Well, I got a free e-book. The Intergalactic Medicine Show is a science fiction and fantasy magazine that publishes short stories. They recently released a compilation of their best short stories. For the first couple of days it was available for free from Amazon and so i got it. The stories are really interesting and very entertaining, so well worth it.
I don’t have a dedicated reader so I just used my Android with the Kindle app. The screen is a little small, but I got used to it. It is really convenient because my phone is fairly small and I carry it pretty much everywhere. I can pull it out, fire up the book and have a read. With a physical book I need a little more planning and lugging it around everywhere is a bit of a chore. This book was free (I think it is $3 now) so very good value for money. I could definitely see myself buying books like this.
As chance would have it, I was also cleaning out the spare room to turn it into another nursery (because one baby is never enough). I had to shift a book-case and all the books out. While I was doing it I was looking at the covers and remembering the good times reading them. It was amazing to see so many books all piled up and to think they could all easily fit on my phone. But you know what? Both my wife and I have read all those books. Many of them came from my mum or she has read while staying. My dad also has read most of them and we’ve lent a number of them out to friends. The e-book I have on my phone isn’t really capable of the same kind of use. I haven’t looked into it, but even if there isn’t any DRM I would have to take a bit of effort to copy and send the book and then whoever got the copy would have to some how organise it in their reader. Oh, and being a good little boy I would have to delete the copy from my phone (bollocks the lot of it). Certainly less convenient than just pointing at my shelf and letting my mum rummage to her heart’s content.
Are They Good or Bad?
It an e-book cost the same as a physical book I’d say go for the physical one unless you specifically need it to take no room (you’re travelling) and you didn’t intend to lend it to anyone (that’s theft remember? It’s called copy right violation letting anyone else enjoy the words you’ve read). I would say the e-book would have to be significantly cheaper than the physical version to worth buying. As it happens, in Australia a paperback will set you back about $20 (yes you lovely people in the US, that’s a lot). But when I buy a book I expect at least three people to read it (me, my wife and my mum) so I think an e-book would need to be at most $6.66 so I could buy three copies. But considering I wouldn’t then have the option of donating to the Salvoes or lending to a friend or just filling my bookshelf for my kids to eventually read I would say the upper limit for an e-book would be about $3 if it was any good, $1 if it was only acceptable and free otherwise. Just think of it. I bought David Eddings’ Belgariad to re-read (I originally read my mum’s copies which have since gone separate ways). I stacked it on my shelf and thought to myself it would be perfect for my little daughter to read in thirteen or so years. She wouldn’t need to re-buy it or have a special reader. She could take it from the shelf and snuggle up in bed and read like I did when I was in highschool. Had I bought the e-book version that would not be possible because in thirteen years the format will probably be out of date and I doubt I’d still have it on a storage medium that worked.
How Many Are Lost?
I have to wonder how many wonderful books and other works of art are lost because we are not allowed to make copies of them. Already there are many e-books that are never released in hard copy format. When you buy one of those it is illegal to print it out because that apparently is theft and you wouldn’t steal a car would you? How many books never see the number of readers they deserve because you can’t loan them to another person? That’s also theft. Heaven forbid the words you paid to see are seen by anyone else! Imagine if you accidentally said one of those words out loud? That would be like stealing all the money from a bank and throwing it up in the air wouldn’t it? I think e-books, when combined with ridiculous copy right laws will result in the loss of untold number of books and all the art, culture and entertainment they contain. Will book collectors in the future hunt down old Kindles with first editions on them or will anything not published on paper be lost forever? This is the same for movies and television shows. Because of the length of copy right we have lost many wonderful things because no one was allowed to make copies to preserve the work. Oh well. I think at some point I’ll have to put my money where my mouth is and freely distribute my work so it has the best chance of living on beyond me.