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Old 01-03-2007, 04:44 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Decisions, decisions: Buy paper book or e-book?

I am a fan of e-books. No question, no doubt. For me, they are more convenient, easier on my eyes and more fun.

But paper has some important advantages that haven't gone away:

*) No DRM - Not tied to one type of Reader hardware or software technology
*) No DRM - Can still read the paper book in 30 years if I decide to keep it
*) No DRM - Can pass the book on to someone else when I'm done
*) Wide selection of titles available for sale
*) Better pricing... sometimes

Some people have emotional ties to paper and like the tactile feel and all that, but for me that's actually the electronic advantage. I love the feel and emotion of reading an e-book. I guess I'm just a gadget lover at heart.

If it seems like this topic never seems to go away, you're right. It's because we are constantly faced with the same kind of decision if we like e-books. In the case of Sony Connect, there are a lot of great books there at very reasonable prices. It is easy to purchase the e-books, and I love to read them on the Sony Reader.

But now I want to buy: Failure Is Not an Option, by Gene Kranz. It happens to be about the Apollo program by one of the guys that was right in the thick of the project. It's one of the pricing anomolies at Sony Connect, so I can either buy the paperback at Amazon for $10.20, or pay $13.59 for the Sony Reader version, with no guarantees that I'll have any way to read it after I switch to the next latest greatest e-book reader technology. (Because of the DRM, primarily, but also the BBeB format that is not widespread.)

What to do? I'm leaning toward the cheaper and more permanent paperback because I don't like feeling like I'm throwing away money. It's also a book that I might end up wanting to keep around long term. If it was a novel that I only plan to read or look at once, I'd probably buy the more expensive e-book version and just feel cheated out of a few dollars by the price.

Normally I wouldn't share such a common decision, but I have a feeling that it's one that we all make over and over again. It's not just about this one book, and this one buyer. It's really a big picture question. We just don't talk about it much at the individual purchase level. We tend to talk about "big and important" topics instead of the simple decision we all face. I'm curious what other people would suggest that I do and would like to know how other people make their decision.

So tell me what you recommend! Should I buy paper or e-book? And if the price was a bit under the paper book price, like many of the Connect e-books? What then?

Note: Please, please, please don't turn this into another DRM ranting discussion. Yes DRM is relevant, but let's not focus on DRM arguments. Let's keep it about how you would decide which version to buy!
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Old 01-03-2007, 05:04 PM   #2
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Bob, sometimes it is good to have both, especially if you really want to keep a copy for several years and still be able to read it. I have some books in my library that I would love to have as ebooks so I could read them again on my reader. I also have some relatively new pbooks with ebook copies (some came free with the pbook from Baen - others I bought both).

So this is not a solution to your two choices but may just be a third choice. Sorry.
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Old 01-03-2007, 05:50 PM   #3
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For me, it depends on the book. The genre books that I love I tend to buy in e-books because I can easily take them with me on my Palm.

Books by authors I love, I will buy in paper (or hardcover) just so I don't have to worry about losing the format when I upgrade computers, change software, etc.

Books used for reference I tend to buy in physical form only because it's so difficult to annotate, make notes about, flag in electronic form. I have made some ebooks (sections) into PDFs, using Acrobat, but on the whole, it's still easier for me to use the trad form.

Since I do read many of my books more than once, I don't like having to worry about whether they will be there in the future. I used to buy e-books in Mobipocket format, but have since taken to buying all my e-books in html to make them as versatile as possible. I stopped buying .lit formatted books a long time ago because of the DRM. I haven't even looked at it in so long that I don't know if they've eased up or not.

If I have to make a choice between a heavily-DRM'd e-book or an audio book, I'll go with the audio book. Sometimes - if the audio isn't an option - I'll go with the e-book, but frankly, I've started checking books out of our public library again just because I'm not so willing as before to support closed formats that are essentially penalizing me for choosing the same-priced ebook over a printed book since the costs of production are so much higher with the printed book. I think if heavily-DRM'd e-books were priced considerably less to reflect their lesser production costs, then I *might* start considering them.

Whew. In other words, it depends on the book.
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Old 01-03-2007, 06:31 PM   #4
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I would just buy the eBook. The extra three bucks is worth the convenience to me and I don't really "collect" books, I usually give them to friends, etc...
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Old 01-03-2007, 07:36 PM   #5
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According to this link classic paper books will soon not be available in some libraries.

http://opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110009472
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Old 01-04-2007, 01:11 AM   #6
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Bob, I'm going to take this simple common question, and turn it into a big picture question. Ultimately, what did you purchase the reader for? I'll go even further, what made you a gadget geek? When I was a teenager, I tended to pay more for the slightly larger than cassette size Walkmen for the convenience of the most portable music player available. I pinpoint that Walkman as my first gadget obsession.

When I started in the workforce, I had this nice small leather organizer for years. I had these coins in there my uncle gave me, a signed Allman Brothers backstage ribbon by Greg Allman, and every phone number and appt that took years to accumulate into this book. One day I left it on a payphone when I was talking to someone, and it was gone. I was devastated. I replaced it with a Casio Wizard, and put numbers in there....but there was no backup system available, so I used it reluctantly. Then came the Palm Pilot. I upgraded every time a new one came out, even went to Pocket PC for a bit, and went back to Palm. I have since settled on a Nextel Blackberry 7520 for the convenience of having all of my PDA needs and phone and e-mail in a small package on my belt clip. I especially love the fact that my information is backed up in 2 places, and can be brought along platforms for pretty much any device.

I love music, I always had a car with a backseat and passenger seat full of CD's and made cassettes. I would get organizers, but for some reason, CD's would still find themselves all over the car. Along came Ipod. It took me 2 months, but eventually, almost 5000 songs later, every song I own is in this little device thats smaller than a cassette box and backed up on my laptop and an external hard drive. I can play it in my car, walking, bicycling, the gym, etc. Full access to my entire collection whenever and wherever I choose.

I tend to read 2-3 books at a time. I like reading when I'm out eating on my lunch break, or at a Coffee Shop. So many times I forgot a book I'm in the mood to read at home, or wanting to start a book and forgot to bring it. Sometimes I run into the same issue I had with music, books in the backseat or trunk. Along came Sony Reader, the ability to bring along 80 books in on board memory plus whatever I could fit on a memory card. Never forget to bring a book again? No more books cluttering the back seat, bags or trunk?

Do you see a pattern here? It's a longwinded way of saying we get these gadgets for better organization, less clutter, and convenience of portability. I bought the Sony Reader with 2 things in mind. I'm hoping Sony is to e-book technology what Apple is to MP3 technology. They made a great device, created a buzz, and hopefully market it on a larger scale. When I threw $350 at this, it was with the anticipation of keeping it for quite a while, and committing to Sony for my E-books and BBeB format the way I committed to Apple Ipod and AAC format for my music. I made that commitment with the understanding that overall I will be investing good money in E-Books as I have with Itunes music.

If you are that confident that you will eventually move to another device, then I would buy the books that I planned to read various times in Hard or softcover books, and get my casual reading in electronic format. I think your decision should be based on your confidence level of device manufacturer and formats if you plan to switch up even fairly often. With all of this in mind, I would had paid the extra couple of dollars to download it, and hold onto it.
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Old 01-04-2007, 03:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Madam Broshkina
According to this link classic paper books will soon not be available in some libraries.

http://opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110009472
Ah ... one of the 'new' librarians, who thinks the job of a library is to cater to current tastes and information, and whose budget tends to move the money allocated to book preservation to 'information consoles'.

There's an interesting article by Randolph Adams (published in 1937!) in which he describes how the changing role of the librarian can be harmful to the library:

http://dlist.sir.arizona.edu/335/01/enemy.html
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Old 01-04-2007, 05:39 AM   #8
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Bob, why bother with questions like that one? The idea is to enjoy a book and the choice of medium should be either obvious or unimportant in each particular case.

E.g. you wake up with an urge to read a specific book. Now:

a) the weather is nice and you feel like walking to the nearest book store
b) the weather is shitty and you would rather download your copy

Of course, it branches further but all cases should end with you happily reading the book.

My point is, this is not a religious question. You do not have to convert to an e-book reader. In case of each book, you could have one, none or both, whatever pleases you and whatever is available. The chances are the e-readers will become better and cheaper in time, the paper books will become more expensive and harder to find but I hope the choice will be here for a long time.

Last edited by Mycropht; 01-04-2007 at 08:47 AM.
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Old 01-04-2007, 09:55 AM   #9
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I might be a utopist to some people but here is my take on the subject.

What I'd like is an e-copy of the book printed(yes printed) on an inside page of a paper book using this new scanning code . This thread a little while back went by largely unnoticed. To me it was incredible news.

Look at it this way. You buy a paper version of a book and there is a page in it where the e-version is printed. You scan it with a special device and bingo! There is your e-version, all ready to download to your reader!

The price of that electronic version would be spread to all buyers, just like wrapping and puplicity costs. Only the techno savvy will know the benefits of that page. The costs would be recovered just like the CD in that PC magazine you buy.

An other market could be instituted of selling only these specific pages, thus saving paper.

Of course I can already hear the complaints those who invested in internet reselling. We have to remember that the current ebooks are of use only to computer users who are connected, quite a small number of the population.

If we want to democratize ebooks for their practicality would'nt it be nice for those who refuse the computer or those with no means to maintain and own one, to only buy a reader and a direct link scanner? I know quite a number of people who would be happy with such a state of things, starting with me.
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Old 01-04-2007, 10:29 AM   #10
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Regarding some Indians storing huge amount of data on piece of paper, here is a (more) serious look on the matter:

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061126-8288.html

I have stuffed that news in the same bin with news of a great new lossless compression algorithm with shrinking capabilities which (IMHO) defied logic and the actual theories on the matter. Guess what, the final product using the algorithm has never materialized. Figures. Shrinking data is easy, but if you overdo it, the expansion can be problematic.
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:06 AM   #11
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yvan, what would be the point of bundling the electronic and paper versions together? You're going to read one or the other, not both. That would be like bundling a hardcover and paperback of the same book together on the premise the paperback is more portable the hardcover more collectible. Who would want that?
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:45 AM   #12
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The reasons are multiple. First you have to think outside of the throwaway culture we're maintained in by multinationals; where everything must be consumed and destroyed to make place for the 'new'.

-You can lend your copy of the book while keeping your reader.
-You can leave your bulky book home and carry only the reader with you. Or leave the reader home to preserve it because you will be reading in a nasty environment.
-Not all text is trivial enough to be read only once.
-Paper is the only way works can be preserved for centuries, as e-content can be lost or destroyed with one EM wave in a flash. I've lost pictures, texts and drawings due to computer conversions, never to see them again. Even CDs have limited durability in tropical weather. I have some files stored on floppies that can't be read because the software used to create them does not exist anymore;which brings me to the next reason.
-Ebabel. No way here to maintain works alive for a long time.

These are just a few, we could go on and on about it...

One thing has to be made clear. E-content is for consumtion, P-content is for safekeeping. There is no other way around it!

Last edited by yvanleterrible; 01-04-2007 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 01-04-2007, 12:10 PM   #13
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Completely agree with yvanleterrible. While somewhat utopian, it would be my idea of an ideal solution. It doesn't mean that consumers are tied into having to buy the pbook just to get the ebook version--ebooks can still be purchased separately. The ebook data inside the pbook would only take up a single page (or less), so no inconvenience to the people who have no interest in the ebook data.

Yvan's post was one of those that gave me a chill and really made me think about what our future could (should) be like.
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Old 01-04-2007, 12:15 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by ath
... whose budget tends to move the money allocated to book preservation to 'information consoles'.[/url]
There's actually some logic to that -- not irrefutable logic, but some logic nonetheless.

What I mean is that digitization of really old works (even something as simplistic making a digipix collection of the entire work) serves the twin purposes of making the work more widely available (to folks who need access the content, but not necessarily the original physical medium), while still protecting the original work from handling (making it last longer than it otherwise would for future scholars who need access to the original physical medium).

My wife is finishing her PhD in 19th century Brit. Lit., and I can't tell you how many books we have in the apartment that were printed before our grandparents were born -- quite a few of them before their parents were born, actually. They've all been well cared for (Rice University has a very good library), but even so, some are reaching the end of the usable lives of the physical medium they're printed on -- the paper is literally disintegrating. If these were digitized, she could still use them, and the original could be stored in a nitrogen atmosphere, that would stretch their lives. The longevity benefit from just not being handled as much would be significant.

And that doesn't even address microtext (microfilm/fiche) -- I don't know why that stuff hasn't been converted to digital storage long since -- some folks are still making it for cryin' out loud! It boggles the mind.



@yvanleterrible: I likes that idea, it could be an excellent way to bridge the gap.
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Old 01-04-2007, 01:32 PM   #15
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Bob, you should GET SONY, they're DRM rules are--

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
Note: Please, please, please don't turn this into another DRM ranting discussion. Yes DRM is relevant, but let's not focus on DRM arguments. Let's keep it about how you would decide which version to buy!
...Uh... oh. Okay.

Well, Bob, I look at it this way: Just because you can now read e-books... doesn't actually mean that every book you buy from now on has to be an e-book. If it's a better deal on paper, and you want to read it, don't agonize over it. Life's too short! Just buy the print book. Worry about print-versus-E next time.
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