Monday, June 09, 2008

More on E-Books

TechNewsWorld has reports of more navel-gazing among book publishers, but one publisher--Springer--having some success. The rub, of course is that:
[Springer's] voracious readers are a learned lot that generally do not confuse reading with pleasure. For them, it's all about research, information, how-to and why-for stuff.
Last Friday, I unwittingly stumbled onto an interesting way to bridge the gap between print books and e-books. I went to downtown Saratoga in the evening, and as usual on Friday evenings, took the bus into town. (By the way, extortionate gas prices--$4.25 at Exit 13 yesterday!--must be having an affect, because the bus has been getting more and more packed over the past few months.) Whenever I take the bus, I bring a book to read at the bus stop, during the ride, and while I am waiting for friends to show up wherever we happen to be meeting. However, the weather being warm, I had no jacket (and thus few pockets), and the book I am reading (Charles Dickens' Bleak House) is very thick, so I didn't feel like schlepping it along. But while standing at the bus stop, I used my iPhone to find an online edition of Bleak House. I clicked the link to the chapter I had left off at in the print edition, and was thus able to continue reading seamlessly while out. When I got home that night, I moved my bookmark to the new spot.

Perhaps that's the model for e-books; buying the print edition will get you a password to access the online edition (Dickens and other classics are in the public domain) that can be retrievable from a mobile device. Or, alternatively, only the online edition can be bought for a lesser price. Perhaps alternative downloadable formats can also be available. My suspicion is that the success of the Amazon Kindle is giving Apple some ideas...would that that were the case, although portability would really be the only reason I would ever think of reading e-books--and portability using a device I already use for other things. That is, I was multitasking on the bus I was also listening to the iPhone's built in iPod, periodically checking e-mail, and dodging telemarketing calls from Time-Warner.

Speaking of book buying, what in the Sam Hill has happened to Borders? The one here in Saratoga has remodeled itself in such a way that they barely carry anything anymore--there are no more "new books" tables, just a small rack with the bestsellers, and the music section was redesigned in such a way as to purportedly hide the fact that the stock is much much smaller than it used to be. They still send me a ton of coupons for books, CDs, and DVDs, and I have stopped even trying to use them because I can no longer find anything there that I want. Which, for me, is saying something! It seems like I have to go online these days to get anything, which is shame because I really like browsing (if they ever close the Newbury Comics on Newbury St. in Boston I shall go ballistic.). Sigh. It's sad to read that this is apparently happening all over.

And speaking of buying stuff, I find it supremely funny that the big supermarket chain in the region--Price Chopper--has started this massive marketing campaign called "How much have you chopped your food bill?" at about the same time that prices for everything have started rising dramatically. You know, I can do math, and I have not chopped anything, and in fact have spent a substantial amount more, despite the fact that I always buy the exact same stuff week after week. And people wonder why I'm cynical. Jeesh.

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