E-Book Readers Beware

Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree can be bought as an e-book from its publisher, the University of California Press.  Naively, I would have thought that a virtual book would be substantially cheaper than its ink and paper counterpart, but not so; UCP charges nearly as much for the e-book as for the hardback.  The e-book does have some advantages, though: it weighs less and can be easily searched for keywords, for example.  There are disadvantages, too: you’re not supposed to make copies, or even lend it to someone else.  Further, according to infibeam.com, which sells the e-book, you’re not even allowed to read it out loud!  So, if you’re planning to host a LIAET party for Christmas, or would like to use it for nighttime stories for the kids, or even were hoping to quote from it for dramatic moments in your classroom lectures, you’d better not go digital.  Incidentally, the paperback version is due out in February, and Amazon is currently selling it for 1/3 off.

About Jonathan Losos

Author and Professor at Harvard University
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2 Responses to E-Book Readers Beware

  1. geneva says:

    I’ve got to believe that “Read aloud not allowed” refers to the text-to-speech feature that most e-readers now offer. By locking down the text the publisher prevents illegitimate (copying) and very legitimate uses (eg. text-to-speech, 3rd party full text searching, and the deal-breaker for me – you can’t annotate those files). I understand the motivation behind this sort if DRM (protecting the rights of publishers and authors) but hopefully the text publishing business will come to the same realization as the music industry: that those who want to cheat the system will always find a way to and that DRM only punishes the honest people who pay for locked files.

  2. rglor says:

    Something is wrong when you can buy a paper copy of a document for less than a digital copy (I gather that this is the case if one buys the discounted paperback version from Amazon rather than the digital version from UC press). I wonder if the publishers are just pocketing the difference or if the cost of developing and maintaining DRM protections actually contributes to this ridiculousness. In any case, I share geneva’s disappointment with the fact that book publishers seem to have learned little from the music industry’s experiences over the past decade or so.

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