Mobileread
Will prices go down or quality go up?
#1  LDBoblo 03-09-2010, 03:33 AM
Just a bit of a thinking exercise.

Ebooks are currently at a state where they are quite primitive and significantly inferior quality-wise to their paper counterparts. The degree of work that is normally involved in finishing a book seems to largely be omitted in ebooks.

Of course, the ebook market itself is also quite underdeveloped, and will probably mature a little bit.

As the market matures and a digital model is developed, will the product quality rise to that of physical books, or will quality remain where it is, with previously important jobs and associated costs getting cut as a means of bringing price down (or profit up)?

Even if publishers keep qualified typesetters, designers, and others on board, will ebook reader manufacturers and software creators actually cooperate and provide reader software that handles properly prepared books? Will there be collaboration on improving the digital book standards, or will it entirely be independent and disconnected?

Naturally I don't expect anyone here actually knows...and I'm aware that a lot of people here have very low standards in terms of book quality. For thoughtful predictions and conjecture though, that's pretty much unimportant. I may want to see stuff improve to at least paperback-level quality, but that doesn't mean I think it's going to happen. In fact, I'm a bit doubtful that much will change, except perhaps slightly better proofreading. It's not about what I care or don't care about, it's what I guess will happen.
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#2  Iphinome 03-09-2010, 03:50 AM
I'll answer no (0 or 0 = 0) I'm betting on greed to win out so prices go up while quality goes down, much like cable tv.
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#3  Ben Thornton 03-09-2010, 04:06 AM
My view is that quality will improve. Although many (most?) people don't think that they want fancy typesetting etc., they are able to see the difference and can tell that one book looks better than another. As the functions that each device can perform become more and more similar, the use of presentation to differentiate one device from another will become more important.

What I'm not sure of at all is whether this will take 2 or 20 years.
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#4  Mathlete 03-09-2010, 04:38 AM
Both need to happen—especially in the area of academic book publishing.

Ebooks have the potential to present footnotes, intertextual links, translation glosses, and real-time annotations of professors/classmates. At the moment, the thing that most resembles an academic ebook is a poorly formatted project gutenberg document or a pdf of a photocopied journal.

Almost every ebook store tries to sell public domain material. If they could format and footnote it in a way that added value, it might actually be worth what they want to charge.


Edit:
See, now this is what I mean. Even with the limitations of epub, this guy still managed to create a text that I would consider using for a class. He even released it for free.
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#5  EowynCarter 03-09-2010, 05:33 AM
Mmm, what ePub limitation ??
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#6  LDBoblo 03-09-2010, 06:41 AM
Quote EowynCarter
Mmm, what ePub limitation ??
For all the potential epub may have, its implementation currently blows. Blame the viewer software all you want, but until there's a good viewer that actually exists, that potential means absolutely nothing to me as a consumer.
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#7  EowynCarter 03-09-2010, 08:43 AM
Yeah, it anoys me some saying ePub is crap, when most of the problem is the publishers not knowing how to use it, or ade's poor css support.

Well, the implemention by bookeen or pocketbook are quitte OK. Sony's lack justify.
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#8  HorridRedDog 03-09-2010, 08:49 AM
Quote LDBoblo
Just a bit of a thinking exercise.

Ebooks are currently at a state where they are quite primitive and significantly inferior quality-wise to their paper counterparts. The degree of work that is normally involved in finishing a book seems to largely be omitted in ebooks.

Of course, the ebook market itself is also quite underdeveloped, and will probably mature a little bit.

As the market matures and a digital model is developed, will the product quality rise to that of physical books, or will quality remain where it is, with previously important jobs and associated costs getting cut as a means of bringing price down (or profit up)?
At the beginning of "personal" (mainstream) computers you had companies like Apple, concentrating on quality, and IBM that thought that there was no demand for a "PC" (they produced an underpowered computer with a "chiclet" keyboard.
image »

Now you have companies like Baen Books producing high quality books (some free) and others that seem to get their $14.99 books off a pirate website, scanned in at 200dpi.

Some publishers resent the very notion of ebooks and want them to go away. Others see the future.

Things in general will get better.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olson, president/founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977.
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#9  Logseman 03-09-2010, 09:00 AM
It is my view that quality will be improved, as more and more companies are seeing the future there. Pricing, however, will vary dramatically. It seems to make sense that the starkly-edited books which require good visibility and big screens such as prestige comics, college books and the like will keep high prices, while novels will go down dramatically. The concept of hardcover novel with no illustrations and a standard text edition for 20 dollars, such as the best selling bricks of the present, is untenable in the long run. Either they'll add strong artwork to the experience or they'll sell them at trash prices.
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#10  LDBoblo 03-09-2010, 09:04 AM
Quote EowynCarter
Yeah, it anoys me some saying ePub is crap, when most of the problem is the publishers not knowing how to use it, or ade's poor css support.

Well, the implemention by bookeen or pocketbook are quitte OK. Sony's lack justify.
I suppose when the processing ability of ebook devices improves, we may see better flow options, perhaps drawing from the algorithms used by TeX or Adobe's Paragraph Composer, allowing good (if imperfect) hyphenation and justification, and then decent font kerning (optical or font-based). That'd be a nice start for basic text, even if still a little bit compromised. Too bad Adobe's been so half-assed about developing it.
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