Archive | September 2012

The Price You Pay: E-books Vs. Print

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, photo owned by Alonso77

There is a lot of debate going on lately among book lovers about the merits of e-books vs. print books.  Mostly, it boils down to personal preference, with a lot of people valuing both forms of books to varying degrees.  There is also the valid question being raised about whether the appearance of e-books on the scene, and their quick rise in popularity will bring about the demise of traditional books.  But as a book lover, and especially as a consumer, there is a question that looms higher in my mind than both of these questions.  What is the real price of e-books?  Of course, there are the dollars and cents costs, but there are also non-monetary costs that many proponents of e-books give up without a second thought.  But some of us give them up grudgingly, weighing them in our minds with the flat-out cost of the e-books and wonder, “Is this worth it?”

Let’s look at some aspects of the plain old cost of e-books.  The one that hit me right off the bat when I first got my Nook was that most e-books cost the same, or more than their print counterparts.  Now I’m not talking about the classics that are offered for free on most e-reading platforms.  Nor am I talking about the low-priced self-published books.  I’m contemporary fiction, non-fiction, whatever you like to read.  Frequently when I go to buy an e-book, I find that it’s just plain cheaper to go to get the print edition.  With that said, shouldn’t the cost of an e-book be cheaper?  After all, there is no printing cost.  Maybe the cost of translating print into digital is more expensive?  This article helps to answer that question.  But the author doesn’t really cite any sources for his data so I’m leery.  This article  is from a publishing group, and I see what they are saying.  It would explain e-books being similarly priced to hard cover print books, but not their costing more than paperbacks.  This blog post (written by a former publishing CEO) makes a similar argument.  But the interesting thing on this one is the comments.  Read what the responders are saying, and you will see that many think this argument is deceptive and doesn’t make sense upon further investigation.  One commenter suggests that the economic incentive is to buy the print paperback because it is cheaper, and I have to say I agree there.  Yet, as the blogger responds, many people continue to buy the e-book versions.  Why?  I can tell you one reason I have been known to do it.  It’s just more convenient.  I get the book right away without having to leave my house, and I don’t have to worry about finagling another space on my already way-too-full bookshelf.  But I do get the feeling of being exploited every time I hit the “buy” button in these instances.  Are publishers and sellers charging consumers more because they know the high value of convenience in the minds of readers today or are these the legitimate prices as related to the legitimate costs of publishing e-books?

Another way the actual cost of the e-book leaves me, as a reader feeling somewhat exploited is the price difference between e-book vendors.  In a normal consumer setting, if something is cheaper at another store, I will simply buy it there (unless of course I am convenience shopping).  Because of the Proprietary model used by e-book sellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., this is simply not possible when purchasing e-books.  E-books contain DRM (Digital Rights Management) to protect the books against digital piracy.  There is a huge debate around the use of DRM that I will not go into right now.  What I do want to say about DRM is that it forces a consumer to read their purchased e-book on a specific platform.  For example, if you purchase a Kindle edition book, you must read it on a Kindle device or on a Kindle app on a computer or mobile device.  If the NookBook is cheaper than the Kindle edition, you must pay the higher price for the kindle edition because you will not be able to read the NookBook on your Kindle.  For example, I want to buy the book The Cutting Season by: Attica Locke.  On Amazon it costs $6.99.  From Google Play it costs $7.29.  From Barnes & Noble it costs $14.99 (all prices listed are current at the time of writing).  I and other Nook owners will be stuck paying the higher price.  I can see the reasons why booksellers would choose to use DRM for e-books (and why publishers would require its use).  But is DRM also hurting the sellers of e-books and e-reader devices?

The pricing differences between vendors have caused many people to decide on a tablet PC rather than an e-reading device.  While a tablet PC tends to cost more than an e-reader, the purchaser gets more diverse functionality, and can download apps for all of the different e-readers.  This allows the consumer to shop for the lowest price e-book without having to buy multiple devices.  The downside is that readers are unable to enjoy the full features offered by some of the companies.  For example, Amazon Prime members are able to borrow a book a month for free from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, and own a tablet PC with the amazon Kindle app on it, you are able to purchase and read Kindle books, but you are unable to use your full Prime benefits by getting a free book a month.  For that, you have to actually own a Kindle device.  But then you would be locked in to their proprietary format and not be able to shop for the lowest priced e-book.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Photo owner Twice25

What do you think?  Will things like the high cost of e-books, and proprietary lock-ins make readers turn to boycotts or piracy?  Will these issues keep the traditional print book alive?  Or will readers simply accept the new terms of e-reading and pay the price?

A Loaded Question

I found this prompt on Plinky today, and decided to take a stab at it.

If I could do anything I want right now…what does that even mean?  Off the bat a few things pop in my head, things I love but can’t afford (horseback riding), things I love but do all the time (reading, gaming), things I hate but would be a really great use of my time and save me a lot of stress later (laundry, grocery shopping), and of course the inevitable thoughts of what I definitely don’t want to do (go to work).

I realize that what I want to do is always viewed within certain constraints.  What am I able to do physically, financially?  What will my schedule allow?  What do I need to get done in order to have a functional life?  What am I obligated to do that other people are depending on me for (spouse, family members, pets, bosses, co-workers)?

What is the value of one activity over another activity?  Would vacation rank so highly with all of its pIans and its expenses if work and daily life were not so stressful?  Is one activity less valuable because I do it all the time, while another is more valuable because I rarely do it?  Some activities require a lot of planning and preparation (vacation, group activities), while others don’t.  For example, I can roll out of bed, skip my shower, stay in my pajamas, decide not to brush my hair, shove some cereal down my throat, grab a cup of coffee, and make my way directly to the couch, where I can then proceed to spend the day reading without ever encountering another person or lifting a finger to do anything but turn the page and occasionally drink some water and eat some food.  (Yes, I know that was a run on, but that’s how those days are.  They are a big simultaneous run on of nothingness and enjoyment.)

That’s a great lazy day, and I love those days.  And that same example can demonstrate my next point.  There is more than one aspect to any choice of activity.

Pros of a lazy day:

  • I get to do something I love all day long
  • Zero planning required
  • Actually, Zero anything required except self and book

Cons of a lazy day:

  • Loss of all social opportunities
  • Creation of a backlog of tasks to be done (because I chose to do nothing all day)

So, today I have the day off.  If I could do anything, what would it be?  After all this deliberation I still have no idea.  But one thing I do know is that with regard to this topic (and probably many more) I need to learn to think outside of the restraints of everyday life, even if it is just for fun.  So what will I do today?  Probably surf the web, go to the grocery store, do some laundry, read or game, but definitely think about what I would do if none of the things I have just mentioned existed or mattered.  What would I do if I truly could do anything I wanted?

**Image by Steve Backshall found in wikimedia commons and used under the license found here.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Source: Purchased as a nookbook from Barnes and Noble

In The Book Thief, the reader is not taken to a historical setting of the holocaust in terms of widespread horror and tragedy, but instead to the small microcosm of Liesel Meminger’s life on Himmel Street. A microcosm filled with all the same horror and tragedy, but also with love and beauty and words.  This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany during WWII.  After moving in with a foster family, she suffers with the loss of her mother and brother.  She also suffers humiliation at school for being behind in her education.  As a way to ease her mind, she begins to learn to read with the help of her papa, some paint, and her first stolen book.  As the years go on, and her life becomes more complicated, Liesel’s eyes begin to be opened to the nightmare going on all around her.  But through her friends and her stolen books she learns of the beauty that exists alongside it.

This book literally “tackles” the ideas of love and beauty, tragedy and evil, victory and defeat.  It covers how humans are the workers that bring all of all of these things to reality, and how a person is affected by them.  This can be a tough topic to handle without becoming sappy and cliché, but this book is neither of those.  The reason it is so grounded and believable is because it is the story of a little girl, and her child-like acceptance of the reality around her.  She sees the lack of adequate food, and the Jews marching to Dachau through the same eyes that she sees the beauty of the clouds in the sky.

Zusak masterfully brings his characters to life in this novel.  You will love Liesel and you will love the people Liesel loves.  You will feel like you have walked down her street day after day and met her neighbors.  The feelings that these characters evoke in the reader are the pathways of an emotional journey that will stay with you forever.  Every part of this book, from the author’s choice of Death as narrator, to the way Death is portrayed, to the way Zusak brings his characters to life and makes you love them, to the actual style of the words on the page, is not merely written, but crafted.  You will love this book not just for the story, not just for the characters, but for the beauty of the use of the words themselves.  I highly recommend this book to not only young adult readers but also to adult readers.  This book will certainly open the minds and hearts of anyone who reads it, and will stick with you long after you finish.

** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.

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