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The Unbearable Uncertainty Of Ebooks
A book, printed on paper, bound in leather or glued together is a comforting thing. You can put it on a shelf, and it won’t go anywhere. If you scrawl in the margins, it will remain. If you leave it in a dry place and don’t drop any water, fire or bombs on it, it might even survive hundreds of years without any effort!
Ebooks on the other hand can’t boast such a certain fate. In fact, it’s rather difficult to pin them down. They change their fonts and paragraphs on a reader’s whim, they fill the pages horizontally or vertically, they move from smartphone to desktop to ereader, they seem to be in constant motion and transformation.
The books you purchased on your Kindle, for example, where are they? In the “cloud”, they say. Which sort of means that they’re everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time.
We don’t have a clue if people in the future will treat PDFs or ePUB files in the same way our archeologists look at ancient Sumerian clay tablets, for example.
Ebooks: Little Quantum Critters
Some people hate ebooks for that. They don’t want their tomes to act like Schroedinger’s Cat, all uncertain and shifting between existence and non-existence like flickering lightbulbs. They want something solid and reliable which doesn’t change once you look away or accidentally press a button.
And while I do sympathize with the general sentiment to preserve and conserve the time-tested, fighting ebooks seems a rather Quixotic attempt.
It is often said that we live in ‘uncertain times’. And while this may or may not be true (haven’t people always claimed that their times were the worst?) uncertainty surely has some great advantages.
One of them is flexibility. Another one is ubiquity.
These are among the reasons why ebooks are an increasingly popular alternative to paper books.
The flexibility part I already discussed above (changing fonts, size, paragraphs, etc.). But what about ubiquity?
Instead of lugging around cardboard boxes full of dictionaries and paperback novels the next time you move, you can put all of them on your ereader, slip it into your pocket and be done with it. And if they’re in the cloud, there’s no need to even carry a device. A username and password is enough.
Unfortunately, there are some barriers to this ubiquity. These barriers however are more of an economic and political than a technical kind.
For example, if you buy a book over at Amazon it may not be that easy (or almost impossible) to copy it to a different device such as Kobo or Sony Reader which, of course, use different formats.
Luckily, software like Calibre makes it relatively easy to convert and transfer your tomes above and beyond artificial platform boundaries, but the ebook market of today can nevertheless be confounding with its different formats, prices, devices and (arbitrary) limitations.
From a publishing perspective it gets especially confusing once you try to decide on what platforms and under what conditions you want to place a work while taking all your different readers (who own different ereading devices) into consideration.
Therefore, I’m happy to announce that after days of intense code-wrangling and database-tinkering we now have a completely revamped bookshop, in which you can find all our publications in all their available formats at one comforting glance! (After all, with all this uncertainty, it’s nice to have things organized a bit, don’t you think?)
If you have any suggestions, wishes, etc, please do tell us!
img: Some rights reserved by h.koppdelaney