1. For some reason they cost a similar amount to print books
Sometimes a bit less, sometimes the same, sometimes more. Distributing a physical book means you have to print, handle, store, transport, store again, handle again and transport again (using a simplified model of the journey a book takes to the end user). That costs money, and it costs effectively $0 to get an ebook to a user. I don't see that saving being passed on to me, the consumer.
Not only that, you're generally paying for less than you get with a physical book in terms of rights and (IMO convenience)
2. You can't (or maybe you can) lend them freely.
Last I checked there were limits on lending with the kindle/amazon. Maybe that's changed, but I don't want to have to think about that, I just want to lend the book to someone.
3. You can't give them to someone.
Maybe this has changed since I last looked, but passing on the book to someone else and it now being "theirs" isn't possible. Again perhaps that's changed these days.
3. Cognitive overhead
Can I do this stuff? Can't I? How do I do it? I don't want to have to think about that. Last week I gave a book to my daughter by just putting it on her desk. It was easy.
In 10 years will I still be able to access my books? 20? Yes, because they're over there, on a shelf.
If ebooks cost a fraction of what they cost today then I would totally consider them. It's a tradeoff. Right now ebooks don't swing the balance towards them.
5. visibility (as noted by angrygoat) and browseability is terrible.
6. Flipping through an ebook looking for something is impossible.
7. Illustrations or drawings are rendered terribly.
The list of pros of ebooks:
1. It's just a better experience. Ebooks are lighter than their equivalent books, easy to use one-handed, fonts can be adjusted, you can carry as many as you want with no extra weight, you can search within a book, you have access with wifi to your entire library at any point in time without having to fill up a cramped apartment. Browsing for books to read is terrible, but I can browse at my local B&N and then buy the ebooks on Amazon (which makes me terrible, but what can you do).
In balance, this means that I've switched almost entirely to ebooks.
The objections that you give (1-4) are the ones that are fixable by hoisting the Jolly Roger. This a step I am reluctant to take but if point 1 keeps going in this direction, then I can't really convince myself that I can justify the cost. A literally out-of-print book  selling for $13 is so outlandish that it makes my head spin. A book where the e-book is twice as expensive as the paperback ? What on earth is going on here.
Great point. I picked up The Linux Programming Interface from a Humble Bundle, knowing nothing about it, and my first impression was "This is a terrible book: very dry and not engaging." My manager mentioned it was excellent, though, so I actually picked up a hard copy, and then I saw what was going on: it's a Linux textbook, not the kind of programming book you'd really read from cover to cover.
I know this story sort of shows my cluelessness a little, but it also shows how having the ten-pound tome on my desk gave me insights into how the book was meant to be interacted with, that the ebook didn't.
I think that that's solving the wrong problem. Just pirating ebooks that are offered under crappy Amazon and B&N style licensing agreements may get you a book that's more palatable to you, but it doesn't do anything to improve the ebook market itself.
There are many, many publishers selling DRM-free ebooks out there, and manufacturers of e-readers that don't try to lock you in. If people who don't like DRM aren't willing to help them make money at what they're trying to do, they're going to go away, and DRM is going to become an even more pervasive problem because of it.
It's true that their offerings can be more expensive. They're smaller outfits and can't afford to be vicious with economies of scale the way Amazon can. This is one of those spots where "freedom ain't free" is a statement you can take quite literally.
I don't want to have to change the world first and then read the books I want to read. For the moment I'm willing to pay, but I'm inches away from opting out.
I've even seriously considered building or purchasing a bulk book scanner and just ripping old mass market paperbacks for personal use. Or starting some sort of collective that does this.
The signal that I want to send to Amazon (and, as I understand it, to the publishing houses that desperately want to kill ebooks in general and are trying to do so by forcing Amazon to honor their price floors) is that the prices are just too high. They could dramatically increase revenue simply by lowering the prices. A premium for "early access" is fine -- if I want to buy a book the day that it is released, I'm willing to pay a "hardcover" premium. But I want the option to wait for the "trade paperback" price or the "mass market paperback" price, or the "gently used" price.
The DRM stuff I don't like but I'm not as passionate about, especially since I'm confident that Amazon will stick around a while. 84% of the reason that I accrued a personal physical book library (instead of borrowing from a library or donating or selling books after I've read them) over the years is with the memory of browsing my own parent's book collections and discovering amazing things and wanting to pass that experience on to my children. Amazon has their "family library" concept, so even though the browsing experience is currently terrible, I hope some day it will be better and all the ebooks I have acquired will afford my children the same experience as I had.
They might be too high for you, on the specific books you want to read. But cutting book prices to maximize book revenues is Amazon's first and oldest game, and I have a hard time believing that they suddenly became clueless about how to play it when they entered (created, really) the ebook market.
Offhand, I can think of two explanations for the price of Amazon ebooks that seem much more likely. I'm not sure if either are true, but I wouldn't be surprised both are:
First, it could be that they have agreements with publishers, who have an interest in keeping the price of Amazon (and Nook) ebooks relatively high in order help keep non-Amazon booksellers in business. They've seen what Wal-Mart does to suppliers, and naturally would want to guard against ending up in that situation.
Second, it could be that Amazon has figured out that they really do maximize Kindle revenues when they don't discount their ebooks very cheaply. That would be the case if Kindle readers generally buy what they want when they want to read it, regardless of a few bucks' difference in the book price. (It's not beyond the pale to think that might be true of people who, almost by definition, are willing to spend $1-200 on an e-reader.) Or, alternatively, they've found that they can price discriminate more effectively through their subscription service.
Your assessment (protecting non-Amazon booksellers, or Walmartization of the book market) is generous, and probably correct. My less generous assessment is that the publishers would prefer to completely kill off ebooks, lest authors notice that by employing a skilled editor they can just sell their books directly to customers for a fraction of what a book publisher charges, if they can live without the marketing spend and the addictive pull of advances on sales revenues.
That's rather subjective which is why I left most of this stuff out. Some people really like reading on a kindle or iPad, I don't particularly (the Kindle is "OK").
> Ebooks are lighter than their equivalent books
It depends on the book TBH. A lot will be heavier, many won't. The book I'm currently reading ("Medium Raw" by Anthony Bourdain) is 49g heavier than a kindle (the cheapest in the UK), which for me is effectively the same as 0g in terms of wether I will notice.
I am a relatively strong man, throwing a book or two into my bag doesn't make a difference to me.
Of course, if I were to carry my entire library around that would be a significantly different story :) But then I just pick books I want to read and take them, and if I change my mind later I do something else.
> easy to use one-handed
Never had a problem with this.
> fonts can be adjusted
Never wanted to do this.
> you can search within a book
I rarely want to do this, so it's not a particularly big deal when I can't.
> you have access with wifi to your entire library at any point in time without having to fill up a cramped apartment
I mentioned in another comment, I am lucky in that I don't have that issue where I live. The balance might be altered if I lived in a small Tokyo apartment (for instance) however.
> The objections that you give (1-4) are the ones that are fixable by hoisting the Jolly Roger.
I can buy ebooks and strip the DRM if I want, I tried it (on ebooks I legitimately bought) so I could make sure I always had the book. It was a PITA and didn't (for me) swing the pendulum enough to choose ebooks.
You are probably young. Trust me -- when you are approaching 50, if not sooner, this is extremely helpful. And my father in his 80s has started reading again because he can make the fonts on his Kindle basically gigantic. There are of course a small number of printed books in large print editions, but ebooks allow this to be done on any book.
> I am a relatively strong man, throwing a book or two into my bag doesn't make a difference to me.
I've put a lot of work and streamlining into not carrying a bag at all. Carrying my kindle in my back pocket or jacket pocket is easy enough.
Similarly carrying a book depends on the book.
> > easy to use one-handed
> Never had a problem with this.
How do you turn pages? I used to have to do the awkward reverse flip - half close - move finger - let hang - flip up, or just free up my other hand for a second. On a crowded train neither of these work particularly well.
> I've put a lot of work and streamlining into not carrying a bag at all.
I mostly have to carry a laptop so getting rid of my bag isn't an option. When I do leave my bag at home I might put a slim book into my pocket (I've got "The old man and the sea" to read at some point) or I'll read the news on my phone, listen to music, or just sit and think.
I did streamline my wallet though. Thin nylon all-ett wallet, one card, some cash.
> How do you turn pages?
I mostly free my other hand (it's rare I'm doing something particularly involved with my "spare" hand while reading). This is mostly in the form of "put down my up of tea for a moment". If I'm in the kitchen I might put the book down on it's back and use the reading hand to turn the page while also holding it open.
Cookbooks are strange. With the number of recipes out there in electronic form it seems like the tide has shifted, but I still buy cookbooks for general cooking stuff, and still find myself printing out recipes that I find online (like an old person!) so that I can actually use them in a kitchen environment.
Technical books, reference books, textbooks seem so incredibly natural for an interactive format, but I'm not aware of anyone that has cracked this. The closest metaphor I've found is having tabs in a browser, so I can store a limited history of my exploration of a topic, but it rapidly becomes an unnavigable mess.
You got that completely backwards. The book is freaking out of print. You can’t buy a physical copy anymore without a lot of effort. $13 seems a fair deal for conveniently getting a book you’d otherwise have a hard time obtaining.
For that matter, out of print books being rare and thus more valuable and selling for (sometimes much) higher prices are not unheard of in the physical world either.
1) To give some money to the authors (I'd rather bitcoin them)
2) Because it is a reasonable format for books I'll read once from start to finish.
Searchability is baloney in most cases (index is better), and it's definitely not a better experience, even on paperwhite type technology -the only way any sane person should read an ebook other than quick lookups. I de-drm everything, because it's mine, so that's not a consideration.
Textbooks, ebooks are basically useless unless you're remote and have no other options (and in this case; koreader on rooted hardware). It's for novels, philosophy, history books which are for fun; that sort of thing.
If you're looking for something in an ebook, wouldn't it be easier and more effective to just search for it?
"Wait, didn't that character die in the last chapter" is easily solved by flipping back a couple of chapters. If you search for the right thing you can find it too, but it's relatively painful for quick checks.
1. Space -- I have an entire closet full of books. Every time I buy another physical book, I am slowly crowding myself out of a little more space in my apartment. Electronic copies take up no physical space.
2. Can read anywhere (using my phone). I don't like this for every book, but some books are good for reading in little bite-sized chunks. I read a page here and a page there while I'm taking a break at work, waiting at the post office, whatever. The constant availability makes it a lot easier to increase my reading bandwidth vs. trying to always have a physical book on me. Plus variety--I have hundreds of books in my pocket at any given moment, and can choose whatever I'm in the mood for.
The one thing I would say is that I do have to dump books sometimes due to space. That's no bad thing, there's not a hell of a lot of books that I actually want to keep forever.
For me, I'll pay more for an ebook than a paperback because it's a more valuable format for me. Aside from being more compact and searchable, I can select a larger font. If it's more valuable, why shouldn't it cost more?
One thing we do agree on though is that DRM on books should be banned. At the absolute minimum, it should have a failsafe built in so that users never lose their books and when copyright expires, all protection is removed.
There's also an element of being taken for a ride here. I can afford the $8 snickers bar from the minibar in the hotel, but I won't buy it because I feel like someone is taking the piss. Attempting to use their position to extort me.
Same for ebooks. When your costs are lower, but you're charging more, I'm not going to buy the book because though I can afford the book I feel like I'm being somehow extorted.
For ebooks, you can reduce your distribution costs (there's some cost of creating the file and distributing it, but you don't have shipping costs or returns), but of course you still need to make back your fixed costs. I manage ebook production for a university publisher (but I have no say on pricing decisions, only the technical stuff), and for us, the savings for ebooks doesn't really translate into a big price difference, because our fixed costs are such a large part of our expenses. In our market, ebooks still don't amount to a big percentage of sales, because the reader technology doesn't provide enough support for complex books.
I do argue as much as I can against DRM, but so far I have lost that fight.
I don't think that's always true. The cost to print and ship hard cover vs paperback books is less than the price difference between the two.
When the market structure of a good results in full competition, then the cost of a good is going to tend toward the cost of producing the good plus basic profit (if a company raises prices past this, another company can enter the market to produce the good more cheaply).
When the market structure of a good involves an effective monopoly, the cost will tend to whatever price the monopoly thinks will generate the most total profit (and that depends on the supply curve).
Naturally, you have markets that inbetween these two poles (economists talk about oligopolies and "monopolistic competition").
As far as what the price of books should be, if you think of a publisher as naturally having monopoly since each book is unique, then it makes sense for ebooks to not cost less. But if you imagine a look of books could be substituted for other books (one c++ manual versus another) then it makes sense for the price of ebooks to be less than that of regular books.
Of course, goods fall on a commodity range. Some things are entirely fungible, others less so. The less fungible a good is, the more the cost can move away from the cost to produce.
Books sound like they aren't fungible - after all one title isn't an exact replacement for another. But, they are quite fungible in the sense that one murder mystery can in some sense substitute for another.
Very few things are not fungible at all.
A physical library can be browsed, including by a visitor, and serve a useful social purpose.
I often find it interesting to see what books someone has on their shelves, and it can lead to interesting discussions. I can't recall a time when I've discussed the contents of a Kindle library with someone.
The fact that you have to store print books is a factor in why they can be cheaper. It costs money to maintain inventory - both the physical costs associated with warehousing those books, and the opportunity costs associated with devoting space to them instead of other books you might sell more profitably.
That creates an incentive to cut costs on books that aren't moving quickly, in order to get them out of your warehouse. No such incentive exists for ebooks, so the incentive to keep on charging the sticker price in order to keep yourself out of a JC Penny's situation becomes relatively stronger.
Not to say that this isn't a valid reason to like print books. Just wanted to point out there can be legitimate economic reasons for this sort of situation.
I don't buy ebooks at amazon.
I have hundreds of books in my collection. You will never catch me buying a book with drm on it. Get drm-free ebooks from a store or from project Gutenberg-type places.
The things I like about Kindle are:
1. Reading at night. This is number one reason for me. With Popsocket on back, I can hold Kindle for hours in bed. Without Popsocket, it is awkward to hold while laying down.
2. Waterproof. You can read paper books in hot tub or pool too, so this is not that important.
3. Personal Documents. You can send pretty much any text/blog post to your Kindle via browser plugin. A lot of reading I do at night is blog posts.
4. Text to Speech. When I really want to be lazy, this is great then.
A few years ago when my Kindle Keyboard died, I tried going back to paper books 100% but I didn't read as much as I was reading on Kindle. So I am back on Kindle with the assumption that I will lose all my books sooner or later.
If I like the book or the book has valuable illustration done in color I will purchase the physical copy, otherwise backing up my calibre library according to 3-2-1 is easy peasy.
They dont want to loose money? I don't want to loose my book!
I must be very self entitled for downloading a digital representation of a book which I have paid for.
And that point is?
I'm well aware that you can fit lots of ebooks in one device, but so far I've not been particularly limited by the information density of regular books.
I use ebooks for books I think it's less likely that I'll reread, when I can get a bargain.
I can go on Amazon and find ebooks that are cheaper, the same price, and more expensive than the print versions.
I don't know enough about blockchain to know whether that's actually feasible but it was the first proposed use I've come across that seemed like it might actually have potential.
1) They take a lot of space. I have bookshelf's full of them.
2) They can get damaged by humidity and mold.
3) I am prospecting travelling/moving/migrating, and I will likely sell/donate my books in this case.
That being said I want to support the authors I read, and wish I could buy the digital book directly from the author (100% of the money goes to him/her), and get an electronic copy.
If they don't include the ebook in a suitable format I'll just pirate it.