One More Reason I Prefer Physical Books to Ebooks

There are many reasons why ebooks are great: they don’t use paper, so they don’t kill any trees. They don’t take up space, so you can have as many as you like. Their digital footprint is small, and storage is a breeze. You can take them or buy them anywhere, and never have to worry about lugging them around. You can buy a book once and own it forever.

It’s this last one I’d like to address now.

Recently, I saw that one of the books on my TBR had gone down in price. Specifically, it was the Frequency of Aliens, Book #2 in the Sorrow Falls/Annie Walker series, by Gene Doucette. I remembered reading the first one, the Spaceship Next Door, and liking it, but couldn’t remember what year or what format I got it in.

That’s where this whole thing started. Just trying to figure when I read the Spaceship Next Door and where I’d gotten it. I honestly didn’t expect this to evolve into a post (rant), but here we are.

So first, I tried to determine when I’d read it. This was fairly straightforward. I keep yearly lists of all I’ve read—stemming from the years when I tried to read so many pages per year—so all I did was search these. Thus I found that I read the Spaceship Next Door in 2017, as an ebook.

It wasn’t on my kindle, so I went to Amazon to redownload it. This is where the trouble starts.

See, Amazon claimed that I hadn’t bought the book, so I couldn’t download it. No big deal—I’d probably just read it as a library book, that way it could still be in ebook form, and wouldn’t show up on Amazon. So I went to the library to request it. But they didn’t have it in stock. Furthermore, it wasn’t even in the catalogue at all. Occasionally, my library will purge certain ebook titles to free up… actually, I’m not sure why they do this, but there’s probably a reason. Usually they do it with titles they have more than one copy of—such as popular new releases, or books that inspired movies or TV series’ or have spiked in popularity for some other reason. Anyway, they do keep records, so I looked through these; specifically, my reading history.

…Which told me in no uncertain terms that I’d never checked out the Spaceship Next Door, and that they’d never had a copy. (This also applied to any physical books checked out from the actual library—they didn’t now or ever have any copies, therefore I could never have checked any out. Didn’t have any Doucette books, in fact.)

The next step was to check my bookshelves. Not only do I list what books I’ve read in a given year, I also record the format I read it in, how many pages long that format was, and what the total amount of pages I’d read to that point in the year was. In other years I even recorded how much I enjoyed the book, but not in 2017. I remembered liking it, and that was enough (also Goodreads confirmed that I liked it). The point is, like any system, this one is not infallible. I do screw up, so assumed I’d mislisted this. So, checking the bookshelves.

It wasn’t there. Didn’t think I’d gotten rid of it, considering I enjoyed it and put the second one on my TBR, but I supposed it was possible, so I set out through my shopping history to see when I’d bought it. Then, I was just like fuck it, and went shopping for a new (probably used) copy. And in doing so a though occurred to me.

I was comparing the epub edition to some of the earlier paperbacks when I saw the different covers. As we all know, books are reissued all the time with different covers for a variety of reasons. It appeared that the Spaceship Next Door was no different, receiving a reissue in September of 2018, by Mariner Books. Apparently it had originally self-published, before being picked up by a major publisher. And that reminded me of something else.

I’ve bought a lot of books over the years—some new, others used—in a variety of conditions and formats. I used to get a whole bunch of self-pub stuff in the early-to-mid 2010’s because they were cheap (or free). And I remembered looking to reread something a few years back, something I’d read back in… I don’t even remember. It was Sands, by Kevin Nielsen. I’d picked it up for free but never gotten around to reading it and deleted it from my reader. Back in 2018 my whole blog idea was to read things that never seemed to be as popular as they should’ve been or had enough ratings. So I went to redownload Sands—only to discover that the book had been picked up by a major publisher (well, semi-major: Future House), and that I’d lost access to it. But since it had been free I’d forgotten about it. Until now.

Thing is, Sands wasn’t the only book I’d lost access to over the years.

Back in 2013 when I first read Malice (by John Gwynne), I’d paid $2 for the ebook and thoroughly enjoyed it. After I read Valor I went to reread Malice, only to discover that there’d been an update and I couldn’t download the original ebook. They’ve since fixed this, but I went for a few years without having access to it.

In 2016 my sister bought me Mistborn: Secret History as a gift for my birthday. But I was currently engaged in reading the Shadowdance series (by David Dalglish), the the Reckoners series, and I put it aside and forgot about it. When I finally did get around to it again, Arcanum Unbounded had been published and you couldn’t find the solo version anymore. So it was just gone. It’s since been added back to the kindle store, and while I have a record of having received it as a gift, I can’t access it. Upon contacting Amazon, they informed me that it was republished, so I didn’t retain the rights to my original copy and so I’d better just buy it again.

I’ve also had this issue with We Ride the Storm (by Devin Madison), Road Brothers (by Mark Lawrence), Our Endless Numbered Days (by Claire Fuller), The Emperors Knife (by Mazarkis Williams), and probably some more. Of these, I’ve been able to get a couple free copies by contacting the authors and explaining the situation. Contacting Amazon does nothing.

There are also a couple books that not only did I pay for, but I just flat-out can’t find anymore. Fox and Sparrow was written by Ginger Breo about a yokai war that has overrun Japan. I paid $5 for it, started reading it and got distracted by the Alex Verus series, and lost it when I had to reset my kindle. You can’t find it anymore. I’ve tried contacting the author, but they’re apparently not in the authoring game anymore, and so haven’t had any luck. As far as I can tell, I’m never going to read this again.

Which brings me back to The Spaceship Next Door. I know I read it. I know I BOUGHT it. But it’s not in my online library and can’t download it. But I know I own a copy. Because, when I went back through my old kindle, I found it. I do have a copy. But when I search my kindle online content, I don’t. When I go further, into my order history, I found that I paid two dollars for it. But when I click on the link, it sends me to an unknown page, and tells me to meet the “dogs of Amazon”. So… I guess I’ll have to hope my old kindle doesn’t die. Not that I could read it on there anyhow, as the thing has some issues. But maybe I could transfer it through Calibre or… I dunno, I’ll try some things.

But the moral of the story is thus: ebooks don’t last forever. And sometimes, that thing that you bought which didn’t ever really feel like it carried any weight because it, physically didn’t have any weight, kinda never was yours at all. And the last important one—don’t trust companies like Amazon, or Kobo. Yes, I’ve had issues with Kobo as well. Because, well, just because.

At least when I drop my paperback in a stream or spill milk on it it’s my own stupid fault. But in this case it’s just my fault for being stupid. Or naïve.

Note: Somewhat unrelated, but did y’all know that Book #4 of the Shadow of the Winter King is out? I saw it when I was researching this, um, rant. I really need to reread that series, I totally can’t remember what happened! I remember enjoying the first book, though, so… I really need to have time to reread things. I miss it. I need more self-control with requesting new books. Can someone point me in the right direction?

11 thoughts on “One More Reason I Prefer Physical Books to Ebooks

  1. Tell me about physical books again when I go on a longer vacation and have to pay the overweight in my luggage 🤣
    I never came across your issue, but I also never use libraries and seldom reread books.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We have libraries. But they don’t have the books I want to read. Most English SFF novels aren’t translated at all, so they don’t have them. And if so, it’s only years later. I just don’t bother anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I hear your pain. But to me this appears less a problem with ebooks and more a problem with the online ebook sellers and trusting them to backup and keep your ebooks accessible. I may be a pessimist, but the whole “your books are always available online” idea never rung true to me. I didn’t trust it. So anytime I puchase an ebook I make sure to download it to my computer so I can keep it backed up. And I don’t trust the vendor provided apps so I put everything in Calibre. And I do everything I can to purchase only DRM-free books to avoid that hassle. But I underestand where you’re coming from in that none of those issues exist with physical books. Of course, I’ve lost just as many physical books that I’ve yet to find. Did I loan them to someone and forget about it? Is it somehwere in my house? Did it somehow get thrown out with something else? Books come with hassles anyway you look at it. But they’re all worth it in the end. 🙂

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  3. I wouldn’t expect an ebook from a library to always be available. Not even physical books stay in rotation forever (some anyway). I think maybe I bought an ebook once or twice? Lol. Physical all the way for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking of your fault, I seem to recall you puking on one of my books and leaving another out in your treehouse in the yard to get rained on….

    Neither of which are why I prefer ebooks now – that’s because of my circumstances which are doing most of my reading on public transit mostly at night and living outside the anglosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

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