What are you really getting with eBooks?

Posted By on February 13, 2010

With my daughter at home for a couple weeks while doing an M3 year “exploratory” at Children’s Hospital here in Cincinnati, I had the chance to use her new Barnes and Noble Nook to read a book. After the newness wore off and the expense of paying for digital ebooks and publications took hold, I’ve decided I’m not much of a fan. It may be one thing to read a few periodical articles, a couple PDF documents or even a bit of pleasure reading, but I don’t see e-readers ready for a quick morning newspaper scan or convenient study or research instead of a pile of books spread out on a desk or table.


This brings me to the format and how someone currently pays for most ebooks. If I purchase a ‘paper’ book, I own it. I can read it, put it on a shelf, share it, loan, sell or give it away. Sure the ebook is slightly discounted to $10 to $15 compared to a new hardback version, but basically you are only ‘renting’ the electronic copy. The licensing structure prohibits much more than a single device or single reading and even in the case of the Nook’s two week lend program for some books, its not all that convenient considering the rental investment.

As for the devices themselves, obsolescence is built in (try to replace the battery) and very few owners will have the expertise to relicense their purchased books to the next great device. As my daughter and I discussed, investing in more than a few ebooks for her Nook is probably not going to happen under the current structure and I’m not sure the iPad will be structured all that differently?

Here are a few thoughts for publishers and independent authors:

  1. Publishers should include a ebook version with every hardcover purchase. I’d gladly purchase the hardcover for home or office and used the ebook version for convenience, travel and general reading.
  2. Create a ebook ‘light’ for library lending or rentals similar to audiobooks. A log-in and return feature that prevents secondary sharing and requires a return – deletion – of the ebook.
  3. Capitalize on the social networking side of reading a publisher’s ebook by adding content from their website and through other social networking sites that will encourage more sales or market additional books.


  • Gary

    Good luck with those thoughts Rich, whereas all future technologies/goods/services are engineered with built in defined obsolescence. Before long, we will own nothing, and merely rent the privilege of a leisure existence and comfort/conveniences. Profit will not be achieved with individual ownership, but in recurring charges/fees/upgrades. The next generation will have a vastly different life experience/existence and challenge in their ability to acquire and pass along wealth. Even the current banking systems and charges are hovering on usury, if not criminal. Hah, careful as I climb off of the soapbox before I fall.

    Regards to the family, all the best…

  • Thanks Gary. You are correct … its far more than just eBooks. I don’t really mind renting for one time use item … like most movies or fiction books … but overall am not comfortable with a rent or usury fee society. I prefer the ownership aspect of being an American worry that we (and the next generation) are being sold down a dark “just one more monthly bill” or “user fee” future.

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.