Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Defense of E-books


It's Darth Kindle vs. Luddite Skywalker!
Watch as young Amazon Skywalker turns to the glowing side!
'Read books on paper, you must,' Yoda mumbles.

How are these Star Wars / publishing industry analogies working for you? I need to go outside more often.

I never bought into the whole "ebooks are evil" scene. The emergence of ebooks has presented a load of controversial issues regarding permissions, pricing, distribution, access, ownership, censorship, piracy, monopolization, etc. And these all need to be discussed. Extensively.

But please stop talking about smelling books because you're creeping everyone out.

So what's defensible in the world of electronic booking?

1. There's the fact that I just bought the Collected Novels of José Saramago, all 13 novels and 3864 pages, as an ebook for $33. Buying them individually as paperbacks would have cost nearly $200.

This is how ebooks SHOULD be priced (or close to it -- this was pretty dirt cheap actually and I felt bad buying it). And a lot of the slightly older, less bestseller-y titles are. But buying a new release as an ebook? Forgettaboudit. Charging hardcover prices for something that is neither hard nor covered is something publishers need to get over.

2. James Joyce and Virginia Woolf! They entered into the public domain on January 1, 2012. Also known as Public Domain Day to us pale, bookshelf-dwelling shut-ins. I feel like right now I should be slowly taking my glasses off and cleaning them with the bottom of my sweater vest for knowing about Public Domain Day. All I need now are glasses and a sweater vest.

Project Gutenberg is grand, and makes me glad the internet exists. Cat videos and whatever this is are great too, but finding a book on Antarctic penguins that was published in 1914 and instantly downloading it for free is where it's all at.

Just look at these adorable penguins and tell me there's evil in the world.

3. Who knows how many Shakespeares, sisters of Shakespeare, Stephen Kings, or J.K. Rowlings died in obscurity before the internet because their writing was refused the light of day by stuffy publishers? Probably a lot. But now thanks to Al Gore and magic, writers can use the World Wide Web (or whatever you kids call it these days) as a one-stop shop to gain a following, market their writing, and publish their work without great cost to themselves. An important factor to consider when even online literary journals are beginning to charge reading fees for submitted work.

Take The Raven and the Writing Desk, a blog I follow, which just released a Best of collection of really excellent short stories and poetry as an ebook. And it's free until this Saturday! So check it out. Unless free is too expensive for you, you crazy person.

4. There's more than one way to skin a cat (eww) and there's more than one way to buy an ebook.

There's Powells, BooksOnBoard, and this gigantic list of like two hundred indie bookstores that sell ebooks. So if you're into the whole supporting local businesses thing, there you go. And don't forget to support your local starving writers while you're at it.

Look for an 'In Defense of Print Books' post in the near future, once I'm able to get my hands on particular print book I want to talk about and possibly cuddle with.

But NOT a 'Defense of Marriage' post, because I don't feel like wearing a sweater vest THAT much.

You are a bad person, Rick Santorum, and you should feel bad.


  1. Hehe! Love your defense of e-books. And thank you for mentioning THE BEST OF RAVEN AND THE WRITING DESK too!!

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