In September last year I began the slow journey towards a personal holy grail: to do away forever with the problem of finding homes for read-once-and-not-likely-to ever-be-read-again books. I’ve chosen to tackle the problem primarily by using eBooks and this is a wrap up of my first year of being an eBook reader that isn’t a Kindle who lives in Australia (and there’s a bit of a rant at the end).
How do I eRead, let me count the ways?
Initially I bought a Sony touch-screen reader which can read ePub and PDF formats. I have since read 29 books on that device and really like it. It is light, sturdy (has survived being dropped several times), has a long battery life and the touch screen makes the reading experience very close to reading a traditional book.
About 3 months ago I also bought an iPad primarily for mobile computing instead of lugging a laptop around but with a deliberate secondary aim of expanding my eReading options. I can now read Kindle books, Apple books and cloud-based books such as those offered by booki.sh (an experience I described in some detail a couple of months ago).
I also use an iPod nano for audio books so now essentially have enough devices to accommodate every available format between them. After a lot of trial and error (and some shake-ups in the market) I now have a pretty strict hierarchy of options for acquiring a book:
- Audible – only a small percentage of books that I’m interested in are available in this format so I check this source first
- Booku – an Australian eBook store selling ePubs (which I can read on my Sony or the Overdrive app on my iPad)
- Kobo – a Canadian eBook store selling ePubs but which stocks the widest range of Australian publications including books by Australian authors (which I can read on my Sony or the Kobo app on my iPad)
- Catalogues of the two local libraries I belong to
- Amazon’s Kindle store (to read via the Kindle app on my iPad)
- Booki.sh (for a cloud-based book to read on my iPad)
- My favourite purveyors of dead tree tomes (there are still some books that are not available in any e format so if I really want to read them I’ll buy a physical version)
What’s different between now and then?
It’s only been a year (or one fifth of the time I allowed myself) and in some ways my behaviour is slow to change but I have started to notice some trends. The most obvious one is that I’m acquiring less physical books
Sadly the number of books acquired in each year was about the same but over the past 3 or 4 months the trend has moved downwards. Having so many options available now seems to have reduced the impulse to buy more than I can read (now if only I could get through my backlog TBR mountain instead of being attracted by shiny new stories).
A couple of other trends are less directly related to my new preference for eBooks though they are a side-effect:
Virtually all of the few print books I still buy are now bought in an Australian store. It costs me double (or triple) the price of ordering via Book Depository (as I have detailed before) but is a deliberate choice. If I want bookstores to still be available for my browsing pleasure (and I do) then I need to support them. The component of this that is related to eBooks is that only 6 of the 30 books I bought in the last 3 months were print books so buying books in Australian book stores is not as damaging to my bank balance as it once was. Buying all 150+ books that I read each year at the $33 a pop they mostly sell for is simply out of reach, but a couple of books a month is do-able. I doubt it’ll save the local book industry but it’s the best I can do.
I’m borrowing more from the library. To be honest I could move the library up my hierarchy of options a little and borrow even more but I generally like to choose when I read a book which is not always possible with library queues. But making a conscious choice to not acquire huge piles of print books anymore did make me start be more systematic about at least checking the catalogues. Belonging to two (one near work, one near home) gives me a fairly wide selection and they do have a good track record of stocking Australian crime fiction.
What do I like about eReading?
I love reading on either of my devices and can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to worry about physical books much at all. I love being able to take notes or highlight things I want to mention in my reviews without having to carry anything extra, I love being able to carry several books at a time in case I don’t feel like reading one of them. I love not having to worry about what I’ll do with a book once I’ve finished with it…no more boxes of books in my garage.
The Sony is my device of choice being small, light and having a long battery life. The iPad is too heavy to hold for long periods (but fits nicely on one’s lap and/or book seat) and I wouldn’t want to read it while standing up on the bus (as I do my Sony) but surprisingly the backlit screen doesn’t bother me at all (most of the reading apps I’ve tried have settings allowing control of brightness).
Sadly, a month after I bought the Sony all UK stores stopped selling eBooks to people outside the UK (though they still ship print books to us by the container load which, in my humble opinion, makes a mockery of publishers’ expressed outrage at consumers’ wanton disregard for geographical restrictions) and the Australian Borders chain collapsed into bankruptcy. These events significantly reduced my options for obtaining books for my Sony. The Kobo store is based in Canada but has the widest range of Australian publications I’ve found. I don’t have any firm numbers but estimate that only about half the books I want to buy are available to me for the Sony. Geographic restrictions still play a significant role in me not being able to buy what I want but I am ever hopeful this will improve.
The downside (or if you made it this far you deserve a full-on rant)
I have a new enemy. Well two of them really: Sony and Adobe. Two companies which I despise with a vehemence that probably isn’t healthy. The process of getting books onto my Sony device is managed via Adobe’s software and it is the most useless application of technology I have ever encountered. My day job involves configuring information management systems and teaching people how to use them. I am (to blow my own horn momentarily) pretty good at it and if I were to produce the kind of half-baked crap that these two companies have devised I would be sacked and spat at and I would deserve both.
When I bought a new computer earlier this year and had to get my eReader (and the many un-read books on it) re-authorised I considered throwing the device away. Manoeuvring my way through the labyrinthine mess that is Adobe’s Digital Rights Management was a headf*** matched only by having one’s tax returns audited by someone trained at the Spanish Inquisition. I was essentially treated like a criminal by both companies which is infuriating as the only time I have ever even considered pirating a book was when I lost access to all the ones I had already bought. Neither company (including Sony’s physical office here in town) was remotely interested in assisting with the problems I encountered.
The only bright spot of this entire exercise was the few happy moments I spent fantasizing about performing some of the cruel torture I’ve read about in crime fiction over the years to the people at the Sony store. The place is staffed by people I can only assume were selected for their ability to fit into uniforms found hanging in a closet somewhere because their idea of assistance was to mumble to each other (not even to me directly) about there being ‘something on the website’ and then staring at me blankly when I asked them to show me the exact page where re-issuing of authorisations was even mentioned let alone described in any useful detail. I managed to get my problem sorted out on my own (thanks for absolutely nothing you useless bastards at Sony, may you all rot in an eternal hell where the only way out is guarded by staff as utterly incompetent and brain dead as each and every one of you) (yes I do realise I need to get over this).
While I am now happily reading again I do not envisage retaining this device when I next upgrade my computer in a few years time. And hell will have to freeze over before I buy another Sony product. When I compare this experience with the simplicity of synchronising and authorising Apple devices (which I have done multiple times over the past few years) or Amazon’s kindles I am not surprised that Sony is not a major player in this market and that it is busy getting itself hacked by all and sundry. The company is clearly run by morons.
Aside from this unpleasantness I’m happy with my eReading progress so far and look forward to another year of being responsible for less dead trees.
What about you? Have you taken the eBook/eReader plunge yet? Do you plan to? If not, why not? Have you noticed any changes in your reading behaviour as a result of eReading?