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Super Sunday Smackdown: E-books, print books, and muffins

March 7, 2010

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Super Sunday Smackdown (better name pending) wherein I write an entry based on the suggestions of you, the people.  It’s democracy in action!  Or based on the number of replies this week, democracy inaction.

I only got two responses to my request for topics:  e-books vs. print books and muffins.  So let’s tackle both of those.  Ready…go.

It’s hard for me to say much about e-books.  I don’t have an e-book reader, so I’ve read exactly 1 e-book to date.  I do have an archive website where you can read most everything I’ve written in blog form.  And I do have 3 books for sale for Amazon’s Kindle, all for a mere $0.99 each.  That’s the extent of my knowledge on e-books.

To me here’s why I don’t read more e-books yet.

1) I am poor.  Amazon’s Kindle goes for about $200, Apple’s iPad will retail around $500, and so forth.  I don’t have that kind of money!  I only spent $50 on my MP3 player and that was about two years ago–which in technological terms means it’s like one of those stone arrowheads people find in their backyards.  And really I have a lot more use for the MP3 player while I’m writing, so if I’m not shelling out big bucks for something I use a lot, I’m not going to do it for something I’ll use far less.
2) The format is still evolving.  Remember the VHS vs. Beta wars back in the late ’70s and early ’80s?  I don’t overly well, but I’ve heard of it.  Basically there were two formats for playing back and recording videotape.  In the end VHS won, which meant if you had Beta you were screwed.  This recently happened again with HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray.  There was a great summation of this situation in “Tropic Thunder” where the nerdy actor explained that basically Blu-Ray won because it won over the porn industry and gamers by including it with PS3s.  So now if you bought an HD DVD player you’re screwed.

And remember 8-tracks, cassette tapes, Laserdisc?  There’s a lot of dead-end formats out there.  Actually one of the reasons I don’t care about Blu-Ray is that it will probably be replaced in a couple of years anyway, so I’m not going to buy another copy of everything in my library for that.  As for e-books, as I said we’ve got Sony’s E-Reader, Amazon’s Kindle, B&N has theirs, Apple is coming out with the iPad…there’s no way to know who’s going to win this war.  Why should I shell out $200 for a Kindle when in six months it’ll be collecting dust with my Betamax and HD DVD players?

In marketing I’m what’s known as a “late adopter.”  Actually I’m a late, late, late, late adopter.  Your “early adopter” is the sucker who shelled out $5000 for the very first plasma and flat screen TVs or bought the first electric car to roll off the assembly line.  Those are the people who always want the newest thing to show off and don’t care that it costs an arm and a leg and the bugs haven’t been worked out.  Whereas someone like me besides being cheap likes to wait until the kinks have been worked out and the prices come down to reasonable levels.  Like now that flat screen, HD TVs are going for $300-$500 I might finally get one.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that until there’s one champion in e-book technology and prices come down, there’s really no point for me to get involved in that.  I’m sure a lot of other people feel the same way about that.

Though most people who say they won’t read e-books use the excuse my sister does in saying she likes to feel books.  Of course she also has a collection of books to rival Roger Ebert or Neil Gaiman.  Me, I only keep two bookshelves.  Then again I’ve moved a number of times and books are a pain in the arse to cart around.

Eventually though e-books will rule the day.  Why?  Think of Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or any other sci-fi show.  Do they run around with clipboards and paper forms?  Did Captain Kirk write his captain’s logs on paper?  Hell no!

This is because despite the romanticism around paper, it’s annoying.  Take it from someone in the accounting field:  all those government forms pile up!  I spent hours on Friday filing all of my 2009 bills into storage boxes, which will then go into our storage room Indiana Jones-style to wait to be examined by “top men.”  We’re going to be moving our office, which means all those boxes now will have to be moved as well.  Hooray!  What I’m saying is that paper isn’t portable.  And if you have a fire or flood or rats or badgers in the storage room all that paper will be destroyed.  With digital records it’s far easier to keep backups somewhere and they require virtually no storage space, except on the hard drive.  And considering you can now get a 1 TB (as in terra-byte) hard drive for $200 or less that’s not really a problem.

So it’s just a matter of time before e-books unseat paper books as the format of choice.  There’s just one major thing besides price and standardization holding them back:  muffins.  It’s easy to sit in bed or on the couch and eat a blueberry muffin while reading a paper book.  If a few crumbs get into the spine, so what?  If you smear a little blueberry juice on a page, big deal.  On the other hand, if you’re sitting there with your Kindle and eating a blueberry muffin it can be disastrous.  Crumbs could get into the nooks and crannies of the machine and short something out.  If you get blueberry juice on your fingers then it’ll stain the keys or screen for all eternity.  You could be out $200 thanks to a $2 muffin from Starbucks.

Until this problem is resolved, I don’t think e-books can replace print books.

That is all.

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3 Comments
  1. I just bought a Nook. I have yet to read on it as I still am tackling a “real” book right now. I bargained with myself that I wouldn’t read on it until I finished it. It’s killing me!

    I like real books. Not from a collector point of view but from a point of view that if I read a book that I really like, I’d like to have it on hand. I am NOT going to loan my Nook out if I found a book worth sharing.

    But I will say, my opinion is still out. I will also say that a book that is being released in May at $25.80 in “real” form was preordered on my Nook for $10.80. I liked that A LOT!

  2. A great post.
    I feel the same way about buying an e-book reader; let the dust settle before spending the money.

  3. I’ve got a Kindle, and though I haven’t read from it while eating a muffin, I wouldn’t be particularly shy about it, just careful. Then again, I don’t favor the blueberry, myself. Banana and cornmeal muffins aren’t as gooey, they just have the crumb problem. And a kindle is more crumb-proof than a netbook is, though a bit more vulnerable than an ordinary book.

    Welcome to the crusade. Go group 14! We shall be victorious. That is, if there’s any opportunity for our group to compete against all the other crusader groups.

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