Wednesday, April 7, 2010

To E-Book, or Not to E-Book

I am a book lover, as are most of my friends. Like them, I like the feel of a book in my hand, the scent of the paper, the touch of the page. I like being able to flip back and forth in a book, rereading a passage, checking a fact, and somehow knowing where on the page I first read it.

You can't get quite the same experience from an e-book. In fact, many book lovers believe that reading an e-book is a sort of sacrilege. I understand that. Really, I do. But . . .

I make no apologies. I own a Kindle. In fact, we are now a four-Kindle family--and we love them.

Since our house already has bookshelves lining nearly every wall, and each bookcase is stuffed with books that overflow into stacks on the floor, by the bed, on top of the desk, and on every table or other flat surface, the idea of getting a book without having to store it somewhere is pretty attractive. It is especially wonderful as an option for those books I know I will only read once. You know the kind. They are the ones that you gobble up like potato chips, but do not need to preserve for posterity--or even pass along to a friend.

And the Kindle is wonderfully portable. I took it with me to the doctor's office yesterday, and it helped me pass the time (over an hour and a half altogether) spent waiting to see someone. Normally, I would bring a book, but with an hour and a half, what if I had finished the book, and all that was available to me were old copies of People magazine? With the Kindle, I carried many books with me, and could get more almost immediately if needed.

Best of all from my husband's perspective, when I read the Kindle in bed, the book light doesn't flash in his eyes, nor does the paper rustle, every time I turn a page. And the cat cannot pull the bookmark out of place. It's not that I have abandoned purchasing traditionally-published books, but I am happy to be among those reading e-books as well.

Yet, it seems everywhere I look these days, people are writing about the end of publishing as we know it. According to the apocalyptic predictions, because of e-publishing the traditional model is dead. Soon, no books will appear in hard copy, bookstores will close, publishers will no longer offer advances to authors, and, worst of all, unknown authors will never get a contract to have a book published.

It sounds a bit hysterical when one considers that e-books currently make up about 3% of the book market. For a few years there weren't many e-book readers out there, but in the past six months both the Barnes and Noble Nook and the Apple iPad have come out, making it likely that the number of e-book buyers will increase. Publishers Lunch, a daily email newsletter, has devoted several columns to this question. In one, it noted that "Stephen King sees 40% of fiction and 25% of non-fiction sales as e-books," by 2019. [December 28, 2009] Still, does that mean that the publishing world is coming to an end?

If you have been following the juggling for position among publishers and sellers of e-books over the past few months, you know that the industry is having a hard time adjusting to its new pressures and opportunities. The price of e-books, discounts to sellers, the agency model, and author royalties are all a concern to agents, authors, and consumers as well.

Perhaps the book industry should read the book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. It offers perspective on adapting to change in work and in life.

Ironically, it's not available as an e-book.

1 comment:

  1. I love my Nook! What a joy to travel with a LIBRARY of books that take up no space at all in my suitcase. Still, book stores are what feed my addiction. How many times have I seen someone seated in a cafe with a stack of books and a title catches my eye. I MUST find out more about it - and usually end up with my own copy. My greatest concern about the future of eBooks is that with so many people using it to self-publish, how will one separate the wheat from the chaff?