So I decided, if I'm going to be selling these ebooks, I really should have an ereader.
At the time, the only ereader available in New Zealand was the Kobo. I bought one, and I was delighted.
The Kobo came with 100 books loaded, free-domain classics. More were available through Whitcoulls's website, the Kobo site itself in Canada, or pretty much anywhere else books were sold in .epub or .pdf format.
I made a few quick purchases, loaded that puppy up through the USB cable and I was off and running. The Kobo only has one control-- a soft blue square that lets you toggle directions and middle-click. It's your book-selector, your page-turner, your menu-caller-upper. With the Kobo, your right thumb does it all...
Fast-forward a month, and Amazon's Kindle is available here. Naturally, I ordered one of those too! And just as naturally, I began to compare:
The Kindle boots a little faster than the Kobo, and it lets me turn pages with either hand. Ebooks are easier to find for the Kindle (Amazon seems to have pretty much everything)-- I had to do a bit of hunting to find titles in .epub for the Kobo. On the other hand, the library on the Kobo is easier to navigate, and there's less chance of accidentally turning twenty or thirty pages because you stuck it in your pocket or set a bowl of peanuts down on the button. Overall, I kept the Kindle, though I do still miss the Kobo.
Now, the Revolution:
First thing I noticed was that my ereader was doing to my bookshelf what my iPod did for my CD rack. It only took a couple of days to go from the 'shock of the new' to regarding my books as heavy, clumsy, unwieldy antiques. Only the best-printed pages matched my ebook, and even then the font size simply refused to change. Mostly, my paperbacks and softcovers are brownish paper and grayish print, and even my new James Lee Burke featured paper so thin I could read the back of each page through the one I was looking at.
An ereader is also portable. Wildly, madly, beautifully portable. I can set it on the table or balance it on my knee while I eat, lay it on the counter while I cook, even set it on that shelf at the back of my shower so that I can read while I wash. (Yes, I'm an addict. And these gadgets are the Cadillac of crack-pipes!)
And when I read in bed, one arm out above the covers? Well, no more thumb-and-pinky page spreading, no more laying the book on my chest to turn the pages with my thumb. Just click. Click. Click. Page after page after delightful page...
That's the good. Now, the bad...
DRM: *Fuck* DRM. I want to be diplomatic, but this blog isn't titled 'Moderate Speeds and Caution'. Basically, the idea that I can't read a book and enjoy it enough to pass along to friend strikes me as bullshit.
Think about your favorite authors and how you found them. That second-hand bookstore or garage sale, that battered paperback left with the magazines in a coffee shop, that book a friend passed you after she finished it, telling you how great it was. Those 'pirate' (in the sense the publisher didn't get paid for my reading it) books led me to 'real' purchases. Often several times over, as I passed my favorites on and replaced them, passed them on and replaced them. None of that is possible with copy-protected ebooks, and if you ask me, it's a fine example of publishers stabbing themselves in the eye. An artist's greatest enemy isn't piracy, it's obscurity.
The corporations pushing for DRM say they're protecting the rights of artists, but the fact is they don't mind costing an author a sale as long as it keeps them from losing a dollar. And yeah, there's a very special mindset out there that thinks of second-hand sales as a form of theft. Public libraries must make these folks foam at the mouth.
Formats: As I mentioned earlier, finding .epubs wasn't always the easiest thing. And buying them online was often like pulling teeth. Amazon's got it all over their competition in that regard. Fortunately, there's a free program called Calibre that converts between formats with no trouble. Look into it.
Geography: Now, this is another rant at the asinine behavior of major publishers. (I can almost hear the print deals being taken off the table now) Why is it that I can buy a paperback by, say, Duane Swierczynski from Amazon and they'll mail it right out to my house, but if I try to download THE SAME BOOK they give me a song and dance about how it's only available in North America?
Is the publisher going to get paid? Yes. Will they get paid MORE for the ebook? Yes. Is there any compelling reason for me to wait for an Australasian version of the ebook to come out? No. So why the fuck are they dicking me around? I don't know.
Writers, let me ask you this: How many readers would you not have today if no one could ever lend your books out, or give them to friends when they were finished? And how many sales would have been lost if you had to wait for your publisher to sell foreign rights before an overseas customer could read your book?
There's a revolution underfoot, and the old tyrants are trying to use it as an opportunity to tighten the noose...