Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On the Other Hand...

Pages written since last post: 7

I'm still struggling with Kindle lust, but as promised, I am examining both sides of the electronic books issue (from a purely self-centered point of view, of course). Having searched high and low, here are the downsides to e-readers that I've come up with:

For authors and publishers:
1)For most titles, you can download the first chapter free. Here are the books that I purchased in hardcover that I would not have not have bought at all if I could have read the first chapter before purchasing:

South of Broad
by Pat Conroy
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larson
How I Became A Famous Novelist by Greg Hely
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

This is not to say that these might not turn out to be wonderful books, but so far I have not been able to get past the first chapter in any of them. And with ten or more absolutely delicious titles waiting on my nightstand at any given time (think how many more titles I would be tempted by if I weren't limited by the space available on my night stand!), one chapter is pretty much all you get before I move on to something more interesting. Bad news for those literary types who think the tried-but-true rule of writing "Open with a hook" doesn 't apply to them (and for those very un-literary types who never took the trouble to learn that rule).

2) E-books are cheaper. Well, DUH! screams the publishing industry, because this simple fact is, of course, at the center of the entire controversy (in case you haven't been keeping up, the truth of the matter is that publishers are not at present losing money on the cheap e-versions of their books, but they seem to be worried that they might somehow do so in the future). Because here's the truth, a dedicated reader like myself will in fact buy books (like those mentioned above) sight unseen, in hardcover, at full price if given no other choice. Books I wish I had ordered electronically:

The Lost Symbol
by Dan Brown. I definitely paid too much for this one.

Under the Dome by Stephen King. In fact I only paid 9.00 for this, but at 1123 pages it's too heavy to hold! I definitely wish I had this one nicely tucked away in a lightweight e-reader.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Neffenegger

For Readers

Here I am limited because I don't, you'll recall, actually own an e-reader yet. I hear the page-turn function can be slow, which would make me crazy. I put a good deal of value on the interior design of a book-- how it's formatted, the type that's used, the design of chapter headings, etc.-- which would be missing in most electronic editions. And yes of course I would miss paper books, and when I do, I will buy one. What really bothers me is the cover art. Can someone assure me that when I download a book I will also be able to download a full-color, full-size version of its original cover?

2) Not every title is available electronically and publishers are now joining forces to make certain that top titles are not released electronically until close to the time the paperback edition comes out.

3) Here is the bottom line for readers: Price, and convenience. If, like me, you buy most of your hardcover bestsellers from Amazon.com (where I live, I really have no choice), and you always order in quantity and get free shipping, you'll end up saving only a dollar or two on Amazon.com's already heavily discounted hardcover price if you buy the electronic version. Last year about this time I added up the amount I had spent on books all year and compared that to the cost of the electronic editions of the same books. Over the course of a year (and a LOT of books) I would have saved less than $70, hardly enough to pay for a pricey e-reader. So what you're mostly paying for with an e-reader is convenience.

$259 is a lot of convenience.

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