Ron Sparks Author, Poet

The Problems with eBooks

The Barnes and Noble Nook
The Barnes and Noble Nook

I love my Nook.

I can, on my one device, store thousands of books.  I can shop for and purchase new books from anywhere I can get a cellular signal.  I can download hundreds of free books to read.

Before I purchased my nook, I was reading eBooks on my iPhone with both the Barnes and Noble app and the Kindle app.

Prior to that I would download from Project Gutenberg, download to my Treo, and read public domain books all day long.

I am a huge fan of electronic books.  They are convenient, sometimes cheaper than the printed alternative, and they are easier on the environment in the long run.  Especially for a book fanatic like myself who reads more than a dozen books each month.  My bookshelves, always straining from the overload, are thankful as well.  A single eReader contains my entire library.

As convenient as they are, though, they are not perfect.  I have some pretty significant issues with the current generation of eReaders.  Let me detail them to you:

  1. You can’t buy a specific book as a gift for someone.
    If I wanted to purchase the new Stephen Hawking book for my buddy, who has a nook or Kindle, I can’t do it.  I can buy a gift card that they can use for anything they want, but I cannot buy them an electronic version of the book.  One of the most beloved gifts in the world is the gift of a book – a specific book and not a gift card.  It shows that the person buying the book really wants you to read this specific book, that they thought of you when they bought it, and that somehow it is relevant to you and your life.
  2. You can’t give a book away to a friend.
    I know that the nook has a new “Lend Me” feature, which allows you to loan a book to a friend for 14 days, but that’s not the same as gifting a book you have already read to a friend.   If I buy a printed book today, I could read it and then give it to a friend, permanently.   I have no way to do that with the eBooks I buy.  From a business perspective it’s great, because it means more sales over time, but it also prohibits adoption rates.
  3. E-Book prices are still high
    The entire production printing costs of an e-book are gone.  They don’t exist.  Digital delivery of the book means no trees are killed.  The cost of paper, printing, ink, etc are all gone.  And yet, “paperback” book still cost the same.  if a paperback book at the store costs $7.99, it’s a fair bet that it will be $7.99 as an e-book.  That’s all pure profit for the publisher, who was already making money on the printed version.  Why should I save money only on “hardcovers?”  I should get a net savings on EVERY book I buy electronically.

e-Books are wonderful.  I love them and I wholly support them.  They technology is still maturing, though, and I know we have a few more generations before it really becomes a force to be reckoned with.  With the Kindle, nook, and iPad becoming affordable and ubiquitous, we will see the technology grow into what we accept it to be.

You get what you settle for; a saying that my father always quoted at me (oft-times to my frustration).  I want my ebooks to be just like a regular book.  They are mine, to give away or gift as I see fit.  Right now the technology limits my choices and I want change to happen.  I want to buy my sister a specific book for her Kindle.  I want to give a book way that I have read to a friend.  I want to pay less for my books.

What about you?

About the author

Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on

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  • I agree on all counts. e-Books should be treated exactly like physical books when it comes to giving away and lending. When the 14-day limit on lending a book? And did I see you can only lend a book once? The only reason for these limitations is the (misguided??) assumption that it will lead to more book sales.

Ron Sparks Author, Poet

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Ron Sparks

Ron Sparks is a technology professional, science fiction and fantasy author and poet living in Zurich, Switzerland. His latest book "ONI: Satellite Earth Series Book 1" is available on


A man of many passions, I lay claim to a myriad of interests and hobbies. Among them, I am an amateur astronomer, an avid motorcycle rider, a whiskey aficionado, a (poor) surfer, a scuba diver, a martial artist, a student of philosophy, a proponent of critical thinking, a technologist, an entrepreneur, a cancer survivor, and I harbor a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy. Feel free to strike up a conversation on the social networks below.

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