Greed and fear

reading machineThe endless eBook debate grinds on and on and we do not propose to rehearse it yet again here: a host of sites are already doing that and the best illustration of the confusion and despair it provokes we have yet seen is this from Maria Langer.

Knocklofty sees two obstacles to the progress of the eBook which need to be overcome if it is to begin to fulfil its promise. The first is the need for a reader device which will do for books what the iPod did for music.

A number of devices, all with more than a degree of clunkiness, are beginning to contend for a share of an embryonic market bedevilled by incompatible formats and anachronistic business ideas. The device we would most like to see is this suggestion to Apple and we hope Steve Jobs’ wisecrack about nobody reading any more is, as is widely speculated, a ruse to conceal what may be going on in the back room.

The problem of the reader will eventually be solved. But the second obstacle is in the minds of publishers. One large Australian bookshop chain is offering a proprietary reader and a range of eBooks to go with it, but the eBooks themselves are priced at only a little less—about $5 less—than their printed equivalent. On top of that, the eBooks are subject to a digital rights management system which is as absurd as that promoted by the dinosaurs of the music industry.

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Author discovers eBooks

sharyn munroAustralian writer Sharyn Munro has become a convert to eBooks.

She lives in her wildlife sanctuary on a remote mountain top in the wilds of New South Wales, many miles away from the nearest bookshop along roads that are more like training ranges for tanks.

And like many writers, she can’t always afford to buy as many books as she’d like.

All writers are book addicts and they crave the physical presence and influence of books.

She didn’t think eBooks were for her—until she came across a collection of short stories by another Australian writer, Rachael Treasure.

The conversion was rather prompt, as she says in her review of Treasure’s Tales:

As a lover of the physical fact of books—their weight and feel, their look and smell, and their cumulative presence as they cover my walls—I have not been in favour of eBooks.

But I have just downloaded my first eBook, a collection of short stories by Rachael Treasure, and appropriately called Treasure’s Tales. It seems I had forgotten that what’s inside the book is after all the greatest pleasure.

As a keen short story writer and reader, I think this is a lovely collection of a writer’s progression, with finely observed details so that characters and settings are vividly real.

The stories themselves are surprising, quirky, perceptive, funny or moving, and whether set in rural or urban Australia, their human truths are universal. I thought the personal intro to each one was a great idea too.

The good plain prose makes them very accessible, as does this instant and inexpensive e-method of delivery from writer to reader. Terrific for isolated bushies like me. I can now see there’s a place for both types of publishing.

The A4 format means I’ll store Treasure’s Tales vertically, as I do magazines, and I won’t be re-reading them in bed—but I’ll certainly be re-reading them!

Sharyn Munro is the author of The Woman on the Mountain, reviewed by Knocklofty here and which can be ordered from your bookshop or from the publishers, Exisle.

Visit her beautifully written website.

And if you’d like to try your first eBook, you can buy Treasure’s Tales here.

A treasury of tales

tales coverBest-selling Tasmanian author Rachael Treasure has released her first eBook, Treasure’s Tales — a collection of new short stories in her own humorous, earthy style, published by local firm Summerhill Publishing.

The collection shows how her writing has developed from the beginning as a 17-year-old university student until now as a still-young farmer and mother of two.

One of the stories introduces Rebecca, the central character in her first novel, Jillaroo, and another is an opportunity to meet Emily from her new book, The Cattlemen, a work now in progress.

Visit Rachael Treasure’s entertaining website to buy the eBook — it’s a bargain at only AUD$9.90 — or buy directly from our site.

Look out! The eBook is coming…


When papyrus was introduced by progressive scribes in ancient Egypt, it is certain that the more conservative elements in the profession held that it would never replace the clay tablet.

In medieval times, the printed book was regarded as a frivolous innovation which could never replace the hand-made book. The spasms of persecution following its introduction are commonly attributed to the church’s fear of the spread of independent thought, but another underlying reason was annoyance at the loss of the considerable revenue derived from its monopoly on the production of books.

Much later, it was asserted that television would never catch on because no-one would want to sit at home watching a little box in the corner. A chairman of IBM estimated the world market for computers at about a dozen machines.

Something similar is happening again, according to members of Knocklofty’s eBook development division. At parties and other gatherings, many of them now tell fibs about what they do.

“It’s worse than admitting you’re a doctor,” one of them complained. “Every time I say ‘electronic book’, back comes the riposte ‘Ah, but it’ll never replace a real book’, or ‘I don’t want to sit at a computer to read a book’. So now I just say I’m an actuary; they lose interest at once and I can get on with some serious drinking.’

Others say it’s like trying to explain the virtues of soap to those brought up to believe that the wire brush and carbolic method is the last word in personal hygiene.

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