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I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too)

20 August 2012

From Librarian In Black:

I want to break up with eBooks. Don’t get me wrong, eBooks is dead sexy and great arm candy at parties, as well as a magnet for attention and memorable experiences. But man…eBooks makes for a crap boyfriend. This relationship is as dysfunctional as it gets. And I’m too old and jaded to put up with dysfunction. I need a smoldering hot boyfriend who is a wildcat in the bedroom but kisses gently, is unfailingly honest and kind, and sends me cute messages during the day. And that ain’t eBooks.

eBooks is to libraries what that awful boyfriend (or girlfriend) was to you. Think about it. And when I say “eBooks” I mean the whole messed up situation–the copyright nightmares, the publishers, the fragmented formats, the ridiculous terms of service, the device incompatibility, the third-party aggregation companies libraries do business with–all of it. eBooks is the guy who takes advantage of your good nature and generosity only to exploit every last weakness you have for his own personal gain. The guy your family loved the first time they met him, who swept you off your feet, but who everyone came to regard as that unwanted interloper who would never leave. Well, my friends, it’s time to boot eBooks’ ass to the curb. There are better boyfriends to be had.

Link to the rest at Librarian In Black and thanks to Louisa for the tip.

Ebook Lending, Ebooks, Libraries

13 Comments to “I’m breaking up with eBooks (and you can too)”

  1. I’m breaking up with automobiles and electricity, from now on, it’s buggy whips and candles for me.

    • She’s not saying ebooks are bad and should be cast aside for hard copies. She’s saying that publishers are making it impossible for ebooks to work in libraries.

      eBooks in libraries are a non-starter, their path has been set for the foreseeable future, and their future is determined by people who are not us. Not by the people who love books, who believe in their power to change lives, but by those who produce them for profit. No, not by the authors (as we all know, they see far too little profit for their labors), but by the publishers…the, until recently, necessary middlemen in the process between creators and consumers. Now that they’re not necessary to the process anymore, largely due to their inflexibility and inability to change in the face of rapidly shifting market conditions, they have attempted to salvage their failing business model with high prices, limited licensing policies, and technology so locked down that it remains impenetrable to many people.

      I put some key phrases in bold. My impression is that that’s really the thrust of post.

  2. I think it should be noted that she’s note dissing ebooks in general. She states in the comments that, as a consumer, she likes them. Her beef is with publishers (and Overdrive) and how difficult they make if for libraries to make them available to their patrons.

  3. Oh, I got her point about there being problems with acquiring them, but there will always be problems when one technology replaces another. I’m sure that many Model T owners cursed the lack of fueling stations and service facilities.
    Like it or not, problems and all, we have entered the digital age and there’s no going back.

    • I’m sure that many Model T owners cursed the lack of fueling stations and service facilities.

      *grumble, grumble*

      You don’t need to turn no crank to get a horse started. Since nobody’s ever gonna invent an electric self-starter, I’m taking this durn thing back!

    • “Like it or not, problems and all, we have entered the digital age and there’s no going back.”

      After spending a chunk of the weekend producing paperback versions of my longer short stories/novelettes I’m no longer sure that’s the case. I may be the only person who ever buys those particular books, but if readers want print, releasing them is easier than ever before.

  4. This post makes me rather excited about Smashwords trying to get a new system going with libraries. One that isn’t quite so tedious or expensive.
    No more $50 books that croak after 20 loanings.
    . . .
    And if it make publishers come in on via the ground floor like everyone else, I’ve no objection.

    • No more $50 books that croak after 20 loanings.

      That, I agree, is a massive ripoff.

      And if it make publishers come in on via the ground floor like everyone else, I’ve no objection.

      Publishers seem rather averse to doing things like everyone else.

      Q. How do you keep a publisher from burgling your house?
      A. Put a sign on the door saying AUTHORS’ ENTRANCE.

  5. I think it’s deplorable that several of the big publishers don’t sell to libraries or at inflated prices, however, there is quite a good selection at my local county downloadable library. In fact, I haven’t been buying many books because I’ve been using the library. I’ve always been pro-library even though I rarely used it. Now I actually use the library a lot. I’ve even donated to our local friends of the library group because I noticed that they use the donations to buy digital books for the library.

    I’m not sure what the solution is, but I don’t think that libraries breaking up with e-books is the answer. E-books have made my local library something I’m willing to support directly through donations as well as indirectly through taxes. I think digital is a way to increase library usage which is important.

    Personally, I won’t willingly go back to print.

  6. @Edward M. Grant

    I also have plans to turn several of my shorter works into paperbacks, this, despite the fact that my eBooks outsell their paper counterparts by a factor of 300 to 1.
    P.O.D. is so inexpensive that I figure it’s worth my time to do it, because once done, it’s done forever, and I think that over the next few years, I should see a profit from it.
    Just because you bought the Model T, it doesn’t mean that you then go out to the barn and shoot the horse. The horse can still take you from point A to point B, but then again, I doubt you’ll ever buy another horse.

  7. The whole library thing is just another example of publishers fighting what’s coming when they should be looking to adjust to it and continue in business. Here’s what I see happening.

    The publishers are doing this to hold back the adoption of ebooks. The more people who prefer and buy ebooks, they reason, the fewer who will opt for the hardbacks and paperbacks when they come out, which is their bread and butter. If they have to cut the size of their print runs due to lower demand, the expense per book goes up and so does cost of the book, and reduces demand further, and into a death spiral.

    So they make it hard for libraries to loan them, costly to do so, or don’t sell them to them at all, so that the library will not want to loan out many.

    What this will do, however, will only dig their hole deeper. Not delay the inevitable. Other companies, like Smashwords, will find ways to cheaply provide indie books to libraries to loan. This creates exposure to indie authors that might have gone to the big publisher titles, making their main competitor, indie publishers, more popular. Ebook adoption won’t be slowed down, but it won’t be big publishers that will reap the benefits they could have taken advantage of. Further driving down not only their print book sales, but potentially, their ebook sales as well, and profit overall unless offset with other exposure/marketing strategies.

  8. Her issues aren’t with Ebooks; they’re with the DRM hat that Ebooks sometimes wears, and that the hat-makers try to insist that Ebooks wouldn’t be safe in public without it.

    When your boyfriend insists on wearing a tinfoil hat in public, don’t be surprised when he gets kicked out of the cool parties. When he starts ranting that everyone needs to raise their ceilings to make room for his new hat, it’s time to find a hatless boyfriend, even if he doesn’t live in the prestigious part of town.

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