more Kindle thoughts

I’ve been thinking about the Kindle again. I still haven’t quite decided to buy one, but I’m getting closer.

Here’s a scenario that’s got me thinking:
(It’s kind of a long story, so bear with me.)
I bought the audiobook version of Brad Meltzer’s “Zero Game” from iTunes awhile ago. I’ve been listening to it in the car, and enjoying it quite a bit. I hit a point, though, where the audio just cut out and skipped ahead about five chapters. I went back and forth with Apple about it, and eventually got a refund. (They tell me that they’ve now posted a corrected version, so if you’re interested in the book, don’t let this glitch stop you from buying it!)

While I was going back and forth with support, though, I really wanted to just continue reading the book. If I’d had a Kindle, I could have just bought it from Amazon, and picked up reading the missing parts the same day I hit the glitch.

I did wind up buying a used hardcover copy of the book from Amazon so I could read the missing part. Now, while that obviously took longer to get to me than the Kindle version would have, it was a bit cheaper, and I can (theoretically) resell it, or just give it away, when I’m done reading it.

However, I’m sitting here right now looking at the book, and thinking that I’m probably going to just toss it on the floor in a pile of other old books when I’m done with it. The used book system on Amazon is great for buyers, but they’ve driven down prices on used books so much that there’s not much point trying to sell it after I’m done with it. And I don’t know anybody who’d really be interested in reading it who I could hand it off to. And I know I’ll never talk myself into just throwing it out.

I’ve got a whole bunch of books that fall into this category. Basically, books that I’m probably never going to want to re-read, and have almost no resale value, but I can’t bring myself to throw them out.

In some ways, the economics of this seem almost perverse, but I think I might be willing to pay a little extra to buy a book that doesn’t leave any physical footprint in my tiny little apartment. Something I can keep on a device, or my computer’s hard drive, or wherever, for however long I want. It’s annoying that the DRM scheme on any e-book reader (Sony or Amazon) will prevent me from loaning or giving away my old “books.” And it’s a little galling that the e-books generally cost more than a used copy in hardcover or paperback. But I’m looking at this apartment full of old books, and thinking that I could really reclaim a lot of space if I could just get rid of some of them!

Having said that, though, there are certainly still a lot of books I’d like to keep in hard copy form. Jasper Fforde’s books, for instance, wouldn’t work well on a Kindle, since he plays with fonts, footnotes, and other odd stuff that wouldn’t translate well into the single-typeface Kindle. In fact, Fforde’s concept of the “UltraWord” system, introduced in “Well of Lost Plots”, is, in some ways, a parody of DRM’d e-book systems. One of the characteristics of UltraWord was that you could only read any given book three times, then it would just refuse to open.

I’m aware that buying DRM’d e-books right now, for any platform, will probably leave me with books that I won’t be able to read again past, say, five or ten years, since whatever platform I buy now will probably be gone by then. I bought Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy in Microsoft Reader format several years back, and read them on my old Toshiba Pocket PC. While I still have those files around somewhere, I don’t have the Pocket PC anymore. If I want to read those books again on the Kindle, I’d have to repurchase them. (And, hey, I see that I can get them for the Kindle, for $3.19 each. That’s actually not a bad price. Cheaper than the average used copy, even.)

2 Comments


  1. on audiobooks…

    did you notice emusic as audiobooks now? i haven’t tried it yet. I’m terrible with emusic, i’ll give you my password if you want, i should just cancel, but i like the access.

    since i’m not driving during my commute, i’m still an old fashioned book girl, from the library… usually the one i work at. but i do listen to a bunch of talking podcasts (zencast, advice for women, stress/relaxation, and kexp music ones) these days. so i think the transition to audiobooks might be easy. I know some public libraries let users download audiobooks just with a library card, look into it see if yours has it.

    also, if you have really nice books and you want to get rid of them, libraries sorta hate donations, but we sorta like them too. we’ve taken donated books that don’t fit into our collection and either 1) put them out free for students to take or 2) slap a “lite reading” sticker on it and that’s it (we don’t catalog it, barcode it, or alarm it) so students could just have some interesting books to read. A lot of patrick’s books eventually went there, after i read them.

    i don’t like having a lot of books, i just like having access.

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  2. Yeah, I stlll have an emusic account too. I usually manage to use up my 40 downloads each month, though I sometimes forget. I haven’t signed up for their audiobook service, since they don’t seem to have enough of a selection to warrant it. (You need a separate subscription for the audiobooks.)

    A guy at work has been trying to get me interested in a couple of the free audiobooks at podiobooks.com. I downloaded the first chapter of a book called Singularity last week, but I haven’t listened to it yet.

    On the library donation thing, most of my books don’t qualify as “really nice”. Most of them were either bought used to begin with, or have been lugged about in my backpack and are pretty scuffed up. (On the other hand, I rarely write in my books.)

    I’ve been wondering if there’s a library out there that would be interested in all my Communications of the ACM back issues. I’ve got them going back to 1990 or so. I keep up my ACM membership just because I think it’s a worthwhile organization, but the C-ACM issues just pile up. I may wind up putting them out for recycling soon, just so I can reclaim the space. I guess most technical libraries would have access to the ACM archives in digital form anyway right?

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