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E-books, Piracy and the ‘To Be Read’ Pile

8 December, 2010

Like most writers and voracious readers in general, I have a fairly large pile of books waiting to be read: the ‘to be read’ pile referred to in the title. In my case, it takes up a single shelf on my bookcase, but is piled up any which way, unlike the meticulous arrangement of the rest of the shelves. Just looking at that shelf is enough to make me feel guilty. It’s the reason I haven’t bought any new books in months (feel my pain!). It’s the reason I finish books that are a bit boring and which I would otherwise take months over. I want to cut that pile down to size and I’m making a good effort to do so.

I also have a similarly large collection of books waiting on my e-reader, both fantasy novels and historical classics. That Classic Reads section I was hoping to start? All the books are on there, or on my computer waiting to be transferred across. And there’s the problem, the reason why I haven’t yet started Classic Reads as I’d promised. That particular collection of books is not stacked up haphazardly in my living room. They exist only in electronic form and as such are almost invisible. Looking at my Sony Reader doesn’t inspire the same guilt in me that looking at my bookshelf does.

I have no idea why this is. The content of the books is just the same, be they hard copy or electronic. There’s just something about seeing books piled up that triggers something in my brain. Their physicality makes me treat them differently and in fact give them precedence over the e-books.

It is, I suppose, a question of value. E-books appear transient and yes, invisible. This is perhaps why some people feel that pirating e-books is perfectly acceptable, though they would never dream of walking out of a bookshop with a paperback hidden under their coat. There are lots of factors involved in piracy, of course: e-book prices, ease, the lack of accountability (and I think the latter two are bigger factors, no matter what the pirates try to claim about the cost of e-books). But I think the lack of value that’s associated with e-books is also part of it.

I think, over time, e-books will come to be just as important as their physical counterparts. I think it’s already happened for the most part with music and to a lesser extent films – books just seem to be lagging behind. For my part, I’m going to try to remember all those e-books when I’m deciding what next to read. Just because they’re not cluttering up my living room doesn’t make them any less important.

  1. 8 December, 2010 12:46 pm

    Good! Because we ebook authors certainly think our books are important! 🙂

    • 9 December, 2010 10:37 am

      Hi, Tia! I think the increasing number of publishers and imprints specialising in ebooks is going to help make the market more important. It certainly helps that presses like Carina are putting out such high quality ebooks, with beautiful covers.

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