Monday, August 19, 2013


I'm always reading a book but I sometimes feel like I'm one of the last active book readers who hasn't switched to electronic format. It's not that I'm a Luddite, and I see the advantages of electronic books--those advantages are hard to ignore, people are talking about them all the time. What I find strange is that few people talk about their disadvantages. Here's my list in no particular order:

  1. Ebook readers chain you to a particular book vendor. If you have a Kindle, you can only buy books through Amazon. If you have a Nook, you are stuck with Barnes and Noble. That means you can't shop around for books (not a big deal right now when ebooks are comparatively cheap, but it might be later when they completely kill physical books and ebook sellers can take more advantage of their monopolistic powers), and the fate of your book collection is tied to a particular company (if BN goes under, for example). You can mitigate this problem a little bit by using the Kindle or Nook app on an ipad or android tablet, but it's still a problem.

  2. Ebook readers can't get wet. Forget about reading in a bath tub or bringing a book on a boat trip.

  3. You don't really own ebooks. When you "buy" an ebook, you are really just purchasing a license to use the code for a while. The books you think you own can be taken away from you under the contract you accepted at one point but haven't read and probably don't know the terms. So stuff like this and this can happen.

  4. Ebook readers need to be charged. I spend so much fucking time swapping various devices in and out of their charging cables. I just don't want another device with a battery that I have to pay attention to.

  5. If you buy a book as an ebook, you lose access to the secondary market. That is, you can't buy it used, or sell it when you're done with it. For that matter the potential resale value of your books means that physical books are necessarily that much more expensive than the ebook version.

  6. You can't get an ebook autographed by the author.

  7. You can't really give ebooks as a gift. I mean, you can. It just seems really lame. Giving someone an ebooks feels like you're not really giving them a gift. That may change eventually. But right now that's how it is.

I'm not trying to criticize anyone else's decision to switch to ebooks. And I do recognize the advantages of the electronic format (less weight to haul around, the ability to buy books instantly, a built-in reading light, etc) I just wish the issue was presented as more of a cost-benefit analysis than "ebooks are awesome for all these reasons!"