11 February 2009
I've released an ebook edition of my novel 'University of Death'. It costs £5, half the price of the print edition, and is available now at Lulu. There are no shipping costs (obviously), and it is available for download immediately after payment. You can pay using paypal if you don't want to use a credit card.
This move is partly in response to an email from Sven Augustin who says he likes to read ebooks on his hacked PSP on long train journeys because it means there's less stuff to carry around. He uses the Bookr PDF reader.
Clearly, the way that people choose to consume content is changing. Nintendo recently released 100 Classic Book Collection for the Nintendo DS. It includes a library of many books you know you probably ought to read, but it's a shame there's no option to read PDFs of your own choice. Amazon's Kindle ebook reader (only available in the US) has made it to a second edition and does offer the ability to read your own PDFs, as well as providing downloadable content. Amazon warns that the PDF conversion is experimental, but it nevertheless creates greater opportunities for authors to distribute their content to Kindle readers. I blogged about some of the problems of distributing Kindle content via Amazon previously.
By providing 'University of Death' as an ebook, I hope I'll be able to give people more options for consuming the content as they wish. It also makes it possible for people to access the content more quickly, and to save money on ordering (no postage or print costs). People who wish to can print their own copies to read on paper.
Pricing ebooks is tricky, but at less than the cost of some music magazines, I think £5 represents fair value for the entertainment provided. People tend to think that there are no costs in ebook publishing, but actually the cost of content creation and promotion is the same as it is for printed books. Feel free to leave any comments on the pricing of ebook below.
Not that I currently use them much myself. I recently got 6 chapters into the free online version of 'Real World Haskell' (a technical book), then paid money for a paper copy because I wanted to reward the authors and get a more ergonomic copy at the same time.
I once started reading War and Peace on my mobile phone. I kidded myself that it was alright - but I didn't get more than 1000 word in, I'm sure.
I think PDF is entirely the wrong format for text content. You need something that reflows to fit the device or window. I know UoD has typography challenges - but there must be a better solution than PDF.
I think PDFs sort of 'feel' more like a book too, so people are more willing to buy them. HTML feels like a website, and people generally believe websites should be free. PDFs mean they get the same reading experience as they would on paper. And in some cases, readers will buy the PDF to save money and print it out themselves.
You're right that PDF has its shortcomings, but for the moment it's probably the best format for selling digital content just because you can get readers for so many different platforms and most people already have them installed.
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