I visited Barnes & Noble this afternoon, for the first time in a while. I got a gift card, and decided it’s time to use it.
I found an interesting book and paid full retail price for it ($21.95). Then later, I saw that on Amazon.com, the same book sells for about $14. And buying it online would mean no sales tax and no shipping costs and none of my own travel costs to and from the bookstore. Seems like maybe I should have bought it online. But I had the gift certificate.
That’s not what I wanted to write about, though. At a big display at the entrance to Barnes & Noble, they were promoting the Nook. That’s Barnes & Noble’s ebook reader. Same idea as the more famous Kindle, and comparably priced. As I played around with it, I thought about ebooks some. In the past, I’ve never been interested in an ebook reader because I just don’t read enough books. I wish I had time to read more books, but I don’t. Or put a different way, other things in life take a higher priority (reading news articles, writing screenplays, watching movies, making movies, etc.). I have some friends who read dozens of books every year. Lately, I’ve averaged about 3 or 4, I think. In fact, one of the things I like most about going on vacation is that I have time to just read a book.
But I realized today, there’s another reason why an ebook reader just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. And that is that there’s no used ebook market. In the case of physical books, I can buy used books online, I can trade used books with other people via PaperbackSwap.com, I can sell used books on eBay or Amazon, and so on. I can also check out used books from the library, loan a used book to a friend, or borrow a used book.
But with ebooks, I can do none of those things. It’s the perfect money-maker for publishers, I guess. Basically, with an ebook – as opposed to a physical book – publishing and distribution companies have a business model where everyone who ever reads the book is forced to pay full price for the book. And with zero printing costs, all you gotta do is copy some free electrons in a computer and take people’s money. That’s great for them, and terrible for me as a consumer.
So Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the rest of you: When you have a business model that allows me to treat an ebook more like a real book, let me know.