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Friday, September 3, 2010

The Great eReader Debate

So the New York Times published a lengthy examination over the debate about the future of books.  As this is a book blog, I felt I should weigh in.  Kindles, iPads, iPhones, and their competition abound.  The article in The New York Times, did not however mention the most critical problems with eReading that I have.

Instead, the hype was about how the wife liked the look and feel of the paperback, the husband liked the sleek design and functionality of the iPad and thought only the content mattered.  What a ludicrous argument.

I'm going to write this post Wittgenstein style.

1.  iPads are expensive.
2.  Kindles are expensive.
3.  Storage space is expensive.
4.  Paper back books are cheap.

If the publishing industry dies, maybe they won't be cheap anymore, but at this point, it's still much cheaper for me to buy a paperback.  Which leads me to another point.

5.  eBooks are only available for "subway fiction," those of us who prefer niche fiction, or non-fiction that's not book of the month, are still getting the shaft.
6.  I don't care about the look and feel of the paperback.
7.  I lose shit.
8.  I've lost three phones in two years.  I lost my phone two months ago and a kind soul returned it.
9.  I've been damn lucky with my iPod.  I've only lost that three times and managed to get it back all three times, once after it spent the night outdoors.
10.  If I lose my eReader, I'm up shits creek.  Unless they offer eReader insurance.  Either way, my enjoyment of a novel is circumvented until the damn thing can be replaced.
11.  I don't have time to read.
12.  I'd much prefer e-audiobooks.
13.  I have the kind of job where an audiobook would be very helpful. 
14.  Millions of people in this world have similar jobs where they need their fingers eyes and hands, but not necessarily their brains.
15.  Audio books are only available for "subway fiction"
16.  Tor released Brandon Sanderson's new book, The Way of Kings.  The hardcover is $30, the ebook is $14.  The audiobook is $70.  I'll wait a year and buy the paperback for $10.
17.  My wife would love for me to get rid of my fantasy books.  An eReader would be a great way to accomplish that.
18.  I'll miss the pretty fantasy covers.  iPads could include more illustrations, cheaply.  Yay pretty fantasy covers.  Yay interactive comic books
19.  What if the power goes?
20.  What if the power stays gone?
21.  I live in a city where the power almost never goes off, but has on two notable occasions.
22.  It was nice to have a paperback at the time.
23.  It was more nice to drink the beer before it skunked because of the heat.
24.  What about upgrades and new equipment costs?
25.  I've read Eye of the World 15 times.  I've never had to replace it.

26.  My Great Hunt was not so fortunate.  I've replaced that twice at a cost of under $20.
27.  Technology gets stolen.
28.  No one steals books.
29.  I mean, maybe the dead sea scrolls. Or buy the ebook
30.  The market for books has dwindled.
31.  Ordinary people don't read books anymore, they watch TV, see movies, play videogames.
32.  The problem isn't paper backs, the problem is that books are now luxury, elite goods.  And only the elite can afford these technologies.
33.  I forgot another hidden cost.  You need a computer to buy an eBook.
34.  You need a computer to store eBooks.
35.  Even if eReaders come equipped with wireless and can buy their own content, you're still faced with the same basic problems.  How many books can your eReader store?  What if you lose your eReader?  Does that mean you lose $60-200 worth of books stored on it?

I'm not opposed to eReading.  I'm opposed to the burden of cost it places on a reader.  Most of the "readers" of the world work in publishing these days.  That makes them a bit myopic because many of their companies provide eReaders to their staffs as a matter of course.  I do not anticipate buying an eReader in the next year.  I spend $400 dollars on books every year.  Lucky for me, if the publishing industry dies, my paperbacks will survive at least another twenty years, and I can re-read them as many times as I like.

Unless my fiance throws them out.