Saturday, December 19, 2009

updates on e-books

Three of Korea's online English papers discuss e-books today (well, still in the headlines today - the articles could be a day or two old).

The Herald describes how e-books and reader devices have helped the publishing industry:

The year started off poorly for booksellers.
The outlook for the overall publishing market was largely negative in January. The economy was in the doldrums, and readers put off book purchases.
Kyobo, the country's biggest bookstore chain, said its preliminary yearly sales rose 8.9 percent from 2008, helped by the stronger-than-expected revenue from e-book sales. The lackluster figure illustrates that books sold in electronic form were the main drivers for growth.
While offline book sales remain stagnant, publishers and IT companies began to pay attention to the potential of e-books. Even though there have been a handful of attempts to kick-start the potentially huge market in the past few years, writers, readers and publishers have not paid much attention. That changed dramatically this year.
Device makers such as Samsung Electronics and iriver introduced new e-book readers, raising the possibility that Korea might see a boom in the new platform in the near future following the success of's the Kindle in the United States.

The Joongang discusses how Sony has chosen to keep it's reader device dedicated to reading, and not add a variety of other features.

NEW YORK - The way Howard Stringer sees it, Sony’s digital e-readers should focus on the printed word and making reading “comfortable,” even though the consumer electronics giant could turn it into a multimedia machine. Stringer, chief executive of Japan’s Sony Corp, admits there is a lot of “energy” behind’s Kindle, which is seen as the leader in a burgeoning market for portable reading devices. 

As speculation grows that Apple Inc. may introduce a tablet-style computer that could also address the e-reader market, Sony could differentiate itself by adding more powerful chips, displays and media features to the pocket sized readers. 

But Stringer says that, given the nascence of the market, it is smarter to wait and see how consumer warm to the current makeup of the devices. 

“The consumer will tell us if this format is comfortable and helpful and convenient and all those things before you start plowing on a thousand apps or making the ‘Vaio Reader,’” Stringer said on the sidelines of a press conference in New York on Thursday. 

Although I do like the idea of carrying one device that can do everything, in practice it often seems a challenge for me to shift between features or use two at once.  I guess people better at multi-tasking will feel differently, but I don't mind the idea of having a device that only offers books (and magazines and textbooks...) for reading.  If I want to jog or walk with music or a podcast, I won't want to carry a full-size e-book reader, so I'll need a dedicated MP3 player anyway.

The Times describes a serious problem with using e-book readers in class.  Korea has worked to set up electronic whiteboards - that function as a computer screen you can write on -and e-books for the students to carry that will be lighter than a stack of textbooks.  Those textbooks are copyrighted and the copyright holders aren't interested in offering the material in an easily copiable format.

The government plans to have digital devices replace books and blackboards in schools, a transition it claims will open a new chapter in education. However, the ambitious e-learning initiative appears to have been derailed from the start, with a problem that is less about technology than it is with content. 

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has spent 300 billion won (about $255 million) to install "electronic blackboards," or interactive monitors for showing electronic content, in 256 middle and high schools across the country.

However, these neat screens don't see much use in classrooms, as the e-book content to replace printed textbooks is non-existent. 

Critics ridicule the government for putting the cart before the horse, spending lavish money on the e-learning equipment when there has been little progress in plans to convert state-authorized textbooks into digital formats. 

It does seem poor planning to spend all that money to set up the framework and not check up on the content.  Still, there will be no e-book content if there are no e-book readers.  Perhaps the government were attempting to be visionaries, leading the market and the market itself failed in taking advantage of the opportunity.

I've been writing a lot in the last few weeks about e-books but still have no plan to buy one.  Partly, the price is holding me back and partly the range of books and their prices are holding me back.   I don't understand how a paper version of a book is only a little more expensive than the e-version.  There is no need to print the books or store them or transport them; the price should be significantly lower.


kyungmee said...

HI! Anyonghaseyo;) Wow, I was browsing through "the next blogger" button and the first one to appear was your site. How crazy? I am saying this because I am Korean..well Korean American;) I was adopted as a child. You lead a very interesting life and am excited to follow your stories & adventures. I hope you don't mind but I would like to add your blog to my bloglist on homeiswithin;) Thank you;)

kwandongbrian said...

It's good to hear from you, Kyungmee. I don't know if this is interesting, but i wrote about a friend, Korean, but adopted by an American couple, here: