A Little of This, a Little of That

I visited one of our local Barnes & Noble superstores — one of those two story freestanding buildings that one can get lost in for hours — and was on the receiving end of a mental gut punch. A good portion of the second floor which had formerly been set aside for fiction has been given over to the expanded children’s section. I don’t have anything against children’s books, mind you; if young ones don’t love reading early it’s doubtful they’ll develop even a deep fond for it later — but a lot of what I saw consisted of book-related merchandise (stuffed animals and the like) as opposed to books. What caused the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach (and yes, there’s quite a distance to be traversed before one reaches my pit) was that I recalled a very similar occurrence several years before. There was a popular chain store named Media Play that I used to frequent. I walked into one about a year after digital downloading of music became popular, and found that their music CD section was reduced by forty percent. Media Play, by the way, is no longer in business.

What you will find at Barnes & Noble: signs everywhere you look for the Nook (you might say they‘re in every cranny). And the Nook will be available at your local Wal-Mart beginning Monday October 25. You’ll be able to find the Kobo there as well, along with the Sony e-book Reader and something called the iPad. The battle has been joined.

Here’s an idea for you: renting e-books. If you can’t afford Ken Follett’s latest book, even as an e-book, rent it for two bucks for two weeks. Pay two bucks, download a DRM-protected file to your Kindle (or Sony Reader, or Nook, or iPad) and read it. It disappears after two weeks. The provider gets a cut and — yes! — the author and the publisher (if there is one) get royalties as well every time a book is downloaded. Under the traditional library model, nobody gets anything when a book is borrowed from the library. I remember a few years ago when I went to borrow a book about a Da Vinci code or something or other and was on a waiting list behind 288 people. If you don’t want to wait to read it, then for a couple of bucks you won’t have to. Reader’s groups would love this. You wouldn’t need a public, tax-supported entity to sustain it, either. I don’t see libraries loving this idea (or jumping on it (some libraries offer audio book and e-book downloads, but the selection is paltry) but its meant as an alternative, not a substitute, to libraries. And suppose you really like the book, and want to keep it? Your rental fee could count, in full or in part, toward the purchase price.

A new site to bookmark and check daily: Len Wanner’s The Crime Of It All The Crime Of It All
The Crime Of It All

. It’s devoted to mystery and crime fiction. Worth a look and a read. Repeatedly.


And speaking of reading: I’m juggling two books. One is NASHVILLE CHROME by Rick Bass, a fictional treatment of the history of country music’s Brown Family. It’s a wonderfully told cautionary tale about the downside of getting what you wish for. The other is BOOK OF SHADOWS by Alexandra Sokoloff, a beautifully dark tale by one of my favorite authors and people.

8 thoughts on “A Little of This, a Little of That

  1. Joe, I find the concept of renting an e-book really interesting. And the technology is already in place. Right now, if I “rent” a PPV movie with Dish Network, I have a set amount of time (I think a couple of months) to view it. But if I record it on my DVR, I must view it within 24 hours. After that it is no longer viewable on my DVR. Another idea that might dovetail in with yours is to license independent bookstores to sell or rent e-books in any format off their websites and received a commission.

  2. I LOVED Media Play, and I miss it. It’s a shame B & N does so much marketing…but sadly, that’s a lot of what the average kid is interested it. Many parents either don’t have the time (or don’t take it) to read quality tales and inspire young imaginations these days. Too much out there to distract. Their lives are saturated with games of every format, as well as toys. Imaginations aren’t required anymore….sorry. A teacher’s rant…

  3. A close version to what you are looking for is Overdrive.com. I use it all the time to download audiobooks from the library system. They also carry a fair amount of ebooks. Of course being a library system, there are still lines sometimes as they have a limited number of certain titles available for download at any one time.

  4. Re: Joe Hartlaub

    I miss Media Play too…

    Re: John R.

    You can if it’s DRM-free. DRM is Digital Rights Management. You may need some technical skills or access to a 10-year-old to do it though.

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