A grump about ebooks

What do you guys think about ebooks?  Do you have an ebook reader?  Do you use it or do you still read books?  Sorry, but I just don’t get the whole ebook thing.  Technology, useful technology, is meant to make life easier or better in some way but I don’t see how ebooks do that.  For starters, the readers are expensive and not everyone has one (like me) so you can’t lend an ebook to someone, you can’t wrap it up to give it as a present.  You can’t even put it on a shelf.  A couple of my friends have published ebooks and I can’t read them because I don’t have a reader.  The whole thing is just weird.  What’s really so wrong with paper pages and a cover with a great picture on the front?

And ebooks are really stuffing up the whole publishing industry.  Because people can so easily publish their own book as an ebook and sell it for next to nothing – or indeed, nothing at all – publishers are not putting out so many books because they’re worried they won’t sell.  Because fewer books are getting published, there are fewer books for people to buy so bookshops around the world are closing.   It’s just crazy.

I don’t understand it.

Go buy a book – a real book.  One made with paper.

(I am heartened by the fact that my computer’s spell check is underlining ebook in red)



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3 responses to “A grump about ebooks

  1. Those are very good points, Ella.

    One of the things that has facilitated the rise of the e-book is the fact that brick-and-mortar bookstores haven’t changed at all since the 1930s. They still take on their books on consignment, display them for up to 90 days, then the majority of the books are remaindered and pulped. In other words, destroyed. It’s an environmentally unfriendly practice and wasteful.

    It’s far from sustainable, especially since the cost of getting books into stores keep rising all the time. And, if the numbers are to be believed, last year alone, print sales fell by 50% while e-book sales soared by 150%. So, from a business point of view, it makes sense to focus on e-books.

    A secondary issue is that it’s difficult to get prime visibility in stores. This is because stores — particularly those belonging to big chains — only create elaborate displays for a title when they are paid co-op money by the publisher. This shuts out many indie or self-published authors — they just can’t compete in terms of shelf space.

    With e-books, however, every author gets a single display at a online retailer like Amazon. A bestselling author has exact same ‘digital shelf space’ as a newbie, which creates an incredibly level playing field. Implicitly, no author is more visible than another, which gives everyone a fair and equal chance to succeed.

    Finally, even with readers who still want print books, their buying habits have changed radically. Yes, they will still step into bookstores, but only to browse and find the titles they like. Then they will head back home and order those titles via online retailers for cheaper.

    That is actually the primary reason why print runs have fallen — bookstores have become product showrooms rather than the marketplaces they used to be.

    Ultimately, these are the realities facing publishers, booksellers, authors and readers. The e-book is not solely to be blamed for the decline of print — it’s the fact that everyone wants things to be faster and cheaper, and they don’t really want to compromise in that regard.

    • Hi John
      Sorry, but I disagree about what happens to books in bookshops. Sure, it is impossible to find the Thieves Series in the chain bookshops in New Zealand any more but they are still on the shelves in the independent book shops. They are also in libraries throughout New Zealand and Australia and in lots of homes as well. People can borrow them and pass them around and talk about them and hold them.
      I like bookshops, I like spending time in them, I like holding books. I even like the smell of books. My dad died last year and I now have several of his treasured books which he signed. I don’t think you can do that with an ebook.

  2. richardmaclean

    Dear Ella West
    I totally agree with all your comments about ebooks. If anything I think they will discourage a lot of people from reading (cost, hassle etc). Consider me an ‘early rejector’ of the technology. On a more positive note, one of my colleagues has a daughter, 14, who has grabbed the Thieves series from the library at Wellington East Girls’ College and is presently devouring the books with great glee and excitement. What do we want??? A fourth book!!! When do we want it??? Now!!!

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