Real books vs. ebooks

I love to visit The Strand bookstore when I visit NYC:  so many books, so many choices.  And I’ve bought OOP and used books from the online store.

Having said that, I must confess that their marketing slogan, “Real books lower priced than ebooks!” seriously irritates me.  Whenever I see it in the store, I roll my eyes and walk past.  It appeared in the subject line of an email yesterday, and has really stuck in my mind since then.

The Strand makes money selling paper books, rare and common, old and new.  Ebooks aren’t something they sell or deal in at all.  I understand why they want to grab potential book buyers and their attention and their spare cash.  But calling paper books “real” implies that ebooks aren’t.  The nature of an ebook is a philosophical and legal question that can be debated for hours.  But what this slogan says, in so many words, is that the medium of the story being told is more important than the content.  Is that really the message an advocate of books/reading/literacy wants to send?

IMO, it will alienate ebook readers while pandering to readers who value the object over the content and who feel superior for their paper choice.  I don’t know, maybe their market research tells them that their customer base is not composed of ebook readers, so the slogan will work.  (It must be working — it’s been in use for several months at least.  Maybe The Strand is a brand that doesn’t need technology, or maybe its customer base is made of hipsters who love the retro aspect of reading paper books?)

There are always going to be people who want paper books.  And other readers who prefer ebooks.  And people like me who read both.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Real books vs. ebooks

  1. Agreed! I have actually had this discussion with people; I’m not sure when paper became the story. I like to imagine the equivalent situation when paper books came out… “It’s just not a real story if it’s not told aloud.”

    Sorry about your comment getting lost at my blog… not sure why that would be and went to test a few things out and they all worked. I sure hope it doesn’t happen to you again.

    I have never actually admitted this (and especially not to a mwt fan) but I didn’t end up liking Miles. I enjoyed Cordelia’s Honor but I couldn’t even finish a Miles book. Perhaps I grabbed the wrong one? Maybe they are not all created equal and I happened to chance upon a lesser out of the many? Not sure what happened there but his books by Bujold are constantly recommended to me and I’ve never been brave enough to go back.

    • It was probably operator error on my part. 🙂

      Although I am a Miles fan, I would say that some of the books are better than others. I came to Bujold via The Curse of Chalion, which was recommended when I was looking for medieval books set in Spain. (It’s on my list of 10 best books.) The first Miles book I read was A Civil Campaign, which worked as a sort of space Regency. The earlier Miles I seldom reread, sticking to Mountains of Mourning, ACC, and Memory. And Cordelia’s Honor. There’s interesting stuff addressed in the other books but I find them less engaging.

  2. Thanks for the specific titles; that will help me when I decide to go back. I have always intended to try again (having liked other Bujold books) but, as I said, was a little gunshy on just picking up a random title. We’ll see what the library here has… books in NZ are so very expensive that I’m pretty much at the library all the time. (Thank goodness I have US Amazon/Kindle accounts:)

    But, on the other hand, I live in NZ now which is so very awesome and beautiful. If you make your Aussie trip you’ll have to consider swinging by NZ, as well.

    • Memory is probably my favorite Miles book, but I think A Civil Campaign is more accessible, maybe? As an homage to Heyer’s Regencies, it is easier for non-series readers to pick up without needing a lot of backstory or introduction for the plot to work.

      I think Mountains of Mourning, a novella, used to be available for free at Baen’s website, but it may have been pulled as their free library of ebooks has shrunk.

      NZ is on the bucket list, too. It’ll probably be a joint Australia & New Zealand trip with some hopping around, since given the travel time I’ll probably only do it once (barring major life/job/finance change).

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