Published on July 2nd, 2008 | by Guest Contributor0
GTR: eBook Publishing and Greener Reading with EcoBrain
GreenTalk Radio Host Sean Daily discusses digital book technologies and eBooks focused on environmentalism with Angela Wieck and Staley Krause of EcoBrain.com.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of GreenTalk Radio, this is Sean Daily. I’m very, very happy and excited about today’s podcast and I’ll tell you why in a second. I used to have a business based that was based on ebooks. One of the reasons that I thought ebooks was very exciting (in addition to the digital, the internet-based format) was the fact that they’re very green. It certainly saves trees by printing books, so to speak, digitally. So, that was a previous business of mine (Realtime Publishers) before I did GreenTalk Radio and GreenLivingIdeas.com.
So it was exciting to find out about to find out about a company called EcoBrain that is involved in not only in ebook production, but also in ebooks that are relevant to the environment and environmental issues. So it’s kind of a killer combination. So I brought them on the program today to talk to us about both about the ebook industry since I left it, which was about six years ago, I’m curious to hear the update, but also about the uptake of environmental books in this format. So I want to welcome two people from EcoBrain to the podcast today. The first is Angela Wieck; she is the publisher relations and marketing person at EcoBrain, and Staley Krause, who is in sales and marketing at EcoBrain. Angela and Staley, welcome to Green Talk.
Angela Wieck: Thanks, Sean.
Staley Krause: Great to be here.
Sean Daily: Well, it’s great to have both of you. Why don’t we start by telling us, telling our listeners, what’s the story behind EcoBrain and how did it come to be? Maybe I’ll direct that one to Angela.
Angela Wieck: Oh, OK, great. Well, Staley and I met many years ago when Staley and our husbands worked together in publishing. My husband, Steve, has been in publishing for over 20 years, and he would come home from work and describe these huge warehouses that he would go into — filled with thousands of tens of books; shelves 20’ high and hundreds of rows in the warehouses. You can imagine. Semi’s would back up into the warehouses and be filled with books, drive off, and another would back in and do the same thing. Driving all over the country, to who knows where. And you can imagine the high cost in terms of trees and energy going into the creation of these books and the fuel to deliver. All of that is very concerning and of course, the books that don’t sell are destroyed and that’s also concerning.
Living green is something my family’s been working toward for many years in different ways. Not just us, but our kids — teaching them to make choices, little choices, and big choices. It all can have a big impact. We all love books and we love to read, but to produce there is a big environmental impact. And I come from a technology background and through many discussions of how can we produce books in an eco-friendly way, we came up with the idea of ebooks. So, how can we enjoy reading and do it in an eco-friendly way, and can choose to buy an ebook. It’s just another example of a small decision (like going to the grocery store and choosing to use a canvas bag) and if you’re going to buy a book, you can buy an ebook.
So, we’re really excited, and the result of this is EcoBrain, Green Books for Green Living as you mentioned. It is the only ebook site dedicated to living green and we hope you guys will check it out.
Sean Daily: Yes, well definitely and it’s something that I’m curious too about. Has that been limiting at all for you guys? I really applaud the fact that you focus on environmental issues. I guess you’re sort of the canary in the coal mine as it were for the industry. Are there a lot people that are a) buying environmental books and b) are they buying them in this format?
Angela Wieck: Well I think it’s a market that’s growing for sure. Right now it’s a small percentage of the total number of titles purchased, but it is growing. And at EcoBrain we’ve got some lighter green books as we call them and then we’ve got some very green or very technical books. So there are some books that are you know cookbooks or kids books and fun books about the environment. And then we’ve got the more technical, almost like university text books. So there’s really something for everyone.
Sean Daily: Well now Staley, I want to direct a question to you. Tell us from your viewpoint, how do ebooks really fit into somebody’s life?
Staley Krause: That’s a really good question and it’s something I was asking myself back in the 90’s, probably around maybe the same time you were in the ebook business, when the concept of ebooks first really surfaced. I have to admit at that point I just didn’t get it at all. I couldn’t possibly see myself sitting in front of a computer and reading a novel on any level. It’s also the time when the environmental movement was kind of left pretty definitely back in the 70’s.
So, there are several things have changed so much. Angela was just talking about different things that people can do, little small choices that they can make like the LED light bulbs or the reusable bags. People are doing those, and they’re small things, but collectively they certainly add up. People are getting used to spending more money to do those things. It’s a little bit more to buy a light bulb, it costs a little bit more to get those bags. But the neat thing about books is that they’re cheaper. You know, you’re not paying for the paper and the ink so typically, they’re about 30% less.
So, I guess in my view, anytime environmental advocates can identify sort of a consumer choice that people can fit affordably into their budget, that’s really exciting because it means more people are going to make that choice. So I think, just in terms of budget, they fit pretty nicely into the things we’re doing. The other neat thing about ebooks is that they’re instant. There’s this sort of instant gratification aspect to them. So, if for example, you see something on vegan cooking on TV and then you decide you want to try a few recipes. Rather than going to an online bookstore and ordering and waiting five days, you can just go and download the book and have it. I think that’s kind of interesting because it is instant gratification. And we’ve sort of been taught that the whole instant gratification is bad…the drive-through, the whole drive-through food and the disposable society, so it’s kind of neat to have an instant gratification thing you can fit into your life that’s actually productive and good.
Sean Daily: It’s good for you. It’s like In-n-out Burger versus McDonalds. It’s not terrible. It’s not probably health food, but you can feel all right OK about that.
Staley Krause: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Sean Daily: And you can get your food in four minutes.
Staley Krause: Sure, sure. There are different formats. I think when ebooks came to the surface people were thinking abut them in term of novels. At least on EcoBrain and in general, ebooks are doing very well in a non-fiction format. Cookbooks, like I said, How-To guides, that sort of thing…How to Compost, Gardening guides, that sort of thing. These are not books that people sit down and read cover to cover. You don’t sit down and read an entire cookbook. So an ebook is nice because typically the table of contents is live-linked so you can just click on the recipe you want to go to or the how-to guide that you want to look at and go straight to it.
If you need to print out that one page, great, print out that one page, great, hopefully on recycled paper or on the backside of a previously used piece of paper. And go from there. And then leave the rest on your hard drive.
Sean Daily: Yes, right. So that’s one of things that I was always concerned about when I was doing the ebook publishing business was, which were IT books with different topics that we were covering, but was this idea of (and I’ll be completely honest it wasn’t the only reason we were doing it. It was certainly the cost-benefits of the model and so forth). But we felt really good and it was a supported sort of fact that it was also going to be a more environmentally-sustainable business model. But, it was one of those things where I was afraid what good is it if people are just going to take it and hit the print button and print the book out. Have you surveyed your customers at all to understand how they’re actually consuming these books? Whether they are in fact reading them as pdf’s on the screen. Are they using devices? Are they printing them out? Have you got any information like that?
Staley Krause: Definitely, definitely. It tends to be generational. The kids, and I’m sure your kids, they’re pretty much brought up on the computer, like it or not. So they’re very acclimated to and comfortable reading an entire novel on the screen. And I mentioned I’m still not comfortable doing that. With the older generations, I think they tend more toward the non-fiction and how-to. And certainly some of these recipes and the how-to guides are very graphics heavy and there a lot of photographs, and so a lot of that does tend to get read on the screen. And certainly people are not printing out, even if they’re printing out an enter book, we know they are not printing out the copyright page, or the table of contents, or the index, or any of the blank pages. So even right there, there’s a significant savings.
Sean Daily: Yes, I know, absolutely. Yes, definitely. Well, we’re going to go ahead and take a quick break here on GreenTalk. We are going to hear a word from our sponsors and then we will be right back. And we are talking with EcoBrain. We’re talking with Staley and Angela from over there. We’ll be right back on GreenTalk Radio. Thanks everyone.
Sean Daily: Hey everybody, we’re back on GreenTalk Radio. We’re talking to today on the topic of greening your reading experience. My guests on the program are Angela Wieck and Staley Krause, who are from EcoBrain, which is a very avant-garde company on the web that is a seller of ebooks focused on environmentalism. So we were talking about this sort of the general uptake, Staley and Angela, before the break just about how people are procuring these books. I’m also curious, Angela, I’ll direct this to you, take us through the process of actually procuring the book via your site and how you might actually read that book, just for people that aren’t familiar with ebooks.
Angela Wieck: I think that’s a really great question because if you haven’t done it before, we can walk you through it. And it is really simple. And I know you’d expect Staley and I to say that, but it really is.
If you were to log on to www.EcoBrain.com you can go in, create a customer account, look around, select a title or titles that you like. You add it to your cart, you check out and then it’s downloaded to your computer.
So as Staley mentioned earlier, it’s totally instantaneous. So as soon as you’re done, it’s in whatever directory you selected. You can go ahead and open it up on your computer, whatever computer you have, a pc, a Mac, a laptop; you can open it right up and take a look at it. You don’t need any special devices. You don’t need a book reader or a Kendall. You’d asked earlier Sean about what do our customer typically do. They’re typically reading pdf on whatever computer they have at home. They’re not necessarily going out and buying a new device or anything special. They’re not making that investment or necessarily having to learn a new technology. They’re just using what they have.
Sean Daily: Right and for those people who are not technical out there, I imagine most people know what a pdf is, but for anybody who doesn’t, it’s Adobe’s portable device format, sort of a unified, universal standard for reading digital documents in general, a complete…
Angela Wieck: That’s an excellent point. It’s a very straight-forward file, so you just double click on it and voile, you open it on your computer. It really is very straightforward. In fact, my mom is using it and she’s not a technically-savvy person, but she can easily download them and get them. I can also use, I have a good friend, Lisa, and I’ll use her as an example. She had never done anything with ebooks, and wanted to try. So she went ahead and logged onto EcoBrain as I described and looked around she found a fun book, it’s a Council Oaks book called “Earth Child 2000.” For anybody who has kids, it’s a way to teach your kids about the environment. So she looked around and there’s a nice preview feature on EcoBrain so you can actually go in and click and see several pages of books and you can see if you like them if it’s what you thought it would be and that kind of thing.
She liked it so she added it to her cart and checked out and, like Staley said, they do cost less. Lisa is one who really likes a bargain, so she was happy about that. Her computer is in her kitchen; it’s the hub of her house. The kids are running around. One of her kids, named Sophia is almost four. So Sophia climbs up onto the chair and starts looking at this book and clicking around; and figures it out, sort of intuitively, that you can click on the corner of the pages and the page turns.
She’s so excited and says “Mommy, mommy, come and check this out and look at this picture.” So it’s really very easy to use. And one of the things they found with that book, and they are having fun with (and we are too) is a recycled craft box. That’s just a fun way to go read if you have kids that like to do crafts. They’ve just got a bin that they fill with scraps of paper, yarn, ribbons, linens, whatever you have left over. It’s this growing and shrinking collection. And now, instead of going to Michael’s for a craft idea, you can just pull out this bin and get out the glue and it’s a great way to involve the kids in recycling and they get to have some fun too.
So Lisa and I can have a cup of tea while the kids go in and create these twig and yarn creations which now adorn our house.
Sean Daily: Kids just love that self. And it really gets them involved and interested. I don’t think its…it’s not really tricking them into it, but what it is is giving them a reason that they’re interested in to connect with it. Whatever the topic; whether it’s science, or math, or the environment. We have a home- school co-op that we run and I noticed that you guys seem to have another site that’s related to home-schooling or I believe you do. Is that correct?
Angela Wieck: Absolutely. It’s called currclick.com.
Sean Daily: I just happened upon that and I really want to hear about that, but I’ll ask you about that later in the program. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve got our kids interested in environmentalism through things like you’re describing with crafts or the different things like that they already love to do. They love art projects and things like that. I teach French to them on Thursdays; and those kinds of projects, the hands-on stuff, really connects for them in addition to just reading or through things like that that are more static activities
Yes, I just wanted to reinforce the value of that because I watch that happen every week and I’m just blown away by it.
Angela Wieck: It’s great too, because the kids then, once you explain that to them, they’ll say “Hey, what are you throwing that away for? We can use that.” It’s great and they actually reinforce the positive behavior and make sure we do a good job as well.
Sean Daily: It’s so amazing too what kids pick up on and what they care about. My experience has been by in large that kids are very fundamentally interested in environmentalism and saving the planet. And it doesn’t have to be from a fear place like “Oh the world’s going to blow up, mommy and daddy.” They really care when you explain it to them and I know that my son will always talk to me about…he’s like “Oh yeah, I know you do the green living ideas thing and you’re trying to help the planet and help people. He’s not parodying bad things that he has heard; it’s his own interpretation of what we’ve talked about, sometimes just what’s in front of him, not necessarily to him. It’s been amazing to me how he’s sort of processed that information and sort of amalgamated and then can spit it back in a way that’s just very profound.
Staley Krause: Yes, that’s very true.
Angela Wieck: That’s so exciting; so neat to hear that.
Sean Daily: Yeah, it is really exciting. I love the…I really applaud the focus that you guys have involving children and the family. This sort of brings me to my next question which is, I’d like to hear a little more about the types of books that you’ve got. We’ve talked so far about books focused on environmentalism and involving kids. Tell us about some of the offerings that you’ve got on the site.
Staley Krause: Sure, sure, and just as a seg-way from the children’s discussion. We do have a kid’s section on EcoBrain. Interestingly, you mentioned currclick.com. We offer a number of education titles on EcoBrain that are also on currclick.com. Certainly people that are home-schooling are interested in educating there children.
And I should stop here and tell you more about currclick which is just, simply, another ebook download site that sells education titles and it’s primarily geared toward home-school families. We also sell to teachers, private school teachers, public school teachers as well and parents who are trying to do some supplementing at night.
We have titles about endangered species, recycling, global warming, and unit-studies for kids, of course. And then as I mentioned, a lot of cookbooks; vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, how-to guides, hiking books, nature titles, sort of… We try and think about the group of people that would come to EcoBrain and that would be drawn to it and then what kinds of books those people would be interested in. So there’s a broad range. There really are hundreds of thousands of different titles (not hundreds of thousands) thousands of different titles for people to choose from. They are from all sorts of different publishers…leading publishers in the field and what’s really neat is we have titles form smaller publishers. We have a title from a woman who wrote about her worm composting experience. It’s a great book. It’s not necessarily a book that would be available to the public without ebooks because that woman might not be able to afford…it may not be able to get published and it may not be able to afford to print the title. It gives even the publishers a lot of great opportunities to get the word out. We have…
Sean Daily: That’s really cool. I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m really excited about that. I was curious, I was actually, that leads into a question I wanted to ask which was: I know with my experience with ebooks, we were able to circumvent the very sort of old, stalwart, publishing industry. Which is in some ways, I mean I don’t want to paint it with one brush stroke, but there’s a lot of old school ways. Let’s put it that way. With regards to the way, not only the way books are published physically, but also the way authors are handled and things like that.
I know that one of the empowering things we were able to do was with authors and facilitating them and not having the situation where they worked a year of life of their on a book and then the marketing team and the publisher killed the project, didn’t market it properly, didn’t get it on the shelves, whatever happens and their work was for not. Not only did they not make money, but they didn’t get the word out and I think what an author wants to do is obviously be read. So this was a way for us to remove those barriers. Now, it sounds to me like your doing something very similar here with EcoBrain in your distribution.
I was curious about where your sourcing the books, like what types of publishers, and if that was a limitation. But it sounds to me like you’re actually facilitating through this model, publishers and individual authors that might not otherwise have gotten published. So is that what you’re saying?
Staley Krause: Oh, absolutely. To me, that is one of the most exciting aspects of what we do. I’ve been in publishing for a long time. I worked for sort of a mid-size publisher, so I do know how difficult it is to enter that marketplace. We offer titles from Chronicle Books and Chelsea Green. To me it’s more rewarding (and I love working with those publishers). But it’s very rewarding to deal with a teacher in New York who we work with, whose one of our top sellers in fact, on currclick.com. And e has quite a few titles on EcoBrain.com. He has a global warming title for kids. He sits home and night after he teaches all day and he writes these books and they’re wonderful and it’s so exciting to see him be able to enter the marketplace successfully in an alternative way. He might not have been able to do it without ebooks.
Sean Daily: That’s really cool. I love that. So, yes, yes, that’s the beauty of these types of digital, internet-based systems and business models, is to be able to facilitate on both ends, both on the distribution and author side as well as this case on the reader’s side, the consumer side.
Staley Krause: It’s great, and it really helps us be able to diversify our options in terms of what we want to read and what we can gain access to.
Sean Daily: Just switching gears a little bit, with it being…well actually, I want to ask this question, but I know it’s time to take our last break. So, I’m going to cut away for just another quick break and then we will be back. We’re talking on greening your reading experience with environmental books and other books with EcoBrain.com. Also, Staley, I was hoping you could spell the URL for currclick.com since we mentioned that.
Staley Krause: Sure. It’s c-u-r-r-c-l-i-c-k.com so it’s short for curriculum, currclick.com.
Sean Daily: Great. We will be right back on GreenTalk Radio. Thanks everybody.
Sean Daily: OK and we are back on GreenTalk Radio. This is Sean Daily. Welcome back everyone. Thanks for listening in, as always, today. We are talking on a topic which is a new topic on the GreenLivingIdeas.com site, which is greening your reading experience. We actually have a dedicated reading section. For those of you who haven’t checked it out yet, please go onto GreenLivingIdeas.com and under the topics menu, under EcoLiving, you’ll see that there’s a whole dedicated section just for reading.
We’re talking with the experts on that subject, specifically with regards to greening your reading experience which is EcoBrain.com. I’m talking with Angela Wieck and Staley Krause over there. They have a site that focuses on environmental books. We were talking about some of the types of books that you sell on EcoBrain.com and the model and so forth before the break.
With it being summer now and the arrival of warm weather, I know that for us in our family, we’re really enjoying outdoor living right now. That’s something we really look forward to this time of year. I’m curious if you guys have any ebooks that sort of focus in that area. And I’ll direct that one to Angela.
Angela Wieck: Oh, that’s a great question and I really enjoy that too. And before I answer that, I want to let your listeners know about a special offer that we have right now. If you go to EcoBrain.com and right on the homepage there’s a link to EcoBrain on GreenLivingIdeas.com, GreenTalk Radio. If you click that link, you can enter a coupon code which is g-l-i-podcast, all lower case. Again, that’s g-l-i-podcast and you’ll get five dollars off and that’s good until July 31st. There are some titles for three dollars and some titles for more, so there’s something for every budget. Hopefully that will give, if you haven’t tried an eBook, that’ll give you a bit of an incentive to go in and give it a try.
Sean Daily: I didn’t even know that so I’m writing that down along with everybody else right now, so thank you for that.
Angela Wieck: Back to the question of outdoor living. We really enjoy outdoor living too. I’m a big gardener, I love to garden and I do a lot of computer gardening as well. That’s something that I’m always looking for new ideas to put together. Story, one of our publishers, has a series of short books. They’ve got stuff on gardening, composting, and all kinds of things. But they have a fun container gardening book for $3.95 and its 32 pages and that’s a great one to go in and get some new ideas and see some new plant combinations; or if you want to create an herbal garden or you want to try something new, that’s a fun one to try.
Another thing that we love to do is eat outside. EcoBrain, as Staley has mentioned, has a lot of great cookbooks. So, after you’ve done your gardening outside, you can go and enjoy a nice meal. So there’s something for everyone.
One more outdoors idea is composting. Staley mentioned a book about composting with worms. We have a publisher called Flower Field Enterprises and the lady who runs it is called the worm woman. They’re very, very into composting and worms. Composting with worms is a simple guide to composting. It shows different ways that you can compost, all with simple easy directions and diagrams, inexpensive materials; it’s great for home or school. It helps to give great insight how we can introduce our garbage and use it to compost and put back into the garden which is a great thing to do. So, once you’ve gardened all day and had a nice dinner, you can chuck your organic waste into the compost…and what could be better.
Sean Daily: Yes, it’s true. I’m not the gardener in the family, I’ll admit it. I like the benefit of having the garden and I’ll go up there and hang out once in a while, but I sort of have the accidental black thumb of death instead of the green thumb. I don’t know what it is. I over-water the plants, I under-water the plants; anything related with that I struggle with. My wife is the one that (as you can probably imagine) that takes care of that. I have to say in terms of just having a compost bin, and having got into composting (it’s been about a year and a half now) from a waste-reduction standpoint, I’ve been blown away.
We went from the super-size-me garbage can for a family of four and two cats, and I was going to say, and five chickens, but actually we got the chickens. So the first thing was the chickens. I had no idea what chickens…It’s like the food goes to the chicken first. Sometimes they eat better than me, I think. I used to think chickens just ate things like bread and things like that, and chicken scratch. They’ll pretty much eat anything you give them. They’re more like pigs than I realized. Between that and what goes into the compost bin (because we used to feel good about “Oh, we’re composting) it’s chickens first, living creatures first and then the compost bin.
To living creatures — to the ones that are giving us eggs, they get it first.
But between those two things it’s just like with the composting; prior to the chickens, we went to the apartment size, single 20-something size garbage and we don’t even fill it. It just blows me away. Sometimes we go two weeks with a tiny garbage can for a family of four. That is the type of differences that these kinds of…
Angela Wieck: That’s fantastic.
Sean Daily: The things can make. I just had to ref on that.
Angela Wieck: You know the other thing on composting that’s kind of fun. Somebody told us this years ago and I don’t remember who, is that you have to put in a half a can of beer and give it a good stir to really get it going. Steve, my husband, if he’s out there, he’ll be on the grill; and say “Oh, I better give a little beer to the compost. Of course, he’s got to finish it off.”
Sean Daily: He’s a good man. That’s a good sacrifice to make
Staley Krause: We have a worm composter in our kitchen and this is a new development for us in our kitchen. I don’t know if the worms would care for beer. Maybe they would, I don’t know
Sean Daily: Maybe they would. They could be German worms or something. I don’t know.
Sean Daily: They’re definitely caffeinated worms. They eat a lot of coffee grounds.
Angela Wieck: I love seeing the compost right in the kitchen.
Staley Krause: I put Brussels sprout stems in there a couple days ago and you can’t even tell. It doesn’t smell at all. It’s wonderful.
Sean Daily: It’s interesting. It’s coincidental this came up because we’ve been contacted recently by a few indoor composting companies, indoor composter-producing companies that sort of want to get the word out, that
contacted our editorial team. And I know this is really a burgeoning category. I think it’s a Time-Life journalist who was doing the one-year sustainable living in a way of zero-waste production and the indoor composter was a big part of that. So this urban composter category seems to be really on the rise. You mind me asking about the products you’re using there. Which composter?
Angela Wieck: You know, I had the little book right here by my desk. What is it?
Give me a minute and I’ll try and think about it while we’re talking, but I did order it online.
Sean Daily: No, I was just curious. If you don’t come up with it it’s not a big deal. If you think of it later, just chime in. So, I also had a question for you, Staley. I have two questions. I’m going to start with the first one which is: What are the environmental benefits to you on ebooks versus printed books. I think we all know, obviously, that with an ebook, you’re not killing a tree to produce a book, but does it go beyond that?
Staley Krause: Oh, tremendously, so much…It’s definitely so much further beyond that. People always think about trees. Even to put that in contest a little bit, there were 8.4 million trees used to print the Harry Potter books. So that’s huge. And people think about the trees first, but I think one of those most significant aspects about it is the shipping.
If you look at your bookshelf in your house, you can pretty much assume that the majority of those books were printed overseas, particularly in Asia. And so, this is a big trend in publishing. If a book is printed overseas, it has to be brought back here to the United States and actually I just saw last night (and maybe you did too) about the implications on the whale population of commercial shipping vessels. So that’s sort of an interesting element that I haven’t really explored too terribly much. Books are shipping form Asia to the East and West Coast and they are trucked to the Midwest where most of the central distribution center are. Then they are trucked to bookstores and homes all across the country. So the fossil fuel and Co2 implications are huge.
Admittedly, the publishing industry is getting much better and they’re really working hard to green their efforts, but that’s something that everybody really needs to take into account when they buy a printed book. The other thing are paper manufacturing practices are considered the third most damaging to air, land and water in the United States and Canada. I’m certain and I’m hopeful that that’s being improved upon. But again, you don’t have to deal with the tree questions or the whale questions or the trucking and shipping question or paper manufacturing question when you buy an ebook.
I love physical books and I always will. They’ll always be a part of my life. I’m not, and Angela and I are not advocating that the printed book come to an end. But I think if people, in the same vein they’re making decisions to buy light bulbs and reusable grocery bags, if six, five times a year, instead of buying a printed book they purchase an ebook, I think collectively we could really make a big difference on that level.
Sean Daily: I think that your last point was an important one and I agree with you. I think it’s one of things where people tend to think in extremes like “Oh, great, these people are advocating 100% conversion over.” It’s like no, these are integrated technologies. It’s a partial solution. It’s something where it may be, that anything you do that’s sort of more eco-groovy is better than doing nothing at all. So if you’re to take a percentage of your power with renewable energy from solar, wind power, whatever, you don’t have to be on these extremes. It’s funny how people don’t find the gray areas sometimes.
But I think that’s really what we’re talking about is that these types of books can have their place. For some people it can be 100% — sort of the more tech-savvy, reading experience with the digital reader or they’re comfortable with their screen or whatever; they’re just used to it. That’s actually something I want to talk about in a minute, but I think to stand on these extremes is doesn’t really make sense because it’s missing the real point which is that these are viable technologies with viable reading devices. The convenience you mentioned and things like that, it deserves examination.
Staley Krause: Definitely, definitely. And you have to think of yourself as being part of the team that is making these decisions. So it may seem like a minor…you’re not going to make an impact buying ebooks. You have to think about yourself sort of on more collective terms with a group of people making that choice. You rally can make measurable impacts on what’s going on today.
Sean Daily: Well, I’m curious too, I wanted to ask about the publisher side. How do you see your average publisher out there, maybe not some of these more environmentally-friendly, and environmentally-concerned press shops out there, but the ones that are the McGraw Hills and companies like that. How are they responding to these technologies? Are they embracing them? Are they reluctantly embracing them? What’s happening there?
Angela Wieck: They, in fact, great questions. I was just at the book expo in L.A. just last weekend and spent three days talking to publishers from morning to night about this. It is on the forefront of every single publisher’s business outlook. This is what they’re doing and this is where they’re headed. We have to give them kudos too. The consumer is making a good choice in buying ebooks and these publishers are making sacrifices as well to enter this marketplace. So it’s seems like everybody is moving in this direction and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Sean Daily: Yeah, it definitely will be. I see that it’s sort of a three-pronged (since this is an industry that I’ve been either involved in or interested in for so long now over 10 years), the three things that have always come to mind for me is challenges or hurdles for industries to overcome have been the availability of titles, the cost, and the reading technology. Not necessarily in that order, but the three sort of prongs of challenge with the adoption of the technologies. We talked, we addressed the availability. I’m curious on the cost side. What are people willing to pay for these types of books versus something they can hold in their hands. Is there a percentage figure decrease you can attach to that or is there any decrease at all?
Angela Wieck: You know it sort of depends on the title. We’re finding certainly on the currclick side, with the home-school titles, if it’s a workbook and it’s priced at $5.99. People are willing to just pay $5.99. It sort of depends on the pricing, but I think in general, publishers are discounting about 30%. I think it’s so exciting with this whole simplification movement that is part of the environmental movement. It’s just trying to reduce your stuff. Everybody has so much stuff. I love that ebooks aren’t physical things that you can pick up or put on your coffee table or show people. You buy them and it sort of emphasizes the idea that this knowledge and this information is really and it’s valuable and it’s worth something. And that’s kind of an exciting, more philosophical element to the ebook marketplace too.
Sean: I think that, I haven’t done the math thing exactly, but it’s a real win-win in my mind. Even because of all the shipping costs you mentioned the 30% discount average, I think that that represents (because of all the shipping costs that you mentioned) and never mind the ecological impact of shipping with trucks and planes and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” right? So you can move beyond that, you’ve got just the sheer cost that that ramps up for the end cost of the book. So, I think there a net gain to everyone involved. You get the 30% discount on the cost of the book, but you get the instant gratification. You have the same content that you would have had otherwise. That just makes sense. From the publisher’s standpoint, I would think that those costs, that cost-structure around traditional delivery of the printed book are so hefty that they’re so ahead of the game. I’d be hard pressed to imagine I’m wrong to say they’d be ahead of the game even with the 30% discount.
Angela Wieck: You are absolutely right. They make much more money on an ebook than they do on a printed book. No question. The cost of printing is huge and delivery, all of it — absolutely.
Sean Daily: that’s great. I hope that this continues to be adopted by the average Joe, not just the people that are either on the digirotty or people who in this case with a niche-market who are into environmentalism, but rather the mass market starts to get this too. I’d much rather see that than the heavier adoption of audio books because I think audio books are great, but they’re great for when you’re in your car and things like that then the idea of everybody walking around and never reading a printed book is kind of a frightening thought. I definitely see this as a more beneficial technology for everyone from my viewpoint.
One other last point I wanted to make and involve you in discussion on is I remember when I was a Microsoft tech guy. I went to a conference. I was at Microsoft Tech at a conference and there was a guy there who was just a character, this guy, Bill Hill. He speaks in a very thick Scottish brogue. He’s there, I think he still is.
He was involved in their digital technologies for reading. He’s a funny guy and he was talking about, he just laid it really right out there that the perfect interface in the world is the book. You talk about computer interfaces and all these other human interfaces. The book, you cannot improve on it. We and they understood that. They failed miserably against Adobe with Microsoft reader technology. That didn’t seem to help them have this guy who’s a genius, but that was something he pointed out very clearly. We know we can’t improve upon this interface so all we can hope to do is emulate it as best as possible. I think collectively for the industry, that’s really where it’s been. How can we, in a virtually tactile way (if I can put those words together), represent this experience of reading a book as best as possible.
I think the Amazon Kendall (which is their reader device) is a good step in the right direction. There are a number of other companies that have had these devices, most of which have just failed miserably. It seems like Amazon’s device is starting to do pretty well. So, that’s a positive sign for the industry. In your estimation, where are we on that curve. Do you think with Kendall or any other reader maybe one that haven’t mentioned, that experience is getting closer to actually reading a book where people, it’s blurring the line?
Angela Wieck: Yes, I think it is. I was just at the EA and Kendall had its own huge, huge booth.
They’re Amazon, after all. They’re really interesting in that they’re the shape of a book and they’re sort of a similar weight. And it does mirror book reading. It’s interesting. I think it reaches a different marketplace than we do because you have that $400, $300-something investment in the piece of hardware.
Sean Daily: Yes, it’s pricey.
Angela Wieck: So I think the ebooks, and I was talking to another publisher, and this is early in Kendall’s evolution, but other publishers are saying that by far still pdf sales, ebook sales are much beyond anything that Kendall is selling, but they’re just getting started. Amazon is huge and Amazon can sort of move the whole industry forward in any way it wants to. I think everybody else is sort of along for the ride.
Sean Daily: Yes, definitely. They’re leading edge, but there’s no way they can control it because pdf is it’s own industry and open standards is always going to be important regardless of the market that all publishers and all customers can participate in. I’m curious, what do you think is the best answer, the more open, pdf-friendly
answer to Kendall that’s on the market right now?
Angela Wieck: Well, pdf is it. Pdf is the only thing that’s universal. Kendall is completely proprietary. It is, yes.
Staley Krause: A monopoly.
Angela Wieck: It is, yes.
Sean Daily: I’m sorry. I meant more on the hardware. I should’ve clarified that question.
Angela Wieck: Oh, “laptop computers” is my answer. Sony works with Sony and Kendall works with Kendall. Honestly, the computer is the only thing that takes on this sort of universal format that is pdf.
Sean Daily: OK. So you don’t really feel that there’s sort of a hand-held device that somebody could use with pdf’s that’s going to be sort of, because a laptop is an expensive proposition for somebody who doesn’t already have one. A lot of people have laptops, but not everybody. Somebody who was just more of a pure reader that said I just want a hand-held device, but I don’t want to go the Amazon route, and I want to just use pdf’s. Have you seen any devices or did you see any at the show that were competitive with Kendall?
Angela Wieck: No. Nobody’s up there with Kendall, but Sony gets great reviews. I’m on a couple of ebook reader eGroups and I hear a lot of talk. Sony gets a lot of good feedback, but the main complaint I hear is that there’s no universal device that works for everything and so that does frustrate people.
Sean Daily: I would think that that has to change. It just simply has to change with the development of these technologies that that’s where it has to go. It’s all about…it would be like hearing music that you couldn’t play in different players. That just doesn’t make any sense.
Angela Wieck: Sounds like a big business opportunity.
Sean Daily: Oh, I wish I had the bandwidth to get involved. My plate’s full. Well, you guys might be able to that.
Staley Krause: There you go.
Staley Krause: So maybe we should talk. Something I wanted to mention in terms of who is reading ebooks and the change. And something Staley mentioned earlier, you can have fantastic graphics which would be very expensive to print. You can have beautiful photographs, things you might not get with a printed book which is nice to see as well and I think really exciting. And the other thing that we eluded to the fact that the younger generations are really embracing this and kids really are. Reading a novel on a computer is going to be normal. And so I think that this is just going to take off and it’s so exciting to be a part of it.
Sean Daily: Yes, I agree. I think it’s one of these things where, people, detractors will point to the false starts that have happened, but that’s happened in almost every industry. I mean, look at the electric car. We’re going to get there. It’s just a question of how and when and with which product. I can point to a ton of other technologies too. Solar technology in the 70’s was big and then it went away for 30 years and now it’s come back with a passion, with a vengeance. So, I think it’s just a question of when, not if, we get there.
Staley Krause: Oh yes, for sure.
Angela Wieck: It’s only been like 10 years. It’s a short sort of evolution in the great scheme of things.
People were talking about it in the 90’s and now it seems to finally have come to fruition.
Sean Daily: Yes. Well I think we’re definitely getting there. Well, I could…I’m going to have to shut myself up because I could go on talking all day. It’s a fascinating topic and one that affects literally everybody; almost everyone does some form of reading for pleasure, for work, or what have you; for school of course. So, anyway, I really appreciate both of you coming on the program today to share your viewpoint on the industry and tell us about EcoBrain and I think we have lots more to talk about so I’d love to have you guys come back if you’d be so good as to come back at some point to do some sort of follow up on, sort of an update on the industry.
Staley Krause: That would be great.
Angela Wieck: Great. Yes. We’d love to.
Sean Daily: OK great. Well, my guests today have been Angela Wieck and Staley Krause and you can find them on www.EcoBrain.com and they focus on environmental ebooks and that about says it all. I won’t forget to mention also, the other site which is currclick, c-u-r-r-c-l-i-c-k.com which is focused on home-schooling books. So, thank you everyone for listening in today.
I want to mention if you’re interested in this topic, you should definitely checkout the GreenLivingIdeas.com site under topics, EcoHomeLiving and Reading. We’ve got a whole section including green your reading experience, signup for the sustainable reading movement, this podcast and much more content to come. It’s a huge focus for us now. So we invite you to check us out and give us your comments and feedback. Thank you everyone, we’ll talk to you again next time on GreenTalk Radio.