Give the Gift of Kindle Books

In time for the holidays, Amazon has made it possible for people to give Kindle books to anyone with an email address. A Kindle isn’t required, as the Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iOS, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry and Android are available. And, if you prefer something else, Kindle books can be exchanged for Amazon Gift Cards.

Kindle is the most popular of the e-book readers, and has an estimated 725,000 books in its library. We predict it will not take long for the other stores to incorporate this feature.

PC World points out a few useful reasons to give the gift of Kindle book(as opposed to Kindle device. For one, books are often cheaper. Sending an e-book takes much less effort than sending a real book, gratification is instant, and shipping is free.

I conclude as PC World did. Give the gift of digital literature this holiday season.

When E-Books Cost More than Hardcovers

NEW YORK - MAY 06:  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hold...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I’m frugal. Frugal does not mean cheap. But, the price of an -book can be a bit surprising.

The New York Times reported recently on two Kindle editions that were more expensive than their hardcover counterparts. The differences were a dollar or less, but still. Publishers and writers deserve to make money off of their books, but if the goal is to encourage e-book adoptions, and factoring in the reduced distribution costs(although now, of course, the ebookstore gets a cut), then there should be at least some difference.

Publishers have argued that the problem isn’t that the ebooks are priced too high, it is that the hardcovers are priced too low. Amazon had set the price for the Kindle edition of a book out in hardcover at $9.99, but did raise it due to pressure from the publishers.

Kindle editions are outselling hardcover books on Amazon. E-books are estimated at 8& of total book sales, up from 3-5% a year ago. But paperbacks are still so inexpensive, it will likely be a while before electronic books outpace them. Amazon puts this milestone at perhaps a year away. Perhaps then we’ll get a price drop…or not. But then…will less books be published, or more? Does electronic publishing lower the bar or raise it?

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that e-books may be hurting writers. Many e-books generate less income for publishers, and thus publishers are approving fewer deals and signing fewer new writers, as well as offering smaller advances.

The problem, however, is for those new writers. Big-name authors and novels are doing well electronically. But sellers of e-books aren’t set up as well to help readers discover new authors. Perhaps that is where third-party sites would come in. But Amazon should have an interest in selling as many different books as possible.

What do you think?

The ePub Standard: A Brief Summary

Official ePub LogoePub is an open publishing standard for electronic books put out by the International Digital Publishing Forum(IDPF). It consists of three component standards:

  • Open Publication Structure(OPS)
  • Open Packaging Format(OPF)
  • Open Container Format(OCF).

It is XML(eXtensible Markup Language) based, and allows for reflowable digital books and publications.

The OPF defines the mechanism by which various components of an OPS publication are tied together.

  • It lists all markup files, images, navigation structure, etc.
  • It provides publication metadata.

The OPS is the standard for representing the content of electronic publications. Specifically, standards and guidelines that ensure fidelity, accuracy, and accessibility, and adequate presentation of the content on various reading platforms. Content will adjust itself depending on the type of device it is displayed on.

The OCF defines the rules for collecting a series of related files into a single file container. ePub publications are distributed as a single file archive which contains multiple files.

ePub supports, by design, Digital Rights Management(DRM), allowing it to prevent it being read on unauthorized devices. Whether or not DRM should be used on books is a topic for another day, but being as many publishers insist on it in order to release their materials electronically, for now, it is better than nothing. However, since it does not mandate a particular DRM scheme, different schemes may lead to device incompatibility with what is supposed to be a standard format. This is being discussed in committee.

The format, by allowing for reflowable text, does not necessarily factor in publications that require precise layout or specific formatting. There are also limitations on annotation in books, allowing easy transfer of attached notes.

Most major electronic readers, with the exception of the popular Amazon Kindle, support the format. It is hardly perfect, but as it continues to evolve, it is the best we have right now.