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April 23, 2009



Fascinating read, highlighting the difference between an intellectual book guy like you and an ordinary schlub like me. I am a minimalist and whatever I can clear out of my house, I do. I declared the CD dead within months of the first Ipod and had sold most of my CDs soon thereafter. I declared the DVD player dead within months of the first DVRS and stopped buying DVDs immediately. The Kindle 2 is doing the same for books, but not quite. You are just being a sentimental Luddite and if were to figure out all of the costs (storage costs,the impact on your wife, environmental impact), you would kick paper books to the side. And here's the kicker. I am convinced I can read books at least 10% faster on a Kindle than in "real life."

Chris Carr

I am impressed by anyone that can pull together a Venn-like diagram that I care to study and follow with my eyes and mind, as most are done so very badly. You did so. Good job.

Adam Daniel Mezei

I'm still recovering from the biting cleverness of your flowchart, D...I've never put my approach to book buying down on paper, but the stuff over along the right side of your diagram -- namely, the used book stuff which I purchase off of, for instance -- is right on the money! While the Czech Republic is still Europe and not China, it is difficult to get contemporary English-language stuff here quickly, which is where Abe comes in handy.

If I've got a trip to Canada in the works, then I'll just wait until I head there to pick up the new copy...I've got to think about this Kindle thing, though...reminds of the old Amazon Shorts days...


Dan, labeling me a "luddite" is a semantic inaccuracy of such magnitude from someone usually quite accurate in his depictions that I believe this to be a case of misinformation.

You of all people, counselor, should understand the dangers inherent in making assumptions in advance of ascertaining the facts. In this case, they are these:

* Of the approximately 3,900 book-length works in my collection, over 2,200 are in electronic format, including 103 in eReader format and 8 (oops - now 10) in Kindle.

* For DVDs, I have experienced all-too-frequent quality problems with DVDs purchased legitimately from Wal-Mart, Target, Best-Buy, and Amazon, and for business and personal reasons we don't purchase pirated DVDs here in China. Our movies are now bought on iTunes.

* For CDs, I continue to make an annual pilgrimage to Amoeba Music in Hollywood to purchase used music CDs. I keep the CDs as an extra means of backup.

* As it now appears that most optical media fails well within a decade of its creation, both CDs and DVDs are dead to me. If I can't archive on them, I may as well keep stuff on hard drives, which are huge, easy, and so stoopid cheap that I can triple back-up my half-terabyte of eMedia files for a few hundred bucks.

* All of my newspapers and magazines are read in electronic form, even the dozen titles to which I subscribe.

With that correction out of the way, let me turn to my dead tree fetish.

The gulf between the way you and I look at books is too vast to be bridged in comments. Suffice to say I see each book as a distinct experience, each with a value that only begins with the first reading. You see books as mental toilet paper, to be used then discarded as useless clutter.

But please understand - I am delighted you feel that way. Because of you and others like you, I have built the majority of my hard-copy book collection at a tiny fraction of the original cost, and for about 60% of what Amazon would charge me for them in Kindle format, if they were even available.

If that makes me a luddite, so be it. However, counselor, I think the evidence is on the side of the Defense.

By the way, my wife shares my love for hard-copy books, and would just as soon cover every wall in the house outside of the kitchen with them. "Storage" costs nothing, and they make for superb insulation, something you should know about. ("Yeah, winters are cold in Seattle, but it's a WET cold.")

If you think I'm alone, you can pop over and read Nick Carr's comments on "clutter." Bare walls, sir, do not necessarily unclutter the mind.

Until then, I remain...


Where do audio books fit in all this? I've read 100s through libraries and some purchases (Audible). I find that I often request the same book from the public library (obviously I'm in the States) concurrently and capture a few passages that I suspect will be of interest to some future project.

Loved your flow chart.


Why must your used books be less than $1? If I find a $20 book for $4 or $5 used, that still beats buying it new; and as long as it hasn't been written in and doesn't smell of mold, a book is a book - all the words are still there. I'm resisting the Kindle because I don't buy most of my books new - I buy used (on the street or online) or I borrow. There is (so far) no market for borrowing or reselling "used" e-books. Sure it's nice that the writer gets a cut from every e-book sale (nice for living writers, that is). But is it so nice that I want to overpay for a book I can only read myself, and cannot lend to my friends?


Janinsanfran, not being an audiobook person (I don't drive in China, so audio books don't fit into my life style), I'd put them in the sme category as eBooks, in that they are electronic, formatted in a proprietary file, and are portable only twixt similar devices.


Suzanne, the cost factor on the used books relates to the unique issues I face living abroad in a non-English-speaking country.

My only (regular) access to used books is through online shops, usually through Amazon. During the few days a year that I am in either in the US on holiday, or in Singapore for business, my opportunities to go to used book stores are rare, and when I do I find that I really have to look hard to find actual bargains.

When I buy from an online bookstore, even if the book sells for $0.01, it will still cost me $4 to get it to my US mailing address. If it costs me $1, the actual cost of the book is $5. That doesn't count the cost of either shipping it back to China, or the possible overweight baggage charge on the airline coming home. In the end, a $1 price on a used book can cost as much as $7 by the time I get it home.

On top of that, keeping the total cost of the used book delivered to my home capped at $7 ensures that I can buy BOTH the eBook (for speed) and the used book (for the collection) at a price below - and sometimes well below - what it would cost me to purchase the printed book at new retail. Thus cake is had and eaten as well.

As for lending, well, let's just say that for every four books I lend out, one comes back. I prefer to gift books than lend them. It's more realistic.

HR Dissertation

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

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