Will eBooks Mean an End to Used Books?
I love to read… and because I love to read, I accumulate books. With limited storage, I pack more and more books onto my bookshelves, until the shelves are sagging under the weight. And then, every few years, I “clean house.”
I’ve discovered there is little market for most used books. I usually sell a few “sets” on eBay. I pass a few on to friends who I think will enjoy them. Sometimes I put them in a garage sale, and on rare occasions someone will find a book they are looking for and buy it!
Most get donated to the local Good Will store, or perhaps to a local library for a book sale. I am sure that many – perhaps most – of my used books soon end up taking space in a landfill.
Still, it’s nice the think that a few of my books will be read and enjoyed by others, and perhaps passed on several times. I think of books as a connection between people over time. I have a small book from an edition of Malory’s Le Morte D Arthur, published in 1909. It’s not a particularly valuable old book, but what makes it special to me are the handwritten notes. In 1916, the book belonged to Agnes Pearson, a student at UC, who noted her assignments on the flyleaf. Agnes, thank you for passing on and sharing your book.
It makes me sad to think that one day soon, as ebooks become more popular, books will no longer be printed, and there will be no more used books.
Don’t misunderstand. I like ebooks. I have an iPad, and I love the convenience of being able to carry a whole library of reading and reference material. I like the ease of using the electronic table of contents and index, searching the book, marking and annotating pages. And intellectually, I recognize the positive benefit that my ebooks will not take up space in a landfill.
But I miss passing on books to friends. I miss the thought that others will handle, read, and enjoy the books as I have.
It’s hard to share ebooks. Books purchased through the Apple Store or Amazon include Digital Rights Management (DRM) that makes it difficult or impossible to pass on a book to someone else… and there is simply no way to donate a stack of ebooks to your local library!
Since an ebook can’t be passed on, it has less value to me. Ebooks seem somehow ephemeral. Of course, for publishers, ebooks cost almost nothing to produce. But strangely, the price for ebooks on Amazon is often as high as paper books. It seems shortsighted of publishers to charge so much for something that costs nothing to produce, rather than lowering prices to reach a broader audience.
On the other side of the coin, some small publishers are selling ebooks for just a dollar or two, or even giving them away. San Francisco attorney has started a small ebook publishing house called ePress LLC; the company’s first two book are McGrane’s own legal thrillers, Book of Business and Bad Law. Check them out… they are worth reading. And unlike large publishers, McGrane encourages readers to pass the books on to friends!
Anyone want my used ebooks?
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