The March of the E-Books

Article excerpt

As I related in the September issue, I was recently given a firstgeneration Kindle and have read a couple of books on it. I think it's harder to use than a printed book, but a lot more portable, especially if it carries multiple titles.

But there are a couple of things that make it not very useful for me, although I admit I'm the exception. I work in a library and it's very easy for me to borrow books - and a lot cheaper than paying $9.99 to Amazon, or more money recently. Actually, even Amazon sells some hardbacks for only two dollars more than the Kindle edition, and if I wasn't willing to wait for a book to appear on the shelves in the library, I'd probably pay the two bucks for the printed edition. Some publishers must be making a boatload of money with these thirteen dollar e-books at Amazon. Even after giving Amazon say, a six dollar cut, that still leaves them with seven dollars, a lot more than they make on a printed edition. And it's all gross profit. No shipping, no returns. Just a server and some payment to the author. We all know they don't pay their editors very much, even if they have them. (I swear, I see so many instances of bad grammar and bad spelling in books these days I wonder if some publishers just do without editors.)

Secondly, the Kindle can't download from library e-book collections. So you have to pay Amazon for a book. The foundation for public libraries is free access. That idea would have been anathema to book publishers if they hadn't been looking the other way when the first public libraries were started in the early 19th century.

Of course, not everyone uses the public library - probably no more than twenty percent of the population, but a larger percentage of those who read books. …