Reaching for the dream: 4 years and 5 months to go

Last September I bought an eReader, primarily so that I could, within five years, completely eliminate my physical book accumulation problem. Something tells me it’s not going to happen that quickly.

I have read 24 eBooks now and I love the device. I love its portability and the fact I can read one-handed and can take several books with me wherever I go. I love being able to easily take notes and highlight memorable passages without having to carry anything extra. I love being able to increase the font size when my eyes are tired. I love being able to hide that I’m reading when in a meeting. I would happily switch to all eBooks all the time tomorrow if it were possible.

What I don’t love, and the reason it won’t be possible tomorrow or within the next couple of years at least, is the lack of availability of books (especially new releases) and the prices of the ones I am allowed to buy.  Here’s some details of 5 books I’ve recently bought (or tried to buy)

Sometimes it’s not cheaper to buy an eBook at all which, to my mind, is madness. How can it possibly cost the same price or more for an eBook (which I don’t own in the same way that I do a print book)? But what makes even less sense is the range of eBook prices between Australia and the rest of the world. And geo-restrictions are of course madness of a different kind.

I think it’s become a little more difficult to buy eBooks in Australia over the past 7 months, as UK stores stopped selling to us shortly after I bought my Reader and American stores never have. Borders (which had the largest selection of eBooks locally) is…well…a mess since sliding into bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year. I know the administrators claim the eBook store is going to be around a while but I don’t believe them and their practices have been fairly repugnant (not honouring gift vouchers etc) so I have no desire to do business with them anyway. Which basically leaves me a couple of local eBook stores with fairly limited ranges (Dymocks lists 600 books with the mystery/thriller tag in its digital store) or using the Kobo store which means sending my money off shore (but at least not to the big guy).

I bought my Sony eReader quite deliberately. I didn’t want to buy a Kindle. I wanted to support a different product (and therefore a different retailer) because I have never known a near-monopoly to ever work out well for the consumer in the long run and the only way you avoid a monopoly occurring is to support the competition. But it’s expensive having principles and I don’t know that I could in all honesty recommend to anyone else the hassle (having to search multiple eBook sites before making a purchase) and expense of choosing the other guy. Though it is nice to know that if we get to the point there’s only one book retailer left on the planet and they suddenly start charing an arm and a leg for every book it won’t have been my fault 🙂

I’m curious to hear from other Australian eBook readers, especially those of you using something other than a Kindle as your main eReader. Are your experiences similar to mine? Better? Do you have suggestions for how I could improve the experience? Would you recommend your non-kindle set up if someone asked your advice?

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7 Responses to Reaching for the dream: 4 years and 5 months to go

  1. sharon little says:

    Hi,I’m American,but,have a comment.I’m 70,so,love/read books,have no interest in”e” books.I give my books to friends,or,trade them,or give to animal shelters,for sales,or Goodwill,so,I never have pile-ups.My son reads e-books,never can get ones he wants to read,often ends up taking mine as not in “E’for him to read.He asked me if I wanted his,so-not too thrilled with this tool,as he expected.He only uses it[now]when traveling,otherwise,is reading good old-timey books.take care,Sharon


  2. Someone else who isn’t from Oz checking in.
    I have long objected to the prices my American publisher sets on Ebooks.
    Fortunately, I have the right to put them up in lots of places in the world, including Australia, at prices that I determine – and I do.
    But it’s a one-ring circus.
    Only Amazon, no one else that I know of, gives an author the option to pick and choose countries.
    If I put them up with another retailer, I cannot avoid them being sold in the United States and Canada.
    And that brings me into conflict with my copyright agreements.
    What Australian readers can do, if they are frustrated with the lack of choice, and have an e-reader which is not a Kindle, is to download the Kindle files and then convert them to Epub (or any other format) with the software from Calibre.
    It’s free on the internet, very easy to use, and there is even a video tutorial to help you along.


  3. Don Weston says:

    It’s hard to go against the masses in a cause. Especially with as many books as you must read. I have managed to avoid Apple products because of their high cost and always look for brand X to save the money.
    However, Amazon is doing something that might actually help save money in the long run. They are making it easily affordable for author to self pub on their web site. For $139 authors who haven’t managed to find an agent–because after all there are only ab0ut 2500 fiction titles published a year, and precious few go to new authors– you can self publish, get an ISBN number and sell on Amazon. Other expenses apply: cover art, editing. Prices at 9.99 give 70 percent of the royalties to the author. Of course the downside is, anyone with money can self publish no matter how bad their stuff is. Still, you have to feel somewhat happy for the underdog. I’m seriously thinking about putting my first attempt at a book, The Big Bluff, online. Some agents liked it, just not enough to represent me.


  4. Maxine says:

    I’m in the UK and I have a kindle – it was a present. I have long preferred Amazon UK as my online bookseller choice as they cannot be matched on price or stock. I was slightly concerned about the kindle as it is limited to Amazon books (unless one does something such as Leighton suggests, I suppose).

    My verdict after 6 months (should I write a blog post?!) is that I mildly like the kindle but prefer print. Kindle is good for impulse buys when you don’t have anything to hand to read (;-) ), and Amazon often have very very good “loss-leader” offers. (much more so on US Amazon which I can’t buy from or even see the prices on their site, but I see the offer prices on people’s blogs etc).

    Mainstream, new books from unenlightened publishers are usually more than the hardback price, so I never buy those. Enlightened publishers, eg Corvus (the best at this), Quercus or Macmillan often sell books v cheaply in Kindle format.

    My main problem with the kindle is the vast quantity of self-published dross which overwhelms the listings page. You have to click through to the actual product page and poke around to see if the book has been independently (professionally) published. So I am less inclined to experiment with a new author on Kindle as I just can’t be bothered. I will experiment on new (to me) print authors via Amazon, as you don’t get all the noise from the self-published authors.

    I hope that one day all these e-readers will share a common format so one can buy e-books from a range of sites, but I fear it won’t happen soon when you look at the current situation with geo restrictions, pricing etc as you outline in your post.


  5. Belle Wong says:

    Have you thought about giving the iPad a try? I am not sure what apps are available to Australian buyers (I know there are some apps that I can’t download because I’m in Canada) but right now I read ebooks solely on my iPad (even though I have a Kobo), and I use a wide range of apps, from Kindle to Nook to Kobo to Stanza (and there are a few more that I don’t use as frequently). I like not being stuck having to buy from any one particular store (although I do tend to buy mostly Kindle books).

    I’m also finding my library to be a great source of ebooks – they only began offering ebooks via Overdrive on their site a few months ago, and it’s really cut down on the amount of titles I’m now buying.


  6. shelleyrae@ Book'd Out says:

    I read on my iPod touch, I love it and read almost exclusive on the Stanza app, using calibre to convert book files but can also read Kindle on my Kindle app, or Kobo or whatever really.

    What will make a big difference for you is learning about Calibre.
    You can convert almost any file type, (including amazon’s mobi file) to ePub using calibre and then read that on your Sony. DRM’d books are a little trickier but can be taken care of as well. That means you can purchase more widely at a better price

    I primarily purchase at Amazon, but I don’t tend to purchase new release titles so don’t run into the geographic restrictions as much. The only instances where geographic restrictions stay in place long term are usually when an Australian author is contracted directly to an Australian publishing house (which isn’t very common) Usually within six months, previously restricted books become available anyway and since Australian prices are so absurd I won’t buy here, I’d rather wait, or ask my library to buy it in print, or buy it from bookdepository. Sadly I don’t have the luxury of financial principles 🙂

    If you need a hand with making Calibre work for you, let me know 🙂



  7. Thanks for your responses everyone…lots of food for thought there.

    I have used Calibre but most .mobi books that don’t have DRM are already available to me in a sony-compatible format, it’s the DRM’d books I have a problem with and I’m not prepared to break the DRM. I’ve thought about it but it’s not a road I’m prepared to go down at this stage for several reasons.

    I think an additional device which allows me to read the occasional Kindle book is probably the way I’ll go – I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy an iPad (and frankly my eyes are too old to read much on an iPhone or similar-sized device Shelly)

    I think the issue of self publishing will be the subject of a futher post as I have struggled with this one over the past six months. On the one hand I applaud the democratisation of the medium, on the other (and at this point much larger) hand I am depressed and daunted by the sheer quantity of self-published titles, the vast majority of which are utter dross (and yes I realise I am being mean).


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