The Temptation of eBooks

iPhone Stanza

Stanza eBook Reader for iPhone & iPod Touch

I come from a family of avid readers. Money was tight growing up, so the local library was an oasis of free entertainment. I remember spending hours in the children’s section of the main library in Anaheim curled up with a good book getting lost in fantastic new worlds like Narnia and Oz. My second grade teacher, Miss Keene, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us in class. I grew impatient with the slow progress and raced to the school library to check it out and finish it myself.

There is nothing I’d rather do when I have a little spare time than read a good book. Waiting rooms are an ideal opportunity to sneak in a few pages. However, I don’t always have a book with me and waiting room magazines are often a meager menu of People, Parents Magazine or Sports Illustrated. I have nothing against celebrities, kids or sports, but they don’t hold my interest long.

eBooks offer the convenience and portability of having a library in your pocket. I have an iPhone and I find that eBook apps are my favorite. I currently have three.

Pros and Cons of eBooks

Pros

  • Portability – I have an extensive library at my fingertips. I recently read Neal Stephenson’s Anathem on my iPhone. The hardcover book has 960 pages. That is not something I’d like to carry around in my bag.
  • Search – I can search for text, which is not possible in a printed version.
  • Annotations – I can annotate the book with notes or observations. This would be a great tool for academia.
  • Adjustable fonts – I can choose the font I prefer and up the size as my eyes age.
  • Vast library of free books – Many books are available in the public domain and some authors publish their books at no charge.

Cons

  • Expensive – While there are many free options, current books still under copyright cost money. The cost is often comparable or even more than a printed version. This doesn’t make much sense to me as the costs for production and distribution are considerably less. Prices do seem to be coming down as competition increases.
  • No sharing - Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection does not allow you to share your library with others. A real book can be loaned, given or sold to someone else.
  • Proprietary Software – I mentioned above that I have 3 eBook readers on my iPhone. I have Stanza, a free app that is ideal for public domain books including the Project Gutenburg library as well as options to buy books. I also have an eReader app for books I’ve purchased through eReader.com. eReader was the first to offer books for sale for the iPhone that I could find. I also have the Kindle app so I can purchase books from Amazon. Barnes and Noble is starting their eBook sales and will also have another app.
  • Longevity of eBook formats – Since there are so many formats, will I always be able to access my purchased libraries? What if eReader goes under, what happens to all the books I purchased from them?

Looking at the pros and cons, it seems that the cons outweigh the pros. So why do I continue to buy and read eBooks. I’m willing to pay the premium for the convenience. I hope as the world of eBooks continues to evolve some of the cons will get resolved and there will be legal ways to get beyond DRM to loan books to others.

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