March 5, 2012

Switching from paper books to ebooks may turn into a transition away from books altogether.

Once you're on the iPad/Kindle Fire, it's so tempting to do other things too — email, Facebook, Googling here and there — that you lose the single-minded concentration that pulls you straight through a book.

Not that everyone reads books that way. You might have piles of paper books around the house that you dip into and keep meaning to finish. The nice thing about ebooks is you don't see them lying around and feel guilty.

Me, I've found a way to read ebooks that gives me that internetty feeling I love. I have hundreds of books in my iPad (where I use the Kindle app, and read books bought on Amazon). I keep my list of books in the order most recently read, and I like to pick something near the bottom of the list, read it until I get itchy for a distraction, then select another book near the bottom.

Why not? Well, the linked article takes the point of view of booksellers. They're worried people will stop reading things in book form. Me, I'm a blogger. It's a market. People will buy what they want. There are other choices that to be trapped in one author's mind for days on end.


rcommal said...

I never feel guilty about what or how I read. Never have. Never will. I read, therefore I am, and that, as the say, is that.

Doc Holliday's Bastard said...

I have the Kindle app for a Motorola Xoom and I can't say that my reading style has changed too much. If I'm reading something dense I'll often stop after a few pages to browse the internets, but I did the same thing with a regular books. If I'm reading one of my silly fantasy books I could read straight on through for a couple of hours and never even think of going online, just like before. The bonus is that now I have fewer fantasy books lying around so my friends don't give me as many "I never knew you were so weird" looks anymore.

Synova said...

I feel like I'm as digitally distractable as I can get, (after all, where am I this moment?) but this just sounds silly.

I don't have any other apps on my Nook, but I've read quite a few whole novels on my desktop computer. I don't have my computer set up to beep at me, so it doesn't. I particularly dislike reading something new in chunks, so I either read a novel (mostly) all at once, or I re-read a favorite that I don't mind putting down.

Now, people may acquire ebooks more eaily and not read them with less guilt, more often than they will get a paper book they don't read, but that's not the same thing as reading *fewer* books.

Bob_R said...

I got a kindle fire a month ago, and rarely use it to do anything other than as a reader. I usually have a laptop near at hand and I greatly prefer it for doing all those other web based tasks. I do alternate between a few books, but I always did/do that with print.

It's spring break and so far I've taken seven boxes of books to the thrift store.

Scott M said...

I was at a writer's guild meeting this past weekend where this topic came up over and over, despite the fact that the intent of the meeting was supposed to be submissions and queries.

As a quick aside, literature is the second sector I've involved myself in that has subsequently collapsed in on itself. I got into rock radio just before P2P ripped the music industry apart. Take heart in the fact that the music industry rebuilt itself and publishing will as well.

As far as the media itself pushing people from reading, I would have thought that would only affect the oldest book readers among us, but I'm starting to get the impression that's not exactly correct. One of the authors speaking this weekend was well into his seventies. I asked him pointedly about his perceptions of his age group's willingness to adapt to electronically delivered books. He said there is some reluctance, but that the devices themselves were so easy to use (and younger family members willing to help out on setup) that there's far more acceptance than I would have thought amongst the Geritol crowd.

Apart from that, I agree with another thing he mentioned. Avid book readers tend to be more adaptable as a subset anyway. You will read what's in front of you if it interests you regardless of how the words get there. Within a decade, when the ebook device industry collapses as people start downloading books directly into memory inserts and read them as text projected directly to the optic nerve, we'll be having this same conversation all over again.

Just FYI, the movie industry is next.

Petunia said...

When the apocalypse comes, and readers everywhere are desperate because their e-readers don't work anymore, I and my hoard of thousands of books will RULE THE WORLD!


Nora said...

I broke up with my Kindle a few months ago for this very reason. It's a 2nd gen. Kindle, but just being on an electronic device seems to be some sort of psychological prompt to check out my other electronic devices.

It's still okay for long stretches of air travel, but it's cold, oh so cold. No seduction, no getting lost in it, no sense one's been transported into another world at all.

Bob_R said...

Culling your library in an eBook world is very interesting. Rex Stout, Reginald Hill and Charles McCarry have to stay because I like to reread them and they are expensive as eBooks - basically the same price as a paperback. Dumas, Dickens, Homer have to go because they are free as kindle books. Certainly makes for less impressive looking collections (though most of my books are in our bedroom and the treadmill room so there aren't many people to impress.)

Rumpletweezer said...

The Kindle (and I assume most ebook devices) let you put your finger on a word you're unsure of and up pops a definition. I don't think it's possible to overestimate what that can do for a person's understanding of the text.

CharlesVegas said...

I've never read so many books as I have since I start using a Kindle and the Kindle app for PC.

When you come across an unfamiliar term or concept, you highlight the text, right-click, google it, chase it down, and end up buying another book.

Peter said...

The assumption seems to be that an ebook is just a paper book that's been translated for use on an e-reader.

And that's what they are now. Then again, an automobile was once a horseless carriage.

New media succeed initially by working much as the old did, only better. But eventually they become something quite different.

And so, I'd assume that ebooks will also drift away from their paper origins over time, and become something quite different from what's presently considered a book.

BTW, I returned my Kindle because it just didn't work well for reading non-fiction. My largest complaint was that the bookmarking functions were very slow as compared with paper- which is important to me as such books often contain numerous tables, graphs, etc.

edutcher said...

I'm with Petunia.

Besides, the screen is awfully small, so I really can't see it for me.

In any case, any book with graphics - the coffee table type - doesn't seem suited for the format.

Quaestor said...

There are other choices that to be trapped in one author's mind for days on end.

Call me an idiot, but I can't decode this string. There are the bones of a subordinate clause here, but just the bones.

chuckR said...

I loves me some Internet and Kindle, but there are books worth reading in physical form. I just started Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars - a Folio edition - and observe that it is easily portable, has excellent contrast, can withstand the shock of a long fall to the floor and the battery never runs down. Now a Clancy or Patterson novel would be a different matter - disposable entertainment and generally a waste of pulp paper.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Well, I don't get the concern. I have a Kindle Fire, and so far I mostly use it for, well, reading books. Many of them old books, actually; right now I have all of Dickens and all of Mark Twain and a huge chunk (not complete) of Chesterton on there, and most of my favorite Saki, and E. C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case, and a lot of more recent mysteries that I bought in Kindle form but not as physical books.

All the PD stuff was either literally free (maybe not if you don't have an Amazon Prime subscription, but that thing pays for itself several times over yearly in this household) or ridiculously cheap.

The sole drawback of the Kindle is that I don't dare walk around reading it, as I do physical paperbacks. If I stumble and drop a paperback, I am not out $200 plus a library.

gbarto said...

I have been very impressed with how much the Barnes and Noble Nook experts know about the Nook. It has turned the bookstore into a service department for the book reader. Because the reader combines two things I love - books and gadgets - I carry it with me pretty much all the time. One thing I've noticed is I flip over to the internet less and less and spend more time reading and shopping.

One thing the reader changes: You can browse books anywhere. You can sit in Starbucks or McDonald's or anyplace with wi-fi, skim a few pages and decide if you want to buy. I've found several authors that I never would have glanced at in the bookstore and probably wouldn't have bothered with had Amazon recommended them. But reading ten or twelve pages free, I looked and decided that for four or five bucks I'd give it a shot. It turns out that being able to buy books anywhere you want for four or five bucks (occasionally splurging on a $10 title!) is far more expensive than buying $10 books at the bookstore and occasionally splurging on something for $30 or $40.

My time on the Nook is about 60% reading, 20% internet and 20% games. My overall reading is up though, because I can have ten books going, have all of them with me at any time, and the Nook remembers where I left off on all of them.

A wonderful gadget, as I'm sure the Kindle fire is.

holdfast said...

I'm actually a little embarrassed at how I seem to ignore most of the apps on my iPad, really using only Kindle, Stanza, Safari, Facebook and Twitterific these days. Kind of sad really - time to purge some old apps and find some new ones.

Scott M said...

It turns out that being able to buy books anywhere you want for four or five bucks (occasionally splurging on a $10 title!) is far more expensive than buying $10 books at the bookstore and occasionally splurging on something for $30 or $40.

This is very close to what one of the speakers at a writing workshop said this weekend. Given what's happening to the industry, you're going to make more money selling books for $2.99 a pop than you used to be for $27.99 a pop.

Scott M said...

Kind of sad really - time to purge some old apps and find some new ones.

If you play an instrument of any kind, likely there are apps to cater to it's tuning, chords, and tabs/sheet music.

Kirk Parker said...


Assume it's a typo: substitute "than" for "that" and it makes perfect sense.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Scott M,

If you play an instrument of any kind, likely there are apps to cater to its tuning, chords, and tabs/sheet music.

Yeah, there are all sorts of viola apps out there, transposing everything you want into alto clef. Complete with special viola chords, and special viola tabs. NOT.

(There actually was something akin to violin/viola tablature in the 17th c., for pieces written in scordatura, or non-standard tunings. The notation would tell you where your fingers were supposed to go, but not what note was supposed to come out.)