As I am waiting for my Kindle ebook reader to arrive, I am pondering the topic of copyright, print books, ebooks, assistive technology, etc.
The decision to switch to a dedicated ebook reader came after struggling with a hard cover book – big, heavy, and awkward to hold. This is especially so because of the arthritis affecting my hands. It is very sad when you aren’t able to read for more than a few minutes without being distracted from the read when you have pain in your hands, and you can’t hold the book.
eBook Readers As Assistive Technology
One of the big issue discussed with ebooks is the ability to have text-to-speech enabled for people who are blind, have low-vision or generally have buggered vision. The availibility of books for them has generally been dismal – being able to take any ebook generated for the general public and have the ebook reader read the book aloud is a huge improvement. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing fight – many books come with Digital Rights Management (DRM) that prevent the text-to-speech functions of a device.
But the needs of people such as me, who have difficulties actually holding books, but no problem with vision, are often forgotten. Heck! I felt guilty at purchasing a Kindle, with its proprietary format, etc. But a good friend reminded me that an ebook is an assistive technology, and should be viewed as such. He pointed out that independent living doesn’t have to be completely prevented – that there are "niggling little things that can be a real pain in the bum".
And that is something we too often forget. Reducing the amount of little things can make a big difference at the end of the day.
Baen Books Offers Free eBooks to People With Disabilities
This is a wonderful offer, which I’ve enjoyed and been careful not to abuse. I’ve spoken about my experience with the programme earlier this year. While I wish more publishers adopted a similar policy, I can understand why they would be concerned.
I May Need To Buy Books I Already Own Again
I am an avid reader. I read mostly fiction. My collection of print book fits in several boxes. Most of it is in boxes because I ran out of shelf space! I also have a lot of cookbooks, and other books that aren’t directly cookbooks, but are related to food in general. And I love those books. I enjoy every aspect of a well made book – including the look, the feel, the smell, even. But I don’t often get to enjoy them, because handling these books is painful.
I re-read a few of the books I already own. Some are good reference books. Some are favourite fiction I read again and again. While I probably wouldn’t need all my books available in ebook, I’ll probably end up having to buy several of them again, this time in ebook format.
But I Already Own This Book, Right?
So, I own all these books. Many of these books have now been made available in ebook format. It would be nice if I could get the ebook version without having to pay again. I own the book – I just need it in a format I can use. It’s not a question of convenience – if that were the case, I wouldn’t mind. It is a question of the "niggly little things" that compile into a problem at the end of the day.
Buy Print Copy – Get Free eBook
Wouldn’t it be great if when you purchase a print copy of a book, you’d get the ebook version for free? Makes sense to me.
Not that I expect publishers to see it that way. But it does make sense. If you pay for the hard copy, you get a free ebook. If you buy the ebook version, at reduced cost, you don’t get the hard copy. It wouldn’t really cost the publisher any more (I don’t think), but it would make life more convienent for most people.
And it would help those of us who have bodies falling apart.
Alas! Even were this to be implemented tomorrow, it wouldn’t help for the masses of books I already own in print.