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December 15, 2011
Mediashift Just Slightly Misses the Mark
Jenny Shank at Mediashift has a column that starts off with the interesting title "The Trouble With Gifting an E-Book". She's right: e-books make much worse presents than regular books, but sadly she misses many of the important reasons why. Shank's column is a lovely bit of nostalgia about the personalization of gifts and the feel of the physical book. All true and good, but really kind of missing the mark. Let me tell you why e-books are lousy gifts:
Books are one-size-fits-all. Unless your reader needs a large-print or Braille edition, a book is a book is a book. The e-book for your iPad friend is not the e-book for your Kindle friend is not the e-book for your Kindle Fire friend is not the e-book for your Nook friend even if they all have the same name. The near-complete lack of interoperability between these devices is stupid beyond belief. Of course, you can get someone a gift card but we're talking about gifting books here.
Books are actual gifts. You give a book, and the recipient owns it. He or she can share it with friends, donate it to a library (unless imbeciles get their way with destroying first-sale doctrine), pass it on to their kids, and so on. When you gift an e-book, you're just letting someone rent it and that rental can be modified or yanked back by the e-book publisher or distributor at will and often without notice.
Book gifting is simple. Find a book, buy it, wrap it, send it along or hand it over. E-book buying remains such a complex mess that there are actually whole Web sites devoted to helping people through the convoluted processes that each seller has established for getting e-book.
My family has long had a tradition of special holiday presents delivered at year's end by "The Book Fairy." I don't think the fairy's going electronic any time soon.
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