I want an ebook reader.
In an average week I read 2 books, 5 magazines and about 100,000 words on various websites, blogs and message boards. I like reading but I really hate carrying around all the books I want to read, especially when I’m traveling. With all the weight restrictions on planes nowadays, I’m lucky to fit a hardcover book into my carry-on for each business trip I take. And if the trip is cross country or overseas, I have to force myself to read slowly so I don’t finish the book before I land and be forced to listen to my seatmate snore in her sleep.
Note to lady in 32F, next time get a nasal strip or I will shove Cheetos up your nose.
Now, you may be wondering why I don’t just buy an ebook reader like the Kindle and be done with my Geekish whining. Well, I’ll tell you why I haven’t bought one yet; cost. Not the cost of the ebook reader, but the cost of the ebooks that I’d put onto the reader. Most ebooks cost anywhere from $5 to $15 each, which might seem reasonable at first glance, but I beg to differ. You see, where a physical book has inherent costs associated with its design, construction and distribution, an ebook has none of those same costs. There’s no reason why an ebook should cost as much as a physical paperback other than to prop up an outdated publishing business model that, due to the advent of the internet, is no longer relevant. If there’s no longer a physical book that needs to be designed, created, warehoused, shipped, stored and displayed then why are we still being asked to pay for those costs?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that at some point in the near future the current cost structure of contemporary publishing will fail, and a new structure will rise in its place. Hopefully one that is far more consumer oriented, perhaps similar to the iTunes structure of $.99 per song. Imagine how many more books you’d be willing to buy if they cost $.99 each. How often has someone said, “There’s this book I’m reading that I know you’d love.” But you never buy it because at $24.99 it’s not worth your money to find out if your friend was right? If you could buy the book for a dollar, right then and there when your friend mentioned it, would you hesitate?
I know I wouldn’t.
Or, how about a club-like, subscription structure? Imagine if Amazon opened up an iBrary where, for $14.99 a month ($100 a year), you could download and read all the books in their entire ebook catalog. If you let your subscription lapse then all the books are removed from your device. However, for an added fee of say $5, you could “own” that ebook and even if your subscription lapses it would remain on your ebook reader and/or backed up on your computer.
That sounds pretty good to me.
Unfortunately, right now ebooks are being treated like the proverbial red-headed step-child of the publishing world. I truly believe the publishing world is scared out of their collective minds about what ebooks might do to their businesses. Just last week Macmillan strong-armed Amazon into hiking the price of their e-books from around $10 to between $13 and $15 depending on the title. Why they think this is a good idea is beyond me, but it does make me hesitant to buy a Kindle or any ebook reader right now. Why spend the money on the reader and ebooks when buying paperbacks and/or used costs less? In fact, I defy any representative of any publishing house to explain to me why the cost of an ebook appears to need to be higher than the cost of a brand new physical hardcopy of a paperback book. How can it possibly cost more to upload a single file to a central database than it does to design, create and bind a physical book, store it in a warehouse, ship it and display it in a bookstore?
Until I have an answer, or until the price of ebooks become more realistic, I’m think I’m going to have to stick with paper.