THE ADVENT OF THE E-BOOK

Two weeks ago we wrote about Politics and Prose's concerns and hopes vis-à-vis the new technology. We would like to quote from portions of letters from five customers who wrote thoughtful comments and provided us with invaluable feedback: Deborah Brightwell, Sue Murrin, Terri Dixon, Craig and Alison Field, and Philip Webre. We hope this discussion will continue. Write to 25@politics-prose.com and both of us will get your email.

The question on everybody’s minds - authors, publishers, booksellers - is how the e-book will develop and how much of the market share it will represent in, say, a decade.Naturally, we think that the book – the codex – is the most perfect artifact ever invented - the most beautiful, the most convenient. We love our shelves lined with friends we have met and with whom we hope to reacquaint ourselves again on a rainy day in the future. But we do understand the environmental argument, as well as the convenience argument for the e-reader. What we don’t know yet is how quickly people will shift, whether readers will continue to read in both ways, or whether there are some books that will work better on e-readers than others. Click here for readers responses.

-- Barbara & Carla

 

READERS' RESPONSES:

Deborah Brightwell
As a librarian I’ve always been one to embrace technology as it truly has revolutionized the way we offer services, especially research.  However, as a librarian, obviously I’m a HUGE fan of the printed book. 

My "old eyes" were the true impetus that brought me to e-books.  I was finding that I was having difficulty reading, and it was becoming more of a chore then a joy.  For our anniversary my husband presented me with the Sony e-book and the leather cover in which to carry it that included the lighted filter to go over the page.   It also offers the ability to enlarge the print to a comfortable size.  I was in heaven!!! Not only could I read without every light in the room on, but I can read in the dark.  I’ve read no less than a book a week since then. 

I’ve been building a wish list using the P&P newsletters and reviews.  I’ll be so happy to be able to give you the money now!!! Supporting independent bookstores is an important cause of mine and many of my librarian colleagues. Sure there are still some books that I’ll want to have in hardback, but e-book technology has given me back my joy of reading and I feel like I’m discovering books all over again.

 

From Sue Murrin 
So far, I enjoy my kindle (yes, forgive me, kindle, I didn't even know there were other types out there) not as a place to read books, but as a place to read newspapers.  The set up makes it much easier to scan the headlines to ensure I don't miss something I need to know.  It’s much cheaper than home delivery and I can easily access a computer to get the things I am missing in the kindle edition of the paper (movie times, weather, etc).  It also definitely lowers the carbon imprint of my two paper a day habit.  What they will need to do is come up with a way the paper can make more $ off e-readers.  I don't want to contribute to the death of the American newspaper, I want to be part of its morphing into a 21st century entity.

In terms of books, I join you in preferring the hard copy, having it around to consult later.  I also don't like that I have to "turn the page" on the kindle much more often than I do on a book.  It slows me down some.  At least in terms of my consumption, I think I will be using e-formats just for newspapers and for books I am pretty sure I am only going to want to read once,  either a summer read that doesn't need to get added to my permanent library or something for work.

 

From Terri Dixon
Why am I not a fan of e-readers?  Several reasons: I have a small rare book collection.  It's not a lot, but I have several first editions and signed copies of books that I am very proud of.  Those simply aren't possible if I have an e-reader. 

On an e-reader, you spend several hundred dollars on the reader, and then still have to purchase the books.  The technology for reading an actual book will never become obsolete.  Think about it in terms of computers.  How many people can still read information that was saved onto punch cards, magnetic tape, and floppy discs?  The technology we have today in the forms of e-readers will be upgraded and made obsolete before we know it.  

From Craig and Alison Field:
We visit your bookstore once or twice a week, and we are members; we have a 15,000 book library at home; we buy books both in bookshops, obviously including yours, and on-line; and we own three e-books between the two of us.

The Amazon web site offers a comfortable, instructive, enjoyable and constructive buying experience (which is not to say it does not have its annoying aspects as well). It is a much better e-retail experience than almost anywhere else on the Web. We bought two Sony e-books the day they went on sale years ago, and then later a Kindle as well.

We buy e-books for one reason only: travel. We take long trips, and packing 20 or 30 or 40 books just weighs too much. We sometimes buy both the e-book and paper-book version of the same thing, reading the paper version at home and keeping it 'forever' in our library; and traveling with the e-book version, considering it 'disposable'.

The only suggestion I have is that your e-book buying experience at your web site has to be just as good as your paper- or physical-book buying experience, a lesson Amazon understands, and fully integrated.



From Philip Webre
I am both an avid Politics & Prose fan/customer and a kindle owner, which I received as a gift.  I attend book talks at P&P about 2-3 times a month. While the quality of the kindle experience is definitely inferior to a good book, the ability to bring more reading material (when we travel) along is of value.  Most of the material on my kindle does not come from Amazon.  Amazon allows me to email both DOC files and PDF files to my kindle at a cost of 15 cents per megabyte or article. 

Amazon gives away very many ebooks on the kindle.  I downloaded an Alan Furst that way. But, like most of your clients, I am selective. The initial cost of the book is small relative to the time I put into reading it.  Most of the books are of no interest to me even if they are free.

At present mainly I use my kindle for magazine articles.  If there is a long article in the NY Review of Books---to which I subscribe---I will often cut and paste it into a DOC file and email it to my kindle. Ditto the New Yorker, the Sunday Times Magazine, etc. The kindle’s limitation for me is that I read nonfiction books and the kindle does not render tables and graphs well.  So I lose the battle maps or data tables that in many cases illuminate the narrative.

The one thing I think P&P has to fear from the kindle is the lack of impulse control.  To get a physical book from P&P, I have to get in the car, etc. Getting a book from the kindle takes less than a minute. Frankly, buying a kindle book on Amazon is a rich experience with reviews, customer ratings, look-inside-the- book features.  It might be very expensive to copy a lot of those features. I am glad to see you are giving thought to this area. As a loyal P&P customer, I do hope to buy my ebooks from you.

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