What is an ebook?
In the simplest terms; a digital/electronic book. The most common format of which is the "EPUB" flavor; a free and open standard created by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The underlying foundation of electronic book is essentially the same DNA as you find underneath a webpage (like this one). XHTML, SVG, and CSS. And like a webpage, ebooks are intended for reading on a wide variety of screen types; from computer monitors, to portable tablets, and even smart phones. Because of this, ebooks do not have pages in the traditional sense. It would not be accurate to describe THE FIRST CONFESSOR by a page count because on the tiny screen of a smart phone, there may be 2,000 or more individual screens/pages a reader would click through, while on a large tablet or computer monitor, the page count may be closer to 600.
Ebook content is designed to "flow" both vertically and horizontally. And because every ebook tablet manufacturer and software designer has their own ideas about how best to display this content -- a lot like internet browsers -- you may notice formatting differences between them. Further, unlike traditional webpages, ebook software and tablet manufacturers typically include user options for changing font typefaces, sizes, and emphasis. (top)
What can't ebooks do? Print vs. Electronic
We all love printed books. Features most often described are; the feeling of turning a page, the smell of a freshly printed or even a weathered tome, the appearance on a shelf, and the weight of holding a solid novel in your hand (or as a convenient riser under a lop-sided monitor). Ebooks cannot accurately replicate those things and while there have been a number of clever attempts, the simple truth of it is that you will miss those tactile advantages -- briefly.
Now consider; all of these things are true of vinyl records, video game cartridges, buttons on your phone, pre-traction control steering, VHS/DVD packaging, and much more. But in the end, the advantages offered by their technologically superior replacements were insurmountable. Do you really miss vinyl records? Or do you enjoy the thrill of having a world of music at your fingertips? Does the Nintendo generation truly relish frustratingly blowing into video game cartridges or have we misappropriated our memories and has time granted fair favor to the nuances of the past? Do you miss buttons on your phone or do you prefer the advantages of a large touch screen? It's safe to say, with the recent decline of *berry phones and the indomitable rise of Apple and Android devices.. People miss those buttons a lot less than they originally thought. (top)
Why are ebooks better than printed books?
It was easy for us to piece together this list. Looking back, it's surprising this is even a contest.
Ebooks allow you to access the entire printed world, from virtually any device you can think of. Apple phones, Android phones, SONY tablets, Samsung Galaxy tablets, Apple iPads, notebook computers, PC/Mac towers, web browsers, cheap devices, expensive multi-purposes devices, and many more. Not only is the screen you are reading this article on capable of displaying an ebook, there is a pretty good chance you probably own at least one or two other devices that can too.
Common & Ebook Compatible Devices:
- All smart phones (Windows, Android, Apple)
- All Apple and Microsoft Windows computers
- All notebook portable computers
- All touch screen tablets (Apple, Google, ASUS, etc)
Downloading ebooks is a snap. Ebook tablets have custom stores built-in for browsing and searching content, then wirelessly downloading for instant reading (sometimes even via cellular connection).
Printed books cannot remain "in print" forever. As popularity wanes, new books get released, book stores close down, shelf space shrinks to make room for coffee shops, books inevitably get discarded or left off shelves. Have you ever tried to buy book #X from your favorite series only to find the store carried #W, #Y-#Z but your volume is missing. You will never find an ebook "Sold Out".
Ebook file sizes are very small. You can store hundreds, if not thousands, of your favorite books on a single device. All instantly accessible. Bookmarks are often cross-platform, storing your last location within a novel even when you switch devices or have to replace a lost or damage device. You can instantly access your library for referencing (and note taking), plus pick up new books while on the go.
The added travel weight and hassle of transporting books while on the road is a thing of the past.
You can loan ebooks, if the Author allows it. Terry Goodkind does. Ebooks have already begun in appearing in most libraries across the United States and in many countries internationally, but with the added convenience of 'electronic check-outs' and email exchanges.
The unnecessarily consumed shelf space of row after row of books you've already read (or never will) no longer has to consume entire walls (or even rooms). Now you have shelves for photos and mementos, adding light and room to your environment.
Social networking has widened our web of friends and family, keeping us more frequently connected but still many miles apart. The ability to gift-give ebooks instantly means last-minute ideas are now a few keystrokes away. Deliver books or even entire libraries to a friend via email (supported by every major store).
For those special books with personal meaning, buy a collector's edition or hardcover and preserve the tome forever. Read the ebook instead. Ebooks cannot be damaged. Sure, ebook tablets can be dropped or lost, but those are simply the carrier devices for the ebooks themselves. Buy a new tablet and your library is right back where it was, just as you left it.
Think of all of the men and women in service that now have the ability to instantly access books. Or people on long work trips, stuck in hotels, crowded airplanes, or any of the other innumerable conditions of the modern working man and woman. How about storing your personal library in a desk drawer for quick lunch breaks?
Interactivity and Animation
Animations and interactive components are possible, bringing to life educational demonstrations, playful interactions, or short highlight clips. Ever turn to the middle of a documentary title to browse the photos, before even reading the book? Now imagine accessing photos, animations, audio sources, and much more. All made possible with the electronic format.
Printed books not only consume massive amounts of paper products, the real environmental costs come from the production of the raw materials (pages, inks, binding adhesives, cover materials, packaging), the transporting of the heavy books to stores (aircraft, truck, and boat fuels and tires), the energy costs of storing the books in temperature controlled conditions (book stores are big spaces), the enormous cost of replacing/discarding accidentally damaged books, the eventual re-transportation of the books to a buyer's home/possession, etc. When you factor in the entire supply chain (most of which is automated), you realize the true cost of a printed edition is far beyond the paper.
Did you know; when a book is over-printed, the book stores simply tear the covers off the book (discarding the "guts" of the book), then mail the covers-only back to the publisher for a refund. Think of the round-trip cost of that process. It's non-existent for ebooks
Work preservation (inheriting priceless work)
Ebooks are eternal. Imagine all of the books you've never heard of that are now forever lost to time. It is unlikely any title published electronically today will not be available for future generations, even hundreds of years in the future. People decry ebooks for 'being unable to hand a book to my children', but that's just not reality. You can bestow an ebook to your child and support a format that will not only provide a wealth of imagination, entertainment, and education for their generation, you are contributing to a movement that will provide our greatest contributions as a society for all generations. A book simply cannot be preserved and handed down, generation to generation like that. Libraries long ago discovered a book can only be checked out approximately one dozen times before it needs to be destroyed and replaced.
Would you argue against digitally scanning priceless family photos? Or would you recognize scanning photos enables you to share them with all of your family and for generations forever forward. Imagine how many ancestors you have, that once existed in photos or early films, now lost forever.
Ebooks get pirated and printed books get stolen. It's a sad reality true for anything. What's perhaps even more meaningful now, however, is that ebooks, such as THE FIRST CONFESSOR, are the first of its kind. A new breed of Author-published books that have no publishing support. Stealing an author published ebook is directly taking away from the ability of a liked author to continue with their craft. Piracy will effectively drive the brightest minds from their best jobs -- producing amazing content for us. Can you feel good knowing you would contribute to that?
Want to curl up in bed and read next to a sleeping loved one? Almost every ebook reader/tablet allows for you to turn on a backlight or an add-on accessory light. With printed books, you are restricted to where you can get close access to light.
Ebooks are cheaper than their hardcover counterparts and remain "in print" forever. Just like any other book, their price is slowly driven down as demand falls off or new books by the author become available. Hardcovers disappear and cheap/flimsy, mass market paperbacks appear instead.
Did we mention THE FIRST CONFESSOR is just $8.99 (USD) the first week of release? It will be $9.99 after that but consider; a 103-chapter major novel, massive in length, available on release day for less than 10 bucks. You can buy a soda to sip with the change left over.
Anyone that's ever been to college has awful memories of the "book tax" you get hit with every new semester/term. College text books are expensive and uncommon. Even used books are often pricey, well above the cost of a mass market hardcover. Ebooks unlock the potential for significantly cheaper acquisitions for students. That movement is already well underway and devices like the Kindle DX are already purpose-built for the class.
More Books and More Authors
Printing a book is expensive and as such, so is buying a printed book. This also means fewer books get printed and fewer authors ever break into the public eye because publishers are unwilling to take major financial risks on unproven writers and untested content. With ebooks, that condition is eliminated. More books and more possibilities for authors. Ever wish there were more [specific genre tuned just to your liking] books around? Soon there will be..
Look vs. Printing
E-ink is indistinguishable from printed characters. It's gorgeous. There is no flicker. There is no headache inducing backlighting. It's ink in every perceptible way and yet it changes when you 'turn the page'. We love it. And best of all, you can change the font size as you see fit. Ever wish you could zoom in or out on a book to see more text on a page, or less to keep it further from you? With ebooks you absolutely can do that and it's a wonderment for readers. We are spoiled.
Ebook information is extensible. Authors can nest links to other resources within their books. Instead of a lengthy, tiny printed index with obscure references, you can now click on links and be instantly transported to references, supplemental materials, and external sources of information.
Something we are very excited about (and have big plans to support) is the ability to update content and push, at no additional charge, new/updated content out to ebook owners. Spelling mistakes, formatting errors, alternate endings, supplemental content, and much more can all be added or changed post-release. That means the ebook you buy today can (and with us will!) be updated weeks or even months later.
Did you know we offer rewards for providing us with spelling mistakes/formatting errors in our ebooks? Email us, provide details (book, section, passage or problem), and we'll send you free swag and a sincere thanks. We adamantly believe in supporting everyone that supports us. We're not going to release an ebook, then toss the keys and walk away. We're going to support your purchase (and you as a customer/reader/fan) forever. Imagine getting that kind of love and support with your hardcover.
Ebooks Don't Cost Jobs
Relatively speaking, the real cost on jobs has been new forms of content (mobile gaming, apps, and above all the internet) that have led to the decline in book sales. Ever since ebooks caught on (last few years), we've seen a resurgence in book sales driven by ebooks. That means more authors, more content people (like the person writing this webpage), EPUB coders, software programmers and vendors, tablet manufacturers, store specialists, technical support personnel, advertising/marketing people, (etc, etc), have all come online to support this new format.
Ebooks and Indie Stores
We've heard from indie book store people upset at us for releasing an ebook exclusive. They say we've "turned our backs" on the grass roots people that have helped grow Terry Goodkind into a successful Author. It's a great sounding mantra, but is it true?
What could possibly be more indie than a major Author, self-publishing a book without a major corporate/publishing advance, and offering it to the people, at a low price, world-wide, and saying, "I just spent the last year of my life writing this. Please read it and let me know you appreciate my hard work by purchasing it and, hopefully, telling your friends about it too."
The real complaints are from the indie stores themselves, frustrated by ebooks being less-than-accessible to their business. Much the same way record stores were extinguished by the digital music revolution, video rental stores have begun to pull stakes and fade in the night with digital delivery and automated DVD/Blu-Ray boxes, and big budget movies are now sharing Oscar time with independent, small-shop, small-budget features. It's a weird world and we're sorry that every revolution has its costs. We didn't start the fire and we're certainly not trying to blow smoke at our indie store friends. Instead, we ask you to understand why we are self-releasing (how that mandate is in precise parallel with your own), and we encourage you to contact us and provide suggestions for how we can help you and your business and be better collaborators. We really do care and we appreciate your support.
When you buy an ebook that is self-published (key difference being the 'self' part), you are directly supporting an Author's enterprise and their motivation, capacity, and ability to continue creating content for you and the rest of the world. There's nothing sweeter than knowing you are making a difference and few opportunities like it exist. In a lot of ways, buying a self-released ebook is more transparently supportive of your beliefs and encouragement than donating to an organization that specializes in fancy collateral and obfuscated financial literature... We're ranting. We appreciate and love that you are willing to buy direct and that really does mean you get more of the content you love, faster. Thank you.
Text to Speech
Another Author-enabled feature (we do!) is compatible with many ebook tablets and most ebook reading software. It's a simple function that allows the device/software to read the book to you, via a computer-generated voice similar to Siri (iPhone 4S) or automated voice recognition answering services. The text is a little robotic and shallow sounding -- it certainly doesn't measure up to a talented voice actor -- but it will get the job done and it is convenient to use. You may not be a big fan of audio books or perhaps you have an access disability that requires audio, or maybe you're on a long drive and you'd like to plug your NOOK into your car stereo for a little on-the-go book progress. Whatever your cause, it's a neat feature and again, not possible with a printed book.
Every single device and software package we tested had an integrated dictionary. Amazing how such a simple service can be invaluable to advancing your reading and comprehension of a story. We loved this feature and it's another lesser-spoke feature of ebooks. Every word, full definition, pronunciation, and contextual meaning, instantly present, while you read. Cool.
Do you remember getting that textbook in school that had four, five, or maybe even twenty names, classrooms, and years scrawled beside it? Do you remember hearing your instructor tell you about having to replace text books if you lost or damaged them? Ebooks solve that. Every student (and teacher) now has access to a pristine condition copy they can write digital notes into. A copy that can never be lost, stolen, or damaged and is unimaginably inexpensive for public schools. Did you know textbooks cost about $80-150 for even elementary classrooms? Now factor the cost of a single tablet with much cheaper ebook distribution. Big savings for cash-strapped schools and better content, in perfect condition, for the students. Notes allowed.
Inner city schools have drug and theft-related problems that sometimes mean students are not issued holding spaces like lockers. As such, they are required to carry all of their books to school (and between classes all day). That means students get naturally reluctant and lazy/tired of carrying all of that printed weight and their education suffers as a result. A single, inexpensive tablet, solves that problem completely.
Even wealthier school districts and private schools still require students carry books home for after-study lessons and homework. Forgotten books or naturally reluctant students are still top-excuses for homework not getting finished. The combination of the internet and electronic books now means all of the combined knowledge of human existence, at the fingertips of every child. If only we would collectively endorse and support it -- instead of complaining about untruths like eye-strain and unnecessary luxuries like "the smell of paper" ...Ranting again.
Wrist strain from holding a heavy hardcover upright, non-existent. Donate all of your existing books, finally having a cause to get rid of that book on your bottom shelf you want to have access to, but will probably never read. Finish series books you haven't been able to find. Re-read favorite books from your youth in an afternoon. Get alerts when favorite authors release new titles. Instant delivery of best anticipated books. No store lines. A small amount of less road traffic between homes and stores. Less buyer's remorse with instant remedy. Easier group reads and organizations. Better progress tracking (no more lost bookmarks!). The list goes on and on.
Is the smell of paper and the turning of a page really still that important to you?
"...And remember, an Author only sees an 'ebook' edition of their work, prior to any kind of publication. We read our own ebooks dozens of times over the course of writing the novel. This is progress. I don't think any of us miss the quill or the typewriter." - Terry Goodkind (June 2012) (top)
Do ebooks cause eye-strain?
"It's a strange thing for an Author to read people complaining about potential eye-strain. Particularly when it's related to reading a novel you spent 9+ months sitting in front of a computer monitor writing, 10-12 hours every day." -Terry Goodkind (June 2012)
While eye-strain is a real condition and computer monitors are often to blame, the truth is, with technological advances like higher monitor refresh rates, better monitor resolutions, wonder-tech like e-ink (more later), and the general awareness of people recognizing simple measures to mitigate health concerns (such as reading with a light on), this risk is virtually eliminated. Does reading an ebook with a light on bother you? Do you read printed books with the light off?
Numerous medical professionals have come forward to dispel this common myth.
Do E-Readers Cause Eye Strain? - NY Times Article
"Most of what our mothers told us about our eyes was wrong," said Dr. Travis Meredith, chair of the ophthalmology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "Sitting close to a television, or computer screen, isn't bad for our eyes. It's a variety of other factors that can cause physical fatigue."
Is it true ebooks [tablets] have bad battery life?
Absolutely not. Color, backlit tablets are on equivalent to a robust tablet computer like the iPad. Around 8+ hours of continuous read time. A little less if you deviate and start playing Angry Birds. However, e-ink devices (our favorite) have battery lives near a full month. In our testing, the Kindle Touch and NOOK Simple Touch both offered around 4 hours of daily read-time for approximately 3 straight weeks, before having to be plugged into a power source. Re-charging took approximately 2.5 hours. Astounding how great these devices last, even under constant use. (top)
What is e-ink?
E-ink is electrophoretic ink founded in 1997 by a team of mindworks in the MIT Media Lab. It is available in grayscale and color formats and it is indistinguishable from printed type. It is flicker free, does not induce headaches or potential eye strain, and it is beautiful. We love it. It's natural looking/feeling and modern implementations of it mimic a book page wonderfully. E-ink uses very little battery life and can be used to display both pictures and text. It's also an improving technology now in its approximately fourth generation. If you've already seen it, try again. It's better than ever. If you've never tried it, forget the full color, backlit tablets. Try an e-ink display. (top)
How do I get ebooks?
Many of the same places you already shop for music, movies, and even television, now offer ebooks. Amazon.com, Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and a few others such as Google Play, Kobo Books, and more.
Currently, most publishers implement a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to try and prevent piracy of ebook content. Because of DRM, ebooks get restricted by platform. A DRM-enabled ebook purchased at the Amazon Kindle store, for example, is not compatible with the Barnes & Noble NOOK or Apple iTunes (and vice-versa). You may remember a very similar strategy was implemented early on in the digital music revolution. For a few years, music purchased on Apple iTunes was not compatible with other, non-Apple authorized devices. Eventually this archaic system of 'protecting' content was thrown out in favor of a DRM-free approach that relies on a mix of aggressive legal action and good old customer service and incentive. For the time, ebooks are mostly restricted with DRM-mechanisms. But already the tide is changing. Soon, it is expected that all ebook content will go DRM-free and we intend to fully support that movement. That means, even if you buy a DRM-locked copy of THE FIRST CONFESSOR today, not far from now, the very same copy you will have purchased will be unlocked and transportable between devices. Rest assured, we will not force you to purchase the same book twice.
For the time being, we recommend you pick the ebook reading software (or portable tablet), plus store combination that best suits you. Barnes & Noble has the largest library, chances are you already use iTunes, and Amazon is very quick to offer new products. Kobo is an up and comer and Google has been making terrific strides advancing platform and software combinations. While we have a recommendation for you (see further down this article), all offer a relatively sound starting point and again, not too far from now, you will be able to move freely between them; just like you can with music purchased today. (top)
How do I read an ebook?
The options are endless. One of the major benefits of ebooks is the sheer multitude of ways you can purchase, read, carry, and store books. We've found mixing solutions up a bit is the best way. Ordered cheap to expensive.
Ebook Software | E-Ink Devices | Tablets
Free Ebook Software
Every major ebook vendor offers their own free ebook reader software. Apple, Windows, oddities like Linux, and smart phones of almost every flavor. If has a screen and it still works, chances are you can an ebook on it.
+ Ebook Reader Software Positives
- Software is free. Just pay for the ebook.
- You probably already have a compatible device.
- Great backup solution for a dedicated ebook tablet.
- Many programs/apps feature options for self-printing.
- Library accessibility.
+ Ebook Reader Software Negatives
- Phones are small and offer less text per page. Frequent page turning.
- Computers are heavy and immovable.
- Notebooks and tablets are heavy and battery dependent.
- Reading feels more like an internet experience, less like a book.
- Most programs/apps are inelegant, compared to dedicated devices.
After Terry Goodkind finished the manuscript for THE FIRST CONFESSOR, we compiled it into an EPUB document and then distributed the file for proofreading. Edits were collected and reintroduced into the file and our first read-throughs were made using the applications Calibre and Sigil.
E-ink Ebook Readers
Our favorite format for reading ebooks. All of the screens we tested were crisp, responsive, clean, and almost totally indistinguishable from printed type. The image is flicker-free, responsive, rich looking with depth, and properly emulates a printed page. Feels great in use.
+ E-ink Reader Positives
- Indistinguishable from printed text.
- Flicker-free reading. No headaches or device-syndrome.
- Gorgeous, high-constrast screens with long running batteries.
- Devices are all very light and easy to hold.
- Dedicated devices remain true to the reading experience.
- Comparably inexpensive.
- Durable. Less concern when storing.
- A true successor to the printed page.
+ E-ink Reader Negatives
- If you travel, you may still want to bring your tablet/notebook.
- Occasional 'refresh flash' as text changes over on page turn.
- Currently small screen-only available on the best device.
E-ink/e-paper devices were first introduced to market in 2004. They have undergone considerable enhancements over the years and even devices launched a few years ago feel antiquated compared to the contemporary offerings by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and SONY. Simply put, if you tried an e-ink device before and weren't impressed (like us), try again. Things have improved dramatically.
We tested the following e-ink devices (read our full reviews):
There are other re-branded, off/third-market e-ink options available, but none worth comparing to those in the above chart. Screen quality, battery life, store support, materials and construction, "feel", and other factors make these the only viable choices for a good reading experience. This list will be updated as new devices are released. We plan on supporting this document indefinitely.
After extensive testing, one device powered past all others. To find out which one, jump here.
Ebook tablets that are not e-ink are multifunction devices that offer features like downloadable apps, games, video playback, email/messaging, color screens, backlit LCD/LEDs, and more. These are not "dedicated ebook readers" and are instead meant to compete with products like the multi-use Apple iPad. They are pseudo-notebook computer replacements capable of delivering a wide variety of entertainment and content.
+ Ebook Tablet Positives
- Multi-use entertainment and content, above and beyond books.
- Color screens make photos, highlights, store browsing, and cover art pop.
- One device when traveling.
- Good for working in a pinch.
+ Ebook Tablet Negatives
- Comparably poor battery life on even the best models.
- Heavy (3-5x more than an e-ink device).
- Heavier than a hardcover book (wrist fatigue)
- Backlit LCD/LED screen means flicker and eye fatigue.
- Expensive and more costly to replace. "Think before you stow."
- Multi-use means more distraction. Less conducive to concentrated reading.
Tablet computers have been around for many years, but it wasn't until Apple introduced the iPhone that the concept of a keyboard free, touch screen slate leaped the world forward. Apple set the bar with the first iPad and most believe competitors have been chasing that mark ever since. Only recently have designs from Amazon, Google, ASUS, and Kobo finally caught up and closed in on the indomitable iPad. The biggest competing advantage has been a value-trimmed price. The value offered by the Kindle Fire, Kobo Vox, and Nook Color is difficult to understate.
We tested the following tablet devices (read our full reviews):
In the end, picking from one of the major platforms that support multiple devices is going to be your best solution. While presently DRM-enabled content will 'lock' you into that choice, this restriction will eventually be lifted ensuring that your library can move with you, when/if a better device is introduced. The best options are (unordered); Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Kobo. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each, one clear, definitively best device/reading experience rose to the top. See below. (top)
The Best Ebook Reader
"An obvious caveat; We have not been paid, sponsored, assisted, or otherwise received any perk or benefit from this review. If anything, it will probably hurt us more than help. But regardless, we need to help people find clarity in these strange days. One is not like the other and we would be performing a disservice to our friends, fans, and readers by not offering our honest assessment. We understand this is mostly subjective and all of us have different circumstances that would dictate what makes a device or piece of software best for you personally. But if reading is what you need, books are what you love, and the experience you're looking for is the closest to having a hardcover in hand, this is it. This is the one. We offer it to you because no one in our position should and we've already come this far." - Terry Goodkind (June 2012)
When Terry Goodkind announced to us that he was going to be writing a new, major milestone novel (a key that reveals the incredible origins of... many things), and it was going to be an ebook, as an Author self-published release, we collectively looked at one another and said, "Ebook only!?" Some of us groaned and some of us fought back tears while looking lovingly upon rows of First Editions. But to prepare, we knew we had to understand ebooks completely. The format, the devices, the process of shopping, downloading, reading, storing, reviewing, etc. Everything.
First we downloaded Kindle software onto our iPads. We read a few books. We were dismayed. Most of the time we had to fight back urges to ignore incoming emails, switch out to play games, browse the internet, or listen to music that distracted from the words we were trying to read. There were many rib bruises from annoyed loved ones, not thrilled with our warm and glow'y companions joining us in bed night-after-night. But the experience, in spite of its convenience and neatness, just wasn't very comfortable. We all agreed; in the end, we'd want the iPad -- the device just has so many incredible advantages -- but it didn't make reading thrilling. In fact, the iPad made reading and ebooks in general feel like a second string trick. A bullet point on a long features list. There had to be better. We hoped.
Next came the Kindles. First, a few carefully collected first and second generation readers. Amazon had gifted Terry with some of the earliest production models and he shared those with us. Suspiciously, they were in perfect condition. They were large. Had big clunky buttons in weird places. The screen was disappointing and slow. The tablets felt underpowered. The keyboard a visual eyesore and the page turn flappers an incredible annoyance. People actually read books from these things? "YES!" always shouted in response to our ill-mannered inquiry. "Amazing..." our response.
Finally we recognized, our process wasn't getting us anywhere closer to loving the inevitable. We needed to try the latest and greatest. Everything introduced in the last few years and from major vendors only. Off to the internet, big box super stores, and book stores we went. We asked questions, we look around, we read everything but the reviews.
Now things were smoking. Boxes began appearing featuring NOOK's, Kindle's, mysterious Kobo's and more. The odd SONY showed up, brilliant and red, but out-of-place.
And then we found it. The one ebook reader that made everything click into place -- or damn near it. Every one of us came back to the group with excited news, "This is it! This one! This one!" The decision was completely unanimous. It was a lightning bolt effect.
The best ebook reading experience is with...
The Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight.
"Best-Text-Technology" E-ink 6" screen @ 6.95 oz ($140 USD)
It's not perfect. We wish it was larger. Up from the current 6" to 7.5" precisely. The GlowLight tech is not so great. It looks like something used in a Nintendo portable from a few generations ago. Definitely usable and great for bed-time or other polite-with-your-light situations, but not excellent. In the end, we found ourselves using the light frequently and wouldn't want to give it up, in spite of its less-than brilliant shortcomings. But everything else is superb. The overall rubberized coating made the NOOK Simple Touch the best reader to hold. It feels comfortable, cozy, secure, and we love the firmness of the device. It feels sound and sturdy. Far less breakable than most of the other devices. The touch screen is snappy and accurate. The experience configuring the device on first boot up is a piece of cake. A few simple menus and you're in business. The overall interface is friendly and inviting. Finding books was simple and with Barnes & Noble's unrivaled 2.5 Million (and growing) library, finding something new to read is easier than ever. The e-ink text is sharp and high contrast. We love it. Near indistinguishable from a printed page. It looks great. Inside the box was everything we needed to use the device (micro USB universal charging cable included, now the European mobile device standard).
Changing pages is a simple tap of a forward or back button (found on both sides of the device for ambidextrous or switch-hand use). The screen savers are cool and show off the impressive resolution of the screens. Accessories are plentiful (we bought one dozen cases to test).
Best of all the device is light, almost pocketable (perfect for a bag, clutch, folio, or briefcase), and because it feels so sturdy you have a slip and forget mentality when carrying it. Worry-free. The price is good at $140. Of course cheaper is always better but if you're a frequent reader, it's simple math. Ebooks are slowly but surely being targeted for the $9.99 mark. Buy around a dozen novels this year and the NOOK pays for itself.
The Barnes & Noble store is great to use with book cover artwork thumbnails that are much larger than Amazon's, cleaner descriptions, and a friendlier layout. All prices are equal or competitive to the other major stores.
Simply put, the NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight is easily the best of the bunch and won us over to ebooks completely. We love the experience and we're thrilled to be a part of this wave. If you haven't read an ebook on the Simple Touch, you haven't seen how it can be done right. Enter our contests, save your pennies, unload your old ebook readers -- whatever it takes. It's that good. Enjoy.
What did the competitors do wrong?
- The Kindle and Kobo setup and configuration path is awful, compared to the NOOK. It's unnecessarily cumbersome and complicated and not at all inviting for readers looking for the pickup and read translation.
- When we first opened our Kobo Touch, we couldn't tell if it was on or what was wrong with it. It said slide power button to begin, but that did nothing. Finally we charged it and that was great, until we found out we had to install an application and do the device setup from our computer. First generation iPod stuff. Ugh.
- The Kindle enclosure is slippery. We constantly felt like we were going to accidentally throw our Kindles (or drop them). The Kobo has a cool diamond textured background that feels great, but is still not as snug as the NOOK. It also shows fingerprints easily.
- Both Kindle and Kobo's are missing light sources in the same e-ink class. Amazon does offer a snap-on accessory but it's flimsy and a poorly implemented stop-gap.
- The Kindle plastic flexes and creaks making it feel like a cheaper device. The advertising discount is an interesting marketing gimmick, but in the end it forced us to decide between saving a few bucks for more books or accepting Amazon's will on our home screens. Not a fun decision.
- Apple: Let's be real. Apple doesn't give a damn about books. Just browse their iBooks store (if you can find it), then try and hold your iPad (which weighs as much as 2-3 hardcover books), with the constant popup message flashing alerting you to other things happening.
- We're long-time, avid shoppers on Amazon. Some of us even buy our groceries from there (seriously). We think Amazon's cross-platform support is great and we like to think of ourselves as loyalist -- which is why we were so surprised the NOOK beat the Kindle in every way.
- Every single multi-use tablet we used was heavy, felt hot, was fragile, and made us want to do things other than read. We wouldn't recommend any of them as dedicated readers. If you want to enjoy ebooks and are an avid reader, their multi-purposed convenience is not specific for you. We love our iPads. Love them. And newly acquired Kindle Fire, NOOK Color, and Kobo Vox too. But when it comes to reading time, we always go for the NOOK.
- Kobo's Author support left a lot to be desired.
What did the competitors almost get right?
- Kobo's interface is over-the-top cute.
- Multi-use tablets are awesome and a true testament to the incredible technologies that have converged over the last few years. But like reading in a room with the television on, stacks of movies and games laying nearby, neighbors constantly tapping on your window and inviting you outside, music blasting... They just don't narrow the experience down enough. That said, on a trip, we'll always pack our tablet and our NOOK. We need both.
- Tablets are clearly widely preferred for their all-around mixed use. More bang for your buck. But don't dishearten ebooks because you picked the everything mule over the dedicated thoroughbred. We're looking forward to testing the recently announced Microsoft tablet and ASUS Android tablet, once they are released.
- The Kobo's price point is awesome. And we love the indie-style they throw around.
- Amazon is price aggressive and has plenty of options. If a NOOK-killer emerges, we suspect it will have Amazon's logo slapped on it.
- Amazon's Author support is excellent.
- Kobo's "Recommended for you" feature is fun to use.
Only one puzzle remained; why did the NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight weigh less than the Simple Touch? Our unsophisticated brains mulled over this a bit until we finally did a little digging. The answer is found here. Hint: Die-cast magnesium versus aluminum plate. Clever. (top)
Ebook Reader Reviews (combined e-ink and tablet, alphabetized)
+ Price, Weight
- Buttons, Slippery Feel, Setup, "Cheap" Feeling, No Light
|Amazon Kindle Touch (+3G)
+ Price, Weight, 3G Variant
- Buttons, Slippery Feel, Look, Setup, "Cheap" Feeling, Creaky Plastic, No Light
|Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G
+ Weight, 3G Mobile Downloads
- Buttons, Slippery Feel, Ugly Always Present Keyboard, Setup, "Cheap" Feeling, No Light
|Amazon Kindle DX
+ Screen Size, Clarity
- Weight, Buttons, Slippery Feel, Ugly Always Present Keyboard, Setup, "Cheap" Feeling, No Light, Expensive (Price)
|Amazon Kindle Fire
+ Bright Screen, Fun Interface, Elegant Design, Crisp Detail, Multi-Use
- Weight (Heavy), Pooly Implemented Web Store, Battery Life, Books "Feature" Only, Bad Placement of Power Button (Easily Accidentally Shut off)
+ Bright Screen, Extensible Apps, Thriving Marketplace, Perfected Design, Multi-Use
- Weight (Very Heavy), Price, Battery Life, Books "Feature" Only, Poorly Implemented Book Store (iBooks)
|B&N NOOK Simple Touch
+ Price, Weight, Rubberized Feel, Contrast/Clarity, Store, Cross-Platform Portability
- Prefer larger screen (7.5"), No Light
|B&N NOOK Simple Touch w/ GlowLight
+ Price, Weight, Rubberized Feel, Contrast/Clarity, Store, Cross-Platform Portability**TOP RECOMMENDATION
- Prefer larger screen (7.5"), Light is OK
|B&N NOOK Color
+ Bright Screen, Nice Interface, Reasonable Price, Multi-Use, Expandable Memory
- Weight (Heavy), Ugly Security Notch, Battery Life, Books "Feature" Only
|B&N NOOK Tablet
+ Bright Screen, Nice Interface, Expanded Features, Reasonable Price, Multi-Use, Expandable Memory
- Weight (Heavy), Ugly Security Notch, Battery Life, Books "Feature" Only, Discount iPad
+ Price, Battery, Weight, Interface, DRM-Free
- Setup, Computer Dependency, Limited Store, No Light
+ Great Price, Battery, Weight, Interface, DRM-Free
- Setup, Computer Dependency, Limited Store, No Light
+ Bright Screen, Fun Interface, Multi-Use, DRM-Free, Android Apps
- Weight (Heavy), Setup Process, Computer Dependency, Battery Life, Books "Feature" Only
+ Color Options, Very Light (Weight)
- Setup, Store, Buttons, Feel, Casing, Use, No Light
We will keep this list updated as new devices are released by the major vendors. Additionally, we were surprised by how friendly reading ebooks were on smart phones (iPhone's and Android's), along with the ability for an iPad to have the Barnes & Noble NOOK app, plus the Amazon Kindle App, plus the Kobo App, all simultaneously installed. In the end, the iPad is the best all-around device, but the NOOK Simple Touch w/ GlowLight reigns King of the Readers. We'll have both with us where ever we go. (top)
Ebook Software Reader Reviews
Terry Goodkind and team use Calibre (on Apple OS X) and Sigil for What You See Is What You get (WYSIWYG) EPUB edits. We pre-flight our ebooks using Calibre and export to iTunes Producer for packaging and delivery. We've recently begun exploring Adobe Digital Editions and we're looking forward to seeing Adobe evolve the product, although for the moment it is a little undercooked. Finally, we love the Amazon Kindle and B&N NOOK cross-platform support.
With both NOOK and Kindle devices, you can begin reading on your computer, then pick up with the page you left on your iPhone (or Android), and finally flip on your e-ink device and continue reading from there. The transition is seamless and the ability to continue reading a novel from one device to the next is fantastic, sci-fi type of stuff. We love how enthusiastically both Amazon and B&N support every mainstream device and we look forward to seeing both entities continue to evolve and improve.
Kobo's interface is cute, fun, appealing to use, and clearly built with the human in mind. We loved Kobo's software and Graphical User Interface (GUI) and over User Interactive Experience (UIX). It's unfortunate the Kobo's setup is clunky and unappealing. We had hoped for an out-of-the-box surprise, much like the NOOK. There's room to grow with foundations this strong however and we applaud Kobo for creating a fun reader space with an emphasis on DRM-free, forward thinking content. Although we do hope they work on their Author relations and publishing system. (top)
Ebook Store Reviews
Barnes & Noble has the largest selection of ebooks. More than 2.5 Million and fast growing. Every title we could think of was readily available and at a good price. The over-sized cover art thumbnails was very welcome and we appreciated the multi-layered approach to provide max product info. B&N won our store review shake down although Kobo's cuteness was a strong contender. Ultimately, there are just too few books in Kobo's store to rightfully hand over the award. Amazon was a fierce rival with an outstanding library of available books (best as we could tell, every title was matched on B&N), but the overall Amazon.com interface is running a bit long in the tooth. We also don't like the over-emphasis on reviews, similar products, "Also Bought's", recommendations, and other non-specific information. Amazon seems to encourage potential readers to keep looking, regardless of content.
In a perfect world, B&N merges it's library with Kobo and the love child born is a DRM-free wonderland of endless books and beautifully presented materials. But until that utopia dawns, we accept B&N's store as our current greatest and will be buying plenty of more titles to stuff our NOOK Simple Touches. (top)
Terry Goodkind - Promise Made, Promise Kept
We promise to continue supporting our ebooks, providing formatting adjustments, proofreading fixes, enhanced content, supplemental materials, alternate artwork, updated Author photos and bio, plus much more. Electronic books offer the promise of allowing us to continually provide value for your investment in us and we pledge to do so. That also means switching over to DRM-free content as-soon-as feasibly possible and keeping you surprised and delighted with our dedication to you as a reader. Please remember, contributions to improving our books (crowd sourced proofreading and formatting feedback) are rewarded. Thank you.
Speaking of, THE OMEN MACHINE ebook has had the wrong cover art ever since it was released. Sorry. We've tried fixing this for you but it's in the hands of the publisher and despite months of reminding... It hasn't been done. One more reason self-publishing ebooks is preferred, for everyone.
All Ebooks by Terry Goodkind
Promotions & Contests
The best place to find currently running contests is via facebook.com/terrygoodkind. There are currently contests for ebook tablets, signed books, artwork, Limited Collector's Editions of THE FIRST CONFESSOR: The Legend of Magda Searus, and much more. (top)
A Note About Book Piracy
It is not strictly a moral issue and we wish people would stop arguing that aspect alone. The real concerns with ebook piracy are:
- Quality Control - We've looked at pirated copies of the books and most are unbearably bad translations using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) a common feature for most scanners. Just like voice recognition, OCR gets things wrong a lot. The books are filled with spelling mistakes, formatting issues, and even missing content. Imagine spending 9-12 months of your life writing something only to see a badly ripped representation of it being shared among readers. It's embarrassing and frustrating.
- No Updates - You don't get updates and version/subversion control within pirated content is non-existent. We are going to be continually enhancing our ebooks and we want you to get the full benefit of that labor.
- No Author Support - Without supporting Terry Goodkind (or any other Author for that matter), you force a change that means less content you love and fewer Authors willing to do things like self-release an ebook for cheap, world-wide, on release day or post a gigantic FAQ and declare favorite devices, etc. You will force Authors to continually seek diminishing advances from a shrinking print world, until eventually there is no more incentive to spend a year of their life writing something for people that will not show appreciation for the work created and the content they enjoyed.
- Consider - You spend a year working on something and you offer it for sale to make a living, in the hopes people will find it and enjoy it. You hire people to assist you in that endeavor and you pursue innovative things like DRM-free content, understanding and accepting that people should own the content they buy. But instead of appreciating that work and all of your output, someone takes it for free. How many times would that need to happen to you before you give up in frustration? Once? Five times? Five hundred? If an Author's work is downloaded, without compensation, hundreds and even thousands of times, imagine how that might make you re-consider your pursuits in life.
- Ultimately, we respect your choice. Please think of our end of it too.
- Are you thinking about (or have you already) downloaded one of our books and did not pay for it? Tell us why and let us know what we could do instead. Honest question. Our eyes and ears are open. Thank you. [written by the guy with a 1-year old daughter that also depends on your honesty and support] (top)
Myths about piracy (+our conclusion)
"Piracy isn't theft..."
A common claim is that piracy is not theft because only a copy is taken. The 'original' work is left intact. This argument is typically perpetuated with a link to a graphic like this one, which appears to illustrate that piracy cannot be theft because it's making a copy. The problem with this statement of course is that the crime of theft is not only the act of stealing property. It also includes things like theft of services (stealing internet or cable TV for example), claiming you worked hours you never did (and being paid for those hours), under-reporting of dues owed, etc. While it can certainly be argued 'piracy' is a poorly picked word to describe the act, there is no disputing that piracy is, in fact, theft.
"Piracy isn't illegal."
An odd claim considering the act of piracy is a string of crimes that includes; copyright infringement, trademark infringement, theft of property and service, and more recently counterfeiting. These are all charges that have been successfully lobbed against both distributors of pirated content and readers that download pirated materials. That's not solely our interpretation; that's the courts (internationally) that have decided this.
"Downloading a book from a pirate site is the same as borrowing it from the library."
Another popular myth but again completely untrue. A library purchases the books they lend. After an average of 26 loans, the library then discards the book (due to normal wear and tear) and then buys another. A library can only loan out the number of books they have purchased (i.e. if a library purchases 6 books those books can only be loaned to 6 people at a time). When a book is not returned, a library charges the person for a replacement. When a book is late, a library charges a late fee. When more people request a book than the library has in stock, they purchase additional copies to meet demand. In sum, libraries are beneficial to authors and publishers and are considered great allies. Piracy and libraries have nothing in common and it is a fallacy to suggest the act of reading alone can quantify a criminal practice versus a non-criminal, positively contributing one.
"Piracy promotes the sale of books."
Incorrect. It has been consistently proven that while piracy may still allow recording artists to make up for potential losses via ticket sales for live concerts, and movie piracy is often mitigated by enormous profit margins, ebook piracy does not have an equalizing factor. When a book is pirated and someone decides to not support an Author with a purchase, that is a loss that cannot be recouped by any other means. Authors thrive (or perish) on the sale of their words alone. Piracy does nothing to promote the sale of books -- it is the free distribution of content at no cost to the reader with no incentive to later re-purchase. Further, it's proven that successfully convincing someone to later pay for something they have already obtained (and used via reading) is very unlikely. In fact, this argument is used by people as an excuse to pirate ebook content ("I already own the hardcover books and do not feel it is justifiable to purchase the same book twice"). If you already own and have read an ebook, the motivation for purchase is now absent and typically this loss is unrecouped.
"Ebooks do not cost anything to make and are thusly priced too high. Pirating is fair game for overpriced books."
On one end of this we agree; if an Author/publisher chooses to out-price their customers, backlash is expected. In particular, over-pricing content is the second most common motive for piracy [perception of value]. However, where we find this argument shockingly poor is that it focuses only on the digital ebook file and ignores/forgets the enormous contribution made in bringing a novel to life. First, an Author will spend 9-12 months working on a major novel. Then a proofreader is hired to consult on the work. Next, copy editors for fixing the text. A layout designer to finalize and package the files. A cover art designer (ebooks still have artwork) and a publishing agent and/or facilitator to get the book online. Marketing if the Author wants to sell the book for any significant amount. And then splitting revenue with the platforms that sell the ebooks and paying taxes on top of that. Simply put, there are enormous costs involved that go way beyond binding, paper, ink, and glue and those costs must be factored into the price of a book.
"If an Author doesn't want their book pirated, they shouldn't offer an ebook."
This is a particularly strange claim that's getting made more frequently now. The oddest thing about it is that book piracy has existed for as long as there have been books. Every single novel by Terry Goodkind has been extensively pirated and many of those books were written a decade or more before the internet was unleashed (and still more years before ebooks were ever popularized). Simply put, ebooks make the act more convenient (just like MP3s did for music), but the practice of pirating books has been around forever.
"Piracy isn't stealing because the person pirating never intended to pay for anything anyway."
In the months leading up to the launch of 'THE FIRST CONFESSOR: The Legend of Magda Searus', we conducted an extensive study on the root motives for piracy. We asked people that pirate content to share with us how and why they do it -- with safe harbor granted of course -- to provide us with insight into the practice and solutions for how we can help mitigate it. What we found was somewhat surprising.
First, most pirates were actually would-be customers that were 'forced' into piracy because an alternate, easily accessible means for procuring content did not exist. For example, content that was regionally restricted or withheld via a process called 'windowing' whereby the ebook version is withheld for a period after the launch of the hardcover. These pirate converts were frustrated customers that did not agree with the reasons for content being restricted from them. In other instances we found this was most true for international customers that wanted to enjoy content at the same time as their American release-day counterparts. Had they not pirated the content, they would have been waiting for months if not a year or more for the same thing Americans had access to immediately. Other examples from this category included frustrations with Digital Rights Management (DRM), disagreement with content controls or restrictions, or generally demanding content of anther form (director's cut versus non-director's cut, or book/album/movie not legally available in electronic format). In general, this category consists of a mashing of customers that would pay for content, in fact want to pay for content, but cannot access the content they want, in the form they want it in. Thus, they resort to piracy with the net effect being a loss of sale (i.e. theft).
The second most common reason was price and the customer's perception of value. Convenience alone does not motivate a reader to pay twice for the same book; once in hardcover format and again in ebook. This is particularly frustrated with content of other forms having already progressed to packaging and value-driven incentivizing. Blu-Rays, for example, are often packaged with an HD Blu-Ray disc, a non-HD DVD disc, and even a digital download license and/or installer DVD. Some also have 3D versions. All for one package price. This bundling has yet to appear in books. In early 2011, prior to the release of THE OMEN MACHINE, we unsuccessfully tried to push our publisher to offer a bundled package (ebook plus hardcover). They declined.
The third most common reason people pirate is political or emotional. They do not want to support the Author, Publisher, storyline, or structure, but they still want to enjoy the content -- without offering support or providing appreciation to the creators and/or facilitators. They are essentially protesting by withholding support (while still enjoying the product).
The fourth and final collect-all group (which makes up a fractional percentage of all piracy) involves the kind that never intends to pay for content and would not purchase, watch, read, or otherwise use the content, if they could not pirate it. It is important to note that in all of our studies, this group far and away was composed of the smallest percentage of piracy-type.
While all piracy is theft, a majority of it is an actual loss of sale, the result of poor accessibility, lack of value or perception of value/price, or a public relations issue. We also found ourselves to be in agreement with all three of these prime piracy categories and empathize with the causes.
The vast majority of piracy is not conducted by anarchists, political zealots, people that don't want to pay for anything, or outright thieves. It is being conducted by customers with reasoned rationale that makes the practice socially normative and presumptively 'grey-legal'. Piracy is widely accepted because it is understand and empathized with. Ignoring the problem means leaving sales on the table and accepting theft with loss. Thumping moral arguments and expending resources on legal campaigning only contributes to the loss and the widening of the chasm that promotes the third most common cause for piracy. Actual mitigation is cost-effective (cheap even) and reasonable. We like to think of the 'piracy factor' in this way and our attempts to market and bring to sale 'THE FIRST CONFESSOR: The Legend of Magda Searus' is based upon this reasoning; make the book accessible (global, multi-platform from day one), make it value-incentivizing ($8.99 USD), entreat the audience and earn their respect, approach the internet not as the mythical 'Hive Mind' but as a one-to-one campaign on a massive scale. Ask for input and opinion. Look for solutions beyond what hasn't been working. Above all, make the product you'd want and offer it in ways (and for the price) you'd want to pay. And finally, make sure you're selling a product worth buying.