(Or how I lost most of my afternoon to my digital library).

CTA Reads: iPad, Kindle, old school book.

I have to admit, I love e-books. I read a lot. I love paper books–the feel of them, the smell. One of my first jobs ever was in a used bookstore. When Selma was a baby, I re-invented that job for myself filling my basement with books I found at garage sales and selling them on Amazon. But I don’t have space for all the books I love, so I love being able to have as many e-books as I want without using up any physical space in my library. I also love being able to highlight and annotate in e-books. I use this feature a lot in the reading and research I have to do for my graduate work. So far, I like the way the Kindle app does this best, but I’m trying out Kobo right now too, and it seems pretty good. I like e-books so much that I get frustrated when a book I want isn’t available digitally.

But there is something about e-books that bothers me: You don’t really own the books you buy digitally. You can’t use them any way you want. I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to move a book I bought on Google Books (because amazingly, the Google Books app does not have any feature for annotating books). After going through the machinations of getting this file into another reader, I thought… there’s got to be a way I could just centrally store all my e-books and read them where ever I want!

Of course, other people have wished for this too. Very clever people have developed programs to store and catalog books, like Calibre. You can sync your Calibre library with Dropbox and have access too it anywhere. You can use one of the readers that lets you open external (i.e. dropbox files) like Stanza and access those files on your ipad. Supposedly, you can spend lots of time setting this up and maintaining it, but really, you can’t because most of your book files are locked with DRM. You can illegally strip the DRM with tools available on the Internet. (Why is this illegal if you are using files that YOU purchased on devices YOU own?)


You CAN do all of this, but after wasting a day on it, I’ve decided it’s too. much. trouble. For now, I’ll buy the books that I can get DRM-free, and those that I can’t, I’ll prioritize Kobo and resort to Amazon (the worst culprit for open formats) when necessary. I know it took a while for MP3s to loose the DRM, I’m just frustrated that we have to have the fight all over again with e-books. Look publishers–the music industry is finally surviving BECAUSE OF, not in spite of easy access to digital media.

I know many of you are more tech-savvy than I am–am I missing a great solution out there for e-book management? How do you maintain your digital library?

Pulling My Digital Hair Out: A rant about e-books

4 thoughts on “Pulling My Digital Hair Out: A rant about e-books

  • October 12, 2011 at 6:13 am

    I am failing at being tech-savvy with my ereader, which is embarassing because I am quite handy with computers. I am currently afraid to sync my ereader because I know the software will freeze and lose my place in all my books… which is entirely my own fault as I have been using the default software from the reader manufacturer. It is really terrible (manufacturer rhymes with “pony”), and haven’t gone to Calibre or any similar software – mostly because I fear losing a weekend (or more!). I buy first from the author’s or publisher’s site, if possible, then Kobo, and don’t buy from amazon because I would have to convert them into a format my reader could handle.

  • October 12, 2011 at 8:21 am

    i convert (i read from a kobo) and don’t suffer pangs of guilt. as someone put it, do you really need to buy a separate book to read in the bathroom, the bedroom and the living room? this is what DRM on books does.

  • October 12, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Hi Joanne–this is a great point about buying from the Author’s site if possible. I’ve found that most independent authors sell in PDF format–which is great for craft books where you want all the pictures to stay in the same place, but not as great for prose where it’s nice if the pages can reflow, etc. I will start checking out author’s sites. Creating ePubs is not hard–Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions can both do it, so perhaps more authors will start offering their own versions of their books. One of my digital heroes, Cory Doctorow (http://craphound.com/) offers his books for FREE in digital formats on his web site and he says that has only increased sales of his books through traditional methods.

  • October 12, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Amanda–that’s a great metaphor. I actually am occasionally willing to pay for both a paper and a digital copy of a book I’d like in both formats, but once I’ve bought the digital file, I feel like I should be able to read it on any device I own.

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