As some of my more regular readers may recall, I also write a literary criticism column for Bibliobuffet. I have a long standing love of books and I would gladly give up my television before I would give up my library. Admittedly, I would miss the Jack Benny Show, Fringe and Survivor but if something had to go, it would definitely be the TV.
In the August 18 entry to the Bibliobuffet blog, Bibliobuffet’s publisher quoted me saying “I would not review an e-book unless there were NO bound books available anywhere in the English or French languages. I have tried the Sony Reader, Nook and Kindle. Unless the technology improves materially, I find that I cannot immerse myself in anything on one of those screens.” Those are strong words, and I mean them. I really do not like the notion of curling up with a good…screen. I want paper and ink!
To be honest, however, I also really believe that frugally minded people should jump on the ereader/ebook band wagon and take the time to explore the Kindle, the iPad and the other tablet devices that display content. The devices themselves do not cost that much — less than $200 for many of them — and owners will quickly make back the cost of purchasing one in savings from buying books. Moreover, I expect Amazon will drop the price of its entry level Kindle below $100 in time for Christmas. Of course, that is just a hunch but, when battling the iPad for the first time this coming holiday season, Amazon is not going to want to lose its market dominance. That usually means price cuts so people who are on the fence should be ready to jump when the price does drop.
I will leave it to you to explore in detail the price savings that ereaders offer. For me the highlight would be the inexpensive availability of content that is in the public domain. After a book (or any other expression of creativity) has entered the public domain, it is no longer protected by copyright. As a result, anyone can copy it. That means that that no royalties need to be paid and any publisher can make use of the book. It stands to reason that with the limited cost associated with the electronic publication of public domain works, the price should be much lower than the price paid for books that have to be printed and bound. That seems to be how the market is developing as I have seen numerous classics appear in the Amazon and B&N ebook stores for a very small fraction of the price of a bound volume. For example, when I recently looked at the Kindle version of the complete Brothers Grimm, I found it for 99 cents. The bound versions were upwards of ten dollars. The Kindle versions were generally under a dollar, and one was free.
Many readers will point out that as long as we have libraries, buying an ereader is still an extravagance. I do not argue that point. Anyone who can find the books that they want in their local library can, and probably should, continue to use the library. Book collectors will not want to see their libraries go digital either and, like me, will ensure that used book stores have a continued existence long after the other major brick and mortar books stores are shuttered. For the people who do not have access to libraries, or who prefer to own the content that they read, ereaders really should be given strong consideration as an essential tool for people who like to read, and to save money.
When it comes to buying books, do as I say and not as I do. I still won’t buy an ereader, but as book reviewer, I do not have to buy my books, either. When that day inevitably comes, we’ll see if I change my attitude.
What do you think about ereaders and ebooks? Will you read from a screen when you want to cozy up with a good book?