Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Cost of EBooks

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20:  The new 'nook' digital reader is displayed at a launching  October 20, 2009 in New York City. The 'nook' is a wireless reader which will be available on Barnes & Noble's Web site and in stores and is currently available for 'pre-order' for $259. The 'nook' is less than 5 inches wide and 8 inches tall and weighs 11.2 ounces. At $259 it will be the same price as the recently reduced Kindle by Amazon.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Like many others, I thought books for the Kindle would be dirt cheap. Five dollars or less--after all, no paper, shipping, store costs, etc. Wrong!

According to the September 2010 Wired Magazine's "Burning Question" column--which I can't find online--those costs account for a paltry 15% of book prices. The other 85% is taken by authors, editors, designers, marketers, publicists, distributors and resellers. And all but the last two (and I'm not so sure about distributors) are still necessary to effectively sell ebooks.

In addition, an ebook needs antipiracy software, programmers to adapt each text to different platforms, and extra legal support (not sure what that entails). Another less obvious reason for slightly higher-than-necessary prices comes from Larry Doyle: Publishers are "concerned about devaluing people's perception of books."

Hmm. Don't know if I agree but I never pass up an opportunity to quote a Doyle. That was my grandmother's family name.

However, Rick Broida--the author of this Wired article--goes on to point out that authors can eliminate all those middlemen and publish their tomes on Amazon. Amazon lets authors take 35%, an unheard-of cut...but wait! Apple ibooks will let authors keep 70% of sales--70% !!!

I assume that means, though, that the author has to put out money in advance for professional editing and cover art and design. I assume too that all publicity is the author's responsibility, so s/he will probably have to pay for a publicist, travel, promotional items, ads.

So stay tuned. I doubt that we'll be downloading $4.99 thrillers any time soon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Howard Carter's Notes

A golden artifact was found within Tutankhamun's burial shrouds at the King Tut traveling exhibition showcasing over 100 artifacts from King Tut's tomb and other sites spanning two thousand years of pharaohats' rule at the Denver Art Museum in Denver July 23, 2010. The Tutankhamun exhibit will be on display through January 9, 2011.     UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

Howard Carter died in 1939, seventeen years after discovering Tutankhamun's tomb. The treasure he found has been all over the world, but usually rests in a museum in Cairo, right? Nothing more to know?

Ha! Of course there's tons more to know! But we're just now going to find out how much more, and what that 'more' is.

Turns out that since Carter died, only about a third of his carefully written research notes--including over 3500 cards, 1000 photographs, 60 maps, notes from chemist Alfred Lucas, and hundreds of pages from Carter's own journals and diaries--have ever been made public. Carter spent ten years cataloguing his find--there were about 5400 objects in the tomb, after all. But he died before he could publish all that stuff.

Carter's notes have been locked up in the Griffith Institute, a temperature-controlled underground lab/library/archive at Oxford University. Read all about it here at Archaeology News Net. The article is a reprint from the New Zealand Herald of August 9, 2010.

In 1993, a gentleman named Jaromir Malek became the caretaker of Carter's notes, and two years later he and began working with Jonathan Moffett, the chief IT guy at the Ashmolean Library. (I'm sure both men have far more impressive titles.) Fighting a sparse budget for years, they are now near the day when most of the archive will not only be available, but will be online.

In fact, 98% of it IS online. Wow.

I just always assumed that as King Tut's tomb was so well publicized, everyone knew all about it. Wrong! Everyone just got so entranced by the Big Gold Shiny Things (understandable) that they've never bothered to really study the many mundane and ordinary (ordinary to ancient Egyptians, that is) items in the tomb. Now it's all online and available. (The other 2% will be up within three months.) HERE.

Maybe the most valuable link I've ever made.