My Reading Dilemma

In 2016, I’m making a greater effort to get back into reading regularly. There was a time that I was consistently bookmarked somewhere in the pages of an adventure novel, but that time has long since past. With the launch of my new podcast and the abundance of canonical Star Wars literature, I’m diving back in. It hasn’t been easy.

I collect books. Well, I collect a lot of things but books is one of them. Specifically, Star Wars books. I don’t have numerous shelves lined with Legacy titles (just one), but I have a majority of the canonical titles released in the past year or so. Trick is, due to a recent move and my daily schedule, carrying the physical copies I’ve purchased is less than ideal. To put ease on my back and the shape of my physical copies, I read on my iPad using the Kindle app.

There are a lot of issues here. First, I’ve already purchased each book physically. I would be insane to buy every single one of these books twice simple for the convenience of reading them on my iPad on lunch breaks. Instead, I use Overdrive—a service that, in conjunction with my local library, allows me to “borrow” ebooks to read anywhere I like. I opt for Kindle delivery through Amazon. When a title becomes available to my account, I can shoot it over to my tablet instantly where I have 20 days to finish it before it locks up.

I like this method. This method works. But it only works for that first read. Now look, I don’t read things more than once very frequently. I’d say I’ve only done that a handful of times outside of the Harry Potter saga. But there is still convenience to actually owning the ebook as opposed to borrowing it. For example, any notes or highlights that I make in a book for review purposes (something else I’ve been trying to do with more frequency) are wiped clean when the borrowing period is over. That frustrating limitation pushes me to find other means of acquiring ebooks, means that may not be considered kosher.

I subscribe to the emulation model of piracy. If I own a physical copy of a Gameboy Advance game, I believe it is or should be legal for me to store a digital copy of that game on my computer. Barring any assumption that I’m wrong about this bit of legality, I don’t see why it should be any different with books. If I own the book, why shouldn’t I be entitled to a digital copy of that book to read as I please? In the Amazon ecosystem, the closest thing to this is Kindle Matchbook.

For thousands of qualifying books, your past, present, and future print-edition purchases now allow you to buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less.

Basically, Amazon searches your book purchase history and lists those titles’ digital counterparts for a discounted rate. Not bad. I would certainly pay an additional 3 buckaroos for the added convenience. That’s not an issue. The lack of supported titles is. At the time of writing, there are zero books from my Amazon purchase history available in Kindle Matchbook. In fact, I don’t recognize a single title in the directory for the service. That’s just not going to work for me.

Back to the piracy thing… For the titles I currently own, I was able to track down a few .epub and .mobi files to convert and send to my Kindle account. Here lie the remainder of my issues and hours of grief trying to get book covers to display correctly. I won’t go into that now, but suffice it to say it’s a drag and certainly shouldn’t be the only way. [1]

Why don’t more publishers offer either a free or discounted ebook copy with physical purchases? Is it an effort to make a sale twice? Is it to discourage a secondary market where paperbacks are purchased to sell the ebook that came with it? Who knows. I think a better system should exist for nut-jobs like me that like shelf space taken up by dusty science fiction novels, but carrying all of those books with me at all times for reference. For now, I’ll continue to borrow my books through Overdrive and export my notes and highlights to a document before the borrowing period is up.

UPDATE: I've ditched Kindle altogether for iBooks. Read about that here.

  1. If you know a surefire way to send .mobi files to Amazon that both guarantees that the book cover stays there AND allows syncing via Kindle WhisperSync, please reach out. Yes, I’m aware of [PDOC] and [EBOK] tags and no I don’t know why they don’t actually make a big difference.  ↩