The Web of Language

blog navigation

Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news

blog posts

  • The e-book dilemma: should you rent or own?


Comments Mar 10, 2011 1:25 pm

Once more, the publishing industry goes for a quick fix of the old system rather than trying to re-imagine the "ebook ecosystem." How long before people figure out how to unlock the ebook readers so that such restrictions no longer apply? Buyers of books are immediately aware of the principal difference between a book and an ebook: no paper, no glue, no ink, no shipping costs, no storage costs, etc. In other words, we know that ebooks should be cheaper than paper books. It's only a matter of time before publishers either tumble to that idea or undergo the same forcible transition that the recording industry has seen.Ultimately--and this is a leap, but then I'm responding to a blog entry, not writing a book--the people now making rich use of technologies like ebooks will be sitting in legislatures, and the rules about copyright will change back to what they were before Mickey Mouse was about to enter the public domain. It's fair and just for writers to get royalties and for publishers to make a profit. But the ebook ecosystem has to be based on real value, not on publishers taking every opportunity to gouge the reading public.

Reply to at 1:25 pm Mar 11, 2011 8:45 am

A couple of thoughts: I completely agree that book publishers are going about this in the wrong way, but given the complete lack of wear and tear that normal books would receive, it makes sense to limit the ebooks in some way. Maybe libraries should have to renew ebooks every year. It would make more sense than a 26 borrow limit, since there's no way they're going to limit how many people can borrow an ebook at once (impossible to enforce and reduces the potential profit). Maybe they should take a look at the average amount of times a book is borrowed before it has to be taken out of circulation and limit the ebook licenses to that many borrows, though there's probably not enough money in that for the publishers to agree. Regardless, credit is due to Harper Collins for the small fact that they at least tried to come up with something. Not a great first attempt, but it's definitely a step up from doing nothing like most other publishers opting instead to pretend as though they still have the upper hand. It's like children refusing to play a game because they won the last one and don't like the possibility of losing. Ebooks are not going anywhere anytime soon, and at least Harper Collins is trying to get in the game. Oh, and don't knock on Amazon's customer service.

Reply to at 8:45 am Mar 12, 2011 5:31 pm

I am taking a Rhetoric course as part of my MFA. In this class there has been a lot of discussion about the new technologies that can bring literacy and good writing to virtually anyone. Using the Dennis Baron book, A Better Pencil, we have carved a great opening in the walls of resistance to using technology in the classroom. I still think that technology is a good idea, but maybe the end users need to push the vendors a bit harder on the ownership issue. On the other hand, book sellers like Boarders and Barnes and Noble that have hard copy book, might just get enough wind in their sails out of this to recover some of their shrinking market. Hope they are reading this!Tim Heath

Reply to at 5:31 pm