Friday, November 25, 2011

buy nothing day

Today is Buy Nothing Day.

Instead, why not go to your public library, where the books are free?

Check out a book of seasonal recipes and make something delicious.

Check out craft book for a holiday -- Chanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, whatever suits your beliefs (or your fancy) -- and make something fun with a family member or friend.

Read an old favorite of your childhood to a child.

Or just find a quiet book, or an exciting one, or a purely informational one, according to your personal tastes.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

petulant penguin books plays poorly with others

Penguin Pulls Out of Ebook Lending Over Piracy Concerns
(Nov. 22, 2011  Mashable)

IF they were trying to kill library lending of ebooks (and if anybody re-posts this, please include this "if" clause so I don't come off as a paranoid conspiracy theorist), this would be a great tactic -- one by one take away the participation of the major publishers, and thus the availability of the most popular books.

After all, one major reason some users don't borrow ebooks from the library is the sparse selection. But you know what, many (probably most) of those readers don't just cave in and buy the ebooks. I sure don't. I buy ebooks I would've bought anyway, and for books I'm not willing to pay for, I borrow a physical copy from the library.

Is there a chance of piracy? Of course. And some morons steal other types of free library books. But they are few because it takes an uncommonly low level of stupidity to do the work and take the risk of stealing something free. By far most people aren't even tempted.

Most of the people I see at the library checking out ebooks are fairly new to computers. Their previous experience is often limited to emailing their grandkids and looking at family pictures on Facebook. Sometimes the ebook reader (usually a gift) is their first computer experience. It's hard enough setting up the library account. They're not going to be pirating books -- or navigating warez or P2P sites -- anytime soon.

And anyway, illegal free copies of copyrighted books have been widely available online for years before public libraries started legally lending ebooks. Libraries aren't the problem.

Why would a publisher want to license ebooks to libraries? For the same reasons that for over a century they've been selling physical books to libraries:

Sales to libraries are sales, pretty much guaranteed for important and popular books, highly likely for many other books. Yes, this is a trade-off against possible sales to more individuals, but traditionally seen as a wise one, the way investors diversify and put some of their money into low-yielding but safe bonds and only some of their money into potentially high-profit but high-risk stocks.

Exposure. The loss of a few book sales can be cheap as advertising costs go. Lots of people see the books in libraries. People might be hesitant to pay to take a chance on a book they might not like, or to read a book once, but sometimes want to own a copy of a library book they've read and loved. And if they really love it, they buy extra copies as gifts.

Publishers, you're not manipulating me into buying. You're just making me dislike and greatly disrespect you, a business for which I used to have quite positive feelings.

Friday, November 4, 2011

ebook prices have got to go down, way down

Almost bought Brian Green's Hidden Reality and/or Fabric of the Cosmos for Kindle. It would be really cool to read this space-science stuff in a Star-Trek-ish, futuristic manner.

But this impermanent (probably unreadable with the next major upgrade of hardware or software, subject to being revoked even from within my home at the whim of the publisher, etc.) edition actually costs about half a dollar more than the relatively permanent (will probably last the rest of my lifetime, even if it's on cheap paper) paperback.

Forget it. I'm getting reliable paper.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

libraries and privacy

Got an embarrassing question? You may be better off asking a librarian than "anonymously" searching the web.

While it was once true that on the internet no one knew your were a dog, now they know what brand dog food you eat, when you got your last rabies shots, and that your name is Fido. And they want to keep that info, use it to sell you squeak toys, and sell it to others.

Even though a librarian may see your face or see your name and card number on an online ask-a-librarian form, libraries genuinely believe in confidentiality and non-judgmentalism as part of their professional goal of protecting the dignity of the patron.

You can be sure that you won't be followed for weeks by ads relating to this question on every web page you view. Your interest in this topic can't be known by your spouse, the church ladies, or a prospective employer three years hence. The librarian you talked to will be the only person on earth who knows, and will probably forget about you by the end of the day.