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.


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.
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