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21 October 2009

Join the Nook

Just a quick mention: Barnes & Noble has joined the ranks again of those pioneering into that world of offering readers the ultimate in portable electronic reading medium. Every time someone does, we progress a little closer to becoming that futuristic place which science fiction writers (and readers of the classic genre) saw. How long ago has it been since I read of two kids finding a dusty old printed, bound book while playing in an attic, opening it up and quickly losing interest in the artifact -- the most disappointing point being that when they turned the paper page back and forth, the words were still the same, not refreshing with movement to a new point in the book? (Someone, quick! tell me what book it was I was reading!) BN has conquered yet another objection: sharing a book. With its Nook, a reader can buy the book, download it into the Nook and share it for 2 weeks with anyone he wants (who also has a Nook). During that time, the original purchaser of the e-book wouldn't have access to the book, just like as if he had lent someone a printed, bound book. Hmm, why only 2 weeks? Is BN encouraging people to become miniature lender libraries? I mean, can the friend renew the book for another 2 weeks? Can the original buyer then lend it to someone else? Can the friend lend it to someone else? Can the original buyer simply give the friend the book? For one thing, this would certainly cut down on people losing books due to lending them to irresponsible people who don't make the effort to return them to the original owner. (Not that I'm complaining. I recently sold Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged to a woman who had searched for her prior copy on her bookshelf with the intent to re-read it (in these interesting times -- see my website review saved somewhere earlier in this blog) only to find it gone. Probably not stolen by a burglar who had crept into the house with the sole purpose of taking Ayn Rand. BN should think about that sage piece of advice: "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Cash, books, ... all good.

Still, there are people complaining about the cost... the cost of the Nook, the cost of each title... Grumblers who expect all things electronic to cost 99 cents or some small multiple thereof and watchers of the walmart.com vs amazon.com downward spiral seem to think that there are no more costs associated with e-books once costs of printing and distribution are discounted. How much do they think printing and distribution actually cost? And even if we did say, ok, no more "free" freight to recoup somehow along with the cost of ink and paper, what about throwing a little something to the authors (yeah, back to those "I just want to be read" socialists again)? How about marketing costs since no one wants to buy a book he never heard of (even "viral" Youtube videos cost $$ to make)? How about the hourly wages and health care benefits of junior editors and word processors? How about the cost of software development and silicon (or whatever is the current wonder conductor) chips made in third-world firetraps? Not to mention electricity charges and ISP fees?

I am in the midst of enjoying the advance reader copy of a new title by Jasper Fforde -- Shades of Grey, which has a "street date" in December, maybe not even in time for Christmas (what kind of marketing is that?). In all honesty, I enjoy having an actual, physical bound ARC to hold and carry around and read, but if sending me even a .pdf file will cut that $25.95 book down to a list price of $9.99 , I'll accept that. However, we may no longer be able to discount it by 20% to acknowledge our loyal customers' snub of walmart.com and amazon.com. More on the actual book in a later posting. TTFN.

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