My nook… and ebooks in general

February 22nd, 2010 | Tags: , , ,

I am, without a doubt, a book lover. While I was in school I found myself buying books upon books where they sat, collecting dust on my bookshelves as the pile grew more and more. My large bookshelves (note: more than one) are already brimming with books that I have read and those I have not had the pleasure of reading including paperbacks being two deep that the new books are literally piled on top of each other, for lack of space. Books that I bought and loads of books that other people bought for me. My lack of free time kept me from being able to make a dent in the fantastic world of psychology as well as fiction stories.

I am also one that has many hobbies. I have tried to find a balance between my love of knitting and crocheting, video games and reading. After 2 years of intense schooling (my last semester yielding me 18 units and no free time) I needed a break from reading. I won’t lie, I had spent so much time reading that the last thing I wanted to do was read for pleasure. Period.

Since getting my nook, I find myself reading much more often. Initially there was the “Oh! Shiny!” factor, but it has now become something more significant than just a new gadget for me. The almost instant on to the last thing I was reading makes it so much easier to read a few pages, or a chapter, and set it down again. No need to prop the book open. No need to find a comfortable position to rest my elbow. I hold my nook in my hand or rest it in my lap. While laying in bed it weighs exactly the same if it’s 200 pages or 800 pages. I prop up my book light as I would with a paperback, but no need to shift from side to side, or change the way I lay down to read. The inconvenience of reading an actual book in bed is no longer there.

I must say though, I will not stop buying physical books. There is nothing I love more than walking into the infinite possibility that is a bookstore. Small or large, new or used. I have been known to judge a book by its cover or by its title. I found gems and duds, but rarely do I regret a purchase because I learn something from the experience of reading a new author, an unknown author, or a well-known author I’ve never had the pleasure of reading previously. My purchase of physical books will just slow down, tremendously. Especially with the only new bookstore within 50+ miles of me closing down.

My complaints about my nook are few in number and don’t outweigh the benefits I gain. Aesthetics. I have never liked the design of the Kindle with 1/3 of the smaller (not the DX) covered by unsightly keyboard buttons. Why do I not like this, because this portion of the Kindle is not used often enough to justify the full keyboard being in view all the time. The nook eliminates this by having the capacitive touch screen which turns off and takes up a much smaller space than the Kindle’s keyboard. The Sony reader is simply too boxy for me.

The ereader in comparison to physical books became a cost benefit situation. Ebooks are discounted because of the lack of physical space they take up. There are no trees going toward the publication of the book. My bookshelves are already full. Brimming. I have boxes in storage, full of books as well. I simply cannot tote them all everywhere I go over the next however many years. The boxes weigh a ton and gawd-forbid there’s an earthquake… because my large bookshelf might topple and kill someone. For travel this also becomes an added benefit. It takes up less space than a netbook and even less space than a handful of books might. I always pack 1-3 books with me as a “just in case” measure when traveling. I don’t travel often, but 11 hour flights with 2 hour layovers are not fun with nothing to do (usually plugs in airports are taken by wayward traveler’s leaving the netbook as entertainment almost impossible for more than a couple hours, leaving the flight itself with less opportunities for distraction).

To put it more simply, I need to cut back on the amount of crap I take with me from one apartment to the next, and the need to have an entire room (or rooms) dedicated to bookshelves. I carry with me at any given time a library to pick from when I do want to read something. I can satisfy my impulsive side (by being able to buy immediately and have available for reading immediately) as well as having the added ability to choose a book based on my mood or genre choice.

However, the choices of books available in ebook format aren’t as diverse as I hoped for. I’d love to see a lot more choice available for downloading and purchasing. Tons of new stuff from a lot of authors I’ve never really been interested in… well, ever, so deciding to spend my hard earned money on a book I’ll likely never read is a simple one; I just won’t. As ebooks become more and more available the benefits start to outweigh the initial cost. The need for more publishers and authors to be on board for carrying their works in the ebook form becomes greater.

With the iPad‘s arrival onto the scene, the market has taken a turn. I suppose it depends on which side of the table you find yourself as to whether the pricing war will bother you or be just another annoyance. I have never been one to buy hardcover books in the past, so the pricing guideline change won’t affect me nearly as much as it will other avid readers. The pricing of ebooks is roughly as such:

Popular books will now be priced higher, closer to the $12-$15 mark for books that are newly in hardcover. Bestsellers may or may not be sold at a slightly lesser rate in accordance to the discount given to physical books. The price will then come down when the book has been made available in paperback. There is some evidence of this when you browse available books, either through Amazon, Sony or Barnes & Noble.

“The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,” said Douglas Preston, whose novel “Impact” reached as high as No. 4 on The New York Times’s hardcover fiction best-seller list earlier this month. “It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.”

It is this exact mentality regarding publishing that causes problems surrounding pricing of ebooks. They require almost no resources to publish. The distributer is the one paying for the cost of traffic (download traffic specifically, since you purchase the book from Amazon, Sony or Barnes and Noble). Authors like Mr. Preston want you to believe that his livelihood is based solely on hardcover sales. However, why not make a book available in ebook format as well, where the revenue generated is almost entirely profit? What is the point of bad-mouthing the very people who support your endeavors? Without the American consumer, or more importantly, ANY consumer, there is no revenue to be had.

My issue is the fact that digital content should be mine regardless of the cost I’ve spent. We’ve danced the DRM dance regarding music and in the end the consumer won out, with the ability to take their purchased content to any device they choose. It costs more, sure, but not significantly more. And when the consumer does the cost/benefit check, it’s worth the extra $0.30 to be able to take their iTunes purchased content and include it on the Zune, or their cellphone.

Kassia Krozser at Booksquare.com brings up many interesting points regarding the pricing of ebooks:

You can trot out your business model and your profit-and-loss statements, but your customers don’t really care. They’ve grown accustomed to this power, and if they can’t get what they want from you, they’ll get it from someone else, Including, yes, non-legal sources if that’s the only alternative you provide. Your competition has changed, and you must change. Yep, it’s a variation on the publish or perish model.

When pirating ebooks becomes are more lucrative market for piraters, it will face the same challenges that DVD’s (as well as Blu-Ray’s) and music has faced in the past. The forums and websites will flood to the market to make available those items that people are looking for. $15 isn’t a lot for a new book, by any means, but it’s a lot of money for not having any rights to the content. Buying a physical book lends me certain privileges. I can let a friend (or 15) borrow the book (keeping the publisher from getting any profits from those people at all, truth be told). I can sell the book to a used bookstore for a store credit towards more books. I can also take my physical book anywhere I want. It seems digital content has yet to catch up to these things, though Barnes and Noble is at least trying with its LendMe feature.

Another option for authors to consider is the ability to self-publish. This might become something we see more and more, leaving publishers (the greedy bastards that they are) out of the picture entirely. One can only hope.

I guess in the end, the consumer will be able to regulate pricing based on whether or not they’re willing to pay the higher price tag. If an ebook doesn’t sell many units at the now ridiculous $15 price, publishers might find themselves discounting books after all. People will find a way to get what they want to read, and the more markets out there, the better it is for the consumer. Only time will tell.


One Response to “My nook… and ebooks in general”

  1. Lisana on February 22, 2010 5:48 pm

    Interesting post. I definitely agree with the whole not adding as much to the physical book collection that will have to be boxed up again at some point to move and then moved (especially since pro movers charge you by the pound!), and unpacked again.

    I have actually bought a few books that I already have physical copies of though, as they are ones that I read over and over (Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, for example), and while I’d happily give away my hard copies, @jevvim thinks I should hold on to them, and so I have. I definitely want to get Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books, as they are finally coming out in e-editions, but I feel they are asking too much right now and I hope to see the prices come down closer to paperback prices, for books that have been out over a decade, in some cases.

    I’m sad to see that the publishers are using the “Well, Apple is giving us this much, so we should get as much from you, Amazon” routine. There is a LOT less cost involved in distributing an e-book. No printing, no paper, no trucking them across country to bookstores, no housing them in warehouses. I don’t think $10 is too ridiculous for a new novel available in hardcover, especially when B&N and Borders’ bestsellers are often 20 – 40% off the cover price anyway.

    Books that have been out long enough to be brought out in paper, or that start paperbacks to begin with, should also have a more reasonable price. I cringe when I see $7.99 paperbacks, because when I was a kid they were $2.99 or $3.50, and I have some used sci fi and fantasy books that were originally $1.25 or so to start.

    As you say, time will tell with the prices. While the author quoted above may not be happy about what he gets from the sale of ebooks that he’s written, that really seems like something that needs to be negotiated in his contract. Since most of the money made on the sales of ebooks is pure profit for the publisher, the writer should get a better cut on those sales. At least in my opinion!

    I agree with giving us the DRMless option, too. I would love to have my books on my Reader and my Kindle, without having to jump through all the hoops to strip the DRM and convert the book into the proper format for the device I want to use it on. (check out mobileread.net if you’re interested in learning how to do the stripping and conversion).

    I heard there was something Disney(?) was working on about “KeyChest” content, not to lock something down, but to enable you to use that content on multiple devices that you own. I presume this was related to video content, but obviously it could be applied to e-books and other types of media as well. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2010/01/disney-keychest-drm-dece.html

    Okay, I think I’ve rambled enough. Definitely an interesting topic to discuss.

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