Jag Venugopal's Blog

April 15, 2010

Come to Jesus moment for the Indian Space Research Organization

Filed under: India — Jag @ 7:40 pm
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Going by the self-congratulatory messages that Indian space scientists have been issuing over the past two-three years, one could be mistaken for believing that India was somehow poised to overtake the US in the race for space. The recent failure of a totally indigenous GSLV launcher should bring ISRO back to earth.

The latest creation of ISRO was the much heralded “cryogenic engine” that promised to replace a few Russian specimens purchased on a turnkey basis. Much ink was spilled on how the success of this technology would enable India to join this “exclusive club” or that (one could be forgiven for thinking that ISRO honchos had a country-club fetish). As failures go, this was a particularly embarassing one in that the engine did not even start up properly. Its one thing for an engine to underperform. Its another for the horse to never leave the starting gate.

To any neutral observer, it would be quite obvious that India’s history with satellite launchers is quite checkered (it is so with satellites, too but that is a different topic for another day). Here are some statistics on launcher successes and failures:

Launcher Successes Failures (including “partial”)
SLV 2 2
ASLV 1 3
PSLV 14 2
GSLV 2 4
 
From the above table, it is obvious that India has exactly one launcher that performs to international standards. This launcher can catapult at most a 1000kg payload into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). Much of ISRO’s success over the last three years has been with the PSLV. A fawning press, which should know better, has been heaping fulsome praise on the organization, despite its inability to create a wholly indigenous launcher for two-tonne communication satellites after two decades of effort. A survey of newspaper reports seem to ascribe near-mythical status to ISRO: Specifically how it is an emerging force in the commercial launch market. Nothing can be farther from the truth: the few commercial launches on the PSLV were made for political reasons, not commercial ones. And the one satellite that ISRO made for EADS failed within two weeks of launch.
 
Yet, to ISRO’s stargazers, even the moon is not the limit. There is talk of a GSLV launcher that will launch a six-tonne payload to GTO. This launcher is expected to be ready by next year (never mind that India still does not have a working cryogenic engine of much lower capacity). Further flights of fancy have Indian astronauts going into space, landing on the moon, launching a lunar buggy and sending a Mars probe. Each passing day brings an even more ambitious goal.
 
Here’s a suggestion for ISRO: Cut all the fancy talk of sojourning to planets hither and yon, and focus on reliably launching communication satellites to GTO on a working version of the GSLV launcher. Until this is done, put all other programs on hiatus. Better to focus on one goal and succeed, rather than have ten disparate targets and fail to achieve any of them. Also, forget about commercial (read non-political) launches for paying customers for the foreseeable future. Commercial customers like to see your product work reliably before they will pay for it.

April 12, 2010

DRM: Keeping out the good guys

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 10:58 am
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Ebook DRM, like any DRM mechanisms, creates a major hindrance to legitimate users. For example, when you buy an ebook:

  • Your PC must be authorized for your account. For Adobe EPUB ebooks, it means you must have the Adobe Digital Editions reader installed and logged in to your Adobe account.
  • You can copy your ebook to another PC only in limited circumstances. In Adobe’s instance, to a total of six computers/devices.
  • Let’s say you bought a Kindle tomorrow, and wanted to convert your legitimately purchased Ebook to the .mobi format. You’re out of luck, because DRM prevents you from making the conversion.
  • Your ebooks can be read only as long as your DRM scheme is still available and supported by the vendor. For example, anyone who purchased music from Sony’s Connect store in the ATRAC format many years ago, can no longer put it on a new PC or convert it to MP3.

The irony is that DRM is easily breakable. Adobe’s ebook DRM is trivially breakable by a pair of scripts available freely on the Internet. I won’t tell you what their names are, and where you can find them. And I certainly won’t condone digital piracy. But the fact of the matter is that would-be pirates don’t even need to know programming to break the DRM: All they need to know is to execute two simple Python scripts.

In anything but the short run, DRM cannot succeed, no matter how cleverly it is implemented. The reason is that each user’s software has within it the decryption key hidden somewhere. (Without the decryption key, you will not be able to decrypt and read the ebook). Two classes of attack are possible: Find the decryption key, and then decrypt all encrypted files (which is what the abovementioned Python scripts do), or capture the files when they have been decrypted by the application for viewing.

There are enlightened publishers (O’Reilly, Pragmatic Press, Zondervan, to name a few) that know the futility of DRM. They are proactively advertising their DRM-free wares, and appealing to users’ nobler motives to prevent piracy. And it might just work… while a DRM’ed book implies that the publisher does not trust its customers, a non-DRM’ed book with an appropriate request establishes trust between the publisher and user. At the very least, the user would feel guilty about passing the digital document on.

From my days in undergraduate and graduate school, I am only too aware of the piracy that occurs when students are not willing to pay for textbooks. In the past, the library photocopy machine was the piracy tool of choice. Now, it is either DRM breaking software, or the print/scan/OCR cycle. One easy way to overcome both is for the school to license the textbooks used for a course, and to build the cost into the tuition. Thus, if a particular MBA course needs six different cases, instead of sending students scurrying over to the bookstore to buy the cases, the school could acquire a license on behalf of the entire class, and work it into the tuition. Students would be free to load the cases into the reader of choice: whether it be paper, Kindle, Sony, Nook or iPad. And there would be no revenue loss to the publisher on account of second-hand sales. 

Using technical solutions to hinder piracy is an unworkable approach. Its time we started looking at other solutions, like the social or economic solutions discussed in the previous two paragraphs.

April 6, 2010

Swamis changing form at will

Filed under: India — Jag @ 11:19 am
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A follow up to my article on how to be a swami. This one is through Amit Varma of India Uncut:

Apparently swamis can also change form at will. There is a story in the Mumbai Mirror about one Apoorva Chakravorty who initially contracted with a swami to improve his career prospects. When said prospects did not change, Mr. Chakravorty and the swami had a falling-out.

Little did the poor fellow know what horrors were in store for him. Since the falling out, he has been harassed by the swami taking the form of a crow or pigeon and showing up at his house on a regular basis. It is unclear what the swami-turned-pigeon-or-crow does once he gets to the house, but I can understand how Mr. Chakravorty can get unnerved. I would, too, if all the swamis I dissed in my previous post turned up as cats, dogs, pigeons, crows, or leprechauns.

Mr. Chakravorty apparently has clinching evidence of his avian tormentors, and a way to tie them to the vengeful swami — perhaps a facial resemblance? The poor man has been taking his complaint to various officials in the government, but they appear dismissive of his concerns about the morphing swami. I suspect it is because the swami has all these officials under his control as well.

Come to think of it — there’s a rabbit that always hides under my deck and eats my plants. I am now wondering if it is an upset godman. Maybe I should have a talk with it and apologize for all the bad things I said about swamis in a prior blog post.

April 5, 2010

Schumpeterian Creative Destruction and Book Publishers

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 4:29 pm
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Book publishers are marching down the same path that made newspapers irrelevant, and record companies at the mercy of one company’s pricing power.

At Amazon’s Mercy

For the last couple years, ebooks have been a virtual monopsony, with Amazon being the major customer of the publishing houses. These publishers wholesaled books to Amazon, which then sold them on its website. Amazon priced many ebooks at $9.99, primarily to make them appear cheaper than the print version, and also to drive sales of its Kindle device. Amazon’s wholesale costs were sometimes higher than the retail price it charged. The book publishers fretted that this was destroying the value of their books in the minds of the consumer, who was being conditioned to the $9.99 price ceiling for ebooks. Their worry was that Amazon would eventually use its heft to force wholesale prices below the $9.99 margin, thus ensuring a profit for itself.

Last Gasps: The Agency Model

Publishers saw the kind of pricing power that Apple wielded in the music business with the $0.99 song, and tried to avoid it with what they call the ‘agency model’. In this business model, the prices would be set by the publishing houses. Amazon would take and fulfill orders, without any control over pricing. 30% of the retail price was Amazon’s to keep, with the rest being remitted to the publisher. Ironically, this arrangement would decrease the amount of money the publishers made, compared with the wholesale model they had in place with Amazon. Publishers reasoned that this model allowed them to maintain control over the retail prices of their wares, and also avoid cannibalization of paper book sales. Their avowed strategy was to price the ebook at $14.99 when the paper book was in hardcover, reduce the price to $12.99 when the paper book reached trade paperback status, and further reduce it to below $10 when the paper book was issued as a mass-market paperback. Understandably, while Amazon was the unquestioned king of the hill, they did not have much leverage to force this model on it.

Enter Apple

Ironically, Amazon’s monopsony power ended with Apple’s entry into the ebook market. Amazon could not command the purchasing power it once did, because Apple agreed to the agency model. As a result, publishers got to set ebook prices on Amazon starting April 1st, 2010. And they ended up playing an April Fool’s joke on themselves. With their latest pricing change, some ebooks on Amazon are more expensive than the paper copy. For example, as of April 5th, the “Ten Day MBA, 3rd Edition” by Steve Silbiger costs $11.55 retail for the paper copy, and $12.99 for the ebook. Using the heuristic that printing and shipping accounts for about 15% of the price of a book, the ebook could have been priced at $9.80 and still returned the same profits to the publisher.

Creative Destruction

Joseph Schumpeter popularized the theory that innovation, while it sustained long-term growth, destroyed the value of established companies which did not embrace it. In this instance, an innovation (ebooks sold over the Internet, read on electronic devices) is threatening an established industry (printing books on dead trees, and shipping them to stores using dead animals, or in other words, oil). Book publishers are used to the existing model, and its inherent differential pricing in the form of hardcover, trade and mass-market editions. Their quest to sell via the agency model, and their pricing decisions can be viewed as nothing but a way to perpetuate their existing business model and practices. 

Here is why I believe that publishers just don’t get the ebook economy, and why their recent actions amount to arranging deck chairs on the Titanic:

  • They cannot control ebook distribution like they did for print books: Authors can directly contract with Amazon and Apple for distribution of their electronic books. In this scenario, an author would hire his own editor and designer (perhaps for a flat fee, perhaps for a percentage). The finished copy would then be sold directly through Amazon and/or Apple, completely circumventing the publishers. The publishers’ strengths in pre-processing, marketing, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution would largely be rendered irrelevant in the digital world. If the author wanted better marketing, all he had to do was to have Amazon or Apple to highlight his wares (in much the same way as eBay today offers to place your auction item more prominently for an extra fee).
  • There are many electronic substitutes for books, easily accessed over the Internet: Music, movies, television and even free books (through Google Books) are all substitutes for reading-as-entertainment. For readers of non-fiction, there are any number of web sites and blogs which often deal with the same topics. For example, much of John Edwards’ shenanigans can be uncovered by browsing one of the hundreds of web sites and blogs dedicated to the news story. Someone intent on reading up about Edwards, and saving money at the same time could easily avoid purchasing “The Politician” until it hit the remainder shelves in her local bookstore. Substitution has been most strongly felt in the computer book publishing world which is seeing many years of year-on-year decline, being supplanted by web sites and blogs.
  • Book manufacturing costs will increase: Rising demand for natural resources and oil are likely to drive paper book prices higher. With paper booksellers like Amazon wielding significant purchasing power (no Apple here), it is likely that publishers will have to eat cost increases.
  • Technological barriers to piracy have fallen: Or, Napster redux. Books have seen less piracy than CD’s but this is beginning to change, with the advent of reliable OCR and automatic feed scanners. There is nothing to prevent an interested person from purchasing a book, slicing the spine and feeding the looseleaf pages into a scanner, to have it emerge as a PDF or EPUB. The more expensive the book, the greater the temptation to “rip it”.
  • Innovation has enabled new capabilities that they are not taking advantage of: Book publishers are missing out on the promise of a new medium– the iPad and netbooks enable all books to be read and enjoyed in color. Further, it becomes much easier to embed video and audio snippets, and even hyperlinks to other titles and sites into books without the cost of binding a CD into the back cover of a paper book. How-to books could easily include Flash videos with actual demonstrations, rather than showing static screen shots. Increases in the perceived value of the product would allow publishers to charge a higher price for it (just ask Gillette, which has been able to charge higher prices with each new version of its razors).
  • The digital world enables right-sized books: Most books today have a certain page count dictated by the dead-tree publishing model: below about 300 pages, it becomes difficult to sell a book for $25 in hardcover, because consumers perceive lesser value in a thin book. Conversely, a larger book is more expensive to produce, and might end up costing more to manufacture, while still not commanding much more than the $25 hardcover price. Thus, authors are forced to work to a page count, regardless of whether their material can be covered in fewer pages, or whether they need more pages to expound on their topic. Ebooks remove this restriction. There is no notion of “page count” in an ebook. An author, and his publisher could conceivably make more money selling two shorter titles, for say, $7.99 each than one “300-page” title for $12.99. An author could self-publish multiple short and to-the-point titles on Amazon or Apple and conceivably make more money than the publisher could get her on one single 300-page tome.

Adapt or Die

There are some technologically savvy publishers that are taking steps to bridge the gap into the digital world. I personally see them making the transition far better than their counterparts. One such publisher is O’Reilly, which sells non-DRMed ebooks in multiple formats for less than the cost of the paper copy. Further, they also sell ebook+paper bundles for readers who want the best of both worlds. O’Reilly claims that over a third of sales from their websites are now for the ebook versions of their titles.They have partnered with Pearson to sell technical ebook subscriptions on the web for a set monthly fee. Another is the Christian book publisher, Zondervan, which also sells multi-format ebooks on its web site without DRM and at a price competitive with paper copies. While neither have drastically changed book formats to take advantage of the technical capabilities of ebooks, they have taken small steps in a new direction.

While it would appear that Apple has thrown a lifeline to publishers struggling under Amazon’s chokehold, such relief is misplaced. For one, Apple has established a vise-like grip over the music industry. There is every likelihood that it will, in course of time, do the same to books as well. Furthermore, legacy publishers only need to look at legacy airlines, record companies or even Polaroid and Kodak, to see what their fate will be like in a few years. Those that adapt and embrace the new innovations are the ones likely to survive.

April 4, 2010

The Kindle: Amazon’s #1 Bestselling Product?

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 8:16 pm
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I’m sure you’ve seen the ads on the back covers of Time and Newsweek, claiming that the Kindle is Amazon’s #1 bestselling product.

I thought about this claim for a while. Somehow, I could not believe hordes of e-book addicted buyers were plonking down such large amounts of cash that Amazon sold more Kindles than any other product — any book, any dvd, any anything.

After thinking about it for a while, Amazon’s clever use of English became apparent. The Kindle is not Amazon’s #1 bestseller. Instead, they are claiming that the Kindle is Amazon’s #1 bestselling product. Now given that the number of products with an Amazon brand name can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, this particular claim was an easy one to make. And with a little bit of semantic ambiguity, Amazon can get away with letting people get the mistaken belief that nothing sells more on Amazon than the Kindle.

April 1, 2010

On Ebooks

Filed under: Digital Living — Jag @ 6:34 pm
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On Ebooks

    I recently received a generous gift card from my business colleagues as a token of appreciation. This allowed me to purchase my first ebook reader, a Sony Pocket Reader. In the course of the purchase, I researched various brands and types of ebook readers and ebooks. So far, the experience has been a qualified success. This post describes what I learned about the entire ebook ecosystem, in the hope that others might benefit from it.

Books and ebooks

    At least in the USA, books are of three kinds: initially they appear in hardcover, for a list price between $25-$30. After a certain while, the same books  appear in “trade” paperback, at a lower price, typically $15. The paper quality is not as good as the hardcover version, but it is less expensive. At the same time as the book appears in trade paperback, booksellers “remainder” the remaining hardcovers to the bargain section, often selling them for $10. This presents an excellent opportunity for book lovers to get a hardcover for less than the cost of a paperback version of the same title. When the trade paperback has run its course, the book is finally released in “mass market” paperback form. This version is smaller than the trade paperback, is printed on cheap paper, and if you’re lucky, the binding will hold until you’ve finished reading the book.

    Ebooks are an addition to the aforementioned versions of a title. They are released in purely electronic form, and are meant to be read either on the web, a computer, a smartphone, a mobile device, or a dedicated book reader. From my experience, regardless of where the title is in its product lifecycle, ebook prices are approximately the same as the trade paperback version of the same title.

Reading ebooks

    Virtually all ebooks can be read on a Windows-based computer. Some ebooks are available in Adobe’s PDF format (without any restrictions on copying), others are available with copy protection as Adobe Digital Editions. Still others can be read using proprietary software supplied by the vendor of the ebook (e.g. PC versions of the Kindle and Nook software). The advantage of reading an ebook on a computer is that one does not have to spend money on yet another device; low-end laptops (netbooks) are very inexpensive, and can run up to nine hours on a single charge. Finally, one can read ebooks from multiple vendors on a single device. Reading on a laptop or a netbook does have its drawbacks — the laptop needs to be charged every few hours. While laptops have become slimmer over the years, their weight and the fact that they run hot is an inconvenience for extended reading. Finally, an LCD screen is not very readable in direct sunlight.

    Both the Blackberry and iPhone run custom software that allow ebooks to be read on their screens. While they may look different from a laptop, the underlying technical details are the same. They run custom software on a general-purpose device with an LCD screen. The Apple iPad device has created significant buzz as a book reader. For our purposes, we can consider the iPad to be  a compact laptop minus the keyboard. The biggest thing going for the iPad right now is the cachet associated with the Apple brand name.

    A second option for reading an ebook is with a dedicated device. These readers typically have a monochrome screen that is based on e-ink technology. E-ink can be thought of as etch-a-sketch on steroids. The letters on the screen are formed by aligning white or black particles based on an electric charge. Devices incorporating an e-ink screen are very slim, and consume little power. Additionally, once a page has been rendered, the device does not require any further power until the page is turned again.

    The biggest purveyors of e-ink based readers are Amazon and Sony. Amazon’s kindle devices provide 6″ and 9.7″ screen sizes, and have wireless connectivity to the Amazon store built in at no additional charge.  In general, owners of Amazon’s readers are locked in to Amazon.com when it comes to purchasing ebooks. This is not such a bad thing, considering that Amazon has some of the lowest ebook prices around — Amazon subsidizes ebook prices to gain market share.

    Sony sells multiple version of its ebook reader — the low end version sports a 5″ screen and an aluminum body. More expensive versions add a touch screen and wireless connectivity. Sony has its own bookstore customized for its reader. However, uncharacteristically for Sony, its reader is an open system. All Sony readers are based on the open EPUB standard rather than a proprietary file format. This allows for multiple vendors to sell ebooks that work on Sony readers. In general, the prices for ebooks on Sony’s website are higher than those at Amazon. However the careful reader can shop around and find ebooks from other vendors such as Kobo Books at close to Amazon prices.

    The differences between the various kinds of ebook readers are summarized below:

Type Vendors Screen Battery Life Pros/Cons
PC-based Amazon, Barnes and Noble, others LCD Lowest
  • General purpose device
  • Multi-vendor (requires free but  proprietary software)
  • Large color screen
  • Netbooks are inexpensive
iPad Apple LCD Intermediate
  • Multi-vendor (requires free but proprietary software)
  • Relatively expensive
  • Color touch screen
  • Buzz surrounding Apple products
Smartphone Apple, Blackberry LCD Intermediate
  • General purpose device
  • Multi-vendor (requires free but proprietary software)
  • Small color screen
  • Generally inexpensive (you’ve already paid for the phone)
e-Ink based Amazon, Sony, Barnes and Noble, Others e-Ink Best
  • Monochrome
  • Dedicated device
  • Medium to large screen
  • Mimics paper best
  • Slim and light
  • Sluggish display

 

Advantages and disadvantages of ebooks

    Ebooks are trying to replace a system that has worked well since the early days of civilization, and certainly in its present form since the days of Gutenberg. Every potential ebook reader needs to ask themselves if the transition away from ink-on-paper is worth it. The answer is different for each person, depending upon their specific needs and usage.

 Ebooks are an excellent choice when any of the following are true:

  • You read a lot of classics: They’re all free at Google Books, and the incremental cost of loading them on your ebook reader is zero. A library full of classics costs virtually nothing on your ebook reader; it may cost a small fortune in the physical world.
  • You want to save on space: One of my main motivations for transitioning to ebooks for part of my reading is that I am running out of space. I have three bookshelves, and will soon need a fourth, to house my growing collection. Each book I buy ends up taking even more space.
  • You want to travel light: You can tote around your entire ebook collection in the memory of your ebook reader. When you’re traveling a lot, whether on commuter rail or airplanes, books can be bulky and inconvenient to lug around.
  • Your books are ephemeral: If you’re reading a book that you don’t expect to have around in the next ten years, there is no reason to clutter up your life with paper copies. One disadvantage of ebooks is that they have proprietary copy protection schemes, and thus you cannot easily archive and preserve them in the hope of reading them on a different device many years down the road. On the other hand, well-preserved books will outlast you.

Ink-on-paper books are a better choice when:

  • You’re trying to save money: Ebooks are not significantly cheaper than paper books. You can purchase paper books at a discount store, off the bargain shelves, and second-hand. Additionally, you avoid the $170-500 cost of an ebook reader.
  • You want your books to last forever: Ebooks are designed for the devices that are currently being produced. There is no guarantee that they will work on future devices many decades hence. Additionally, you cannot convert today’s ebook format to newer formats that can work on future devices because ebooks are locked with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology to prevent copying. Paper books will likely last beyond your lifetime if cared for well.
  • You handle your books rougly: Better to ruin a $15-$30 paper book than a $500 iPad. Besides, paper books can endure drops much better than their silicon counterparts.
  • You like to lend your books: The DRM technology in ebooks was designed to prevent indiscriminate copying. It also prevents any lending.
  • You like to annotate your books: Highlighting and writing notes in the margin are easily done on paper books. The same tasks are difficult to impossible depending on the brand of ebook reader.
  • You like to flip through pages rapidly: Random access is much better in a paper book than on an ebook reader. Most all ebook readers impose a sequential page-after-page reading paradigm that is difficult to shake off because of how slowly they render pages.
 

Choosing an ebook system

    As of this writing, the buzz is all about Apple’s iPad. Certainly the “coolness” of hardware is a consideration in determining which ebook “system” you want to buy into. However there are other things to think about as well:

  • Do you want to use your laptop? If so, you have the most choices available to you. You can purchase from multiple vendors in multiple formats. All you need to do is to install their specific ebook reader software on your laptop. For many, a low-price netbook running Windows may be the best ebook reader.
  • Do you want an “open” device in the hope that you can buy from multiple vendors? If so, the Sony device may be best. You can purchase from a variety of vendors, who will eventually compete on price to give you the best deal. I went with Sony’s pocket reader because it was the least expensive, and allowed me to dabble in ebooks while the market stabilized over the next year or so.
  • Do you like Amazon? If so, you would go with their system of reader and books. Even though I did not buy the Kindle, I fully expect that Amazon’s prices will be the most competitive. I also feel that Amazon understands book retailing better than any of the other major players.
  • Even though Barnes and Noble’s Nook reader has some nifty features (for example, combining e-ink and LCD screens on the same device), I would hesitate to buy in to their system for two reasons. One is, B&N’s finances are in a precarious state. It is unclear if they can make the financial commitment to make their ebook system successful. And if they decide to discontinue it, or lose interest in it, then you suffer as a reader because ebooks will either be slow to market, or expensive, or both.

 Open issues with ebooks

  • DRM: Most ebook publishers insist that their wares be sold with some mechanism to protect against indiscriminate copying. This protection scheme can be very inconvenient for legitimate users. There are restrictions on how many computers or devices may be ”authorized” for a certain ebook, how many times it may be downloaded from the vendor’s servers, and whether it can be printed or not. Furthermore, if you own a device, say a Sony Reader, for which you have purchased ebooks, you cannot transfer them to your new iPad, if you ever buy one. While the current DRM schemes work for today’s ebook readers, there is no guarantee that future devices (even if they are from the same vendor) will work with these ebooks.
  • Pricing: Book publishers are slowly transitioning from the era of buggies to cars. Their pricing model is still based on buggies. Even though the marginal cost of an ebook is close to zero, and there are tremendous savings in paper, ink, labor, transportation and warehousing, these cost savings are not always passed on to the consumer. In fact, many titles in Sony’s ebook store are priced higher than the paper copies of the same titles at Amazon. It is also unclear how ebook vendors will replicate the differential pricing that exists across geographies. Today, you can buy an authorized version of a US-published book in India for significantly less. With ebooks, no such price differential can exist, because if it did, it would be trivial for any purchaser to log in to the Indian site of the ebook vendor to make their purchases at a lower price.
  • Standardization: It seems that each major ebook vendor (Sony being a recent exception) has designed their own ebook format. This means that there are multiple mutually-incompatible ebook formats. A start has been made towards standardization with the EPUB digital book format, but it will not be meaningful unless adopted by Amazon and Apple. For now, you can only buy ebooks from the same vendor that sold you your ebook reader.

In Conclusion

    Ebooks are a rapidly emerging and exciting medium for book lovers. The technology is still in its infancy, and a host of issues need to be worked out. For now, ebooks are useful to those for whom space and portability are worth the premium, the longevity of books is not a concern, or who read large numbers of public domain books.

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