Wednesday, August 5, 2009

eBooks, again...

You know how I hate to say anything controversial. (Go ahead, roll your eyes and laugh your butt right out of that chair - I deserve no less of a response.)

Daddy-O (hubby) was on this green kick and started using #3 lead pencils. While the wood is easily a renewal resource, there is likely a petroleum component to the paint - even if it is synthetic, the use of a (maybe not recycled) metal, and who knows what is in that eraser - but we told him about the graphite. So while some things are green-ish, they may not actually be green.

Same goes for eBooks. Granted, there's no paper (a renewable resource) and there is no use of energy to print a paper book, and hardly anyone uses soy ink in mass printing (okay, I don't know of anyone, but leaving that door open for now).

eBooks are more greenish than green. They aren't just written on scratch paper and 'poof' they appear, there is the energy consumption of several computers involved (and servers - that are plugged into an energy source constantly) - one to write the thing, and one to buy the thing and download it (and to process the payment all the way to the bank).

No, I didn't forget that some eBook readers download without a computer (on the buyer's end). They still involve servers and computers on the retailer's end of the transaction, even if delivery is by satellite, there are computers somewhere in that food chain, sucking energy. Not to mention (I wouldn't be so cruel) that those satellites didn't just hop into orbit, non-renewable resources put them there.

So if the eBook is read on a reader rather than a computer, how is the battery going to be disposed ... and how was that reader (and battery) made without consuming non-renewable resources? They don't exactly use soy ink either. (Yeah, I know - I'm a real pain sometimes.)

I've never hidden the fact that I'm not an eBook fan. Not that it is news, but this is why I'm not crazy about them: 1) I don't find them handy nor do I want them on my hard drive; 2) eBook readers are: a) expensive; b) not universally formatted; c) technology that is over priced and rapidly outdates (Sony's new reader is about $100 less than Kindle); 3) there is a question about putting ISBNs on them, which is only a tracking or routing number for retail, but should be used - IMO; 4) and don't try to tell me that a phone is a reader, you have bought into some real razzamatazz advertising on that one; 5) most of the time with readers, you don't actually own the book, you sort of own access to it through a digital library (remember Kindle and 1984 last week?); 6) they are way too easy to pirate and turn into a printed book by someone without the right to do so. Shall I go on? There is more, but for now ... that is more than eBook fans want to hear.

Guess what, I'm actually not opposed to digital books, but this is not the answer - mark my word on that.

Well there ya go, Dr. Kramner, rest in peace -- I did pay attention in social policy class (both levels of it) and did learn to evaluate written and 'common law' policies. TaDa!


  1. A few responses to your points:
    1. I find them amazingly handy - in fact I'm now reading about two books a week more than I used to, just because I'm never caught in an idle moment without anything to read.
    2. eBook readers are about to become ubiquitous - you may already be carrying one in your pocket. Net-enabled smartphones are becoming the norm; I read all my ebooks on my iPhone, which is by far the best reader I've used. The single-function gadgets, like Sony Reader or the Kindle are IMHO an evolutionary dead-end - we don't really want to lug around one device for each function.
    3. ISBNs are just a logistical issue. What's wrong with a standard ISBN and probably a version number tacked on (as with software?)
    4. Not only did I buy into the phone as reader, I'm practically an evangelist about it. Give it a go. It may not be for you but it's the wave of the future.
    5. The licensing issue does need to be sorted out in favour of the consumer. It's clearly nonsensical to cede to Amazon the power to delete your books.
    6. Piracy is happening anyway. Releasing an eBook version just means it gets pirated two days earlier; a few years ago, everything was simply scanned and OCR'd - slightly more laborious, but still goes on. And in India or China they often simply get their hands on the production files and run the books off in the plant next door. Of course piracy will become more of a problem when the hardware is more entrenched, but you can't alter that by refusing to publish in electronic formats - the pirates will simply offer those formats themselves, and you lose out on any sales at all.

  2. Good. Thank you, Torgo. I was hoping someone would say something.

    eBooks shouldn't be 'billed' as green, but they are very inexpensive to produce. The struggle will always be to make sure the author gets a fair compensation, since without writers, this industry doesn't get anything new.

    The Bowker report, out last week, says that men purchase 55% of eBooks. My guess is because women are in the habit of slipping a book in their purse to always have one handy, as you pointed out, for idle moments.

    Personally, I think ISBNs should be on eBooks. It is a continuation of the system that put a different number on each publishing format of a book. Some bloke was all over himself the other day saying it was too expensive. Nonsense. It makes it more likely to get the book one was after since there are duplicate titles (on occasion) and similar titles. His argument of ISBN cost didn't float with me.

    I do think there is a place for digital books and it will increase in the future. eBook readers are probably a transition point, as you said, not the end point of this evolution.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such insightful comments. It's a pleasure.

  3. I want to make it perfectly clear that all comments are ALWAYS welcome on my blog. That is why the comment options are totally open. I'm not a big crybaby. You do not have to agree with me. Goodness, new ideas are borne out of dialogue. Speak your mind, please.


  4. This is an interesting discussion. As a business publisher (soon!) I am looking at both options and believe in offering choice to the consumer.

  5. And you can really only take a proper book, cocoa and wife to bed

  6. Ah yes, I left out the snuggle factor. Whoops! Thanks for catching that, Glyn (and welcome to my blog).


  7. A while back, I did a blog on strange but creative recycling. Your Dear Husband might like the idea of being cremated and then pressed into pencils with his name and memorial dates printed on each one. You could then use him to write your books and even offer a free pencil with every book you sell - think of the fun you'd have sharpening !!!

  8. Oh Marsha, that is way too funny. I'll have to tell him. Now that you mention it, I remember that blog. If you come back, leave the link in the comments.