Sunday, February 13, 2011

Each man kills the thing he loves, The coward does it with a Kindle.

Yesterday I dropped into a bookshop on my way home from work and it was wonderful. The shelves, the covers, the readers, the smell of paper, the tactile pleasure of picking up a book and riffling through the pages, all of these things seduced me once again.

I have been in love with bookshops almost as long as I have been in love with reading. In my youthful poverty I spent days trawling the streets of Dublin looking for little known second hand bookshops. Regular book shops seduce with the magic of pristine new writings while second hand books shops lure with the promise of forgotten legends and ancient magics.

My recent bookshop visit was wonderful but it was also traitorously bitter sweet. There on the shelf I found the next volume of the trilogy I am currently reading. It was new, it was beautiful, it beckoned. With head hung in shame I placed the tantalising volume back on the shelf and slunk out of the bookshop. I will buy the e-book later for my smartphone.

Its not a matter of price. It is a matter of convenience. I love books and I love book shops but I need to read. For years I found ways to carry a book with me at all times tucked into a coat pocket or the corner of a bag. It was awkward and sometimes it restricted my choice of reading but I managed it. Now I don't have to anymore. I have a small portable device that goes where ever I go and I can read books on it.

Don't get me wrong, the weight of convenience is still quite finely balanced. The device itself is not as pleasant to use as a solid paperback. The on-line store interfaces are slow and awful (at least on my android device). Publisher agreements restrict certain titles to certain formats in each country meaning that you need to struggle with multiple book readers to cover all the titles you want. Some formats must be downloaded on a PC first and then copied to the phone by a tortuous route. I am quite technically competent and I am prepared to struggle with all of this. I imagine many are not. The balance of convenience has already reached the tipping point for me and for many many others but not for everybody. Yet technology continues on its inexorable march. It is getting easier.

The bookshop I visited yesterday is the largest bookshop in Dublin (and probably in Ireland). It has enticed and enthralled bookworms since the middle of the 18th century. Yesterday it was once more doing a brisk trade with the city's readers.  The second largest bookshop in Dublin used to be across the street. It closed down forever one week ago.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The thing with data purchases is they vanish all too easily. I'm in no rush to spend any money for e-goods that just go poof because of some unexpected error. If they're going for free then sure I have a nosey.

As for phones/pads/readers, the day they are so cheap that they can be left lying around the school yard and you can come back to find them still there, then I might be interested in them.

Because so long as this is not the case then the first point is doubly damned.

As for the media formats/protocols, so long as the publishers have the option to remotely modify/delete the titles then the first point is triply damned. They can keep their politics and cash cows away from me thanks. If I want an updated version I'll go get it myself.


Solbright

mbp said...

Hi Solbright you left a really good comment that I wanted to respond to but when I went looking for it it had disappeared. Did you delete it intentionally? I have the original comment in an email reminder so I can report it with your permission.

Anonymous said...

Huh, wasn't me deleting. I wouldn't anyway but I can't without an account.

One more Blogger glitch maybe?

Anonymous said...

And, yes, do repost it thanks.


Solbright

Anonymous said...

Hmm, seems everything is going into a black hole.

mbp said...

The following is reposted on behalf of Solbright who's comments are being blocked for some reason I don't understand:

"The thing with data purchases is they vanish all too easily. I'm in no rush to spend any money for e-goods that just go poof because of some unexpected error. If they're going for free then sure I have a nosey.

As for phones/pads/readers, the day they are so cheap that they can be left lying around the school yard and you can come back to find them still there, then I might be interested in them.

Because so long as this is not the case then the first point is doubly damned.

As for the media formats/protocols, so long as the publishers have the option to remotely modify/delete the titles then the first point is triply damned. They can keep their politics and cash cows away from me thanks. If I want an updated version I'll go get it myself."


Solbright

mbp said...

Hi Sol

You makes some very good points.

With regards to price I think that for me and for a lot of people a digital download is inherently less valuable than a physical copy of a book and I believe that has to be reflected in a substantial price discount. I suspect that digital books won't really take off until publishers accept this fact. Just look at what happened to games and the impact of online sales.

With regard to the ability of publishers to pull books back that you have already downloaded that is just preposterous. As far as I know Kindle are the only ones who do this and major reason not to buy from them.

Anonymous said...

Nothing but irony for this thread. :P


Solbright

Anonymous said...

I may have found the answer - http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/thread?tid=3dcb02c83302034f&hl=en

Blogger now makes use of third party cookies. Definitely not something I want enabled with it's stats collecting ability. Cookies were never intended for this use.

This post can be considered a verification test.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, nope, that didn't work either. :(