Libraries, bookshops and e-readers

Recently I nipped out of the office at lunchtime to get some air. I called into WHSmith, not for any particular reason, just to browse I suppose, and saw the book to the right: The Most Human Human

The cover is delightful, the title intriguing; I picked it up and began to read. It was fascinating! I wanted it. Whilst Amazon do their best to feed me adverts for stuff I might want, bookshops offer the opportunity to easily discover books quite by accident. However, I have found that WHSmith always have higher prices than any other shop. I checked Amazon, found it on Kindle and within minutes had it on my phone at half the price.

I have also been visiting the library every week recently to get books for Wendy (my partner). She broke her ankle and was in plaster. She reads crime novels, lots of crime novels, more so whilst she was off sick. These events lead me to consider libraries, bookshops and e-readers.

I’m opposed to Kindle for a number of reasons:

  • Kindle uses a DRM format
  • Users can’t easily share or pass on content
  • The format doesn’t allow for easy navigation
  • You can’t borrow Kindle books from the library

The first of two of these are obvious, the third and forth perhaps less so. I find that because an e-book has no physical form it’s not so easy to comprehend where I am in the book. With a physical book "about half way" has a meaning, it feels like half-way. It’s also fast and easy to flip between pages, useful when reading technical matter. Page numbers are also rather meaningless. For example, a quick check of the book I’m currently reading (Bravo Two Zero) gives my position as 847 of 7340. Is that 7,340 pages? If I had a Kindle, with it’s larger display, would I have fewer pages? It doesn’t make sense.

The restrictions make it difficult to borrow books from a library, but not impossible. But it’s not how Amazon anticipate users will use the books. They want users to buy the book, even if they only read it once. This is how Wendy reads crime novels; once. I keep a list of books that I have borrowed for her, to avoid duplicates. If she had purchased these on Kindle, at an estimate of £5 each, it would have cost her over £100. That’s a lot of money for books that she won’t read again and can’t pass on to friends/charity shops.

On the other hand though I find Kindle (on my phone) useful:

  • I always have a book to hand if I’m bored
  • I can carry many books and I don’t even realise it
  • I can read at night in the dark
  • If I see a book I like I can get it immediately at a reasonable price

So as you can see, I’m torn. What are your thoughts about e-books?