From Iceland — Living Inside The Meltdown

Living Inside The Meltdown

Published July 12, 2010

Here is a short book, available only in electronic format, which presents eight interviews with ten people who tell their story of Iceland’s economic collapse. We meet a couple who made some unfortunate real estate transactions, a student who was abroad during the collapse, a policeman who served during the demonstrations at parliament in January 2009, a half-Icelandic couple who moved back in 2007, two Portuguese immigrants, the owner of a small import business, a retired building supplies wholesaler, and an investment advisor at Íslandsbanki (a.k.a. Glitnir).
You can read this book in an hour or so. The interviews are interesting, though short. Icelanders are often more open in print than they would be in person. You won’t get a detailed sense of Iceland’s economic breakdown from this book but you will get an impression.
Alda Sigmundsdóttir took and edited the interviews and writes a brief introduction. For the last few years she has run a fine blog called the Iceland Weather Report, which makes good reading for those looking for updates about Iceland in English.
The book isn’t available in print and doesn’t have an ISBN number, but you can buy it (which means, get a URL which lets you download it as a PDF) from her blog website for $24.99. Alda makes a plea on the website and in the book to respect her copyright and not read bootleg copies of the PDF. This is all good, but it raises a few issues.
One is whether it’s OK to read the book, then pass it on to someone else and delete it from your computer. Alda doesn’t give any clear guidance on this, but I’d say yes (as long as you really do delete it from your computer), along the same lines as that it’s OK to resell a regular old paper book after you read it.
Another is that this book contains 91 pages of text, which means it’s priced at $0.27 per page. That’s a lot, especially when you consider that longer e-books sell for $10 on Amazon and you can buy a good song online (and play it over and over) for less than a dollar. One wants Alda to be compensated for her efforts, which are valiant and sincere. But people who are already overwhelmed with content, much of it free (including the nine volumes on the economic collapse from the government’s truth commission) need a very compelling reason to justify spending twenty-five bucks on even a very sincerely produced ninety-one page PDF.
I wonder if Alda could do as well or better by reducing the price to well under $10 and using a sales portal like that would allow her to offer the book in paper form as well. As is, I think Living Inside the Meltdown just costs too much. That isn’t a judgement about Alda’s skills as a writer and editor, but rather a reminder of how complicated it is to find workable publishing models in the age of the Internet.

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