As thousands of you already know, BarnesandNoble.com recently launched its eBooks store and just yesterday sent out a mass email (Free B&N eReader -- Plus 6 eBooks on Us!) offering up a free eReader application for personal computers, iPhones and BlackBerry devices. The Barnes & Noble eReader gives readers access to 700,000 titles!
I browsed through all of BarnesandNoble.com’s science fiction and fantasy eBook offerings and was pleasantly surprised: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Skin Trade, From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris, Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, Simon R. Green’s The Man with the Golden Torc, and hundreds of other releases from authors like James Patterson, Terry Brooks, Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Karen Chance, Guy Gavriel Kay, the list goes on and on.
It looks like most eBooks are selling between $7.99 and $9.99 apiece – essentially the cost of a paperback – and readers don’t have to waste time and money driving to a brick-and-mortar bookstore to get their literary fix. They only have to press a button on their keyboard and within seconds, they have a completely downloaded book.
This idea of electronic books has been around for decades but it never seemed to be universally embraced by the reading public. But, as Dylan so brilliantly put it almost 50 years ago, the times they are a-changin’ and it seems like the world is finally ready for downloadable books. It’s a divisive topic though – I know quite a few fellow reviewers who refuse to write reviews using eBooks, they want a book in their hands. But I also have friends who travel quite a bit and these eBooks are a godsend for them. Instead of lugging around two or three hardcovers, all they need is their laptop or BlackBerry.
There’s also the economic and ecological aspect – how much money does it cost publishers to print and ship hundreds of thousands of books? Not to mention the time and money spent by bookstores to box and return old titles? And how many trees are destroyed to create these books? It seems to me that eBooks are a no-brainer when it comes to saving money and saving the planet…
…but what about singular experience readers have holding a book, soaking in the cover art and design, smelling the pages, etc? Will reading an electronic book diminish the experience? Or is this the shape of things to come? As a science fiction fan, I think this innovation is exciting – and I’m really thrilled that BarnesandNoble.com is jumping in the deep end with it – but there’s something about it that makes me melancholic as well. Instead of bookshelves, we’re just going to have a folder on our computer containing all of our old downloads.
Are books eventually going to disappear – like the vinyl record and the daily newspaper and the woolly mammoth? I hope not…. I don't think that I could live without books. They've become an integral part of my existence. I'm all for eBooks as an optional format – I love the concept, in fact, and know that there is definitely a growing market for downloadable books – but personally, if I had the choice, I'd prefer a real book. I can't imagine downloading a new release that I've been really looking forward to reading, wrapping myself up in my favorite blanket and curling up on the couch with my laptop. Does that make me a Neanderthal? If so, point me to the nearest cave...