Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Archive for the 'ebooks' Category

Amazon vs. Macmillan: increasing jeopardy and rising stakes

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Last week in Montreal, I gave a talk about how one structures a story. I spoke about how the stakes should get higher and higher with each subsequent plot revelation. This weekend, we encountered a perfect real-life example of that structure: First revelation: my books are no longer on sale at (personal jeopardy) Second […]

eBook pricing

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Scott Westerfeld says it well in his blog: All discussions of [the Amazon/Macmillan war] will draw commenters who think they magically know how books should be priced, and who say there is no reason for electronic editions to be more than $9.99. A quick note to them: You don’t know what you’re talking about. Seriously, […] no longer carrying Tor Books

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Holy crap! See this coverage from The New York Times. Tor is the publisher of the current North American editions of my novels Golden Fleece, Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, Foreigner, End of an Era, Frameshift, Factoring Humanity, FlashForward, Calculating God, Hominids, Humans, Hybrids, Mindscan, and Rollback, all of which are still in print. This really, really […]

Kindle vs. iPad

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

So different: e-ink vs. backlit LED; dedicated ebook reader vs. multipurpose device. Not sure which one I want — may have to get both! :D Robert J. Sawyer online:Website • Facebook • Twitter • Newsgroup • Email

A great article about ebooks

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

I’ve been trying to find time to write a tirade about the quality failure of most ebook editions (recent travesties in books I’ve bought from commercial publishers: the entire book being centered in one, no indenting or blank space between paragraphs in another) But it doesn’t have to be that blatant to still result in […]

Amazon’s 70% royalty

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Sounds pretty good — but note that Tor (well, its parent corporation, but Tor has to toe the line) recently cut ebook royalties paid to author to 20% of net proceeds. Which frankly sucks. So, for a $9.99 eBook sold on the Kindle under this new scheme: Tor’s share: $5.60Amazon’s share: $3.00Author’s share: $1.40 Other […]

More Foxit eSlick / eReader woes

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Trying to read the book The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, purchased from Fictionwise, locks up the Foxit eSlick (a dedicated ebook reader using e-ink technology, sold by Fictionwise and Foxit). You can turn pages until you reach the page with the dedication (page 8 at the default font size in portrait mode), […]

ECTACO jetBook – Lite firmware apparently fixed

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

It’s gonna be a few days before I have time to play around with doing a firmware upgrade, but over at the ECTACO forum, user JeePea reports that the various problems I and others have reported with the ECTACO jetBook – Lite handling ebooks in eReader format (Fictionwise and Barnes and Noble’s DRM ebook format) […]

Kindle DX comes to Canada — and the world — on January 19

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

The large-screen Kindle DX from is now available for pre-order for Canada (and other countries around the world); it has a 9.7-inch screen compared to the regular Kindle’s 6.0-inch one. (Until now, only the regular Kindle has been available outside the US — and even that’s a recent occurrence.) The Kindle DX Global Wireless […]

Barnes & Noble Desktop Reader

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

The Barnes & Noble Desktop Reader for Windows is a new wrapper around the long-standing eReader Pro for Windows software, with some new features, and some old ones removed. It’s mostly a very nice ebook-reading platform for Windows, but I sent three notes to B&N tech support today with comments and suggestions: I like the […]

Fictionwise updates ECTACO jetBook – Lite ad

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Yesterday, in reviewing the $149.95 ECTACO jetBook – Lite (currently on sale at with a $50 store credit toward ebook purchases), I pointed out that the device does not support dictionary lookup when reading eReader-format ebooks (eReader is Fictionwise’s own format), despite the graphic to the contrary, saying, “Really, Fictionwise-folk, you must take down […]

ECTACO jetBook – Lite and eReader

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Here’s my experience after two hours with the ECTACO jetBook – Lite, an AA-battery-operated dedicated ebook reader with a very nice black-and-white non-backlit LCD sceen (instead of an e-ink display). I bought this specifically to read eReader-formatted books from; Fictionwise is promoting this reader on their site. Despite Fictionwise’s ad here, which shows “Dictionary” […]

Foxit eSlick and eReader ebooks

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I’ve just received my Foxit eSlick, a dedicated ebook-reading device, under the current Fictionwise promotion. Delivery was very fast, even to Canada. I’ve waited a long time for an e-ink ebook-reading device that supports secure eReader format. This device does, but with some major deficiencies. These eReader features, standard on other platforms, are NOT supported: […]

Huge changes at

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

I’ve long been a customer of, which was recently purchased by Barnes & Noble. But there’s been a huge change in Fictionwise policy, and the only announcement I’ve seen is a notice at the very end of the pro forma receipt email you’re sent after making a purchase there: NOTICE: You should download your […]

Bringing some sense to ebook pricing

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

My favorite ebook format is eReader (now ultimately owned by Barnes & Noble), and they’ve announced some nice pricing initiatives over at, which should help to bring some sanity to ebook pricing: has the most competitive pricing in the industry, including: All new titles are $9.95 or less for the first week after […]

National Federation of the Blind launches lawsuit to prevent Kindles from being used

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Because, as I’ve said all along, the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle series of ebook-reading device was not conceived as, never was intended to be, and can’t be used as an assistive technology for the blind. Read about the lawsuit here. Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Siteand

Richard Curtis on the Kindle and the blind

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

As always, Richard Curtis — a leading literary agent — has words of measured wisdom on the furor over the disabling of text-to-speech on the Amazon Kindle. You can read what Richard has to say on this topic in his blog at E-Reads. Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Siteand

Digitial Barbarism

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Just bought Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto by Mark Halperin and am very much looking forward to reading it. From the publisher: Renowned novelist Mark Helprin offers a ringing Jeffersonian defense of private property in the age of digital culture, with its degradation of thought and language, and collectivist bias against the rights of individual […]

The Authors Guild responds to the National Federation of the Blind

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

From The Authors Guild, of which I am a member: Today, the National Federation of the Blind led a protest in front of the Guild’s offices in Manhattan. This protest stems from Amazon’s announcement in February that it would allow publishers to disable the voice-output feature of its Kindle 2 after we had objected that […]

Pre-order the Wake ebook

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 has the ebook of my next novel Wake available for pre-order right here. The ebook — and the paper book — will be available April 7, 2009. The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Yesterday, Publishers Weekly posted a good article about Fictionwise, the company I buy most of my ebooks from (I’ve purchased 1,230 ebooks of various lengths from them), and the company that offers the largest amount of RJS content electronically. And today, I got my Fictionwise royalty check — cool. The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

The Authors Guild on reversal

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

The Authors Guild sent this note to its members today concerning’s announcment last week: Amazon Reversal on Text to Speech on the Kindle 2 At the end of the business day on Friday, Amazon announced that it would allow publishers (and thereby many authors) to block text-to-speech audio functionality on a title-by-title basis for […]

Why ebooks cost so much

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Richard Curtis was my first literary agent (and he still represents several of my friends, including James Alan Gardner, Linux guru Marcel Gagn&eacute, Harlan Ellison, and Greg Bear). Richard is one of the most insightful writers about the book business, and here he sheds light on the mystery of why ebooks cost so much. The […] statement re Kindle and text-to-speech

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 released this statement on Friday: Kindle 2’s experimental text-to-speech feature is legal: no copy is made, no derivative work is created, and no performance is being given. Furthermore, we ourselves are a major participant in the professionally narrated audiobooks business through our subsidiaries Audible and Brilliance. We believe text-to-speech will introduce new customers to […]

New York Times op-ed: "The Kindle Swindle?"

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Today’s New York Times has an op-ed piece by Roy Blount, Jr., president of the Authors Guild, entitled The Kindle Swindle? The Authors Guild has also put up a web page with demos of the Kindle’s text-to-speech (TTS) feature here. Oh, and by the way, not on this topic, but I occassionally do op-eds myself […]

eReader in beta for the BlackBerry Storm

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Woot! eReader, my favourite ebook application — recently released for the iPhone — is now in beta for the BlackBerry Storm. Now, if they’d just get a version for an e-ink reader to market … eReader has a fair and livable DRM scheme tied to the user, rather than the user’s hardware (unlike Mobipocket), and is […]

Investing financially and emotionally in an eBook reader

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

An interesting phenomenon has emerged with discussion of ebook readers. You see it over on the iRex discussion forum, and in the hardware-specific topics on (the Kindle section, the Sony Reader section, and so on), and elsewhere: any criticism of the device (the hardware, the availability of content for it, and so on), is […]

And, just in case anyone has any doubts

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

… I love the Kindle, as I said loudly and clearly right here when it first came out. It’s a great piece of hardware, and Jeff Bezos has done a lot to bring pricing sensibility to the ebook marketplace. The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

To get major publisher content for the Kindle …

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

… you have to buy from the Kindle store. Over on, they have a thread entitled “Kindle Myths and Partial Truths,” in which the very first claim is this: Myth: If you buy a Kindle, you are locked into Amazon’s Kindle store. Truth: There are many sources for books that can be read […]

Kindle 2, the Authors Guild, and the National Federation for the Blind

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

As I’ve already said, I support the ability of the blind and visually impaired to be able to use assistive technologies — including screen-readers — to access text. Hell, anyone who’s read my Wake (recently serialized in Analog), which has a blind girl as the main character, can’t have any doubts about that. My grandfather […]