Nostalgic Rumblings
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December 2012
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“You get what you pay for?” Retire that bromide!

Filed under: General, Reviews and Impressions — Charlie Summers @ 4:23 pm

A while back I asked via Twitter for help in converting the format of some “e-books” I have here; since a lifetime ago I used to have a Palm PDA (Personal Digital Assistant…geez, how quaint!) I have a butload of public domain books in various formats that worked on the Handspring, mostly PalmDOC .prc files, and wanted to convert them to the more modern ePub format (basically a ZIP file containing XHTML files and support files like graphics, etc.).

One of the responses I received was from a sales drone trying to sell me on a commercial web-based application for authors; it’s basically an on-line word processor and export application that charges a whopping $19.00 every time you export a book to .epub and .mobi format!

(This same company had started a micropay service in competition with PayPal. Never heard of it? Me, neither.)

Clearly I had and have no intention of paying $20 per book to convert a public domain .prc file to .epub…heck, I doubt this commercial service would even handle the input of .prc, so the response was inappropriate and nothing more than some sleazy salesguy searching Twitter for mentions of e-books. I admit I was annoyed, and called him out on it suggesting his “service” was massively over-priced; if you are an author of nitch books and want to convert to a non-DRMed e-book, there are much cheaper (read, free) ways of getting there, so this “service” depends on authors uneducated in the concept of free software.

The salesdrone responded, “You get what you pay for.” Which got me thinking about this old bromide, one I’ve used myself quite often.

In the world of the Internet, I think it’s time to retire this nonsense.

Hear me out…as a proponent of free (as in beer and as in speech) software, I know something about it, and can usually recommend some open-source or free software to accomplish almost any task. But the argument of the bromide is, the free stuff simply cannot be as good as the software you pay for. So let me throw out a few examples where the freeware alternative is near the equal of the commercial version, at least for the common consumer:

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