Monday, October 19, 2009

The e-Reader Changing the Way You Read?

Just a reminder: this month we're giving away Patti Hill's fun new novel, Seeing Things. Leave a comment on one of our discussions for a chance to win.
How has the emergence of e-books changed the way you read? Michael Miller, Executive Publisher at NavPress, which published my last two novels, wrote on his blog the road ahead . . . , "Consumers are moving away from retail stores and to virtual retailers ... The e-book and e-reader world ... will have an impact." Undoubtedly that's true, but how much of an impact? A recent NexGen Research study predicts that the global market for e-readers such as the Kindle and Sony Reader will exceed $2.5 billion by 2013. On the other hand, Steve Jobs discounts the potential of the e-book market because, he says, "People don't read anymore." Ouch. I can't begin to fathom that. My husband and I are voracious readers, as are our children.
So, if NexGen Research is correct that the e-reader market will turn into a multi-billion dollar industry in a very short time, I can't help wonder, will it be a generational thing, where younger generations embrace the e-reader phenomenon, while the aging Boomer generation by and large clings to the familiar book format? Or will there be a blending of the two? Can a die-hard book lover be wooed into the world of the e-reader? Will a generation deeply submerged in the technology age eventually find traditional books obsolete?
My book club discussed the subject this past week, and to a woman, everyone agreed they would not trade a "real" book for an electronic one. Granted, most of us fall into that aging Boomer category, but the two 30-somethings in our group were as adamant as the rest of us. We all love the smell of paper and ink as we crack open that first page, and the feel of a "real" book in our hands.
And yet, as unappealing as the e-reader concept is to me as an exclusive way to read, I can see its merits in selected situations. Travel, of course, tops the list. How convenient to load a book or two onto a Kindle and save space in your suitcase for an extra pair of shoes. Textbooks are a close second on my list of the merits of an e-reader. I'm sure every middle and high school student on the planet would gladly trade a backpack full of books for one small reading device. Not to mention the savings college students could realize every semester if they could purchase textbooks for e-readers at a remarkably reduced rate. If you ask me, buying college textbooks is much like buying concessions at a movie theater or ballpark -- as close as you can get to legal extortion.
Alright then, I'm curious. Can you see a world where books and ebooks find compatibility, or will traditional books eventually go the way of the vinyl record and 8-track cassette? And, of course, the looming question on the minds of writers everywhere is, "What will that mean for me?"
I'd love to hear what you think.


Connie Reece said...

Aging boomer here. I bought a Kindle a few months ago and have fallen in love with it. (Side note: the first book I bought happens to be Latayne Scott's Latter-Day Cipher.)

I still love reading "real" books. And it's still easier for me to go back and find something I've marked up on the page, even though you can highlight passages in a Kindle book and make notations. But the convenience of the Kindle is quite addictive. My library goes wherever I do.

On a two-week vacation, I read five novels on the Kindle. I can read a book while I'm waiting at the doctor's office. The Kindle even syncs with my iPhone, another feature I love. Yes, I read books on the iPhone! It's especially great for reading in bed because the iPhone has a lighted display, while the Kindle does not.

I'm not sure it's a generational thing; it may be more of an early-adopter technology thing. Many of my Boomer friends are, like me, early adopters of new technology. While we are definitely in the minority, our age group is the fastest-growing demographic for social networks.

Some people, regardless of age, enjoy new technologies; some don't.

Steve G said...

I think there will be a large shift to e-readers, but not as fast as they think. People are slow to change.

People are in general moving to online sales, and not just for books. We see some stores being hurt, but when I go to a mall on the weekend or in November/December, I see it crowded out even more from what I remember. The internet has taken a "confidence" hit from all the scams and identity theft issues.

I love shelves, especially bookshelves. One day, if I could have a "my" room in our house any way I could, it would have three walls of books (the other would have the electronics...).

We don't have an e-reader, and Kindle is still not available in Canada. I can't even use a Palm Pre in Saskatchewan. It has something to do with who controls the airwaves - we are so backwards in that sense. I am not so interested in a kindle reading to me as I am in the audio books being read by the author or professionals. I would love to have a copy of Bonnie reading Talking to the Dead. Mind you, her voice can make me really sleepy, but that's another story.

The bottom line, I think, is publishers have to be creative and expand how they do business - and they have to plug into the technology one way or another. I also think they need to pick up more promotion. In college I would look for IV Press books because they were always great. Houses need to continue branding their imprints so they are "guaranteed good reads".

And where are the good marketing people and promoters? I have seen some that only want to promote people already "famous". And then their package is all about blogs and email blasts. Where's the sense in that? We need to see groups with large numbers of members step up and take responsibility for promoting excellence in their interests/genres. And they need to promote themselves so people know they are the "to go" people.

We need a Christian New York Times list, not just based on numbers sold, but based on excellence. Who has that voice to get that stuff out to readers, not just authors? Maybe a group of "already famous" authors needs to be putting out their list of weekly or monthly "recommended reads". If they didn't have time to read everything, they could shortlist stuff through other people interested in a project like that. Promoting excellent Christian reads helps every author and gets people reading again.

Bookstores have to do more than just books in a location. How many businesses do today what they did 50 years ago? Why don't more have an online presence and ship stuff (like mail order) themselves?

What does it mean for an author? Maybe we need to plan to do more than write one book, then another. What if an author planned for every book to write 3 or 4 short stories (offered as cheap e-books or for free), a planned book trailer, a bonus audio "sneak peek", a unique layout for a facebook/twitter party, bonus giveaways like recipes or a set of pictures that portray either scenes or inspiration for the novel, etc rather than trying to add all these things after the fact? Writers are creative people. Maybe if we create a bit more of a 3 dimensional world that expands beyond the book we would capture people's imaginations again. Just a thought...

Word Verification - kative: A action that reflects back to something Kate (Talking to the Dead) would do. I stuck my finger in a friend's back and said, "Everybody don't move; I'm walking out of here alone." It wasn't well planned, and it wasn't thought out - it was kative.

Lori Benton said...

I had to think a moment about the notion of student text books on e-readers... and realize why it doesn't appeal to me. If I've studied it, or just read it multiple times, I can remember where on the page of a book or notebook full of notes certain information lies. During tests I would skim that page in my mind to help me find the bit I needed to answer a question, or organize my thoughts for an essay.

While I've never actually held a Kindle, I reckon this sort of thing would not be possible with one?

I'm not the least bit attracted to e-readers, and I'm a Gen-X. I think. But then, I have no idea how an Ipod works, much less an iPhone. Heck, I don't even know how to find messages on the cell phone I keep in my purse for life-and-death emergencies.

I don't think that's very typical, these days. :)

PatriciaW said...

I think there's a shift, but it's much more gradual than the writing community portends. Publishers still say that only about 5% of sales are ebooks.

It seems like everyone has an ereader these days, but can we define "everyone"? Much more something within the writing community, moreso than within the larger reading community. Change is coming. No, it's here but it's not quite as swift as we sometimes believe.

Unknown said...

I'm a 49-year-old woman/bookworm. I got a Kindle earlier this year and I love, love, LOVE it. It goes with me everywhere. It's fabulous for travel (I read fast and used to have to take several books with me when I traveled) and great for reading in bed. I love the fact that I can buy and download books from virtually anywhere -- even the car.

All that being said, my Kindle never will replace "real" books for me. I love the feel of real books. And anything that I might want to make notes in or use for research will find a place on my "real" bookshelf.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen Torres-Toro said...


I never could have used a Kindle in college because I'm like Lori. I need to feel the pages, to mark them up, etc. A gadget can't give me that. I can't imagine trying to study with one.

I do believe the Kindle will catch on. I guess it is convenient for travel, as long as you're not going very far. I held out on getting an ipod for a long time, until they made ones with big enough memories for my entire music library and a battery life to suit fifteen hour flights. Still, you need electricity to charge it so depending on where I go it's not even an option. And it's just another thing to steal. For my life, it's just not practical.

A friend of mine--also in missions--has a Kindle. He let me study it, read from it, and told me all about how much he loves it. I see why it works for him (his house has electricity), but it will be a long time until I get one. I have the most basic cell plan so there's no internet or texting or ireader. The only way I could use ebooks would be on my laptop--which is not going to happen. If I'm sitting at my own laptop reading a book, it's either mine or a friend's that I'm editing.

Nothing can replace actual books, even if they do tend to make my suitcase heavier.

Annie said...

I have tried reading e-books, but there I was not able to drag my computer to bed with me and snuggle in for the night! I HIGHLY prefer a real live book, the smell, the texture, the turning of pages, a bookmark to keep my place. My kids, who have been raised in techno land, will probably prefer the computer book. But I am old fashioned and prefer the real thing. Nothing can replace that!

Anonymous said...

Great comments, everyone. Thanks for taking the time to share your preferences. Steve, you put a lot into your response. I really appreciate that.

I'm not saying I wouldn't take a Kindle or Sony Reader if someone gave me one, but I'm not in any hurry to trade in my real books for virtual ones. Of course, that might change if I had an extended trip in my forecast.

We do love hearing from all of you!

Kathleen Popa said...

I think I would most appreciate the Kindle when I travel. I'm not a fast reader, but I still like to take at least four or five books with me - after all, who knows what my mood will call for? In my daydreams I imagine carrying my entire library in my purse. As it is, I'm able to download e-books onto my cell phone, and that's nice.

Like others here, I love the sensual feel and smell of paper. Occasionally, though, I think to return to a previous passage to read again what was said before, and I find myself groping for a search box on the page the way a passenger might instinctively go for his non-existent brake pedal.

I have a feeling I will one day own a Kindle, and I will probably love it.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading this I was trying to imagine an ereader sitting on my treadmill. Would it be easier to "turn pages"? Could I see the print as well? Can you change the print size on them? That would be a huge plus for them. What's stopping me is the price, though. There's just no way I can afford one. And wouldn't have a clue how much the books would cost. I do have a feeling that the more the technology is advanced the greater the chance that printed books will go the way of vinyl records...

Unknown said...

Hey Connie, am I honored! The first book you bought for your Kindle was mine? Wow, and thank you!

One of the reasons I don't have an e-Reader is that they're not universal enough yet. Some people have mentioned that they can't or won't use them because of screens not being lit, not having electricity or internet connection for downloading, or other reasons.

If you're going to get one -- try one out and ask lots of questions. One of my publishers graciously and generously gave us authors a wonderful Sony e-Reader. It was fabulous -- except it only could be loaded by a PC and I have a Mac (and almost everyone I'm close to has a Mac too.) So that meant I had to ask our minister to load books on it -- and saw that doing that on a regular basis would not be a good thing. (He's nice, but busy.)

So-- I gave it away at a Facebook party (What's that? Read about it at Market My Novel -- ) and made somebody else really happy with something cool -- that I couldn't use.

So I'm still waiting for an affordable, universal e-Reader---