Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eek E-books

For as long as e-books have been around, one friend or another has tried making me a convert to this medium of reading. I have refused to indulge in the e-book craze for a number of reasons. Not in any particular order, but they include:
  1. I love holding a book in my hands and flipping the pages. This doesn't matter whether it is a slim volume like the book I am reading now The Murder at the Collective or a tome like Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth at a gargantuan 1008 pages. 
  2. When I love the story, I keep checking the number of pages that are left creating an early mourning as I approach the end cover. When I don't care for the story, but am too stubborn to put it down, I check the pages to see how much longer this suffering is going to continue.
  3. American Express uses the slogan "Never leave home without it." I apply that to a book. There is a book in my bag 98% of the time.
  4. Perhaps it is because I do so many things on computers, including reading thousands of pages of students' work during a semester, I don't want to stare at a screen for reading pleasure. I can barely get through a news articles from the NY Times without feeling overwhelmed. Give me a real paper and I can be content for hours. That said, I do have a Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a Samsung smartphone, which I do use to read US Today and CNN News when I know I will not have time to pull out my book.
  5. There is something emotionally stimulating about browsing the books in a bookstore that will never be replaced by browsing online. Although some browse bookstores and order online, I try not to do this as brick and mortar bookstores need all the support they can get, especially independents.
  6. Yes, you can get instant access to e-books on a variety of devices, but for me it is more satisfying to either discover a book I have never known I wanted while in a bookstore or to order one online and having the anticipation build until it arrives.
  7. One of the first things that catches my eye when visiting others are the books they have around. There is much to be learned about a person from the books or lack of books. I doubt I could learn as much by asking if I could browse someone's Kindle for example.
  8. A book can be lent or borrowed by anyone when there is mutual agreement. You can give the book away, sell it, or heaven forbid and damn you if you do, toss it away. For most e-book devices, this is either not possible or your share buddy has to have the same device as you, limiting opportunities.
  9. Last of all, the cost of e-books is increasing as popularity grows. There is a computer newsletter that I read with a religious fervor and have for years, though the branding has changed over time. This is a quote from the latest newsletter.
"So I went from e-book skeptic to e-book believer. And I still love them, but lately I've been buying fewer and fewer. And that's because of the increasingly (in my opinion) outrageous prices. I grumbled when the typical price of a new release novel in electronic format was $9.99. I was highly annoyed when that climbed to $12.99. Then I started seeing bestsellers by big name authors such as James Patterson and Tom Clancy priced at $14.99. When I paid $16.00 for Stephen King's latest, I decided maybe it was time to go back to paper - at least for the "big ones." Amazon was selling the hardcover version at the same time for $17.48.

I'm sorry, but that just doesn't compute. Regardless of what they say, I believe it costs publishers far less to produce and deliver an e-book, without the cost of paper, printing, storage, transportation, etc. I believe they're taking advantage of customers, assuming if we have the money to spend on high-tech devices, we'll pay close to the same prices for intangible electronic files as we pay for physical books that work with no electricity, don't require proprietary technology to be read and can be loaned or sold to whomever we want.

Now it appears I'm not the only one who thinks publishers are gouging the customer. The U.S. Department of Justice is accusing Apple, along with five major publishers, of colluding to keep the price of electronic books up. And this isn't just an "American thing" either. The EU is conducting its own investigation into the matter."

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