Eli Dourado

e-book miscellany

  1. I very much want a Kindle, but…
  2. I am afraid of being locked into a vendor or technology. I currently buy almost all my books from Amazon.com with very little comparison shopping because I know that Amazon faces a pretty elastic demand curve. If I buy a Kindle, I will have only one source for in-copyright books, and Amazon may not always have an incentive to keep prices low. If I invest in a Kindle library, then I will always have to have a Kindle, even if some superior e-book reader comes along.
  3. Digital rights management is such a pain. My current book-reading habits include “borrowing” books from parental libraries. Non-transferability is the reason that e-books are so cheap relative to regular books, but I think I would rather pay full book price for an e-book if it included full rights of resale and transfer. The hypothetical used e-book market would of course be more efficient and liquid than the used paper book market, due to lower transaction costs.
  4. Of course, even if I bought a Kindle, nothing would stop me from raiding parental paper book libraries.
  5. From what I understand, Amazon has not yet perfected the within-household e-book syncing paradigm. Suppose I have an iPhone with the Kindle app on it, and both I and my wife have Kindles. Amazon offers an optional service that syncs the last page you were on across devices, so I can start a book on my Kindle and pick up in the same place on my iPhone if I am standing in line somewhere. As it stands (correct me if I am wrong), I cannot sync just my iPhone and my Kindle without syncing my wife’s Kindle also. This is troubling since there are several books in my house with both His and Hers bookmarks in them.
  6. The existence of e-books makes me wish even more that copyright terms were shorter, say, 20 years. Every book published before 1990 would be a free download, and I doubt that the incentive to write books would be too adversely impacted.
  7. There ought to be a way to upgrade my paper book library into a digital library. I mail a book back to the publisher and they give me a free e-book of the same title. Provided I pay the shipping costs and a small fee for processing, why should they be unwilling to do this? Taking a used book out of circulation means more new book sales.
  8. Think about e-books, the real estate market, and Caplan’s Jock/Nerd theory of history. Crudely, assume every nerd has a room in his house devoted to books, and every jock does not read or own books. Other things equal, nerds will need larger houses. Now e-books come along, and nerds can fit that entire room into one or two e-book readers. This is a change that benefits nerds to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in real estate costs alone. To the extent that nerds demand less housing, it could result in lower housing prices for jocks as well, but this effect would be modest compared to the effect on nerd welfare. The invention of e-books is the revenge of the nerds.