The Virtual Library

Reading & Writing

I spent a very frustrating few hours trying to find eBooks last night. The system, it seems, is in hopeless disarray. My Sony eReader operates with ePub, a format taken up by Waterstone, and according to the opening page of the online library, WH Smith and, er, Mills & Boon.

WH Smith has a good website but, not being an Andy McNab fan, there’s hardly a single book I want to buy there. The Waterstone site is a total disgrace, offering the worst possible buying experience for eReading. It’s almost impossible to easily find out what’s available.

Amazon’s Kindle store is very user-friendly and has a slightly better selection, but boy, you can see the authors who don’t have deals negotiated (for example, there’s just one minor James Ellroy book on offer). The US is far ahead of us in this respect – their deals have been negotiated and the books are available.

So where does that leave UK eReading right now? Well, eReaders are fine if you want casual current fiction, but my suggestion, for what it’s worth, is to use your virtual library as a backup for your paper library and not the other way around. The rare gems that make up a good library are for the collecting few, not the mass-market many.

My photo shows the lovely Waterstone bookshop in Gower St, London – as impossible to negotiate as their site, but a hell of a lot more fun.

7 comments on “The Virtual Library”

  1. If you are able to buy .mobi books, you can use a free program called Calibre to convert them to epub. Just open the book in Calibre, right click on it, and choose ‘convert’. You’ll have all the options to change it to an epub that your Sony reader can read. It’s definitely not the best way around, but it gives you a bit more choice. I’m not sure if the DRMs are an issue – I deal with the books before they’re published so they’re not loaded down with DRM yet.

  2. Alan Morgan says:

    Sacrifice a goat.

  3. Kenneth M says:

    The only real problem I have with the Kindle is the often rubbish indexing, which can result in collections of short stories where you can’t jump to particular stories. I still buy paper books – my Kindle is mostly used for reading Guy Boothby, Rider Haggard, and Talbot Mundy. Currently reading Volney’s The Ruins so as to be as well read as Frankenstein’s creation. It is also good for technical manuals, which in paper form tend to be the size of old family bibles. Losing a physical library of four inch thick books that all tend to become obsolete in less than five years is no great loss.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    I think that was the Waterstones I was in and wish I had had the time to wander around. It seemed to go on forever and have more aisles and corners than I could imagine. Is it upstairs, too?

  5. Helen Martin says:

    ‘Course I was looking for Chris Fowlers and they were having difficulty but there, what can I say.

  6. Anne Fernie says:

    This is totally irrelevant but I picked up an old 2nd hand copy of ‘Soho Black’ yesterday. Am aghast at the ‘author photo’ on the back (the one with the dancers) – Chris, can this be you??!! Please tell me it was ‘ironic’ (dodgy ‘tache ‘n all….)

  7. admin says:

    Annie, it was a long time ago, what can I say. Helen, the Waterstones is like Alice’s rabbit hole, wonderful.

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