Some Thoughts on EBooks


Last year I finally bought a Nook (well, two – one for me and one for my wife). I’m intrigued by the capability of carrying a small library around with me. However, I was, and still am, a little apprehensive about “Terms of service”, and this limits my usage of the device.

I finally convinced myself that I could justify an ebook, in order to carry a number of manuals around. The easy availability PDF versions of manuals makes this conceivable. In addition, Project Gutenberg  provides a source for free, often classic, if dated ebooks.

My apprehension comes from the requirement of a credit card number to buy and access books bought from Barnes & Noble. The lending/borrowing capability also requires a credit card. I detest the idea of handing over a credit card to access books that I have allegedly paid for and that if I fail to update the card, I would lose access to these books. I am particularly annoyed that a gift card is considered insufficient credit.  I am used to having a hard copy of a book available that I can consult at any time, if I can remember where I put it.  I can loan, or ever give away or sell it if so inclined.  I understand the concern of distributors to protect their rights, and they can set whatever conditions they want on sales/licensing . But I have no obligation to be their customer either. With Borders going bankrupt, and Barnes & Noble stability questionable, the need to hand a credit card into their care to preserve my reading rights does not give me a lot of confidence. A there is no reason to assume Amazon will never encounter similar difficulties.

The use of the Nook for reading manuals has not been as easy as I had hoped. Filenames and encoded titles of manuals are often, err, “Cryptic”. Also it can be difficult to find material. I jump around a lot in manuals, scanning, searching and not always knowing what I am looking for. Hypertext material which includes links to related subjects is a joy to work with. I haven’t learned of similar capabilities with Epub, or pdf. An index with links back to the text “should” be possible. I’m still learning how to use an electronic Tables of Contents.  Some manuals are written in a landscape format.  A landscape capability would be handy on an ereader.

I have explored Baen Ebooks.   I have been reading Baen books now and then.  I am especially addicted to the Grantville series. In addition to offering new authors, then also issue re-releases of classic [old?] Science Fiction and Fantasy authors.  They have some free material, that I used to test suitability for my use. Their material is DRM [Data Rights Management] free, if I understand their claims. I have started buying their ebooks and have had no problem saving and using them. Their offering of monthly bundles several works, gets the prices down to what I consider reasonable. [I’m used to buying paperbacks for $0.95 to $3.00, I guess that kind of dates me.]

I’ve looked at other publishers web sites, and learned that many of them use Adobe Digital Editions to manage digital rights. This program is available for free, and installed on a PC. Downloads appear to be done through this program. Some publishers use Ebooks.com, offering books in EPub and/or Secure PDF, managed through the Adobe program. I have risked buying one inexpensive EPub book, with DMR and was able to transfer as I needed. I will get braver, maybe, and buy books under these terms.

I am surprised by the prices of new release ebooks, often comparable to the hard cover or, at best, trade book price. I guess I will have to continue to wait for the paperback.

© David B Snyder 2013

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