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The book that isn’t really there

December 18, 2008

Waterstones recently saved me from myself by selling out of the new Sony reader before I got to the shop. One of the reasons I didn’t pursue it was that the reader itself is scarily near to £200 and, apart from the free classics (many of which we already have mouldering away in the loft) the books themselves didn’t seem to be any cheaper than the paper versions. So unless you were planning to go on a long journey with a very small amount of luggage, it seemed like an expensive way of not being able to read in the bath.

However… I was wrong about the cost of the e-books. Penguin are selling Ruso and the Demented Doctor for £6.99, which is pretty darned cheap considering that it’s only available in hardback at the moment – and I guess it would save on shelf space.

Another option for saving shelf space is to download audiobooks from Audible.co.uk (.com in the USA). I haven’t tried novels but the language course worked fine on the ipod.

For the uncomputered (who by definition won’t read this anyway) audiobooks are now being produced on little plastic players not much bigger than a box of matches. Hopefully, they’ll be coming soon to a library near you.

None of them is likely to be much good for handing down to the grandchildren in years to come, though. Especially if you’ve tried reading it in the bath.

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3 comments

  1. Hi Ruth,
    I’ve also been thinking about eBooks and audio books recently. My wife and I are fans of the LibriVox.org site and have been listening to their audio books on our iPods.

    A recent episode of Oprah prompted my wife to wonder if we should get a Kindle — it’s Amazon.com’s eBook reader. Being the fundamentally cheap person that I am, I found that I could install a free program called Stanza http://www.lexcycle.com/ that would let her read eBooks from Gutenberg.org and other (non-free) eBook providers.

    After testing things out on her iPod Touch, I decided to get a new iPod Touch myself. So, although this little experiment hasn’t been as cheap as I thought it would, it’s definitely been educational.

    There’s also a desktop version of Stanza that you can use to convert PDFs into a format more suitable for the iPod. I’m planning on giving that a go next with some of the technical ebooks that I have. After our last move, I vowed that I would never again purchase these weighty tomes in anything but PDF format.

    If you have an iPod Touch, you might try out Stanza and let me know what you think.

    –Mark


  2. Hi Ruth,
    I forgot to ask if your British publisher puts out an eBook version around the same time that the hardback version comes out? If so, I might try buying a copy from Amazon.co.uk and avoid the long wait before your US publisher catches up.

    –Mark


  3. This is all interesting stuff! ‘Fraid my ipod is the minuscule variety with no screen, so I can’t test out Stanza, but it does look good. If you can convert from existing pdf’s, then putting textbooks onto your ipod (or iphone?) sounds like a real option. One of the objections I read to having textbooks on Kindle was that you didn’t get all the footnotes, which would certainly restrict their usefulness – but maybe that’s been fixed now? It’s hard to keep up!

    A friend of mine wrote a futuristic novel a few years back in which everyone just carries one piece of kit to do all their long-distance communicating, and it seems the day is rapidly approaching.

    I guess then we’ll have to ask,
    a) what happens to people who can’t afford the kit?
    b) what happens when the power/satellite goes down?
    c) who’s in charge of it?

    Maybe part of the fascination of the ancient world is that it’s devoid of much of the technology on which we depend – and yet they not only survived, but produced so much which we now admire.

    Having said that – I was very impressed by Librivox, and like the idea that anyone can use it and/or contribute. The Internet at its best. I’ll mention it to a friend who helps to organise a reading group where most of the members are visually impaired.

    As for eBooks… I’ll see if I can find out what the publishers have planned, but paper editions of book 3 will be coming out on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously, so there shouldn’t be a wait.



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