The Kindle is a wonderful device. Ditto the nook. Small, light, easy to read screens and simple interfaces make buying and consuming the written word a futuristic experience. Yet I have not purchased an eBook reader or a digital book. Between the iPad and my phone (not to mention a laptop) I finally feel like I could, at times, supplement my physical books with digital versions. And I would have last night had it not been for one problem: that book I want has not been published yet in a digital edition.
Every few years I break out the Star Wars classics by Timothy Zahn. Originally published in the early ‘90s, the Thrawn trilogy marked the first time the story from the original (before the prequels!) Star Wars saga continued – after the events in Return of the Jedi. As a Star Wars fan and nearly exclusive reader of non-fiction, these books are a great vacation. Like the movies that preceded them, Zahn’s stories are ideal for repeat exploration. And my copies are well read.
With a long plane ride in my future and a but of leisure time this summer, I thought about simply grabbing a copy from the Kindle store. I could read it on the iPad, my phone or laptop and not have to drag three dog-eared volumes cross-country.
To my surprise, the first book in the series, Heir to the Empire, is not available yet. Somewhat strangely, it is available for pre-order, with delivery later this month. A couple weeks later that I would have liked, but what are the odds that I look for a digital copy weeks before it comes out? There is a twentieth anniversary edition being released in the fall, which I am likely to purchase. Of all the authors out there, I’ve supported Timothy Zahn pretty well over the years.
But the question is why is the digital copy of a twenty-year-old book not available today? Why have a preorder? Why not just push it out? The publisher either has the text now or they do not. I doubt someone is slavishly typing each word right now and they will be finished by June 28th. Right now I could download the text in PDF or other digital formats from torrent sites. So why not Amazon? To be fair, the nook and iBooks stores are also without the digital version because the publisher is still working on it.
When we all began ripping CDs in the 90s it was great. This music powered the surge of MP3 players. I own the book, not the text, but there is no way to say “I own this book, let me space shift my copy for travel.” Maybe someday.