Getting the Low Down on E-Books

Posted on March 25, 2011. Filed under: Books, Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Hello from the wonderful world of China! It’s been an interesting week here, and what with recent current events (i.e. the earthquake in Japan), I’ve been kept on my toes. Teaching, submitting job applications, waiting to hear from friends in Japan, and trying to get my proxy server working again have kept me from the blog. But I’m back now and ready to chat about e-books.

For those of you who are watching this blog, you’ll be happy to know that with my access to the proxy back in place, I should be updating more frequently. In fact, today begins a series of posts on e-books that will go through the weekend. I’m writing because I received a request from an author’s production coordinator about doing a possible guest post on the blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received the request and did not seek out the author. However, I believe you’ll find that his experiences are interesting, especially given his field and current occupation. That said, I’ll tell you a bit more about him when I post his guest post tomorrow. And on Sunday, I’ll post the author interview I did with him.

Now, onto the world of e-books!

Today I’d like to start with a discussion of how cyclical things seem to be. A few years ago, people were saying that print newspapers would be eclipsed by their online counterparts. Years before that, they were saying the DVD would be the end of VHS. And the same goes for cell phones and their older counterparts. So now the question is: will e-books grow more popular than their print companions?

The internet age has opened up a great deal of opportunities for people to make money. Technology is advancing at a frightening pace, and with it, we’ve gotten more options to make our lives more convenient, comfortable, and technologically savvy.

With Apple’s introduction of the iPad, competitors like Amazon’s Kindle are having to amp up their offerings. Being able to get the Kindle app on your iPad means the best of both worlds: beautiful Apple graphics and functionality with access to the giant library associated with Amazon.com.

Here in China, you can buy a legitimate iPad for around 3,000 RMB, which is equivalent to US$450. Not a bad deal when you consider the reasons people are getting into e-books.

Some of the reasons are simple: convenience. Instead of purchasing a paper copy of a book, I have it on my computer and e-reader with the touch of a button and the transfer of a few dollars from my bank account. The ease of downloading multiple books to a device with graphics designed to make reading on a screen easier has many people purchasing the various e-readers on the market.

Not to mention the fact that several e-book sellers are promoting their services by offering free books on their software. With Amazon, there are a number of classics that you can download to your Kindle for free. You can’t go to your local Borders and pick up a classic off the shelf for free. And for most people, free offers are something they just can’t seem to pass up.

E-books are also convenient for the traveler. I should know. Since I have yet to really purchase an e-reader, I am lugging my limited amount of books around with me. Getting to China with packed luggage is hard enough. Adding extra weight in terms of novels that I want to read really limits my space for clothes and other things I might need.

With an e-reader, however, I could have brought many more books to China without having the added weight. I know that would be an easy solution to my desire to read; however, I balk at the idea of paying for books I already own in print to put them on an e-reader.

There are other advantages to having an e-reader. Manufacturers have really done their homework. They specifically design e-readers with screens that are easy to read. Some of them allow you to adjust the size of the print (and wouldn’t some people love to do that with their printed books!), others have LED backlights to keep the light crisp and clear without being too overwhelming, and still others have more perks to pique your interest.

I still have misgivings about e-books despite those things I listed above. Perhaps it’s because I’m a traditionalist, but I love the feel of pages under my fingertips. And I, like so many others, love the smell of new and old books. A new book always smells like an adventure to me. An old book smells like a familiar companion.

These are things you can’t experience with e-books. Sometimes I’m enticed by the feel of a book’s cover under my fingertips. You don’t get the same feeling when you’re looking at a cover on a screen. You can’t trace the imprints of letters and feel the shiny bits to see if they’re muted or not. Call me old-fashioned, but I love having a library.

My little girl dream was always to have a library like the one in the Beast’s castle in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast. No offense, but that library was amazing. And I always dreamed of having my own home with a room full of books, even if it wasn’t as spectacular as that one.

That aside, though, I’m more willing to try e-books now than I used to be. And I’d be willing to publish one as well. The possibilities for e-book publishing are growing now, and new authors are paying attention. Getting your book published for the Amazon Kindle is as simple as going through a self-publisher who will format it for you. For first-time authors, that’s a tempting author.

Having an e-book to your name gives you another advantage: you’re potentially reaching a wider audience. I think the prices of e-books are typically comparable to print, but the audience you target grows exponentially. Many people have purchased Kindles, Kobos, Sony Readers, iPads, and others. The market is exploding, and it’s time that new authors find their niche in this field.

Think about the possibilities for writers. More and more people are moving to self-publishing venues, finding ways to market themselves, and gaining small but loyal audiences who will buy their books. Authors who do this might find publishing an e-book to be complimentary to their print versions. I may write a future article about marketing yourself and your e-book, but I think the obvious conclusion is that if you know how to market yourself properly, having an e-book only enhances your marketing strategy.

And having an e-book has enhanced the strategy of one Dr. Edward Group. His book, The Green Body Cleanse is a new edition of an earlier book. His research in the health field has given him insight into how the body functions and led him to write this book that explains the vital role keeping a “green” body and diet has in promoting total body health.

The Green Body Cleanse has made its debut on the Amazon Kindle and is now selling for $2.99 on the Kindle, which is a steal of a deal for readers who want to sample the book without having to purchase a bulkier print version.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the gust post written by Dr. Group to explain his decision to make an e-book version of his book. I hope you’ll stick around and read it as it’s quite interesting. Look forward to that and a brief author interview with Dr. Group on Sunday.

Also, I’ll be following up on my previous Tate Publishing post with some new information. I’ve interviewed Tate author Jennifer Pereyra, whose new children’s book will be on sale in April. This series of posts will begin next week, and I’ll be reviewing Jennifer’s book and doing a two or three part series on the interview I did with her. For those of you who have paid attention to the Tate Publishing information here, you’ll be pleased to see what Jennifer has to say about the company and her experiences with it.

There are lots of things to look forward to here, so I hope you’ll bear with me. And I’ll be back tomorrow with the guest post from Dr. Group.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave some comments and questions!

Rae

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Moving with the Big Dogs

Posted on May 12, 2010. Filed under: About Me | Tags: , |

Today is May 12, 2010. On this day in history… I found out when my interview with Amazon would be.

Yes, that’s right. The mecha of the online world finally saw fit to contact me after I called my recruiter.

I’m not upset about it, though. It’ll be good to get away for a while and see the sights of the city I’ll be visiting overnight. They were gracious enough to book a hotel for me for the night before my interview, and I’ll be able to appear fresh and relaxed on the day of. That’s always a plus in my book, especially considering I’m going out of state for this particular interview.

So what are some of the more interesting things I’ve learned about Amazon since I jump-started my thinking about the company again this afternoon?

Well, first of all, I learned that, like any large company, Amazon has its fiercely loyal consumers and its angry detractors. For example, this woman on Associated Content explains her problems dealing with Amazon’s outsourced customer service department in an article written in 2007. Outsourcing has created a wealth of problems for similarly oversized corporations, and apparently even the giant Amazon isn’t immune to the issues in communicating with customer service agents located in India.

I could write all day long about posts like this that describe the horrors of customer service and the ways people battle them, but really, hasn’t it been done? On the bright side, that particular page does list Amazon’s customer service number as well as a whole host of other phone numbers for various companies.

As a business major, problems with customer service are always going to be a headache that no one wants to tackle, and I am the last person who would want to say whether a company was doing good or bad at handling customer service issues. Right now I can say with honesty that I’ve never had a problem in my dealings with Amazon, and I really like the company. (As a matter of fact, I’m considering ordering a book we were selling in the store for $4.99 from Amazon because I found a listing for it that would cost me less than that amount including shipping.)

That said, there was one other thing that I researched today on Amazon. And that is their corporate website. It’s something I look up for all companies I’ve ever interviewed with. The corporate website is generally where I find the information I arm myself with about the company in case interviewers ask me pointed questions about my knowledge of the company. But it also gives me a jumping off point for questions of my own.

A typical corporate website will include such basics as the company’s mission and vision statements, form of business (corporation, sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation), governing board, history, and other tidbits that are all essentials for the interviewee. But then there are other things that I look for. For example, is Amazon public? Yes, it’s traded on NASDAQ under the hash AMZN and is currently priced at $133.87. When did Amazon go public? May 15, 1997.

Another interesting point to make about corporate websites is that they are typically where one finds the links to pages on careers, including information about benefits offered to employees. Now that’s something anyone wants to read about but interviewees especially need to be aware of what they’re going to be offered. The great thing about a company’s career pages is that it allows you to get a quick look at some of the items you might hear about in the interview and provides you a starting point for more personal questions (i.e. the ever-present ‘how much will I be paid’).

I would, however, suggest not asking directly how much money you’ll be paid until you get a job offer. 😉 That’s just good business sense if you ask me.

With that said, I’ve got quite a bit of research to do on Amazon as I prepare for my interview. I’m getting nervous already, and it’s a little overwhelming to consider going to an interview with a company that’s willing to pay to put me up in a hotel overnight, but I think it’ll be worth it. I’ll do my best and put my best foot forward as I make my attempt to break into the world of online booksellers.

And if you’re hoping to do something interesting and new (like me with all my crazy ideas), I wish you luck on your road to success, too!

-Rae

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