I have a few friends in a never-ending book swap. Kathy and I leave books on each other's doorstep, and Carole and I trade huge armfuls when we visit.
I'm sure publishers and booksellers are aghast at such activity. Loaning books? Where's the profit in that?
I will tell you: it's in the magic of finding a new author, in reading a book I might otherwise not have picked up myself, in introducing another friend to another author. The initial profit is low for the bookseller, but the long-term benefits are grand.
It's like borrowing a book at the library that turns into a sale: if I know I will love it, I will purchase my own copy so David and I both can read it at our leisure. It's like picking up a paperback at the second-hand shop: more eyes garner more purchases of current, past and future titles.
Apparently Amazon recently figured out this whole scam for its e-books — and implemented a lending program amongst its Kindles. Rules are strict and Amazon creates its own restrictions. Like computer software, access to an e-book can be controlled by the very machine that makes it available.
Now, a book's life does not end when its pages are warped and its spine bloated from being dropped one too many times in the pool, or the 40-year-old paperback that loses its pages, one by one, on a windy day at Dewey Beach.
Instead, the "real" owner cuts off access, or removes it entirely, from your library without your permission. 1984 or Animal Farm, anyone? No, really: Amazon erased these Orwell titles from Kindles in July 2009; read the New York Times article.
I watched a woman reading an e-book in great comfort today at the bagel shop, and I wondered what it would be like to have a large portion of my library digitized. This isn't idle fancy: Carole and I will finish packing those very tomes this weekend, and I lost count of the total number of boxes — in part because a portion of my library already is in storage in anticipation of my upcoming move.
Would my life be substantially different if a slim machine held 3,600 titles for me? Sure.
With a Kindle, I couldn't have a stack of books at Carole's house, awaiting their return to my library (after the move, of course). I wouldn't step out of my door to see a lovely pastel-covered book on my "welcome" mat with Kathy's bookmark ready for my use. David couldn't read Barney's Version after I'm done with it — and I couldn't be done with it in the first place because it's not available as an e-book.
My library would be sparse and poor, and my friends empty-handed, if we went "e" — so don't count me in any time soon. I'll be the one with the swollen copy of Pride and Prejudice poolside. I'll let you have it when I'm done.