Why I Refuse to BUY EBooks

I looked at a Nook on a recent trip to Barnes and Noble. Immediately I could see some real reasons why I like the idea of eBooks. I like the idea of loading two or three books on an eReader before going on vacation. My wife can attest to the fact that it would limit the weight of the luggage that we bring on a trip.

I like the idea of reading in the dark, when I have insomnia. I could sit in bed and read from a well-lit screen.

I also like the idea of being able to manipulate font sizes so that I would not have to tote around a large print book again.

However I will never, never BUY an eBook. I could give romantic reasons as to my decisions; the smell of new books, padded covers of collector's editions etc. Yet these are not the reasons that I would never BUY an eBook. I would never buy an eBook, because the book would never be permanent. What do you buy when you BUY an eBook? You buy the rights to download the eBook to a portable device or to a PC.

What's wrong with this? The books I buy I do not buy to hold temporarily. I don't buy bestsellers. I don't buy the next big thing. I buy books that I plan to keep for a lifetime. EBooks are the antithesis of this. Individuals who buy eBooks don't plan on keeping them forever; filling Kindle after Kindle with classics; libraries of flash drives alphabetized.

We talk about many aspects of ebooks, but we say little about the fact that we never buy an eBook really. We buy the temporary. It's the epitome of planned obsolesce. The writers, the patrons, the libraries pay through the nose and the only ones who make the money are the multinational conglomerates who will continue to control the purse strings of book publishing and distribution.

Comments

Subscribing to e-book services

The term "e-book" is a misnomer. An e-book is not a book. It is a computer file. The whole infrastructure of reading is based on the book as a physical object -- including first-sale rights, allowing us (at least in the United States) to do with the physical book what we will, including reselling it or borrowing it from the library. Can you re-sell an e-book? Can you even copy it? An e-book simply isn't a book. Kindle giveth, and Kindle taketh away, as with the Orwell case. Buying an e-book makes no sense. For e-books, we need to move to a subscription model -- for $17.99 a month, you get access to a library, and then read anything you want. Or a library buys a subscription for $5,000 or $6,000 a month and makes the contents available to patrons, just as we do for journal articles through EBSCO or Wilson. Charge a premium for access to books in heavy demand. Make it like On Demand on cable or Rhapsody on the Web.

If you're only reading a book once...

There's a fine option that doesn't seem to be mentioned here. It's called "your public library." I read a lot--but I rarely feel the need to keep a book forever. When I do, I buy it. Otherwise, I borrow it from the library. (I'm essentially never concerned about having The Latest Hot Seller, so that's not an issue.)

If having an ereader and paying slightly-more-than-mass-market-paperback prices to rent the newest books appeals to you, that's great. More power to you. (I think I agree with most everything in the last two paragraphs from Anonymous 7:41 a.m.--I'm just noting that public libraries offer yet another reasonable course.)

Why buy things you can't own.

Where are people buying all of these ebooks from? I buy ebooks, and they're mine. They are on my hard drive, backed up onto my external drive. I buy pdfs, I don't store them with the company that I bought them from, I don't store them on my ereader. They don't expire, they can't be taken away from me and yes, I am happy to lend one to a friend if they don't mind reading it on their computer.

My favorite authors I buy in paper, because I am more likely to go back and reread them in odd chunks. Skipping over random pages and flipping around in an ebook is harder than with paper, but carrying around a stack of books on the off chance I'm in the mood to read one of them isn't practical. There are pros and cons to everything.

It's very simple. If you're the kind of person who doesn't read very much, don't buy an ereader. The cost savings will not add up quickly enough to make the expense worth it. If you feel the need to immediately sell or give away your books once you're done with them, stick with paper. If you're buying the kind of ebooks that you don't get to own, find another ebook store.

Not every solution is going to work for every person. We're all different with different needs. I see a lot of people making this a lot more complicated than it needs to be. (Not you, neccessarily, but I hear variations of the same arguement everywhere.)

Movies

To see a movie at the theater cost $8. If it is 3D it cost $12. If I see a movie at the 3D Imax it is $15. None of those is permanent. You watch the movie and that is it. Your $8-$15 is gone. I buy a book for my Kindle for $9.99 and read and enjoy the book. Who cares if I don't have it forever?

Do people out there keep every mass market paperback they read? You read the book and then you are done with it. Even hardcovers. Do you keep every single hardcover?

For many people reading a book is like watching a movie. You read it and then you are done with it.

In regards to your comment about ebooks being temporary. I hate to break it to you but everything in life is temporary. You bought a book that has a shelf life of 500 years. Good for you. You will be long dead before that. Life is temporary.

This is where you are wrong

The theater is a performance. It has long been accepted that you pay, you watch, & you leave. It's the price you pay for a live performance (yes, even a film on a screen).

The idea of leasing and not owning books is a relatively new and foreign concept to books. Books have long enjoyed being personal property for which the owner can do what they please with it. (Keep it, lend it, give it away, trash it, and so forth.) While some (like yourself) may be comfortable with this leasing arrangement, others are not comfortable with the idea that their ownership on a book as being temporary and subject to the actions of the vendors. (e.g. the removal of Orwell books from Kindles several months back)

I will admit, I have not heard the "life is temporary" explanation for book ownership. You should try it out with the IRS, restaurant checks, and other "temporary" conditions.

Life is temporary

>>I will admit, I have not heard the "life is temporary" explanation for book ownership. You should try it out with the IRS, restaurant checks, and other "temporary" conditions.

I don't see how anything I said above would indicate that I intended my argument to apply to taxes or restaurant checks.

I will argue that the entire

I will argue that the entire concept of borrowing a book from a library is essentially a "leasing" model and not new. Many people are now weighing the concept of a $9.99 ebook over the time and travel costs of visiting the library. For some the ebook will win.

The argument of losing a book is also not considered by many because the example provided is a rarity not the norm.

Brian C. Gray
http://blog.case.edu/bcg8

Reading in the dark

>I like the idea of reading in the dark

Most of the e-ink devices do not have a light. Unlike most screens you cannot backlight an e-ink screen. E-ink screens look like a piece of paper and need light like a piece of paper. Ereading devices could have LED lights above an e-ink screen to illuminate it.

good observations

and well said.

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