13 August 2009

Grandma Roseby's Story

News from all over the place...

One hundred and five year-old Clara Roseby reads six books a week. She lives in Pembrokeshire, Wales. She likes a good, old-fashioned story, but nothing American, and no swearing, please, we’re British.

Her daughter picks out books for her from the newly refurbished library in Fishguard, twelve miles to the north, on the shores of the Irish sea.

The librarians figure Grandma Roseby has borrowed more than 10,000 books in the past 35 years. And as one local politician likes to point out, it’s all free.

Go Clara! If only we had free libraries in America. Wait a minnit... we do! And when’s the last time you visited your local library?

On another but related subject, news reports say “Competition is growing in the eBook reader market.” Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Ereader, and others, want you to download books to read on their machines.

Everyone in the biz is talking about this latest assault on the tradition of ink, paper and glue books sold in brick and mortar, or board and nail palaces called independent bookstores. Big Box outfits and tax-free Internet sales sites have dinged the independents, but many persevere quite happily. Will E books be a final blow?

I’m thinking no. For several basic reasons, electronic books will likely remain a subsidiary market to traditional paper books. Consider the basic essence of a book compared to an electronic device.

Since the first days of moveable type no one has owned “the book.” By contrast, electronic readers belong to particular corporations. They have proprietary formats. They are not compatible with competitors, unless they strike a deal.

The content of e book readers also is proprietary. Even if the book is free, or out of copyright, you are merely licensed to read it. In the end and in the fine print, you do not own what you download.

Amazon has the ability to electronically reach into your machine and simply delete a book, even one you thought you had purchased outright. Amazon recently did just this with copies of George Orwell’s novel “1984" without asking anyone. Overnight the book disappeared from Kindles everywhere. Something to do with legal rights to a particular edition.

Reconsider the printed book. It’s not just monks in cloisters anymore. Anyone and everyone can produce, distribute, sell and read books. No limit to how many you can own. No one sneaks into your study and takes back a book you bought.

With a Kindle in your pocket you will never know for sure when information is being collected about you and your reading habits. What’s to keep Amazon or Sony from inserting live adverts into your book? Internet links to products mentioned in a story? What’s to stop them?

If you buy a book and take it to a grassy bank above a quiet stream to read Shelley or Keats, or “Eat, Pray, Love” or whatever, it’s your quiet stream and your quiet book, good for several lifetimes, pretty much forever. Your book does not need to be upgraded. It will not become obsolete, require a software update or need to be recharged.

Your own personal, private, permanent ownership of what you read, and the printed book’s infinite portability and infinite lifetime is why books have endured. They will continue to be easier to use and more dependable than reading machines.

I’m pretty sure Grandma Roseby in Pembrokeshire would agree with me.


Grandma Roseby’s story...

Blogger Tony Bradley on the PC World online site discussed ebook readers...

Just for fun...


John M said...

Tony, you've probably seen this, but if not
by Nicholson Baker in the New Yorker.

Paul in Davis said...

Check out the "book v Kindle" videos made by Green Apple Books. http://www.youtube.com/user/GreenAppleBooks

ALSO, look at the viewer comments at the bottom of the page - esp the one by the Kindle owner.

Keh said...

From Fast Company
In-Book Ads Coming to the Amazon Kindle?

I read about this last month. I heard your commentary on KZYX today and thought it might interest you if you haven't already gotten wind of it.

Love hearing your thoughts on books on the radio - looking forward to reading the blog when I can as well.

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