Will E-books Kill Nostalgia?

My recent bout of nostalgia for gamebooks had me thinking about e-books again.

Even though I’ve been tempted by gadget lust several times, I don’t own a Kindle, a Nook, or an iPad. A few years ago, I bought a couple of ebooks from Fictionwise when I was experimenting with lunchtime reading on my PDA. Reading experience aside, my PDA reading experiment has a big similarity to using a Kindle, Nook, or iPad: if you lose the device or stop using it then all of the books you’ve purchased are gone.

This make me wonder if nostalgia experience like I recently enjoyed will vanish once e-books become more common. The switch from paper books is much different than the switch from film photos to digital photos, because digital photos are portable across different types of devices and can be copied. E-books are tied to a specific device by DRM software. If I read an e-book and I fall in love with it and want to be sure that I can pick it up and read it again in 5, 10, or 20 years, then I would either have to buy a paper version or I would have to store the e-book reader and hope that the battery and electronics still worked years later.

E-books have much more in common with digital music from several years ago, and it’s going to take a similar loosening of control before I’m ready to commit to it. Even once I started listening to MP3′s primarily, I continued to buy and rip CD’s. It wasn’t until Amazon opened their DRM free music store that I stopped buying physical media. I just did not want to commit myself to the walled-garden of iTunes or Play-for-sure. Unfortunately Amazon’s entry into the e-book market is just as locked down as anything Apple did in the music-space, so I don’t see the current e-book environment changing in the near future.

For now, I’m going to stick with paper.

20 Comments

  1. MaeveNo Gravatar says:

    I like paper books as well. While I suppose it is poor for the environment (save a tree and all), I still like to wrap my hands around a book. Look at the cover art. Flip it over and read the back. Skim through the pages and look at an excerpt. Perhaps all of these things are possible with the Kindle. But I’m not ready to give up my experience that is a good book.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Yeah, I still really enjoy the physical experience too like the smell of the pages and ink or the act of flipping a page. In college I used to go to the library and wander around in the stacks.

  2. pasmithNo Gravatar says:

    As you know, I’m a huge fan of e-books but I too wish they were more open. I’ve been buying Kindle books just because Amazon seems determined to put Kindle reading software on every device imaginable.

    Even better are non-DRM’d ePub titles. Mostly these are old public domain books for now, but hopefully that will change over time.

    Having read nothing but e-books since April, the idea of going back to a paper book feels awkward. Weird huh? I just started re-reading the Sword of Truth series and even though I own hard copies of the first few books, I bought the e-book version of Wizard’s First Rule. I find the iPad more comfortable and convenient to read from then a super-fat mass market paperback with tiny text that’s constantly fighting me to close by itself. :)

    I do think I’d prefer first run hardcover versions over anything, though.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      It used to be that I solely bought paperbacks, unless there was the rare hardback release that I just couldn’t wait for. A few years ago I switched to primarily hardbacks though. I have quite a few old fantasy novels that I’ve reread so many times that the bindings are starting to come apart, so I’ve started trying to buy primarily hardbacks for the durability they provide (including re-buying some of my old favorites when they’re available).

      The biggest benefits for me on e-books are the convenience of starting to read them immediately and the possibility of getting books well after they would normally be out of print. Honestly if Amazon offered dual-format version where I could buy a hardback and get the kindle version for a few dollars extra, that would be enough to get me to buy into their ecosystem.

  3. pasmithNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, and *blush* re: the topic at hand. After watching the horrible Princess of Mars movie on SyFy I had the urge to read the original Edgar Rice Burroughs books. I was delighted to find they were all available, free, online. And there’s no reason for an e-book to go out of print.

    So from one angle, e-books could *help* nostalgia.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      That’s true for books that get into the public domain, but the way copyright law is being handled now it takes longer and longer for books to enter the public domain. At some point, I hope publishers will come to the same realization that music studios have and movie studios are moving towards, hopefully I’ll still be alive to enjoy it when that happens. ;)

  4. StargraceNo Gravatar says:

    I love my sony e-reader, though I may still just be in the honeymoon phase. I store all of my e-books on an external hard drive just like I do with my digital photos, and I’m not worried at all about being unable to read them down the road, or what happens if I happen to lose the e-reader. Calibre is a fantastic e-book library app for your PC, and it keeps things incredibly organized and leaves all your e-book material in a nice easy to find folder on the pc. There’s so many deals and free books out there that I expect I’ll be using this method of reading for a long time to come. Not that I don’t enjoy the paper books, I do, but after purchasing 1-2 books a month every single month, well. I’m simply running out of room to store them. I don’t want to get rid of them because I just love to read, but I also don’t want to be one of those crazy old ladies who have a billion books and on top of each book is a cat *grins*

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Storage is definitely a problem for me. I have a full bookcase in my office, a couple of boxes of books that I’ve read and don’t plan to reread but don’t want to get rid of, and a box of books to read (since I prefer hardbacks now, I get them when they’re released even if I know I won’t get to them soon).

      It sounds like maybe the Sony format is more open (which is ironic) than what I’ve researched of the Kindle format, which would be a good thing. Still, I wonder if you have an e-book now that you get an urge to re-read in 10 years, will you still be able to load it up on your future PC?

  5. BrianNo Gravatar says:

    Something that Pete and Stargrace have made me think of for e-books is the possibility of extending a book’s availability. One of the reasons why I hang onto paper books is because I know that they’ll go out of print at some point and become difficult to find (and expensive). This hopefully wouldn’t be an issue with e-books, technically and logistically there’s really no reason why an e-book should ever be out of print. Of course this would mean that I’d end up paying for a book again.

  6. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    I would love to get into eBooks, personally. I used to read them on my old iPaq PDA but that’s less than desirable. Same for my Droid, most likely. I typically read a book per week at work and while maybe — MAYBE — there’s something to be said for touching the paper page, there’s also something to be said for books being varying thicknesses, which sometimes ends up hurting my wrist holding the thing. Reading paper books gradually degrades the pages and spine, too. I’m picky about books (pretty much anything with writing, actually) and hate seeing them get destroyed, which can happen easily on my job. Finally, I’ve never heard of anyone getting a Kindle cut…

    However, my job is also the reason I do NOT get into eBooks. I do the majority of my reading while the planes are loading or unloading passengers or during taxi, and the takeoff and landing phases of flight. All those (except while at the gate) fall under the “no portable electronic devices while below 10,000′” rule so I would be unable to use the device during those times.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      I used to read on a Dell Axim and it wasn’t too bad. I actually read on my BlackBerry quite a bit, if you count Twitter and blogs, which actually isn’t quite the same.

      As far as handling books, I’m pretty careful. I don’t borrow or lend books with my dad, because I’ve seen him pick one up and crack the thing in half to crease it open. I’m wincing now just thinking about that. Still after my 10th reading of Cat’s Paw the book was still starting to wear out regardless of how careful I’d been.

      Yeah, the airline rule is another big reason to stay with paper. I get bored very easily and when traveling I like to always have something to do. Usually once I get boarded on a flight, the books opens up and that’s it until the drink cart rolls by.

  7. I’m a little confused as to what you mean when you say if you lose a device or stop using it, then all of the books you’ve purchased are gone. For me, I back up all my ebooks, non-DRM as well as purchased, on an external hard drive.

    Amazon (which is what I use, since I own a Kindle) also archives all your purchases so you can download them anytime. That’s what I did actually, when I replaced my old Kindle with a new one a couple months back, all I did was go down the list and redownloaded them all and they were in my library again in seconds. Same thing when I go the Kindle app for my ipod touch. What’s great about Kindle books is that not only do they allow you to select your purchased books to send to your devices from the site on your PC, they’ll also let you redownload onto your computer as well. I’m guessing this is so you can read on your PC too if you so choose, as well as manually manage your books (someone mentioned the Calibre program for this…I love it too). One can argue that if Amazon ever goes away, so then will your books, but I think as long as you maintain the reading program on your PC you’ll essentially be able to keep your books and access them forever.

    As you can see, I’m a big fan of Ebooks. I read everything on my Kindle these days (I have a program that converts all my non-DRM books into the compatible format) because it’s great to travel and have dozens of books at my fingertips. Books are also hell to pack and move, so the Kindle also solves the hassle of storage.

    The cons: I like reading when I’m relaxing in a bath sometimes, but I’m not about to take a $200+ Kindle with me where a single slip into the water might mean the end for it. Another thing that’s related to this is the fragility of a reading device. I sometimes read on my stomach while lying on the ground, but the one thing I learned is not to leave the Kindle on the floor like you do with real books when you have to step away. I had to get the new Kindle I mentioned was because my husband accidentally stepped on my old one :P

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      What I mean is if you switch from a Kindle to a Nook, then you’re starting over on your e-book library. You can’t move the books over to the new device. Of course you can still read them using PC software, but in 10 years will that software run on whatever version of Windows is current?

      In the short term, it doesn’t seem like much of a problem, but I’m wondering more about the 10 to 20 years time frame. Like I said at the very top of the page, this was prompted by my recent nostalgia of the Lone Wolf gamebooks, and led me to wonder if my son will have the same experiences. If all (or most) of the books he reads as a child are electronic, will he still be able to find them and recapture some of his childhood twenty years later?

  8. BrianNo Gravatar says:

    Just wanted to clarify that I’m not hating on e-books. I think eventually this is where we’re headed, and I’m sure I will switch over to them eventually (just like I did with CD’s). I’m just thinking about what the risks involved in moving away from paper (where there’s just one object) to electronic (where there’s two: data and software).

  9. KimNo Gravatar says:

    I personally don’t think I’ll ever be able to get down with ebooks. It’s just something about the smell of the bookstore when u walk in and the book when u get it home and crack it open. I’m totally partial to paper. I never thought about it the way you broke it down, def food for thought….

    • I’m all for ebooks these days, but I’ll always have a soft spot for books as well (my mother works as a library tech so growing up her love of paper books has sort of rubbed off on me over the years). Nothing beats the feeling of holding an actual book in your hands, being able to flip to wherever you want in it as opposed to taking forever to punch in a numerical location on a device (without even knowing for sure which page that will land you). It’s also nice to be able to display all your favorite books on a shelf.

      Unfortunately, I also move around a lot. And I mean, A LOT. Moving books is always the worst, and because they’re so weighty and take up so many boxes, more often than not I actually end up dumping them or giving them away. Ebooks make more sense to me at this stage of my life…maybe when I settle down I’ll start buying paper books again.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      Ah the smell of a bookstore or library. I got some books just tonight that I’ve been looking forward to, and one of the first things I did was open it and stick my nose in.

      Hmmmm, that may be just a little weird. Or possibly dirty.

  10. AnjinNo Gravatar says:

    The primary reason I haven’t switched over to e-books is that I haven’t found a situation where I would prefer and e-book over the analog version. Maybe I’ll try an e-reader someday, but I’m happy with what I have.

    • BrianNo Gravatar says:

      To be honest, my main reason is pure gadget lust. I could rationalize that with removing clutter, getting books more quickly (which given my backlog is not at all necessary), and making for less to pack for a vacation. But the lock-in and limitations on electronic gadgets when flying offset those quite a bit.