Friday, February 24, 2012

The Price of an e-Book

I continue to keep my distance from gadget-based reading.  When I read from the screen at all, the screen is on my “untethered MacBook Pro;”  and my reading software is Acrobat Pro, because it is almost impossible for me to read a text without wanting to annotate it.  Nevertheless, I was interested in Charles Cooper’s Digital Media piece on CNET News this morning, “So how much is a fair price to pay for an e-book?,” simply because I had not realized how contentious the state of play had become.

Cooper has done an excellent job of weaving his readers through the complexities of the current disputes.  Perhaps it is his explanatory skill that makes his punch line so disquieting:

If it comes down to Amazon and the DOJ on one side against Apple and the book publishers on the other, guess which side the book lovers will be rooting for?

As a punch line this text overlooks those who, by all rights, should be key players in this dispute but, in reality, have virtually no voice at all:  the authors.  Publishers will always put the interests behind their balance sheets before those of their authors.  (At least the ones who want to stay in business do, and they then survive the Darwinian process of selection imposed by the free market.)  Amazon, on the other hand, is promoting self-publishing, which means that only the author is responsible for the author’s interests, making the pool of authors yet another population base that gets winnowed out by Darwinian selection.

Meanwhile, there is another factor that did not figure into Cooper’s exposition.  It has to do with my careful wording of my first sentence.  I suspect that I would have been a bit more comfortable had Cooper said “gadget lovers” in his punch line, rather than “book lovers.”  Yes, I am seeing more people reading in the course of my wanderings;  and many of them are reading from the screens of their favorite gadgets.  However, they tend to be more interested in talking about the “gadget-based experience of reading,” rather than about the book itself.

Now we all know that the thing about gadgets is that the playing field keeps changing.  This leads me to believe that most people will be absorbed in new gadgets by the time the current disputing parties come to an agreement, making the substance of the agreement tantamount to worthless.  Worse, we have no idea what people will be doing with the next generation of gadgets.  The “solitary” reading experience may give way to something more “social,” as developers have been trying to do with computer-based movies and television programs.  Alternatively, these “passive” experiences may give way to yet another generation of games with new (and more dazzling) ways for players to kill each other.  Needless to say, none of these bodes very well for authors who take their writing seriously and seek readers willing to do the same.

1 comment:

Mediation Experts said...

Hope more & more people read e-book & cut down on the paper books.