e-books Don’t Require Use of an e-reader








Long before Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble offered their e-readers, thanks to Google, thousands of books whose copyright had expired were made available for free on PCs as "e-books". “e-book” being defined at that time as an electronic version of a book-in-print.


Obviously, it was a situation that made no economic sense for publishing contemporary works. There had to be a fee for service component, and a supported distribution infrastructure. We’ll credit Amazon.com with finding the formula that made sense for the publisher, the distributor (Amazon), and the consumer. Amazon built an e-book selling infrastructure that was capable of formatting a book’s text in a way that could travel over a communications medium, yet format properly on many different display devices. But that was not enough to overcome resistance (and/or apathy) over procuring books in an electronic form. Not just consumer resistance, but also publisher resistance. The winning formula was to provide a display device specifically designed for reading books that had a (perceived) advantage over PCs. Specifically, a device that would be glare-free when being used out-of-doors.  The Kindle is just such a device. It was not meant to replace the use of PCs as a reader, but to offer a more focused device.


Additionally, the price of the book had to be dramatically lower than the print edition. A pricing scheme analogous to how Apple saved the music industry with 99 cents per song pricing.  Thus, for well-established authors, e-books sell for about $7 to $14 compared to over $17 to $36 for the print version.


But unlike Apple, the Amazon business model is not focused upon selling hardware. One could buy a song from Apple’s  iTunes  and play it on a PC, but Apple makes its margins by selling iPods. Likewise, one could buy an e-book from Amazon and read it on a PC, a laptop, a Mac, an iPad, and even some smart phones. One does not have to own a Kindle. Nor does it matter to Amazon who makes its margins on selling books (and futuristic cloud computing), and not e-readers.


However, if one owns a Kindle and anyone of the other aforementioned devices, Amazon will automatically place a copy of all of the books one had bought for the Kindle also on the non-Kindle device   -- provided the customer has downloaded the necessary free software to the non-Kindle device.


To read an e-book purchased from Amazon, on let us say a PC or laptop, a one-time additional step is required. When on the Amazon web page that contains a book one wishes to purchase, one must first click on the option to download a free software application called “Kindle for PC”. The request to download is located just below the “Buy” button on the right side of the web page. This will trigger the download of the necessary software needed to read an Amazon formatted book on the PC. As with any software download, when your security software asks whether to allow installation of the software, you will have to give permission. Also, you will be asked if you want to have the Kindle icon placed in your start tray (those are the icons you see at the extreme bottom right of your desk top), and/or as an icon on your desktop.  Suggest you just go for the latter. Then, every time you wish to read an e-book, you just click on the Kindle icon on your desktop, and commence reading where you left off from the last time you were reading an e-book.


If one has any doubts about the process, select a book for purchase that is being offered for free. That could even be a free sample. You will have to go through the same process that is used to buy a book, but no credit card information is required. It’s a relatively easy way to get familiar with the system.


What has been described for Amazon is just as applicable for Barnes & Noble. For Barnes & Noble, the e-reader is called the Nook, not the Kindle. There is one thing about using the Nook for PC software that is not intuitive. When one is reading a book, getting at the controls to do anything such as reading another book, changing type sizes, etc., one must first click on what looks like a chevron on its side that appears mid-page on the left side of the display screen. Then all the controls will appear.


The Future of Publishing

Whether we like it or not, in a couple of generations, books, newspapers, and magazines-in-print will be a thing of the past.  In fact, at that time,  the distinction between videos, such as seen on YouTube, and e-books will be blurred. For example, in a futuristic version of  the e-book, The Muscles of My Heart,  when the author attempts to describe the difference between the before and after ECHOgram of his heart, he will be able to insert into the book a YouTube  type animation of both the scarred and healed heart actively pumping. A vision that can’t be as thoroughly described by words.


The formatting software for integrated book-video exists, and is likely to be employed sometime in 2012.


No question there is a downside to losing having a print book. One can’t curl up as comforting with a computer on a damp rainy day and savor well-written prose. But just as we don’t miss reading a pre-Guttenberg book written on a papyrus scroll, in a few generation, curling up with an ebv-reader (electronic book-video reader) will seem just as comforting as a print book is for us. And not to be overlooked is that one must rely on e-books to read (for free) such out of print books as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense – an incredible piece of thought that dramatically influenced the minds of his contemporaries, and may well do the same in this century. 


Ironically, while the next generation e-book is not far off, there are some fundamental issues with the current e-book generation. They are mostly formatting issues.


Amazon doesn’t do as good a job as Barnes & Noble in how it converts publisher-supplied text to its e-reader format. The publishers rightly feel that incidences of formatting inconsistencies (mostly related to indentation and paragraph separation) reflect upon them, yet they are powerless to unilaterally fix the issues.


A problem that is not likely to be solved anytime soon is that of page numbers. A publisher dare not associate in the Table of Contents the beginning of a chapter with a page number. Simply because the page numbers will be different depending upon the display device.  This can sometimes be irksome to the reader who would like to have some idea how close the reader is to the end of a chapter. It’s an issue of, “Do I try to finish the chapter before I fall asleep, or are there too many pages yet to go?” A  derivative issue is that the number of pages of a book will vary by display device. That is why Barnes & Noble expresses the size of an e-book based upon the amount of memory space it consumes. A perfectly meaningless number for most consumers.


While charts are not an issue for novels, the size limitation of the e-reader makes charting nearly impossible. In the original manuscript for The Mussels of My Heart, there was a calendar that displayed the author’s heart healthy activities for each day of the week. There was no way to shrink the calendar down to fit on the e-book. Therefore the calendar was described in text only, and the reader was invited to visit the wccn.com website to view the calendar.


The gray scale “ink” of an e-reader eliminates the ability to show anything in color. Additionally, any picture whose background is shades of color, or gray is too similar to the pictured item, is not allowed because it would show up as a solid mass of gray matter. Unable to obtain a picture of a stent with a suitable contrasting background, in The Muscles of My Heart, the stent is described in the text, but the picture is on the wccn.com website.


But heck, if for just $2.99, if The Muscles of My Heart achieves convincing just one person that With Understanding Comes Live-saving Behavior, the publishing issues are mundane.






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The Muscles of  My Heart can be purchased at either the Amazon.com or  the Barnes & Noble websites. (www.amazon.com or www.bn.com), and can be read on PCs, laptops, tablets, and supported smart phones as well as Kindle and Nook e-book readers.