a postdoc, it's very likely you are living in a new city, and you will travel around a bit (for the holidays, for conferences etc); it's a huge advantage to be able to carry books with you. I'm pretty sure that in the academic environment pdfs will become the norm in just a few years, because researchers don't really care about having a paper book, they care about having many readers. And in regards to literature... don't you know you can find that too on the net? But I'm not sure I can say anything more than here.

Re:Textbooks (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 5 years ago | (#29636679)

That reminds me of something that I just did with a database. I wanted to find
any table that had any column that had data with a given search key. Since it
was a small database (that I frequently dump to text anyways), I exported the
whole kit and kaboodle and grep'ed it for what I was looking for.

The "printed word" still remains a very powerful and flexible bit of data.

This is why Google wants to scan more books.

You don't want the book to ship with any more carp (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 5 years ago | (#29637027)

You don't want the book to ship with any more carp there is too much as there is now you want the $200 text book to cost $250 with that USB key / cd.

Re:Textbooks (2, Informative)

spasm (79260) | about 5 years ago | (#29637111)

"Authors don't usually make much money from the publishers anyway, and do the writing to further their own career, rather than for cash.

I can definitely add an 'amen' to this. As a newly-minted phd in a field in which book publication is a normal part of achieving tenure, here's how it works (in the US anyway; other countries vary slightly): you get your first academic job. In 4-6 years you go up for tenure review, at which time you've either met publication requirements for tenure at your institution (varies widely, but "two articles and a book" is pretty common at a teaching-oriented institution), in which case you get tenure and a $10-20k salary bump. Or you didn't meet tenure and you get fired. So the pressure to publish is, shall we say, quite high. Because it's assumed your book will be an academic book, and as such probably only of interest to other scholars in your sub-field, tenure committees pay absolutely no attention to book sales. A book on the role of the western crop weevil on the Tongan famine of 1832 which sold 1000 copies (mostly to academic libraries) 'counts' just as much toward tenure as a book on the contemporary opium trade in Afghanistan which, being of interest to policy makers and journalists as well as academics, might sell 10,000 copies. In either case, royalties for academic books are negligible - you'd be lucky to make a couple of thousand on any book, even a reasonably well respected one. However, as I mentioned, getting published does have a large financial impact in that it contributes significantly toward getting tenure and other steps up the academic career path. In short, getting a book published is potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars to you, but with almost zero connection between this fiscal impact and the number of copies sold.

From my point of view as an academic writer, I want the ideas expressed in my articles and books to be available to anyone who is interested in them - having those books or articles cost money does not significantly benefit me, and actually blocks access to my ideas. Given that the cheapest way to make work available to everyone is to put it on the web, the only motivation I still have to go through a publisher is this publication process (and the peer review which goes with it) is necessary for my work to 'count' to tenure committees and the like.

One fundamental point ... (4, Informative)

charlie (1328) | about 5 years ago | (#29636327)

One fundamental point that tends to get overlooked is that unlike CDs or cassette tapes before them, books traditionally came with built-in DRM, insofar as copying them (via scan/OCR/proofread) was a really tedious process. Whereas it's relatively easy to crack the DRM on, for example, MobiPocket or Microsoft Reader books (and probably ePub by now). So the DRM'd formats are easier to pirate than the previous "analog"-analog format. What this portends for the future remains to be seen, but wearing my full-time novelist hat, I'm a bit worried. The music industry has efficiently trained people to grab files without throwing money at the artists, by bringing the role of publishers into disrepute. Now we're all set to repeat the experience, and unlike a rock band, most authors don't perform well on stage.

Re:One fundamental point ... (2, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | about 5 years ago | (#29636415)

It's still an economy driven by free samples. If I can download the free sample, that's easier than if I have to go to the library to get it; both also lend themselves to random discoveries. But both books and music are too pricey for most folks to buy a pig in a poke. You must understand this yourself, since you've got plenty of "free samples" up on your own website... without which I'd probably never have read your stuff. Now I might, and if I like it, you might make money from me in the future.

Re:One fundamental point ... (2, Interesting)

tabrnaker (741668) | about 5 years ago | (#29636495)

Or this could work out in your favor (and the environments no more dead books!). What if we completely cut out the publishers? Set up your own author's webpage with your works on them. All author's pages catalogued on servers, could even be a decentralized server to cut out more middle men. Have your works freely downloadable or for a nominal fee (say the amount you get paid per book by your current publisher). Have a micro-payment system so that individuals can easily pay you small amounts, whether for the book or as a donation. Perhaps even be totally open about your expenses and have a running total of donations vs amount needed to survive/publish the next book in your series.
I think this might be a better system than the current one because there's a bunch of crap out there and once you buy the book you can't do anything about it. Here, you would be supported by people who genuinely appreciate your books and not simply by how many fools your publisher can convince to buy your book.
If the system was wide-spread, there could even be deals made with instant book printers, and people would still be paying less than they are currently.

Re:One fundamental point ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636501)

One could theoretically DRM woodpulp publications against autoscanning technology by incorporating watermarks in the paper.

This would make it much more difficult to perform bulk digital conversions of NEW publications.

However, novelists such as yourself should throw the public a bone, and release your novels after a reasonable period of time,-- say, 10 years-- in a digital format that is easily copied.

If you appeared friendly and polite (like the developers for Stardock), rather than greedy and biased (like the MPAA and RIAA suits) you would rally support among the modern fileshare crowd, and it would be "unpopular" to share your works.

Information ... (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29636655)

Should be free, and will be free.

If you don't offer 'added value' to the information you produce, then you are doomed.

Re:Information ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636759)

I kind of thought that by writing original content, the author was in fact "adding value". Are you saying that authoring original, creative content is not enough? What more do you want from an author? An argument could be made that musicians could make their living on live performances. But how many book readings have you attended in your lifetime?

Re:One fundamental point ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636797)

I'm glad you pointed that out as I'm inclined to believe the required effort in digitizing books is a more significant barrier to sharing them online than anything having to do with e-book readers. Personally I already prefer reading on my laptop rather than from a book. 99% of books need to be held open whereas a laptop does not and it can be read from a greater distance.

Re:One fundamental point ... (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 years ago | (#29637035)

I could be wrong, but I suspect a much larger percentage of people would think it wrong to download a book and read it without paying anything. Right now it's a lot less convenient for the average person to download than buying the actual book, and publishers still have enough time to educate the public, and ask them nicely, rather than embarking upon a failed RIAA-style sue-the-uploaders spree.

Reading a book is a bit more immersive of an experience than listening to a song.

Also, you get to add it to your bookshelf, and you can say you legally own it and read it, which to many people is an accomplishment, another feather in your hat...

You put so much time into reading a book, that I suspect much of the population during reading a book will begin to appreciate what each author has put into the work, such that the longer and the more they read it, the more they begin to feel ashamed for having ripped them off.

A book is a much bigger thing than a song, and I think people see it.

If the book was 10 pages long, and could be read in 5 minutes, yeah, piracy is likely to be an issue.

I think the longer the book is, the less likely people will be comfortable reading through a pirated copy, without buying a legit copy.

The difference between driving 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, and driving 25 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Or the difference between shoplifting a pack of mentos VS stealing a diamond necklace.

Yes, i'm suggesting that the more value the person puts into what they've gotten, the more likely they are to feel guilty and go buy the book properly, even if they started to read the pirated version... A 150 page book is a lot different from a 3 minute song, the time investment on the reader's part is much more :)

"Yes" (0, Redundant)

andrew554 (1649757) | about 5 years ago | (#29636337)

"Yes, yes they will" (I should probably go tell The New York Times rather than Slashdot, mind you.)

Re:"Yes" (1)

andrew554 (1649757) | about 5 years ago | (#29636653)

Especially if they charge $10 for DRM'd digital copies of Dan Brown novels.

The Internet tells me that distributers take about 60% of the sale value of a book. Printing (especially hardbacks) must cost something too. It seems reasonable to expect that digital copies of just-released Dan Brown novels, especially those with DRM (given that they get to prevent resale and possibly sell it to you again in the future), should be charged at nearer $5.

(Take note of my incredibly rigorous mathematical analysis.)

'Course, then the publishers would be competing with their own physical-books business, so don't imagine that that would be popular.

My inner pedant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636339)

Wants to copy the article to rapidshare, hotfile, and megaupload.

We are not a nation of "readers" (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 5 years ago | (#29636379)

I see audio books pirated at a high rate (just check mininova). However, we as a nation, are not much into reading. So no, I do not expect printed works to be in high enough demand to trigger the same kind of massive piracy that audio does.

Re:We are not a nation of "readers" (1)

j-beda (85386) | about 5 years ago | (#29636807)

A lot of "graphic literature" (read: Comic Books) are available in scanned format - there is even a (slightly) specialized file format and software designed to view this particular sort of item - see []

The various torrent trackers list pretty complete archives of titles and character appearances for at least some of the more popular "mainstream" super-hero comics.

As with music and movies, it is not clear how much traffic in these types of files impacts the sales of new or used issues. It might have essentially no effect - it might be a net positive to the IP owner, or it might result in decreased sales of new issues. I certainly do not know.

Depends on the book (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 5 years ago | (#29636405)

The pocket I'm reading to and from work? No way, ever. It gets beaten up, thrashed around, ends up squished way in the bottom of my backpack etc. and no e-book reader would take that kind of abuse. The big old textbooks I used to read in school, you know sitting down at a desk and reading yes possibly. Reference type books are already much better online, you can search for specific things, jump with hyperlinking and whatever.

Re:Depends on the book (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29636481)

You bring up a good point... just because we've spend hundreds of years relying on the codex [] as the standard format for written material, doesn't mean that the codex is the ideal format for everything we're used to reading. No one reads dictionaries or encyclopedias for extended periods of time, or in a linear manner, and you typically don't need to write in them, so backlit, digital versions of these are acceptable. Hardbound sets of volumes are a total anachronism for this type of material.

Textbooks and documents need to be read linearly, so display quality is important, as is the ability for annotation. Likewise, novels require quality displays, but don't require the ability to annotate.

My inner pedant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636423)

Wants to upload the linked articles to rapidshare, hotfile, and megaupload.

Probably (2, Interesting)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 5 years ago | (#29636425)

I was into reading ebooks on my PDA before it got popular.

Reading from smaller backlit screens is certainly not be for everyone, although I liked the form factor and the fact that I didn't need to rely on external light. For almost everyone else though, the new e-ink readers should fix most of the problems such as small screen size limited resolution by making the screen look just like paper.* If the devices aren't quite there yet, I think they will be soon enough, it's just a matter of making small improvements to the existing technology. Then there would be little preventing people from just grabbing some books off emule, unless the devices are completely locked down with unbreakable DRM to disallow anything not digitally signed.

I actually also wrote a short-ish essay on this topic for one of my classes years ago. It wasn't too detailed as it wasn't a business or economics analysis, but it clearly showed that getting a cheapo Palm device and then just warezing the books made sense financially if the reader could either tolerate the reading method or actually preferred it. As I recall, I also made some comparisons between book vs album prices and mp3 player vs PDAs, assuming a desktop PC with internet connection was a fixed cost. The conclusion, I think, was that pirating books is going to be viable on a larger scale in the near future assuming even more suitable devices appear at a reasonable price.

The only problem for now is that these e-ink devices are pretty expensive. While various PDAs were also not too cheap, they were very versatile, so for instance I used mine mainly to keep track of all tasks, assignments, meetings, and other organizational stuff, then play some Worms or Quake on it, then check my mail or browse the web. As far as I know, the Kindle just has a broken web browser and an mp3 player. I don't think this is going to be a long term problem though, the technology is still pretty young and therefore expensive.

*- Preemptively acknowledging the few nuts who would just love to rant here about how anything that doesn't feel like dead trees or involve physically turning the pages is unusable

not for my anyway (1)

rarel (697734) | about 5 years ago | (#29636479)

Can't say about others, but personally I'm incapable of reading anything else than a tech manuals on a screen. If it's big and lengthy, I go for the dead tree style. There's been a few books I've started reading on a PC but I ended buying it and reading it, dare I say, "for real".

How much physical space they occupy is irrelevant, there's just no replacement to the flexibility real books offer.

Not As Widespread (4, Interesting)

ffejie (779512) | about 5 years ago | (#29636515)

I don't think this will be nearly as widespread as music pirating. The reason is because with music, the medium changed, but the experience didn't change for enjoying it. Years ago, before iPods were really popular, and MP3s were still being pirated widely, people would routinely burn CDs and listen to them on their CD players, portable or otherwise. Once the iPod revolution came about, people actually started taking their CDs and moving them to MP3s, to listen to them on their MP3 device. Put another way, there was an easy translation ability from the new way to the old way.

Books, on the other hand, for the next 10 years (at least) will still predominantly be read on actual paper and not on e-books. Further, people can't take an e-book illegally downloaded and turn it into a real paper book, like you could with CDs. Until ebooks can recreate the experience of flipping pages, and bookmarking a physical part of the book, they probably will never get people to completely switch. The physical part of a book is an important experience. The physical part of music (swapping disks, repairing scratches, rewinding tapes) is nothing more than a hassle.

Not lack of devices, lack of readers/mktshare (1)

Zerth (26112) | about 5 years ago | (#29636533)

Much like small bands/indie movies can be hard to find, books rarely have the mass desire necessary. Books have been traded for decades on IRC/usenet(I downloaded books before my first mp3), but books generally aren't popular enough to be mass downloaded, except as "every *** book" collections on D*oid.

When the last Harry Potter book got scanned early, my mother actually complained that she couldn't find it on P2P, even though she had pre-ordered and would be getting it at midnight release anyway.

I've never heard that for any other book, although I've been noticing a lot more of the "books for people who don't generally read" floating around on non-book trackers, as well as movie tie-in books. I wouldn't be suprised if teen-angst fiction really drags books into the "everybody pirates" realm.

One word: RESPECT (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636541)

No, I believe the widespread piracy of literature has been avoided due to sheer respect. That and the fact of this anecdote: I've only bought one book in electronic form, and it was a very short guide of sorts. Even though the read was extremely short, having the inconvenience of being tied to a computer and no benefits beyond paper, I found it very displeasurable. I'm willing to pay the premium to have the words on paper. The only thing I can think that might be better would be to distribute the text in .RTF format or a similar simple, easily managable text editor, where I can quote and copy the text in my own notes file -- yeah right!

This already exists (1)

Dudeman_Jones (1589225) | about 5 years ago | (#29636585)

It's not as prevalent or widespread, no, but it sure as hell is already a reality. Especially for comic books, a 5 minute search can typically yield complete collections of comics pertaining to whatever character you feel like reading for a while, and then with a handy program called CDisplayEx, you can read them page by page with great ease, even turning the image 90 degrees to get a larger image on your screen.

The tools are there, the materials are there, it's just that the community isn't yet, and neither is the awareness of the piracy.

General rule. If it could be pirated, it can and will be pirated. No exceptions.

Depends (1)

Alarindris (1253418) | about 5 years ago | (#29636595)

What is 'book'?

No, for one very simple reason (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 5 years ago | (#29636603)

Pirates can't read! Sailing the seas and plundering treasure doesn't require reading skills. So no, books won't be pirated.

Can we start with textbooks? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | about 5 years ago | (#29636607)

I have purchased every textbook Ive used since I started school, but even so I usually try to find an ebook (pdf or chtml) because it is so much more convenient to use my netbook in class than 30lbs of texts. Ever since went down a few months ago, its gotten almost impossible to find anything useful.

Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636611)

I'm a fiction novelist. Recently, I've noticed one of my books that's ended up in PDF on the web. Since then, my sales have gone UP since (I believe) more people are discovering my work.

One kid went so far as to bring in a printed copy of my book on 8.5x11in paper (probably printed on his personal inkjet) from the downloaded PDF. I signed it and asked him if he'll actually BUY a copy of my next novel coming out in a few months. He told me he liked this one so much, he will.

I gave him a printed copy of the book for free.

See, piracy WORKS!

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 years ago | (#29636999)

See, piracy WORKS!


I'm a fiction novelist.

Great, now all the copyright hard-liners will claim that you have a typo there and that you are a fictional novelist.

Already napsterized (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636639)

It has been more than a year that I read any paper book. I read only on screen. In the beginning it was not too comfortable, but nowadays I am completely used to it. I pirate about 2-3 books a week, I have about 10GB of them. They are always around on my laptop, even when I have no net connection. For me books are already napsterized.

Lack of good equipment? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29636641)

I hope he's kidding. Reading devices are not the issue. The trouble of converting is, and that is becoming less of a issue by the day.

Re:Lack of good equipment? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 years ago | (#29636733)

I hope he's kidding. Reading devices are not the issue.

Maybe the dedicated e-book readers are better -- I've never seen one in real life -- but reading books on a PC really, really, really sucks ass. I have a couple of dozen books that I've legally downloaded from sites like and a load more that are public domain, but I've never got far into them because reading books on a PC is just horrible compared to reading paper.

Re:Lack of good equipment? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 5 years ago | (#29636899)

I have been reading books on the computer since home computers first got video output... and yes, E-paper is wonderful.

Digital books don't take much space, either (1)

MacAnkka (1172589) | about 5 years ago | (#29636685)

How much good quality video can you fit in to, say, 1gb? 0.5-3 hours, depending on quality?

Music? 10-20 hours?

And what about books? Well, you can fit hundreds of them in to a gigabyte. That's enough reading for a decade, at least.

I know bandwidth isn't that big of a problem these days, as it was before, but take what happened for me, for example:

I heard about this interesting science fiction book one day. It didn't sound interesting enough for me to rush to to order it, though, so out of a whim I decided to do a search on the pirate bay, just for fun. What I found was this torrent that was filled with science fiction books, a couple of gigabytes in size. It contained basically every single notable book by every single notable science fiction author.

The fact that downloading a whole genre of books is so trivial that it can be done in a half-an-hour these days makes me glad I'm not a science fiction author

Publishing houses beware (1)

kanweg (771128) | about 5 years ago | (#29636687)

While you need a decent studio to create a decent music quality, writers can create good-looking PDFs on their computer.

If there is going to be an iTunes book store, publishers and bookstores will take the hit. An author could charge a bit more, and the audience would pay way less. It would be more convenient to buy the book (one can read the first chapter before buying, not something you do in a bookstore. Nor do you have to go there).


As an author I have to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636721)

The argument everyone uses about digital content is it can be easily copied so it can and should be endlessly copied, one of many arguments I should say. Let's say my books have only been dead tree published, this argument shouldn't have any validity. How is scanning and posting my work not stealing? Yes I know the guy that scans it isn't making a dime. Well neither am I and I just spent three to six months writing it. Doesn't affect sales? Tell that to the music industry. Hey live performance? Since when has anyone here paid to listen to an author read a book? Write for the love of it? My creditors object to that one, as does my family. I realize everyone thinks we are entering into some golden age where content is free but as a content provider I hate to break it to everyone but the content providers aren't willing or able to work for free. It's a hard business as it is to make a living at and more so than filmmaking and music it won't take much to drive 90% of the authors out of the business. Most are barely making a living as it is. So far people aren't embracing readers but there will come a time when they are more attractive. Buying a reader doesn't entitle you to endless free content. The device makers don't fund content providers. So far there hasn't been much impact on writers from the piracy but I can see it soon affecting us. I should have another twenty or thirty years in me and twice that many books to come but I'm already considering options when I have to give it up. Piracy isn't striking a blow for freedom it's a loss for humanity because work will go unpublished or never created in the first place. I realize this isn't a popular stance on Slashdot but it's painful to watch a career I love facing extinction. The quality of writing in film and television is miserable so the last place for writers to make a stand is where we started with dead tree publishing. I've avoided electronic distribution in large part because of the digital excuse but if a kid with a scanner can take my work and in so doing reduce my sales below a survival level then I have to throw in the towel. I have no choice and a lot of my fellow writers are in the same boat. There's been a nervous vibe for many years running through the community but so far only a handful of writers have been affected and those are mostly at the top. The mid level writers are going to struggle and the low end will have to surrender. I'm on the cusp so I may or may not survive but the frustration will likely be enough to drive me out eventually. When some one downloads a book rather than buy one, yes I know they are expensive, what you don't see is the writer staring at a stack of bills wondering why he even bothers. That's the ugly side of piracy. I recently considered starting a small publishing house but the sole reason I didn't do it was the looming specter of piracy. It takes three to five years to make a publishing house profitable. Even then margins are low. The odds are good that novel piracy will be growing strong by then so odds are I'd loose money by starting a publishing house. Instead of moving up I may have to face being forced out of writing altogether. What people forget is for centuries writing was for the wealthy. No one else had the time to write or the resources to get their work published. After hundreds of years of fighting to establish a industry open to anyone we may see the clock move backward and only the elite will be able to publish their work. What if the only books available were written by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet? Silly? That was largely the case 500 years ago. Yes people are free to post their work on the internet for everyone to read. Well how much of this free content is worth your time? Virtually anyone can make a movie given the cheap cameras and editing equipment. Where are the thousands of modern classics made by people in their garages? Most of it is unwatchable. The system is flawed but it does tend to filter out the worst of what is out there. Sure people will still write but trust me most of it won't be worth the time it takes to read. People with talent will find another way to make a living not work for free. You get what you pay for is a good rule of thumb and if you find it on the internet for free and it's never been published it's probably worth what you are about to pay. If it's not worth money then it's probably not worth your time.

Re:As an author I have to ask (1)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | about 5 years ago | (#29636953)

I hope your books have more paragraphs.

I would take issue with one point you're raising here:

After hundreds of years of fighting to establish a industry open to anyone we may see the clock move backward and only the elite will be able to publish their work.

The internet is a level playing field - as you point out later in your screed, anyone can publish for free. It's certainly a democratisation of publishing, just as the printing press was before it, and we are now presented with an embarrassment of riches, some in the form of ebooks, mostly in the form of html pages. There's no way that it will lead to only the elite being able to publish their work - quite the contrary - it has already led to an explosion of content online.

Now as to making money from writing, I think you'll find that this continues to operate much as before - you can make money from written material if you write stuff people want to read and let them access it in a format which is convenient to them. Most people are quite happy to recompense you for work performed, and can't be bothered to try to steal your work if they can just buy it for a small fee (say half the current cost of printed books) - it's simply not worth their time to pirate it. Sure, there'll be exceptions, and some people will crazily go out of their way to actually pirate everything just because it is out there (see the first post on this thread). However most won't bother if they can get their books conveniently for not much money. That sort of fee if collected directly by the author is massively more than publishers currently offer for dead tree books, though many writers will continue to require a publisher for design/editorial services. Publishers should definitely be scared of being made redundant and fighting to stay relevant - authors not so much.

Here are some prominent publishers already making money from digital editions of their books: Apress, Pragmatic Programmers, O'Reilly.

Re:As an author I have to ask (1)

Zerth (26112) | about 5 years ago | (#29637001)

Line breaks, have you heard of them?

If you write books like that then either you don't need to worry about piracy or you really need to thank your editor.

And if inventory, shipping, "stripped" returns, and distribution fees weren't eating up 80% of the cost of a book, you might be making better royalties.

Not there yet (1)

hcdejong (561314) | about 5 years ago | (#29636753)

What's needed for Napsterization to happen, is a file format that's universal (or close enough). I don't think PDF is that format. With its fixed page and font sizes it's not suited for the varying screen sizes found in ebook readers. Piracy in the form of scanned or OCR'ed PDFs won't take off on a huge scale for the same reason.

HTML would be a better choice, but converting a scanned book to HTML (especially if the book layout uses multiple columns) is nontrivial.

It's up to the publishers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29636777)

If the books are available for download substantially cheaper than a hardcopy version (to account for the vastly cheaper distribution costs), without restrictive DRMs, in a form that will work on specialised book readers, mobile phones/pdas and laptops, and with the ability for repeat downloads of something you've paid for once, then there won't be a huge demand for pirate copies. If not, then mp3 history will repeat itself...

Early signs (think kindle) do not look encouraging...

Opposite of napster (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29637003)

Honestly every article some jerk writes about this to make himself look intelligent hurts the book lovers who need free searchable digital books!

I have spent a LOT of money on books in my life. I repurchase the same book many times over my life if I like it, the main reasons being to support the author and because I can't carry my books with me.

I think the story is slanted. "Napsterization" sounds like pirating, but you know the Napster brand was also used for the music download service of a famous phone manufacturer too. People will find more authors than can be stocked in a bookstore and consume more books than ever. Yes there are ways to download books but if there was an easy way to buy digital books at a cheap price ($1-3) I would do it.

I have had to deal with ascii only versions until now to read on a palm or phone, but I am looking forward to an OSS e-reader that will provide low power consumption, e-ink style high quality display, and no chance ever of books being deleted like Amazon did. I want to keep a library of gigabytes of books, and I want to support the authors of books I read.

I recommend the construction of libraries that stock all books in digital format and provide them for free, one at a time per copy purchased by the library, and allow people to keep the copies. If you want people to learn about authors the library can provide blogs or rss feeds about books that are good to read.

If anything this will be excellent for authors. You might also consider that new books are not on the net but you can discover an author through the net and read old ones. Some authors understand this, see the Baen Free Library.

Books Vs CDs (1)

bobbagum (556152) | about 5 years ago | (#29637007)

Most of the songs in my iPods are ripped from CDs I bought, it took significant time to rip my whole collection of CDs, but it is doable, the same can't be said for scanning my books collection already purchased, some I could easily find a torrent, but many aren't available on any store. With right now, there's just not that many source for e-books, legal and otherwise.
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