Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Why I just can't get into eBooks (and what Amazon could do to get me as an eBook customer)

I work in the library world, which means that I see a lot of what's going on in the eBook world from a different perspective. I signed my name on behalf of my consortium to this Open Letter to eBook creators. The fact is that libraries pay an enormous role in getting the word out about books, literacy, reading, etc., and any publisher needs to have a very close relationship with libraries if they really want to reach all the audiences out there. People who use libraries read more, and, though I've not actually seen any numbers to support it, I wouldn't be surprised if they bought more books (just like the people who illegally download music actually buy more music as well).

I just saw this article reporting from BEA (Book Expo America) in Wired Magazine about how the publishers all want a universal publishing format and are tired of all this proprietary stuff between kindles and ipads. I didn't realize that when record players first came out, Edison and Victor made records that couldn't be played on each others' machines. And the whole beta/vhs debacle is still fresh in my mind (we were a beta family). So this isn't a new thing. But it is a game-changer for creators of books - authors, publishers, etc.

Since I'm writing a book, I get very excited about the role of eBooks and how, if you're clever at marketing yourself, you really can publish your book yourself online and make some money at it. Companies like Smashwords are making that more of a reality.

The thing is, as much as I love reading (check out my amazon profile for proof), I just can't get into the whole ereader thing. I'm a luddite, I guess. But I love my digital music. Love it. I got my first mp3 player in 2002 and I've hardly bought any cd's since. But here's what I realized... with music, I could load my entire music library onto my hard drive and listen to it on my devices. With books, I can't do that. So now I'm going to have a $300 ereader, AND I'm still going to have my piles and piles of books because there's no easy way to convert them.

The impetus for me to buy an ereader would be space-savings. To start with, when reading on a plane, you have to turn off your ereader during take off and landing, and I find that annoying. I'll take a good old fashioned book that doesn't have electronic parts over that any day. Secondly, my favorite place to read is in the bathtub, and I think I'd be petrified of dropping the reader into the tub, and therefore not read in the tub as much.

But even if they made a waterproof version that I could use the entire time I'm on the plane (and not have to turn off for about 15 minutes on either side of the flight), I still wouldn't go for it because I STILL own somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 books that I still need to cart around.

Now here's something that WOULD get me to invest in a Kindle. If Amazon told me that I'd get a huge discount on any eBook if I already own the physical book. So I wouldn't have to buy all those books again to have them on my ereader. So if amazon said "Ok, so you own the entire Harry Potter series. Type in the ISBN of each book, and the last word on the bottom of page 33 (to check to make sure I had it), and you get to buy each book for 99 cents." That, I would do. I would spend a couple hundred dollars to have all those books on my ereader and not have to pack them up every time I move. Heck, for what it would save in moving costs, it would probably pay for itself.

Or, how about a trade. I sell a lot of my books used on Amazon. What if I sold a book used through the Amazon Marketplace, and then instead of paying me cash for it, you gave me a credit to buy the digital version, if I wanted it instead.

But I'm just not willing to pay $9.99 to have all those titles again when I own them already. So Amazon, give me a way to buy the titles I already own at a discount, ESPECIALLY if I bought them from you in the first place, and I'll buy a Kindle the next day. Really, I will.

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