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Thoughts on eBooks

In my previous post, I mentioned that my wife had gotten me a Kindle Fire for Christmas and that I read nearly every day on it. It is no surprise to me that this morning, while going through my News Reader, I happened upon this article over at Coding Horror. He discusses the pros and cons of both printed and eBooks and summarizes his thoughts thusly:

“Because I love words, I want to love eBooks. I want to buy lots and lots of eBooks. But unless the publishers are willing to treat eBooks with the same respect and care that they give to their printed books – and most importantly of all, adjust their pricing to reflect the brave new economy of bits, and not an antiquated economy of atoms – they’re destined to eventually suffer the same fate as the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

I, too, have noticed that the quality of the eBooks i’ve purchased are less median. To a large degree, my expectation while reading was that I’d be getting a high-quality item. Admittedly, most of the books i’ve read so far are not oriented towards large graphical items. Some might have a few tables or small images, but for the most part they are complementary and not required of the items being read for understanding.

That said, you can absolutely tell when a publisher has cared about their eBook. For instance, take this book: Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Quick Christian Guide to the Mormon Holy Book. The tables, images, and chapter headings rendered perfectly. The images showed up, the footnotes worked, and the book itself was formatted properly overall. Compared to, say, The Book of Revelation Made Easy. Even the comments on this book reflect the poor quality of the book on the Kindle. While the book was ultimately readable, quotes did not render properly and the tables sometimes did not render properly across pages.

The free books are far worse. The chapter headings do not work. Footnotes (if any) usually never function. Images are missing. The table of contents does not link accurately. It is as if someone took the text of the book, used notepad to edit it, and then exported it to an eBook without any testing. Granted, they are free, but when free mean low quality? And that low quality without the paid books having impeccable quality.

I do enjoy and will continue to purchase eBooks. However, feedback to publishers about the lack of quality in those electronically published copies needs to be strong and flowing if we are ever going to see the quality of those eBooks go up.