If I were Oprah, eBooks would be my new favorite thing. For a list of their virtues, look anywhere on the Internet; you'll find such a list several times over. Promise. These are why eBooks are my favorite thing, and as a voracious reader, I consume them the way my dog consumes food: as often and in as large a quantity as I am able. As much as I love them, I've identified two problems with eBooks.
UPDATE: I read an article where Google has been in a court case trying to get rights to set up a subscription system for years. So it's possible this came from having read about that previously in some way. My over-point of "We need a subscription system for books" stands. Let's get on this people. I want to read, and I don't want to go bankrupt doing it!
The first problem I have identified is the cost. Charging paperback level rates for a copy of a file you already created for your printing process is ridiculous, if immensely profitable. As much as I would like to see publishers wake up and realize that their volume would probably go up if they dropped the price a few dollars, it's not likely to happen soon.
Second, unlike the CD that you can rip with minimal effort to obtain an mp3 copy, it is damned time consuming to scan in a book you own, never mind the imperfections in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. And by damned time consuming I mean not really feasible at all. So we have a problem, because I have a library of books that I love - hefty paper volumes with covers, dust jackets, and words in them. I also have an eReader, with a protective cover and enough storage to hold my personal library several times over with room still for some games and a few songs. Most of my library are readily available in digital form, the work of digitizing the volumes already handled by the publisher, with both publisher and author making money from people buying these books who might not previously have owned them. I can't see paying for a book I already own.
To circumvent these two problems, I suggest a tiered subscription system similar to those for music or movies on the Internet. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google, whomever has or can get the rights and the files for distribution of these books should be able to implement this quickly enough with a small team of developers:
- The bottom tier is the ad-supported free level. Every tenth page is an ad, and the bottom of each page has an ad bar across it. Sure it's advertising while you're trying to read, but people need to be paid! A concession would limit the number of books one can thus read in a month.
- Tier two would cost a few dollars a month. No ads, maybe fewer ads if need be, and you can read more books.
- Tier three would cost more, but no more than $10 a month, I would think. Probably $9.99. You can read as much as you want, no ads.
Amazon already makes it possible to share books you have via their Kindle (and Kindle App), and sites like Lendle (of whom I am a paid supporter) are making it even easier to share those books across the world, but there is still room for a subscription plan for people who love to read, as I do. Hopefully someone is working on this and I am merely preminiscient. Maybe someone reads this and runs with it. Maybe I get a free lifetime subscription for thinking up the idea. Just sayin'.