Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Response to "5 Reasons Why E-Books Aren't There Yet"

Yesterday, this article popped up on Wired:

Go read it. Back yet? Okay.

So here's my response to the list.

1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it.

Maybe not, but as I type, I have a few shelves full of dead tree books (DTBs) behind me that I haven't read, either. For me, it's the book that makes me want to finish it, not the format.

In fact, I've read more books since February, when my wife and I bought our Kindles, than I have in total over the last three years. I'm reading again thanks to eBooks.

2) You can't keep your books all in one place.

At first, I was scratching my head on this, because I do keep my books all in one place: on my Kindle. And, in an advantage over DTBs, I can send a copy of my books to my wife's Kindle or to her smart phone. Can't do that with a physical book, and besides, it's not like I keep my physical books all on one shelf either (some are scattered throughout the house, others are in storage).

But the focus of Abell's article is more about format incompatibility. To be fair, this might be an annoyance, but, personally, I shop exclusively from Amazon and haven't found any books unavailable there that are available on iBookstore or B&N. A question: how many of you out there actually utilize multiple online bookstores?

3) Notes in the margins help you think.

The Kindle allows you to make notes quite easily. In fact, it even makes an index file of your notes. No, you don't see your note actually in the margins, but I like that. If I annotate a DTB, there's no way to turn off my annotations. eBooks allow that.

4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren't priced that way.

eBook prices ignite a lot of controversy, that's for sure. It does seem ridiculous when the eBook price is the same as the paperback (I've even seen instances where the eBook is higher). This is where we're seeing a lot of success for indie authors, and why I don't plan on pricing any of my forthcoming titles higher than $5. This isn't a drawback of the format, though, but rather one of business practices by publishers.

5) E-books can't be used for interior design.

Okay... maybe not. Still, for me, that's a small price to pay for eliminating the massive amount of space that DTBs take up. Like I said earlier, I have boxes of books stacked in my garage, and a few nearly-full bookshelves in the house. And how often do I read an individual title? Once? Maybe twice? (Except for a few favorites, of course.) 

More to the point is that, with eBooks, I now feel free to buy books I'd be cautious, or even embarrassed, to lug around in public. And that just means that my reading world is more open than ever.

I do like that Abell acknowledges the strengths of the e-format, and that ebooks are here to stay (though, at this point, who could deny that?). However, it seems like three of the five items on the list are simply incorrect. I'll also concede that though two of the items don't apply to me, they might apply to others.

Am I wrong, here? Let me know in the comments.


  1. And soon, libraries will be lending Kindle books, a massive shift. When I bought my Kindle, I couldn't share books; now I can. The ebook market changes so rapidly that it's hard to predict. Here's one point: if the demand for paper books drops by 50% (as it soon will when enough people convert to ereaders/ipads), the paper book market will no longer be profitable. The paper market is hardly profitable now. It can't take a 50% drop.

    One way to add value to ebooks is to use them as an innovative tool for promoting tourism, like this novel (self-promotion, but related):

    Kindle tourism novels allow ereaders to jump straight to the real tourism websites found in a fictional story's settings, something that paper books cannot do. The media is picking up on this aspect, especially in this bad economy.

  2. While there's a huge cost of entry in printing paperback books for an individual, a large publishing house's costs will be negligible. The cost of formatting a book for the Kindle will probably be similar (if it's done properly, which it usually isn't) to the cost of a small first edition run.

    I've read somewhere that the price to produce each individual paperback ends up in the region of around 15cents. So it really doesn't make any more sense for an ebook to be cheaper than it does for them to be more expensive.

    Ebooks should be priced at the price that brings in the most revenue. That's capitalism for you.

    I would say that in order to make them impulse purchases, that price should be kept equal or lower than a paperback though, other than for very new releases by top authors, where you can afford to charge a high price for people desperate to read the story straight away.

  3. Good points, V.K. Another comment made by Wired is that ebooks can not be shared. I share my ebooks all the time with those who have like-formated eReaders (Kindle & Nook). Maybe it is not the same as just handing over a print book to a freind, but it can be done and I believe ebooks will become even more lender-friendly in the future.

  4. Mark,

    Good point! I meant to mention the ability to share books, but looks like I forget about it.