The Bog of Lost Scholars

December 2, 2010

Switching to Ebooks

Filed under: Publishing and Writing,The Castiron Reading Journal — castiron @ 12:44 am

I’ve made the switch to ebooks — almost.

Recently I realized that I’m doing the majority of my fiction reading on my iPod Touch. I still have plenty of paper books, I still like paper books, and I still check out paper books from the library, but when it comes to actually making the time to read, I’m more likely to read on my Touch than I am to read the paper book. The Touch is always on me and easy to pull out when I have a few spare minutes. I can go immediately to where I left off; there’s no danger of a bookmark falling out, and because of the small screen size, there’s no hunting across two pages to find where I left off (a constant problem when I was trying to read Foote’s The Civil War, and one reason I’ve only finished the first volume). If I’m reading something huge, like The Lord of the Rings or The Count of Monte Cristo, that’s okay; the book still fits in my pocket and doesn’t weigh any more.

I knew I’d completed the switch when I read Bujold’s latest, Cryoburn, on the Touch. I’ve got the paper book as well; I only opened it once to look at the design and layout. Overall, I’m now an ebook reader…

…but I’m not yet an ebook buyer.

No, this is not a confession of piracy. All the ebooks on my Touch are legal copies. But most of them are free — Project Gutenberg downloads, fanfiction stories downloaded from Archive of Our Own, free sample books from various publishers, etc. I’ve bought a few Baen books and a few books from Fictionwise when it still had a good micropay program, but the total number of ebooks I’ve paid for might not hit two digits.

Why? Because when I buy a book, I want to own the book.

If I buy a book with DRM, what happens when I need to convert the book to a different format, or the DRM authorization server is shut down, or I switch to a new device and discover I’ve used up all the devices I was allowed to authorize the book on? I’ve lost the book, unless I want to break federal law and strip the DRM.

If I can’t own the ebook, then I don’t want to buy it. Baen’s books are great, because there’s no DRM and I can download different formats when I need to. But Baen only publishes a couple of the authors I really love to read.

I have a few hundred paper books that I want to get in ebook format someday. The books I love enough to keep in my house are mostly ones I love enough to pay twice for them, and some of them were bought used anyway, so this’d be a great chance to finally pay the author. But if the ebook comes with strings attached? I’m not that desperate to have it.

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