Scalzi on Nook

Over on Twitter, I’m asked if my books will be available on the Nook, Barnes & Noble’s new eBook reader. My answer: It appears so. A cursory glance at the B&N eBook site reveals four of my books as well as the New Space Opera 2 anthology being available, and the technical specs of the thing say it supports EPUB and eReader formats as well as PDF, so if you have eBooks of mine in those formats I suppose they should work for you, although I’ll hedge in noting I have no idea if whatever DRM might be on your eBook purchases will conflict with the Nook itself. Really, these things aren’t up to me.

Also not up to me: B&N eBook store pricing, DRM (if any) on your purchases at B&N or anywhere else, or anything relating to the technical or distribution side of any of this. Folks, I just write the books, I don’t market them. That’s what I have publishers for. If you have kvetches of that stripe, take it up with them, or with B&N.

As to my thoughts on the Nook, I have none of note at the moment, as I’ve not played with it. Cursorily, I think it looks nice, and I like that it has native PDF support, but other than that I’m not qualified to say. I will say that I’m not at all likely to regularly purchase books electronically until I can get them without DRM. I’m sort of constitutionally opposed to not actually owning the things I buy. Call me crazy on that.

42 thoughts on “Scalzi on Nook

  1. Native pdf support is pretty nice. Now if the book lending aspect is intuitive and easy to use this could be a great device.

    I view DRM as both a technical and legal challenge. How do I get past it and what legal responsibility do I have for the now non-DRM version of the book/song. I can always sell back my CDs but my itunes library is restricted?

    Really I feel the same way about DRM and software copy protection. Punishing the honest people willing to spend money on your product only causes them to go to less scrupulous ways of owning the product.

    That being said I would love to be able to check ebooks out from the library over a wireless device.

    I don’t plan on owning one but hopefully they will have an app that can be used on other handheld devices.

    Rabid

  2. Having the non-eInk display for control and the eInk display for reading may be a genius move.

    Also, my understanding is that it is using Android, which means there may be more for third-parties to add functionality, unlike any other eReader.

  3. It is using the Android, but we’ll have to wait and see what can be added to the device. I like the book-sharing, the SD-slot having, WiFi-having aspects of this over the Kindle.

    I’m personally most interested in whether the screen is actually _readable_, as the Kindle’s display is dark grey on light grey, which I don’t like at all. I’d be satisfied with _black_ on light grey, but I’m just not sure eInk is there yet.

    I’ve already read some early reviews saying that the viewing angle is pretty bad.

    Fortunately, this will be available for handling at actual brick & mortar stores for me to try before I (possibly) buy.

    I really couldn’t care less about it having a secondary color display. It doesn’t seem that useful.

  4. DRM is an issue for me but I am interested how authors are going to react to the friend sharing feature of the nook. It isn’t any different then lending a book but it is completely new to the ereader arena.

  5. Nook looks pretty good. I’ve had the chance to play with a Kindle and I didn’t really like it. Still don’t think I’d buy either one though.

    The DRM is obviously an issue, but that’s never been what’s turned me off. I’ve just never had the urge to curl up next to the fire or climb in the hammock with a nice LCD screen.

  6. It looks good, however, there are some features that leave me uninspired.

    More memory than a Kindle…why? I mean, how much space can ebooks take up?

    Play Mp3s on it? Dude, that’s what an iPod/Zune/Whatever is for.

    Android OS…okay, so?

    Look, if you want something more than a Nook or Kindle, buy a netbook. Costs the same, can do more and can read ebooks and PDFs.

    I’m not hating on the Nook, but keep it in perspective.

  7. Naming Fail or Naming Win? Will the Nook e-book prompt too much lame humor about the “Nookie Book”? Or will it be a cutsey selling point?

  8. I’m sort of constitutionally opposed to not actually owning the things I buy. Call me crazy on that.

    What makes this different from Rhapsody, which you’ve mentioned using and enjoying in the past?

  9. Kevin R:

    Because, as I’ve noted just about every time I mention Rhapsody, I’m well aware what I’m doing with that service is renting, a condition for which DRM makes perfect and acceptable sense.

    I would note, incidentally, that if in listening to something on Rhapsody I decide I would like to buy it, the service will sell it to me as non-DRM’d MP3s.

  10. More competition is good – my hope is that multiple devices will make the publishers start becoming more sane on ebook pricing.

    Note to any publishers reading – I, and many others like me, are no longer buying dead tree edition books at brick and mortar stores. If the book isn’t by an author that I’m following you basically have one chance to sell it to me, when whatever PR you push makes me go look at it. If it’s too expensive, I’m most likely never going to buy it. I’ve heard some authors complain about the $10 price point that kindle pushes – don’t. You’re not losing money on a lost hardback sale, you’re essentially getting the paperback sale a year earlier, and for a couple of bucks more. In the last year I bought 10 or so books at the $10 price point on my kindle. Only one would have been a hardback purchase in the pre-ebook dark ages for me.

  11. Christopher Turkel@6: Android OS means that there is at least the possibility that you’ll be able to run Android apps, which means that you don’t have to wait for Barnes and Noble to improve things.

    But you missed the most important feature: the color, non eInk screen used in addition to the main screen. This may give the device the best of both worlds: an eInk screen for easy reading and a fast LCD screen for easy browsing.

    Also, you are very much missing what separates eReaders from netbooks. I’ve got an eReader in my back pack that has been on for three weeks straight, weighs eight ounces and is half a centimeter thick. There’s no netbook that matches that. I read on the train. I’ve used netbooks in that situation, but netbooks are hard to read when the sun strikes them and are impossible to use when I’m forced to stand and hang on to the bar with one hand. The eReader, on the other hand, works admirably in either situation.

  12. Bearpaw @ 7: RE: Nook’s name – Case in point. I say to my boyfriend, “Nook is a great name for an ereader. It rhymes with book, it signals coziness, you want to curl up in a nook with a book.”

    Boyfriend says, “Nookie. Okay, I’m a guy. That’s all I think about.”

    …..

    Things I like about the Nook – the library size, and potential library size. (When Sony said their ereader could hold 350 books based on an average file size, I snorted in contempt.)

    The fact that even if I delete a book from my Nook, B&N will note that I purchased it, and I can change my mind and redownload it later. This is miles ahead of my experience with purchasing songs from iTunes wherein after a harddrive meltdown on my laptop (and not owning an iPod at the time) I lost about 100 dollars worth of songs. And when I went to replace the first one, iTunes told me I had already purchased it AND THEN REFUSED TO LET ME DOWNLOAD IT AGAIN. Having had lemon juice and salt poured into my gaping wound, I promptly stopped buying anything ever again via iTunes.

    PDFs! Hey, neat. This means I can make distributable copies of my art and comics for people to cart around (if they were so inclined.)

    Stuff I’d like clarification on: Can B&N pull an Amazon and wipe parts of my collection directly from the Nook without consulting me? If so, it’s still probably a no-go.

    Are DRM-free versions of my books available? I hate supporting DRM and I don’t buy CDs that are DRMed. (Anymore. I bought a few by accident before noticing they were.)

    More reasonable price points on ebooks should certainly be considered.

  13. I agree with Scalzi. There’s no way that I’m buying an ebook reader without being able to own the files outright. That whole 1984 fiasco is just the tip of the iceberg.

    I’d rather just buy plain old fashion books. That being said, there is a wealth of ebooks available in all types of format that you can find.

  14. @ range: You should check Bookeen‘s Cybook readers, then. They are not tied to a particular bookstore so that even if one can read DRM’d files on them, they are also great devices to store the non-DRM e-books from Fictionwise, Baen and others.

  15. I just read ebooks on my iPhone -OK it is smaller but I always have it with me and there are several good readers available already.

    The one I use also hooks up with my Baen webscription account so I can even grab books on the move over 3g.

  16. @PixelFish: At the risk of being labeled an Apple fanboy, I’d like to let you know that if you call iTunes support and explain the situation, they can pull the one-time-only reset lever that lets you download your library again (and in non-DRMed iTunes Plus format to boot).

    I agree that it’s ridiculous that you should have to do this (especially when iPhone applications can explicitly be redownloaded, so it’s not a technological barrier). I blame the record labels for this (darn, there’s that Apple fan thing again).

    Of course, if you’ve completely sworn off iTunes, that’s perfectly understandable. I just thought you might like the opportunity to recover your investment.

  17. John:

    Fair enough.

    Speaking of renting, our library here gives out DRM’d audiobook files. Not knowing much about the e-book market, does any library or someone do that for text e-books?

  18. To be fair, the eReader DRM that Fictionwise, eReader, and B&N (pretty sure) use is about as unobtrusive as DRM gets, in that it’s all client side. You simply type in your name and credit card number used to purchase the book, and the software unlocks it. There’s no central servers that can be shut down, and you can read the books on any compatible device/computer. You could even share it with trusted friends, particularly if your credit card number has changed. Of course, there’s also the fact that it’s been cracked (look for ereader2html) if you want to strip the DRM and convert it to a different format.

    I can’t be sure that any of this applies to the Nook/B&N combination, but if it does, it’s certainly a step up from the Kindle. The fact that the Android OS that the Nook is based on is open source opens some interesting possibilities, as well.

  19. @Nick – I totally agree – Fictionwise’s DRM is pretty inoffensive, and in fact it’s the only one I’ll buy in to. No Kindle for me. I’d love a chance to play with the Nook though. I keep feeling like all these new readers are about 95% there, but they can’t seem to crack that ceiling.

  20. I’m trying to get excited about nook, but e-readers in general are a really hard sell. Here’s why:
    1. There is no means by which I can upload my existing library the way I can with Audio CDs and my ipod.
    2. Books still cost good money on the device.
    3. Because of 1 and 2, I’d have to rebuy all the books I love

    So with that in mind, the only thing this device brings to the table for me is the form factor, other than that it’s just an extra 250 dollars between me and the books I want to buy.

    Maybe someday we’ll have keen way of scanning books.

  21. Pixel fish @ #13 – The fact that even if I delete a book from my Nook, B&N will note that I purchased it, and I can change my mind and redownload it later.

    This assumes they have the right to allow that in perpetuity. Legal issues management means they may not always be able to. If the DRM allows it, back up your files.

  22. I wasn’t sure about the Kindle when I bought it, but damn, I love it. I read vastly more books now than I did before, which means more of my free time is spent reading and less is spent doing other, more boring things. I also like how it sits very flat on a table by itself, so you can easily read while eating (vs. a book, which usually won’t lie flat).

    The DRM thing isn’t a big issue for me. I used to have a ton of books and then I got rid of at least 2/3 of them, and the main problem with buying books now is that they take up space and then I have to take them to goodwill or something later on.

    To give an example, why do I need to own a Scalzi book? I will probably only read it one time, and if I want to read it again, it’s probably easy to get from the library. Unless a book is out of print or I use it as a reference or read it over and over again or the individual copy is special to me (like a gift or a signed edition), I have no need to own it.

    Books on the Kindle don’t take up any space and if I someday lose them all, I can live with it. I’ve made my peace with paying $10 for the privilege of reading a novel on the Kindle. It’s worth it.

    I’m sure the Nook will be great too. I really hope that someday books are more like music is now – able to be purchased from multiple vendors in formats that work on multiple devices. I’d love to have one ebook reader and be able to read any book I want on it.

  23. My issue with the Kindle is the book pricing – it is a function of the cheapest format available (so a bit less than hardback if the book is only in hardback, a bit less than paperback if a paperback edition is available) which has no justification other than greed. The production cost of the ebook file has not changed regardless of the physical formats currently being sold – there is still the single up front production cost and then the negligable storage and transmission costs.

    eBooks are a fraction of the production cost of physical books, especially in light of the weird business model for physical books where the seller hasn’t actually bought a book from a publisher until a customer has bought it from the seller. Unsold books are simply destroyed at the publisher’s expense putting the entire risk of sales on their heads rather than on the retailers (perhaps this has changed in light of the large warehouse based internet sellers but I suspect that business model still has decent utilization). Thus the cost of a hardback doesn’t just reflect its own production cost but also the potential losses in the destruction of unsold copies. eBooks not only have essentially no duplication cost but also do not have this added expense and yet they retail for far more than paperback when hardback is the only physical format available.

    To put another way, paperbacks are cheaper to produce than hardbacks so cost less. eBooks are even cheaper (orders of magnitude cheaper) than paperbacks but for at least part of their lifecycle will be more expensive. To me that is a deal breaker.

    eBook readers offer exactly one benefit to me – they are more convinient when traveling. Their drawbacks are significant – DRM, inability to lend (ok, the Nook has a very limited ability, but only if you know other folks that want to read an electronic copy and have a means to read it), slow ability to move through the “pages”, questions about longevity (I can read 100 year old books, will people be able to read 100 year old eBooks), and so forth. It is insane to couple all of that with a grossly inflated price point and I am unwilling to accept it. The eBook file is not a function of physical format currently published – its pricing should not be either.

  24. re: 7 & 12 and the “nookie” book.

    As a friend mentioned: I think they need to do a cross-promotion with Bust Magazine which regularly features a “one-handed read.”

  25. #24 Tam: Unless a book is out of print or I use it as a reference or read it over and over again or the individual copy is special to me (like a gift or a signed edition), I have no need to own it.

    I can honestly say that this point of view is completely, utterly, and totally foreign to me. Perhaps it’s because I have lots of disposable income (yay CS degree!) and have plenty of shelf space, but I have only ever given away one book – and that was because I utterly despised the thing and didn’t want it sitting on my shelf, infecting other nearby books. Even books that I know I will never read again and books that I’m pretty sure I will never ever get around to reading for the first time (yeah, Finnegan’s Wake, I’m talking to you) stick around. In alphabetical order.

    This probably explains why I don’t really love my Sony eReader (which is, in most ways, a very lovable gadget). I like owning books.

  26. Josh @ 25
    “My issue with the Kindle is the book pricing – it is a function of the cheapest format available (so a bit less than hardback if the book is only in hardback, a bit less than paperback if a paperback edition is available) which has no justification other than greed. The production cost of the ebook file has not changed regardless of the physical formats currently being sold – there is still the single up front production cost and then the negligable storage and transmission costs.”

    I don’t think this is entirely ‘greed’ –

    perhaps our host can enlighten us – do publishers pay more royalties per unit for the 1st hardcover run of a book vs. a paperback run?

    are there other costs that need to be ‘covered’ when a book is only available in hardcover?

    I suspect (but I do not know) that when a book is a new release (lets say that new Dan Brown book) there are costs of marketing, (advertising etc.) advances to the author, incentives to booksellers etc that the publisher needs to recoup in order for the book to be profitable – all of these things factor somewhere in the cover price – I bet that a new hardcover ‘costs’ no more than 4 or 5 dollars to produce – obviously a paperback costs less. -

    did you ever wonder why a ‘book club’ hardcover often costs nearly the same as a paperback? – it’s becuase the royalties to the author are nowhere near the $$ paid when you buy a book printed by the publisher on record.

  27. And for whatever it’s worth, it’s absolutely trivial to convert ebooks from one format to another. So the fact that the Kindle uses Mobipocket and the nook uses EPUB would not be a problem. Except for that blasted DRM.

  28. Steve Burnap wrote: “Having the non-eInk display for control and the eInk display for reading may be a genius move.”

    Except that I bet they’ll be running ads on it before long, as a way to increase revenue. Probably animated ads. Which would cause me to stomp on the device with great force.

    tyger11 wrote: “I’m personally most interested in whether the screen is actually _readable_, as the Kindle’s display is dark grey on light grey, which I don’t like at all. I’d be satisfied with _black_ on light grey, but I’m just not sure eInk is there yet.”

    I find the kindle screen looks best under daylight or bright white/blue fluorescents. The background gray looks lighter under such circumstances, at least to my eyes.

  29. “The first company to invent a means of autographing eBooks will make a killing.”

    I’ve heard of people having their kindles signed. Which I think is pretty cool – rather than having the signatures hidden inside your books, you can carry them around in full view.

  30. Jon H@31: What makes you think that? It’s not like smart phone displays or music player displays have been co-opted like that.

  31. Alan m @27 -

    and, I’m sure, a modicum of OCD helps. At least, in my case, that’s just as much a driver in the quest to own, organize and display the dead tree format. It’s an obsessive sort of affection. Again, I’m speaking in reference to my own condition.

    I can say that my dad has rediscovered reading with his Kindle. The ability to increase the size of the text has done wonders for his ability to see it. This, I think, he’s found preferable to haunting the distressingly small Large Text sections of book stores.

  32. Steve Burnap wrote: “What makes you think that? It’s not like smart phone displays or music player displays have been co-opted like that.”

    I think the new Zune player does. When you start a game, a commercial plays before the game appears. The games are free, but still, that’d get old quick.

    Smart phones have plenty of other revenue sources, and the service contract.

    An ebook reader is a better place for ads than a music player, since you know the user is looking in the direction of the device when using it. Music players are often not being looked at, making ad display less useful.

    I think it’ll be very tempting for B&N, at the very least, especially if magazine publishers ask for the ability to put ads down there in the color strip.

  33. Oh, also, Steve, the Nook is somewhat unique compared to other devices, in that the advertisement-display-space would be separate from the content display area. Thus ads can be displayed without taking away book real estate.

    They could even implement it so that after some period without touching the color display’s touch controls, they fade out and an ad comes up, and touching the screen again makes the controls come back.

    I guarantee, though, that some marketing guy sees that brightly-colored strip below the e-ink screen, and is thinking about how to do “shoot the monkey” flash banner ads on it.

  34. I hear you on the DRM issue. I own all of my music on tape (gasp!) or CD still, even though iTunes is convenient – but it’s limited. Our household has three Apple machines, an iPod, two iPhones and a Dell. That’s too many for most DRM limits, and I really don’t want to play the “who owns what” game.

    What tempts me the most to break my self-imposed abstinence is albums from foreign groups that I can’t get here for cheap. $25 or more for one CD, vs $13 or less on iTunes. Ack!

  35. @Marybeth: I don’t use it myself, but virtually all online music stores (iTunes included) now use DRM-free files. CDs still have their advantages, and tend to be cheaper than a full digital album in most cases, but DRM is no longer a problem for music.

  36. RE: DRM

    DRM is an unfortunate reality when dealing with pretty much any kind of digital distribution. They bolt it on to eBooks, MP3s, video games… Pretty much anything you download instead of obtaining a physical product.

    To be completely honest, however, I’m not that worried about DRM when it comes to my books. Much like the movies I watch and the video games I play – there’s an awful lot that I will never revisit.

    I’ve got piles of books that I’ve read and no longer care about. Boxes full of them. I’ve sold them at garage sales and at the local used bookstore. I’ve donated them to the local library. I’ve tried to sell them on eBay but nobody wanted them.

    If a book is somehow significant to me – a gift, or something I re-read frequently, or a reference material that sees heavy use – then I’ll want to keep it.

    I frequently buy hardcovers or special editions of books that I originally purchased as a paperback, and then decided were important enough to keep. I can see myself doing something similar for ebooks that I decide are important enough to keep.

  37. “DRM is an unfortunate reality when dealing with pretty much any kind of digital distribution.”

    I’ve purchased unprotected MP3s for years, first from eMusic, and then from Amazon. Also, I have bought (and have also sold, and am selling) electronic books without DRM.

    So I don’t buy (literally) that DRM has to be a given with electronic media.

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