Wednesday, June 02, 2010

When I Buy a Book, I Expect to Own It, Not Rent It

If I don't really own an ebook, why does one cost so much?

Are you as sick of the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad and the Sony Reader as I am? I am disgusted by the fact that the hardware manufacturers are so fixated on the idea that only books purchased from their own "bookstores" should be read on their readers - and on making sure their ebooks cannot be read on other readers. Sony, at least, uses the common epub format, meaning that I as a Reader owner can check out ebooks from my local library. But books will only play on the Kindle, and Apple store books will only play on the iPad and Barnes & Noble books will only play on the Nook. That's outrageous, especially considering the prices being charged for ebooks now that the Apple egomaniac has his own reader on the market.

Why should readers/customers pay such high prices for ebooks that will forever tie them to one particular reader? Ebooks are convenient under the right circumstances but, because I have nothing physical to hold in my hands, I can't help feeling that I'm being ripped off. I can't tell you how much emusic I've lost over the last few years when hard drives or mp3 players crashed. The same is certain to happen with ebooks (yes, I know that I can back them up to other drives, etc. - but who remembers to do that all the time or can find the backups when they need them?)

I'm a fan of the Sony Reader mostly because of the access it gives me to free ebooks at my library and because so many out-of-print books can be found on the web and transferred to my Reader. But I haven't purchased an ebook from Sony in well over a year and that's because I feel like I'm left with an empty bag after I finish reading an ebook. Barnes & Noble, despite using the same epub format as Sony, has apparently made sure that I cannot read one of the B&N-sold ebooks on my Sony Reader - according to the B&N staff I questioned at two local bookstores.

Amazon, Kindle and Barnes & Noble want to tell me how I am allowed to read my books and they want to limit my right to sell or loan them to others. Fine, guys. If the books don't really belong to me, why do you insist that I pay full price for them? Pick a damn format and let your three ebook readers speak to each other. That's not too much to ask, and your customers will buy more ebooks when you stop limiting their usage rights to what you sell them.

See this Epicenter link for a look at this issue from the publishers' point-of-view.


  1. Today I stopped at a used bookstore and I bought 3 "very like new" books for $9.99. I personally love books...ya know..real actual books. The kind I can read in a chair, the kind I can read anywhere, with dry or wet hair, the kind I can give away, the kind that I can stack up or down this way. I can buy them in a store, I don't need e-books anymore.

    p.s. currently using my first edition Sony e-book reader as a paperweight. I doubt it's going to increase in value.

  2. Here, here. When I go on a used book-buying spree, one book might cost a dollar or less. At most, they tend to cost no more than half the new price. I don't have to consider whether it's in a format I can read, because, as long as it's in a language I can read, I can read it. Period. I can lend it to a friend, sell it to another used bookstore, donate it to the library, or keep it for as many years as I like so long as the binding and paper holds up. If I want to buy new, I can, and with the only drawback being a higher price.

    With the cost of ebooks, the cost of ebook readers (without which the ebooks are useless or nearly useless), all the restrictions, and various other miscellaneous things (like Amazon's ability to take a book off your Kindle without your permission and without advance warning, if what I remember from that article I read a while back is correct), I fail to see why ebooks and ebook readers are all that great. Once publishers get a clue, then it might be a different story...

  3. This is why I've not bought an e-reader. People tell me they are great on vacation. On vacation I take along four or five very cheep paperbacks. When I'm done with them I leave them on the plane, in the hotel, in a cafe. No worries.

    Otherwise, I can donnate a book, give it away, keep it, sell it. It's mine. A e-book is never really yours.

    And they really should be cheaper. Their entire production cost is equal to a very long email.

    No thanks.

  4. eBooks, whatever their nationality, are the best argument ever for the necessity of a thriving USED book store industry.

    Besides the price and portability discussed above, when will you ever have the joy of discovering a first edition of Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops; finding a 50 year-old inscription that still brings tears to your eye; or enjoy the serendipity of finding Life in A Putty Knife with an eBooks?

    I'm with you Sam! Let's all rise up and give a collective raspberry to the eBooks!

  5. Amen!

    Also, do you all fancy looking at what you have on your bookshelf as much as I do?
    No ebook can do that!!

  6. Thanks for this post. I've been halfway considering an e-reader and this post has made me re-think the value of purchasing one.

  7. Kristy, you expressed perfectly what books mean to book lovers. Ebooks will never, ever replace the real deal for people like us...I have one of the new Sony Readers but it's for library checkouts and internet freebies...books I probably would never read otherwise, not for books I want to put on shelves.

  8. Library Girl, I don't think that publishers and hardware makers are ever going to get this right. They see it as a new cash cow and actually believe that avid readers are thrilled with this trend. A few are right now, but "the new" wears off pretty quickly. My reader is just a tool for me now...the shine is long gone.

  9. I hear you, C.B. I think there are a whole lot of folks who feel the same way.

  10. Beautiful, Sean...this is the side of the story that we don't hear much about because those of us who are less than thrilled about this trend tend to stay quiet and just ignore it. That's a shame...used-book stores are going to become the thing if ebooks ever dominate the market. I'm sick of getting ripped off by the same old companies...

  11. Kayo, I love rearranging my shelves into new groupings and patterns...great fun and fun to admire when it's all done.

  12. Julie, it's good to have know all the facts before spending that kind of money, for sure...the truth about the restrictions applied to ebooks is slowly becoming mainstream. It's about time.

  13. I so agree with you. I work in IT, love gadgets, and refuse to buy an ereader. This is something that my fellow boohaholics don't understand and something that my IT friends don't understand. The arguments you have, are the same ones I have. Ok..and I like the actual book itself...seeing a series lined up so pretty on my shelves..there's nothing better.

  14. No doubt about it, Kris - real book lovers prefer paper, cardboard and leather over plastic and rechargeable batteries any day of the week. We do know what we like. :-)


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