Friday, August 05, 2011

I Was Just Thinking...

about how easy I reach the burn-out stage while reading an e-book.  After two are three reading sessions of just a few minutes each, I have to grab a tree-book and dive into its pages for some heavy reading.  E-books just don't deliver their contents with the same effectiveness of paper for me.  Real books are like comfort food; e-books are like fast food.  They are a convenience, but are definitely not up to the pleasures offered by a home-cooked meal.

...about the e-book I"m about halfway through right now, Crowe on Banjo.  I just finished Chapter 6 and was enjoying the old black and white photos that come at the end of that chapter.  Well, at least I enjoyed two pages of photos.  Those two pages were followed by 32 blank pages, meaning that all of Chapter 7 and a portion of Chapter 8 are missing.  I contacted University of Illinois Press about the problem and, within five minutes, I received a reply addressing the problem.  Amazing response.  (The problem appears to be at the service from which I downloaded the book, not with their upload to that service.)

...about how sick I am of those Kindle television commercials that ridicule those of us who still prefer tree-books to what Amazon is obviously intending to be their main line of business within a few years, e-books.  Even the Chicago Tribune folks are noticing.  Here's some of the dialogue quoted there from one of Amazon's snide little ads:
In it, a woman in red struts past her friend who asks where she's going. "I want to get a book that came out today," she says. When he tells her that he does too, she suggests he join her at the bookstore.

"I'm good," he says, then pushes a button on his Kindle. "Got it."
No he didn't "get it." What he got was an electronic file that he can't share with anyone, sell, trade for another book with a friend, etc. He did not get a book. He got a limited-use copy of the words in the book.

...about finding some time this weekend to drive into the city to visit some of the wonderful indie bookstores down there that I've neglected for way too long.  You know, though, what they say about good intentions vs. sleeping in on a Saturday morning.


  1. I've downloaded a few free books to read on my lap-top. You're talking to someone who doesn't even own a cell-phone let alone an e-reader. But I've yet to start any of them. Somehow, the thought of reading an entire book off of a screen is not at all attractive to me.

    My main concern with them is still the fact that you never own an e-book. If you can't sell it or give it away, you don't own it as far as I'm concerned.

    My students, who are in seventh grade, have no problem with either of these things.

  2. Sam - I utterly LOVE this post. Books, real ones, can't -- and shouldn't - be replaced. EBooks, of course, have their place and kindles (et al), given the right circumstances, are a great thing.



    There are still real books out there, and wonderful, brilliant, bookshops selling them, and I think they deserve more respect. They deserve to be used. Because, I think they love books just as much as we do. And we don't want to lose them. We'd miss them terribly if they were gone.

  3. James, I'm afraid you hit on the truth's a generational thing. Younger people don't have a long history of reading physical books and are not nearly as attached to the whole process, with all those great memories, as we oldsters.

    I admire your reluctance to be tethered by a cellphone, btw.

  4. Nik, so, so true. I have to force myself to drive the extra miles to the indies in my area because it is easy to get lazy about shopping on the net all the time.

    But, it's a case of use 'em or lose 'em.

    I really thought I would be more comfortable with e-books by now because I was one of the early adopters who jumped all over that very first version of the Sony Reader. It's just not happening, though, and I don't think it will. I"m just too protective of real books, those who publish them, and those who sell them.

  5. "What he got was an electronic file that he can't share with anyone, sell, trade for another book with a friend, etc. He did not get a book. He got a limited-use copy of the words in the book."

    He got even less than that. No one actually owns the e-books they buy. Plus, if the book was published by an Agency publisher, he paid as much or more than the woman who bought the physical book. It's actually kind of stupid when you think of it that way.

    As far as Kindle e-books or B&N's NOOK Books go, you most definitely don't own them, something that many, many people will be learning when some other e-reader becomes really popular, they try to switch to it, and any e-books they bought from Amazon or B&N that they decided were "keepers" can't be used on that popular new e-reader.

    I do love my Nook. The library I work at has physical copies of some of the books I've read on it, and they are often to the point of falling apart. I love my Nook, but I love it in addition to physical books. There are books I won't buy in e-form, and books I can't or don't want to buy in physical form.

  6. "Real books are like comfort food; e-books are like fast food. They are a convenience, but are definitely not up to the pleasures offered by a home-cooked meal."

    This just about sums it all up!

    We basically had this same discussion in my book group the other night. Almost all of us have ereaders but will never lose our love and need for "real" books.
    Beyond the joy of the reading a book, is the joy of passing it on to a good friend who can then pass it on.
    Right now, my soon-to-be 13 year old daughter is reading (for the first of many times, I hope) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn... one of my all-time favorites! She is reading my grandmother's copy... the same one I read the first time I read it.

  7. After lurking for months, I had to comment. You hit the nail on the head. I teach at a University, and many/most of the syllabi have been converted to e-files. I think that it's truly a generational divide that separates the book readers from the e-readers. Perhaps 25 or 26 yo is the dividing point.

    Really hard for the gadget addict and the book addict. I bought a Kindle right away, downloaded a few books, and now it's a paperweight. Meanwhile, my book collection grows...

    Thanks for a great blog, Sam!

  8. When it comes to e-books, Library Girl, we have much in common. I can't help it...when I pay good money for a product I like to believe that it belongs to me and that the seller can't tell me what to do with it. I've used computers long enough to know how files disappear because software becomes obsolete. And that's really all that e-books are: files. But now we even have to worry about the hardware becoming obsolete. Frankly, I hate the sales model for e-books and all of the DRM crap that limits my use of what I've paid for...if they want to keep DRM protection on my e-books they had better drop the price down to almost nothing, maybe a buck or two at most.

  9. That's a great story, Kathy. I love the idea of a book surviving long enough to service four generations in the same family.

  10. Randy, I find the whole thing kind of sad. I fear that we are losing, as a society, a real love of books - books, as objects. I appreciate them as little works of art and they can never be replaced or matched by some junky e-book reader I have to keep re-charging over and over. I am yet to read an e-book that strikes me with the impact of a real book. It's all about convenience for me - and the fact that some publishers prefer sending review copies in that format (of course they would).

  11. Late to the party, but I had to offer some perspective of the opposite side. Some might argue I have some bias in this, and I might, given that, as an author, Amazon has truly helped me to begin publishing, but as a reader, I found my Kindle magical.

    I wonder if that's a little bit of the issue, here. Sam, you read on an iPad, correct? The experience of reading an LCD versus an e-ink display is completely different. I can't really imagine reading a novel on an iPad.

    Lately, however, I've taken to reading almost exclusively on my Kindle. So far this year, I've read close to a hundred books--only one of which was paper.

    "No he didn't "get it." What he got was an electronic file that he can't share with anyone, sell, trade for another book with a friend, etc. He did not get a book. He got a limited-use copy of the words in the book."

    Hmm. Does this mean that people who buy music on iTunes don't actually get songs?

    Also, I'm fairly certain that's not correct. At least with Kindle, if the book has no DRM (and I'm a firm believer they shouldn't, ever), one can find the file itself. After one has done that, you don't have to share it; you can simply email a copy to your friends, who can email a copy to their friends, etc.

    I'm not sure how it works on an iPad, of course. I'm sure the file gets stored somewhere but I know Apple hides the file folder system, so it might be more difficult to find.

    Speaking of indie bookstores, one thing that I've been just thinking about is that a lot of independent bookstores are viewing Amazon as competition, when in fact paper is complementary to (and not in opposition of) digital. This to an extent that they punish authors who have signed with Amazon imprints like Thomas Mercer.

    I still like paper. I have a collection of signed books. I admit I read them way less, lately, but on the other hand I'm reading way more overall, so I think it balances.

  12. Will, I do most of my e-book reading on an iPad, but I also own one of Sony's Readers and I don't find the experience to be a whole lot more pleasant for me on that one. I've tried the Kindle, too, and it's fine, as far as it goes. I somehow doubt that I will ever be a solid convert to e-readers because I miss so much of the pleasure that comes from actually turning pages, placing notes in books (or place-keeping stickers), and watching my progress through a bulky book as I move the book mark from section to section.

    You know, even with that said, something like 15% of my reading will probably be done electronically this year...and that percentage continues to grow.

    Your iTune song comparison is an appropriate one, but, in fact, I do refuse to buy music from iTunes for that very reason. I much prefer sampling there and buying a physical CD to get the liner notes and pictures, etc. I realy love liner notes and always read them in detail to see which session musicians are on each track and whether or not bandmembers are even used,etc. I can't tell you how much I miss LPs and the supersized photos on the fronts of those things...have several of them from the sixties framed in my office, in fact (Janice Joplin's "Cheap Thrills" album and the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album, among them).

    Totally agree with you on the DRM issue. I hate the way each of the major online bookstores tries to make their e-books incompatible with readers sold by the other stores...Sony, Amazon, and Apple are horrible about that. DRM coding can be broken, of course, but I really don't like going through the effort are being turned into some kind of borderline criminal for tinkering with the software that makes that happen.

    I do have quite a few e-books without DRM protection and what you say is true about those...except that I do tend to lose or misplace computer files for some reason...even forget that I have them sometimes.

    Indie bookstores do find themselves in a precarious position these days. I hope they don't overreact and make decisions like what you describe; that would harm them as much as what they are trying to fight, I suspect.

    I do think that e-books are causing some young people to read more, or seriously for the first time, a very good thing. But I have to think it is largely a generational phenomenum. Strangely enough, though, I loaned my Sony Reader to my 12-year-old granddaughter only to have her unexpectedly return it a few weeks later saying that she preferred reading a physical book...

    Thanks for the discussion points.


I always love hearing from you guys...that's what keeps me book-blogging. Thanks for stopping by.