Dan: Hello, I'm Dan, and Alice has joined me for today's 6 Minute English. Hello, Alice!
Alice: Hi Dan.
Dan: Today we're talking about the rise of electronic books, or ebooks. Digital devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, the Apple iPad and the Sony Reader, allow readers to buy ebooks online, and to download thousands of books onto one device.
Alice: There are a few words there that are really useful when talking about ebooks:
Digital here means anything connected with computers or electronics.
To download means to copy information onto a computer or digital device. And online means connected to the internet.
Dan: Earlier this year, the online bookshop Amazon.com said it's now selling more electronic books in the US than printed ones. And that leads us onto this week's question for you, Alice: In May this year, how many ebooks were available on the British Amazon site: Was it:
c) 6.5 million
Alice: I’ll go for the middle one; 650,000.
Dan: OK then, we’ll see if you're right at the end of the programme. Now, as I said, ebooks are becoming more popular. Amazon.com announced that sales of ebooks doubled in 2010. Last year ebooks sales overtook sales of hardback books, and in January this year they overtook sales of paperback books.
Alice: Hardbacks are books with stiff covers; they’re usually more expensive and last longer.
Paperbacks, on the other hand, are books with flexible paper covers and usually cost a bit less. So if ebooks are selling more than both hardback and paperback books, Dan, how is this affecting the books industry?
Dan: Well, the books industry - what we call publishing - is in trouble generally. The American bookstore Borders was declared bankrupt earlier this year and the British book seller Waterstones has reported serious losses.
Alice: Borders was declared bankrupt - it said that it couldn't pay its debts. So it's a tough time for the publishing world.
Dan: But not everyone is suffering; with the rise of ebooks, there's also been an increase in self-publishing. Could you explain this for us please, Alice?
Alice: Sure – to publish something means to print something and make it public, usually a book, a magazine or a newspaper. So if an author self-publishes a book, they pay to publish their own work, without using a publishing company.
Dan: Let's listen to Sarah Lloyd, the digital director of UK publishing company Pan Macmillan. Here she is talking about how authors are reacting to the digital developments in the books industry. She says the basic process of writing will stay quite stable; it's unlikely to change. What types of authors does she think will particularly succeed?
Sarah Lloyd, Pan Macmillan digital director: I think that the basic process of writing will stay quite stable. But the authors who will do particularly well are ones who will think about how they build a digital audience; those that blog or write their books a little bit in public. So I think living a life online is going to be important for authors.
Dan: So for Sarah there, the authors who will do particularly well are ones who build digital audiences and who live their lives online.
Alice: She says that authors who write blogs and who have a strong online presence are more likely to succeed than those who don't.
Dan: Let's hear now from the British author, Sarah Waters. She says that strong characters, plots and settings will always be the most important part of a book, regardless of the format.
Alice: The characters – the people in the books; the plots – the things that happen; and the settings – the places featured in the novels.
Dan: Listen out too for the phrase 'nuts and bolts'. See if you can work out what it means from the context:
Sarah Waters, author: We read our books whether we read them on our phones or on our laptops or whatever – you still need content. And the attraction of novels is that they create these worlds; you know, they're quite leisurely. And all that side of writing, I don't think, is going to change; we're still going to want characters and plots and settings; the real sort of basic nuts and bolts of fiction. I think people will still want that regardless of the format in which they're getting it.
Dan: Did you hear the phrase 'nuts and bolts'?
Alice: She said that characters, plots and setting are the basic nuts and bolts of fiction. They're the basic, essential parts.
Dan: Right Alice, back to today's question. I asked how many ebooks were available in May 2011 on the British Amazon site: Was it:
c) 6.5 million
Alice: And I said the middle one; 650,000.
Dan: And the answer was 650,000, so you were right.
Alice: Oh, good!
Dan: But the number is increasing all the time, so it might be in the millions soon.
Dan: Well Alice, before we go, let's hear some of the words and phrases we've used
in today's programme:
the nuts and bolts
Dan: Thanks, Alice. I hope you've enjoyed today's programme and you'll join us again for more 6 Minute English next time.
ebooks: electronic books (which can be read on electronic devices like the Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad)
digital: something which operates by using a computer processor
to download: to get information or digital material from a source on the internet and save it onto your computer or digital device
online: on the internet
hardbacks books: with stiff, hard covers
paperbacks books: with covers made of card which can be easily bent or creased
bankrupt: unable to pay back the debts it owes
to publish: to print something written, or make it available to the public
stable: not likely to change or come to an end
the nuts and bolts: the basic, essential parts
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