Industry experts much smarter than I have been talking about the merits and demerits of e-books and e-readers for months. Discussions of the agency model, lower royalties for authors, and what that means for agents and publishers populate the web more than the number of visitors to Disneyland in summer. While the subject has many of us in the business of publishing fascinated and waiting with baited breath to see how this is going to affect the way of business we’ve known, I’ve met more than one glazed-over look when bringing the subject up to folks outside of the industry.
But watch what happens when I say, “So what do you think of the Kindle [or the Nook … or the iPad]?”
Suddenly, a fire lights up in their eyes, and they take a deep breath and tell me with great passion
a) why their Kindle is the best thing in the world and all the great features it has;
b) why e-books and e-book devices are the end of civilization as we know it.
Friends, colleagues and I have also talked about the social ramifications of e-readers (“Between iPods, iPhones, and iPads, no one will know how to communicate with anyone anymore!” [They probably said that about TV, too]), the physical effects, (“It hurts my eyes to look at a device for so long.” “But you can adjust the backlighting and font size …”), but none of us actually owns one.
Cited as the most gifted item on Amazon during the Christmas season in 2009, it’s obvious that Kindles and their competitive devices are catching on with readers. Look around on a bus, metro, or in a library, and you’ll see them everywhere. As I said, I personally do not own an e-reader. My reason (excuse?) is that in my job, I look at and read documents on a computer screen all day that the idea of looking at another for my off-hours pleasure reading is horrific. Another elephant-in-the-room reason is, of course, the price. It doesn’t quite make sense to me right now to invest in a device for hundreds of dollars, with another $10-$15 on top of that for each book, when I can simply go to my bookstore and just pick up a book.
An obvious parallel to owning an e-reader (and an argument I’ve heard) is a DVD player or computer for which you can buy/rent/download movies, TV shows or whatever else you want. I do own both of those (a majority of us do), but I would argue that with my DVD player and computer, I get far more bang for my buck, as I can watch a movie or a download TV show in a fraction of the time it takes me to read a book. But just as with TVs and computers, the price of e-readers will eventually come down, and that particular reason for my not having one will be eliminated. But will that encourage me to purchase one? I’m not sure at this point.
Which leads me to my question for this post: How do owners of e-readers really feel about e-readers? Do you like yours? Was the investment worth it? Would you go back to paper books?