E-books: Resistance Is Futile

I was recently listening to a hand wringing airhead fret about the incivility of bookstores. “Since when is it OK to have food in a book store?” She sniffed.  My only thought was; “There is indeed a lot of stupid in popular fiction, perhaps I can place the blame on sparkly vampires?”

Then my attention drifted because I’d forgotten book stores still exist. How many are left? Are they located between soda fountains and livery stables? Are they sharing rental space with Blockbusters and the telegraph office?

I miss small private bookstores; they were magic. But they were hunted to extinction sometime during the great cultural revolution during which iDevices with games involving hurled birds supplanted rotary dial phones.

The first to go were the small private bookstore.  You know the ones I’m talking about?  The little book nooks were owned by earnest hippies, staffed with underemployed (?) English majors, and invariably host to at least one very contented cat.

Faceless corporate monstrosities beat them like a rented mule. Yes, yes, I know.  Someone will point out that there’s a bookstore on the corner of Fifth and Main in the village of Riblet Notch located in Corn County, Iowa.  Thus proving that small bookstores are no more extinct than the Coelacanth.  Since it’s been decades since I’ve seen a good bookstore (or a Coelacanth) I’m sticking with the theory that both are exceptionally rare. 

I hated to see little stores go but competition is what it is. Sometimes your favorite team loses big. The chains were devoid of magic but at least they were stocked with books.

Then, oh let’s say fifteen years ago… bookstores devolved into Starbucks with a few books arrayed for scenery. (The books were often outnumbered by archaic circular devices called CDs. These are found only in museums and my garage stereo. By the way; in this brave new world of leased music* are there still “record stores”? Am I dating myself just by asking?) In the chain stores I sought literature but got tired of fending off $4 lattes and limited titles which seemed unusually interested in calendars of kittens and sparkly vampires.  Also there was the disturbing matter of a strange national obsession with feeding chicken soup to ones’ soul.  WTF?

They self-immolated with the most tragically inept management humanly possible.  I’d piss on their grave but the market did it for me.

Then came the last… oh I’ll guess decade… when my favorite bookstore has been a package delivered from the Internet. The selection was excellent and prices were fair.  The only drawback was shipping.  We all knew the time would come when on-demand books ironed out the last speedbump.

Finally this Christmas the modern world arrived at our archaic house.  I’d held back as long as I could but the time had come.   We crossed the Rubicon.  I allowed a Kindle into the house.

There is no going back. Kindles are crack.

Our household is ripe for Kindle invasion because we’re aggressively dangerously unforgivably literate. All through the house, words are disassembled, deconstructed, folded, spindled, mutilated, adored, trashed, preserved, deleted, savored, swigged, passed around like a joint in Phish concert, consumed like beer at a kegger, and inhaled in a way Bill Clinton denied. Scrabble is a contact sport. We alliterate even when the drapes aren’t drawn. Similes and metaphors are bounced off walls like free radicals in Ron Paul’s brain. Words are mixed in good ways and bad and (in my case) foreign ones are mispronounced with wild abandon. All words are welcome in our house. (I’m the only one who swears but I don’t fucking care if you disapprove.)  Further, as you’ve no doubt noticed from reading my blog, I’m willing to walk around in public without using spell check.


E-books haven’t eliminated printed material but they’re trying. As for brick and mortar book stores; e-books have drawn and quartered them and salted the earth where they grew. Driving to a store and buying a book in the age of the Kindle seems as stupid as putting on shoes and walking to New Jersey in the age of the automobile.

We would have been the core customer of a mom and pop bookstore. We would have been the cow milked by a bookstore chain. But the world has shifted.  Now that a Kindle has bored into the household, our bookstore is henceforth bandwidth.

A Kindle is said to hold 4,000 books (and that’s to say nothing of the hard drives roaming around the living room). I’ll damn well fill the sucker and buy another when I do.  I’m enamored with the magic of having every book all the time.

I’m always reading a Kindle. Except, that is, when some other member of the household has it. In which case I’ll seek the backup axillary Kindle. Which usually leads to everyone in the house (save the one parked in front of the fire with the main Kindle and the cat) racing to claim it.  There have been no fisticuffs… yet.  A limited resource in literature is anathema to a household that expects the Library of Congress in its hands at all times.

Sometimes I wind up sans Kindle while everyone else reads.  I know it’s only a matter of time before we’ve got Kindles stacked like paperbacks in every room of the house. (And yes, there are still books in every room in the house. Usually in neat stacks unless the cat has knocked them over. Cats, because they are evil, don’t like books. Books, because they are heavy, are suitable for throwing at cats.)

Kindles (and other variants of the idea) are the new Gutenberg press. It’s a good time to be alive.


* Some folks will disagree with me calling iTunes ditties “leased”.  YMMV.  I’ve been begging for over a decade to get a couple Johnny Cash tunes off my wife’s iPod so I can play it in my truck and I’m slowly realizing that I’ll die before it happens.  A transaction that would take six seconds with a CD has dragged on through three presidents with an iPod.  Steve Jobs has Johnny Cash in a damn stranglehold!  Now that I think of it, he’s got Ted Nugent in one too.  The madman of motorcity is locked in a database!  Anyone know how to jailbreak my wife’s entire iPod onto something cheap that will never ever send a dime to Apple?

** You may note that I loathe iDevices yet refer to Kindles like they’re pets.  Rest assured that I have no brand loyalty.  Any e-book reader (such as my bargain basement Linux laptop) is as good as a Kindle to me.  I also make darned sure I can move e-books around.  There will be no Folsom Prison for literature!

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
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32 Responses to E-books: Resistance Is Futile

  1. Joe in PNG says:

    I’ve always been partial to getting my tunes from the online Megabookstore over the FruitCollective for that reason.
    And the Kindle is an easier way to take a small library of books with you when one is subject to the weight limits of international travel- thus my recient purchase of one.

  2. bdunbar says:

    Anyone know how to jailbreak my wife’s entire iPod onto something cheap that will never ever send a dime to Apple?

    I have needed to do this Real Soon for a while now. I have an iPod that was attached to a now dead laptop. Getting music on that from my new laptop would seem to involve wiping it, and there is music and video on that that is only on that device.

    Supposedly there are FTP clients one can install on the iPod. Then ftp to the device and download. This is all theory, so far.

    • The lovely and intelligent Mrs. Curmudgeon is working on related theories. So far Johnny Cash is still in the clutches of those bloodsucking fiends at iTunes but she hasn’t yet given up. I’ll report when the war is either won or lost.

  3. You won’t die before you can get music off your ipod – you’ll just have to use some, ahem, manufacturer-unapproved software. The market of people with the ability to code and a want to solve this problem for themselves has supplied your demand – just google it and decide which of the many, many versions of the software you want to download and run.

    As for Kindles, we now have two in this household. I have a grudge against the Fire, because it will often decide I’m selecting a book when I try to swipe my stylus across the damnable touch screen to scroll through the options. This makes me grumble even harder, because then I have to back out of whatever unwanted offering it selected, and start scrolling all the way down again to get where I want to go from the top of the list again. Aside from that, it’s not a bad little device. When it’s stocked with more new offerings (I refuse to pay twice for a book I already own), I’ll probably enjoy it.

  4. robertsgunshop says:

    I bought my wife a Kindle Fire for her birthday. It would take a construction crew with hammers and bars to pry it from her cold dead hands. I downloaded the Kindle for PC on my laptop so I’m never without a book. They are like crack. Now even my 8 year old grandson wants one. Which isn’t a bad thing, he’s a voracious reader. Now my daughter has hinted to me what she want’s for her birthday. These kids are driving me nuts. My Amazon account will never be the same.

  5. KA9VSZ says:

    This blog entry and my coffee. I am content…

  6. Alex says:

    I’m a bit confused why your music is “stuck on the ipod”. I have music on 4 different devices, and burn CD’s for the truck, all with music purchased from iTunes. I even used iTunes to burn the CD’s. What’s the issue?

    • They’ve gotten to you haven’t they?
      OK I joke. I run Linux and refuse to buy another goddamn stinking Apple product…so yeah, it’s not as simple as they’d have you believe at the secret iMeetings. I can swap a CD in five seconds but iTunes holds music like it’s their precious ring that can only be liberated if I go to Modor and toss money in the volcano.

      • Jake says:

        If you’ve got an old box you’re willing to sacrifice to Bill Gates, or if you still have a Winblows partition on one, then downloading iTunes to that (for free) might be worth it. Sync the iPod to that, burn everything to CD’s (audio only, to get rid of the @#$%%^! DRM) then rip it with your Linux program of choice.

        It’s truly a PITA, I know, but it’s best to free your purchases from the clutches of the evil Jobs Monster early, rather than waiting until you have a kiloSagan of songs that can only be listened to on fruit-approved devices. I should know: I’m stuck with fruit-players now because I decided to be honest in the early days of music downloads, when iTunes was the only legal game in town. By the time legal non-DRM alternatives came up, I had enough restricted music that it will take me days to fix it all if I ever get around to it.

  7. riverphoto says:

    Last year my wife broke down and bought me a kindle for my birthday. She’d been resisting because she couldn’t comprehend how anyone could enjoy reading on an electronic device versus holding a book in one’s hand. And if she couldn’t see the value in it… A week after I got my birfday kindle, the Brown Santa Truck delivered the kindle I purchased for her, so that I could get mine back. Go figure.

  8. Alex says:

    Also, iTunes now allows you to re-download everything that you have purchased, so set up a computer with iTunes, log in with that AppleID, and then re-download the items to that computer. It’s under your purchased history. Seriously. I think people make this harder than it actually is.

  9. As Alex says attach the iPod to you computer sign into your iTunes account, authorize the computer and burn a CD Google is your friend for those instructions.
    Kindle books are far more locked down than music just buy the used CD on Amazon for a penny+shipping burn it to your computer and it will move anywhere you want it to. As an added bonus it won’t suck like a iTunes download of 92kbs to 128kbs (meh). Then take the used CD to one of those big chains or websites that trade CD’s and trade if for another CD to rip.

    Now try that trick with an e-book.

  10. cspschofield says:

    I have only two problems with ebooks;

    1) You don’t actually own something you can re-sell. I come from a long line of used bookstore haunters. This bugs me.

    2) I don’t want any reading device that is going to wipe out 4000 books of my collection if I drop it in the bath.

  11. bdunbar says:

    I’m a bit confused why your music is “stuck on the ipod”.

    Who, me?

    The music in question was never downloaded from the iStore. I had .mp3 files, [1] I pushed them into iTunes, synched with the iPod.

    Fast forward 3 years and the laptop just up and died.

    I’m not a complete ‘tard, I had backups of the important things. Just never thought to backup some of the mp3 files.

    They’re still there, still playable. I just want ’em off the iPod where I can back them up properly.

    [1] Audio files I recorded at .. ah .. school. Yeah – lectures. That’s the ticket.

  12. Wolfman says:

    Actually, I figured out in a roundabout way that the music player that comes standard with Ubuntu has an iPod sync ability, but does not erase said iPod on connection. You can then transfer at will. I do not know if this software is available outside of Ubuntu (although its free… just takes some time)

  13. acairfearann says:

    I’m weird, I live on a property where the last estimate of books was 14,000 volumes and counting.
    My problem with e-books is threefold: a) I can read a book from a thousand years ago, and have happily done so many times for my research. I can’t read a floppy disc from 30 years ago and libraries are spending millions on the data storage problem, so far the only solution is insanely expensive data migration. How long will the Kindle’s supporting software/hardware run?
    c) if I drop it, break it, or it gets stolen…there goes my library. Ever tried to destroy an actual book? Even fire is harder than it sounds, a lot harder than Kindle plus the bath.
    d) so external backup is the obvious answer? Well, ok. Download everything onto another Kindle or hard drive stored in a different secure location. You are either are obsessive about backing up (but still see problem a) or…cloud storage? Bad idea that. The basic principle is that I am relying on Someone Else to Give me access to what I own. Not happening.
    That all said, e-books are kind of awesome…

  14. Liz says:

    Your posts, sir, consistently bring a smile to my face and warmth to the cockles of my heart. Thank you. 🙂

    I was given a NOOK (wish it had been a Kindle) for Christmas. I had a new baby (read, I was attached to a nursing infant for 40-50 hours per week), and it turns out that the only reading material I could manage was that NOOK. I could balance it anywhere, and never had to hold it open while wrangling my surprisingly strong infant. I never had to re-find my place. It was wonderful. I still love my paper books, but e-readers are incredibly useful at certain times when reading would otherwise be impossible.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I live in Maryland, where, with a library card, I can download free books to my computer or e-reader. I like the free part-Kindle books can be pricey.

    • That’s on my to do list. Frankly iTunes has be DRM’ed into the ground so I can’t face the Kindle “borrow” setup just yet. I’m Adaptive but choose my battles.

      OTOH…project Gutenberg is excellent and gives me faith in humanity.

  16. LabRat says:

    This’d be why I have a Zune and not an iPod. Its various shortcomings as compared to the idevice are legion- except for the part where I can just copy and share anything I download with the rest of the household because I bought the bloody music and it’s mine now.

    • Yeah! iTunes is just the TSA with a fancy form factor!
      There is a big gaping gap in experience between “lease” and “own”. I intend to “own” or die trying. (iTunes is willing to assist the latter.)

  17. kx59 says:

    AC, I’m beginning to think you might be a recovering english lit major…
    Well written Sir, well written in deed.

  18. bdunbar says:

    “except for the part where I can just copy and share anything I download with the rest of the household because I bought the bloody music and it’s mine now.”

    I have never purchased music through iTunes.

    I buy music, I download the file save to disk, then import to iTunes. If I want it portable I sync it to the iPod.

    • When iTunes started ruling the world I stopped buying music. I loathe the “trust us” bullshit and refused to engage on their level. (The big music companies lost a dozen years’ sales from me and I know I’m not alone. I doubt they missed my money but they would have if they were paying attention.)
      My recent reluctant interaction with iTunes came about because my lovely wife has a modest iTunes library and a very decrepit iDevice. The battle had to be joined eventually. Now is the time. The future is uncertain. Battles have been engaged. Some iNinjas have been defeated. (Win!) Much time has been wasted. (Loss!) The war is far from decided.

      • bdunbar says:

        The war is far from decided.

        Try this.


        Now, the iPod keeps the mp3 files in file names that bear no relation to the original content, across seemingly unrelated directories. No problem.

        I could have, I suppose, crafted a script to rummage around the exported files, rename and sort by metadata but .. heck with that. I exported the entire shebang to hard disk, imported the mess back into iTunes. I know have some duplication, but I’ve also got the files and that’s what count.

  19. PhillipC says:

    I bought the first e-reader device in the house for my wife’s birthday last year, a Nook Color. I had been using a tablet pc, specifically an HP TC1100, to read e-books with the Amazon Kindle app. My wife’s reading rate went up significantly, because she was able to carry the thing everywhere, and it was just so handy.

    A month or so later, I decided to get myself an e-reader. When we’d been doing the research on e-readers, we had chosen the Nook Color because it had a micro SD slot for removable storage, and it would work well with non-DRM books. When I got mine, I immediately flashed the device with Cyanogen Mod, turning it into an Android tablet, and installed both the Amazon Kindle for Android app and the B&N Nook app. I have Calibre on my laptop, and can convert files from one format to another.

    Within a few months, our roommate also ended up getting a Nook. So far I’m the only one brave enough to root and retool mine, but I like what I can do with it. And if I want to move my books to another device, I just pull out the micro SD card and transfer it. They’re in a folder, easy to get to, easy to transfer.

  20. jetaz says:

    My books fall into two broad categories: books that I am going to read once and then never look at again, or books that are out of copyright and can be gotten for free; or books that I am going to need to reference, or read over and over, and eventually give to my children.

    The first category ends up on the Kindle. The second is printed on dead trees.

    (There is a third category of “books that I only planned on reading once, but were so awesome that I ended up buying a half dozen to give to friends and family.” Currently, “Monster Hunter International” is the only book in this category.)

  21. Kevin says:

    There are a few methods. One was listed above. Plus, as you are not the first person have this happen, there are a bunch of people who make software packages to do this for you with minimal pain and without spending that much money.

    There are actually more packages out there than they list. I’ve never had to use one of these, as I back up my c:/music directory with xcopy every few weeks to a pair of external drives.

  22. Gilly says:

    As a book “accumulator” and past antiquarian book dealer, I cannot fully embrace the e-book. I understand all the library-in-a-pocket arguments and applaud any thing that will keep or get people reading. But I still frequent my local used book store and search out others in my travels. I say “fully” above because I do snag books in e-format when I can’t find them or afford them at that moment. And read them on the PC as I don’t own one of the more petite and portable e-readers. But I do have the intention of eventually owning hard copies of them all. I’ll never say never but I vow that if it comes to it, I’ll have to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting an e-reader/e-book over the printed. Until then, I resist.
    ;- )

  23. Pingback: Book Club For Men: Syllabus | The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog

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