Bibelots

a place for the curious

Tag: kindle

Who owns this book?

A question about unread books was posted on twitter today. It gave me pause for thought:


There’s little doubt that this question has more to do with hoarding than reading, but for me it soon became a question about ownership.

Wisely, Octavia (@ReadSleepRepeat) was careful to include e-books. If she’d just said ‘books’, I could have cheated by trying to interpret that as ‘paper books’, before walking around my house counting a few dozen unread books*.

Thinking of all my copyright-free e-books, I asked Octavia whether her query was also about books you get for free — the answer was a resounding yes.

Uh-oh.

With that answer my slightly-smug feeling of  ‘I don’t have too many unread books’ started draining away.

library, black and white photo

Books, beautiful books
National Library of Norway

Here’s my problem. When I’m bored I’ll trawl through places like Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive, searching for things that sound curious, intriguing or, at least, eminently readable. There are now hundreds and hundreds of tiny, little book bibelots, stored on my kindle and computer, waiting my possible perusal or swift reference.

Do I own these books? Of course not. Not in any financial sense. Do the ones I love belong to me as much as any book I’ve paid money for? I guess the answer has to be yes.

The question then becomes one of whether these great hoards of digital books can be counted. And to that I can say a resounding ‘not in this lifetime’. It’s just not possible. While I’m at it I might as well try and count all the pages on the internet. These books keep going out of copyright, getting uploaded and being downloaded.

It’s around about now that it all gets a little philosophical. Just who owns what anyway?

Octavia’s question was a good one as it got me to thinking. A wonderful outcome on any day. But, ultimately, it’s just not the question I want to answer. Ask me this:

What’s still out there that you haven’t yet managed to read?

The answer is, of course, everything. I can’t ever own all of it, but it’s all there. And, so, here I am. With the universe and everything in it still left to read.

 

* Is it just me or does the phrase ‘unread books’ conjure up images of story-less books roaming the midnight streets looking for words to devour. … No? Just me, then?

The disconnected e-reader

or… ‘Why my Kindle is never getting connected to Amazon’

Last year, I was delighted to win myself a Kindle, thanks to a little competition the RiAus was running.

It was a grand thing to win, as I’d long wanted to buy myself an e-reader anyway. I would have preferred a non-vendor specific e-reader, but a free book is a free book, electronic or not.
Once I had my Kindle, I loaded it up with books from the lush and wonderful Project Gutenberg.

Interlude: If you’ve not heard of Project Gutenberg and you love books, you’re about to be made very happy. One day I’ll set aside some time to write more about the splendid Project. But that’s for another day, so I’ll pop that thought in the ideas box for now.

I also have a number of purchased e-books and PDFs that I loaded onto the Kindle as well.  I’ve several hundred books on it now and, while you can’t read several hundred books at once, you may – at any given time – be in the mood for any one of them.  It’s rather delightful to have all that choice with me wherever I go.

Of course, my local bookstore should not despair.  I will always buy real, papery, beautiful books.  I love the way they look, feel and and make me feel.  I’ll save my pennies for the hardcovers, the special editions and the illustrated beauties.  And I’ll have no need to sully these treasures by lumping them around in my backpack for the day.  That’s the job of an e-reader.

And, so, with such an ardent love of books, why not connect to Amazon?

I value my privacy, but there’s nothing to hide.  There’s not a single book I’m ashamed to have read.  Not even the ones I regret reading (because I could have spent the time reading something better).  A book’s a book.  It’s full of words and has things to say.

I have long been troubled by what Amazon – and others – might do with my information.  It’s clear they have your information, it’s how they inform you of ‘what else you might like to read’.  That, for some, seems harmless enough in itself and very helpful.  But it’s the other end of the book process that troubles me.  It’s how, in the long term, it might affect the publishing, if not the writing, of your next book.

Is your e-reader trying to ‘read’ you?

As Mike Rekai points out, your e-reader is watching you.  It watches how you read, what you skip and what you appear to find boring.

One question that publishers want to know is do readers ‘skip certain chapters?’ In my case, that’s a big yes.  But it’s often because I’m reading the book in more than one way.  In the case of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for example, I read that on the Kindle when commuting or in a cafe and then, once home again, I brought out the beautiful hardcover version and read it without fear of ruin or loss.  Back to the Kindle: skip a few chapters ahead. Repeat.

While not every book reader does this, it illustrates my point. Just because the publishers think they know how you read, doesn’t mean they know why you do what you do. Skipping ahead doesn’t necessarily mean you were bored.

And even if I were bored, I might come back to it later, when my mood suited that particular book. Or maybe I was searching for a particular reference. There are all sorts of reasons that we do what do when we read. The publishers first need to stay out of our heads and, second, not use this information to influence authors.

What these possibly false presumptions might mean for books in the future is quite worrying.  Imagine future aspiring authors. For them, there is no ‘room of their own’, but a crowded auditorium with suggestions from every corner.

When I’m writing, I don’t like to feel like I have the reader over my shoulder.
— Kelly Armstrong, MacLeans.ca article

And, while it’s great for me that my Kindle has not connected up, that’s no comfort to the rest of the readers out there.  Books should be the one place you can feel adventurous and free, lost in both the words and world of another.

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