(And drooling on an e-book when you fall asleep reading can be a messy, expensive, and potentially life-threatening proposition!)
[W]hen the Kindle edition of my book came out, the publisher set the price at $27.95. They also raised the price of the hardback by $5.05. It’s the difference between the electronic and physical copy of the book that matters, I figured, not the cost of the book itself.
What sent me over the edge is when I saw that Amazon.com is charging more for the Kindle version of David McCullough’s new book than they are for the hardback (at least as of the moment that I’m writing this). This tells me that the pricing for Kindle editions has become totally untethered from economic reality, and that can’t be good for consumers. Certainly, it costs more to produce the physical book than it does to deliver the e-version. All the savings from an electronic edition of McCullough’s book are therefore flowing to Amazon rather than readers. Readers should demand better.
Instead, Amazon.com believes that their Kindle customers are willing to pay more for this fleeting edition than they are the thing which is permanent. Indeed, since Amazon can delete books from your Kindle for a whole host of reasons, they’re fleeting even if you never get to the capacity of the machine. You’re just renting the right to read them. If you use your Kindle for almost everything you read, it will fill up eventually. What are you going to do with your extra books? Buy a new Kindle?
Books are an excellent technology that have served mankind for hundreds of years. Kindles, among other problems, seem to freeze up on a lot of people. They’re also going to be obsolete pretty soon so I don’t understand is why anyone would pay more for an electronic version of something that works better in the real world.
The only good argument for e-books that I’ve seen recently was from my commenter Susan, who noted their usefulness to people with failing eyesight. That’s not a trivial usefulness, to be sure–but for most scholars, codex is still the superior technology. Plus: they aren’t fatally damaged if you take them to the beach or try to read them in the bathtub, and they’re still supremely easy to annotate with a pen or pencil and awesome Post-It technology (thanks again, Romy and Michelle!) Books are also much more durable when you have to slap one on someone’s head. And, while I’ve often had the experience of having to cut the pages of a 100-150 year old previously unused book from the library–how cool is that?–I’ve never had the experience of finding a 40, 80, 120, or 400 year-old book unreadable. Never.
And for you skeptics of technoskepticism: I have only one word for you. Microfilm. Thank goodness most libraries didn’t engage in wholesale collections “deaccessioning” for the marvelous godsends of microfilm and microfiche. (Microfiche! The technology that makes it possible for an even smaller fire to burn down an entire library!)
You know what we say here, kids: Awesome!