Before we get too far into 2011, it’s time to announce the ebookish.com.au award winners for 2010. We had planned to announce them between Christmas and New Year, but have been unable to think about anything ebookish other than whether it’s safe to take Kindles and iPads to the beach or swimming pool until now.
(The iPad was fine for reading by my dad’s pool in a shady spot, but I realized after one beach trip that I was too scared about it getting sandy or wet, or stolen while we were swimming, so instead found myself reading a magazine and a sample chapter of Jennifer Weiner’s latest book, which I have subsequently had to buy as a physical book because it’s not available as an ebook here. Why not? Must ask Simon & Schuster.)
Anyway, now that we’re getting ready to knuckle down again post Australia Day, here are the winners of our inaugural awards. Please let us know what you think via Twitter (@ebookish #ebookishawards) or leave a comment on this page to tell us who (or what) you thought should top each category and why, to suggest contenders we’ve overlooked, and to make predictions about next year. Many, many thanks to @bookthingo and @ PnPBookseller for their feedback.
Australian person of the year
Australian Publishers Association chief executive officer Maree McCaskill and industry professional development manager Dee Read for hosting the sold-out Digital Revolution: Publishing in the 21st Century symposium in Sydney and Melbourne in February that jolted Australian publishers into ebook action.
You can see video of many of the symposium’s presentations on the APA website .
The conference would not have happened without the efforts of the APA’s Digital Publishing Training Steering Group, which consisted of Allen & Unwin academic and digital publishing director Elizabeth Weiss, Macmillan digital strategy manager Victoria Nash, co-founder and director of Spinifex Press Susan Hawthorne, digital publishing consultant Anna Maguire, Read and program officer at the Literature Board of the Australia Council Nicola Evans.
Australian publisher of the year
Brett Osmond (Random House), Victoria Nash (Pan Macmillan) and Elizabeth Weiss (Allen & Unwin) shared their experiences in digital publishing with hundreds of book industry colleagues at the Digital Revolution: Publishing in the 21st Century symposium in February and the Australian Booksellers Association’s The Future is Now: eBooks and bookselling in Australia seminar in August, and with a wider bookish audience through their many interviews with journalists (and bloggers!) this year.
Media outlet of the year (Australia)
Mainstream media couldn’t keep up with developments in digital publishing this year. In one notable example, a major metropolitan daily stated that it was finally possible to read ebooks on the iPad after Apple added paid content to its iBookstore, not realizing that iPad owners had been reading paid content via the Kindle and Kobo apps, and free books via iBooks, since the iPad’s May launch.
Technology blogs were great for gadgets news and reviews, but not so strong on implications for the book industry itself.
Bloggers like Bookbee and ebookish do their best in between day jobs and family commitments, but can’t always keep up with full-time publications with paid staff.
Bookseller & Publisher’s publisher, Tim Coronel, and editorial team members Matthia Dempsey, Andrea Hanke, Eloise Keating and Andrew Wrathall kept booksellers, publishers and people like us informed every step of the way. If you’re not a subscriber and you’re interested in the book industry, email firstname.lastname@example.org ASAP.
(Disclaimer: ebookish.com.au’s editor, Charlotte Harper, was an occasional paid contributor to Bookseller & Publisher’s magazine and website in 2010, is on staff at Fairfax Media’s The Canberra Times and contributed to smh.com.au/theage.com.au throughout the year.)
Media outlet of the year (international)
ebookNewser is the must-read news source in this field. Though US-based and focused, the site covers major Australian ebook news too.
Dedicated e-reader of the year
I was so sure the Kindle 3 would take out this category. It’s the best looking of the e-readers, and the easiest to use. It’s cheap, and the syncing between it and the various Kindle apps, and ability to download books anywhere via 3G, are the stuff of ebook geek fantasy.
However, the Sony Readers’ touchscreens are far superior for page turning to Amazon’s buttons (and particularly to the Kobo’s, which are only on the right hand side). Annotation is slightly clunky, but a great function that works better than attempting to type anything into the Kindle.
The Sony Reader Pocket is light enough to use in one hand, while the Kindle and Kobo require two.
The real clincher, though, is content. I ended up selling my Kindle on eBay within days of buying it. Of the first 40 books I tried to download for it, only three were available in the Kindle store. Amazon needs to make some serious headway in its dealings with Australian publishers before I’ll look at it again.
Tablet of the year
Surprisingly, this was a tough call. Of all the gadgets ebookish.com.au tested this year, the Dell Streak was the best for straight e-reading, ePub-style. The elongated touchscreen, with colour for viewing covers and virtual bookcases, is ideally sized for reading when held horizontally – even if using only one hand. All Android e-reading apps work fine on it. But for everything else, from email, contacts and calendar, to cameras and telephony, it’s a little clunky to use.
After reluctantly sending the review model Streak back, I fell in love with the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Its colour touchscreen is larger –closer to the size of a small paperback – which makes it more user-friendly for everyday tasks and great for sharing photos or videos. Its built-in cameras and phone capability, and relative light weight, make it a serious competitor to the iPad, iPhone and any small digital still or video camera. One gadget to replace them all …
But in the end, the iPad won out. Apple’s AppStore is exclusively home to dozens, perhaps hundreds now, of enhanced ebooks (and so many more apps than the Android Market in general). Also, because it is possible to read Borders/Kobo and Kindle books via their iPad apps, and because Apple’s iBooks is exclusive to Apple iGadgets, the iPad is the device that provides access to the greatest range of titles from the widest cross-section of publishers.
Bring on the iPad 2, with retinal display, cameras, telephony and less weight. My handbag strap (and hungry eyes) can’t wait.
Smartphone of the year
Apple’s retinal display, introduced with the iPhone 4, is a huge development in digital publishing. If you haven’t taken a close look, borrow a friend’s iPhone and do so soon. Every other screen now seems blurry in comparison. The iPhone wins for some of the same reasons as the iPad – it also offers iBooks, unlike Android, Windows or Blackberry phones. The HTC Desire HD is highly regarded by tech reviewers, but it’s not as sexy as the iPhone. Nowhere near.
Now, if Apple would just release the white iPhone 4 … some of us are still waiting and hoping.
Ebookstore of the year
Borders powered by Kobo launched just ahead of the iPad, has made its content available for every major e-reading platform possible (Amazon’s Kindle is a closed shop) including Apple and Android gadgets via apps, Kobo’s own e-reader, and Sony’s Reader devices. The retailer was the first in Australia to sign distribution agreements with every major publisher here, and followed that up by bringing the publishers’ ebooks to customers fast, and with competitive pricing.
Borders powered by Kobo was also quick to share its ebook start-up experiences with fellow booksellers at conferences and through media and blog interviews – particularly through the efforts of Malcolm Neil, then with REDGroup and now at Kobo itself.
Ebookstore/ereading app of the year
The Borders app syncing never quite worked for me, and I was even more frustrated when our wireless broadband went through a stage of regular dropouts, because this would cause whichever book I was reading at the time to crash, requiring a re-download of the app, and the book, once the broadband was back up again. I have since bought a $150 one-off annual 3G SIM from Vodafone for the iPad which prevents this problem, but still.
The Kindle app suffers from the same lack of Australian content as the Kindle e-reader, but its Whispersync technology and instant downloading of purchases on the go are the benchmark others should work to meet.
Apps like Bluefire and Aldiko are ones to watch and absolutely worth having – the beauty of reading via apps is that you can switch between multiple apps rather than signing up with one for the duration, as you would if you were only ever to read on a Kindle.
I’m particularly impressed by the prospect of reading library books via the Bluefire app, but couldn’t find any ebooks I actually wanted to read in our local library. Maybe by next year …
Bestselling ebook of the year in Australia (Australian author)
[Given Apple and Amazon won't tell us anything, we'll ask Kobo which titles were its biggest sellers this year and get back to you.]
Sharon Davis, Internet Category Manager – Book & eBook, for Borders contacted me within minutes of my posting the above just before Christmas to provide a list. So here are our top Australian digital authors for the year (well, from late May when Borders launched its ebooks offering):
1. The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do
2. At Home With the Templetons – Monica McInerney
3. Truth – Peter Temple
4. Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
5. Lazarus Rising – John Howard
Bestselling ebook of the year in Australia (international author)
[See previous. My guess though? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.]
With thanks again to Sharon, here are the international bestsellers:
1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (from Sharon: actually the whole trilogy took out the top 3 spots but for the sake of interest I’ve listed the next best selling after those)
2. Eat, Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
3. The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown
4 Worth Dying For – Lee Child
5. Run for your Life – James Patterson
App/enhanced ebook of the year (Australian)
The people at Lonely Planet have always been trailblazers – from publishing guides to countries no one much else had even visited, to adapting content to the web in an interactive and practical way, way before its competitors. Today, they’re breaking ground in the publication of enhanced ebooks and apps. Lonely Planet’s 1000 Experiences app was included in Apple’s media demonstrations of the iPad on launch day in May, and with good reason. Few apps better demonstrate the capabilities of the device. It’s beautiful, it’s intuitive, it’s useful, it’s fun … if you haven’t seen it, ask a friend with an iPad for a look.
Being a long-time Paul Kelly fan, I was excited about Penguin Australia’s How to Make Gravy app, but disappointed it didn’t offer an option to pay more for a version including every track rather than a selection.
The Animalia app is just as gorgeous as the print edition, but not quite as intuitive to navigate.
App/enhanced ebook of the year (international)
The Elements was another app used by Apple geeks to demonstrate the capabilities of their new magical device on iPad launch day. Many have tried to make the periodic table cool. These guys have absolutely done it. Every high school science student should have access.
Alice in Wonderland is very cute, but a bit gimmicky. The Cat in the Hat gives a great insight into how kids book apps can be just as good, if not better given interactive options to help with spelling and vocabulary, as print books.
Each of these three is a winner in its own curious little category.
Calibre is open source ebook library management software. Once you’ve imported all your ebooks to its interface, you can manage the files, convert between formats, synchronise devices, and even import copy from news websites and RSS feeds. It’s best suited to users of e-ink devices like Sony’s Readers.
So what’s lostbooksales.com?
“Fed up with digital book pricing, books not digitized, or geographical restrictions? Frustrated with the formats the books you want are published in? Want to make your voice heard? Submit your Lost Sale Story. We are compiling the stories and making authors, agents and publishers know that we have money and we want to spend it but they aren’t making it easy.”
There are not enough hours in the day for me to submit all the titles I’ve wanted as ebooks and had to either buy in print, or from a retailer other than my preferred one due to a deal not being in place between it and the publisher, or just not buy at all. This is something publishers need to consider very seriously. Can they afford to miss out on all these sales?
Finally, It’s a Book. The YouTube video says it all really. This delightful children’s book has a message for all of us about the permanency of print and the pitfalls of ebooks and ereaders. Booksellers all over the country, concerned about the impact of the digital revolution on their businesses and lives, could see in It’s a Book the reflection of everything they hate about ebooks (impersonal, disposable etc) and all that they love about print books (especially the tactile experience of holding a book and turning its pages). It’s a Book is published by Walker Books in Australia, and available in good independent bookstores, which we must all support if we want them to be around for much longer.