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The Kindle Changed the Book Business – Can It Change Books? (wired.com)
61 points by ehudla 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

I love my PaperWhite for reading fiction, but the quality of images and diagrams for non-fiction simply isn't good enough.

I regularly work away and the Kindle means I can find any quiet nook in a pub in which to read without needing to care about the ambient lighting. Even better, I have an illuminated screen that isn't shining a blue-bright light in my eyes that will disturb my sleep.

We need better performing (faster and higher resolution) screens along with more care taken to format texts for reading on an e-reader - the latter is being addressed by Standard eBooks which is a Gutenberg project to address typographical quirks and generally provide a better eBook reading experience.

We aren't there yet, but we are getting there.

I also use my Kindle for reading fiction, but not for non-fiction.

My holdup with non-fiction is that I find that the experience of reading a physical book helps me learn more effectively. I can write in the margins, underline, and dog ear pages. I can flip back and forth to reference previous chapters or notes, based on the visual cue of those markings and folds. And all of these books are mine forever, for me to reference years later.

I’m sure eBook readers will continue to get better and better, but for non-fiction books I plan to reference in the future, a physical book will be hard experience for eBook readers to beat.

It's interesting, I love ebooks readers for the same reason: I can highlight passages of the books, write notes, create as many bookmarks as I want and I can review and manage everything from the software perspective without having to wonder "Am I missing any note I made...?".

All great points. Perhaps this is a good example of how there isn’t a one-size-fits-all optimal way to learn :p

I also find that, for things like cookbooks and guidebooks, Post-it notes and the like work more effectively than bookmarks do. Pretty much the only time I buy those types of books in ebook format is when I find them for free or very cheap.

I think that the fact that the display refresh rate is slow, leads to less "information snacking" which is one the goals of the kindle.

As for resolution, I think large format readers are for that.

As for the kindle internal light - sure it's a good idea, but if it uses pulsed pwm light(a technique for led power control) - it's less than ideals because it's more tiring and for some people it creates headaches etc.

Slight correction: while Standard Ebooks usually (but not always) uses Gutenberg sources, it’s not a related project.

> higher resolution) screens

Is the new Kindle Oasis 2017 with a 7" 300ppi screen 'high resolution' enough?

Re fast screens, I think it's good that they are slow, otherwise I'd use those readers like my smartphone for surfing and other stuff which puts me more into ADD mode.

Just FYI, some of the Paperwhite models have that same 300 ppi as the Oasis. There are 3 Paperwhite models, the original, a slight upgrade refresh a year or two later, and another upgrade a year or two after that which gave it the 300 ppi screen.

I have one - I'm not sure if it's the source or the screen but diagrams are generally annoyingly difficult to read on it. If you have a PDF or something you'd like me to try i'd be happy to take some photographs for you.

> i'd be happy to take some photographs for you.

Yes please! You could put them on Imgur. Thanks!

Sure... link me to something you want to see on it.

Link me to something you'd like to see on it, not where you would like me to upload it. A pdf of diagrams or similar as we discussed.

I don't think the screen is the issue - even on iPad or Android tablets the images are grainy, lowres and can't be zoomed or panned. The quality of the source is horrible.

My Kindle account (based in France) is the only reason I still have a French bank account. I am terrified of losing the account and therefore all my e-books as I reallocate a "foreign" card and my account switches to that country.

The greatest thing about buying music on Amazon is getting MP3s which I can keep for life. I downloaded them, they are synch'ed to my various backup solutions, and form part of my music library, even if Amazon goes bankrupt and I lose the original download link.

I long for the day Amazon does this for books.

I advise installing Calibre and Apprentice Alf's DRM Removal plugin for it. Systematically preserve all your books by stripping the DRM and sleep more easily.

I periodically use Calibre to deDRM my bought books to keep a backup. Although Amazon has really started to fight against this with stronger lockdowns.

The fast way, if you can get and use Kindle for PC 1.17.1 (on filehippo, for instance), is to use that. It will download books in the traditional (usually encrypted) azw/mobi formats, which you can drag right into calibre (with the dedrm plugin). Newer KindlePC versions (1.19 and up) tend to download books in kfx format, which doesn't currently have a dedrm plugin. All kindle installers should be signed by Amazon Services, so it shouldn't be a problem getting them from a third party as long as you check the signature.

Alternatively, on the [kindle] "content and devices" webpage, if you click the three dots in the second column (I'm guessing the interface is the same for the french website), it gives you the option to individually download & transfer books via usb if you have a kindle registered to the account. If you have calibre and the apprenticealf dedrm plugin, I believe that process still works, though I haven't tried for a long time.

Amazon doesn't choose, the publisher does. I've bought plenty of books from Amazon without any DRM.

> A decade later, books haven't changed much at all. And only Amazon has the clout to really drive what could and should come next. Not by making pixels just like paper, but by embracing the difference.

Yep — they're all about using screens to mimic paper. Even their product names (Paperwhite) show this. Instead, they should be thinking about ways in which reading on screen can be better than reading on paper.

To their credit, they offer the Kindle Cloud Reader, which lets others tinker with content and how it's presented. But this is only accessible on computers and iPads — they block it on iPhone (yes, even Plus models) and all Android devices. But regardless, this is more open than iBooks, which doesn't let third-party services access their books at all.

Apple tried to change books with iBooks Author[1], but relatively very few books have been published that way.

[1] https://www.apple.com/lae/ibooks-author/

I published an iBook back in the day, and wish the format had taken off, as it actually made use of tablet hardware rather than treating the screen as a sheet of paper. Interactive diagrams, photo galleries, etc., are great for a travelogue or technical book. I currently enjoy reading on a Kindle Paperwhite, but anything that relies on diagrams or page layout gets butchered to the point of uselessness.

I am getting more and more frustrated with my Kindle and resort to buying real books more, because its just so sluggish, pictures/diagrams are often barely visible or not there at all and i have the same problem i have with steam, in that i have huge backlog that i will probably never get to read. That being said, i don't read on my commute because its quite short, so the mobility benefits hardly apply. Maybe reading on an iPad would be more enjoyable for me.

I absolutely love Kindle for fiction, but it is just not even a candidate for any sort of technical book. I'm actually considering getting an iPad for that purpose.

The Kindle app on iPad is no better for technical books. Images are low resolution and mathematical formulas are frequently displayed incorrectly. I only buy tech books now if I can get them in unlocked PDF format. I import those into iBooks and the results are very good.

Ah sorry, I omitted some details in my tentative "plan" - I was not going to use the Kindle app to read technical books on iPad, but use the iPad along with something like a Safari Books Online subscription. At least on my laptop I have been fairly happy with the SBO formatting so I am hoping it might work well on iPad as well for a portable reading and note-taking setup.

SBO is OK for books that don't have many formulae. For those that do, I've found they usually have at least a few formulae that are illegible due to overlapping text, missing unicode or other related issues.

I don't understand why they can't fix this, at least for O'Reilly content. Even if they choose to use HTML/epub for SBO, why not generate the graphical version of the equations using the same technique used for the PDF versions?

Make sure you take a look at something like a Chromebook Flip too. Bit cheaper and touch heavier, but bit larger and you get a physical keyboard etc.

I haven't actually bought one yet but if been using another laptop with Dane dude 1080p screen and it works well. Plus chromebook is pretty caoable as a secondary device so its relatively good value proposition.

Thanks for the tip, I'll definitely check it out. Do you know if the Chromebook touchscreen works decently well for writing/note taking with a stylus? Is it precise enough? I was considering the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil largely because it seems great for precise handwritten note taking.

Definitely not good for handwriting from brief time I had with the device, the iPad Pro would be a good bet, or a surface if you can use Windows.

Apparently Samsung's Chromebook Pro replacement will have a stylus though, so that should be out in 2018 if you can wait.

Current Chromebook Plus/Pro already have a stylus.

If it’s mainly for that purpose, wouldn’t you prefer something like reMarkable or Sony’s Digital Paper?

They look neat, but more expensive than an ipad for lower specs and less flexibility sounds less than impressive (you can get a 9.7" 128GB WiFi + Cellular ipad with about the same resolution for around the same price, or a 64GB WiFi-only 10.5" ipad pro for a bit more).

To me, this whole article just drips with techno-utopic hubris. The author seems honestly surprised that in its two decades of existence, Amazon hasn't yet managed to reinvent the book. ("If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being.") Well, perhaps things are not quite that simple. After all, books have been undergoing constant optimization for the past two millenia - never mind decades. It's hard to truly reinvent something that has been successful (and continually improving) for so long.

I'm not against ebooks per se - I own an ebook reader and I think it's great for journeys and the like (though I do prefer physical books where possible). But ebooks are just books on another medium, rather like switching from parchment to paper. They are not the "new form of book" the author envisions. I don't think a book needs all those fancy features he talks about. Sure, they can be pretty gimmicks, and perhaps even helpful here and there. But not everything needs to be, or can be, improved upon by digital technology. A book is a book, and it's been that a long time before Jeff Bezos came along. I dare say it will remain that long after he is gone.

I read mostly non-fiction on my Kindle, and the things that bother me the most -- apart from badly formatted books -- are keeping content up-to-date for books in progress (early access and so on), and viewing figures or screenshots. Too many technical ebooks are hardly usable because the images are not sized correctly or it's too annoying to continuously switch back and forth between text and image zooming.

I wish they'd figure it out, since in their monopoly position they have control of authors' livelihood.

Anecdote: My PDF-based (too many tables+figures for reflowable) ebook about programming Z80-based arcade games was recently pulled from the Kindle store for "quality issues" despite good reviews. KDP gave me no explanation, path to improvement, or ability to appeal. I continue to sell the print book.

OTOH, I have a similar PDF-based ebook on Atari 2600 programming which is selling pretty well, using the same LaTeX template.

Meanwhile, a cornucopia of tentacle unicorn erotica continues to be available for purchase on Amazon. This experience is a bit disheartening, and I question whether I want to continue to participate in this ecosystem, at the whim of an unaccountable gatekeeper.

They've changed the book business, and they are dominating the paid eBook market: "According to AuthorEarnings, which studies the book market, Amazon accounts for more than 80 percent of ebook sales in the US."

It'll be interesting to see if they delve into the ePaper market with an entirely new, dedicated device.

To me, to change books, Kindle need to make reading a more social experience. Just like buying a book in a second hand store with notes made by others who read it, I believe that one of the most important aspects of an ebook is to add history so that it's not just a digital asset on a hardisk or in the cloud but a piece of work other people have also read and enjoyed.

I also believe something like tokens could be an interesting way to add this history so that you could re-sell ebooks on a second-hand market and based on their history you might even see an increase in price.

I think Goodreads fills some of this gap (which Amazon has bought if I remember correctly). It shows highlights from other people as you read, lets you share snippets and notes to your own Goodreads profile, etc.

One thing I personally miss though is the social aspect of connecting over a book in random places. This hasn't happened to me often, but sometimes when I would read physical books on a train or at a cafe someone would approach me to comment on the book. Having your book cover visible, and observing what other people are reading in public, just adds another possibility of connecting with a stranger. Carrying around a Kindle completely removes this part of the experience. I've actually considered making (or finding) a case that lets you switch out custom printed covers, so I can replace them with whatever I'm reading. It's not like I expect a barrage of new friends based on my reading choices, but it would be nice to get that _possibility_ and dimension back into the experience.

Yeah i like goodreads, still think there is something around who is currently reading something more subtle than just annotation.

I always thought it'd be cool if your book club could pool all their highlighted passages and notes -- so you could really feel like you were reading a book together.

It'd also be fun to see which passages were being highlighted and shared by celebrities or famous authors.

Oh but that experience would be so much worse if it were like genius.com where you see the most upvoted annotations. The beauty of reading somebody else's margin notes is that you learn something about that person not just what they have to say about the book.

But if you limited the social experience to friends, people would be self conscious about what they wrote in the margins. And some people would have friends who didn't mark up their books and miss out on the experience.

No one's going to buy your damn annotations though unless you're some kind of celebrity. And that's precisely what they'd be buying. In the used book store you're buying the book with the annotations because it's cheaper than the book without annotations, and then you luck out and the annotations are interesting. With ebooks, a second hand purchaser would be able to turn off your annotations and have the original book, good as new, so the price would be, at a minimum, the original retail price.

THere are so many ways this could be done which arent at all like you are proposing. And if token based they wouldnt be able to do that.

Keep in mind, also, Amazon Digital Services LLC has monetized a majority of free, public domain, publications onto their Kindle Store marketplace.

Once upon a time the Kindle was great for magazine subscriptions. This is still how I read magazines, but these days I think texture is cheaper.

Perhaps if it would support reverse video, white text on black background, it would make the reading experience even more better.

The new Kindle Oasis (2017) has this feature. It’s pretty good! Bit annoying to turn on though at about four taps, hidden away in the accessibility settings.

The Kindle apps for phones do, and have for years. The physical Kindle doesn't need it in the same way a screen does, because it's an e-ink display that reflects light rather than emitting it.

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