Books as a Service

An interesting thing has happened as I have started buying ebooks instead of paper books. I no longer think of a book as a product, but as a service. When I compare two companies selling the same ebook, the level of service is more important to me. The content is, of course, the same.

Owning a book gives me a feeling of ownership, and I am old enough to appreciate the value of a physical object. However, when I look around my house at the number of books I own, and I think about how many I get around to reading in a year, I have to admit that I am using my paper books more for insulation than reading material. And I have enough insulation.

“Buying” an e-book is a different experience. In many ways it is more primitive. I don’t buy a piece of pulped wood to put on a shelf, I’m buying the story and the way it makes me feel, like emotion is being transmitted to my electronically. However, I find I get really picky about how that feeling is transmitted.

Plus, I like the ability to take my entire library wherever I go.

On the other hand, I’ve had to give up the illusion of permanency that paper books provide. Sure, any ebook provider might go away in 5 years, have the servers seized by the FBI, get shut down by PayPal, or just decide to close down their ebook division. But then again, I could have a pipe burst and destroy all my paper books as well.

There are many pluses and minuses to the services provided by different book providers, but at the end of the day, they are all every similar. Personally, I chose a Kindle, because I like Amazon’s online store better than Barnes and Noble’s, and I like the ability to wirelessly send books to my device. However, now that the bulk of my ebooks are Kindle books, I’d just as soon keep buying them there and keeping my book in the Kindle cloud.

Oh, that’s the other thing. Every Kindle book I “own” is stored on Amazon’s servers. I could buy an ebook from Google, Apple, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble, and that book would be put in my cloud for those services, but as my technology is very Amazon-centric, I’d just as soon just use Amazon’s cloud.

An anecdotal statement:
I bought a book from Smashwords once with the intention of “side-loading” it on my Kindle. To this day, I haven’t loaded it. It’s like an electronic orphan. When I’m looking for a new book, I look at what I have on the Kindle. It’s about workflow as much as anything else.

In many ways, I think buying a Kindle is a lot like supporting for the New York Giants*. Even if they do some things you don’t like, you already have so much merchandise. You have Giants hats and Giants jerseys. You just bought that leather sofa with the Giants logo on the back. Sure, lately you’ve been thinking of supporting Green Bay–you like the romance of the underdog, and they’ve been having a good season. But at the end of the day, you just have too much money tied up in the Giants.

* I know nothing about sports, but that will become evident in a moment.

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