It’s Complicated

This is a really smart article by Mathew Ingram: “Our Relationship with E-Books: It’s Complicated“.

Ingram quite even-handedly covers the bases on sharing ebooks and ebook annotations, complete with lots of links, in clear language. He notes:

Will we ever be able to download a digital version of the print book we just bought, and then share that book with friends — or even sell it to someone else at a discounted price, as we can with real books — or share our margin notes and highlights with others, regardless of what e-book reader they use? . . .

The unfortunate part of all this, of course, is that publishers would likely be able to sell far more books if they made it easier for readers to download, read and share them — or passages from them — with anyone regardless of what device they owned. Until that happens, e-books will continue to be a Balkanized mess of competing standards and sharing silos, and the book-reading public will be the worse for it.

Go read the whole thing, and do follow the links in his post, because they provide examples that support his central argument.

Trying to teach with ebooks in an English literature class is almost impossible in terms of using them for analyses by students because they can’t annotate the text, and export their own annotations as notes along with the passage they’re analyzing. Ideally, I’d like a highlighted passage, the annotations or notes associated with the passage and a citation (author, title, chapter and/or section and publication data) to be easily exported. Restricting the excerpt by character or word would be fine; but the practice of not allowing any passages to be copied and pasted is frustrating for teachers, academics, scholars and students.

Ironically, The Voyager Company’s Expanded books had this feature (among others) in 1992.