Thursday, July 05, 2007

The magic of eBooks

Every time someone on TrekBBS or Psi Phi mentions Star Trek eBooks (ie. downloadable electronic publications), there is a backlash of angry, resistant book readers who malign them as unwanted, unreliable rivals to "dead tree", hardcopy, paper versions.

The ranting never seems terribly IDIC (as in "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations", to quote Spock's Vulcan philosophy) and, while I haven't embraced eBooks wholeheartedly to the extent that I'd dispose of my personal forest of dead trees, I really don't see them as evil, either.

How is computer file corruption any different to one's dead tree collection suffering from mould, tempest, flood, silverfish, carelessness or a light-fingered houseguest?

Closed minds = Star Trek? Something's wrong here... For some, eBooks are an amazing, unrivaled convenience of the modern/futuristic world. Some hardcopy book lovers assume that the eBook files are never replaceable, but there are several circumstances where eBooks are safer than MMBs or hardcovers! Most eBook sellers allow you to download a new free version if your previous file gets corrupted, so the chances are an eBook collection may survive certain conditions better than a paper collection.

I haven't had to ever do it, but I know when Amazon was selling the Pocket eBooks, you simply accessed an online folder with your Amazon password, and entered the credit card number you used to open up the original eBook, to download a new version. (I did used to wonder what happened if you ever had to switch credit cards, and were expected to still have the old number on file somewhere, but I'm assured places like ereader allow this number to be updated easily.)

I have such a pile of unread dead trees here that I haven't needed to make Star Trek eBooks a priority. The eBooks I've bought are things I've needed desperately (eg. "The Magic of Tribbles: The Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Trials and Tribble-ations", which was an eBook exclusive; the "New Frontier: No Limits" short story anthology, which I couldn't wait to read, and bought it while my hardcopy was in transit; and "SCE: Where Time Stands Still", a TAS episode sequel) but I haven't had the time to read even these files more than once, as there's just so much else to read.

A bit of a later bloomer with eBooks, I was held back by my old PowerMac, which didn't like eBook versions being offered. And the firewall at work prevented my downloading eBooks to the work PC. But everything simplified when I bought my iMac.

I did notice that the last time I upgraded Adobe Acrobat, my eBook copy of "Where Time Stands Still" is now refusing to open, but I'm not panicked as the dead tree reprint is due eventually, and I always intended to buy that. When SCE ("Starfleet Corps of Engineers") started up, it was an eBook-only series of short novels.

In fact, I probably think of eBooks as more like a video rental. If you want to see a new movie, you pay for your discounted ticket at the cinema, or rent the video, and get entertained, but you can't necessarily keep it. But if you want to ensure you have a more permanent copy, you buy the dead tree (or DVD) version when it comes out.

If the plastic on a VHS cassette breaks ten years after buying it, would the manufacturer replace it for free? If you drop a new (or old) book into the mud, would the publisher just give you a fresh copy? If a DVD breaks in half through no fault of your own, would it automatically be replaced?

The eBook corruption that would cause me the most concern is if anything ever happens to "The Magic of Tribbles" by Terry J Erdmann, Gary Hutzel & Paula M Block, since there will never be a dead tree version. I don't really even remember which provider I used to buy it! (Although the old email receipt would still be on file, and I guess there's an "About" file connected to the eBook?)

The Magic of Tribbles

I understand some company is working on a portable eBook reader that has a screen that resembles a sheet of paper, with black "print" that assembles itself on a white (or any colour) background. That sounds like fun!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

eBooks have always been a weird issue for me as well.

In one way (cost-wise) they are a great concept - buy a hardcover book in digital format for a fraction of the price! That isn't always true (prices differences aren't are always dramatic and such a deal) but more often than not, it is.

For me, I have two main gripes with eBooks:
First, when I *actually* finish reading a book, I have a great sense of accomplishment. Heck, I still have ALL my Goosebump books from back in Middle School. You can't really do that w/ an eBook.

Second, and more importantly, I have to stare at a computer screen at least 8 hrs. a day thanks to my profession. The last thing I want to do is try to read a novel on a CRT or LCD display. The internet can be just as bad, but most times I'm reading short articles in small bits and chunks.

I know Sony has come out w/ an eBook device that is supposed to be really high-end and simulate reading a real book (in readability)...but I think it's like $299 and runs through batteries pretty fast. Until the day we can get those devices for $20 a pop and the books for $2/each, I don't see eBooks taking off.

People don't like reading novels on computer screens.