As with Mark Twain, reports of the death of books are greatly exaggerated…

For openers, this article is a pleasant change from the Guardian’s “death of books imminent” hysteria/paranoia. (A shortened version of this post appears in the Comments there.)

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Since I bought my Kindle in the first tranche of releases last year, I’ve probably bought more print books, not fewer – quite the opposite of what I expected or wanted (I’m running out of book space).

Partly this is in rebellion against some of the absurd prices being charged for newish ebooks, when paperback versions are discounted to much lower prices, and partly in protest against the shit formatting of ebooks. Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals, for example, was a shambles, with all the footnotes shoved in at the back, out of context and often meaningless as a result. The e–publishers had also failed to take heed of his row of asterisks chapter breaks – which so confused poor old Tom Paulin** – with the result that chapter breaks were seemingly inserted at random.

** “This man is an amateur – he doesn’t even write in chapters!” he shrieked on BBC2’s book review show some years ago, thus branding himself a total pillock.

Then there’s the continuing problem of not having most books I want to buy available as ebooks, so I have no alternative but to buy the print version.

Improve quality, and do something about prices, and I’ll buy more ebooks – until then, the death of books isn’t happening, at least not for me.

I love my Kindle, though, which has about 200 books on it, mostly out–of–copyright freebies, plus a leavening of books I already have in print but are packed away, and which I want to read again, in a very easy to transport form – invaluable during a recent hospital stay).

For me, Kindle is best for fiction. For those non-fiction books where you find yourself skipping back and forth through the pages – cookery books, are a typical example – Kindle is hopelessly out of its depth (and not just Kindle, probably any ebook reader)

For me, in terms of publishing quality and price, print books still rule – I see no signs of that changing any time soon – unlike music, where I haven’t bought any physical media for years.

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2 thoughts on “As with Mark Twain, reports of the death of books are greatly exaggerated…

  1. I just bought myself a Kindle, because I can’t hold a book without it causing pain for some time. At least I can read stuff now, albeit I’m still limited by my attention span. I don’t plan on buying any new paper books, because I have nowhere to put them and I read so slowly that any I do want will be available on Kindle a discounted price by the time I get around to them. 🙂

    But you’re right and I’m sure they’re taking advantage while the whole idea is new. Like everything else, the price of Kindle versions will drop once the novelty wears off and quality is bound to improve as the technology advances.

    • It was the hardback version of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, weighing over 4lb and excruciating, that convinced me to get one (damn book could have easily been done in 5,000 words too!).

      Ebook readers, especially the Kindle, have been around for some years, but ebook prices are holding (they’re set by the publishers, and linked to hardback prices, for new books, at least). I’ll DM you a link – lots of free books in lots of formats, including Kindle. Out of copyright, but none the worse for that, and some good stuff there – depending on taste, I suppose. I got loads of Golden Age s-f.

      Ron.

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