Kathryn Andersen kat_lists at katspace.com
Tue Aug 27 18:20:40 EDT 2002

On Tue, Aug 27, 2002 at 06:16:13PM +0100, Hallie O'Donovan wrote:
> Philip:
> >Which brings me to another slightly off topic question.  What do
> >people on this list think about electronic books?  I mean, how do
> >people's reading experiences of e-books compare with paper books?
> >What would they want to make the technology more user-friendly?
> attitude!  I haven't checked this out, so I'm not sure of the 
> accuracy of my info, but Baen seems to be way ahead of most other 
> publishers.  The ability to read Bujold's books right as they're 
> published, and then pick up a pb when it's reasonably priced is 
> *very* tempting indeed.  (Mind you, I haven't priced the newer 
> readers...)

This actually touches on what I was going to bring up in my reply to the
original question, so I'm replying at this point in the thread.

There are actually a few questions buried in the "what do you think of
e-books" question:
1) what do you think of e-book readers?
2) what do you think of reading on a computer screen?
3) what do you think of the selling of encrypted e-books?
4) what do you think of non-encrypted e-books?

1) I'm not going to bother buying one, I don't think -- I'd rather have
a hardcopy

2) I don't have problems with reading things on a screen (like HTML)
but if it's fairly long, I'd rather have a hardcopy, so I can take it
away and read it elsewhere.

3) I almost agree with Richard M Stallman, that selling encrypted e-books
is EVIL.  Certainly the conditions they impose on you are appalling, and
I'm not sure I'd like to have something which gives me much less rights
than a plain old hardcopy book does.
See <http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html> for a chilling
scenario which isn't that far-fetched, considering the implications of
certain laws which are already in existance.
I find it totally apalling that you aren't allowed to lend e-books to
friends -- they call that stealing.  Or print out a hardcopy to read --
they call that stealing.  These people, they want to burn all
libraries -- because they think that libraries are stealing too.

4) I think what Baen is doing is a wonderful idea.  They don't encrypt
their e-books, they give them to you in standard formats which you can
read with any suitable software -- either their webscriptions, which
gives you an advance copy of a soon-to-be-out book, or their Free
Library, which gives you free samples -- of entire novels!
(And you can print it out if you prefer a hardcopy)

See, the restrictive encrypters are all paranoid about evil piracy.
They are paranoid that if someone reads a book for free, they will never
want to read it again, so they've lost all the money from that book.

Baen knows that people really (a) want to be honest and (b) prefer good
old-fashioned hardcopy for books -- and that good books are ones that
the reader wants to read again.  Baen have found that the Free Library
has *increased* the sales of books -- yea, verily, increased the sales
of the books in the Free Library!  Because they know, that if a books is
a *good* book, then people will want to read it more than once.

Let's face it -- no e-book reader that I can imagine, is going to have
the longevity and ease of use of a plain old book.  With books, their
batteries don't run out.  They don't break if you drop them.  They don't
short out if you drop them in the bath (though they'll probably never be
the same, you can still read a waterstained book).  Paperbacks are
probably still going to be lighter than e-book readers.  A book that you
bought 50 years ago is still going to be compatible with your eyes and
brain (unlike computers, whose interfaces are a moving target).

The only advantages I could see in the "perfect" e-book reader would be
(a) reading it at night with its own light (b) searching -- except that
I'd probably only want that for reference works, not for fiction.
(Kathryn imagines the entire O'Reilly range in HTML on a CD, including
a powerful search-engine index...)

Kathryn Andersen
Vila: My experience of aliens hasn't exactly been warming.
Tarrant: Your experiences with humans hasn't been particularly glowing either.
			(Blake's 7: Sarcophagus [C9]) /?/
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