Eason Fails to Sell eBooks via Billboard

…or “Why DRM is killing ebook sales outside of Amazon or Barnes & Noble”.

Being a international superstar and global jetsetter*, I had the pleasure of passing through Dublin’s Connolly railway station today. In the atrium there was a billboard display of book covers complete with QR codes.

Billboard of Books

“Totally cool,” I thought. Scan the QR code, buy the ebook, download to my tablet and start reading. The bookstore, Eason, had helpfully included free wifi in the area to get on-line. (For those not familiar with Ireland, Eason would be the leading newsagent, stationers and bookstore, comparable to WHSmith in GB). I scanned this book:

Book cover

The QR code took me to this page. Strangely, the book offered was a paperback and not an ebook. Huh?

Book purchase

Then I looked at the original poster, “1. Choose your book 2. Scan your QR code 3. Make your purchase 4. Wait for the post 5. Enjoy your book!”

Seriously…”Wait for the post”. Have these guys actually heard of ebooks or did the Kindle completely pass them by? Sure enough, Eason does have a section for ebooks on their website. It says, “Eason eBooks are compatible with Sony, Iriver and Elonex eReaders, as well as all devices that support Adobe EPUB DRM eBooks. Our eBooks are not currently compatible with Apple iOS, Google Android or Amazon devices – this includes iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android phones and tablets, and Kindles.

So let me get this straight….Eason is appealing to a travelling customer, offering the QR codes to smartphones that will typically be iPhones or Android devices, but ebooks can’t be offered on these because of Adobe’s ePub DRM? Fail, fail, fail.

It’s both totally unbelievable yet completely expected. It’s no wonder Amazon and the Kindle are dominating the market because everyone else is fighting with one hand tied behind their back with DRM. Eason, I had a two hour train journey ahead of me and you had a 100% chance of an ebook sale but you blew it. I’ll turn on my tablet, fire up my Kindle or Nook app and buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Fail.

* This is completely untrue.

Reading Together, Reading for Pleasure

Booktime LogoMore time is spent reading with children but parents are finding modern life tiring and stressful, according to research commissioned by Booktime. The average time spent by parents reading with their child (4  & 5 year olds) is now one hour 26 mins per week, an increase of 10% over 2009. 60% of parents read with children for pleasure on a daily basis.

Tiredness was cited as the main reason for shared reading not being fun, but it was the tiredness of the parents (18%) rather than the child (6%) that was the problem. Getting home from work in time was also a problem, with 30% of dads getting stuck at work.

Regardless, 71% of parents and carers said that reading with their child was always or usually the highlight of the day. 80% of the parents said that reading was associated with fun with 86% of children laughing out loud.

The book is still the main reading device (86%) but other devices such as smartphones, tablets and e-readers are becoming more prevalent. By the time a child is six, nearly a quarter of parents use technology in addition to paper-based books.

In a time of economic doom-and-gloom, this relatively minor story made my day. It costs so little to read to children especially when books are available from libraries or the Booktime programme, yet the benefits to both parents and children are immense. As a father of a 4 year old daughter, I love reading with her, especially at bedtime. It’s just us, with no distractions and we read the story together. If she grows up with a love of reading and learning, I will have done my job as a parent.

Booktime is a national (UK) free books programme for pre-school children that aims to promote the pleasure of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together. This year, nearly 1.4 million books will be given away in partnership with Pearson.

Unbound: Kickstarter for Books

Launched yesterday at the Hay Festival in Wales, Unbound is the latest website to link prospective funders to creators. In this instance, it’s authors and books, rather than entrepreneurs and tech but it’s the same concept. They have an idea for a book, the story gets pitched to you, if you like it you buy the future book and if enough people buy in, the book gets written. It might also be a very cost effective way of meeting a favourite author, but more on this later.

On the website there are currently five authors pitching books, one of which is an iPad reference app. Obviously the Unbound founders are hoping that more authors will come forwards as the awareness of the site grows. You may or may not recognise all of the authors but many of us of a certain age will know Terry Jones of Monty Python fame.

Each of the authors has a short video, pitching the story. The author’s page will show how many funders are required and how long the book has to get funded. Some of the books need as few as 1,500, others need as many as 5,000, most seem somewhere in between. Once you have decided that you want to support the author, you can then choose your level of funding. £10 gets you an ebook, £20 gets you a hardback and so on. There’s a bit more to the funding levels including your name in the back of the book and access to the author’s “shed”. But the best bit is that for a £250, you get to have a lunch with the author (plus the books, etc) which I think is a bargain. Admittedly, it’s not clear who pays for the lunch!

I’ll definitely be funding a couple of these – just trying to decide what level to go for. This is all UK-based, so if you are from elsewhere just check the situation. Everything’s a bit new so the FAQ isn’t as full as it could be.

Steampunk Fortnight at Tor.com

Tor.comTor.com are hosting a Steampunk Fortnight over at tor.com, building on the success of last year’s Steampunk Month.  From 20th October through to 3rd November, there will be stream of articles, stories, desktop backgrounds and giveaways all on the steampunk theme.

If you aren’t familiar with steampunk, it’s a sub-genre of sci-fi where scientific discovery stopped in the Victorian era and it’s a world of trains and airships, of brass and wood, of cogs and lenses, of cloaks and cravats.  Innovations are as the Victorians would have created, with large machines driven by steam, rather than the miniaturisation of electronics and the microchip.  I love the aesthetic: powerful constructions of metal and wood from the 19th century contrast sharply with today’s era of plastic mass production.

There are a few modders out there who enjoy retro-fitting a steampunk look to modern gadgets.  The Mac Mini is a work of art and there’s a whole PC on the other end of the link.   And for a Victorian take on the videophone, here’s the Telectroscope.

Start polishing the brass and buffing the woodwork!