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tagged Ebooks

Books: It's not the content that counts, it's the image?

I've come across some interesting articles on the topic of what an ebook is worth, mostly in context with pricing, but came across one that is particularly baffling today - because of the implications about the worth of books in general.

According to this article, Joan Brady, an award-winning writer (info on Wikipedia) argues that paper books will stick around because they are statud symbols, like Rolex watches and four wheel drives. (Apparently in her world, people who have to drive along dirt tracks don't exist.) Books people would not like to admit to reading will be sold as ebooks, but books people want other people to think they have read will be bought in paper, so they can be put on a shelf to show off to visitors.

Now, some of that makes sense, as does pointing out that being unable to pass on ebooks legally is a disadvantage, but it seems far too polarised to me.

She said that once an e-book has been bought, it is “more worthless than used toilet paper, which can at least end up as compost”.

This line makes me wonder if Joan Brady has been quoted badly out of context. Buying an ebook means having access to the text, to read it whenever you want. Declaring that worthless sounds to me like declaring the actual content of the book worthless. What kind of author would have the attitude that what matters is the block of pages with a recognisable cover, and the "status" that owning it conferred, but not the writing?

I don't think print will perish any time soon. Some people just prefer paper, print books are handy for many kinds of reference works, coffee table books or well-crafted hardcovers are things of beauty. However, I buy those because I need or enjoy them, not to sway other people's opinion of me. (Mind, I do like sharing books I'm fond of, which may shade into showing off on occasion.)

What do you think? How important is the "status" or "shame" factor to you when it comes to letting people know?

Blog tags: Ebooks


I like paper books, but you're right - books are about what's in them. They can be art objects in their own right, as can anything else, but for me, it's the ideas or the language or structure of writing that I'm interested in. I haven't got an e-reader yet, but I'm sure I'll get one eventually. There are so many written works now that are not published as paper versions.

I wonder if Ms. Brady isn't the sort to reread her books. When I pay for an ebook, I expect those bits to be used many times. For that matter, the same for a paper book; a book that sits on my shelf once I finish is a book that's likely to end up going to the Friends of the Library's Book Sale* or Paperbackswap. But some people can't or don't reread; I know my mother buys cheap paperback romances for vacation and leaves them in the hotel room if she finishes them before she leaves.

I like paper books for the lack of power required to read them and the ability to loan them to friends. And that I'm a little paranoid about losing things. And I find it easier to flip through a book than use a PDF or ePub if I don't know what I'm looking for.

That and some books are beautiful, as you said.

I like ebooks for their lack of physical space -- I can take my eReader on vacation and never run out of things to read. Also, they are searchable, and I can keep them in multiple places.

* Basically, FotL collects donated books (and other media) and sells them twice as year as a fundraiser for the library. The selection is amazing, and it's enough of an event that people will camp out before the first day to get first pick. The prices also slowly drop over the three weekends until the last day is 'fill a bag of books for a dollar'.

Yes. I re-read books I like quite a bit. With ebooks I should take care I back up the files; with print books, there's no way to avoid that they look just a little worse each time, and paperbacks will fall apart eventually.

What bugs me most about ebooks is the risk in buying one I haven't read before. If I buy a paperback and end up disliking it, I can pass it on to someone else, or, worst case scenario, take it apart for a crafts project, but if it's an ebook, that's 100% of the buying price wasted.

That's true; most of my ebook purchases have been things I've read before and want with me. Used paperbacks are my usual 'I don't know if I'll like this'. Or rarely new paperbacks.