Sunday, March 27, 2011

Building an E-book Library

I am the recent - and very happy - owner of an e-book reader.  I love it for all the usual reasons.  It is easy to carry with me anywhere.  It holds up to 1500 books.  You can look up words as you encounter them.  I have more books than I ever imagined to choose from any time I feel the urge for something new.

Lately, it occurred to me that I might want to re-collect some of my personally important books for my e-reader.  I happen to have a Nook, but I think this is going to be the same for owners of the Kindle or Sony Reader or any of the others.  I am considering older books I have on my book shelves and for a few of those old favorites, I am wondering if I can get copies for my Nook and if they will be considerably cheaper.  Maybe free.

Then I realized that I have started already.  When I first got the Nook, I downloaded Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for free.  A quick search of Virginia Woolf produced most of her works available for under a dollar and a few for the full price.  I can see no pattern in the prices.  Someone somewhere must still hold a copyright of some kind.

I also found a good selection of books available for Nook in some of my more esoteric interest areas - hypnosis, dreaming, feminism.  I have to think the same would be true for other highly personal interests.  It seems likely that a lot of old favorites - whether they are about football heroes, WWI flying aces, or early feminist leaders - are available as e-books.

When I go downstairs where most of my books are, I see that many (okay, most...) have yellowed pages and they are getting brittle.  Paperback covers curl if the downstairs gets a little damp.  I am thinking that for the most favorite of my favorites, at least, I should start looking for e-book versions.  I suspect that with the whole collection of books at my finger tips, say, at the beach, I might be more inclined to re-read some of favorites, to bookmark them and add highlights.

On the other hand, I am still a little puzzled about what, exactly, I buy when I buy an e-book.  Apparently, I am getting some rights and not others.  For example, Barnes and Noble seems highly excited about a new "lend-me" feature that allows you to lend e-books to friends. 

Now, trust me on this, I never had a problem lending my regular, old-fashioned books.  On the other hand, some of them never made it back to me.  So this lending thing from B&N apparently "allows" me to lend a book I have purchased to a friend one time for two weeks. 

During the two weeks, the book is unavailable to me (just like the old books) and at the end of the two weeks, I magically get it returned.  Regardless of where my friend might be or what she might be doing.  It's a miracle, plain and simple. 

On the other hand, it appears that if she did not read the book, or did not get through all of it, I may not be able to lend it to her again.  I am not even sure if I can lend it to anyone else.  When I read the instructions, it looks like this feature may be a one time thing for selected books.

Now, that seems to me kind of an odd way to be about books.  Perhaps now I will have to assess the quality of a friend's interest in a particular book before I loan it out.  I would feel kind of creepy if I used up my one loan for a book on someone who had only a casual interest in a topic and then someone really fascinated asked to borrow it.

And, oddly not all of the books I buy can be loaned.  Again, I am thinking that I am only buying certain rights.Here is another little problem.  So far, I have not seen a way to give an e-book as a gift.  I have a wish list at B&N, but as far as I know, I am the only one who has access to it.  I may be able to share a list or to set up a registry of some kind, but I have not yet found a way to do that.

Once you set up a B &N account and enter your credit card, a book you select is on your device nearly as fast as you can click on Accept.  I have not seen any options that might let you forward the book to a friend's account or otherwise notify someone that the book is there for them.

And, as nearly as I can tell, I cannot, under any circumstances, "pass along" something I read, enjoyed, and am not inclined to read again.  Ever.  Some kind of re-sell option would be good, maybe.

The truth is, I am not sure about all of this and maybe as we shift away from hard copy, some ownership rights and some social sharing will be lost.  It may be too soon to know how seriously it will be missed.

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