E-Books and Electricity: Do You Really Have a Copy of That Book You Bought?

A couple of weeks before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston (and Rockport and Corpus), a series of huge thunderstorms rumbled through Central Texas filled with lightning bolts and high winds.  Here in San Antonio, we can have storm winds gusting 40-50 mph, so this is serious business.

The lights flickered at 7:15 and we lost power by 7:30.  No biggie: we have candles and flashlights at the ready for this sort of thing.  And it never lasts over an hour or two.

Wrong.  This time, we went 14 hours without electricity.  The CPS website map of local outages looked like the entire county had been colored in by some excited child with a new box of Crayons.

So, sure: I picked up my Kindle Fire to read for a bit.  And here’s where I discovered what I need to share with you, Dear Reader.

I could only access around seven books.  And I have HUNDREDS in my Kindle library. 


Well, I learned that while I had downloaded lots of these books onto my old Kindle, I had not bothered to do so with this newer e-reader.  And the old Kindle is dead.  No workie.

Electronic Publications Are Not the Same as Paper

It’s just another lesson here in electronic publishing.  There are several that I need to remember:

1.  License Isn’t Ownership

I have a license to read these publications.  That’s what I am buying really when I purchase an e-book from Amazon.   It’s NOT the same as a paper book. 

Melville House goes into lots of detail on licensing in a piece written by Chad Felix, “”Ownership” and other e-book fallacies.”

2. Download to Store on the Device

I have to download the publication onto my device in order to have full access.  If it’s in my “library” it’s on the cloud.  No Wi-Fi, no cloud.

Learn more on this from Carolyn Nicander Mohr’s discussion entitled “How to Delete Kindle Books from the Cloud vs. Your Device,” in a post on The Wonder of Tech.

3.  Download Isn’t Permanent

And it gets trickier.  I borrow ebooks from the library via OverDrive.  This allows me to go to Amazon and download a book.

But when the time allotted expires, my loan is over and so is my ability to access that publication.  I did download it.  But it’s not there permanently.  It’s a digital library book where I never pay late fees.

For more here, read the February 19, 2017, article “How to back up Kindle books to a computer – step-by-step guides,” by Piotr Kowalczyk at EbookFriendly.com.  He also explains how Amazon keeps access to your downloads, too.  Maybe a publisher wants to change something, etc.


Now, I still love my e-reader.  And I’m going to take the time to download my beloved books onto the new e-reader. 

But this makes me appreciate paper books all the more.  And reaffirms my practice of buying the paper book of anything I read and love as an e-book. 

Because then it’s really MINE.