E-Book Pitfalls

More consumers are closing their books and turning to electronic reading. But before you make the switch, Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmarMoney.com, says to consider these things the industry doesn't necessarily want you to know. 


When you buy an e-book, you're buying the right to access the book, not the book itself. Most have formatting that prevents you from legally accessing them on a different e-reader. Keep that in mind when you're deciding which e-reader to buy. It's a long-term purchase, and when you switch readers, you probably can't take your e-library with you.

E-book publishing platforms are so easy to use, just about anyone can publish a book. That means there's little oversight on copyright or quality. Some people buy really generic content and turn it into an e-book, or plagiarize stuff you could read online for free. Check reviews before you buy, and look into the authors. Fakers may list thousands of books they have "written."

A big pull of e-books is that you're paying less than you would for a physical copy. But that's not always the case. Pricing has shifted so that many e-books sell for just a dollar or two less than the hardcover. The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating the pricing model the biggest publishers are currently using. Right now, consumers should compare prices and see whether the e-book is the best deal.

A third of public libraries don't lend e-books, and those that do don't have a wide selection of titles available. Part of the problem is limited library budgets, but publishers have also raised prices for libraries and scaled back available e-book titles for borrowing. Consumers may have more luck with social borrowing sites like eBookFling.com and Lendink.com.

Most e-readers let users buy a new book with just one or two clicks. That extra spending is largely why retailers are so willing to subsidize prices and so insistent on preventing consumers from switching readers. A recent study found that Amazon customers who don't own a Kindle spent an average of $87 and those with a Kindle spent $136. You can usually set your e-reader to require a password before each purchase, which helps limit impulse buys.

For more information on e-readers and other consumer tips click here.