Friday, May 23, 2014

How Should I Buy My Books

I put off my scheduled review post for today in order to ask a question about buying books. This has been knocking around in my brain for a while now, but never strongly enough to get me to change my ways. But with the recent Amazon-Hachette craziness, it's gotten to the point where I feel like I have to do something.

I've mentioned before here on the blog and elsewhere that I read ebooks on my phone almost exclusively. I have various reasons for doing this. It's convenient. I like always having a book in my pocket no matter where I am. It's easier to keep my curious toddlers from destroying one object than a billion. Paper books take up space we don't have in our house. I enjoy being able to read about a book on a blog or tweet or whatever and have it instantly, no matter what time or day it happens to be. I like being able to get new books without having to go anywhere, since getting to the bookstore is tough when you have two toddlers and don't have regular access to a car. And unlike television, I can read whatever I want while my kids play without having to worry about warping their developing little minds or something.

One of the things I haven't regularly mentioned though, is that all those ebooks I read come, either through direct purchase or by checking them out from my library, from Amazon. I used to shop around for ebooks, buying from Amazon, B&N, Fictionwise, etc. But I hated that.

I don't particularly enjoy price shopping. And I really didn't like having my books all over the place. Some I could read in the Kindle app, some only in Overdrive. Some books were stored on the cloud, but others had to be downloaded to my computer and then transferred to my phone. And I absolutely hated that I couldn't have one unified bookshelf where all my books were together when I was looking for something.

It just didn't work for me. So I looked at it and, since I was buying most of my books from Amazon (price was my only deciding factor at that point and Amazon usually had the lowest price), and since my library had just introduced the format for checking out their books, I decided to just go with Amazon for all my reading.

For the most part, I love it. I read so much more now than I ever did before. Yay ebooks! Kindle is my bestest friend!

But there have been things that have concerned me. There was the thing with the pricing models and loss leaders. Removing the buy buttons from Macmillan books a few years back brought to mind that old rumor Amazon might someday just take away all the books I'd already bought. I don't really like the fact that no one seems to know how they come up with their recommendations or rankings. And vertical integration worries me, so the fact that Amazon controls a huge chunk of the bookselling market and is now also acting as a publisher leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

This latest thing with Hachette isn't new. Amazon has been the 8,000lb gorilla for a while and they obviously love every minute of it. This is just the latest extension of that. But it's maybe going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back for me. I think I'd like to stop buying my books there.

So here's what I want to know: what's the better option?

Wait. Before you answer, let me say this. Don't tell me to start buying all hardcovers from an indie bookstore or something, because I'm not going to do it. This isn't the right space to open up a debate about digital versus print. That's not the question I'm asking.

I want to keep reading ebooks. I want to read them on my phone, which is an Android device, so I don't have to cart around and keep my kids away from yet another gizmo. I don't want to have to shop around at ten different stores to find the ones I want. I don't want to have to pay twice as much for them either. I don't want to have to download them one place, store them another, and read them in a third. And I'd rather not make this switch to another retailer only to find out in six months that I'm in the same boat again, either because now they're the ones trying to beat the business into submission, or because they've given up and decided to just exit the ebook business.

In short, I'm lazy and selfish, and I want to have my cake and eat it too. So where can I get all, or at least most, of the things I'm currently getting by buying my books from Amazon, without feeding them any more of my money?

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