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Could you, would you, read an ebook?

Before facing the world (for the second or third time) as an e-published author* (this time new and improved!), I am figuring I ought to go out and get a proper ebook reading device. I can't see myself reading anything on my cell phone, and those Palm Pilots I had a few years ago posed many a problem. Namely, the batteries ran out quickly and then the whole software system died and everything had to be restored; and also, there was a limit on how big text files could be, so I had to divide up Project Gutenberg ebooks into four or five chunks. That was a daunting and annoying task when you're reading, say, a thick Dickens novel. Highlighting and scrolling for hundreds of pages at a time gets old really quickly.

But! They say the new readers, like the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle, are much friendlier about these things. I haven't done all the research yet on which device is handiest, so feel free to weigh in. And in the meantime I ask you...

What are your thoughts on ebooks?

I could never see myself reading books on a screen.
16(30.8%)
I seldom read ebooks, but would do so more often if screens/readers were cheaper, more user-friendly, and easier on the eyes.
26(50.0%)
I do sometimes read ebooks, and intend to do so more in the future.
7(13.5%)
I read ebooks about as often as print books.
1(1.9%)
I read and enjoy ebooks all the time, definitely more often than print books.
2(3.8%)


Add any comments you like. My publisher seems to feel firmly that ebooks, not print books, are indeed the future. And while part of me says, "Tell that to those of us who lovingly sniff aged paperbacks for their delicate aroma," another part of me hopes they're right, because hey, e-published author here. Furthermore, kids these days seem to be heading in the direction of doing everything with their handheld devices; soon they'll be making phone calls, listening to music, emailing, ordering pizzas, taking the SAT's, and yes, doing some light reading if they have time, all on those dinky screens they can't pull their eyes and thumbs from.

And wouldn't it be nice, in some respects? You're lying on the beach with your reader device, and fifty pages into your selected ebook you decide you can't take another word of this lame novel. So you click over to your browser, select and download a new one, and settle back with that instead.

Hmm. I better make those first fifty pages really riveting.

* Yes, my book will be available in paperback as well. But the publisher likes to put the focus on the ebook side, since that's cheaper and faster for all involved.

Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
kalquessa
Apr. 17th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
My answer isn't strictly true, because I read fanfic and classics on Guteberg online all the time, so I obviously do read stuff on a screen, all the time. If I'm paying money for it, though, I want pages and weight and cover art and my name somewhere on the first few pages in ballpoint. I don't know, I just cannot dig the concept of curling up with a little digital whatchit the way I curl up with a book. Secondarily, I drop things a lot, and the things that live in my purse undergo a great deal of punishment. Books stand up to this better than electronics.
mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:32 am (UTC)
*nod*
In a way, it perplexes me that so many people are saying they could never read a book on a screen, when obviously they do already spend several hours a day reading text of some sort on a screen, be it LJ or news or fanfic. Why not a book? I guess it's the money issue--if you're paying, you want the "real" experience. Then what about those who subscribe to websites for their content? Hmm. *shrug*

I look forward to the cheaper and more durable readers, for the "dropping stuff" problem you name, among other reasons. I've heard that some of the e-paper in development can stand up to a lot of abuse, so there's hope yet.
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rockstarbob
Apr. 17th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
My partner is currently waiting for his (back ordered) Kindle to arrive in the mail. He did a lot of research, although I don't know the specifics, before deciding that was the best option. He says the Kindle should be better on the eyes than even paper.

I struggle with the whole ebook thing. I like the idea of creating less paper waste, but I also think books can be beautiful and artful. I, too, love the delicate aroma of aged pages. ;) But! I also love the idea of ebooks. I wonder whether your publisher is right--time will tell.

Personally, I MIGHT be secretly planning to hijack my partner's Kindle. I love the idea that I can purchase ebooks for it on Amazon and have them in like less than a minute. Instant gratification is my friend.
mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
I have to admit, I submitted this book to this publisher because of the paperback feature that came alongside the e-publication. I just have to see it in actual printed colors, though yes, it does cause unnecessary waste.

Still, I'm with you on the instant gratification, and also the lightweight quality of carrying all those books in the device, so I bet I can become bi-bibliophiliac (reading in both mediums). :)
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rachel2205
Apr. 18th, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
I find it hard to imagine using e-books much, but I guess if I had something that was portable like a book and had a touch screen that mimicked turning pages I might be more tempted. Also something to deal with glare factors.

Right now I dislike reading more than a few thousand words on screen at a time.
mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:36 am (UTC)
*nod* Apparently the screens now are getting much better at dealing with glare and eye-strain issues. I'll have to look at one up close and personal to see for sure.

I've been known to read some classics in free etext format on my computer at work in the past, which made it possible to read during lunch or whenever even if I forgot my print books. I enjoyed the stories just as much as I would while reading a regular book. But it did strain my eyes more, I think.

Edited at 2008-04-18 02:37 am (UTC)
naill_renfro
Apr. 18th, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
I'm not so sure. I tried out a Kindle the other day, and it was a big step up from other ebook readers -- it didn't feel clunky and the e-paper screen gave a much more booklike feel. But I was still frustrated by the relative difficulty of flipping through the pages to see what one character said to another three chapters ago, or to remind myself who some character is -- when I read a print book I'm always doing that. And there's something to be said for having all that choice, esp. all the public domain works you could put on there for free, for that long plane flight when you say "I've always meant to finish 'Le rouge et le noir,' and if I had a copy with me right now I'd either do it or admit defeat."

Plus that would let me clear out a lot of bookshelf space, which in turn would let me clear off a lot of space on the floor, table and chairs currently taken up with book-overflow...

When are the copyright fiends finally going to let me copy all of my movies on to a single device, so that I can box them all up and move them to the garage?
mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
Hmm, good point. I'm always flipping back to check names and maps and explanations too, especially when the cast of characters is vast and the terrain unfamiliar, as in G.R.R. Martin. Maybe an easy sidebar navigation thingy?

"I've always meant to finish 'Le rouge et le noir,' and if I had a copy with me right now I'd either do it or admit defeat."

Heheh. For me it's War and Peace. Someday, I swear!
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mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
Thanks! If you like, mine can be the first ebook you read. ;)

i have downloaded a short story from a site that charged by the download; that's it.
of course there's fanfic, but that's different.


Ah, but why is it different? Because it's free? And yet you just said you've paid to read fiction online. Would you pay for fanfic? Or is it that fanfic is usually not novel-length? And yet some of it is, once all the many chapters are compiled together. If you read a book online in the same way, a few chapters every so often, over the course of a year or more, would that make it all right somehow?

Just trying to get to the bottom of the reluctance so many people have. Not meaning to pick on you in particular. :)
neadods
Apr. 18th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
Sometimes - especially when I'm reviewing and end up with a dozen books that I don't want to schlep around - I wish they were all ebooks.

Then I remember all the fanfic that I lost when my palm pilot crashed while all my old zines are perfectly safe and readable, and I'm not so fond of the ebook concept.
mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
Yeah, the issue of losing it all in one crash is especially troublesome. I think the idea is that these readers have a backup set of files on your PC or something, but I may be wrong. At least you can usually re-download it, annoying though that would be for a large collection...
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mollyringle
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:44 am (UTC)
Thanks to your comments here and in the past, I'm definitely leaning toward the Sony. Is there also unofficial software to convert the Kindle format to files readable by the Sony?

130 books! Now that's a cool enticement. I feel better already. :)
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(no subject) - mollyringle - Apr. 19th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
wandererrob
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:54 am (UTC)
Personally I'm not a fan of ebooks. I've tried to read a few, one of them pretty decent, but trying to read on a screen just doesn't feel right.

While I can see the appeal of being able to load up a bunch of books to get to as you see fit, I just can't seem to read eboks comfortably at all. I don't know why. I just can't seemto sit there looking at them. Yet I can curl up on the couch or stretch out in my hammock with a good old paper book and read for a couple of hours.

There's also just something unrelaxing about doing something that should be relaxing on an electronic device. I'm trying to unplug and unwind. That's hard to do if you can't remember wether or not you charged the damn thing.

In short, I'll stick to paper thanks. :)
mollyringle
Apr. 19th, 2008 11:51 pm (UTC)
I'm torn on this, as I do see where you're coming from. The recharging issue and other complications make it less fun.

Then again, I have actually read books on a screen, and enjoyed them just as much; and it could in fact be easier, when lying on my back with a toddler asleep on me, to read a small handheld device than a thick paperback that I have to hold open with my aching thumbs.
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new_iconoclast
Apr. 18th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
I sincerely hope that it will be years and years and years, if ever, before the print book industry dies completely. Because I love real books, I love being able to page through real books, I've never met an electronic footnoting, highlighting, or page-marking system I liked, and because they'll figure out a way to make them even more stupidly expensive if they go electronic.

Yes, I'll read them that way. But the best fanfic stuff and e-books I've read have engendered in me an intense urge to PRINT THEM OFF AND BIND THEM LIKE BOOKS WERE GODDAMN MEANT TO BE.
mollyringle
Apr. 19th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
I doubt it'll ever die completely, and I don't want that either. And, heh, good point about the "stupidly expensive" part.

But if you can find someone to take on the expense of printing and binding stuff that people love to read on screen, then please, tell me who they are, because a thousand rejection letters later, I'm getting discouraged.
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origamislayer
Apr. 18th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)
I've had one of these for years and I really love it. Besides being great on vacation (try bringing 100 paper books on a trip) it's nice to read in bed without worrying about book lights. It's not state of the art, but until the e-ink books mature I'm sticking with this one.
mollyringle
Apr. 19th, 2008 11:54 pm (UTC)
Hmm, cool! I doubt I'd read in the dark much, so I'd rather have screens that approximate paper. But I'm still heartened to see that someone's willing to try the ebook thing. So thank you!
(Anonymous)
Apr. 18th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
ebooks
I love my sony reader and I have been downloading books onto it instead of buying paper books since I bought it last year. The E-ink technology is great and much easier on the eyes than a computer screen. It really feels like you are reading a book.
mollyringle
Apr. 19th, 2008 11:56 pm (UTC)
Re: ebooks
Thank you! Good to know. I look forward to trying one out in person.
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mollyringle
Apr. 19th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
At least it's more affordable, too. Still, I'm intrigued by the e-ink paper-look screens...may have to look into that. Never liked reading in the dark anyway. :) But thank you for giving ebooks a chance!
dirae
Apr. 20th, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)
I suppose my reluctance to truly embrace the electronic print industry in book format stems from the fact that I have family entrenched in the industry (an industry already feeling the impact of the electronic age in other printing venues aside from book printing... perhaps it is one of the only things keeping the printing industry afloat). For example, in a 50 mile radius of my house there are at least 4 book printing companies, employing well over 1000 people together. One is almost going under, one is doing ok enough and two have merged (with the chance that a number of employees will be "let go"). As much as I love technological evolution, the offset printing industry has been around since Gutenberg invented the printing press (and allowed books to be available to the masses, thus spreading literacy across the country) and I would hate to see our generation diminish it as its own form of art.

While I see many levels of the printing industry going to totally electronic in time, I hope and pray the paper and binded book industry will never cease. Books should not be a novelty and electronic formats the norm. Just look at what the trickle down effect the iPod/iTunes has had on the printing industry/artistry associated with music production: great album art and liner notes are things of the past.

From an economic angle, it makes sense that smaller presses will herald "e-books as the future". The cost for the publisher is much less if they publish in electronic formats, and it allows them to publish more per month than traditional publishing houses. Nonetheless, HarperCollins, Random House, and other publishing firms have spent the last year allocating their libraries into e-books form because of the renewed interest (i.e. contracts with Sony). The catch: almost every title listed on the Sony e-book store is cheaper to buy in a used print edition, or virtually the same price as the new edition. If you are looking for major publishing houses to offer e-books cheaper than the print versions, forget it. The mark-up is more outrageous than one would have with offset printing! This is an example of sucking the consumer dry while giving them nothing tangible aside from a bunch of zeros and ones. I see smaller publishing houses taking over this business model very soon.

So, while I'll give e-books a chance, I would NOT purchase one at the same price as a traditional form (unless, of course, it was yours or something I could not get in any other format).
mollyringle
Apr. 20th, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
You're welcome to get mine in paperback. :) I plan to do the same! The paperbacks cost about twice as much as the ebooks at my press, but there's still something wonderful about a physical book. I have to admit, the reason I chose to submit to this publisher was because they had the paperback format alongside the ebook.

I should have made it more clear that I *don't* agree with their assessment of ebooks and "not print" being the future. It's good that they're seeking out the people who believe that, and targeting them as customers, and yep, it's definitely less cost and hassle for them. Still, I hope ebooks and print can coexist, and I want consumers to give the new form a chance (thank you for doing so) :).

I definitely don't want print books to disappear, though. Hell, I'm looking to be a librarian here, and another far-off dream for Steve and me is to own a used bookstore, so we absolutely want to continue the existence of ink and paper.

Piracy in ebook-land is just as much an issue as it is for mp3s, too. But I don't expect to get rich from writing, so I'm hoping the trade-off benefit is the same as it is for the music industry: namely, more fans in more places worldwide, even if the royalties don't climb as high as they legally ought to.

At least for authors, there's always money to be had in selling the film rights. ;)

But while I'm defending the print industry, I also have some criticisms of it. Pass this along to those you know in the field, if you think they can change things. My biggest beef is their marketing focus on a handful of hugely famous authors, to the near-total neglect of newer and lesser-known ones. A related annoyance is the tradition of printing the first run in hardback--which is expensive and which practically no one wants, unless I'm talking to the wrong people--and only later releasing in the more convenient and affordable paperback. It ought to be the other way around. First print in paper, then, if the book is a big hit, print some special hardback editions for those who want it for their collection.

Just my liberal-arts ideal model, there. No business degree experience to back this up. :)
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( 46 comments — Leave a comment )