Ebooks, Prices, and Libraries

I have to say I have fallen in love with ebooks. My personal reader of choice is the Nook Simple Touch, but had the Kindle been given just a few additional features (expandable memory, replaceable battery), I would likely have chosen it.

What I like about ebooks is how little space they take up compared with real books. My house is small, my bookshelf space limited, my collection … too large for available space. I can store ebooks on the reader itself, in the cloud, on my PC, etc., and none of those options uses up a even a square millimeter of space.

I like that every book is as easy to hold as my Nook, whether it is Pillars of the Earth or The Little Prince.

I like that I can take 100 or 1000 books with me wherever I go.

I love being able to adjust fonts, text size, and margins. Love it.

I like that I can access thousands of free, public domain works without leaving my comfy chair at home.

I don’t like the prices very much. I am hoping the US Dept of Justice’s lawsuit will smack down those prices a bit, as the publishers who banded together to keep prices high are forced to comply with the laws that forbid price fixing.

Until then, my personal DOJ action is simple: I refuse to pay more than a couple of dollars for an ebook. Nope, I can’t get the latest releases at that price. Nope, I can’t even get older releases by popular authors for that price. But I can get lots of dam fine books for that price, and that’s fine with me.

I still buy printed books: coffee table type books, those that aren’t available in ebook format, or those that I can pick up, used, for $4 when the ebook is $10.

That too, highlights a weakness of ebooks vs printed books. With DRM ebooks, I can only lend it once, to someone with a Nook. I can lend a real book to anyone I choose, as often as I choose. Or, when I’m done with it, I can give it away or sell it. No can do with an ebook.

We are just in the infancy of the ebook phenomenon. The publishers have to make smarter choices about selling these things, or they’ll suffer similar fates as record publishers, whose every knee-jerk reaction puts another nail into their commercial coffins. One such nail for book publishers is the situation with public libraries. Some publishers flat out refuse to sell their ebooks to libraries (see any shades of the recording industry here?), and some charge egregious prices. Considering that ebook readers are currently a luxury item, I have to say I would have no objection to paying a small fee to “borrow” an ebook from a library … say $.25 a pop. This could help offset the costs charged to libraries. Such a fee would have to be kept small, to not alienate borrowers, but large enough that it isn’t lost in the overhead of administering the program.

Anyway, surely there are arguments for and against such a scheme. What are your thoughts?

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2 Comments

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