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[icon] E-books? - Discussing Unshelved by Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum
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Time:11:39 am
A while back, there was a series of strips about a man in the library with an e-book reader. The strips' take was... not favorable.

I got a Kindle for my birthday several months back. To me, it's like a thing out of legend. (An idea reflected in the rather neat handcrafted Kindle cover I purchased on Etsy.) I open it, and I can magically summon almost any book, the single page rewriting itself to become the proper text. I carry with me in one lightweight package a library of thousand-page tomes, short stories, and everything in between. Thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg and MobileRead, I have the classics - thousands and thousands of them - freely available at my fingertips.

And, of course, there are other perks. Instant, pop-up dictionary definitions on request. Mobile internet access - email, encyclopedias, information of all kinds. Also, Minesweeper and now GoMoku (Easter Eggs in the Kindle software).

My sister, on the other hand, hates the thing. It's not a proper book. You can't feel the pages. You don't get the real experience in the ancient and sacred tradition. You get a computerized simulation. Another step towards electronics taking over our way of life. And my access to the Gutenberg library has kept me from making trips to our actual, rather exceptional hometown library. I must admit she has some valid points.

Too, it's expensive. And, really, I can, in theory, just as easily download and read e-books on my laptop.

There's more to be said, I'm sure. What's your take?
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Time:2009-11-29 09:42 pm (UTC)
I love the internet. I want to make that clear - I adore it.

But I'm completely wary of all the issues that come along with eBook readers & solely having digital access to library subscriptions.

There's quite a few issues to all digital content, IMNAAHO, but I'll keep my comments specific to eBooks:
A) You might have bought the content, but that doesn't mean you bought it to keep.
- Amazon realizes it's not supposed to sell Animal Farm, and they take the book back from you. They might compensate you, but that's irrelevant. You bought the book, it now should be your property. You didn't rent it. It's irrelevant if Amazon did or not did not have the right to sell it, that is a separate issue that they should have dealt with.

B)You "own" the content, but you can't loan it out.
-If a book or author is great, I want my friends to be able to read it as well & get a feel for it. Can't do that easily with an eReader unless you loan out your entire eReader. I believe I heard that Barnes & Noble (or maybe Amazon) was adding in a loaning function, but IIRC it was going to only allow you to loan it out a certain number of times.

C)It's a permanent investment.
-Once you own it, it's yours. You can't resell it on the secondary market, is my understanding. It's your property at that point, you should be able to resell it if you like.

D)Locked to technology.
-Paper has it's own problems, and in 200 years (or even less!) the paperback you're reading now might be useless. However, in 2 years (or even less!) the platform you've bought your eBooks on might be useless & you'll have to rebuy everything. If the technology is obsolete, but working, you might be fine. However, as soon as that obsolete technology breaks - there's a good chance you'll have to rebuy everything. There's quite a few things I had on floppy disks back in the day that I can no longer access. Technology marches on, and changes how we access & store everything. Books are books. Once it's printed on paper, all you have to do is make sure you keep it in good shape. Other than light, you don't have to worry about your access point.

D corollary)
We're able to read what our ancestors wrote because we don't need specialized technology to be able to look at the pages. If we move everything online, our ancestors will. And unless our ancestors in 200, 300, or 500 years use the same type of technology - a lot of our culture could be lost. In some cases, it's not an issue. In others - there will be a lot of knowledge lost.

On the whole, I find eReaders to be a technology that is too young, with too many issues, for me to currently support. In 10-20 years - maybe.
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Time:2009-11-29 10:47 pm (UTC)
A. That's a problem, yes. Amazon has since apologized and promised not to do it again. Whether that actually holds up or not is another matter. But I think they've realized how big an issue that actually is, and how very much it would piss their customers off if it ever happened again.

B. Amazon lets you download a free sample of any Kindle book. The first few chapters, usually. About 10% I think? That file is not DRM protected, and can therefore be shared. But it is tricky, because if they let you "loan" it out, there'd be nothing to stop you from just filesharing it far and wide. Piracy is a valid issue.

C. No, you can sell it. The option to deregister the device is the first one in the "settings" menu. Actually, the Kindle I own was resold, as it was purchased at a charity auction.

D. Amazon promises that once you buy the book, it's yours forever. They keep a record of what you've bought, so if you erase it or your Kindle is damaged or you buy a new Kindle, you can just download it again at any time.

D c) That's a good point.


It assumes we go totally paperless rather than having copies available in both formats. As you mentioned, paper isn't going to last forever, either. And a digital archive like Gutenberg gives free access to anyone in a number of formats and sometime even different languages and versions. It's an archive that can be maintained, updated, and brought along with technology as it develops. And it's backed up and mirrored, too. So we don't have to worry about something like the Library of Alexandria happening again - an entire priceless archive lost because everything was kept in a single place in a vulnerable form.
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Time:2009-11-30 03:20 am (UTC)
Today "On the Media" (NPR) had an interesting discussion about books today, and one of them included a comparison between an audio book, a Kindle, a paperback book, and an iPhone. Much to my surprise, the winner was the iPhone because of portability, constant availability, and the ability to adjust the screen (we're talking a non-scientific test by one person, by the way). Frankly the only format I can afford is a library card to check out audio or paper books, so I guess I won't be able to try out the other formats. iPhones and Kindles are out of my financial league.
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[icon] E-books? - Discussing Unshelved by Bill Barnes & Gene Ambaum
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