by Doctor Science
Long time no blog! I went on vacation, and then I had to do all the work I didn't do while I was on vacation. And now Labor Day, the school year, and the High Holy Days are charging down upon me, but I'm determined to get back on the horse.
One of the things I took on vacation was the used Nook I recently got from a friend. I hadn't had it for very long, but I was already becoming used to taking long fanfic with me instead of always having to read it at my desk, and to reading larger print when I feel like it. The Archive of Our Own lets you download stories in various formats, so I've been saving them as EPUBs and loading them onto the Nook.
So of course one of the things I *did* on vacation was get the Nook wet. Not even in the ocean -- my water bottle opened in my bag. I rescued the Nook almost immediately, put it inside a bag of rice and left it there for a week, but I think I killed it -- when I plug it into the computer the computer doesn't even recognize that there's anything *there*. The Bronte sisters' faces just keep mocking me.
"Crumbs, I said, "maybe I'll look into getting another one. All I want is something to read black & white text on, I don't need WiFi or a color screen. How hard can it be?"
I can hear you laughing, you know.
I now understand more viscerally why people like Charles Stross and Matthew Ingram have been saying that the big publishers have hurt themselves and strengthened Amazon (and Apple!) by insisting on DRM -- which, among other things, means that I can't lend books I buy, nor can I switch eReader brands without a great deal of hassle. Or at least, it *would* mean that if I wanted to use an eReader for purchased books, instead of for fanfiction and public domain works.
My rule of thumb is that "piracy" by customers indicates a market failure, specifically that the seller has failed to correctly determine the free market price of their product, or has failed to meet the demand. (I'm not sure if this is an example of what economists call a market failure.)
For instance, if your TV show is only available in the US, people in other countries who are interested in the show will turn to "alternative sources" to get it. It's not that they're not willing to pay, it's that you have provided no means for them to pay: there is a market for your show that you aren't even trying to meet, and people will find a way around that.
Another example: old episodes of Doctor Who are priced way too high for TV. For instance, The Key to Time ran for a full season, so it should cost about as much as a season of 1/2 hour shows -- about $15, at free-market rates. Even if it gets a Crazy SciFi Fan extra charge, it shouldn't be more than about $30. Instead, the BBC wants $70 -- which is why I don't know many fans who have collections of old Doctor Who episodes that they've *bought*.
Meanwhile, sf publisher Tor Books has now gone a year without DRM, and it hasn't hurt their sales at all. But they're probably charging market price for their ebooks, so perhaps their example doesn't count.
And I wonder if that market price is inflated, because one's ability to use commercial ebooks is so restricted. For me and my friends, for instance, one of the important uses of books is for *sharing*. "I read this and I liked it, and I thought you would like it, too": having a single volume make the rounds of the household or the friendship is part of our social glue. The physical book becomes an objective correlative of the social connection: it's a thing we share that both symbolizes and embodies the ideas and interests we share.
I'm used to fanfic being shared without the objective correlative, just as recommendations. But it also doesn't *cost* anything for the sharee to get their own copy of the shared item. It can be a pure gift. For commercial ebooks, the sharee has to pay for their gift, which really undermines its value. And, IMHO, should be a downward pressure on the price of the ebook, if there was an actual free market operating.
So, any suggestions for an eReader? I see lots of people talking about how the iPad is the best eReader, to which I can only say: LOL, it must be nice to have money. Also, an eInk display is MUCH easier on the eyes than anything Apple puts out, and physical ease of reading is the most important factor as far as I'm concerned. I see that Kindle doesn't handle ePub format, only MOBI, which is a definite downside for me, though I'll probably continue running as much as possible through calibri, to standardize formats and tagging.
Via Buzzfeed's "What To Do With All Those Books, which has absolutely no suggestions about what to do with thousands of paperback SF books. Assuming I can pry them out of my husband's hands, that is.