Codex rules, Kindle drools. (And I told you so.)

You're a renter, not an owner.

(And drooling on an e-book when you fall asleep reading can be a messy, expensive, and potentially life-threatening proposition!)

I know many of you didn’t believe me, but here’s the testimony of a Kindle-ized author and former true believer:

[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 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, 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!

47 thoughts on “Codex rules, Kindle drools. (And I told you so.)

  1. I wonder if that dreary gray-on-gray-on gray typeface, screenface, boxface (whatever you call the plastic packaging thing, oh yeah, Kindle) is itself copyrighted, trademarked, zoned off from the commons as a pthe iece of “intellectual property,” a part of Amazon’s “good will” in the “user experience” in the matter? Watching people click, swipe, scroll, whatever you do with these things while sitting at the counter at my favorite greasy eggs place on weekends, it’s a wonder they don’t get as indellibly fingerprinted with yolk stains and bacon grease as those putty gray desktops we used to have before they brought in the flatscreens! You would think they would at least invest in some cool industrial design of the sort people had on their kitchen table top “devices” back during the 1930s.


  2. Historiann? I love a book – and you know I do – but I wouldn’t give up my kindle for all the money in the world, for a ton of reasons. Does it work for “work” reasons for me? Not at all. But the Kindle holds a library (great for travel) is good on the eyes (no backlighting, so good in bright light (at the beach) or anywhere else you might like a book and doesn’t hurt your eyes), and unless you’re totally spastic, you can so use it in the bath (as I do regularly) and also it’s better for reading in bed than a hardback or even a paperback (lighter, more streamlined). Yes, I need a Real Life Book for work, for lots of reasons. But I read A LOT. And much of that is not for work. And I would MUCH rather read the garbage that I read for fun on a kindle than have a hard copy book in my hand or on my shelf. The kindle doesn’t replace the book – just as the internet doesn’t. It’s technology – just like the book is itself a technology. For my money, I really appreciate the innovation of the kindle. Not because it replaces books for me – but because it supplements books, and in a good way.


  3. Another advantage of an electronic reader, if you’re in a subway city (I’ve lived in Chicago and NYC), is ease of reading while standing on a rickety train. But we’ve GOTTA keep the codex. Nicholson Baker’s “Double Fold,” a polemic that presses this point, is one of the 20 best books I have ever read. Probably top 12.


  4. I got a Kindle for Christmas. I didn’t ask for one and didn’t know what one was until I had one in my hands. I have loads of books on my Kindle that I read and have yet to pay for any. Many of the Classics are free.


  5. Sorry, I’m with Dr. Crazy on this one. For those of us who travel/live in other countries, being able to get U.S. published books affordably is revolutionary. For those of us with physical limitations, it can be much easier to hold/read then a paperback. Personally, I like not having shelves of dead trees I don’t want to refer to again. It isn’t perfect — I still like paper for research in a lot of ways, I admit.

    FYI: I don’t think your commentator knows what they are talking: Amazon was forced into this e-book pricing model, so blame the publishers and Apple for not allowing Amazon to sell their books at $9.99 or less. Amazon prices hardcovers below Kindle because they aren’t allowed to lower kindle prices, so I think it is their attempt at ‘screw-you’ to the publishers. See for instance.


  6. I’m using the kindle app on my iPad. There are a few reasons I like using it rather than a bound book – it’s much easier to read while eating lunch, since I just position it the way I like and then I won’t have to bother with pages flipping over by themselves, the book not wanting to stay open, and so on. And I don’t have to bring several physical books along in case one runs out of words, as so often happens. At home, I don’t need to keep buying a bigger flat to have enough walls to put bookshelves against, which also happens too frequently for my monetary comfort.

    Of course, the downsides are the ones you’ve already stated. Plus the fact that it’s way too easy to buy more Kindle books and get an instant fix…


  7. The only advantage I can see for a Kindle is travel. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to turning a page of a real book. I belong to and trade books from all over through it. I have no intention of buying a Kindle, ever. My solution to travel reading is to pack tons of paperbacks. (I do prefer hardbound, by the way. It is a great concession on my part to read paperbacks.)


  8. I’m skeptical of the Kindle, specifically, and amazon’s pricing policies as well. They’ve done some pretty insane things in the past (remember when they stole back copies of 1984? 1984! Have they no understanding of irony?).

    Nevertheless, I think I’ll retain my skepticism of technoskepticism, too. I can’t help but feel that it’s very much like someone talking about how grand the theatre is, even as DVDs are printed by the billions: the two are related, but not exclusive to one another. E-books aren’t meant to supplant paper ones (or not entirely, anyhow), they’re largely additional; but, if you think they’re going to go the way of microfilm, you’ve got another thing coming. Two words: searchable metadata.

    Now do I think they should be more expensive in digital form? No. But I also think that e-books are more durable in the long term than a majority of books printed today. While you may not have had problems with a 100 year old book, many are problematic to read. A hundred years from now the books printed today won’t be around for the most part. The paper and ink these days just aren’t archival quality, so they start to go the way of pulps from the 40s (dark brown, falling apart, and near-illegible after only 70 years). Anyhow this is getting long. I’ll talk more on my own blog, and quit wasting your comment space 😉


  9. It’s not a zero sum game. There will always be a place for paper docs but for most people ebooks will do the job. I’ve got ebooks that I purchased 10 years ago that I’m reading on my 3rd mobile device. My library use has resumed since we’re part of the Overdrive system–I know there are some issues there. And I sure wish we had e copies of text books back in the day. Quickly outdated for resale and difficult to store as souvenirs;)


  10. I’m glad some of you enjoy your Kindles–but you can still count me out. I’m rather surprised, LadyProf, that you see e-readers as better for reading on trains. Unless you’re trying to read an Art History folio or something, it seems both lower risk and lower profile to read an octavo or duodecimo paperback on the subway. (I’m just sayin’.)

    One of the ways I avoid having “shelves of dead trees I don’t want to refer to again” is by using the public library and my university library, institutions that need a little love and might appreciate our patronage, because patronage is vital to their arguments for continued access to university and taxpayer dollars. I only buy books that I know I’ll need for my research and will want to mark up and refer to again and again.

    Vellum raises a good point about some of the books published in the 19th & 20th centuries, which were made with acidy pulp, poor quality ink, and the like. My prejudices inevitably stem from the fact that I’m an early modernist, when people typically made paper out of rags (and I’m not a lit or pop culture scholar who will need access to the 19th & 20th C books ze alludes to. The 19th C publications I consult are higher-falutin’ than all that.) But, my bet is that the ONLY place you’re going to find those serials and pulp novels are in archives, crumbly and ephemeral as they are–I don’t see Kindle or any e-reader issuing those because they’ll have precisely zero commercial value.

    So, if you love your expensive proprietary technologies, Dog Bless. I’m still not sold!


  11. Is it Andy Rooney Day already? And doesn’t the old people’s guild require you to use the word “whippersnapper” in a post like this?


  12. I also doubt that you’ll be able to access your kindle texts with ease in 25 years. Yes, you can still probably find someone with a punch card reader or a tape reader, but not so much. Even getting a 5-1/4″ floppy read these days would be difficult.

    But that’s okay, because in a few years, they’ll bring out new kindle formats that will require you to buy a new kindle thing to read them.

    That’s not to say they aren’t meeting certain needs really well, even now, and won’t continue to do so (and probably better).


  13. HA! You see, rustonite, I think I provide a valuable service with my technoskepticism. You may not be old enough to recall, but back in the 1980s 5-1/4 ” and then 3-1/2 ” “floppy” discs were all the rage. I still have some of those stored with my college papers somewhere in my files–but guess which is easier to read now, 25 years later: the hard copy of the paper I printed up, or the disc?

    How do you think your ca. 2005 “thumb drives” will fare in computers in the 2020s or 2030s?

    I agree with Bardiac that Kindle files purchased in 2011 won’t be so supremely translateable or useful in 2036. That’s the way of these technologies–one supplants the other pretty rapidly. Yet libraries with books endure, because that’s the technology that’s the least expensive, most useful, and most accessible to the largest number of people. And in the twentieth century, as central heating and safe electric wiring replaced open flames as the source of indoor heat and light, the risk of losing books and papers to fire dropped dramatically. So I think we’re in an almost-Platonic sweet spot for the durability and utility of paper-based information technology.

    And when in 50 or 100 years we’re all living (not by choice) off the electric grid in Medieval-style walled cities, good, old-fashioned Codex technology will still be with us. (At least in daylight.)


  14. Historiann:

    Thank you (as always) for linking my way, as well as for your support for your old and my new cause. Just to be clear, while sorely tempted, I never did buy one of those e-reader thingees. I do, however, sympathize greatly with the people who have.

    A Kindle was one of the raffle prizes at my kid’s elementary school carnival the other night. When I saw it, I could feel a glimmer of that old techno-lust pulse through my nervous system. Then I asked myself the $64,000 question: Do I really need a Kindle? The answer was, of course, no. What advantage do I have fishing in their pond rather than buying books at any old bookstore I please?

    Out of the Kindle fans above me in the comments here, I’ll buy the US books in foreign countries argument as I’ve been there myself. You can’t buy books at any old bookstore you like if you’re doing a Fulbright in Eastern Europe. Amazon’s long tail really is a Godsend to serious readers. If you can’t get it otherwise, then by all means go electronic.

    Everyone else? Amazon has you just about where they want you. What happens when they change the operating system just for kicks? At least you can still type documents if you’re stuck with Windows98. Maybe you can use your Kindles as paperweights.


  15. I love Kindle for iPad because it feeds my crazy desire for instant gratification. Oh yeah — also because i can read all kinds of stuff that was published yesterday that I couldn’t talk the the publisher into sending a review copy to Tenured Radical and that I know I don’t want to keep.

    So now you are saying yeah, duh, but why don’t you use the library? Because I hate waiting for books to be processed when I want to read them NOW!!!!

    Otherwise yes, codex is best. And btw? You can’t footnote to kindle yet because they haven’t figured out the page # thingie, so you would have to fn. to “location” which is just dumb.


  16. “Yet libraries with books endure, because that’s the technology that’s the least expensive, most useful, and most accessible to the largest number of people.”

    Except, of course, that many libraries are increasing their holdings with books in electronic formats because of space issues and pricing issues. So, for example, if I want to check out a library book for my research, it is not unusual for the only format that I can get that book in with my library privileges to be electronic. And local libraries have electronic holdings for all kinds of different types of reading. Perhaps you haven’t encountered this?

    I do want to say, though, that I haven’t noticed anybody in this comment thread saying that they’ve gotten rid of their paper books and refused to buy any more of them, that they don’t use libraries, or that they don’t buy reading material from outlets other than Amazon. I think for most of us (though correct me if I’m wrong) e-readers are a fun toy and a convenience for some of the reading that we do. I have a hard time understanding why that’s a *bad* thing.

    Though perhaps as an English proffie I’m more interested in anything that gets or keeps people reading than I am in the format of whatever they’re reading? The historical object that is a book really doesn’t matter to me, although I do think the format of a paper book is more useful for work purposes for me than electronic formats right now. If the electronic formats could improve upon paper formats, though, I think that for me that would be a different story.


  17. I have a book that came out early this month from a university press. At Amazon the hardback costs $34.95 with no kindle available, and they keep raising the price. At it is also $34.95, but also on the Nook for $9.99.

    I want people (including general readers)to read my book,and academic books are expensive. I’m annoyed, but not sure who to be annoyed with, Amazon or my publisher.


  18. I too just don’t get the Kindle. I’ve made the transition to digital music enthusiastically, despite the sound-quality limitations, DRM in the early versions (now thankfully gone), and the fairly high equipment costs — the convenience and lower price is totally worth it. But for electronic books, the price discount (if it even exists) is so small that, even with the convenience of easy access, it doesn’t compensate for what I feel like I lose: full, physical, non DRM-encumbered ownership, the ability to quickly skim or flip through pages (I have a very visual memory, so I tend to find things I’m looking for by remembering where it was on the page — no electronic format is remotely good at this) and annotate (I don’t want to have to type, or click on the “annotate” tool or whatever the hell you use just to underline something or make a note).

    I can see the appeal for light fiction or beach reading (just keep it in a ziplock bag to protect it from the sand and salt), but for work-related reading it seems completely useless. One point of anecdata that confirms my confirmation bias here: the first week of my grad seminar, several students brought Kindles with the electronic version of the book for that week … after seeing their frustration with not being able to keep up with discussion when phrases like “I thought this passage on page 183 was interesting …” cropped up, I didn’t see any more Kindles in class after that first week.

    I imagine some of this will be improved with technology and just smarter electronic design of books, but not all of it. I also think that the convenience means that electronic books are the wave if the future, though probably not exclusively, but the current set up is deeply unappealing to me. If it’s going to cost me 75%-110% of the cost of the physical object to get something that’s harder to use in productive ways, it’s just not going to happen until the shape of the market and the technology changes significantly.


  19. Planned obsolescence is a problem, but I have some electronic texts I’ve been migrating from one format to another since the early 1990s. I can read them on my Kindle now, too, thanks to Calibre.

    I don’t pay a lot for ebooks – I see if it’s in stock at the library (which will soon have the capacity to lend on Kindles) and check the variable costs. (I never buy an ebook if it’s more expensive than a hard copy. Then again, I’ve only ever seen that pricing once.)

    For me, the Kindle’s good for teaching texts (I no longer have to worry about lugging around all the various paperbacks and journal articles) as well as leisure reading. Nothing calms autistic youngest more than something to read or an easy way to surf the internet so having the Kindle in my purse is the equivalent to lugging around dozens of books. It’s also wonderful for classic books I can freely download from Project Gutenberg.

    Does my ereader replace the codex in my life? Hardly. Did the computer? Nuh-uh. But it killed the typewriter for me! Ten years ago I did a lot of this with my Palm Pilot. I’ve moved on. The minimal investment in the hardware has already paid off for my perspective.

    Should everyone get ereaders? I don’t think so. Should anyone who has an ereader believe they have the ultimate solution? No way. But they’re a useful tool if you’re so minded (pst – a cover is a must for me to make it easy to hold securely with the nerve damage in my left hand).


  20. I read a lot recreationally on an Ipad–Kindle app, Overdrive for e-books from my public library, or various magazines. If you subscribe to the paper version of the New Yorker or the NYT, you can get the e-version for free. It’s great for reading while I work out–I can zoom it to large type size and read while I am using exercise equipment, whereas there is no way to get a book to stay open in that situation without breaking its spine, and even then it’s difficult, and the print in most magazines is too small for me to see at that distance. YMMV–someone whose exercise is more vigorous than mine might not be able to do this.

    It’s even better for reading journal articles or other pdfs, though. Like many of us at a certain age, I have back trouble. I try to minimize the amount of time I stay in one position. Sitting even in a good ergonomic chair and marking up a text on paper causes me to slump. I can use the Ipad while lying on my back. There are excellent programs for annotating pdfs. THey will index your comments so you don’t have to page through a book to find what you’ve written. I make notations on not-yet-in-print work for the authors, or notations on published work for my own benefit, using pdfs.

    I don’t think the codex is dead, but given the choice I will buy (or check out from the library) work in electronic form. Because I teach in one city and live in another, and am constantly finding that books I own are not in the place I want to use them, I would be much better off if I owned electronic versions.


  21. I got a kindle from my MIL for Christmas. I’ve been enjoying reading children’s classics for which I have hard copies several states away in my parents’ basement and Mary Roberts Reinhart and other lovely brainless fiction that I can’t and probably wouldn’t get at the local library. 100% free instantly. It’s a nice addition to the paper we’ve got. Neither our uni library nor our small public library are switching to e-books any time soon, but I’m still happy with the kindle… probably wouldn’t have bought one myself, but enjoy spending time on it.


  22. Historiann, if you get a seat on your train, codex is the way to travel. But if you have to ride standing, you can turn pages of an electronic reader using a finger or two of the hand that holds the toy, while the other hand clutches for dear life.


  23. I like the Kindle, but I don’t buy many books for it–rather, I convert PDFs into Kindle format and read academic articles and oral histories that way. I like that I can highlight or annotate a passage and then drag the “clippings” file to my computer. And contrary to popular belief, many books in Kindle format *do* have page numbers, at least on the (2011) edition of the Kindle I have–simply highlight the passage, then open the clippings file to see the page number and location number.

    I’m OK with planned obsolescence in this case, as the few books I do buy for Kindle are the kind that I’m not likely to want/need to access in 2036. Would I convert all my books to Kindle? Hell no. I like me some codex, too. 🙂


  24. I like e-readers (not a Kindle, I have a Sony!) for things from Project Gutenberg — 100% free because they’re all public-domain!

    And they are a little bit easier than carrying around a microfiche reader in your purse 😀


  25. You can’t resell an e-book or pass it along to a friend. Most of my recreational reading is purchased used and I enjoy exchanging books with friends. I also buy used versions of classic texts to give to students. Among my several problems with e-books is that they have very little (if not negative) social dimension and effects.


  26. Not that I would ever do this, of course. But, one of the advantage of e-books is illegal downloads. Get your literature for free even when you should be paying. I mean, I have absolutely no knowledge of the availability a wide range of Oxford University Press e-books that can be downloaded illegally.

    And, for those of you with a conscience, this can be useful even for books you already own, as you can carry around a library. As someone who works in a different country from the one I live in, I do appreciate e-journals and e-books for their transportability. I haven’t yet got a personal kindle (there is one in the family, but I don’t use it), so I read these on my laptop, but having the availability at my fingertips is great. I think an e-library just adds to this; as does all the free primary sources on google books (how much note-taking does that save!).

    Yet, one of the reasons, I don’t use a kindle, is that I continue to love books and don’t think a book can really be read as easily in e-format- you can’t flick back and forth, skip a few pages, and then skip back, and read paragraphs in the wrong order (which is essential in my mind), as easily when you have to consume something in such small chunks on the digital page.


  27. Sorry to miss the conversation–I was away from my computer today, amazingly enough.

    Dr. Crazy wayyyyyy upthread said this: “So, for example, if I want to check out a library book for my research, it is not unusual for the only format that I can get that book in with my library privileges to be electronic. And local libraries have electronic holdings for all kinds of different types of reading. Perhaps you haven’t encountered this?”

    No, I’ve never encountered it, and I think it’s too bad that you have! This may be (as Crazy suggests above) a disciplinary difference, in that History is probably the most book-driven field of very book-driven humanities. I’ve occasionally run into an e-book in my uni’s library, but if I may write quite frankly here, there’s no such thing as a truly important History book that’s available only in e-form. If a book I want to consult is in electronic form, I inevitably find that it’s not really all that good, or all that important, or both.

    That’s just how I see it among the books in my field. And while the late, never-lamented “e-Gutenberg” project published some decent monographs, I don’t think any of those monographs were ever read widely because they appeared long before the Kindle and other e-readers. But even now, I’m just not convinced that a book published in e-form only will ever generate a substantial audience.

    Hell, JJO’s grad students won’t even read it on their brand-spankin’ new Kindles, even if he could be persuaded to put it on his syllabus!


  28. The price for McCullough’s book was set by the publisher, not Amazon.

    I love my Kindle. I’ve discovered a lot of new indie authors that I would have never read. I also love the sample feature. First 2 chapters or so free. No more buying a book from the blurb on the back and then hating the writing style 🙂


  29. One more thing: what do you Kindle lovers do when they run out of juice? Can you read it while it recharges?

    I’m continually disappointed by the poor battery life of my laptops, and I’m pretty sure it would just bug me to have to remember to plug in yet another damn gadget. (Phone, laptop, i-Pod, etc.)


  30. I’d never use an e-book for any serious research, given the potential for OCR and/or human error. More often I find myself downloading things like the old Penny Parker series, written by the same authoress (under her real name rather than a pseudonym) as the original Nancy Drew.

    (A lot of times our university library will get “electronic” versions of loans, rather than shipping the full text to you, but that’s typically an actual digital scan of the page rather than a text-recognition-mangled version. I’ve also on occasion been sent microfilm, and the librarian found that to be really exciting because he got to use the microfilm machine for the first time in years!)

    Can’t speak for the Kindle specifically, but my reader works while it’s charging. The battery life is a lot longer than other damn gadgets though; as I understand, it only uses power when changing the screen contents, not while displaying them.


  31. I’m late to the party, but…
    I was given a kindle for Christmas. I didn’t take to it, really, though it was great for traveling. I put a whole bunch of public domain stuff on it, and when I was stuck in an airport, I had a pile of comfort reading.

    I recently got an iPad, and I like the interface of the iReader much better than that of the kindle. (You can feel like you’re turning pages). So I suspect I’ll be buying books for that. And, like Dr. C., I’ll continue to buy codex versions of work books, but for my trashy fiction, the ereader is fine. And my library does a lot of ebooks, so I’ll do some library books that way.

    I’m still figuring out the PDF annotation, but I think that’s likely to be one of the major uses of the iPad.


  32. H’Ann – this is the thing: a book that I need for research may exist in print form, but if my library has it in electronic form, I can’t check it out in paper form through ILL or from consortium libraries. Now, I suppose I could go out and buy such books, but seriously? I’m not going to buy a book to find out that it’s not useful. All of this is to say that depending on the limitations of one’s library situation, the assumption that one will *always* have access to a paper copy of a book is an erroneous one.


  33. Kindle batteries last waaay longer than laptops (weeks, not hours). You can read while recharging.

    @truffalo: Amazon has started letting you loan out (some of) your kindle books.

    @ H’ann’s “I’m just not convinced that a book published in e-form only will ever generate a substantial audience.” As I understand it: e-books have revolutionized erotic fiction (much of which is written by women) and are resulting in huge sales for independent e-publishers, many of whom publish only or primarily electronically.

    But maybe you were referring to academic books, which have such substantial audiences to begin with…

    PS Timely discussion given:


  34. Shaz–yes, I was speaking to e-books w/r/t scholarship. (Isn’t it always the case that pR0n merchants are the only people who really figure out how to optimize technology? I think we can make that generalization at least as far back as the 17th C and Samuel Pepys.)

    And, Dr. Crazy: I’m sorry your library operates by those rules. I would seriously resent a library that would presume to dictate the format in which I could access a book. I can get books from anywhere in any format just by my say-so, and the regional library consortium works really, really well. (Well, for those of us who live on the I-25 corridor and within 75 minutes of Denver, it works very well.) And our ILL team is terrific.


  35. It doesn’t take that long to recharge a Kindle, and the charge lasts a long time, particularly if you don’t keep the Wireless turned on.

    While it’s charging, if I need something to read right that minute, I pick up one of the non-e-books around the house. Otherwise, I do something else.

    I use the Kindle for recreational reading, not research. I’m looking forward to taking it on vacation. It will make packing much simpler, since I won’t have to find a place for 7 or so paperbacks.


  36. I’m kind of excited that the primary source my Western Civ students will be working with this fall semester comes in a number of great e-book formats as well as hard copies: Jeanne de Jussie’s “Short Chronicle” from the University of Chicago Press. The book’s quite inexpensive in ebook format, too: $9.99 for the Kindle version, $25 for pb, $55 for hb on

    Pagination’s even supported with the most recent Kindle firmware (I believe that UCP has been doing this a while with page numbers indicated inline in the format [page#]). If I have students who can’t get a hard copy due to the bookstore’s chronic under-ordering, I can direct them to one of the bookstores where they can buy an electronic version and read it on their computer or ereader. This is much better than last fall when the bookstore ordered too few of our primary source text and I had fifteen students without books as the assignment came due!


  37. and then there is the issue of all the old Kindles that will fill landfills once new ones come out. They aren’t biodegradable and they aren’t made from renewable resources like paper. I know it takes energy to make paper, and clear cutting is awful, but so is mining for rare earths.
    And yes, my libe is de-accessioning microfilm; seems like the architects in charge of the job think that libraries and coffee shops are interchangable.


  38. I spent a lot of time railing that I would never! ever! get! an! e-reader! But what did I do last week? I bought me a kindle, goshdurnit! It’s mainly for pleasure reading, as real estate on my bookshelves is becoming scarcer by the semester. Plus, with all my traveling, it beats hauling 50 pounds of books back at the end of a year abroad. My girlfriends and I are going to have a long-distance book club next year while we’re all doing archival whatnot, and I figure the kindle is the easiest way for me to participate from Germany.
    Also, as a NYT article from last year pointed out, e-readers allow us to read crap (Harequin romances, anyone?) that we otherwise would not be caught dead reading! (Actually, I would probably read a Harlequin in public just for the sake of watching people’s reactions…)


  39. I think the discussion here is very interesting. I love books. I collect them compulsively. I ran out of room in my office for bookshelves and books even before I made associate profesor. I’ll keep buying the codex. But I’d totally like to have an e-reader or iPad for one thing: reading journal articles and annotating them in PDF format.

    I have a filing cabinet of journal articles and conference papers and working papers and book chapters, etc. I would love to have that information in an electronic format where I could do key word searches on those notes.

    I think an e-reader would be a fantastic way to manage my journal reading. I’d love it if I could get AHR, Slavic Review, The Megalomania-Ruritanian Studies Yearbook all in electronic format. That way I could get rid of the paper back issues of those journals and free up some space for… more books!


  40. I will also never have a Kindle or a Nook although I see the point of all these devices. But another reason they irk me is that they’re proprietary — a Kindle is for books sold by Amazon, etc. All too irritating and fragmenting. At least with a computer, you can grab whatever’s in the either.


  41. I also use my kindle for reading the newspaper. I could never adjust to reading it on the computer and all the linking irritated me, but I also hated all the recycling of the paper version. The kindle version is a good compromise, I can get a copy of my local paper anywhere with a wireless connection, and it is about 1/4 the cost of the print version. And, as with everyone else, it definitely doesn’t replace actual books for me, but it is handy for some things.


  42. Firstly, just the word “microfilm” makes me queasy. Anyone who’s used it will know why. Ugh.

    Secondly, as an art historian, I am skeptical of the image quality on current e-books. I also want to be able to thumb through a book, flip back and forth from text to picture, or to compare one image to the next. And I want BIG! PICTURES! and not wee 5″ x 7″ ones.

    Thirdly, for pleasure reading, I am all about and my local bookswap club. We meet every few months, everybody brings books to give away, and we just take what we are interested in. I have a backlog of non-professional books and magazines to read already, and I suppose if I ever ran out (unlikely!) and had lots of spare cash (even more unlikely!) the e-book format would be handy for purchasing popular fiction and magazines.


  43. Pingback: Stop the Press? Paper, e-books or both? « Then Dig

  44. Pingback: How do you skim an e-book? « More or Less Bunk

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