Levi Asher, the writer behind the long-running Literary Kicks site, has decided to move into the world of Kindle ebook publishing. He’s starting the series off with a philosophical essay on the Objectivism of Ayn Rand. Why Ayn Rand is Wrong (and Why It Matters) expands upon several posts Asher has made recently in his ongoing Philosophy Weekend discussions. The focus on philosophy and its requirements for logical thinking and argument is especially needed right now in a political and ideological world of harsh opinion and attack masquerading as argument. I often do this kind of attack-dog arguing myself. It’s fun and it clears the sinuses effectively. But it does not really serve much purpose. Rational philosophical debate does serve a purpose and tends to foster respect between opposing parties.
Ayn Rand, for me, is simply the author of a very readable but rather simplistic novel, The Fountainhead. I tried to read Atlas Shrugged, but gave up after two hundred pages, finding it so belabored and filled with lunkheaded ideas that I simply couldn’t put up with another speech from one of its cutout characters. However, Rand also has a body of philosophical writing that seems to have been very influential and is having some kind of a resurgence lately among mostly conservative-minded people.
I have always thought that Rand was basically reacting violently to the mass-mindedness she saw everywhere in the first half of the twentieth century. That mass-mind quality led millions to death via the trenches of World War I or the concentrations camps and genocide of Hitler and Stalin. In the face of such horror, I think I too would have found solace in elevating the individual above all else.
I have purchased my copy of the Kindle book but I have not read it yet. When I do finish the book and if I feel competent to do so I will try to write a little review. But since I know Levi Asher’s writing very well from his fascinating blog I can certainly recommend that you head over to Amazon and buy a copy of a book that is for thinking.
Get Why Ayn Rand is Wrong (and Why It Matters) on Amazon
Creating some good healthy competition for the likes of Amazon and iBookstore, Google has opened its online ebook store. Ebooks are available for Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod and Web reading. You can keep your ebooks in your Google library for access from different devices and readers, always maintaining sync with where you left off. Downloads are offered in Adobe PDF or EPUB formats. Google keeps insisting that its books are not compatible with the Kindle, even though they offer PDFs which are easily supported by later model Kindles. I’m not sure what this double-speak is about. You can also convert Google’s EPUB format to Kindle-friendly MOBI format by going over to download a free copy of the Calibre ebook management software that enables simple conversion and transfer. I downloaded a free Google ebook of Sherlock Holmes stories and converted it for my Kindle in seconds. The result looks just like a book purchased from Amazon for my Kindle. In fact, some of the books I’ve purchased directly from Amazon have shown such grotesque typos and formatting errors that I wonder if anyone is doing any proofreading at all anymore. That’s mainly the fault of the ebook publishers, but Amazon could certainly crack down on what amounts to seriously broken merchandise. Competition from the Google juggernaut is a welcome bit of relief.
Google is capitalizing on their enormous library of scanned books for some of their offerings, especially in the free download area. Most importantly however, Google is allowing independent bookstores to sell Google ebooks through their own retail sites. The revenue from such sales is shared with the bookstore owners. I also understand that the revenue split with publishers is very fair, with the publishers getting 70% and 30% going to Google.
Open Letters Monthly has an article called In Defense of the Memory Theater, by Nathan Schneider in which he argues that books on shelves perform the function of reflecting memories back at us. They are a constant reminder of the various events, stages, and emotional states of our lives. We look at our shelves and can instantly catapult ourselves back in time to events surrounding our reading of various volumes.
Schneider mentions a 16th-century memory theater that used images and symbols of the cosmos to inspire observers and enhance their intellectual powers. Books, for Schneider, do something similar when they are visible on our shelves. I agree up to a point. I am often taken back in time by my own books upon their shelves. But so am I transported by nearly every object in my home. Objects all have this power. Books are not exceptional in this regard.
Is it ethical to steal an eBook if you’ve purchased the hardback version? Sure. Stealing the hardbacks themselves is much more fun though. Is it ethical for a publisher to charge what they charge for hardbacks? No way at all. Sorry publishers, your pricing sucks and you know it. So, certainly it’s ethical to steal an eBook if I’ve been robbed by the hardback price already.
Now of course all the minimum wage proof readers in New York City will pounce on me and call me terrible names because they dread being turned into temp workers.
But stealing books is a real talent. You need a big army jacket that has lots of giant pockets inside and out. It’s best to steal them from large grocery and discount stores. eBooks are too easy to steal and you never really know what’s waiting for you on the other end of a download link anyway. The photo is of me demonstrating my own book-stealing technique. I have amassed quite the respectable library this way. But I never lend books out because they seldom make their way back home.
Here is an effort by a New York Times writer to answer the question of whether stealing ebooks is ethical or not if you’ve already bought the hardback.
But here’s a better piece at The Millions about an eBook pirate who’s pretty clear about what he likes.
Also, if you want to see how stealing books actually improves the world and culture, read The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño.