I've been reading a lot about the e-reader and its counterparts over the last year. And more so in the last few days. As an avid reader, I'd like to share my opinion on the whole electronic book issue.
I love books. I love the smell of the ink, the feel of the pages between my fingers, the art that adorns them. To me, books are more prized than diamonds. I also love bookstores, with all those crisp new books that have never been held or opened, containing all that knowledge just waiting for my eager hands and eyes.
The idea of an e-reader replacing my collection of well-read and well-loved books leaves me chilled to the bone. To not be able to hold tangible evidence of a writer's blood, sweat and tears in my hands is nauseating. To not be able to walk up to someone in a store who is puzzling over what to choose and say "have you read this?"...unthinkable.
e-Readers are here to stay. I know that as surely as I knew that online music was the death of CD's. I don't regret the loss of music stores. In all honesty, I never bonded with them the way I've bonded with bookstores. Does that mean I don't still buy CD's? No. If there are enough good songs on a particular CD and it's more cost effective to invest in it, I buy it. Recently, I've found the cost of buying a CD is often cheaper than downloading it. Go figure.
I hope I never live in a world where books cease to exist.
As for the e-Readers, I don't have a problem with them per se. Yes, they're more convenient in some ways. Until they crash. Or die. And you find yourself having to duplicate or retrieve your library when you can't remember everything it contained. Anyone who owns an mp3 knows this happens. Give me my tangible, touchable books any day.
And now lets address the cost. I understand that bookstores, publishers, agents and writers all need to make a profit off their books. Hell, I like trade paperbacks and hardcovers - though the hardcovers are often out of my price range. When possible, I choose these over mass market paperbacks. I'm willing to pay for a book. What I'm not willing to do is pay the same price for a document loaded onto a digital recorder. I don't believe it costs the same amount for someone to upload a digital book as it does to labor over a hardcover book with jacket. Sorry.
What would I pay for the digital version of a book? I don't know. I guess I would have to see what the profit margins are. I want authors to get their money. They wrote the damn book, they spent hundreds of hours on it. So did the publisher. And the artist who created the cover. Paper isn't cheap. Neither is ink. But you can't tell me that it takes as much in resources, personnel, and time to produce an e-book. And people who want to buy their books that way shouldn't have to pay for the cost of the tangible bookstore book. Figure out what it costs and charge accordingly. Or better yet, offer for an additional charge, the e-reader copy to those who buy the hardcopy. I'd pay a couple of dollars more for that.
So, while I think the e-readers are nifty little devices, and maybe I'll even get one someday, I'm first and foremost going to spend my money on a good solid book that I can hold in my hands.
Long live books.