Pic of the day: More books than you can carry? Screenshot from the anime Mahou Sensei Negima.
Borrowing books online
Three years ago I wrote about the future, which I hoped but was not sure to see, where you could borrow e-books from an Internet library, either for free or dirt cheap. They would of course self-destruct after a certain number of days.
This service now exist, kinda. At my favorite purveyor of e-books, Fictionwise.com, there is another service called "Buywise" in which you pay a certain amount each year to buy books at a discount. If you only buy a few cheap books each year, it is not profitable, but the more you buy the better it gets. I've found from experience that I save a little on it, especially if I buy the year-membership when the dollar is low against Norwegian Crowns. But the club also has another benefit, or that's what they think. It has a lending library. It has far fewer titles than the shop, but still, the idea is basically the same as I wrote about. You download e-books for free, read them for some days, and then they stop working.
Sadly, it doesn't work. The books of the library are all in Secure Mobipocket format, even those who are for sale in other formats elsewhere. I installed Mobipocket on my iPaq (Cassie had her own account but that's not much help now). Installation was hassle-free, and registering my new account number was a snap. The book appeared in my bookshelf. Alas, I could not download it. I got an error of a very technical nature, which I reported to Fictionwise. Their auto-response said that they usually answer within a day, but they didn't within the week. This is understandable in a sad way, since the service is for free after all. Who wants to support something that is free? So I don't know whether it may work for someone else, but probably not: It works neither at work nor at home. I wouldn't exactly call it a sham, but a shame it is.
I may still live to see online libraries. Perhaps they already exist, and I just don't know where. There are a couple services that seem to fit the bill, but I don't know how serious they are.
(http://www.netlibrary.net/ is not relevant to me because they don't support pocket PC. When I am in front of my home PC, I have other things to do than read books!)
Baen Free Library seems to be the real thing, but out of principle they only offer a very few books from each author (and only authors who volunteer). Eric Flint makes a pretty convincing argument that this library, like all other libraries, will cause people to buy more books. He also has true and relevant statements like this: "Take, for instance, the phenomenon of people lending books to their friends — a phenomenon which absolutely dwarfs, by several orders of magnitude, online piracy of copyrighted books." Duh. Verily, duh. He also says pretty much the same as I did about libraries: If they were invented today, they would be illegal, but in real life authors are highly pleased to see their books lent out there. Humans are so stupid! Except, evidently, Eric Flint and I and a few others. Worth a look, despite his cynical attitude (it's all about the money ... but then again, 999 out of 1000 writers are not exactly swimming in cash). If nothing else, read his essay, it is highly amusing. In a good way.
So something good came of it, at least. This is often so, isn't it? ^^
Oh, and the book I tried to borrow was "The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volume 1 of 6".
Visit the ChaosNode.net for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.