Yes, it seems it’s ebook week on The Lunch.
Free books (Photo credit: randomduck)
On just about every high street in Britain there is some kind of mis-named Pound Shop, selling things for 99p, and it’s a well-known psychological effect that we think that 99p is vastly cheaper than a pound because it has less digits, even if our subconscious obsession with lower numbers in buying but higher in selling leads us to all have jam jars full of pennies.
The odd thing though is a shift in the area of “free” goods. On Amazon and other ebook stores there are thousands of free ebooks, some are actual out-of-copyright classics, some are good books simply written for the enjoyment of it and given away, others are free just to be generous and helpful. The problem is that we often assume that if something is always free then it must be of lower quality, whereas we will eagerly grab a book that’s normally £3.99 but is reduced for a day to £0.00. This idea of low quality is reinforced by many writers and journalists who have said that only crap writers do it for free [Andy looks at own not-for-profit blog and sighs].
This is a problem for new authors who are publishing solely electronically – price it too high and buyers might not want to take a shot at an unknown, give it away and it’s likely that people will see the words “FREE = CRAP” with memories of bookstore remainder bins in the back of their minds.
There has emerged a middle ground, more and more books are being published at 99p, cheap enough to be a potential throwaway purchase but someone thinks it’s worth actually charging money for which gives you a bit of confidence that it’ll be worth it. It also feels like you’re getting a bargain even if it’s not reduced.
Amongst the ebook chaff there is wheat and if this idea gets it noticed then it doesn’t matter whether crap gets sold at the same price – that’s what Amazon’s reviews sections are for.
Search cat (Photo credit: zenera)
Last week I was in the Lake District once again and while I adore wandering around in the fresh air with the wonderful scenery, sun shining (much of the time) and birds twittering, there are always times to just sit back and relax.
This year I had a new distraction. I’ve had a Kindle app on my tablet since about a day after I received it but due to the screen’s pesky LCD it doesn’t work too well outdoors so I decided to take the plunge. I’d always said that the standalone ereaders were a bit pointless when you have a tablet but the more I’ve tried to use it the more I found justification for a read reader instead – another advantage is the lower weight, in fact when I finally had my Kindle in my hand I picked up what I’d thought of as a svelte and featherweight Nexus 7 and it felt like a housebrick by comparison. When you’re reading for a couple of hours propped up in your favourite chair that makes a difference to your arm muscles.
My preconceived notions about the usefulness of another ebook reader meant that I ended up getting a bargain – a virtually unused latest generation Kindle bought from a lady on Ebay who didn’t really use it; having had it a few months I see that I could easily have justified the full price. For novels and text books it’s so much more convenient and even though they’ve been out years the idea that you could take a couple of thousand books on holiday with you is still impressive, and easier on your luggage allowance.
Because I can download books that I might not have otherwise seen and read cheaply and not have to find space for them I’ve found that I’ve actually started reading more again and it may even get me back into reading more actual paper books again too.
I still use the tablet’s Kindle app for books with pictures or where jumping from one part of the book to another is easier with a touchscreen but being able to turn a page without moving my thumb away from the edge of the device was so much simpler, as was being able to also hold a bottle of cider in my other hand as it was no longer employed in holding a book open. The fact that this ease of reading was achieved while I sat admiring mountains and a colourful sunset last week was a wonderful thing.
*Other e-readers are available 🙂
wireless router (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
I’ve been having communication difficulties. As I connected and disconnected phone extensions I found an old cable-reel extension lead and remembered how, ten years ago, this was my connection to the internet.
Back then, as now, the computer was ten metres from the phone socket so in the dim, distant dial-up days
dis this was extended along the length of the apartment and plugged into my clear red plastic modem and the noisy connection process could begin. Once finished it would be wound up again and slotted back down the side of the sofa. In those days the dangers of the internet as espoused by the tabloids missed out my own addition – a trip hazard.
Now, of course we connect laptops, PCs, phones and tablets even speakers wirelessly and speedily, it’s wonderful to be able to play music from the tablet in my hand to the speaker in front of the TV, to control my car stereo from the touchscreen phone by the steering wheel, share pictures between cameras and phones with a touch and to be able to read books, articles and whole encyclopedia’s on a portable handheld slab of plastic and glass. We truly are at the beginning of a fantastic age, no matter what the naysayers, er say. Ok, the technology isn’t yet in the hands of everyone but it is becoming cheaper and easier to use so that more people can have the greatest collection of humankind’s knowledge literally at their fingertips, along with cat videos of course.
As Arthur C Clarke said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and although we don’t really think of our free and open mine of information as mystical it is a wonder, especially in the current climate of big media wanting us to subscribe to everything. Thirty years ago I watched The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and wondered whether we could have such an electronic book as that. Right now, we have so much more. So next time your wireless connection stutters be thankful that you don’t have to unravel that extension lead.
English: A woman cuddling a pile of digital devices: laptops, smartphones, tablets, ebook readers etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With new rules saying that book publishers should basically price ebooks fairly in relation to the fact that there is no physical object to manufacture I’ve had an idea.
Maybe someone has already had it but anyway let’s say, like me, you have a large bookshelf, some of the books you want to keep because of their aesthetic appeal, or sentimental value, maybe they’re signed. Others you keep for reference and would be happy to have as searchable ebooks.
You’ve already paid for the paper version so you’re reluctant to pay the same price again for the ebook version. What if you could send your good condition paper version to either a charity or a company like Amazon and they’d exchange it for the digital version and then sell the paper book second-hand to cover the cost of your ebook. You could save space and the charity/company could still make money. Even if they charged you a pound to do it it would still be worth it surely?
The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve just noticed on Amazon.co.uk that the top five kindle books at the moment are all priced between £0.20 and £0.99. Is this a coincidence or is it the same reason I also bought the number one book (besides it being a QI book) – only 20p, I’m having that!
I’m sure they’re all good books but it also shows that almost giving content away can give a book, or music, momentum in the sales charts. It’s only really been possible thanks to digital media’s lower distribution costs and the benefit is that once people have tried it they’ll tell others about it and maybe they’ll still buy it even if it’s at a higher price later.
The music industry needs to pay attention. It isn’t devaluing, it’s marketing.