by Andrew Sims
Ebooks. They’re not going away, it would seem. It has been ten months since Gleebooks started selling ebooks; and within that period, true to universal expectation, they have continued their march to ubiquity. As of May 2011 the American retail behemoth Amazon has been selling more ebooks than paperback and hardback editions combined. Its ‘Kindle’, the e-reader tablet that it peddles is the second biggest selling tablet in the world, second only to the iPad, but well ahead of bronze medallist Samsung. Whether it be embarrassedly, defiantly, or obliviously, more and more people are acquiring tablet readers, and reading more substantial ‘content’ on a screen instead of the printed page.
There are still a couple of issues clouding the waters that may prevent people diving headlong into the world of ebooks. Many people stall at the first hurdle; what type of ereader should they purchase? Apple’s iPad has a myriad of bells and whistles, (and a sublime ereading functionality) but many people don’t require a fully-fledged tablet computer and the price tag that goes with it. There are plenty of other ereaders available for a fraction of the price that offer an easier-on-the-eye matte screen (as opposed to backlit), with concomitant generous battery life. People also have a legitimate concern around what device they should purchase for fear of being denied the widest range of titles possible. Copyright agencies demand that ebooks can’t be easily shared or copied. Similarly the main players are desperately trying to ‘lockdown’ their customer’s libraries to prevent them from straying to the competition. Once you have built up a collection of titles on your Kindle, Amazon doesn’t want you to wander off and buy something from the Apple bookstore, and vice versa.
So maybe it is time to reintroduce the Gleebooks ebooks site. You will find our dedicated site at http://ebooks.gleebooks.com.au. Any purchases that you make will be supplied and supported by a company called Booki.sh in Melbourne. Upon your first purchase, you’ll be asked to create a user name and password, and you can then easily access all your purchased titles simply by logging onto your library on any device that has a web browser – whether it be an iPad, your desktop computer, smartphone, laptop, or other web-enabled tablet device. You can start reading, for instance, on your home computer, and take up where you left off on your phone or tablet.
If you are wary of making a purchase, but still want to try out the platform that we use, you can set up your free account and play around with (in other words, read) a free copy of The Wind in the Willows by heading straight to http://booki.sh and signing up. It takes all of a couple of minutes.
One of the interesting things ebooks has thrown up is that a different way of reading often encourages trying different genres or styles. The twenty million readers of Fifty Shades of Grey, for instance, can be thankful that their newfound taste in turgid softcore S/M can be traced back to its original existence as an ebook that could be read discretely on the bus. Fifty Shades of Grey is not on our list, but here are five other titles that may have otherwise passed you by in hardcopy form:
Quarterly Essay 46: The Big Whinge by Laura Tingle, $9.95. Of course we sell a huge amount of the Quarterly Essay, but it is the perfect size and price if you want to see how you feel about reading on screen.
How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton, $12.99. Fifty shades of Alain de Botton. He’s ever reliable, but at 130 pages, this essay may well be a little slight in book form; perfect to try out on your smart phone.
Love & Hunger by Charlotte Wood, SPECIAL PRICE FOR AUGUST $20.99 (usually $29.95). You may know her as one of Australia’s brightest novelists, but Charlotte also has a popular blog devoted to food writing. Love and Hunger is her wonderful collection of essays on food and cooking. Perfect in bite-sized chunks.
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, $5.99. One of the benefits of ebooks is that older titles are cheap as chips. Ford’s currently touring Australia to promote his new tome Canada but why not try the first in his acclaimed Independence Day trilogy at a bargain price.
The Rest Is Weight by Jennifer Mills, $15.95. Short stories are a good length for the reticent ereader, and this is a wonderful new collection by a bright young Australian author worth discovering. Andrew Sims