CS and the City Sean Lynch

My Kindle’s Biggest Problem

To be fair, the problem isn’t so much one of the Kindle’s. It’s more of a problem with books. I’ve had PDF books for years. PDFs were the cheaper method of getting textbooks for classes that were not always useful and they were often the only source of technical documentation in the days before Amazon (did I just date myself?). Over these same years, I bought many more books. To me, the physical copy of the book was absolutely preferred over reading on a computer. That all changed with the Kindle (and presumably for eBook readers before it).

After centuries, books are about to have their very first format transitions. Here comes that famous blogger hyperbole: Print is obsolete.

You’ve probably been through at least one of these before: Buying Blu-ray to replace DVDs that replaced VHS only a few years before it or upgrading from vinyl to cassette to CD to MP3 in a matter of a few decades). Each transition becomes increasingly costly for consumers as their libraries tend to get larger over time.

What remains to be seen is whether book authors will gorge on users paying to convert their library or, perhaps having felt the pain of format obsolescence for themselves, allow their fans to enjoy the content they already have a legal right to for free. I’m certainly being an idealist but I’m hoping its the latter. Time for some empirical evidence.

The Experiment
I have a small number of books on a range of subjects sitting my to-read queue. All are in various stages of completion. I would rather continue to read using my fancy new device, but I’m very opposed to purchasing a new digital copy when I have a perfectly readable analog copy.

To this end, I propose the following experiment:

I will email each of the books’ authors with a simple proposition: I will return my copy of the book to the author (or give it to a friend, second hand store, whatever is the author’s preference), and in exchange, I will ask them to give me a digital copy of the book. I’d love if they were able to gift me the Kindle version, but I will take any digital version they have and do they heavy lifting to get it onto the Kindle. They are, or course, free to reject my offer (as I expect most will).