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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Books, Pamphlets & Lecture Notes » » Is the Era of Big Magic Books Over? (15 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Spasm
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As more and more magicians/mentalists/entertainers begin to release their work in e-book form, I have to wonder if the age of the printed magic book is soon coming to an end.

First of all let me be clear. I am not against the production and distribution of e-books. I have in the past and will continue to purchase them in the future. The advantages of e-books are obvious. They're fairly cheap to produce and their distribution is unlimited. Especially in a market such as ours where the information is paramount over the appearance of the book itself. E-books simply make more sense.

My question, however, is not about the format of the work but the contents inside. Increasingly, I find myself purchasing smaller and smaller booklets (electronic or otherwise) often that have fewer than a dozen effects inside them. I have to believe that it won't be long before we will all be ordering our effects a la carte from the creator much like a magical version of iTunes.

Again, this is not a rant against technology, it is more of an eulogy for the great massive tomes of the past. Books such as MMMagick, 13 steps, and Stunners that contain a creator's life work will soon become ancient relics of the past. The majority of us in the future will simply skim off the best effects and leave the rest to the cyber ether just as we do today with music albums.

This is what I will miss the most, these "lesser" effects. Those effects that are not closers in themselves or those that did not strike me for one reason or another during the first reading. It is often within these lesser effects that I have found the very idea or concept that I needed to create or personalize a different effect. I wonder if future generations will have the same access to these ideas or if we will simply recycle, repackage, and resell them all once again.

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Larry Barnowsky
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I am of the generation of magicians who learned all his fundamentals from books. I enjoy watching videos of capable magicians but as anyone who's has some experience knows, magic on video is staged and filmed to enhance the performance. Books provide more detail and leave more to the imagination so clones are not created.

Ebooks and small booklets are fine but I question the value you are getting. Compare a booklet or small manuscript with a few effects or moves to something like The Complete Works of Derek Dingle, David Regal's Up Close and Personal and Stars of Magic to name a few. Some of these small pubications cost as much as a hardcover book.

As the author of one hardcover book (21st Century Coin Mechanics) and and upcoming larger hardcover book (Kingdom of the Red...) I can tell you that writing, editing, and illustrating a book takes an enormous amount of time and money invested, and then you have to deal with the layout artist, cover artist, printing project manager, ISBN and copyright offices, and advertising and distributing the book. It takes about a year from the first word to a book that's ready to ship. I can see why people do ebooks or videos. However, I have yet to find a medium other than a book that is more suitable in terms of practicality, longevity, and esthetics. I'm glad I didn't buy any magic instructions on 8-Track or Betamax. Smile

-Larry
Spasm
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I completely agree with you Larry that DVDs, while perhaps valuable in seeing the nuances of a particular performance, make it far too easy to simply replicate that performer's style rather than adapting it to your own. On the other hand, ten different performers could read the same effect in a book, and they would come up with ten different interpretations of how that effect could be presented within the framework of their own persona/material.

You do bring up a very interesting point about the Betamax reference even if you had meant it purely as a joke. I do own (in a forgotten pile somewhere) several VHS and audio instructional tapes that have long since become extinct technologically. I can't help but wonder if this generation rasied on DVD and .pdf files will still have access to this material twenty (or even ten) years from now.
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Turk
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IMHO, four of the real disadvantages with e-books is that:

1. They tend to be much less substantial in scope than a printed book. I would hazard a guess that a majority (substantial majority?) of the e-books released have very few effects in them (maybe 5-6 and usually 1 or 2?) instead of the 12-13 or the 15-20 effects that hardback books tend to carry, and,

2. More and more e-books are going for $20-50 for an e-book!! This is beginning to contibute to "magic cost inflation" and to less respect of magic as Art, and, instead, more of a realization that a lot of the magic sold today is sold by sellers turning out extremely derivative material and scrambling mainly to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible--thereby causing the perception in the eyes of magic buyer that magic has become merely another commoditized item and is no longer a piece of Art or an item due the reverence and respect that magic was given in yesteryear. Sellers and dealer cannot have it both ways. If the sellers and the dealer refuse to treat all magic as Art, they cannot require or expect buyers to do so, and,

3. In addition to the selling price, E-books are not really any less expensive for the buyer. By the time you get done using your inkjet printer and paying for the high costs of ink jet printer cartridges, paper and binding, you are close to the price that a hardback version would have cost, and,

4. A lot of the magic sites (Macgic Café included) do not allow for the resale of e-books. So, if you buy an e-book that is really "not you" or is a real turkey, you will have a great deal of difficulty recouping any of your losses. As such, you are basically stuck with the darn thing. I believe that this results in a lot of the magic buyers deciding amongst themselves to alternate the purchase of e-books amongst themselves and then the "free" distribution of the e-book file to the others in that "buyer clique". This results in the sellers realizing even less sales than they would have had if they had sold hard back editions of the same work.

Hence, for all these reasons, e-books may quickly become very much less in demand as the realization of these disadvantages begin to sink in. And, as dissatisfied sellers become more and more dissatisfied and feel more and more "taken advantage of" by these e-books and e-book sellers, I can envision a black market developing for the sale and/or trade of e-books (and while keeping a copy of the e-book by the re-seller)--thereby encouraging the pirating of such magic "books".

Just some thoughts that keep coming to the forefront of my mind as I begin to see the glut of low quality e-books hitting the magic scene.

Mike
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foolsnobody
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I learned most of my magic in the era preceding the "Big" magic book. The only book out then that I remember being large size and bound was Stars of Magic. Most of the books were cheaply produced and many of them were cheap! Magic pamphlets around 4X6, or spiral bound notebook size (with hand drawings) were the norm. There was nothing like the $40 quality magic book such as The Magic of Derrick Dingle for example.

I actually liked the smaller cheaper books. Larry Jennings on Card and Coin Handling, Harry Lorayne's book Dingle's Deceptions with Cards and Coins, and also Personal Secrets and My Favorite Card Tricks; the books from Magic Inc. of Vernon (Select Secrets, Early Vernon), lots of Marlo of course, LePaul's book on Brother John Hamman, the Allerton book, pamphlets describing Vernon's ring routine and his cups and balls; I could go on and on. Most of these books were $2-$20 as I recall.

What a GREAT WAY to learn magic. Cheaper than a download too.
Julie
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I remember Irelands/Magic Inc. built quite a business on their "$3 book" format and included just about every facet of the Magic Art and just about every important performer of the day.

Julie
Cameron Francis
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There are many classic "big" magic books that are available in ebook format (ceck out lybrary.com). I for one am glad for this, especially since some of those books are hard to find or more expensive in print form.
MOMENT'S NOTICE LIVE 3 - Six impromptu card tricks! Out now! http://cameronfrancismagic.com/moments-notice-live-3.html
Turk
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Quote:
On 2006-09-28 11:42, cfrancis wrote:
There are many classic "big" magic books that are available in ebook format (ceck out lybrary.com). I for one am glad for this, especially since some of those books are hard to find or more expensive in print form.

CFrancis,

I agree--especially in regards to OOP books or a lot of the "big" books. Good value for your money if you can get over having to either read it from your computer screen or go to the added expense of printing it out.

Mike
Magic is a vanishing Art.

This must not be Kansas anymore, Toto.

Eschew obfuscation.
harishjose
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Can you sell an "used" ebook? Suppose you buy an ebook for say $20, and you found it to be of no use to you. Can you sell it to another person? Everybody is forced to buy a new book in the case of ebooks. There is no salvage value for this product and it is requiring almost nothing to mass produce, no shipping cost, no warehouse cost. Now that is one hard economics lesson to beat.
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Mike Powers
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Having just put out a "big book" I can tell you that the book market is soft. Luckily I was aware of this before determining how many to print. The book (Power Plays) is doing very well and will sell out by the middle of next year. (Buy 2! The price of OOP books is through the ceiling!)

Power Plays has 58 items covered in 238 pages. It's hardbound with a nice dust jacket. (The dust jacket adds $1 to the printing cost of the book, BTW!) It's priced at $40. I had thought about putting out two smaller books at $25 each but decided to go with one big one. I am beginning to think that strictly in terms of profit, I would have been much better off making 3 books with about 20 tricks each for $20 each or perhaps $25 each. Somehow people will drop a $20 bill on a book without blinking. But to spend $40 on a beautifully produced book with illustrations by Tony Dunn etc. seems dicier. Strange...

It's really amazing to see people spend $20 or more on DVD's that teach one trick! Many of the $30 DVDs have only 5 items. Obviously it's true that the quality of the items is the important factor. But it's still amazing to see people drop $20 for one trick on DVD and be reluctant to spend $40 on a hardbound 238 page 8.5x11 inch book with 58 items.

I think part of it is simply marketing. Many of the tricks found on these $20 DVDs would go unnoticed had they been part of a collection of tricks in a book. But when you see a seasoned performer, walking through the mall amazing people with the trick, with high powered music and MTV like camera work, its value becomes dramatically magnified. We see ourselves performing it to throngs of amazed people. It's much harder to visualize yourself killing an audience when you're reading a book. All you get is the description of the trick and how to do it. With DVD you are overpowered by loud music and fancy camera work etc. It's all about marketing, not about value. What's more effective, an ad in a magazine or a TV ad?

In "the old days" there were no DVDs and no video tapes either. BK (Before Kaufman) we didn't care about production quality - just the material. Much of it was mimeographed (no laser printers then) and illustrated with really bad drawings. As long as the material was worth reading, we didn't care. Now production value seems to be as important (except with Sankey stuff) as the material inside.

A major factor in the new marketplace is the incredible volume of material. Much of it is free or very cheap. Monthly I get MAGIC, Genii, MUM, and Linking Ring. I also get Channel 1, Penumbra, and Antimony. Each of these has 5 to 10 tricks - and many of these are good ones too. In "the old days" there was very little good material in magazines. There would be 5 or 6 books coming out per year. It was easily possible to read virtually everything worth looking at. This is not even close to true any more. It's tough to decide what to look at and what to spend time on.

All this having been said, I would also have to say that I love the "new world." I think magic is flourishing in it. Many more people are finding magic as their creative medium. The internet has opened many new doors, both for marketing, distributing and for learning. As an "old timer," I can report that magic is in good hands. I am very impressed with the new generation of magi. Using the new set of "power tools" available, they have advanced the art dramatically.

The allure of the "next cool trick" is very strong. If I were sensible, I'd stop looking and start spending more time on presentation. But then there's the next cool trick.....

Mike
Turk
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Mike,

Thanks for the post. I very much enjoyed reading it.

Regarding your dilemma about one big book versus thre smaller books, I much prefer the one big book. But, as yo say it is harder to sell the one big book than it is to sell a smaller book for $20.00 (and, if you are lucky, three smaller books for $20.00 each).

Have you explored the new strategy in book publishing that is currently being explored by book publishers and some of the large book retailer. I am, of course, referring to "book on demand" priniting whereby you can go into a book retailer (like Barnes and Noble?) and "order" a book on the spot. You pay for the book and then go to Starbucks and have a latte. When you return to the book retailer, the book is complete and waiting for you. All the pages have been printed and the book bound.

I think that Richard Kaufman might be explorign doing this in the future. ther is a huge capital investment for the equipment but I can't help but believe that some enterprising company will get ito the business ans set up and then run custom orders from specialized customers (such as you as a small-time Magic book author).

I do know that this is a highly touted concpt right now. The environmentlaist like it because trees are not needlessly killed for overstocke and under-demanded books; publishers like it for the lower labor costs and iventory costs; retailers like ti becasue it simplfies inventory AND, with "zero inventory" on many items, their "tax on inventory" that local and state governemts goug them on is much less.

Perhaps, in the future, you might be albe to fix your wagon to one of these enterprising new start-up companies.

Mike

P.S. A question I asked on another thread is "If Book on Demand catches on, what consitutes a "First Edition?" Would "First Edition" then have to be determined as only those books published within a certain period of the first printing date? Or would a "First Edition" designation be able to be given to only a certain number of books (like the first 500 in the case of a magic book or 20,000 in the case of a Harry Potter book)? Or, would "First Edition" no longer be a relevant concept or designation?
Magic is a vanishing Art.

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Eschew obfuscation.
kadz
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Mike,
I'm sure a lot of us love big books. But the problem is that a lot of us are from outside USA, and shipping for these kind of books cost about half the price of the book.

When I ask dealers about the shipping price of David Regal's Close up Personal, all of them quoted about $20 to $25 USD.
I love big books, but I guess for overseas customers, the smaller books will fit in a Global Priority large envelope and even then if the book exceeds 4 pounds (if I'm not mistaken), then we will be charged extra to the $9.50 USD that we already have to pay.

Well, for me at least, the issue with big books is not the $40 tag on the book instead of $20 for small books, but the high cost of postage for the book
Turk
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Kadz,

I hear you. Postage that way can be a problem. I sent some material over to a Café member in the UK and the postage cost me $32.00. What I did not know is that I could have sent all of the material in two of the Global Priority envelopes and only paid $18.00!!! Oh well, live and learn.

And, if you think you have problems postage-wise, we have a reciprocal problem with the UK and other Euopean exchange rates. These darn exchange rates have effectively kept me from buying very much from a UK seller. So, I know where you are coming from.

Mike
Magic is a vanishing Art.

This must not be Kansas anymore, Toto.

Eschew obfuscation.
Chris
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I am sorry, but I don't agree with most here. There are many big ebooks for very very low prices. Let me start with the biggest, "The Digital Sphinx". 16,000 pages for $499. That is 3 cents per page. "Encyclopedia of Card Tricks" $6 for 400 pages, "Expert Card Technique" $6 for 470 pages, "Body Tricks" $15 for 150 pages, and I could go on and on.

On top of that you will find information in digital form which you simply can't find otherwise. I challenge you to find an original copy of "Artanis Bottom Deal". As an ebook you can get it for $35. If you can locate a copy and convince the owner to sell it will cost you close to a grand. Or try to find "Zingone's Card Tricks", etc.

Yes, there are single trick ebooks for $20 or more, but similar is being offered in printed form (lecture notes, illusion plans, etc.). In my opinion this has nothing to do with ebooks. Ebooks have widened the offering on all fronts, the very expensive and the very cheap and everything inbetween.

And if one includes video clips, photos and audio smartly then ebooks become a much better teaching tool than books or DVDs. Take a look at what I did with Card College 1 & 2 and tell me that this isn't much better than the printed version.

Best,
Chris
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
Turk
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Chris,

Your point is well taken and I certainly was not intending to include your web site or your e-book publishing efforts in the comments I have made about the substantial majority of e-books being pumped out today and certainly not all e-books have the features (or lack therof) of which I was complaining.

I clearly was discussing low quality ebooks that sell for $20-25 and only contain one effect(or maybe 2-3 "effects" or variations). I'm talking about these e-books being put out by the "inventors" of the "latest and greatest" move or method and who rush their e-book to market before they have had a chance to really test out the effect and determine that the effect is really a "proven winner" that has been tempered, honed and perfected in the crucible of fire of many many layperson public performances and layperson audience testings. Your e-books clearly do not fit into this category.

Frankly, as you and most of us know, your site provides a valuable service to magicians and the formats of your e-books are set up logically and are of the highest quality. And, in that regard, a lot of time and effort went into your digitizing of the many pages of the various books and sets.

And, for many (if not most) of the OOP classic magic books and sets, your e-books will probably be the only viable option.

I believe that most magicians recognize the many benefits of your books and book sets and that your site is viewed by most magicians as an oasis in the vast desert of e-book publications. As such, your books and the lybrary.com site never crossed the minds of magicians reading my above posts nor were they ever considered to be lumped into those complained-of sub-standard and low quality categories.

Mike
Magic is a vanishing Art.

This must not be Kansas anymore, Toto.

Eschew obfuscation.
Chris
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Mike, no problem. I am just not sure if everybody would make that implicit distinction since Lybrary.com is by far the largest magic ebook retailer with more than 330 ebooks for sale. But you are correct, there is low quality contents being offered online. Hardly a week goes by where I don't have to reject some manuscript I receive. That is why I recommend to purchase your ebooks at places you know and trust. And that is why this forum is great, because you can let others know what is good and what is bad.

Best,
Chris....
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
Mike Powers
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I think the "book on demand" concept is great. The only drawback is the profit margin due to the somewhat high cost per book. I do like the ebooks. You can print what you want to print. And if they are searchable electronically, that's a real advantage. I have Expert at the Card Table in my Pocket PC - illustrations and all. And it's searchable!! Very cool.

Not all ebooks will work well in a Pocket PC. I wish that all of them came in a form that would work in a portable unit like that.

Mike
Magiguy
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Seems to me that I recently read about a new line of portable e-readers that were already past the development stage and currently being beta tested. I can't remember the source of the full article, but I remember Rickard Kaufman referring to the very same thing a few months ago in Genii. I love the print on demand concept and hope that it becomes an affordable entity in the near future. It would be great to see all the out of print classics back in circulation with a buyers choice of print on demand or e-book version. It's just a shame that all e-books are not as high in quality as those produced by Chris at Lybrary.com.
Chris
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There are lots of developments on the portable ebook reader front. E-ink is one such development which is very promising.

Print-on-demand unfortunately has not yet held its promises. It still might break through. However cost, quality and maintenance are still a big issue. I looked into POD seriously but decided it is not yet good enough. My feeling is that once POD is actually cost effective, ebooks will have gained enough ground to make POD less attractive.

Best,
Chris....
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
Bruce T
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Both Eugene Burger: From Beyond and Ben Harris' Machinations are testament to the power of the written word
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