Kindle Crossing - Why Buy an ebook Reader?
I went to turn the page but there was none. I had crossed over. I had forgotten that I was reading an electronic device.
I suspect, like many of you, I was fond of explaining why ebooks would never replace real books. Throw them both on the ground and which one could you still read? Which would you rather have at poolside, a $150 dollar electronic device or a five-dollar used paperback? A friend recently told me that she liked to annotate; therefore, she didn’t want an ebook reader. There is always at least one good reason, not to mention the emotional attachments to the smell, the pages on your thumb, the ease of finding random passages.
I had an almost visceral attachment to hardcover and paperback books, so I understood my resistance. On the other hand, I’ve also consistently embraced technological advances that would help with my writing. I started "word processing" on an Atari with my black and white portable TV as monitor. I was eager to "surf the net" and waited patiently while staring at the AOL lightning bolts and listening to the irritating static sounding waiting to get "connected." So why not purchase an ebook reader? Too expensive? Not really, although expense is always a good excuse, especially in this economy.
I came to my kindle through my writing. After having "traditionally" published a novel, short stories, and articles, getting good reviews, winning awards, and being nominated for a Pushcart Prize, I was still suffering. And I kept my vow never to self-publish. Suddenly, however, writers could publish their own ebooks for "free." The electronic publisher takes a cut of copies sold. (What is this doing to the publishing industry?) So rather than go through the laborious query and submission process, I embraced the concept of ebook publishing on Smashwords and Kindle.
My neighbor questioned why I didn’t go ahead and buy an ebook reader. Good question. I was ready with my poolside answer. But somehow it didn’t sound convincing anymore. How could I publish ebooks without reading them? It was akin to the occasional student telling me they liked to write, but not to read. So I spent weeks looking at the Kindle and the now defunct Nook. Even then I was reluctant to spend the money. It seemed a big step. But when why wife was out shopping, I asked her if she would do the deed, so she bought me a kindle.
Within hours, I realized my mistake; that is, why I had resisted so long. In trying to pile up reasons ebook readers would never replace real books, I focused on what I couldn’t do with a kindle. I had failed to factor what I could do.
For example, I can download samples of books within seconds of hearing the author speak on the radio, I can read the sample, and if I like it, have the entire book seconds later. I can hold thousands of books in one hand. Turning the page is easier, especially when lying down. I can change type size to accommodate poor lighting or tired eyes. I can look up definitions instantly. And while it is taking some getting used to, I can bookmark, annotate, and highlight. After a few weeks, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. I love my kindle.
Will ebook readers fully replace hardcover and paperback books? No. I still love hard copies and now also use CreateSpace to publish. But ebook sales continue to outpace traditional sales. Eventually, some sort of equilibrium will occur, but who knows when and at what ratio. Perhaps the technology will progress to make super-kindles.
All this coming from me, a person who wrote the initial draft of this article with an ink pen. (My kids make fun of me for calling it an "ink" pen, as if there were other kinds.) But I can throw my ink pen and paper on the ground and it will still work. Try that with a laptop.