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Digital Books: Availability and Attitude

nooklibraryOver the past 10-11 months, I’ve become a definite digital convert. There was a time not too long ago where I couldn’t even begin to grasp the concept of buying or READING books digitally. I’m too much a fan of having the actual books, I thought. But after lugging around Stephen King‘s 11/22/63 for a couple weeks last year, after having done so with last year’s new Grisham book, and the trouble I had in acquiring the first Walking Dead novel, and so on, I’ve come to see benefits to ebooks…both on an actual ereader (I have a first generation Nook I bought used) as well as my phone (primarily the Nook app for iPhone).

For one thing, the ereader and/or phone are a fixed size, shape, weight. 200 pages or 1,000–size/shape/weight remain the same. The phone fits in my pocket, and I carry it with me pretty much everywhere anyway, so being able to have entire books on it is just bonus–and it’s so much easier to not have to haul a book around and remember to bring it with me and all that.

nookEqually important is availability, which has been the other selling point for me. Rather than having to run around to a bunch of stores looking for the book, all I have to do is go online and buy the book, and I’ve got access to it, full-text, virtually immediately. No paying extra for shipping, no waiting for shipping; no using gas to go to a physical store hoping they have it. It makes buying the reading experience–the text of the book–simple and convenient.

Or at least, if the book I’m interested in is available as an ebook.

The factor that really, until a few days ago, hadn’t exactly come into play for me.

astonishingxmenThere’s a new book out just in the last week or two–a prose novelization of The Astonishing X-Men: Gifted; the novelization is written by Peter David, no stranger to X-books. Not too long ago, I impulse-bought the novelization of Marvel’s Civil War, and quite enjoyed it; I was even excited at getting to read it while saving significantly from the $25 price point of the awkward squarish-dimensions of the print edition.

So I was quite surprised this past weekend when I resolved to buy this book to discover there’s no ebook counterpart. Not for the Nook, not for the Kindle…it’s hardcover in-print or nothing. Which is extremely disappointing.

This is not a book I’m prepared to buy in print, at least not first-run at full price; and there are so many graphic novels I’m after that I can’t see buying this instead at full price, nor having yet more shelfspace taken up by it. And this has stopped me dead in my tracks, as far as praising the digital format. I’m not interested in most of the ebook content out there, and it seems like week after week more new digital content (books and otherwise) get shoved at me, but now when I have a specific book in mind that I want to buy and read digitally…no one has it available.

brotherswarTrying to move past the disappointment and frustration, I decided today to look for The Brothers’ War by Jeff Grubb. I have the old mass-market paperback edition from 1998/1999 that I’ve read a couple times, but I want to re-read it. Though I would very much prefer NOT to have to re-read it as a MMPB, further cracking the spine, and having to wrestle the book to keep it open, constantly one hand firmly grasping it (if not both) to just read it.

But…there are maybe a dozen Magic: The Gathering books in ebook format, and it doesn’t look like ANY of the ones I’d be interested in (basically, the Artifacts, Ice Age, Masquerade, and Invasion Cycle-era books) are available digitally. I don’t know that I’d re-buy every book, re-read the ENTIRE series…but as I’m re-reading old MTG comics for a weekly piece I’m writing for a friend’s blog (Fantasy Rantz), I’m finding myself once again interested in the earlier MTG stories, including The Brothers’ War and possibly the rest of the Artifacts Cycle and maybe Invasion Cycle.

With none of these available and my aversion to their print editions for the moment…I’ve got some digital comics already on this phone, plenty of physical comics, and generally don’t NEED to buy any of these right now. Especially with another Walking Dead novel and the new Grisham book both coming next month, and I still have most of book 4 and all of book 5 of the Song of Ice and Fire series to get through…

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Booking Through Thursday: E-volution

btt buttonE-readers like the Kindle and iPad are sweeping the nation … do you have one? Do you like it? Do you find it changes your reading/buying habits? If you don’t have one, do you plan to?

No, I do not have either of those. Also do not have a Nook, and Barnes & Noble is getting dangerously close to me unsubscribing from their emails because I’m so danged tired of them pushing it so forcefully.

I’m pretty much “sold” on the iPad, in that “eventually…when I can actually AFFORD one” sorta way. A friend has one, and seeing it in action, I’m pretty sure that really, get myself a wireless keyboard that’ll sync with the iPad and a portable stand to prop the thing up like a laptop monitor, and I could pretty much go “computer-free” (“computer” = “laptop” or “desktop” machines).

I do have an iPhone, and recently I’ve dabbled with digital comics on it. I bought the classic Superman #75 a couple months back, just for the sheer novelty of having the thing right on-hand (next week marks the 19th anniversary of “The Death of Superman”). I’ve also bought two issues of DC Comics’ new initiative “The New 52.” Trouble is, the iPhone even is so relatively tiny that the reading experience feels like I’m trying to read through some sort of blinders.

As far as long-form reading…no-can-do. The iPhone is such a tiny thing that it’s even awkward to try to situate one’s self to even consider “settling in to read for awhile” with it.

An iPad might change that, but until I actually have one, I won’t be able to say for sure. And I certainly won’t be getting the iPad for the sole purpose of “reading”…the digital books/comics will just be a small part of the picture.

Right now, I don’t see any sort of e-reader changing my reading habits or buying habits. I’m buying one single comic series digitally and a month behind, for the discount…but that novelty is wearing off already, 2 issues in. Depending on pricing, I could see having an iPad having an impact on SOME of my comic buying, especially for the stuff that I just want to read once and be done with.

Once I’d get an iPad, I’d have to “take the plunge” with a book sometime to see how that experience would go…but really, I’d much rather have a $20 hardcover with me that gets lost/dropped/rained on/etc than a $500 tablet/computer device.

Given that I’m “sold” on the iPad, know there are “apps” for the Kindle at least and pretty sure also the Nook and OTHER e-reader formats, I absolutely can NOT see spending $150+ on something that’s arguably “just” going to be used to read e-versions of books. I don’t think I spend that much on new books in an entire YEAR, so it’s a huge up-front cost, BEFORE even getting to buy new books to read.

Even though $10ish is much cheaper than the $20-$30 most new (hardcover) tend to be priced at, it’s still $10 for something pretty much intangible (music I listen to, whatever the source…but if I’ve already paid $150+ for an e-reading device, the device itself isn’t going to get bigger or heavier for addition of a digital file). And I often feel that if I’ve already invested 1/3 to half the cost, why “settle” when I’m already on my way to the full, actual item?

The e-readers are also like computers to me, though: you buy one, and 3 months later, the next/greater version is out, or announced, and then it becomes a case of “well, I’ve waited all these years already…why didn’t I wait X more months?!?”

Of course…this all presupposes that I have to make the purchase myself: given a Kindle or Nook or such as a gift…I’m sure I’d find excuse enough to certainly make use of the device. Without an upfront cost to me investing in the actual device…that would certainly “level the playing field” in terms of books to be bought. And stuff like The Hunger Games or some of these other series–I wouldn’t mind getting those digitally.

Having the potential to have numerous books all contained in one device would certainly feed my “book-A.D.D.” and allow me to start numerous books and gradually work my way through ’em as the mood strikes for a given “book.”

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