I came to a disturbing realization a few weeks ago. I still don’t quite think of ebooks as “real books”.
I was preparing for my mid-April vacation, and since I wanted to travel light, I decided I needed to augment the selection of reading on my tablet.
For the past six months or so, I’ve been buying most of my ebooks from Kobo. This is partly an anti-monopoly protest on my part, but also reflects the fact that I really like their website, their reading app, their policies and their customer service. In particular, I like the fact that I can download my books to both my phone and my tablet, and that I don’t need to be online to have full e-reading functionality.
Anyway, I went to Goodreads and brought up my (very long) list of “Want To Read” books, then starting searching for titles on Kobo. The prices varied quite a lot, I discovered. I didn’t hesitate to buy romance or erotica or fantasy which was usually less than five bucks, but prices in the seven to eight dollar range made me stop and think, “How much do I really want this book?” And I just couldn’t bring myself to spend over ten dollars on an ebook, even when I was fairly sure based on authors and reviews that I’d enjoy it.
It’s not that I’m poor. I can afford a few ten buck books a month. I certainly spend more than that on wine, for instance! And I doubt I’d hesitate to purchase a paperback I knew I wanted at that price. When I did some introspection, I came to the conclusion that, even though my own books are mostly available in electronic form, ebooks still seem ephemeral. It’s hard for me to feel comfortable forking over that much cash for a bucket of bits.
I’m a little shocked to find I still harbor this prejudice. At the same time, I’m also rather dismayed at the high prices on some ebooks, especially mainstream titles. Becoming, by Michelle Obama, is more than $15. Likewise Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century. What would the hard copy version cost? On Amazon, it’s discounted from $20 to around $16. That makes my dilemma worse. Should I save the planet as well as scarce space in my apartment by purchasing an ebook, when for the roughly the same investment I can get a book to hold in my hand?
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned. Or maybe I still haven’t outgrown my bargain-hunter upbringing. Whatever the source, I hope my readers aren’t like me (although in fact almost all my books cost five dollars or less).
My ebooks are real. Honest!