Archive for September, 2012

In defense of e-books and e-readers

Sorry, I slacked off again.

I have a Kindle, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before. I’ve had it for about two years now, and I love it. I’ve got probably 300+ books on it, and yes I admit, the largest number (188) is under Romance. I like to check out the competition. That’s not exactly true, although I do like to see how other writers write romances, what themes they use, how they treat their characters, etc. I think when you write, you can always learn by reading.

A frustrating thing about discussing, or trying to, e-readers and e-books are those people who then say, “Oh, I’d never do that. I like books too much.” They then go on to talk about how they love the smell of books, or the feel of the paper as they turn the page — and they say this as though I don’t.

I understand the resistance to technology. I remember not having a cell phone as it was becoming more common, and my own feeling at the time, which I know I stated, was: “I don’t want to be that accessible.” Which was funny, because it wasn’t as though I was inaccessible back then. I worked and went home and went out occasionally, and often alone, but it wasn’t like I had huge gaps of time where I was unavailable. When I was needed by my office outside of the usual hours, it was usually in the middle of the night and guess who was plenty accessible right about then?

Because I love to read, I didn’t have that initial resistance to the idea of an e-reader. In fact, mostly I thought it’d be so cool to have something like that and not have to carry physical books around. I have some tendonitis-type and repetitive motion issues with my arms and wrists from time to time, so I thought the idea of a small device with lots of books was a terrific idea. It is handy to be able to read a book like War and Peace that would be heavy and/or hard to hold open — and hence tire your hands — on a light device like a Kindle.

And let me say I do love paper books. Getting an e-reader did not mean that I was going to suddenly replace my collection of stuff and toss it all. It’s attractive in a space-saving sense but I’m not going to do it. I have sentimental attractions to books like anyone else. I still have this wonderful box of books by Michael Moorcock, Clifford Simak and Samuel R. Delaney that I found at a library when I was in high school. I think I gave them $5 for the box and it was a steal. I still buy paper books, too; the most recent were the final two Redwall books by Brian Jacques. I also snagged something like twenty-two Agatha Christie novels from my current library off the free table.

So let’s all stipulate that you can like books on e-readers and books on paper. One does not preclude the other nor does it have to.

Isn’t the important thing the content? Does it matter if I’m reading the latest bestseller on paper or e-ink? I don’t think so — I’m all about the content, and if it can be delivered comfortably over an e-reader, then I’m all for it. It’s less strain on my hands and arms and it’s easier to carry the Kindle around.

Are there drawbacks? Sure. First off, it’s difficult if not impossible to lend an e-book. Some books have a “lend me” attribute, and if you do it, you can’t read it yourself while your friend is borrowing it. Your other option is then to lend the physical e-reader and then you can’t read anything. So I’m not saying e-readers are perfect. I’m saying they are a nice, convenient option for those who want them.

A second problem is e-book pricing. I am baffled when I see an e-book that costs more than the print version. I suspect many people want e-books to be free, or close to it, and that’s not right. People spend a lot of time writing stories and if you want to keep it, you should compensate them. Otherwise, go to the library. (I feel the same about music.) If an author wants to offer a free book, I think that’s great, and I admit that most of what’s on my Kindle is free. I’d buy more if I could, but right now I can’t.

I think this will all settle out although I can’t guess how long it will take. The music industry is facing similar issues and is adjusting, if slowly. The movie industry as well. I hope it settles out fairly for all concerned, because I hardly think e-readers are going away.

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