Some thoughts on ebooks

Posted: March 14, 2011 in General

Let’s start with some price comparisons.

The Stand  by Stephen King Price
New paperback from Amazon
Kindle Ebook
New paperback from B&N
Nook Ebook from B&N
Cheapest used from Amazon
Google Books
Used Bookstore cost**
Ebook Piracy
$8.99*
$8.99
$8.90*
$8.99
$.10 + 3.99sh
$8.99
$4.50
Free

* Not including s/h
** based on %50 of cover price which seems to be common for used bookstores.

I’m a big fan of ebooks.  I have been ever since I first found Project Gutenberg about a decade ago.  I quickly fell in love with Google Books when they started providing scanned copies of out of copyright books a few years ago.  I’ve owned a couple of ereaders.  I currently have a Nook and an no-name lcd Android tablet with all of the latest Nook, Kindle, etc apps on it.  My problem is that I want to buy more ebooks but they are cost prohibitive.

The above table gives a comparison of costs as of today on a book that was written over 20 years ago.  If you buy the ebook from Amazon or B&N, it’ll cost you the same as buying it in a retail store even though it contains no physical resources and doesn’t require any printing.  Furthermore, if you want to change devices, then you had better get an Android device or an iPad with the associated app because your books are not interchangeable the Kindle or the Nook.  If you are strictly limited on how you use a book that you buy, even an ebook, do you truly own it?  That’s a good debate in itself.

I’ve bought one ebook so far from Google Books new shop.  It’s one that I couldn’t find anywhere else, the price was great compared to the paper version, and it isn’t DRM’ed.  Basically that means that I can read it on Google’s book app and I can put it into my Nook.  I can even download a PDF copy of it that is readable on a Kindle without conversion.  That’s nice.  It’s also very rare.  Google’s bookstore is generally higher than they other two major ebook sellers and their selection is lacking to say the least.  However I think that they openness in the file format is the way to go.

If I go to a used bookstore and buy a book for $4.50, after I’m done I can turn it in for a small store credit which will also bring down the total cost of ownership for that book.  It’s my opinion that ebooks should be able to compete with the costs of going to a used bookstore.  Competition is good for everybody.  Used bookstore will also be an awesome place to browse and buy.  There is an experience factor to thumbing through books on a rainy Saturday afternoon that shopping online for ebooks can’t compete with.  There’s also the fact that authors don’t see one red cent of revenue when books are sold in them also.  Authors should want their older catalog of books sold at used bookstore prices because at least then they will see a little more revenue coming in.

Lastly, there is one company that I think is doing things right and that’s Baen book.  Baen is mostly known for pulp scifi and fantasy titles.  They are also one of the few really competitive publishers that are doing things right.  Many of their new ebooks are in the $15 range which I’m okay with because it’s new and in higher demand.  However, most of their older catalog is less than $6.00.  They also have a huge selection of older free ebooks so you can get a taste of what an other has to offer.  Their books also come multi-format and without restriction.  Use them on the device that you have.

Baen Free Library:  http://www.baen.com/library/

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Comments
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