I have to admit that I have been a reluctant convert to eBooks. It’s partly because I’m a cheap skate and partly because I love my books. Prior to a long trip two years ago, I decided it was time for me to switch to eBooks and join the new world, at least for our trip. I downloaded Kobo onto our iPad on the recommendation of a friend who said there were all kinds of free books available for it and she loved how Kobo turned her iPad into an eReader. I downloaded a few of the free books, but they were the most classic of the classics, all of which I’d either read or previously dismissed. Then I downloaded Overdrive, which is the reader our Public Library uses for their eBooks. I was excited to learn that I could borrow eBooks from our library. Sadly, the selection of eBooks available through their borrowing license was simply too limited and the few that sparked my interest were already “checked out” or on reserve. So I considered biting the bullet and buying some eBooks I really wanted to read. But the eBooks cost nearly as much as their paperback version and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on something that I couldn’t loan to a friend, contribute to a charity book fair, or put on my shelf. I just wasn’t able to get past not being able to share a good book, so I bought several paperbacks, stuffed them in my backpack, and had some great reads while travelling.
It wasn’t until last week when I was confronted with wanting to read a self-published book that I decided to give the eBook format a second chance. I had no way to get this particular book except as an eBook. For most (or at least many) self-published authors, attracting an audience and distributing paper books beyond a local market is a huge challenge. On the other hand, uploading an approved electronic file of your book to Amazon is eminently doable. Your prospective buyer then just needs to know it’s there or happen upon it while browsing the Amazon book site, and, oh yeah, have a Kindle. To buy the eBook, you don’t need a Kindle Reader, which sells at the moment for $69 US (or $89 CDN for some reason), you just need to download a free Kindle app for your mobile device or computer from Amazon. How kind is that?! Then you can go to their site and start buying their books.
My motivation for this change of heart is a book written by a fellow blogger and, since he and his paper-based books reside in Jersey (Channel Islands, not New Jersey), obtaining a copy seemed impossible. Until he uploaded it to Amazon. I suddenly had a way to access it. Instead of downloading Kindle to our iPad I put it on my iPod Touch. My iPod Touch is small but mighty, and I was happy to find that reading a book on it is just as satisfying as using it to read a newspaper. I subsequently downloaded Kindle to my PC and our iPad; Amazon is generous enough to automatically sync all Amazon-purchased eBooks to each of these apps, because it’s all tied to your Amazon account. I find I like reading from the iPod Touch much better than either of the other platforms, but that’s just me.
First I’d like to say a few words about the book that brought me kicking and screaming into the eBook world, Barry, by Roy McCarthy. I was looking forward to reading this first book written by someone whose blog topics and writing I enjoy very much – and I wasn’t disappointed. For the reasonable price of $2.94, Barry was effortlessly downloaded to my iPod and I could begin reading. I’m not a book reviewer, but I will take this opportunity to share a few thoughts about this read. Barry is a fully engaging and enjoyable read. The synopsis on the Amazon site gives this brief overview:
“Barry used to be a half-decent runner…until the pub took over. However, in a brave effort to fight back against middle age and monotony, he took to the road once again, as did more than one other person in Roy McCarthy’s entertaining novel, strictly about running…on the roads, on the track and, in one man’s case, running away from trouble. This is very much a story about the world we live in – with a very disturbing ending…”
You can see from the description that the protagonist and I have one thing in common: love of running. That’s a nice bonus, but it really isn’t a book about running. The setting of the novel, which takes place in Britain and Ireland, also drew me in. For any of you who have read any of the books of one of my favourite mystery writers, Peter Robinson, whose stories are based mainly in Yorkshire and London, there is some similarity in settings and descriptions. Barry also has an impressive amount of character development and side story development, so much so that I can imagine future novels concentrating more on some of the secondary characters. There is far more about life’s ups and downs than running, although running is an effective unifying theme for some of the characters. Roy throws a number of personal challenges at his characters, who handle them differently depending on their personalities and backgrounds. This was a great read, Roy. I’m ready to download your next two eBooks at Amazon, A Jersey Midsummer Tale and Tess of Portelet Manor.
While I’m on the topic of self-published books at Amazon Kindle, one of my colleagues in computer science at our provincial university, Andrew McAllister, has his novel available there as well, and it is currently available for free during a special promotion. In fact, during this promotion, his book, a thriller called Unauthorized Access, has become a “Top Pick”. Bravo, Andrew. For the next few days you can download it yourself for free and see what you think.
Now to my thoughts about the cost model for eBooks. I just don’t get it. The prices seem to fluctuate wildly. It is terrific that this business model provides a means by which people can get books into the public domain at a time when the traditional publishing world is so challenged. And there are some great reads as well as some great buys. But if I look at books that I might be buying from the best seller list, the story changes completely. To download Yann Martel’s Life of Pi or Beatrice and Virgil, for example, I’d need to shell out $15.71, whereas I could order either of them in paperback for under $10. The same situation holds for most other popular novels. Even if they were the same price, I’d balk at buying a non-sharable eBook instead of a book I can hold. I find it hard to understand why the Kindle version would be more expensive. I can only guess that, unlike me, other people like eBooks enough to pay for what they see as a convenience. I am quite sure that there is economic method in Amazon’s “madness”!
Images from Amazon.com