Ebooks: Why I Love Them

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. Fuck around and find out.

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October 10, 2012

Juliet E. McKenna, a fantasy author, had a lot of really smart things to say about converting her backlist to ebooks back in June. I thought this was a really excellent series of posts that really highlights the challenges authors face around ebooks.

One of my favorite things about ebooks is that it lets me read backlist titles. A lot of bookstores simply don’t have them in stock and I am, after eight years of book reviewing, reluctant to buy a lot of physical books. Because, see, this is what my front entryway has looked like for the last few years:

Natalie's Entryway

Natalie’s Entryway

That’s about four months of accumulation from July of last year and I didn’t buy any of those books. People have told me many times about how awesome it must be to get free books and, well, when you have this happen over and over and over again (my entry way still looks like this), the bloom is OFF that rose. So ebooks are awesome because it means I can read (and buy!) new books and not have to deal with the physical objects. It is actually really challenging to get rid of a lot of books–I generally resort to my local Freecycle because then I can get some poor suckersomeone to come and take them away. Since I left RT, the volume of books has dropped off considerably, but it hasn’t stopped.

So anyways–when I discover a new author whose work I might like, I generally want to read their backlist. So the first thing I do is look for ebook editions. If I can’t find ebook editions, then I have to stop and think about how much I actually want to read the backlist. If it’s a romance author, the answer to that question is generally that I’m not going to bother. If it’s another genre, it’s going to depend on how much I feel my enjoyment will depend on whether or not I’ve read everything else they’ve written–this is important for SF/F books because there are, so often, series with lots of book in them. And then I have to think about whether or not I want to buy the books new or used–for my planned Heinlein reread, I decided to buy used because I didn’t feel like the ebook edition prices were particularly fair and I didn’t want to buy new because I knew that it was likely that I wouldn’t be keeping them after I reread them.

So prices. It’s a contentious subject, I know. My idea of a fair ebook price is actually pretty straightforward: It shouldn’t be more than the list price for the cheapest available paper edition and, ideally, should be a little bit lower (i.e., $6.99 for an ebook versus $7.99 for a mass market paperback). I don’t ever want to pay more for an ebook than I would for a paper book, but I also recognize that 99 cents is not the right price for every single ebook. I would be willing to pay more for ebooks that don’t lock me into one particular device and that don’t have DRM on them.

I’m also much more of an impulse shopper when it comes to ebooks. If the price is right and it looks interesting, chances are good that I’ll buy it. I’ve read a lot of stuff on my Kindle that I would never have bought in paper (Sarah McCarty’s Conception is a prime example of that–I read a brief  excerpt online, it looked completely cracktastic, the price was right, I bought it, and it was totally insane and hilarious to read–my friends were less thrilled because I insisted on doing dramatic readings–there were HEALING BLOWJOBS, people–I had a DUTY to share).

And finally, there’s just something wonderful about being able to have so many books available to me on so many different devices–on my phone, my Kindle, my iPad, my computer… It really is a kind of magic to think, “Self, it’s time to reread Mr. Impossible,” and be able to do so almost immediately no matter where I am. It might seriously be the very best thing about living in the future.* Even if we don’t have flying cars.

*Obviously, there is the issue of the digital divide here–not everyone has access to this kind of technology for a lot of different reasons and it is something I do think about a lot and something that does need to be resolved. This kind of access is so important and I hope that someday most people will be able to access it. My post here is not intended in any way to minimize or sideline those concerns.

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