Amazon allows Kindle eBooks to be loaned to others… and I yawn. (Part 1)

Yup.  Amazon now has a feature for Kindle book buyers that allows some Kindle books to be temporarily shared with other people.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I strip the DRM off any Kindle eBook I buy not for the purposes of file sharing or piracy but to enable me to privately read the eBook on my Windows Mobile 6.5 device – a Verizon TouchPro 2 which lacks a Kindle client.  My TouchPro 2 is a phenomenal eBook reading device and I’ve plowed through a lot of Kindle content on it.

THE EBOOK PIRACY DILEMMA
In theory, I could hand the DRM-free file over to whomever I wanted to “share” the book, but I don’t – that’s piracy & theft.  But the files are .MOBI files (a popular eBook format acquired by Amazon) that are usually anywhere from 500k to 3Mb in size.  Note that this means, most eBooks aren’t even the length of a typical .MP3.

My point is:

While I think this “eBook lending” feature is a good step in the right direction, it doesn’t look like this is going to be very useful any time in the near future.

And when I say it’s a step in the right direction, I don’t mean by Amazon:  I mean by Book Publishers like Harper Collins.   However if they don’t get serious about moving more aggressively in this direction they’re going to find themselves losing 90% of their revenues… just like certain other media publishers.

TRUE or FALSE?:  MUSIC CDS : MP3s :: PAPER BOOKS : eBOOKS
Remember your SAT relational questions?  If so, the above statement should make the issue abundantly clear.  Music publishers, slow – nay GLACIAL – to accept electronic distribution of music as a means of selling music, desperately clinging to old, user unfriendly methods of controlling distribution.

To be clear:  I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT (DRM).

I’m not one of these anti-IP protection psychos that rage on DRM 24/7.  I think it’s a perfectly good way to control the distribution of one’s intellectual property whether is music or eBooks.  The problem I have is that legacy physical mediums such as CDs or Paperback books are usable in a variety of contexts that aren’t available in their digital forms and vice versa… yet charges the exact same amount of money for the digital version:  That’s very sketchy.

WHY ARE EBOOKS AS OR MORE EXPENSIVE THAN TRADITIONAL BOOKS?
The claim of course is that there is added value for digital versions that paper books lack such as:

  • scalable fonts w/ word wrapping on pages
  • multi-device installation
  • searchable content
  • text-to-voice on publisher-permitted eBooks
  • last-read-page sync with Amazon
  • tweeting/Facebooking highlighted paragraphs
  • digital just-in-time delivery services
  • downloadable book samples i.e. try before you buy
  • etc.

And on top of all of this, there are the claims that the publishing process of eBooks has costs associated with them above and beyond the engineered costs of the book’s original formatting.  It’s these ‘additional costs’ that negate the cost savings associated with no longer needing physical distribution of paper books.

IT’S JUST NOT VALUE PARITY
Sorry.  I just don’t buy it.  The electronic processing of existing digital master content to create an eBook does NOT cost the same thing as physical book cost-of-goods, creation, distribution, marketing, and warehousing.  There is just no way – I reject that notion completely.  It’s been my understanding that the actual production & distribution of physical product is always the most expensive aspect of producing a book.  Going digital should simply reduce the costs of books – but the publishers control the advertised cost of the book as it’s priced on Amazon.

Additionally, the capabilities are purportedly the value you trade for book sharing, aftermarket reselling, etc. but I just don’t think the value is on par with physical books.  When you buy an eBook from Amazon, there’s a couple of serious ‘gotchas’ you need to know:

  1. IT COSTS THE SAME AS PAPER BOOKS… OR MORE.
    It’s weird but electronic versions of books cost the same OR MORE than their paper counterparts.  Despite the fact that no physical material is involved, the eBook can sometimes cost more than buying a physical book.
  2. NO LOANING TO FRIENDS
    You really can’t loan the book to friends.  Contrary to this announcement, this newly announced functionality is so  doesn’t really exist for all intents and purposes.  (I’ll go over why in Part 2)
  3. NO TRADING BOOKS
    Once you’re done with a book… what good is it?  Reference?  Really?  Like you’re gonna refer back to that copy of Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol over and over?  No.  You want to be able to trade that book or give it away so that it gets a new home and that the investment you made continues to see growth… in the happiness of others that get to read the book on your dime.  But without the ability to gift the book to someone else once you’ve read it?  No dice.
  4. NO RESELLING
    The used book market is LOADED with books that people read and want to sell for pennies on the dollar.  But because the process of stocking and distributing used books is so laborious, it’s difficult to accomplish – even by Powell’s and other large resellers/overstock sellers.  The digital market is perfect for reselling value.  And heck – there could even get a ‘vig’ (tax) on each resale that would be redistributed to both the publisher and Amazon.  Maybe if there’d be a 20% vig on the resale of a $5 book (originally $10 book) that would amount to $1 extra for the publisher/Amazon.  And that resale could maybe limit the capabilities of the used book – no lending.  No bookmarking.  I dunno.  Something to exhibit ‘wear and tear’ on the digital property.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: