If you’re reading this article in print, chances are you’ll only get through half of what I’ve written. And if you’re reading this online, you might not even finish a fifth. At least, those are the two verdicts from a pair of recent research projects – respectively, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack survey, and analysis by Jakob Nielsen – which both suggest that many of us no longer have the concentration to read articles through to their conclusion.
One of the greatest challenges facing an ebook evangelist like myself is to find decent answers to the most common question I get about ebooks from academia: “Why?”
People want to know what purpose they serve, what clear advantage they hold over plain old dead tree books when it comes to education. Most students and professors have already heard and largely dismissed the normal arguments; unlimited storage, convenience, portability, the ability to enlarge fonts and to read text aloud (however imperfectly) for handicapped access. If you look at the university trials of the Kindle DX, it is clear that all those factors just don’t out weigh what one gives up when you digitize a textbook using current technology. For example, the ability to flip back and forth through a book easily and quickly, to highlight text, to draw in arrows and pictographs that only the student understands, to make arcane margin notes, to have several texts open at once.
In the past two weeks I have heard forcefully stated pronouncements by agent Andrew Wylie and chair of the Society of Authors, Tom Holland, regarding ebook royalty rates. A 50/50 share between author and publisher is the only possible outcome they can accept, citing the tired and somewhat old argument we have heard before:
The publisher has little or no incremental out of pocket cost to create ebooks, therefore the income should be split in the same manner as subsidiary rights, which is generally 50/50.
The Times’ paid model is just two weeks old but, still, a number of stats came through this weekend – none of them from the horse’s mouth…