by Trudi Canavan on Jul 08, 2010
Check out this 2010 Survey of Book Buying Behavior, especially the section on electronic books and piracy at the end.
And this article about electronic books and libraries in the UK is also very interesting.
I think some of the biggest challenges with the “books vs. e-books” arguments are distance and availability.
Until recently I live in remote Australia, so my nearest, accessible, book store was 630kms away, mail and packages took about 2~3 weeks to get there (food and essentials were flown in). This isn’t too bad for books printed in Australia, however getting books that are not published in Australia was annoying and time consuming. I ordered a book at the start of December last year and it didn’t arrive until mid-February, 2.5 months of waiting, where as the e-book was available several days later. The postage ended up costing more than the book, meaning I spent $45 rather than $20, as I was informed that the book wouldn’t be available in e-book format.
I’ve also lived in Asian countries where English is not readily spoken and finding a book store that stocks any form of English literature, outside of study books, can prove to be a challenge. Until recently most Australian books stores would not post overseas (has changed now, sort of). It ended up being faster and cheaper to order through amazon.co.jp than any of the English book sellers.
E-books were great in both cases; there was no postage involved so they were cheaper, were also more reliable and easy to access and store. I personally love e-books and am more than willing to pay for them, but I don’t think I will ever give up a good paper novel; they just look and feel so nice.
@article about electronic books and libraries
I don’t like this. I know from experience – which I’m not proud to admit – that I’ve leant or ordered in music albums and just added them to my computer returning the CD the next day. It’s because whatever the price of a new album, or even a digital download of the album, it’s only 50 pence to borrow them from my library. (Can I just stress I really don’t do that a lot)
I’m not naive, the public is computer savvy and pirating eBooks to your computer before returning them will probably not be out of the realms of possibility. It worries me. The point about a limited number of hardcopies in libraries meaning people are more likely to buy a book for convenience, but with eBooks there will be no wait/lack of availability etc is another worrier. I mean when we start putting convenience over the welfare of an industry, well isn’t that how sweat shops started? I’m not sure what the author equivalent of a sweat shop is, but it can’t be a pretty prospect.
I’d also note that none of the libraries in my county seem to be experimenting. They’ve only just updated to self service machines for crying out loud 🙂
The survey was interesting – it didn’t ask the right questions in a number of places though. For example, on the pricing question, it really should have made the dividing line $10 or less, not “less than $10” and “$10-12.99”. I suspect that change alone would have moved a good chunk of the respondents. Why? Because rational folks very well may think of the $9.99 Amazon price as $10, and think that what the survey is really asking is whether or not you only are willing to pay paperback prices for ebooks.
Most of the folks I know with an e-reader just won’t pay more than $10.
Also, the section on piracy was missing information. What it should have asked was the frequency of using download sites to download copies of books that were available for sale otherwise, and that the downloader did not already own a paper copy of. That wouldn’t have moved the numbers much, but it would have moved them some.
Trudi Canavan is an Australian fantasy writer and the author of the international bestseller, the Black Magician Trilogy.
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