On the fence

Do you own a Kindle, or other e-reader?  I don’t — yet.  I use Kindle for PC from time to time, but I spend so much time staring at the computer screen for my job that the prospect of staring at it even longer to read a book is not really appealing most days.  I love the solid feeling of a book in my hand and enjoy the comfort of turning the pages, saving my place with a favorite bookmark.  But then again, trying to read on the sofa with a heavy book is sometimes awkward, and hard to hold when trying to angle it into the best light for reading.  Bookmarks fall out, places are lost, pages sometimes get creased and mussed.  And it’s not always convenient to carry a book for reading away from home.

I am distressed at hearing the rumors that Barnes & Noble and/or Borders could be closing after this holiday season.  There are several reasons for this, of course, but the runaway success of Amazon’s Kindle certainly plays a part in it.  B&N has its own e-reader, the Nook, but it’s not been nearly as successful as the Kindle.  Amazon has said that Kindle e-books outsell hardcover books and will outsell paperback books this coming year.  Some people are predicting the complete demise of the book as we know it, others say that there will always be a place for bound and paperback books.

So I am torn, regarding the Kindle.  And Amazon has made it pretty hard to resist, now that Kindles are much less expensive than before.  My sister and her husband both have them and love them.  My daughter hates the idea of e-readers encroaching on traditional book territory.  I am intrigued by the Kindle and am thinking about getting one eventually, but at the same time I mourn the demise of traditional books.  But the words are what matter; does it really matter how those words are presented to us?

I think it matters most economically; publishing houses are increasingly offering e-book titles and some have made the switch to e-books altogether.  Authors are being paid far less than before as a result, since e-books usually cost much less than traditional books, which makes it harder for authors to make ends meet.  If B&N and Borders close, thousands of jobs will be lost.  But there’s no stopping the e-book juggernaut.  One high school back in Florida has replaced all of its textbooks with Kindles; the students think it’s great, they don’t have to carry heavy books, they have a dictionary at hand in the Kindle and can highlight and mark any of the text, which can’t be done in traditional school books.  Who can argue with this kind of success?

I think that I will be purchasing a Kindle probably at some point within the next 6 months or so, despite some of my misgivings.  What do you think?  Do you have one, and how do you feel about what’s happening to traditional books?

7 thoughts on “On the fence

  1. My whole family is pretty Kindle friendly, either we have the actual Kindle or we have the apps installed on the PC or mobile devices or iPad. We’ve actually saved a lot of money this way since we all share one Kindle account, and therefore, we all have access to all the books which have been bought under that account. And we don’t even have to wait around for someone to finish reading a book before we can read it since we all have the same instant access to the library.

    I don’t miss real books, because I still have the physical books anyway. And I appreciate all the conveniences that the Kindle offers.

  2. I really like a hard copy book, and do most of my reading either in the bath tub or while I am walking–a book getting rained on isn’t GREAT… getting dropped isn’t IDEAL (especially into a tub of water). But those things could be disastrous to the eReader, and the resulting problems a lot more serious than just warped pages.

    That said, I have a Cozy Mystery contract (straight to paperback–the cheap books) and I will make about twice the amount per unit for the eBooks than what I get for the paper copy. I know that isn’t the case for high end hard backs, but it is BETTER money than paperbacks to the authors.

    I also have a friend who lives in Japan who LIVES for her Kindle, as now she can read things that formerly were very difficult to get where she is.

    (So like you, I have mixed feelings on the matter)

  3. I, too, have mixed feelings. As I contemplate opening a bookstore (a pipe dream, but a dream nonetheless), I wonder how that would work–will we no longer have bookstores? I feel sad at that thought. I love the sensory experience of holding a book, picking it up, reading the back jacket. I think to lose that would be awful. BUT–it’s hard to argue with the availability and cost issues.

  4. To paraphrase, the rumors of the big chain’s demise is greatly exaggerated. Barnes and Noble just finished a protracted and expensive shareholder control fight–I don’t think either side would have bothered if they were about to close all the stores. And I know they can’t get by on their online business.

    Borders is still in the fight and reorganized yet again. Their trouble, in my opinion, is that they keep hiring non-book executive management. They need to take a lesson from Starbucks and get back to their basics.

    That said, there are certainly fewer independent bookstores around, a decline that’s been going on since the 80s.

    I’ve always felt that bookstores need to remember to run their business like a business, independent or chain. Specialize in customer service, take care of your inventory, be involved in the community. And still have the passion for what you do and what you are selling. There are a few landmark independents around that are excellent examples: Powell’s of course, Tattered Cover in Denver, Politics and Prose in DC, Vroman’s in LA, Book Passage in the Bay Area, Oxford Books in Mississippi.

    As for the eReader, I’m hoping it will end up taking its place next to physical books, and not replace them. Both have their attractions and uses. Did videos and DVDs and DVRs replace going to the movies? No. As for what Amazon reports, I would tend to take their comments with a bit of healthy skepticism. It’s in their financial interest to promote the idea of the ebook: their own product sales of the Kindle, of course, but also the fact that with electronic books there is no storage, no shipping, and less labor costs.

  5. Yes, Sandy, I agree that I’d like to see both e-books and physical books continue as we go into the future. I appreciate everyone’s comments on this, it makes for an interesting and timely discussion!

  6. i am vehemently against them. but of course i didnt get a cell phone until about a year ago, so that should tell you something. 😉

    but yes, im old fashioned about this. i want to hold an actual book. i use the computer enough, i read a book because i dont want to read the computer. also, i read in the bathtub a lot. i’d be scared to do that with a kindle.

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