Jan. 31st, 2010

manifesta: (Rory/Logan Kiss)

I usually don't comment on ebook-related issues. However, the Macmillan vs. Amazon kerfuffle (UPDATE: Amazon folds.) has prompted me to think more about the changing landscape of digital publishing lately. 

fictiontheory said it well:
"As far as the whole e-books thing goes? I'm sticking with paperbacks until the price comes way down and there's a reader that actually makes sense. Nothing on the market is even feasible. Sony's model can't handle temperatures under 30 degrees (and in NYC, that's bad), the Kindle is too expensive and Amazon can take your purchases back any time they want, and I'm not buying a damn iPhone just for the reader."
Right now, the market is absolutely unapproachable for people who can't afford to dish out $200+ a pop for an ereader that only accepts certain ebooks or doesn't let you actually own those ebooks or doesn't have the right lighting or ink or color or doesn't have a USB port or what-have-you. I have yet to find a single solid ereader that doesn't have any number of issues. The underlying point behind ebooks is that they are our 21st century solution for convenient reading. Ebooks are supposed to save paper, reduce production lag times, and be more easily accessible--but until they can do everything a print paperback can do and then some, I would not consider ebooks or ereaders to be anywhere near an investment.

So what would it take for me to invest in both?

A streamlined ereader that contained the following:

1. The ability to read and annotate ANY file, including .pdfs, regardless of who it was published by. Until I can read anything I damn well please on it, I'm sticking with my netbook and paperbacks.
2. The ability to link to wireless internet.
3. Color and pictures. Considering how expensive it is to include printed illustrations in books, I expect that their inclusion in ebooks of the future would increase their market value and garner additional attention.
5. Unlimited book storage, or at least the ability to store books on a USB. 
6. I want to own what I purchase. Period.

And finally, I'm not going to spend $9.99 OR $14.99 on a digital copy (that would be you, Macmillan) that could be revoked at any time (and you, Amazon) of a book I could otherwise get for $7.99 in print, by any author, in color, and without the headache. And this would be after spending at least $200 on the ereader.

It's just not practical.

If the price of average ereader was brought down by A LOT, and included all of the above, I might not mind paying more per ebook. But that would require the cooperation between publishers and the companies producing ereaders, and that doesn't seem to be what's occurring here, and instead it's the reader (as well as the authors) who get screwed.
 
See related: SFWA author breaks down the debate. A long but detailed overview.

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