eReaders have many advantages over paperbacks and although Amazon would have you believe that eBooks are leading the way, the paperback is far from dead and we look at both sides of the debate.
Welcome to Pragmatic. Pragmatic is a weekly discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. Exploring the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode is sponsored by Manitrix, makers of helpful apps for the Mac. Visit Manitrix or oneword.com/pragmatic for more information about their apps Butler, Kimo, Leech, Desktop Curtain, TimeSync, Usher, Moom, NameMangler and Witch. If you visit that URL, you can use the code pragmatic25, that's pragmatic the word and 25 the numbers in the shopping cart, to save 25% on any Manitrix product. This episode is also sponsored by LIFX. Visit LIFX spelled L I F X dot co slash pragmatic for more information about their amazing LED smart bulbs and to take advantage of a special discount exclusively for pragmatic listeners. We'll talk about them more during the show. I'm your host John Chidjie and I'm joined today as always by Vic Hudson. How you doing Vic? I'm good John, - John, how are you? - I am exemplary. - That's cool. - Yeah, I just wanted to pick a different adjective. - I have a Kindle on the left and paper books on the right. - And it will make sense in just a moment to the listeners why that matters. So hold that thought. Bit of preamble, I had some feedback during the week that my preambles are getting long. So here's the short, short, short version. Once again we're live streaming the show, go to techdistortion.com/live, you can access the stream and the chat room there. It's now possible to see the list of topics that I'm going to cover on the show in coming weeks and months at techdistortion.com/topics. If you're not a member, you will be able to see the list, but if you sign up, you'll be able to vote on the existing list and also suggest whatever topic you'd like covered on the show. Beyond that, I'll be locking in episodes a week ahead of time, maybe two, and people can see the topic and co-host or guest host details planned for the next coming few episodes. an opportunity for listeners to guide where the show goes in terms of topics and whilst I do get plenty of emails of suggestions and requests, there hasn't been an easy way up until now to gauge if it's just one or two people interested in a topic or if they're part of a vocal minority and lots of people want to cover a specific topic. So now you can tell me what you want quickly and easily and everyone else that's interested can let me know if they like those topics as well. So those new features are live on the site right now. Don't wait, go and check them out. There you go. How was that? Good. Less than 60 seconds. Not that I was timing it. Okay. So, we're going to talk about a listener voted topic. This was the most popular topic as voted by the listeners. And of course, you kind of gave away maybe, well, partly what it was. So, what is the topic tonight then Vic? E-readers versus paper. Exactly. Exactly. And specifically, when I say paper, I want to be fair about this. And the problem is that there are so many different kinds of paper. So, how am I going to- We have to narrow this down. We can't just talk about like newspaper, like newspaper, you know, hardcover books, paperback books, you know, textbooks, scrolls, You know, parchment. Yeah, we got to narrow this down. So, I'm going to stick with the most popular kind of book that's made out of paper, and that's a paperback. So, specifically, we'll focus on novels, I think, because paperback novels are the most common. And with e-books, obviously, novels are the most common thing you'll find as an e-book. So, textbooks are getting more popular, of course. But yeah, and of course, people love hard covers because they're hard wearing, but, you know, they're also more expensive. So paperbacks versus, paperback books versus e-readers. Fight. OK. I didn't know it was going to be a cage match, I'm unprepared. Maybe it's not, maybe a cage match is a bit strong. OK, so, of course, this is Pragmatic, so I've got to cover some history. I mean, I don't got to, but I'm going to. Okay, so when there were scrolls, then there were books, then newspapers, then paperbacks, then computer screens, now tablets and e-readers, they all convey exactly the same content, but the differences are the visual, the tactile, olfactory experience and the subtly different for each of those different things. So as I said, we're going to focus on paperbacks versus e-readers. But so far as paperback books go, it was actually in the mid 1800s in the UK when steam-powered presses and pulp mills made book manufacturing a lot more economical and wider distribution drove the costs down. So the removal of the hardcover obviously also reduced the cost of manufacture at the sacrifice of some durability. But most people wanted, you know, the cheaper book. So a German publisher called Albatross Books is usually given the credit for creating the so-called mass-market paperback that was in the early 1930s but it was actually Penguin Books in the UK that was in 1935 and they took essentially most of the ideas from Albatross Books and then of course well it sort of dovetailed with World War Two and they ended up so as in Germany sort of got sidetracked Anyway, and they ended up kick-starting the paperback revolution. So, Penguin Books is sort of the main driving force behind that. So, anyway, on the e-reader side of things, a lot of people think it was Amazon that had the first e-reader, but it wasn't. Do you know who it was? I do not. Okay. I was actually quite surprised because I didn't realise it was Sony. I knew it wasn't Amazon, but it was actually Sony. And the Sony Libre, L-I-B-R-E, that was the first commercial e-ink screen reader. Now, that wasn't the first e-reader and certainly wasn't the first e-ink e-reader. However, it was the first commercial one that was widely distributed and successful. So, the sad part is- How long before the Kindle was set? The Kindle was only a little bit a few years after that, but it was not- Yeah, but the thing that's interesting is that the Kindle has just run over everything. Yeah. And now the sad thing is that Sony announced in August that they're discontinuing production of their e-readers, so their time is gone from Sony anyway. So, it's kind of a bit sad when that happens, but, you know, Amazon has just dominated. Yeah, the Nook's doing okay, but not as good. The Kindle's just, you know, flattening everything. So anyway, all right. So I guess it's sort of one of the things that I really wanted to do, start with beyond that is this some of the statistics, you know, and I guess it's, I don't know how to put this, but I know there are lies, damn lies, and statistics and there are so many statistics out there I am not kidding and you can you can well imagine how much there is out there about oh you know ebooks are dead or you know ebooks aren't dead and or real books are real books are dead or they're not dead and every single contingent of people who with a vested interest have published statistics proving and disproving what's going on in the market. So we have to start just quickly with Amazon and there's a bunch of caveats I'll get to in a minute but let's just for the moment look at the the figures from 2010. So in 2010 they reported that for paid books, so first of all that does not include free ebooks, so one-third of all all paperback book sales. Sorry, hang on, let me rephrase that. One third of all paper book sales. So that's hardcover plus paperbacks. So one third of all of their book sales were paper books. Now, 15% of all of their sales were hardcover 40% were paperbacks, 45% were ebooks. Now, since then, paper-based books have slipped even lower than that. Now, those statistics sound pretty damning, right? They sound like ebooks are well and truly the winner. They are out ahead, right? But the thing you have to keep in mind is that Amazon, they're an online retailer that you access via an internet capable device. And that raises a bar for a lot of people. You know, I don't care how silly that sounds, but, you know, there are still a lot of people that are not on the internet. I'm sorry, but there is. And even being on the, quote unquote, "on the net" is not actually a guarantee that they're going to go and buy anything from Amazon, or that they even know what Amazon is, or that they even care, you know. So yeah, we're looking at a subset already. And that and a subset of the whole population, internet access is a subset and all that subset, you've got people that actually care or know about Amazon and care about Amazon. So of those subsets within that, those figures, that's where they would come from. So bottom line is the vast majority of population don't shop Amazon. And saying that these numbers are representative of anything is kind of like saying, let's say two thirds of people that visited the chemist or the drugstore, well, they came away with medicine. Funny that. Yeah. It's a very limited sample and it's a biased sample on top of it. Exactly. So, take that with not just one, but many grains of salt. One ain't enough. So, OK, what's far more interesting is a study in 2013 of adults, which is 18 years and older, or that that's debatable depending on who you speak to. And honestly, some states in the US as well, like Nevada, I think they don't consider you an adult until you're 21, certainly can't gamble anyway. That's a long story. Anyway, that was in the US. And they found in that study that of all the people that had read at least one book in the previous year, so this is now taking out all the people that haven't actually read, and so there was actually a percentage of the population that didn't hadn't read a book, one book in the previous year. But of the people that had, a quarter of them had read an e-book. Interestingly, a tenth of them had listened to an audio book. Interesting. The rest of them, which is the overwhelming majority, had read a paper book. Now, that paints a very different picture. That said, you rewind that five to 10 years, you know, and there were no e-books. So, clearly, e-book is rising up, but it is certainly not dominant. Yeah. Not by any stretch of the imagination. However, the thing I said is that, you know, of that percentage, what about the people that hadn't read a book? Interesting statistic, nothing to do with the topic of this episode, but you know what? One quarter of the adult US population had not read a book at all in the previous year. Sadly, I'm not surprised by that. Well, I think it's pretty, yeah, it's and I don't think that's a US thing at all. I think that that's a, you know, I think that's a Western culture thing. I think that a lot of people are spending a lot of time doing other things. Yeah. Which is a shame, really. But anyway, all right. You get the internet, Twitter, podcasts, TV, movies. I don't want to dig too much into the statistics. There's a link in the show notes if you want to have a look at it. It is really fascinating to read through and look at the different demographics and you look at the different people and there appears to be some relation between people that spend time online and actually reading more books, which is, you know, interesting. But, yeah, it doesn't prove anything. It's just interesting. The last interesting statistic I just wanted to mention though is that more women read books than men do Hmm Anyway, lovely So, the problem is with all those statistics and it's all like, okay, I'll quote whatever statistics you'd like But the truth is that there's a lot of conflicting drivers that push ebooks popularity and sales and adoption and so on on it's just you know so I don't want to go any more on I don't want to go on anymore about statistics I just want to focus on the technology because you know what we take away from this is ebooks have come a long way in 10 years they've come from well essentially not existing to being a reasonably decent sized chunk of book of novel content consumption in a decade in another decade I expect that the numbers will be much, much stronger again. But it's going to take a long time before e-books are actually the dominant proportion, I think, statistically of how that content is consumed. But there's no question it's heading that way. Just don't listen to Amazon when they tell you, "yeah, it's just the best, it's so popular, it's, you know, it's kicking butt" within reason. Hang on, how does Amazon report stuff? Yeah, it's doing really well. Hmm, good. Anyway. Numbers are great without any numbers. Yeah, yeah, exactly. OK, so next, next, next, next, next, next. Let's talk a little bit about the technology and you have to start with the weight. And I want to look at, and this is this part was a little bit difficult to research because I can't say to you, go and buy a self-paperback novel now, tell me, how much does it weigh? Because you'd think there's no standard or rather there is, but there's not a... There are so many different sized paperback novels. And I don't just mean the X and Y dimensions, height, width, I'm also talking about the thickness, the depth, the number of pages, the length is variable, not just that, the weight of each individual page, exactly. I mean, all of that adds up, makes it extremely hard to generalise. But fortunately, there's a link in the show notes to someone who had more spare time than I do that actually did this research. Thank you very much. So I plucked a couple that I thought were in the sort of size region that I'm looking at. Size region I'm looking at is something that's comparable to either a Kindle Paperwhite, let's say, or an iPad Mini. That sort of physical size, so slightly smaller to around about that size, maybe slightly larger. So I picked a couple for examples. So the first one, dimensions in inches, six and a half by nine and a half by half an inch, 160 pages, and in millimeters, that's 165 by 240 by 13 millimeters. And that weighed 15 ounces or 425 grams. You get the same result with a different dimension book, 9.5 by six by one, that's inches, and in millimeters 240 by 150 by 25 millimeters, 370 pages, also 15 ounces, 425 grams. Two different average form factors with the same weight in a paperback novel. And that's pretty typical. Now, now let's look at how much a Kindle Paperwhite. Now I'm quoting the Kindle Paperwhite, I've realized that there are many Kindles, okay? And I'm not gonna list them all. This is not the, I don't want to take the Kindle and do a, like I did for the iPhone. I'm not doing that for the Kindle. How like in episode one, I did not, I'm not doing that for the Kindle. But I'm creating a Kindle Paperwhite because we own one. My wife owns one and I've used it and it's a nice bit of kit. I like it. However, it's a first gen model. It's dimensions, 169 millimeters by 117 millimeters. 117 by 9.1. It weighs 215 grams. That's the Wi-Fi plus 3G model. And in North American speak, that's 7.6 ounces. So already, the Kindle Paperwhite is lighter than the two paperbacks I mentioned. And significantly, literally half the weight. Yeah. Next, we look at the Retina iPad Mini or what are they calling the iPad Mini 3 now? The new one. I just I really hate it when Apple rename number things after the fact. God, what are they calling it now? Retconned? That's the expression now. Whatever. OK, so the dimensions of the new one pulled straight from Apple's website are 7.87 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches which is 200 x 134.7 x 7.5 mm and it weighs 12 ounces otherwise known as 341 grams. So clearly it is bigger and heavier than a Kindle Paperwhite, not by much in terms of the dimensions but certainly more in the weight, it's over 120 grams more than a paperweight. That's not surprising considering first of all the materials it's manufactured from and second of all, well, it's physically larger as in it's taller and slightly wider. So, in any case, it's still lighter than those paperbacks. Now, people are going to say, well, you know, I have this great paperback novel about, like, I don't know, a bunch of dinosaurs that they made and ate people and stuff. Anyway, and it's slightly different dimensions. And I'm like, yeah, OK, sure. But, you know, the generally- generally what I've found is that the books that I've looked at, the novels that I've paperback novels that I've looked at, yeah, they're all either equal or heavier and usually they're heavier than a paperwhite. So, that leads us to the next interesting conclusion. No matter how long the book is, no matter how thick it is, no matter how big or small the font is, your e-reader is always going to weigh the same amount. Yep. Always. It's always going to have the same amount of arm fatigue. Now, I got the Steve Jobs biography as a Christmas present a few years back, you know, Walter Isaacson's. It's a hard cover and this thing is heavy. It is. I have a copy on my shelf. Yeah. I got, what, nine chapters in. And you know what? I stopped reading it. I never finished it. And it wasn't because it was necessarily a bad book, although I'm sure John Siracusa would have something to say about that. I think he had a whole episode about that. He actually had two, but never mind that. The Wrong Guy, hypercritical, look it up. It's one of the best hypercritical episodes. I've listened to that multiple times. I just love that one. Anyway, anyway, irrespective. Point is that that thing was so damned heavy and the number of times I was reading it when I was dozing off. And when that thing hits you in the face, when you're dozing off, it hurts. So, I've been injured... I would say so. I have been injured less by my iPad falling on my damn face than a stupid book. So, here we go. Straight away, you know, I think e-readers are already ahead in terms of arm fatigue. And frankly, it's only going to improve. What are they going to do with books? Books been around for hundreds of years. What are they going to do? Make the paper lighter, thinner. that'll just make it more flimsy. Ultimately, the materials that we make, like the batteries, like lithium ion, is much lighter than nickel metal hydride. Next generation of batteries is gonna be lighter again, whatever it may turn out being. And the glass will get thinner and stronger. There'll be new kinds of plastic that they use that are the lighter on Kindles. And on iPads, they're currently using aluminum. Well, they could try different alloys, they could go to thinner aluminium. There's other options to reduce the weight. But with a book, you're as far as you're going to get, other than reducing the size of the type of the font and therefore the number of pages you need. And you only push that so far before it becomes, you know, bring a magnifying glass if you want to read your book. Yeah. Before we go on any further, I'd like to talk about our first sponsor for this episode and that's ManyTricks. 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So you can download them from manytricks, all one word, .com/pragmatic, and try them out before you buy. They're available to buy from their respective pages on that site or through the Mac App Store. However, if you visit that URL, you can take advantage of a special discount off of their very helpful apps exclusively for Pragmatic listeners. Simply use Pragmatic 25, that's Pragmatic the word, and 25 the numbers in the discount code box in the shopping cart to receive 25% off. This offer is only available to Pragmatic listeners for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. Once again, thank you so much to ManyTricks for sponsoring Pragmatic once again. So next, next, next, next, next, next. Okay. What you got? What you got? What I got? What I got next is cost and convenience is my next broad topic section thingy doodad. Well, that's technical. Okay. Borrowing and lending. Now, this gets brought up time and time again. I, you always hear this argument and the argument goes something like this. If I have a paperback novel and I've finished reading it, I can now give it to my spouse, my brother-in-law, my sister, the kid down the street on the skateboard, whatever. I can give it to anyone I want. There you go. Have a book. Hopefully they read it. Hopefully they don't burn it. Whatever. Now, how many people are going to give away their e-reader? Here, have my e-reader. It's got a book on it. Well, you're not going to do that because it's your e-reader. And as evidenced recently with Apple's family sharing, the ownership and transfer of ownership is still a difficult problem. So people don't want you, I'm sorry, people don't want you to, publishers don't want you to give that paperback novel to the person down the street. They want that person down the street to go and buy another copy. That's what they want. Yes, they do. That's not what happens, but that's what they want. With digital distribution, they have the ability to do that. So, they're going to enforce it, aren't they? So, you can say, "Hey, you know, power to the people. We're not buying into this. You know, we're going to keep giving our paperback novels away to our family members and friends and kids on skateboards. We're going to do that." Why? Because we can and we're going to stick it to the man or the woman or the person or the corporation, whatever. The thing is, if you want to continue doing that, that's fine. But what about what happens when e-readers become a commodity item themselves? So it got me thinking about how low do you go before it's just as easy to say, I have more than one e-reader. And I download on my e-reader and there's a part, there's like a lock on it that stops people from accidentally downloading stuff that's not theirs, but they can read whatever's on it, but they can't surf the web or they can't download more books on my account, you know, without an access code. Now, you do that and you make this e-reader cheap, then at some point you're going to cross a line and it's going to be here, just have my e-reader, there's four or five books on there you might like to read. Yeah. And you may say, but then you're without an e-reader. Yeah, but if they're that cheap and they're a commodity item, then you will have more than one. See, I've seen a lot of popular, like bestseller novels, you know, hardcover, paperback, between 20 and 30 dollars, you know, for bestsellers, you know, really popular books. And I did a search on the web looking for cheap e-readers. And the thing is that beyond the Kindle, which you can get for $79, That's the one with ads. That's 79 US. Yeah. There was a while ago, didn't last, was a company called Beagle. I think they're now Textr, T-X-T-R. They briefly had an e-reader that was supposedly selling for 10 euros, couldn't find much for it, but the whole idea was it was the dirt cheapest e-reader in the world that has ever known. I actually found a few out there and it's not around anymore. Not surprisingly, business model didn't work out, I guess. Don't want to delve too much into the history of that one, but in any case, if I've got any of those facts wrong, let me know, but I think that's what's happened. That said, there are several e-readers out there available for starting around about $60 that aren't Kindles. So they're getting close. I mean, they were using e-ink technology from six, seven years ago, probably, or even older, but that's not the point. The point is that now you are in a position where it's for the cost of two hardcover bestsellers, you can get yourself an e-reader. Yeah. They're getting very, very close to just being in impulse range for the mainstream population. Exactly. Yes. And that makes them more of a commodity item, which then means, well, you know, it's not so bad giving them to people, lending them to people, you know? So again, that's not what Amazon wants. That's not what the publishers want. They want you to buy another one. They want the other person to buy their own and to download their own copy of the book. But that's not what's going to happen as they drive the costs down. And people say, "Oh yeah, but what about ownership of the device?" Well, I mean, you can get around that by simply having, you know, like I said, a lock on it and say you can't buy anything. Yeah, so anyway, honestly, and because e-readers are not like an iPad, like an iPad is a tablet. I'm not talking about tablets necessarily. I only threw the iPad in because a lot of some people do read on iPads. Personally, I've read on the paperwhite and I've read on an iPad, and I know which one I'd pick for reading, and it's not the iPad. We'll talk a bit more about that later. But anyway, so, okay, cost. The thing that's interesting though, once you go beyond that, is you think to yourself, okay, well, then if I'm going to switch from paperback novels to eBooks and eReaders, then I'm gonna save myself money in the long run because, you know, it's going to work out cheaper, you know, to get all of these e-books because, you know, than it is to buy the paperbacks because they don't have to print anything, right? Yeah. So, you think, yeah, it's going to cost less for digital distribution than physical distribution. OK. You know where I'm going with this. You know where I'm going with this, don't you? OK, so I have this problem with Amazon. And I'm not the only one. Amazon's business models defy analysis and explanation to a point. Now, a guy called Scott Marlow in 2011 did a great blog post and it's linked in the show notes if you want to read it, about some of the ins and intricacies of Amazon's pricing structures for paperbacks, hardcovers versus ebooks. Rationale, insanity, mostly insanity. So here's the thing I had a look in there as doing a prep for this episode just to brush up on a couple of details and they have the most insane pricing structures I've ever seen. It is so counterintuitive, it's not funny. And what they do is there's, I guess what you'd call, what I call a price distortion. I just realised it sounds a bit like a website name. It's a bit of a- It just- If you're a Prime member, you get books for like, you get books for a massive discount, but not e-books. You know, like not really. So, they'll have a- They had a paperback book that would sell to a non-prime member for about $16 US. But if you're a prime member, you got it for $7.50. That's shipped to you, right? Yeah. And the e-book started at $11. Yeah. I'm like, what? That doesn't make sense to me. Oh, hang on. I get it. They are encouraging you to become a prime member. So, what they're doing is they're hiding that cost and they're dragging you in. So by being a subscriber to be a Prime member, then they're getting a regular income from you rather than a sporadic income from the occasional book you might buy. Plus, of course, you've got the halo effect once you become a member that you are more inclined to use their other services that also cost money but are quote unquote cheaper for Prime members. You know, it's not a new strategy, I understand that. But what it does mean is it's very difficult to do a genuine price comparison between paperbacks and eBooks to come up with some kind of conclusion. Yeah. There's some other variables in there, too, though. Sure. There was once a time when the absolute max price for a Kindle book would be $9.99. And many of them were often found for cheaper than that. There's a publisher variable in there that's changed some of that. Absolutely. I don't want to get too much more buried in that because, Frankly, other people who have covered this previously, and honestly, it's not a topic that greatly interests me at this point. So, I'm going to leave Amazon there, except to conclude Amazon is a very bad example of e-book economics because they just seem to be insane, or rather they do things in a way that is difficult to- For me to quickly dissect, just for purposes of this comparison. Yeah. So leaving it there. Instead, let's talk about Barnes & Noble that actually follow the laws of physics or more closely are aligned with the laws of physics business. We find after we do a random sample of paperbacks versus ebooks that ebooks work out on on average, about 37% cheaper. Yay, that's more like I'd expect, right? OK. There were cases where the paperback was cheaper, just like at Amazon, but the next point is the economics of printing 100,000 paperbacks and selling only half of them, and then you got to flog off what's left just to clear your shelves or your inventory. Well, that's a different problem that doesn't exist with e-books. So, you know, obviously, if there are paperback novels that are cheaper than their e-book counterparts, it's probably because they produce too many of them and trying to get rid of them. So, you know, that's the most obvious explanation. But anyway. OK, so cost convenience, continuing, you can download an e-book without leaving wherever you are. Now, obviously, that depends on your e-reader. some e-readers have 3G, some don't. Some with 3G as part of the, when you buy it, you know, as in like, you don't have to pay for it. Other ones, yeah. If you're within wifi range, you know, so that's a limitation, sure. But the truth is there's a lot more wifi hotspots than there are bookstores. So you have access to books in a massive number of situations. And if you've got a smartphone or a Wi-Fi hotspot, that's even, you know, it's wherever you are, even if you've got a Wi-Fi reader. So that drives spontaneity. And spontaneity is one of those things that kind of is hard to evaluate, you know. I can't say to you, oh, spontaneity is worth $5 a year. You can't quantify it. It's desirable for a subset of people. I think spontaneity can be good, but I'm a planner. You couldn't half tell, right. I kind of- I'm not spontaneous. I can be spontaneous, but I like to plan things. And frankly, I would plan ahead. If I'm taking a trip and I'm going to do some reading, I'd load up my e-reader with books before I left. No different than if I were to go and buy a bunch of novels and chuck them in my suitcase to take with me on a trip, you know, historically. you know, but the spontaneity means that if you don't have to worry about that, you can be impulsive, you don't have to do the forward planning, you know, and if you finish the book you're reading, you can just go and download another one, away you go, you don't have to get up. Now that sort of convenience, you cannot beat. So, as a little aside though, do you remember back in the days before when people had no, when no one had mobile phones? You know, and I have younger people. God, man, that makes me sound old. I have people, occasionally younger people, when we're talking about this stuff, how did you survive without mobile phones? How did you know where anyone was? And it's called planning, you know. Yeah. I'll call you at this time or I'll be at this location at this time. It's actually not that hard. Yeah. So anyway, but then again, having said that, people love mobile phones because it means you can get in touch with anyone anytime. And that has good and bad. Same thing with e-books. You know, maybe you shouldn't be downloading another book to read. You should be spending time with your family. No different to playing video games. It's still a distraction. So anyway. All right. Okay. This one is a few more little ones that are sort of a convenience. It's sort of borderline convenience, right? So, the borderline convenience one is it's more of a durability, it's a bit of a durability. So, if you drop a book, it's going to be fine. If you drop an e-reader, you're going to be probably in trouble. So, you know, from a durability point of view, books are always going to be in a better position. You spill water on a book. Well, it's probably going to be in trouble, or they could probably dry it out. You spill water on an e-reader. I hope you like the page you're reading because it's probably going to be stuck there forever. Another one that I thought of was losing your place in a book. How often does it happen to you when you're reading a book and you either dog-tier, no, dog-ier, you know what I mean? Flip over the corner of the page to mark where you are. Oh, my goodness. And you know, I have some people say, "Oh, that's sacrilege. You can't do that to the book. You're creasing the page." You know? I'm pretty OCD about that. Okay, so are you a dog-ear folder or are you against it? I'm kind of against it. Oh dear. Yeah, when you say you're kind of against something, that's like your really aggressive stance. Yeah. Oh my god. I don't like most commercial bookmarks either. My preferred bookmark is usually a store receipt because it's like some of the thinnest piece of paper you can possibly get. Because I guess the issue is the thicker cardboard ones, or worse still, the thick plastic ones. More knitted or crocheted or macrame. Yeah, okay. You're damaging the book. You squeeze them into a book near the spine, then you close the cover and then that's going to create pressure and ruin the adhesive, the glue that's binding. The pages together, that's the issue is it? Yeah. Okay, fine. I think it just deforms the page, it's not perfectly flat anymore. So when you flip the book over, it naturally is attracted to the pages that had the big thick bookmark in it for a long period of time? Yeah, it tends to be, yeah. Excellent. Well, here's the thing. My biggest complaint about books is the fact that I lose my place because I'll put a bookmark in there with whatever description and kids come along and flip through the book. Or it gets knocked off the table or the bedside table or wherever the hell the book is and the bookmark falls out and now I've forgotten where I'm up to. Yeah. - You know what I would suggest? - What's that? - Taking a picture with your phone. - I can't believe you suggested that. - Maybe I'll make an app for that. - Maybe you should hold off for... - Analog bookmarks. - Just think that through a bit more. I think that, yeah, but the whole point of that bookmark discussion, a little bit more about that than I thought we'd have to say, but there you go. Honestly, it's not a problem with an e-reader. E-reader remembers where you were, that's it. You can drop it as much as you like. You know, it doesn't, there's no problem with losing your place. So, you know, again, a win for the e-reader. One of the other things I just wanna quickly talk about before we start talking about display technology is resale of paperbacks. Now, I was not gonna mention this 'cause I find it to be ridiculous, But have you ever sold books that you've owned for money, like secondhand? No. No. See- No, if I buy it, I usually tend to keep it. Yeah. Now, I've given books away, but I've never sold them for money. And it got me thinking, there's- When I was a kid, it was much more popular then to go to the secondhand bookstore. And there were only a handful of secondhand bookstores. But the thing that was wonderful about secondhand bookstores was that that was where you would go, not just to find cheap books that people didn't want anymore, that were 30, 40 years old in some cases, but you could strike gold for stuff that was out of print, it had been out of print for years that you just couldn't get anymore in these secondhand bookstores. Yeah. And I have no objection to buying them secondhand. A lot of my books were by use. My grandmother taught me the joys of the use bookstore when I was young. Yeah. And the smell, you know, it's got a very unique smell compared to a brand new bookstore, you know, like a like a Chapters or a... Oh, God, who's left? Is Chapters still all around? Or are they gone? I think they might be gone. Okay, so Chapters are gone. Jeez, I'm Mr. Current Events, aren't I? Anyway, whatever. The point is that, yeah, it's a very different smell. And the thing is, though, secondhand bookstores are dying. And they're dying because there's no money in them. And because people are just not- They're not selling the books, they're not giving the books to the secondhand bookstores. They're just- It's not happening anymore. So, it's all dying, which, you know, there will always be a niche, there will always be places that have that. And there's a little bit of a trade going on in books on eBay. But when the shipping of the book costs more than the book and you can get it cheaper, brand new, if it's still in print from Amazon, why the hell would you? So, I don't buy the whole secondhand book resale of paperbacks argument as to why paperback books are better, because you're far more likely to give it to a family member, which gets back to the the trading thing we've already talked about. Okay. So next we're gonna talk about display technology, but before we do that, we'll talk quickly about our second sponsor and that's LIFX. Once again, LIFX sponsoring the show. Now LIFX spelled L-I-F-X is a smart light bulb that gives you complete control of the color and intensity of your bulb over wifi. So what does that mean? Well, you can set the LIFX to whatever colour of the rainbow you like, as dim or as bright as you like, all controlled with your smartphone. With over 1000 lumens at your disposal, it's incredibly bright, but only consumes 18 watts of power at maximum, though I've found in most rooms you only need about half that power. Controlling the brightness and colour is really easy, and as a bonus there's also a range of really cool effects like lava lamps, strobing and candle flicker. The LIFX smart bulb is both energy efficient and is also made to last. ready for 27 years at 4 hours a day. There are LIFX bulbs that support Edison screw, bayonet and the new downlight bulb can be pre-ordered and supports GU10. All models will work at standard voltages around the world between 100 and 240 volts AC. It has developer friendly SDKs for iOS, Android and Ruby which means that if you can think of a great way to control them, you can go out and build it on whatever platform you like right now. I've been testing some demo bulbs, my kids went crazy with some of the musical effects, and the microphone in your smartphone hears the music and modulates the LIFX light in the light bulb in time with the music and it's a very cool disco like effect. Lots of fun. Now, LIFX bulbs are shipping today for only $99 US for a single bulb with free shipping to celebrate the launch of Apple Pay. That's right, they're taking full advantage of the latest Apple Pay technology. And you can now actually purchase LIFX bulbs directly inside the LIFX app on iOS. Now, if you buy in the 4 pack, you also save 4% overall and with the 10 pack you save 8% overall on top of the Pragmatic discount code. Simply head on over to lifex spelled li fx dot co slash pragmatic to learn more and enter the coupon code pragmatic 20 for 20% off the total price of your order thank you once again to lifex for sponsoring pragmatic display technology now honestly the winning display technology for e-readers is e-ink And it's actually stands for Electrophoretic Ink, which is a bit of a weird word. But anyway. And it's also the name of the corporation that essentially, well, owns it. Now, the way it works is think of, well, they call them microcapsules. small spheres and inside each sphere there's two kinds of particles. Positively charged particles of one color usually white and negatively charged particles usually black. So each individual capsule is a pixel. So as you know with magnetism like charges repel hence it's possible by creating a small magnetic field directly under each of the capsules you can flip the color of the capsule by flipping the field. And once it's flipped, it'll, it sort of stay, it stays in position. And that particular technology is referred to as a bistable reflective display. Meaning, yeah, the bistable meaning it holds its state in, in either state, even when power has been removed. And reflective means that, you know, it works just like the paper on a book, which is, you know, you read it, your eyes see it from light that reflects off of the surface. And that also obviously saves on power, and it's less less annoying to look at because it's far more natural because it's how our eyes were designed to work. Now, a lot of e-readers still require a complete sweep of every pixel when you change what's displayed, which is why you'll see all of the old Kindles and many other e-readers, where you'll see the whole page go white, black, white, or black, white, black, or whatever, some alternation before the next page of text is displayed. Newer technology is coming out now or has been for gradually over the last few years, more expensive, of course, more complicated, where it only selectively updates a much, much smaller area of the screen, such that on most books, you probably go 100 pages or so before you need to do a complete refresh of the screen. So that's that's cool because I always found that annoying. But, you know, I sort of understand the reason why. So the downside of having a essentially a reflective display means that when low light, you can't read it. Same problem with a book, though. So from a comparative perspective, there's no advantage. Except, of course, that newer models of some e-readers, including Kindles like the Paperwhite, for example, they have their own side lighting light source. Now, obviously, that's going to drain the battery. It's going to drain it a little bit more than the ones that don't have the light. And certainly when the light's not on, you know, because it doesn't have to be on all the time. Yeah. Yeah. But still, it's going to be nothing at all like the drain from an LCD or LED screen. So just really quickly, LCD and LED, I'm not going to go into a long protracted discussion of the different kinds because there are a lot of different kinds. And so let's just keep it simple. So LCD is short for liquid crystal display. Where you've got multiple layers of slightly different colored liquid crystals, and they basically turn on and off when electrical currents pass through them, and they are essentially semi-transparent such that if you shine light behind them, the light will transmit through them and then you will see that. LEDs, slightly different idea, different colored LEDs, RGB, all sort of clustered really tightly together, blend together to make a pixel through a lens usually. And they emit light, of course, light emitting diodes, LEDs. Either way, these are referred to as emissive displays, as in emission, as in emitting light, as opposed to a reflective display. and they are generally considered to be harder on your eyes that's certainly been my experience, what do you think? They do, they are. Ultimately they however have several advantages and the biggest advantages are, at least with current technology, they have head start on E Ink, though, let's be honest and let's be fair. But at the moment, they have high resolution and they have much, much, much higher refresh rates. So you can refresh, you know, 30, 60, 120 times a second, depending upon the displays, you know. Color. And you get much better color depth. You can get color E Ink. It's not anything like color from an LED LCD, no way. But still, the point is that you will get much superior quality of what you are looking at from an LCD or an LED display over E-Ink. No question, no doubt, no discussion, no debate. However, it kills your battery. Absolutely slaughters your battery. So the The last thing you want when you're reading a book is to lose power and then either be on an e-reader stuck on the page you're on or completely out of luck. So, what do you do? Well, you go with e-ink, and that's why e-readers with e-ink are generally the preferred option. Doesn't mean you can't read books and stuff on your iPads and on your, you know, Motorola Zoom or whatever tablet you might have. You know, touchpad yeah you can't you can't rule it out but seriously no people prefer reading on e-readers for a reason on e-ink screens for a reason okay now the last broad section that I've got to talk about is the touchy-feely stuff and like I feel weird putting this stuff in but you know what I have to have it although it's not usually a topic that I would cover the touchy-feely bit but you know Here we go. So, I think that there is an emotional momentum with paperback books, with paper reading from paper. And what I mean by that is that our brains get emotionally sort of confused a bit based on not the content that you're reading, but the delivery medium of that content. You know, it's like the feel and the smell of books, your brain associates that, usually with a really good book that we read once, you know. And then you'll pick up a book that's just average, you know, but you'll still prefer to read it as a book because it triggers the memories of the good book you did once, you read once long ago. Well, maybe not that long ago, but you know what I mean. And it's no different to hearing a song and it reminds you like you heard a song at someone's wedding or, you know, worse sometimes at a funeral and it brings back bad memories. The point is that, yeah, our brains associate, our senses trigger memory and emotion. So, people say, "Oh, books are always going to be better." I guarantee you that if you were to bring up a child in a world with no books and only e-readers And then introduced books, they would look at books and feel the same way. And they'd say, well, I, you know, how can you hold that thing? It's heavy. It smells funny. You know, I don't get it. So, the argument that, you know... It won't hold itself open to the same spot. Yeah, that's right. I mean, jeez, this stupid bookmark thing keeps- I know what I'll do, I'll just fold the top down. Vic won't mind. Okay, so I'm going to bring that up again, you know, now that I know this. Oh, I mean, okay. The experience of walking into a bookstore, we sort of talked about this, but a little bit about the smell, the feeling of it. But going through into a bookstore, it's similar in a library, flipping through the titles and the books that they've got, enjoying the "usually", quote unquote, "usually quiet atmosphere", that's kind of completely non-existent with an e-book. You just go, "tap-pity-doo-dah, zippity-day" and you've got yourself your book. Well, you hope anyway, if you've got money and credit card. So, yeah, that's a very different experience you can never replicate. Question is, is that an experience that is really going to be saved for the masses? Is it worth saving? Do enough people value it? And I don't think they do. It's sort of a reality that we've become accustomed to. It certainly isn't more convenient. And it's something that we've become used to, not because- Because we had no choice, we had no option, rather than we demand a bookstore because bookstores are just the best. No, we went to the bookstore because we wanted a book. Anyway. All right. The piece of paper is always going to feel- Oh, I've got to watch saying that. With current materials and current technologies, the feeling of a book is nicer and more pleasant to the touch, I think, than something made out of metal, plastic, rubber, any of the common materials that are currently used to make e-readers and tablets. Would you agree? Yeah. So, I honestly think that that is one of the areas where, again, it's touchy-feely, right? feeling, literally, because, you know, how do you quantify that? And maybe someday in future, which is why I corrected myself, maybe they'll invent something that feels just like paper and it'll be here, pick up this iPad in the back, feels like paper and you close your eyes, you do the field test, do that, do the blind field test. And that gets actually really creepy very quickly. But anyway, right. I think I'll move on. Remotely reading to your child. I'm going out West again for a few days next week, for four days next week. And I'm faced with the problem of reading books to my kids, my youngest kids anyway. And you can't do that with a paper book. Not without adding another technology to sit over their shoulder, which is probably going to be an iPad or something or a phone, whatever, Android phone, whatever. But here's the thing, if you're always going to, if you're going to introduce another technology to read to your child, then why aren't you just doing it on an iPad? Because they, I thought it was brilliant actually at the latest event, Apple event just recently, been the iPads, they showed Caribou. It's C-A-R-I-B-U app, link in the show notes. They demoed that in the Apple event. Now that is a cool app. They're not a sponsor, but it's a cool app. and it allows you to do remotely read with your child. Yeah, that's pretty cool. That's brilliant. So if I'm 400 miles away and I will be next week for four days... You can read them a good whole story. You got it. That's magic. You know, that's brilliant. Try doing that with a paperback. Good luck. Although admittedly, if it was a kid, I wouldn't be giving them Game of Thrones to read. But still. No. No, definitely not. I skipped to the red wedding. Okay. Now then. Last one. Oh, no, two more things, and I think then I'm done my notes. And that is moving my books around. Oh, my God. So, I've got myself a hundred books, two hundred books, whatever. I used to have 100 plus books. What do I do? I need to put them somewhere in a bookcase, in a bookshelf. Now, that could be an entire room for some people. And honestly, that's a lot of space. You got to move it around when you move. You know, are you really going to read those books again? I might want to read them one day, so I've got to keep it. Well, that's what happens. That's how it happens. You are a book hoarder. That's what you are. And, you know, maybe that's OK. Some people are proud of that. And that's fine. You want to collect books, that's fantastic. Some people have their own library in their own house, like it's a study, but it's better be more accurately referred to as a library, you know. Walls lined with bookcases. And the best part is I can fit every single one of them into a single e-reader. So, honestly, do you really need to deal with that? Ultimately, finally, I think that there will always be bookstores I think that you will always have paperback books I cannot foresee a time where they will completely disappear I do think that it will be for hard to find books, niche books, limited run books, rare edition books, things like that You know, that's what it will be But they will be a token You know how they do golden records You know, platinum records. They don't make records much anymore. They don't make vinyl much anymore. They really don't. You know, it'll become a token thing. Here, I've got this book, it's sold a million copies. Here's a paperback or a hardcover, probably more likely a hardcover book. You know, maybe an author signs it. Here you go. Author signed the inside of the cover. There you go. That's a prize or something. and people will get it and they'll put it on the bookshelf and they'll never read it because they've got a copy in their e-reader but they've got it because it's a special collector's thing there will always be specialty bookstores, I think for people that are truly enthusiasts but honestly, realistically e-readers are ultimately going to win and books are going to die not completely But they're going to fade significantly and I just think that's inevitable I think so What do you think? Did you have anything that you think I missed? No You always say that I think that I would add that one thing that comes up a lot when I have this discussion with people about ebooks versus real books A lot of people are really worried about the future of the library as an institution and a place to go. I don't think people need to panic that that's going to go away as the paper book declines in favor of e-readers. I think the library will change, but I think it fulfills a community service that's always going to be valid and it's always going to exist. I think the librarian's job will change, but I think that that's still going to need to to that place and that institution and that service is always going to need to exist. Yeah, I tend to agree up to a point. I think that once everything becomes so cheap, I mean, if you- If it costs 10 bucks for you to go and buy a Kindle. Yeah. But these are library Kindles, shall we say? Local government Kindles, whatever. So, just like you pay your rates every year for them to pick up your garbage and, you know, deal with, treat your sewage and give you fresh running water and all that stuff. Do they call them rates over there? It was just a service fee. Service fee. Okay. All that was- When I used to rent over there, so it was all hidden in the rental costs, so I don't actually know what it was called anyway. So, the point is, what- Would it not be the direction for the government to hand out government issued ones and you would be entitled to one every few years as part of your service fees and you could then download things from a catalogue in the library over the e-reader? I'm not sure that analogy holds up 100%, but I think that the point that you're making could be valid. Like, um, a lot of places like the city, the government's not responsible for the garbage and stuff here. So I don't know that they'd all be lumped together, but okay. And I, I, the, the point that you're making, I think would be valid and, and that, that it could shift over to an area of that kind of responsibility. But I tend to think of the library, it's a, it's a social place. It's a source of information place. It's already evolved in a lot of ways over the years. I mean, you go now and you can check out CDs and you can check out DVDs and all kinds of things and I think it's just always going to evolve, but I think that the social need and the community need and the source for information, I think that those reasons will always keep libraries open. While I will admit that they probably won't need as much staff as they need, and they may not need as big a physical location. I think what you're going to- I think what will happen is the small libraries will shut down. And everything will become concentrated into the city centres, like the really big city centres. And what our local government currently does is there's a large public library in Caboolture and there's a mobile library, which is essentially a semi-trailer, or semi-trailer, that drives around and it's full of books, oddly, and it will spend one day a week at a smaller township. So, up the road at Beor Burrum, for example. And then, you know, the next day at Glasshouse Mountains and then the next day at Beor and so on and so forth. And then that way, locals who can't drive, won't drive are still have access to library to library functions, you know, like borrowing books and so on, different other services that go around with the truck. But at the same time, they don't aren't big enough to warrant their own library. And I think that that sort of contraction and that methodology will continue to the point at which the Caboolture Public Library eventually will close and it'll just become one library in Brisbane, and eventually it'll become one library in the state capital, which, you know, in the case of Queensland happens to be Brisbane. But, you know, I think a lot of regional libraries as a fixed location will shut down and they'll simply become mobile libraries to go from area to area. Inevitably, it's going to be cheaper to blanket a city with not Wi-Fi, but perhaps a successor to WiFi, low bandwidth, low cost that any e-reader can access to provide basic internet service. I think that's- It's already starting to happen with WiFi, you know. Yeah. But the problem with WiFi is range and the range is difficult. You need to look at a different- Slightly different technology, but anyway, I think that that's where it's going to go, because, you know, you look in 20, 30, 40 years time, it's going to be unheard of, I think, that you don't have access to the Internet. It's just it's going to be available. If you want access, you simply go to, you know, the main library or whatever, or you or you write to them or whatever, maybe not call them, whatever. I don't know. But and they'll send you a very basic tablet e-reader device that you can, you know, that you can use as part of your your rates, as part of your taxes. Because I tell you what, think about how much money that would save the government. You could- You would streamline the number of people you'd need to have as front facing individuals, you could shut down all these different offices. I'm not saying that I like that idea necessarily. Yeah. But look at the trends, look at where it's going and think how governments think. Yeah. Unless you're Sir Humphrey Appleby, in which case, don't think like that. But, you know, you know who I mean when I say Sir Humphrey Appleby? I do not. Oh, really? Sorry. There's a very, I was going to say popular, but perhaps not popular in your neck of the woods. But a show by the BBC in the 70s called Yes Minister was followed up by another series called Yes Prime Minister. And they were shows about British politics, particularly following James Hacker as he worked his way up from the lower bench or whatever it was, and eventually became, was made prime minister, mainly because he was considered to be a bit dimwitted and they were able to get things past him. It was meant to be satirical, but the thing is that it hit home on so many counts about politics, it wasn't funny. Yeah. So, it was a really, really good show. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And so, Humphrey Appleby was the head of the civil service. Well, he wasn't, anyway. So, the consummate public servant, absolutely unbelievably amazing. It was played by Sir Nigel Hawthorne, who- You know who he is? I do. Cool, well, that's something. You should check it out, it's a good show. It hasn't dated, it hasn't dated, it really hasn't. I mean, okay, the vehicles and, you know, some of the clothes, the, you know, the suits the men wear, you know, suits of suits of suits, but, you know, generally speaking. I would imagine that the drama and the story holds up, though. Oh, yeah, it's not drama, it's comedy, but it's it's he's so good anyway. All righty. Well, if do you have anything else that you want to add or wrap it up? I think we're good. If you want to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter at John Chidjy and check out my writing at techdistortion.com. If you'd like to get in touch with Vic, he can be reached on Twitter at Vic Hudson 1. If you'd like to send any feedback, please use the feedback from the website. That's where you'll also find the show notes for the episode under podcasts pragmatic. If there are any topics that you would like me to cover, you can suggest and vote on them at techdistortion.com/topics once you sign up for a free account at the site. You can follow Pragmatic Show on Twitter to see show announcements and other related stuff like when we're broadcasting live. If you want to join in, and we certainly hope you do, I'd like to say a final thank you to our two sponsors for this episode. Firstly, LIFX. If you're looking for an awesome LED bulb that's that's remotely controllable, colorful, energy efficient, and really fun to use, remember, specifically visit this URL, lifex spelled L-I-F-X dot co slash pragmatic, and use the coupon code pragmatic20 for 20% off the total price of your order. I'd also like to thank ManyTricks for once again sponsoring Pragmatic. If you're looking for some Mac software that can do many tricks, remember, specifically visit this URL, manytricks, all one word, dot com slash pragmatic, For more information about their amazingly useful apps, then use the discount code Pragmatic25. That's Pragmatic the word and 25 the numbers for 25% off the total price of your order. Hurry, it is only for a limited time. Thank you everybody who joined us in the live chat room today. And as always, thank you Vic. (upbeat music) [MUSIC] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [Music] (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat electronic music) [Music] From Mac Birdie and he asks, "Color e-ink, is it difficult to do or is the demand non-existent?" I think that at the moment it's a quality cost trade-off that's not panning out for for most people. So, it costs a lot more to implement it. And that cost for the quality of the colour depth that you get, if you put that up against an LED or an LCD, you're just going to shake your head and say that's a joke. Yeah. You know, and until the technology improves and becomes cheaper, I just don't think you're going to see it. They'll go to higher DPI in black and white, as they are actually come to think of it before they go to, you know, before colour becomes more widely adopted. Yeah. I think there will be plenty of demand. Once it is economical and efficient, though, I think there will be plenty of demand for it. Sure, absolutely. But, you know, you also have to consider the fact that most e-books have been written with that in mind, that black and white is all you've got to deal with. So, going to colour is going to give you precious few titles where that's going to be of any advantage whatsoever. So I think that it's a, the technology will improve, it'll become more desirable, more e-books will support colour. And at that point in time, it'll become more the thing. But I'm still not, I'm still not sold on e-ink as a long-term viable technology. I honestly think that there has to be something else. And Mirasol would look promising, but, you know, honestly, it's just not being widely adopted. And honestly, I'm not sure why that's an interesting question. I wish I had a better idea, but I don't about that particular kind of display. But hopefully that answers the question. (8-bit music)