Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thoughts on the Impact of eBooks

With the rise in sales of eBooks and the constantly evolving market for eReaders, the question has arisen whether the effect of technology will drive the printed book to extinction.  I've posted about this before (Clouds in my Coffee) and I can't say I have any better answers, but it did make me wonder what the effect of audio books has been over the years and whether that looked as ominous as eBooks when it all started.  Granted, they each hit slightly different market motivations, but what is the correlation?

My husband listens to a lot of audio books simply because it allows him to read more than he would otherwise.  He listens while he's mowing the lawn, taking a shower, driving, and other less convenient places for paper books.  He still buys paper books, especially those he wants to read again or keep as a resource.  But for fun, popular fiction, he often goes the audio book route.  Ultimately, I doubt he would ever really subscribe to the whole eBook deal simply because it would just be another way to read a paper book...involving hands and eyes.

So, why choose eBooks over paper?  For the most part, I think people choose it for the weight factor, as well as convenience.  Why lug around 60 pounds of literature when you can have your entire library at your finger tips for just  8.5 ounces?  I know that's one reason so many agents and editors glommed on to the Kindle way back when.  Are there other reasons?

Audio books certainly have their niche and they have provided literature for a wider audience who might not otherwise read paper books at all.  They have also generated additional revenues for the publishing business.  Will eBooks find that same kind of well-defined niche or will they supplant the printed word altogether?

I would love to know how many writers have an eReader, how many are thinking of getting one, and how many refuse to be traitors to tradition.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Please feel free to comment in detail.


  1. I've thought of getting an e-reader. Yet, my life is such that I'm always on the computer. Between that and my mobile phone, I just don't know if I want more gadget time. A physical book adds to the feeling that when I'm reading for pleasure, I'm "getting away." That I'm truly shifting gears.

    I do have some e-books on my computer, and I've found I don't read them because "out of sight, out of mind." If they were physical books on my nightstand, I'd have read them by now. I realize an e-reader will be more of a visual prompt to read than a computer is. I imagine what'll happen is that I'll get one when I'm sure I'm ready.

  2. I haven't got a reader, but I read a lot of E-books on my EEE PC netbook that I carry almost at all times. I don't think there's so much difference between a printed book and an E-book, as long as it's printed text. Weight is an important factor, especially when going on a vacation (we used to limit the number of books we take to three, and that's too few for two weeks); and so is bulk. My wife and I are a bit religious about books, if we buy a book we keep it - but it gets somewhat inconvenient when the flat is filled with books you're never going to read again. What with books that I need for my research, it's more convenient to have them as E-books - you can have the book open in one window on the PC screen, and your word processor in another, typing in your thoughts and comments as you read; that saves a bit of time and labor, and so does copypasting rather than retyping quotes. Overall, you know, radio was supposed to kill newspapers, and sound movies - to do away with the theater, and TV was to finish all the above... years passed and we still have all of them alive and kicking, even vynil records are still there. I think, we're going to follow with books the routine that many people now have with music: download the staff in the digital form, and if you like it enough to come back to it time and again, get a hard copy (CD or vynil or paper, whatever).

    And, cheap trash paperbacks are never going to die... pressing the Delete button just isn't the same as the hearty phisical motion of hurling the volume into the bin 8-)))

  3. Marcia, I'm in a similar boat. The convenience is attractive but I love the feel of a "real" book in my hands and that notion of getting away is too true!

    A M, I hear you on the scads of books I never open again but just can't bear to part with. And hazzah for cheap, trashy paperbacks!

  4. I suppose I'm a paradox. I don't have an ereader. I don't like reading long stories on a screen, yet now only publish ebooks.

    I was traditionally published, but my publisher was rubbish at book promotion - if I have to do my own, why not take most of the royalties...

    I recognize that ereaders are here to stay, yet I love to have a 'real' book in my hands. I love the smell, the feel, and the ownership of 'real' books. Long may they remain.

  5. I'm with you, AJ. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the sight of a wall of shelves filled with books.

    I'm sorry to hear that your publisher dropped the ball on promotion. This is a tough business. Keep forging ahead though, and I'll be marching right along with you...


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