Tag Archives: amazon

Print Books vs. Ebooks

IKEA Library

Dream library, IKEA version

As long as I can remember, I’ve had the dream of one day owning a house big enough to hold a room with a dedicated library of all my books, complete with one of those rolling ladders to allow me to reach the high shelves. This dream personal library has a velvet chaise lounge with a beautiful bronze floor lamp next to it, and a fireplace, bear rug, the whole luxurious nine yards.

I made a startling realization the other day: if we abandon the fantasy of the chaise lounge/floor lamp/fireplace, I’ve already got the dream library, since I have more than 600 books in my Amazon Kindle Cloud Drive and more than 200 iOS apps, half of them book apps.

Dream library, Kindle version

I write this post today because I’ve been hearing the following statement lately, from a variety of people:

“I like ebooks and all, but I prefer the feel of a real book in my hands.”

While I don’t really care if these folks hold on to their dead tree books as long as they like, I think they’ll eventually change their minds. Here’s why.

Ebooks Are Convenient

Between all my gadgets (Android phone, two iOS devices and a Kindle Touch) I have access to hundreds of books (many obtained free, or at discount prices) in my favorite genres. I send cookbooks, craft books and other how-to or multimedia books to the Kindle Reader on my iPad; mysteries, business books, chick lit and other text-based books I want to read soon to the Kindle Touch, and the rest (books I may want to read someday) to the Kindle Cloud Reader, which effectively stores them in the cloud for free. I use the Kindle Reader on my phone when I don’t have access to one of my other reading devices and I’m unexpectedly caught with an extra few minutes in my day. I like having my library accessible anytime, anywhere–I don’t have to be on the velvet chaise lounge after all.

Page turns are managed with a single touch to the right-hand side of the screen, and I can get to any place in the book easily, within a couple of touches.

Ebooks Enhance the Experience of Reading

I love the ability to touch a word I don’t know and get the definition instantly. I love that the Kindle system keeps my place no matter which device I’m using. I also love the way many of the book apps I have for my kids not only hold their interest but encourage literacy and retention through interactive features (one company that does this especially well is Oceanhouse Media with word highlighting and the ability to hear a word aloud when it’s pressed in their storybook apps).

Ebooks Are Lighter and Easier to Maneuver

I’ve been reading the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Because I am a cheapskate, I decided to read the third book (A Clash of Swords) in paperback, since I found it at my local used bookstore and purchased it with store credit. This book, in mass market paperback form, is heavier and bulkier than my Kindle Touch and won’t stay open without my propping it with a heavy object, so it’s difficult to hold with just one hand. I like the fact that I can store all the ebook versions of the others in the series (and hundreds of other books) on a single device that weighs less than the small-format paperback.

Ebooks Are Less Wasteful

Lately when I hold a print book, especially a hardcover, I’m hit with the overwhelming feeling of wastefulness. There’s something pretty unpleasant about the fact that the book I hold in my hands is a real, tangible slice of what used to be a living thing, processed and assembled for the sole purpose of my entertainment or learning. I offset this as much as I can by taking physical books I don’t want anymore to my local used bookstore, then offering the ones they don’t want on PaperbackSwap.com, but the fact is: printed books use up resources (paper, ink, glue and more) that no longer need to be expended for the same entertainment or educational value.

Ebooks Can be Updated Much Faster, and at Less Cost

Non-fiction books in print form eventually become outdated. Information changes and evolves as humans gain more knowledge about a topic, or when materials or ways of doing things are improved. But let’s be honest: most non-fiction print books will be truly useful for only a fraction of their lives. After that, the next edition replaces it–at significant cost. Textbook publishers have profited from this with great success for many years–at the expense of both teachers and students.

It’s time for ebooks to become the preferred way to distribute educational materials and other non-fiction content, which can be updated quickly and redistributed almost instantly, to all users of the material, with no expending of the tangible resources needed to print a new edition.

However, Ebooks Aren’t Perfect

For me, the five reasons above are pretty compelling for the shift to digital. But there are some things about ebooks I don’t like as well. These shortcomings aren’t enough to send me back to paper, but they are worth mentioning:

  • The Kindle ‘Farthest Page Read’ Feature Needs a Reset Button. The ability of Amazon’s Kindle devices to keep my place is great, but occasionally I accidentally make my way to a later page that doesn’t actually reflect where I am in the book. When this happens, keeping my place manually becomes a pain in the neck. I’d love to see a way to reset this, but I imagine it won’t happen, since the addition of this feature would make it much easier for spouses and other family members to share books on the same family of devices. But since I let my kids and spouse share my print books, I’d sort of like to share my ebooks with them too, in a hassle-free way. Come on, Amazon!
  • Prices of Ebooks from the Big Publishers are Too Expensive. Books coming from the big 6 publishers are priced according to their artificial and rapidly-crumbling world of print scarcity and their hardback-to-trade-paperback-to-mass-market-paperback release schedule. This is archaic and needs to change. Why should the ebook version of a title ever cost more than the mass market paperback would? It all comes down to greed, and an over-reliance of the old way of doing things. Eventually these outdated practices will put many of these publishers and retailers (remember Borders?) out of business.
  • Ebook Lending Needs to Be Improved. It’s nice that I can lend one of my Kindle books to someone else (if the publisher allows it), but I can only do it once. After that, the book can’t be lent again. I don’t mind the restrictions of one-person-at-a-time and my own inaccessibility during the lending period (since these are in force for my print books too) but let’s remove the artificial restriction of once only, and let me lend a book I’m finished with over and over if I choose.
  • Ebook Devices Aren’t Durable or Affordable Enough. When iOS devices and other ebook readers are able to withstand normal wear and tear by school-aged children (i.e. being dropped on the floor) and are cheaper than $50, we will see a true revolution. Until then, they aren’t practical enough to replace most of the printed books in my house, which are now children’s books. Plus an entire segment of the population (the lower middle classes and below) have little to no access yet.

So, what I’m saying is: in spite of the drawbacks, ebooks have become just as ‘real’ to me as print books are. I love them both, but I’m not buying many print books anymore. And eventually (probably within the next five years or so) most of the rest of you will be saying the same thing.

How to Get Free Books

FREE Books!If you’ve stopped by this blog before, you already know I like book apps. What I haven’t shared nearly as often is my love for ALL types of books, especially mysteries, YA and middle grade novels, business and other how-to volumes, and even the occasional chick lit book. Because the only thing better than a good book is a good FREE book, I have found myself visiting a few special online destinations to help me be one of the first to know when a book shows up free or at a steep discount.

Book Apps

For those of you looking for the best deals and free offers on apps, look no further than the Daily Deal Page at Digital Storytime. I don’t know how she does it, but Carisa Kluver (the muscle behind Digital Storytime) handpicks the best deals on storybook and other apps for kids twice a day! I LOVE it and check it at least every day or two.

Free App Alert doesn’t specialize in book apps, but stories will show up in their daily listing of apps that are temporarily offered FREE. I have found many cool apps this way, mostly game apps.

Amazon Kindle Books

While I don’t actually own a Kindle, the Kindle app on my iPad gets a lot of use. And with the help of the following three sites, my wallet doesn’t have to be adversely affected (much!).

Pixel Of InkMy favorite Kindle deal site is Pixel of Ink. This site provides brief write-ups on books that have recently come down in price or are being offered FREE in the Kindle store. They seem to mention books of high quality, helping me separate the good stuff from the dreck.
I admit I stop by the site a couple of times a day when I remember, but sometimes I need a bit of prodding. That’s where their Twitter feed, daily email newsletter and Facebook page come in handy.

Another resource I recommend is Kindle Nation Daily. Run by Steve Windwalker (cool name, eh?), this site has a searchable, continually-updated list of Kindle freebies, sorted with the most recent additions at the top by default. This is a complete list (with no curation), which is useful every once in a while when Pixel of Ink doesn’t mention something I think I might like.

eReaderIQ ListingOne I’ve discovered recently is eReaderIQ. They have a similar freebie listing to that found at Kindle Nation Daily, but they add a Recent Price Drops section that is generated by their readers and includes a wide range of prices. I like the icons that appear next to each title, showing you at-a-glance which books are lending and TTS enabled, etc.

Dead-Tree Books

While I am quickly making the transition away from printed media, I admit this effort is sometimes stymied by my cheapskate tendencies. I refuse to spend $9.99 or above for a Kindle book I can get cheaper as a paperback. I take special delight in circumventing the outdated and no-longer-relevant new book retail process and getting books secondhand.

The best way to do this is through PaperbackSwap.com. The idea behind the site is genius. Start by putting up for trade a pile of physical books you no longer want (paperbacks and hardbacks are welcomed, as are audiobooks). Agree to ship (at your expense) one of these books to another member who requests it. Doing this earns you a credit, which you can use to request a book of your choice from another member.

I have scored many hard-to-find and out-of-print books through PaperbackSwap, which I love. If there is a book you want that isn’t available, just add it to your wish list. It might take a while, but someone will eventually post it, and the system will offer it to the next person on the wait list for that book. I also really like the fact that the books I don’t want any more get shipped to someone who is happy to receive them.

Scored any free books lately? Got any other resources you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Free Fiction Writing E-Book

For my writer friends: the Kindle version of the book Writing Fiction for Dummies is FREE, for who knows how long? Go grab it before they start charging for it again!