Books vs Ebooks

I have been interested in electronic books since the Bookman came out when I was a kid.  The idea of carrying around a library in my pocket is incredibly exciting.  I’ve been most interested in ebooks for their size and mobility.  I never ended up getting a Bookman due to cost, and availability of books (for the most part the only books I knew you could get were various versions of the Bible and dictionaries).

For a long time, I forgot about ereaders completely.  I got wrapped up in school, and did a lot less reading for pleasure.  As school-related reading began to subside, and as e-ink technology became more viable, my interest in ereaders flickered to life again.

While I was interested in e-ink ereaders, I had (and have) an unfounded skepticism with regard to Amazon’s Kindle.  I think part of it has to do with it feeling like such a closed platform, but otherwise, I’m not sure.  When I began looking at alternatives, I mostly came up with non-US products such as the iRiver Story (which did become available in the US early this year).

My roommate at the time, Jason, got a Sony reader.  He likes it because it has expandable memory, can read many different formats, and is relatively affordable.  His reader does not have 3G or wi-fi access, so he has to use his computer any time he wants to put new books on his reader.  For myself, I eventually settled on the Nook.  To me, it seemed like a good compromise between openness, and easy access to a large bookstore.  So far, I have been very pleased with my Nook.

Since I’ve gotten a Nook, I’ve struggled a lot more with whether to read print books or ebooks.   I still sometimes run into the problem I had with the Bookman where books I want just aren’t available as ebooks (especially if I want a book as soon as it’s released).  Because I’ve always preferred paperback books to hardcover, finding a paperback version of the book I want (new or used) is often cheaper than buying the ebook version (I know publishers have been complaining about ebooks being under-priced, but they must only be considering hardcover prices because I can find many new paperback novels for $6-8 msrp, so a $9.99 ebook is definitely more expensive).

Looking at the differences in how they can be ultilized as resources, on readers vs. on a computer, and between genres, Stephen at Stephen’s Lighthouse examines the difference between (print) books and ebooks in a different light.  I thought some of you guys might be interested in reading what he has to say, especially in reference to nonfiction and textbooks.  With every type of e-resource jumbled into one big category in many of today’s media stories, it’s nice to see a demarcation and examination of the growing world of electronic works.


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  • Paul Bube

    Thanks for the link. Interesting article.

  • Katherine

    What do you mean “closed” when you refer to the Kindle? I may be misunderstanding your meaning, but “closed” sounds like you aren’t able to upload what you want to it, which is just untrue. It’s completely free to upload as many pictures and pdfs (and eBooks, if you first get them converted by Amazon for free, sent to your email) as you want to the Kindle. I read manga on my Kindle by simply connecting the Kindle via USB to my computer and drag-and-dropping the files onto it.

    So, “closed”? What was your meaning?

  • astranoir

    To a large extent I am referring to Amazon’s refusal to be compatible with the EPUB format that everyone else is compatible with, which makes it hard to buy books anywhere but the Amazon store. They only added .pdf support last November. As far as I know, they only supported their proprietary format(s) and .txt prior to that.
    It’s cool that you can get your stuff converted by Amazon for free, but it’s my understanding that some files don’t convert very well (also, I am under the impression that files with DRM cannot be converted). I haven’t run into any problems reading EPUB on my Nook with or without DRM.

    I guess I feel similarly toward the Kindle to the way I feel about the iPod: you may be able to get files from other sources onto your device, but they do a lot to push you to only buy from them. Even though Barnes and Noble has their ebook store, I never feel like I need to buy from them over ereader or fictionwise or lulu. ::shrug:: Perhaps I should have said “feeling like such a closed platform *to me*”

    It seems like the Sony reader is the the dedicated ereader that’s the most open with regard to what you can put on it (without having to convert file types).

  • Katherine

    It is annoying for the files that I have to get Amazon to convert. It’s also a little concerning that they make it a little less than crystal clear that you can get them to convert them for free. They promote their process of submitting a book for conversion and having them upload it to your Kindle, which costs around $0.10.

    I do agree on the DRM standpoint, completely. It’s annoying. I haven’t really run in to any problems with it yet, though, as any books that are likely to have DRM are already in the Kindle store, and I haven’t run into any issues converting and reading eBooks that don’t have DRM. If I were to want to avoid the Kindle store, this would really be a _big_ issue, but as it is, I really like the way the store is set up and have no qualms with Amazon doing it this way. After all, if you create an eBook reader, wouldn’t you want people to buy things mostly at your eBook store? I can’t blame them.

  • astranoir

    Yeah, I do think it’s telling that the best selling ebook readers have dedicated stores (though that may have to do with brand recognition as well). On the plus side for customers, it’s a lot more convenient than looking around everywhere.

    On the other hand, for people who are willing to shop around, the benefit of using sites like and is that it can be cheaper, and/or you can build up rewards to save money overall.

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