Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The eReader Rip-off

I have always been a reader.  By the time I was twelve, I had been reading massive novels by John Jakes, James Michener, and James Clavell.  I grew up on a farm in a time when we had no video games, no internet, and only three of four television channels.  My nearest friend lived three miles away and if I had the time to play, I had to walk or drive a tractor.  I did both of those things many times.   More often than not though, reading was how I spent my spare time. 

I love books and I love the feel of books.  I never lay my books open and flat because that damages the spines.  I never dog ear my books.  I hate getting rid of my books; I like to reread many books.  I respect and care for my books. 

As happens through time, I am running out of space for books.  In my man cave, all available wall space is covered by book shelves and all those shelves are full.  I am just flat out of space.  On top of all of else, the cost of books continues to rise.  Plus, bookmakers, intent on squeezing every last dime out of us loyal and avid readers, have decided to change the size of paperbacks.  Now there regular paperbacks and hardbacks, extra tall paperbacks and heavy duty, oversized paperbacks.  Many of these new varieties don’t even fit on my book shelves.  A few months ago, I decided that in effort to conserve space, clutter, and money, I would buy an ereader.  It goes against just about everything I believe in but sometimes practicality must rule.  So, I went to the dark side.

With fear and loathing, I set up my ereader and I prepared to start down loading some books.  Imagine my chagrin and astonishment when I discovered it cost more to down load a book from the infinite space that is internet costs more than purchasing a physical book, made of paper, from a store.  At least a physical book has a cost to it in that it has to manufactured, shipped, and stocked to a shelf.  Not only does the author, the publisher, the distributor, and the store need to extract their pound of flesh and profit, but the materials to produce a book, such as paper and ink, cost money as well.  An ebook eliminates many of those items.  An ebook has no ink or paper, and there is no distributor.  Yes, the author needs to be paid for his work, but it doesn’t cost much to publish a book to the internet.  There is no one who has to physical distribute crates of books to stores.  I understand that the publisher does have employees and such and the companies who run the estores have employees and they all need to make money.  I understand how the system works.

It blows my mind that the same book that costs $7.99 at the store costs $9.99 or more online.  What sense does that make?  What is the justification for that?  There is no answer but flat out greed.  This industry is going to bury the workers who manufacture the books, the warehouse folks to distribute books, and those who work in retail stores who stock shelves and sell books.  This industry is looking to destroy another bit of our economy and they are going to make us pay for the privilege.  People wonder why our economy teeters on the brink of collapse with unemployment and the cost of living not improving, well, this is just another reason.  Technology, while more often than not, eases our lives, it also is destroying good parts of our lives.  This is just another example.  The book industry is slowing dying and instead of helping the economy by charging a fair price for a less product, the owners of these estores are charging more than a real, solid, paper and ink book.  As annoyed as I am at the rising costs of real books, not to mention the even more annoying various sizes now, the fact the estores charge even more for a paperless file that contains a book is just unfathomable.

I’m sure someone will argue that these estores offer plenty of free or $.99 books.  This is true.  Books written before copyright laws, some ancient texts that have been translations, are offered for little or no money.  Great.  Thanks.  But if I want to read on my ereader anything from the last few decades, it is going to cost more than going to a book store and purchasing it.  Why do people pay? I’m not going to.  If I can’t get it online cheaper than in the store, I am not going to feed the beast.  I will just have to donate or resell some of my books to make room for new ones.  I am going to do what I have to do.  Sometimes, convenience does not out weigh sense.  We will be in a fine pickle if physical books disappear from our culture.  You may not think it will ever happen but don’t be too sure.

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