Over the past year, I’ve foregone the bag loaded to the limit of it’s shoulder strap with papers, binders, trade show pens and what have you, which used to accompany me to work and meetings, in favor of an Android tablet with ezpdf, Mantano Reader, Google Docs, and a dozen other apps for word processing, reading, annotating, and cloud storage (yes I’m an App hoarder, but all they have a purpose). My back has certainly been grateful for the switch, and there’s probably a few more trees out there left standing as a result.
When it comes to books however, a few weeks back I sent off an inquiry to Chapters about the possibility of acquiring a printed copy and Kobo edition together at a reduced cost for the second copy, and whether or not such a deal would ever be offered. A week and a completely useless generic corporate response later, I’m ready to do some ranting.
Why would I want both? It’s not reading from a screen that bothers me, or the downtime waiting for the tablet’s battery to charge. It’s e-reader software that leaves me with perpetual feeling that while I own a printed copy, safe and accessible on my bookshelf for years or decades, I’m essentially leasing an e-book for nearly if not exceeding the printed copy’s price point. A book that I intend to read again or reference again, I’m free to write in it’s margins, and stuff it with post-it flags. The digital copy, while I can easily search an entire volume, with DRM (digital rights management) restricting my ability to use the application of my choice with the functionality I desire, I’m limited to the editing, highlighting, and note-taking ability which Amazon, Kobo, etc and their software allows. Can I save the entire volume, with or without with my own highlights and annotations for long-term storage? Not really. Can I even export my notes, some allow it, some don’t, and you may remember the Amazon Kindle/George Orwell fiasco from a couple years ago which featured a story of a student who found his work remotely deleted. Formats like ePub and Mobi have given us stable digital formats for ebook distribution, but the use of DRM and the treating of the entire customer base as perspective pirates artificially impedes the functionality and versatility of a paperless world (the removal text-to-speech functionality at the request of publishers comes to mind) . When the publishing industry offers it’s point of view, that printing costs represent a small proportion of the total production cost, I’m more than happy to ask, that for the same price, I at least receive a product as unencumbered and durable as the books on my shelf.
Until then, I’d consider Amazon’s proposed $9.99 standard a good deal for consumers, and anything I intend to read more than once, I’ll be waiting for to arrive in the mail.