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View Diary: e-books: who owns my digital library? (184 comments)

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  •  I loathe e-books (5+ / 0-)

    I am, admittedly, a bit of a luddite, but I hate everything about e-books.   Here are a few of the reasons:

    1. As you've stated, you don't really own a copy of those books.  You just have access, which can be taken away at someone else's whim.

    2. Ebooks are corrupting the quality of literature, because nobody has to pony up any cash to print them... so, literally anything gets sold now as an e-book.  A lot of untalented people who should never have been published are now "authors" because they've put their shit out as an e-only book.  Publishers who had to put money behind putting a book out would have weeded them out, but now they get a chance to play in the same pool with people who have skills they've worked hard to develop.  (Caveat: I don't like vanity press books much, either, for the same reason - I've read too many of them and most of them have been utter shit).  And Amazon's happy to put them out because they want Kindle-fodder.  Half the time these authors' books are given away free, just so Amazon can count it as a "sale" and say that e-books are outselling traditional books. Amazon has also started giving away "free" Kindle copies of some books Kindle owners buy in paper, just so they can also count that as a "sale."  Amazon is creating a false market narrative, because their goal is pure profit without having to sell or ship an actual product.

    3. It's killing a lot of jobs.  Retailing is disappearing because of all these e-things; bookstores are folding because of e-books, used book stores are disappearing, video stores are disappearing because of streaming, and when's the last time you saw a record store?  Not only retail is affected, but manufacturing, shipping, warehouse workers, etc. of actual products.  

    4. The thing that cracks me up most is people who buy e-books 'cuz they think they're "green."  First, paper is a renewable resource.  When a tree is cut to make paper they plant several more in its space, because they have money invested in it.  If you devalue forest land by not using it, the land gets sold for other purposes - paving over and building another Starbucks.   Printed books can be re-sold, given to libraries, or even recycled if you wish.  And if you do throw them away, they're biodegradable.  Kindles are not, and a new one comes out every year and people keep buying the same gadget over and over again... a gadget that has poisonous lithium batteries, that will never biodegrade, and that uses up electricity in recharging that comes from burning coal.   Of all the reasons to get a Kindle, being "green" is the most laughable.

    5. Dissemination of actual printed books makes it a lot harder to doctor and change texts, because you'd have to track down all printed copies.  When everybody's just accessing a file, it's easy to change all that stuff.  I admit, this is a 1984-ish conspiracy theory, but if somebody in the future wanted to erase, say, The Holocaust from the history books, they'd have a lot easier time changing files than they would tracking down all printed copies.

    6. It's an inferior product.  Because nobody really pictures "file size," books are getting shorter.  I buy printed copies of "novels" that have come out for Kindle and, believe me, a lot of these things are not novel-length.  They're barely even novellas.  And, as I said before, many of them are not from authors who could've made the cut in the printed-book world.  And, not being physical, you miss out a lot.

    7. Libraries are being held hostage by e-journals.  More and more libraries are investing in e-journals, while  Ebsco and other companies are raising prices of e-journals every year.  If you let your subscription to a title go, in many cases you lose the backlog which you paid for.  In print journals, if you subscribed from 2000 to 2013 and then decided to cease the title, you still have 13 years of print copies on the shelf that are yours.  With e-journals, often if you stop subscribing in 2013, you lose all those 13 years.   So, to retain what they have, libraries have to pay whatever inflated price the retailers feel like charging.

    8.  And, yeah, aesthetics.  I just plain like the look, feel, smell, etc. of paper books.  I like going to other people's houses and being shown their libraries.  

    And there are plenty of other reasons I'm an e-book-hatin' crackpot.  I know they're good for some things - traveling, or if you're the kind of person who just reads a book and then throws it away (I'm not one of those), or if book-space is a concern, etc.  There are some legit reasons for people to like e-books, but some legit ones for resisting them, too.  I know that'll tick some people off 'cuz there are rabid fans of these things, but that's okay, I'm always going to hate the damn things.

    "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

    by Front Toward Enemy on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:36:35 PM PDT

    •  On the other hand (5+ / 0-)

      Regarding your point #2, while there is a lot of unreadable dreck, there are also a few nuggets in the straw. Some interesting and worthwhile authors emerge in "e-book only" that would never have seen the light of day under the usual paper publishing process.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:42:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  publishing constricted to shut out some writers (8+ / 0-)

        I liked a lot, many of them published by top houses ten or twenty years ago. And though publishers used to deliver a wider variety, for decades it seemed to me they kept making panicked decisions, increasingly wasting the budget on supposedly money-in-the-bank celebrities while cutting corners by dumping series with loyal followings. They kept consolidating so only a handful remained, and those were often run in a management style akin to trying to sell more cereal by overloading it with corn syrup. I like that e-publishing brought back some of my old midlist favorites, tough to find anymore even in used bookstores. And I like short stories, so I'm a big fan of "e-singles" stories that were previously in magazines or anthologies no longer on the shelf.

        "Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts." William S. Burroughs

        by scilicet on Wed May 08, 2013 at 03:42:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You make some good points, especially in regards (4+ / 0-)

      to e-journals and libraries.

      And the buyer must beware when purchasing an e-book. I generally check out the paperback or hardback pages on Amazon to get an idea of the length of a book. But The Old Man and the Sea was a pretty short book, IIRC.

      And bottom line, at least for now, the choice is an open one and people can use either method to read a book. For me, I would much rather read a book on a digital device. It is a subjective choice, but someday e-books will become true multi-media experiences.

      And heads will explode.

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:50:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  they're already becoming multi-media... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan from 29

        ... and I'm not sure that's a good thing.  Maybe it is in some ways... but it's going to mutate the reading experience.  We're already getting shorter attention spans because of all the distractions around us.  People are getting dumber because a large chunk of their brains are in their hand now, in the form of a little silicon square.  They don't have to learn things or remember them when they can dial up Wikipiedia.   Kindle and Nook now spend as much time advertising how you can watch movies and surf the web on them, and I'm like, "You guys don't know what I'm looking for from a book."   I don't know if I'm a typical modern reader or not, but when I read, I want no distractions, so I can get absorbed in the story.  If I can go check Twitter every few minutes, that's what I'll be doing.  I think it's robbing something from the reading experience.   For me, anyway.  But, when multimedia creeps in, it's not really going to be a "book" anymore.  What it'll be instead may have some good points, I don't know, but it's not really going to be "reading."

        I dunno.  I hope it'll be a good thing 'cuz I know there's no stopping it, but, I do have reservations.

        "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

        by Front Toward Enemy on Thu May 09, 2013 at 07:56:40 AM PDT

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        •  NBC news put out Election Night in 2012 which (2+ / 0-)

          I bought through iBookstore so I could use my iPad to read it. The book included, not just photos of past elections, but actual video of the election return broadcasts going back to the 50s, I believe.

          The book could be read and enjoyed without clicking a single video, viewing only the still illustrations, but the videos added value to it, IMHO. Just like illustrations are not essential to most texts, but they add an extra dimension to those books in which they appear.

          We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

          by Susan Grigsby on Thu May 09, 2013 at 12:08:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  A book is a book (2+ / 0-)

      Sure, there are a lot of bad books out there that wouldn't have been accepted by a publisher. But this isn't killing literature. The really bad stuff remains read by few. There are also good books that publishers pass on.

      I'd rather have more freedom than less, and some bad books are the price for freedom. I trust readers. If readers like a book, who am I to tell them they are wrong? There's a lot of good music that the record companies pass on, there's a lot of good art that galleries pass on. So why should books be any different?

      There are plenty of doorstoppers being published, and there are novellas and short stories. That the e-book allows a wider range of book lengths is good. People should check the length of the book before they buy.

      E-books are not killing bookstores. The real enemy of bookstores were the big box bookstores.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Wed May 08, 2013 at 07:14:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  true in some ways, but it creates a din (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bill W, Susan from 29

        The main problem with everybody having access to being published is it creates a bad signal-to-noise ratio that, eventually, drowns everything out.  It's like taking down the firewall on your computer -- there's no protection against harmful garbage getting in.  And it eventually lowers the standards.  I'm seeing that showing up in writing already.  I've also seen some established authors putting out junk that got passed up by publishers just because it costs nothing to do it.  When we remove editorial standards, eventually everything suffers.  We're in the opening stages of it now, but I think it's going to have a long-term detrimental effect.  I hope I'm wrong about that, though.

        And, as CatteNappe said above, I'm sure there are some nuggets of good stuff getting through... but they're going to get harder and harder to find as people start "publishing" their fan-fic and Dale M. Courtney "Moon People" type books (check that out on Amazon, it's hilarious-yet-depressing).   For every good self-published writer, readers will have to wade through a thousand talentless hacks, and will eventually get worn out with it.  And people will stop wanting to read as much when they have to deal with so many terrible books.  Like I said, this isn't just an e-book problem, though... print-on-demand and vanity presses have opened some doors that (in my opinion) should've stayed shut.  I'm certain there's good self-published stuff out there... but, I'll admit, I haven't really seen any yet, and I read a lot of stuff.   I've even got a cousin who self-publishes nice hardbacks, and his stuff is awful.  I'm glad he has a hobby, but, yee-ikes.

        A big thing I forgot to mention in my initial list is... piracy.  A lot of Kindle books are already showing up on bit-torrent sites and there's almost no way to stop that.  Book piracy will do to the publishing industry what illegal downloading has done to the music industry... but worse, since bands can still survive by playing live.  Authors have nothing but their written works, which take a long time to create... and then get stolen.  I'm not sure how much they're going to be able to do to stop that, either.  And we do have a generation that seems to think everything should cost nothing.  It's going to be harder for anyone to make a living as a writer, and then everybody will lose.

        "Glenn Beck ends up looking like a fat, stupid child. His face should be wearing a chef's hat on the side of a box of eclairs. " - Doug Stanhope

        by Front Toward Enemy on Thu May 09, 2013 at 07:50:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  re: piracy (2+ / 0-)
          It's going to be harder for anyone to make a living as a writer, and then everybody will lose.
          I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone chime in that it will actually make things better, that instead of writing for mega-corporate publishing houses, writers will instead become wandering story-tellers, regaling eager audiences with their spellbinding tales in exchange for a bowl of soup or a couch to sleep on.  It will make the art much more pure and true.

          I've actually heard people make a similar argument regarding the eventual collapse of the music recording business.

    •  Front Toward Enemy - OTOH (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29, pimutant, A Citizen

      I live in a rural area and the nearest Barnes and Noble (or any bookstore) is 50 miles away. So having the power to just order a book for my Nook or Kindle and having it in seconds is a great luxury.
        And, I was running out of room. Even now, evey flat surface in my house is covered with books and journals. I was seriously thinking of adding another room to my house, just for a library.
        And, there are many books that I have wanted to read but which were out of print and not available anywhere. Suddenly, they are all available as e-books. (Ancient Greek and Roman writers, eg.)
        As to your claim about novel lengths. The novels I've published as e-books are certainly novel length.
        As for quality: You can preview the book on the product page and even download a sample. So if you don't like it, you don't have to buy it.  
      Long story short: I love e-books and e-readers.

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