Electronic vs Paper

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Something a little different today–

First. Go read this great article from Time Magazine: Books Gone Wild: The Digital Age Reshapes Literature. (Well worth reading.)

Second. Stop and think about it for moment. Computers and digital media are changing everything we do these days, whether we realize it or not, and that includes our beloved books.


To be different, today, I’d love to see a discussion here, in the comments, rather than scattered amongst all our separate blogs. Because this is an issue that affects ALL of us, and I’d really like to see us hash out the merits and demerits of this evolution.

Tell us what you think. Do you have an ebook reader? Do you read ebooks on your computer? Do you hate the very thought? How do you feel about the fact that book publishing is changing and facing much the same existential dilemma as the music industry upon the creation of MP3s?

Sure, feel free to write about this on your blog, but honestly–I’d love to see an in-depth discussion, and you can’t do that by flitting about the internet reading 100 different, individual essays. You can only get that by having the back and forth of conversation.


(And, seriously, am I the only one having trouble finding the time to visit all the commenters’ blogs on Thursdays? As nice as it is to visit everyone, it’s a time-intensive commitment!)

95 responses

  1. You can find my original post here: http://tw0.us/3w

    A few days ago I actually read the article when it came out, thanks to my handy RSS reader (NetNewsWire). It’s a really good article – well written and very thought-provoking. One of the most interesting ideas is that with electronic media, books have the potential to grow longer and be more in-depth. While that’s a possibility, it seems that electronic reading lends itself more to fast-paced first draft type of writing than long sections of text.

    I do not have any ebooks as of right now. I read one ebook about a year ago but did not like it very much. Lately though, I’m beginning to understand and embrace the new types of technology I’m finding. After all, they are there to help us learn more about each other (or at least they can be used that way). So, if there were a lot of books that interested me that I could put on my iPod Touch or some sort of ereading device, I would definitely give it another go. One of the more important factors is cost, and the next is ease-of-use.

    The concept of the book publishing industry changing, however, is a very positive thing. Similar to the new move away from DRM with online music, the publishing industry needs to reevaluate its practices. The more information that can get out there for us to absorb, the better. And one of the great things about digital media is that it is usually cheaper and more personal than media the “industry” decides is worthy of selling.

    PS: It is definitely hard to search through all of the blogs every week – I usually make it through about 20 or 30. Good idea to move the conversation to these main posts.

  2. I posted my answer on my blog, too.

    The article referenced above mostly talks about self-publishing, but essentially there’s two issues that are thought to be changing the publishing world: self-publishing and electronic readers (whether that means an e-reader like the Kindle or reading books on your cell phone).

    I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Will publishing companies have to change their business model? Yes. Will the quantity of any one book published decrease? Probably. Are books going away? Definitely not.

    All this hype reminds me of all the talk of the music industry however many years ago when it became common to download music. Many theorized that the music industry would collapse from fans stealing the music instead of buying it. But guess what? People still buy CDs!! *gasp* In an age where you can buy one song for $.99, as opposed to a whole album that’s mostly so-so for $15.99, many people still buy the CD. The music industry will continue to change and evolve due to technology, even if it comes kicking and screaming.

    I’m not opposed to e-readers, but a friend pointed out that they’ve still got a long ways to go. While many titles are available, many titles aren’t available, and for those of us in book clubs where certain titles are *required* reading, that’s just not acceptable. I don’t think e-readers replace books, rather, they augment books.

    As far as self-published novels go, the examples given of Still Alice and The Lace Reader as books that have shown an author can go the self-publishing route and still hit the jackpot, those are needles in the haystack. For the few books that end up with a publishing house after starting their life self-published, there are thousands of other books that won’t ever sell more than a handful of copies.

    So while it’s interesting to talk about how technology is changing the publishing industry, I have no doubt that when I’m 110 years old, book publishing will still be going strong. Even if the publishing industry is pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century, they’ll come. Oh, they’ll come.

    Another interesting article to read is from the New York Times: Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab.

  3. I don’t really like to read books on my computer and I might consider an e-reader. However, I’m wondering about the value of having a whole separate device for e-reading. I think the more we can move towards one device fits all (the iphone for example) the better. (for the enviroment, etc.)

  4. @Amy: All-in-one devices are very important! It’s a hassle already to have to carry around my cell phone and my iPod Touch – makes me wish I could afford an iPhone.

    @trish: I don’t think we’ll see the demise of the publishing industry anytime soon either. Your point about augmenting books rather than replacing them makes sense. But the floodgates are starting to be opened with self-publishing, e-readers, etc. A lot of new alternative content is becoming more accessible. And while a lot of self-published content won’t sell, a lot of self-published authors just want to have their content out there for name recognition, brainstorming of new concepts, building a larger network, etc. I wouldn’t mind having a work of mine available for free as long as I felt people were getting some good use out of it!

  5. Although I love the concept of having over a hundred books at my disposal in one tiny portable package.. I just don’t know if I’d be able to really enjoy it though. So much of my enjoyment in reading lies not only in the words but also in handling the pages themselves. I don’t know.. am I being too old-fashioned?

  6. I already aired my views on ebooks on several previous BTT entries, but I’m always up to sharing my thoughts about it.

    I read ebooks. In some ways, it’s preferable to regular books because based on the price of each title, it’s cheaper. All I have to do is search and I can get it in less than a minute. I read ebooks on my laptop, or on my Nokia N92 with MobiReader when I’m commuting to and fro work. Thanks to it, I’m able to read approximately twenty to thirty books a month.

    However, in a nutshell, I’ll pick an actual book over an ebook. There’s nothing quite like the feel of holding the book in your hands, thumbing through the pages, sniffing its smell. And I don’t know about you but I somehow like the idea of reading a book during a busy commute. It’s kinda like telling the world, “Hey, I’m reading this!” and you can tell a bit about people with what they read. For example, in the past few months I’ve been seeing a lot of kids reading Twilight books and I figured these kids were just riding on the bandwagon. I was the only one who read something else (Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book) and felt smug about it.

    Somehow, it just won’t feel the same if I’m using an ebook reader, never mind if it’s a Kindle (I’m willing to bet that half of the people I commute with don’t even have an idea what that is). Sure you have a fancy piece of technology, but people don’t know what you’re reading. Besides, after staring at a computer monitor or my phone screen for lengths of time, my eyes hurt.

    On the publishing industry, well, I can’t really say much about it because really, I don’t know how it works. Personally, I don’t think that it will go down just like that. Sure anybody can go and publish their own stories and sell it to the world, but how many can claim that it was well written and well presented? I’d read a friend’s book, sure, but I won’t g buying someone’s book off the Internet just because it’s there. I agree with Trish on this one, anyone can publish, but not anyone can hit the jackpot.

    Besides, I think that in the end, even if you self-publish, nothing still beats having a publisher at your back to help you promote and sell your story right?

    Where I live, I can safely say that the publishing industry is thriving. There’s a couple of bookstores (mostly big chain ones) that’s always full of people and I see patrons leaving the with a lot of purchases. Also, there’s a market for local authors, those who write various genres (both in English and the vernacular, Tagalog): romance, horror, humor and even some branching out to sci-fi and fantasy.

    Traditional publishing isn’t dying, for me. It’s just changing.

  7. I have around 15-20 ebooks on my computer but have not read a single one! I have downloaded them from websites where the publisher or author has given them away as a teaser and the couple I started I decided I liked enough about them in the first couple of pages to go out and buy the “real” version. Which is probably quite telling!

    I did look carefully at the Sony Reader when it came out in the UK (we don’t get Kindle) but it’s just not good enough. I want colour. I want a device that can allow me to easily carry around and read my books without eye strain but that I can also pop online with. Where I can access all my news feeds from. Where I can scribble notes and keep my book wishlist! Until that point I’ll just keep reading books in book form as I really don’t see the point of a single-purpose device any more. Especially ones that are unable to deliver an enjoyable reading experience.

  8. I absolutely love the convenience of e-books. I have tons of them on my phone and iPod Touch, and I’ve recently found the joys of the audiobook. I love being able to bring my library with me and just clicking a button when I want to read something.

    But, nothing, nothing, beats a good old paperback, the smell of it when it’s new, the anticipation of turning the pages while snuggled in bed, and based on the comments here, a lot of people would agree. Personally, I get an e-book, but also get the actual book if and when I really like the book. I don’t care if it gets a bad review or whatever, if I like it, I buy it whether it’s popular or not.

    With publishing, I can come up with a story, post it to my blog, and people will get to see it. It’s that easy nowadays to get “published” so getting a book out isn’t as hard (or as meaningful) as when an author really needs to get the approval of a publisher. And let me tell you, for an author, there’s nothing like seeing your work in book (bound paper) form. As I said in a previous BTT, if authors continue writing, then people will continue reading.

  9. The New Atlantis recently published an article about this too, talking about similar issues. I’ll have to check out the TIME article.

    Just a quick one (since I have to get to bed!). I’ve never used an e-reader, and even though I’m a bit chary of them, I’m not above using one. But I won’t use it to read a book – partly because the tactile sensation is half the pleasure of reading, and because I can’t write or put sticky-notes on pages. (I reckon it takes way longer to find a bookmark digitally than it is to easily flip through stickies physically!) And books can stand more abuse than electronics — not that I abuse my books, but they’re always on the go with me. =)

    I would use an e-reader for more “ephemeral” reading – such as news, essays or research articles. I haven’t properly read a newspaper for several years; now I use RSS feeds, which greatly streamlines my news-reading process. I think e-readers are useful for reading texts that quickly get replaced, or don’t have as much longevity (so to speak) as novels do.
    But even for research papers, I vastly prefer to print them out to read. Reading research papers on-screen is extremely tedious. (And again, I can’t write on the screen!)

    Question: Do you think people (or at least, bibliophiles) still prefer printed books because reading is a very personal affair? I don’t mind reading news and research on an e-reader because I’m impartial to their content, so I don’t care much whether they come in digital or analogue form. But I can’t comprehend myself converting my bookshelf into digital. My books are special – there’s a sort of intimate connection I have with them that isn’t present in news or scientific reading. In the same token, I have my Honours thesis bound in hardcopy; I’ve long ceased caring whether I still have the digital files. My research is something I want to have in print too!

    People who prefer ebooks, what do you think? How do you connect with a digital book?

  10. Great question and one that gets brought up everywhere.

    I have an eReader (a Sony Reader PRS-505 like the one shown in the Time Magazine article) and I adore it immensely. I’m actually quite an advocate of ebooks, and uniquely I completed the last 2 years of my recent degree (Medieval History and Archaeology) almost paperlessly using a book scanner, a Tablet PC and a multi-monitor setup at home. This is a massive achievement considering I must have physically read 300-400 books in those final 2 years. I should add that 80% of the books I scanned were owned by me and in the case of the other 20% I would copy portions of books as I would if I were photocopying them under ‘educational usage’. All scans have now been destroyed.

    I’ve kind of eased up a bit on the paperless side of things now because 1) I finished my degree last summer ans 2) my love for books in their natural ‘dead tree’ form transcends everything, but I still love my Sony Reader (plus I still use my Tablet PC for ‘ebooking’ when intense annotation etc. is required).

    The main advantages I’ve found in using ebooks over their paper counterparts are – weight saving of course, especially when you’re mobile around campus or shuttling back and forth to work, and the fact that ebooks have an unchanging form i.e. no need for repositioning, struggling to keep the book open etc.

    Ultimately though I’d like to think that both forms can co-exist together, and in my experience I’ve found that they can. True bibliophiles would always pick traditional books over ‘newfangled’ ebooks and it’s obvious why. That said I’d definately consider myself a ‘true bibliophile’ but I’m quite happy to use either – although I have to own books that are really special to me in their traditional form.
    Hope that brings something to the discussion

  11. […] This week’s Booking Through Thursday is a little different in that Deb is asking participants to add their thoughts directly to the meme thread, rather than the usual way of linking directly to a participation post on one’s own blog. Good move because as Deb says it’s a time consuming affair hopping around everyone’s blog to read responses and I couldn’t agree more. […]

  12. Posted my answer here too!.

    Years ago, I have an ebook reader and started reading ebooks there. I think I did read two Dan Brown’s book there. But it did not give me that good feeling when I am holding the book physically and reading it page by page rather than scrolling through vertical scroll bars. I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong. I am a techy person. I love to collect gadgets but when it comes to reading I would say I am a bit old fashioned. I consider reading a passion and collecting books is one of the things I treasure. But just like mp3 and cds both books and ebooks for me can co exist since both cater to different audience and consumers since each of us have different tastes and preferences, right? And I think reading ebooks put more strain on my eyes that reading books that’s just my two cents.


  13. Having read the mentioned article I am still not convinced. My preference is paper. I may be an old ‘dinosaur’ but the feel of paper between my fingers is a lot more comfy than a piece of technology. As I write this post I am facing one of the many book cases in the house. As a piece of furniture I could display on it other items, for example ornaments . However I don’t think these trinkets would create conversation in the same way. When I peruse bookcases in friend’s houses there is always a good conversation following. The book cover, type and colour all help to spark interest and these would all be lost in e-books.
    Now although I have read the highlighted article I am not an expert on e-books so here’s a question for someone ‘How do I lend my individual e-books to friends?’There probably is a way to do this and I am interested in the procedure.

  14. I can’t imagine myself switching over to e-books. I have to read articles online all the time because I’m a grad student and printing and copying costs money, but even so it makes my eyes hurt and I wish I had the printed version. I have never managed to read an e-book of any kind. I generally stall about halfway through. I’ve been making efforts to beta-read the novel of someone I know, and I am loving the story, but it’s taking me forever because I just can’t read properly on the computer. Short stories are generally okay, but I can’t get through anything of a proper length.

    Now, I know that the kindle is supposed to be special and solve this problem, but I’m just not seeing it. Besides that, I find it cheaper even to buy new books that I can keep and enjoy than to spend $400 on the device and then $10 for each new book which only exists in a virtual space. And I love having a physical library. So, I’m not persuaded – I’ll stick with paper.

  15. I don’t think things will change much. I think excesses will be curtailed. I don’t think the article takes into consideration the fact that the industry with editors and the like exist for a reason- a good one. They cite the few exceptions to the self-published genre, but they don’t consider the majority of the tripe that exists on the self-publishing side. Not to mention, their economic model is off. I wasn’t impressed by the article at all. Sounds like wishful thinking and fuzzy math. Hard copy books will be around forever.

    Here’s my full answer.


  16. What I like about the Kindle, other than the fact that I can read tons of classics for free or secure the complete works of Chekhov for less than $5, is that font size can be changed. If I read a larger font, I don’t get motion sick when I try to read in a car, and I won’t have to rely on what’s available in the large print collection of the public library as I get older and my eyesight deteriorates. For me, ebook devices are a niche product, a way of getting more reading opportunities into the day and more books into my hand when the bookcases in the house are overflowing and I can’t come up with any books I’m willing to part with so that I can make room for the new.

    Another way I use the Kindle is to preview books–I download the first chapter for free, then can decide upon reading it if I must have the book immediately, can wait until I can obtain it from the library, or need to acquire my own physical copy.

  17. My post is here: http://www.acrossthepage.net/?p=1501

    Basically I’m negative on electronic publishing, because I think you get what you pay for. My post develops that idea more, but it still barely scratches the surface… There are so many factors in play.

    I don’t really have an opinion yet on electronic readers. Personally I’ll always stick with physical books that I can mark up and use as wall decor! But I like some aspects of readers too — being able to take them anywhere in my purse, for instance.

  18. My preference is paper, too. (Would I have over 3,000 books if I didn’t like the “real” stuff?) But I can certainly see the appeal of being able to travel without needing to carry a pile of books with me. And there are SOME that I would be willing to store electronically rather than on shelves … shelf-space is an ever-growing problem. But, my favorites? Yeah, I’m still going to want paper …

    But that doesn’t change the fact that the world is changing. I don’t get paper letters from friends any more and count myself lucky when I get an email! Although I miss having the envelopes of memories stashed in my desk drawer.

    I’m enjoying the conversation!

    And here… another link for you. The NYT just had an article on self-publishing. http://tinyurl.com/ap83z4

  19. I have a sony ebook reader and I love it! It’s easier to travel with, I can bring 30 books with me and not worry about the weight, it’s easier to read while eating and easier to read while in bed. I’m reading more on the ereader lately, and some on my laptop.

    I still read paperbacks and love the feel of it. I don’t like reading hardcovers as much because of the weight and it’s harder to curl up with. I borrow hardcovers from the library, and sometimes they are a bit “used” and it makes me wonder what I’m touching.

    I’ll buy paperbacks, but a lot of what I want to read is cheaper as an ebook so now I look at price as a factor. I don’t keep most of the books after I read them, I pass them on to friends or the library.

    For me the reading relationship is the text, I’m not particular about the form it comes in.

  20. http://mosmind.blogspot.com/2009/01/ch-ch-changes.html

    Gotta say – my preference is still paper, too! Luckily, I think we’ll always *have* that option in my lifetime, so I can remain the Luddite that I apparently am! LoL…

    Hope everybody has a great weekend, and a lively discussion…interesting topic, this!

  21. […] has been published, and this week, the discussion is being held over there in the comments.  Click on over if you want to participate in (or just read) a stimulating conversation about the future of book […]

  22. Posted my response on my blog too:


    As most know, I live in India. ebook reader has not come here as yet as for as I know. But for the simple fact that it is unaffordable right now. I do have many ebooks on my PC but I have not read any of them as yet. I like the paper version as I can hold it, smell it, hug it or chuck it out if I wish to. I do read short stories online but reading longer versions scares me off completely. Maybe it is just me. I might come to love the ebook if I get hold of a sony reader or such like.

    However, now that seems far fetched. So let me be old fashioned, holding on to paper as much as I can.

  23. I don’t much like reading online, especially for my pleasure reading. I read a lot of fan fiction, but I usually do it by printing it onto paper (I re-use paper a lot) and reading it in physical form.

    I think these developments in publishing are exciting. Better forms will be found. Standardization will occur, at least in the technology. so books will be cross-form compatible. Already, there are many books that come out where I have a choice: I can get it as an e-book, an audiobook, or a paper book. Or all three. I love having these choices.

    I hope physical books as we know them don’t go away, and I’m sure they won’t do so in my lifetime. Just as we no longer read scrolls or tablets, like the Egyptians and the Romans – people adapt to the convenient technology.

  24. Well, this is an interesting idea, but I hope it’s a one-off. I’d much rather visit individual blogs than try to read comment after comment on one page. It’s kind of – how shall I put this? – well, boring. And I don’t like writing long comments. And there aren’t any pictures to look at. And besides, I need something to post on my blog every Thursday!

    So, my post (with gratuitous photo) is on my blog:


  25. Interesting. I agree that the traditional way of publishing seems expensive and wasteful but I’m not jumping on the e-book wagon yet.

    First of all, I can’t get a Kindle in Canada yet. I don’t know what the hold up is but I just can’t. Then there is the expense. *Supposedly* e-books are cheaper than books but you have to buy the device at 100’s of dollars. Will we be buying the latest versions of the Kindle every couple of years? What about the format? (Hello, 8-track tapes anyone?) At least with a book, it’s on my shelf for however long I want to keep it and I can pick it up whenever I want.

    I don’t know about carrying it around with me everywhere either. I’d be a bit nervous that I’d lose or break this expensive device with my whole library.

    I have read e-books on my laptop and it’s not horrible but I like my books the old fashioned way. I haven’t had the opportunity to try an e-book Reader. If someone wants to give me one, I wouldn’t throw it back at them. 😉

    So I guess I’m Old School.

  26. What I find most interesting in the article, though, is the TREND for different ways of publishing. It’s not about whether an ebook and an ereader are good or not good … it’s about survival, and making the changes the industry needs to survive.

    Personally, even though I prefer paper, I’d rather have eBooks than no books at all!

  27. I don’t have an ereader, especially because of how expensive they are, but I also just can’t see the appeal – there is nothing like a good book and I really do think I’d rather a REAL book. And knowing how badly the book industry is hurting right now, it breaks my heart a little. I’d be really sad if books as we know them really did disappear – these electronic versions just aren’t the same in my mind – it’s just one media, and electronic mediums change every day – books, up until now, have been forever constant.

  28. I always enjoy discussions on this topic. I think Trish made some great comments and I agree with her that publishers will be publishing actual books when I’m old and gray. Like Peta, I have a couple ebooks on my computer, but I haven’t read either of them. I prefer to physically hold a book in my hands, smell the pages and gaze at the cover art while I’m reading. That’s all part of the enjoyment for me.

    My view on the Kindle and like products is that I think they do serve a purpose and can be quite handy. I like the idea of downloading whole books in minutes and having a large number, but I like to see my books. I like to collect books for my library.

    That being said, I was diagnosed with a retinal disease many years ago (Retinitis Pigmentosa) that is gradually stealing my sight. I’ve read reports stating that products like the Kindle are helpful to people with eye issues becaause of the ability to change fonts, etc. and that the screen is easy on the eyes therefore, creating less eye fatigue. Because I am legally blind, but I still have tunnel vision which enables me to have center sight, my eyes do get incredibly tired faster than most. I will no doubt invest in a Kindle at some point, but I will always prefer a tangible book.

    The same goes with audio books. I do have a few, but I find it difficult to focus and concentrate on the narrator. I’m sure it just takes some getting used to. At some point, I’ll have to use audio books, but I’ll jump off that bridge when I get there.

  29. I have a Sony Reader and I love it. But I only use it when I’m traveling. When I’m at home, I only read actual paper books.

    I think the book industry has to change its pricing model in order to deal with ebooks – you simply can’t price it the same as a physical book!

  30. […] week’s BTT is a little bit different. The primary discussion is actually taking place in the comments at BTT, but I wanted to discuss it here as well. Here’s the prompt:  First. Go read this great […]

  31. I don’t think we’re in any danger of seeing the end of books, but I have a lot of thoughts on the subject.

  32. I work for a small publisher and ePublishing of any sort is definitely affecting publishers. Free content, blogs, self-publishing, print-on-demand, and e-readers are all ways that publishers are trying to figure out and utilize. And if you foray into any of these, how much do you charge? There are overhead expenses that still must be covered. You may no longer need to pay for paper in the case of true e-publishing, but there are still editorial costs and new infrastructures and distribution methods that need to be built or bought. They need to be paid for somehow. That is really the big question – the web is great, electronics are great, but how do you capitalize on it?

    We don’t think that books will be going away, but printed books certainly are decreasing. This is primarily due to a technology revolution, but it is also a cultural shift away from reading books (blasphemy, I know). The statistics are scary for regarding the number of people that don’t pick up a book once they leave high school – it’s over 50% if I remember correctly. Then, for those that still read, you throw in competing methods for getting the content. Our Director has said that we need to look at ourselves as content handlers and not book publishers anymore if we want to survive. We need to find new ways of distributing our content and more and more electronic devices are available.

    The bigger problem, unlike the music industry is that there is not just one electronic format. In music it went to MP3. In publishing it is one of about 4 different types of e-readers, PDFs, and of course searchable online content (we do a lot of academic stuff). What format works? What do people want? It’s hard to say as there is not a runaway leader in any of these things.

    Our company bought a Kindle to play around with. I borrowed it and read a novel. I for one fell in love with it and went out and bought my own. I like it for the convenience. I can carry several books around at once. It’s actually easier to hold in some circumstances, like trying to eat and read. Try holding a paperback open and eating a sandwich that requires two hands. I just sit my Kindle down in front of me and click the Next button as needed. The cost also helps. I just bought the Three Musketeers for $0.99.

    Do I think books are going away? No, but I do know for a fact that publishers of all sorts (newspapers to magazines to book publishers) are scrambling. Nobody knows what to do or what direction to choose. It is expensive to invest in every way, so you must make your best guess and move forward.

  33. Personally, I will always prefer reading an actual, tangible book, simply because I enjoy the tactile feeling of a book in my hands. I like to be able to flip back pages and re-read a sentence here and there, or make a teeny-tiny dog eared corner of the page to remind me of a passage I want to write down or quote in a review. And sometimes, I even like to write in my books 😉

    However, I see the advantage of e-readers, and I think the world of electronic publishing might encourage a new population of readers, especially younger people who are so tied to their i-phones, laptops, etc. And anything that gets more people reading, and provides writers with more ways to be read, is a good thing in my book!

  34. To see more about my opinions on this go here: http://twistyfarmy.wordpress.com/

  35. When I first started working at my current publishing house, I was dubious about ebooks. The higher ups claimed that ebooks would only gain more in popularity because of cellphones. This was right when the iPhone was released. I’m a bit behind when it comes to Apple products, but I realize how important they are in terms of defining how the west embraces technology.

    Now I can see why ebooks are here to stay. Yes, phones are getting bigger, but that’s because we’re adding more capabilities to them. They are our mobile command centers for our lives now and that includes everything from placing phone calls to reading books.

    I haven’t yet begun reading ebooks mostly because I don’t commute very far through public transit. That’ll change soon, though, and I think with that change will come my switch to digital books.

    I doubt the book itself will ever truly disappear, though. Too many people love to collect them to make them a real relic of the past.

    But who knows what a century of digital reading will do to us. Will it be my children who are raised solely on digital media? Or will it be my children’s children?

  36. Becca, the great thing about the Kindle is that you can bookmark (and it even makes a little dog eared corner) and write notes that are tied to certain passages. And it’s easy to navigate those. Then throw in a built-in dictionary and sometimes even a glossary. It’s what sold me.

    Don’t get me wrong – I still love a good, actual book too.

  37. It is only natural that technological advances in other areas are also going to affect the world of reading, just as the invention of the printing press did.

    I don’t read much in the way of actual books on the computer. It bothers my eyes after a while and it’s not terribly comfortable sitting in the chair at my desk. There is just something soothing and comforting about curling up on the end of the couch with a good book, a throw blanket, and a cup of coffee that is not quite the same at the computer.

    On the other hand, if I am studying something, I like having various sources opened up in different tabs on the computer and being able to just click back and forth between them rather than having the same number of books spread out on the table.

    I’ve not gotten into reading on a cell phone or PDA or e-reader. I like the idea of the portability of it, but I can barely get through a text message on my cell phone without it bothering my eyes, and the idea of reading very long on a tiny screen just doesn’t sit well with me.

    However, the only one of my sons who is an avid reader reads almost exclusively via electronic means. I wonder if the “coziness” we bibliophiles feel with the tactile sensation of a book will be replaced in the next generation with the feel of a electronic device.

    I didn’t realize until this article that publishing houses absorbed the economic failures of the trade, from giving advances to authors whose books don’t sell to taking non-selling books back from stores. No wonder the industry is in trouble. I can see the appeal of electronic publishing in alleviating those factors.

    I don’t know if I like the idea of publishing houses being the “gate-keepers” of what is considered good literature. They are going to be more interested in marketability than quality, and the two are not the same, so I don’t think traditional publishers are the last bastions of quality against the perceived cheap and common offerings that will proliferate with the availability and ease of self-publishing. There are a lot of cheap, common, even trashy books, and there will be a lot of the same in any other venue. But I don’t think self-published pieces are any threat to literature any more than YouTube is to Hollywood. There is a lot of junk on YouTube, but there is also a lot of clever stuff that otherwise would never see the light of day.

    But I do hope there will always be physical books. I can’t imagine life without them.

    BTW, I don’t know about others, but I get very few visits from anyone else on BTT, and it is usually only from people who I visit first and leave a comment. With so many participating it is hard to get around to everyone but that is true with almost any weekly meme.

  38. @twistyfarmy oh man, you have no idea how much that makes me want a Kindle! Oh to have access to the US market…lol!

  39. I have 2 (two) responses this week — the first (here) is my original response, after having read the article that was mentioned. The second (here) is my response to all of this discussion here, in the comments! (it was easier to write a second post, and put all of my responses there — shorter than writing it all in a comment here, too!).

    In short, I prefer paper, but can see the advantages of also having the eBook Readers, too. I think it’d be best if we had both, like we do now, and if the publishing industry were to “loosen up” their requirements a bit. 😉

  40. I find it interesting that this discussion is so much about e vs. traditional books, since so much of the article talked about self-publishing. I don’t have an ereader and have no plan to get one any time soon, but I find it inevitable that someone will eventually give me one as a gift and I wouldn’t object to having one – they do have various advantages – but they will never replace books for me, simply augment my TBR list in something that is considerably easier to store.

    I talked in greater detail here

  41. I’m torn on this one. I prefer paper, but I like the idea of saving paper. And immediate gratification with downloads. I hate reading books on the computer, though, because I like holding something in my hands. I have recently started reading books on my ipod touch, though. It’s OK, but not like a real bok. Maybe an e-reader would be a little better.

  42. MizB, what do you mean by “if the publishing industry were to “loosen up” their requirements a bit”?

  43. I don’t own an electronic device that I can read books on, and it hurts my eyes to look at the computer for long periods of time. I would like to get a kindle if it is easier on the eyes than a computer.

    Realistically I don’t know if I’ll ever read e-books just because of my eyes, but I like the idea of saving paper, and I can see how e-books would be an excellent option for a self-publishing author.

    I used to have a subscription to the local newspaper, but now I read all of the news online. This works for me because I can read it quickly. I can’t see myself transitioning to reading books online the same way though because books are longer, and reading them is a recreational activity (sitting at the computer is not that relaxing).

  44. And we must give it some thought that the world is not just the US, or UK or the European world. It is much much beyond that, where paper books will exist for a long time to come. Very frankly, I would prefer children to read real books rather than ebooks.

  45. I do not have an ebook reader. I read books (and articles) on the computer when I have to. I don’t hate the thought of reading from the screen, but I do greatly prefer a printed copy. For me reading is at least in part a tactile experience. I like the heft of the book, the feel of its cover, the act of turning its pages.

    I understand the direction that publishing is heading right now. But, I really don’t think it’ll change our buying habits. Russell and I don’t buy mp3s. We buy CDs because, at least in part, if our hard drive crashes we’ll still have the music on disc.

    I like the fact that self-publishing is becoming for viable. Part of that is because I’m friends with an author who has been struggling with the traditional publishing process and, through her, I’ve really gotten to see just how difficult it is to get published even when you are a good writer with an innovative product.

    Then again, because of self-publishing’s increased popularity the market will become flooded, possibly making it harder for consumers to find what they want.

    There are pros and cons to these new developments, but as Lev Grossman says in “Books Gone Wild,” changes are happening and they’re neither good nor bad, they just are. And, for better or worse, we readers are along for the ride.

  46. I love everyone’s responses to this issue, but one thing I haven’t seen anyone mention is what would happen to public libraries as publishers focus more and more on electronic publishing. This one of those extreme examples, but as fewer books are printed, fewer will go to libraries for a number of reasons (prices would probably rise, library usage would probably decline which would reduce some of their income, etc, all in a vicious cycle). As much as I love the convenience and incredible opportunities e-readers create for a new medium for books, I wonder what will happen to the overall literacy rate in this country. Already kids in inner cities don’t have books of their own and only limited access to public ones. If this is really the direction we are heading, reading books would become an elite activity, only for those who can afford a device, the books and internet access. I see more of a gap between classes developing, even as it becomes easier for more authors to be published. Granted, this is the kind of change that would happen over decades, but is that really the way we want to go?

  47. http://thesocialfrog.com/?p=1096

    I know we were asked to use her comments, which I will, but I also enjoy posting this on my own blog.

    Let me start by saying that I currently do not own a e-book reader. I also can not stand sitting at my computer trying to read an e-book, no matter how interesting the book may be, not my first choice! I actually hate the idea of using my computer to read a book as I may sit at my computer a lot during the day, does not mean I want to try reading a book on it also.

    The computer has it’s place in my world and that does not include reading a book, it actually is a big head ache, literally!

    However, I recently decided to do some research on Amazons Kindle . For some reason my curiosity had been sparked about the Kindle, even though it has been out for a long time and I never gave it much thought before.

    I will say that I would buy the Kindle and I just might. Why you might ask well here is my answer: Don’t get me wrong, I do love opening a new book, the smell of it and all the other wonderful things of a fresh new book. However I am starting to read more & more now and the books are starting to take up more room in my home. Room I don’t have for countless books.

    I do not think books are going to go totally digital, just like music and MP3’s, you can still buy CD’s if you so desire.

    So I guess in closing I take no issue with electronic/digital reading.

  48. Libraries, at least academic libraries are already adjusting. I returned to school a few years ago and to my surprise I discovered I rarely if ever go to the actual library. They have so many journals electronically. Academic libraries have found the benefit of going electronic. They can buy many more journals than they ever could in print because they purchase all-encompassing subscriptions from aggregators. They cost less not just in subscription fees, but also in the amount of shelf space that they take up. Another advantage is that of medical and scientific journals where information changes quickly. They can keep up, and therefore their students get current information for research, etc. This is starting to happen in books too, not just journals.

    I also discovered recently due to a school research project that most libraries have done away with physical phone books. They take up too much space that could be better used for other things. Instead, many libraries subscribe to a nationwide + Canada database that serves the same purpose as a phone book. It is business and residential and the information is actually from phone books.

    I think libraries will continue to exist, but like many other things will evolve. Remember the days before libraries had collections of movies and music?? Now you can walk into just about any public library and not only check out books, but also CDs and DVDs.

  49. I do not own a kindle or an ebook reader. I have bought and read some books in PDF format. I usually struggle with reading that format because while I like being on the computer reading digital format has it down fall on your eyes. I also love the feeling of actually paper bound books but while I love the smell the feel, I also know it is killing our trees. So maybe the digital age of book isn’t a bad thing because of that

    Here’s what i can’t see buying digital books for kids. I think for kids they are always going to have the bound book. I can’t imagine a picture book in a kindle. But maybe they do do that.

    On the self publishing note I think is great self publishing is doing so well. Give me hope if that is the direction I plan on going with my books.

  50. Hi!
    I think I’ll stay an old fashioned book reader. I just like books! I have never read a book on line, haven’t got a cell phone that I can read from. So I’ll just stay in the 19th century and enjoy my books!
    As for publishing world, they will definably have to change to keep up with all the competition for the money side of the business. What with the cost of shipping, paper, gas and everything else, they have to do something!

    Have a great day!


  51. Here’s the link to my full response: http://bookclubclassics.com/Blog/kindle/

    I just received a Kindle for Christmas and have really enjoyed it so far…

    The article’s predictions are interesting to ponder — I must say that I disagree with a couple. First, when using my Kindle I still linger over prose — the format did not affect my love of language in the least.

    Second, I’m not convinced that changing how we read a work would necessarily change how the work was written? That doesn’t seem logical to me… It is true that it was quicker to “click” a page rather than turn it, but I doubt this will somehow lead to high-speed, trashy romances taking over the publishing world (although they have their place, too). So, the article was interesting, but seemed to include a few logical fallacies.

    I thought I would struggle with the aesthetics of the Kindle (vs. traditional books), but what I’ve now realized is that the magic of reading actually has little to do with the object itself — it truly is the magic of choosing the right words and placing them in the right order… And I can’t imagine technology changing that experience — ever.

    Fun BTT this week!!

  52. I don’t know about the evolution of the publishing world but I do know that from a consumer standpoint I love my CyBook ebook reader from Booken. I am thinking of getting another one because while it was a gift from my husband to me, he loves it so much that he is almost always using it. What I love about it is the fact that it can hold lots of books, is small and easy to pack for travel and you can instantly download the books you want. Where we live there are no book stores so I order any paper books from B&N. Despite the fact that our bookshelves have hundreds of books waiting to be read, it is inevitable that we are in the mood for a book or author that we do not have. Sure the ebook technology has lots of room for improvement, it is still a brand new technology, but in a couple of years I have no doubt that it will be even better. I would never read a book on the computer because I use a computer all day at work and by the end of the day my eyes are too tired for more. Somehow the ebook screen is totally different from a computer screen and is not tiring to use. I have also not tried any books floating around the internet, whether self-published, fanfiction etc. The electronic books I read are all books that have been published. I think it is great if a self-published book gets recognition and then gets a publishing deal but I just have limited reading time and am reluctant to delve into the huge unedited, unfiltered mass of fiction floating around out there. I also think it would be a good thing, from a consumer’s view point, for publishers to provide more variety instead of focusing on the finding the next blockbuster. I just hope that there will be a way to filter out what the article refers to as “a hell of a lot of noxious weeds”.

    I think the move toward electronic books will also change the form of the novel not just its distribution. What David Foster Wallace did with foot notes and Mark Danielewski did in House of Leaves and Revolutions with not only foot notes but the form of the text could be taken to the next level electronically. A novel could really become hyper-textual. The ebook readers currently are not able to support that yet but someday soon I am sure they will. I don’t know if I will like it and haven’t tried any that are available to read on a computer but I would bet that novels will adapt to the technology as it changes. And I don’t think I buy the article’s comment that we will see “less modernist difficulty” in fiction. With more books being available I think there will be plenty of room for modernist difficulty and any other style of fiction you can think of even if the majority might be “romance novel style”. I don’t believe that books are dead, I think we are entering an exciting time to be a reader.

  53. I have tried reading books online, but it is very hard for me since I prefer to lay in bed while I read. It works well when I am at work and have forgotten my book at home, but I don’t like it. Hurts the neck and the eyes. I don’t know if I want an ebook reader, either, there is just something about a book that I love-the smell, the weight, the pretty shiny covers. I can see the advantage of it for travel, though.

    As far as the publishing questions, I am completely ignorant to it all. It is not something I have kept up with ccinsidering I myself am not a writer of books. I will leave that discussion up to those with more experience and knowledge.

  54. As this weeks topic was supposed to be more of a conversation, here are some comments on the previous posts.

    Vaga asked above how do ebook readers connect with a digital book. I was leery of reading an ebook my first time as well. It just felt weird. But as soon as I became lost in the story I couldn’t tell you if I was reading a paper copy or an ebook. The reading device, be it paper or electronic, just disappears for me if the story captures my attention.

    Robert mentioned reading on a tablet pc. On of the things that I love about my ebook is that the screen is different from a computer and is not anymore tiring on the eyes than a normal print book. It would be great if ebook readers could have the capabilities of computers while being easy on your eyes. I don’t understand the differences in the technology but it would be wonderful if computer monitors would not cause eye strain. I hope someday soon the technology merges and we just need one easy on your eyes device for everything.

    Many people mention preferring curling up on the couch under a blanket with a book and a warm cup of coffee with a physical book versus sitting at the computer, but with an ebook reader you can curl up with the reader just like a book. I could not read books on the computer for the same reason but the Cybook is small and light and comfy to curl up with. In addition you can change the font for maximum reading comfort. Indeed, sometimes it is more comfy than print books. I had one book that I just couldn’t read because it was a hardcover, over a thousand pages, weighed a ton and was awkward to hold. I gave up and downloaded it to the ebook reader and was able to read it in comfort.

    Bellofthebook mentioned the impact of electronic books on libraries. Many of the large public libraries are already offering their patrons ebooks and not just those that are in the public domain and free but the brand new ones just published. I would absolutely love to be able to borrow electronic books and I don’t doubt that someday there will be some sort of netflix for ebooks.

    Interesting posts.

  55. As a parent, I think it is important for my children to see me reading a real old-fashioned book. They have already developed a love a books because of the example I have set for them. I don’t really think they would feel the same way if they just saw me staring into an electronic device. My oldest would probably think I was playing a game or something. lol.

    I don’t like reading books on the computer, it bugs my eyes after a while, and you can’t really curl up in a chair or crawl under the covers to read an ebook on the computer. However, I do think that a reader would be nice, and hopefully I will some day have one. I like the fact that they are environmentally friendly, you can have mulitple books available, and they are convenient for travel.

    I think that there will always be books in print, but the publishing industry is obviously having to make some changes. I don’t really think it will affect children’s books though. I wouldn’t want to read my kids a story on the computer. It’s so fun to cuddle with them and read a book and look at the pictures together.

  56. I responded on my blog (http://fourzoas.livejournal.com/62773.html), but here’s the relevant bit of the response below:

    The article is a good read, and I was especially pleased to see a good deal of not-patronizing attention being paid to fan fiction as a legitimate part of this move toward participatory media culture. The internet/web/increasing access to technology tools has made it easier for us to find and to generate the kinds of material we want to read, and I can’t help but see that as a largely good thing.

    The question about e-books/readers in the prompt doesn’t really signify much to me at all, unless someone wants to send me a Sony or Amazon product to review/love/cherish/make much of. I read online, I read offline, I read on my iPhone–words distinguishable against some background are pretty much all I require, and if we get a bit looser with the idea of “reading,” I don’t even need that, since if I’m doing something that demands my visual attention (like driving or doing housework), I’m listening to a book. Words flow in constantly, and the increased availability of things I want to and am interested in reading has lead to me being more and more interested in writing. I have to like that, don’t I?

    What’s really exciting to me is the idea that things are going to radically change, that the old publishing models will give way (for a gorgeous chaotic while, at least) to something new and wild and open, a place where word of mouth will get someone a readership who may have never sold a book to a publisher before. I’m curious to see what new forms will catch on as time passes (oh to be about 20 years younger now), and I wonder what aesthetic criteria will emerge as we begin finding ways to sift through and sort the vast quantities of text created by people on their personal devices. Very exciting times.

  57. Link: The Question of e-Books

    I think ebooks revolutionizes reading in terms of convenience like iPod replaces the need to bring a bunch of CDs when traveling. I recognize the appeal of being able to travel without carrying a pile of books with me. I turned to and relied on electronic journals when I conducted research for my dissertation. Some academic journals cease to exist in paper form but are available in pdf files through electronic library. It makes sense because it’s inconvenient to schlep around a heavy Buckram bound journal. As to books, electronic and paper form could co-exist because both have limitations and can complement one another. Not all titles are available on electronic readers, other than the recent bestsellers and the most popular classics. Being a reader with an eclectic taste, I prefer to stick with paper, and not to mention the personal affair with ink and paper that appeals to me at the very beginning of my reading life. E-readers might be the appropriate choice for me to skim newspaper and magazine articles and readings that are more on-the-go and ephemeral.

    The thought of converting my endearing book collection to files under the tip of my finger in an electronic gadget is appalling. I do not have the same attention span roving my eyes at the LCD screen or computer monitor as I can read a book. The plethora of notes that I scribble along reading makes a hard copy more appealing. Turning of a dial on the gadget or scrolling down the page can never replace the thumbing and riffling back and forth of a book. But the detrimental, underlying effect of e-readers is that they will catalyze the demise of local independent bookstores as readers turn to e-vendors to purchase e-books. In the long run, it would be business as usual as publishers charge a downloading fee but business is being taken away from indies.

  58. There may be some changes in the publishing industry, but I think it’s far from doomed. As far as ebooks go, I’m intrigued with the kindle but haven’t taken the plunge and purchased one…maybe if I traveled more. I don’t like reading on the computer screen. Even DailyLit has been an effort. For me, there is no substitute for the feeling of holding a book.

    My complete answer is here:

  59. Here’s the link> and virtually all of the content:

    Although I have a number of them both on my laptop and my home desktop, I’ve never read a complete book on my computer. Doing so on a desktop is too confining because you can’t just go somewhere else to read. While the laptop is portable, it still isn’t that conducive for, say, reading outdoors or in bed. Plus you just can’t tuck it under your arm and open it up to read right away.

    I would perhaps consider an ebook reader for travel and reading outside the home. I like the thought of being able to carry a number of books in a small amount of space rather than wondering about which books you take or leave behind on a trip. But one of my complaints is something the article glosses over. While it is cheaper to publish and distribute electronically, to my knowledge we’re not seeing that with ebooks. Much like the music industry, downloading music from licensed sources wasn’t really a workable model until you could get individual downloads for about a buck (and thus get only the songs you liked from a CD) and complete CDs for the same price or less than the actual CD. Unless and until publishers and distributors find a comparable economic model, I’ll be reluctant to buy an ebook reader, even without regard for DRM and technological issues.

    The story also notes in passing something else that concerns me about ebooks. It says, “Reading on a screen speeds you up: you don’t linger on the language; you just click through.” While I may not always linger on the language, this implies almost cursory reading, as if what’s next is more important than the sentence you are currently reading. If no one lingers on the language, then what is the incentive to improve the quality of the writing?

  60. I’m at my computer so many hours of the day already that the last thing I want to do is to read a book online. I’d rather read in a comfy chair by the fire, or in bed. It’s hard to curl up on your side and get comfortable with a laptop. Eek. No, that just doesn’t work for me. I want to hold a real book in my hands, turn the pages one by one; it’s part of the experience for me. And though I’m not picky, I’ll read any book in any condition, my favorites are well bound books, especially leather ones, especially those with ribbon bookmarks sewn into the binding. You just can’t get an experience like that online.

  61. Don’t forget, folks, that the book and publishing industry is facing the same challenges that, say, the music industry is facing. Vinyl was replaced by CDs and they were replaced fairly quickly by the advent of MP3s … it hasn’t stopped the artists from MAKING music, it’s just changed the way it gets to the listener. And the number of options that the listener HAS.

    I’d venture to say that there are more people listening to music these days because it’s so EASY. On the computer, in the car, on the iPod, via the cell phone … it’s not just in a concert hall anymore, and you’re not limited to just what’s playing on the stereo, either. Every one can listen to whatever they want, wherever they want, however they want.

    Similarly–publishing industry needs to make changes just to keep up with the wide world of expectations. Paper books and magazines, always, yes, but also streaming to cell phones as text, available as pdfs, ebooks to download to ereaders, ebooks that ARE pdfs and meant to be read on a computer or printed out.

    It’s the availability of options that makes this interesting.

    We live in rapidly changing times and you’ve got to keep up! It’s not about “Do you like ereaders or don’t you,” it’s about … how do you feel about what the publishing industry needs to survive.

    Because, yes, self-publishing comes into this, too. Because with websites and blogs so easy to create these days, ANYONE can become an author and find an audience … just, maybe not the traditional one. Just like you can find garage bands on YouTube and buy independent CDs from independent artists … with so many possibilities OUTSIDE the traditional publishers … The options are endless!

  62. About ebooks, I’d only get one if I traveled more, because books are heavy. About self-publishing–that seems to me to require book bloggers to be way more critical. Because we’d be doing (for free) what editors do in traditional publishing houses. I think we could be more honest, because we’re doing it for love, and not money. But could we do it well?

  63. Here’s my posting: http://yourlibrarycard.blogspot.com/2009/01/future-of-book.html.

    I feel the same way as many of the commentors. For me, nothing can ever replace the convenience and comfort of a book in hand. I often have trouble falling asleep at night, and recently read an article stating that computer screens are bad things to be looking at before bed. Apparently, the lights stimulate your brain in a way that keeps you awake. Reading a book in a low-light setting, on the other hand, helps a lot!

    However, I like the fact that the internet has allowed more people to get their voices heard. When I ws younger, I wanted to be a writer. Whenever I shared that with anyone, they’d tell me about the near-impossible odds of getting a book published. It’s nice to know that that’s no longer true.

    Moo mentioned the idea of a netflix for e-books. It’d be great to have one for regular books too. I’d subscribe in a heartbeat.

  64. If you haven’t seen Maud Newton’s author interview about self-publishing, you should:

  65. Here’s my post:

    In a nut shell: I like ebooks but the ereaders are still way too limited for me to consider getting one.

    As for self- publishing, I think that a writer will still need pros to work their text: copy editors, editors, fact checkers… An individual writer just can’t pay for all that. Not to mention marketing which is very expensive. So, publishing houses still have their uses. They will just have to adapt to changing times.

  66. I’ve read a few things (not-yet published and fan fiction) online, which made me appreciate books even more. I love the feel and smell of books, flipping the pages, sitting in my chair, etc… I never tried audio books because I love reading paper books and listening to music. I can definitely see how ereaders are handy if one travels a lot. Ereaders may save on paper, but what about when they’re thrown into landfills like TVs and monitors? Only some of the parts may be recyclable or earth friendly.

    I think it’s good that an industry has to take a look at how they do business every once in awhile. Over printing certainly hasn’t helped them, nor has absorbing the shipping costs. Yeah, vinyl may have been replaced but there’s still plenty of it around and being produced. I still enjoy listening to records. Some things will never disappear.

    Thanks for the article.

  67. trishtheconqueror

    I do not have an e-book reader and have never read any books online, although I have downloaded some free ones, just in case. I feel like I spend a lot of time at my computer checking email, reading and writing blogs, as well as searching for information. And I usually watch at least a little bit of TV in the evening. That is a lot of screen time, so when I read a book, I don’t really want to be looking at another screen.
    This is not to say I would never read an e-book, but at this point, I prefer a hard copy. Plus, most of my books are purchased used for $1 or less, so I don’t put out that much money on books.

  68. E-readers like Kindle would be especially useful and convenient for business travelers and moms traveling with kids. They don’t have to worry about lugging books around and paying extra for baggage. I’m glad there are more choices for readers but for me, I like the feeling of having an actual book. No, I cannot imagine concerting my book collection to a handy gadget, that thought really bothers me.

  69. This answer was originally posted


    There is a Kindle on my Amazon wish list. There was a vague hope in my heart that someone with a soft spot for me might purchase this for me for Christmas. But there are no Kindles left. Just a very long wait list, and a notice on the Amazon site that no nifty readers will be shipped in time for Christmas receipt. Maybe I should take a look at the Sony Reader?

    Now this sudden urge on my part to finally consume text in digital form can be linked to the amount of attention in the press this month. This story is everywhere – mainstream magazines and newspapers, blogs, publishing websites. As book sales across the country disappoint this holiday season, the publishing industry is having a regular bloodletting in terms of staffing, and trying to reinvent themselves in new and novel ways for the public. Last week, Penguin USA launched Penguin 2.0 with the cool slogan that I “borrowed” above – “What’s Next in Text?” A number of applications will be available by the end of January including iPhone apps of which a limited number are currently online. Macmillan has introduced the Stanza Reader to be used with the iPhone. And within the month, we will all be able to read classic texts on a Nintendo DS. Which if any of these will you read on? Do you already have a Kindle or Sony Reader?

    Assuming an audience of bibliophiles here or at least serious readers, are we ready to trade in that feel of a real book in hand for these digital alternatives? Just look at the images on most biblioblogs. Few are celebrating anything but ink and paper. Some contend that these digital reading alternatives are not directed at the serious reader but at the occasional reader, the consumer of the hyper-common who might be purchasing books at Costco or Target. They will also eventually be marketed to the education market where digital text could potentially save huge amounts of money amongst a group of users notoriously hard on books. But what about readers wanting more esoteric works? Will they be as readily available as say Twilight? Just a big wait and see right now. All these innovations are not exactly bringing on my normal book lust but they are bringing on a little gadget lust. Now where will those two merge?

  70. (I posted my response on my blog too.)

    I don’t have an ebook reader, nor do I care to get one. I don’t like reading ebooks. Call me old fashioned but I’d much rather feel the paper in my hands. Also reading on screen hurts my eyes after a while and it’s harder to go back and find something you want to look at again electronically.

    However, I know change happens and that ebooks will become more prevalent and that is fine. They would also need to greatly improve the electronic readers, though. I can see advantages of it (i.e. having lots of books to choose from in one small package), but I still prefer paper. I don’t think it will be the same kind of change as the music industry where they stop printing paper books all together.

    Also, what about libraries? Checking out ebooks? Lending ebooks to friends? And many of us like to buy used books. They claim that ebooks are cheaper…but they aren’t compared to used books.

    I don’t think ebooks will completely take over (whew!). But I can see them co-existing.

    And as a side note…as long as spell check doesn’t recognize “ebooks” neither will I! LOL

  71. […] January 29, 2009 in Booking Through Thursday {Booking Through Thursday for Jan. 29} […]

  72. What happens online will never effect me personally. I can’t read for long stretches online for the same reason I don’t watch television, it triggers migraines in me. They aren’t worth anything I could watch or read. Even if that never happened I would read paper. I’ve never even listened to an audio book, let alone used any of the other new gadgets. I know people who need these things because of physical limitations and I’m glad those choices are available.
    And I am suspicious of the quality of what goes up online. Self publishing has somehow become almost acceptable (it shouldn’t be) and there’s enough poorly written, unedited stuff out there in print on paper. I just don’t think editing is going to be as carefully done for things published online as it would with a paper book. I’ve read a few pages or chapters of online books that have been offered free of charge and they’re pretty awful.
    Books are here to stay and so are the alternatives being offered. It will always just be a matter of personal choice or convenience for the individual.

  73. Whether we like it or not the publishing industry is changing. I don’t blame publishing houses for cutting costs and trying to get the most for their money. Those are smart business decisions. But, I don’t believe that “real” books will ever fall completely by the wayside either.

    I don’t necessarily have anything against the digital books, but I don’t particularly enjoy them either. I don’t own a Kindle, and don’t plan on buying one. I can see the benefit of one if you traveled a lot, it would be much lighter to haul 10 books on a Kindle than 10 hardbacks. But, I like the feel of a book in my hands. I enjoy the different textures, colors and smells of actual books.

    I think the option of inexpensive self publishing is one good thing to come out of the digital age. No, this won’t always mean that every author will find the success of The Lace Reader, but I think that having the option available gives authors any way to have their voices heard.

    I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t see digital books going away, but I hope that publishers can find a happy middle ground between digital and printed books.

  74. I really enjoyed this article and it made me think about a lot of different topics.

    Authors: There are so many people out there that want to get published and are turned down everywhere they go. The internet gives them an immediate audience and instant feedback, along with criticisms and applause. I know of several authors on Goodreads that sell their books as PDF files for as little as 2.99. I can understand the allure of being your own publisher and by-passing the big publishing companies.

    Publishing Companies: I feel that they are going to have to change their strategies in a lot of ways. There are some authors that I feel after they make it with a bestseller a few years in a row start to write FORMULA driven books. I’m tired of that kind of writing. I want to pick up a book by an unknown and get blown away!! But on the flip side, if the publishers didn’t pay these authors the big bucks then they wouldn’t have their stories to sell to the mass public. I’m not sure how they will be able to keep up with the $$$ demands of so-called big authors .

    Ebooks/Kindle: At first these gadgets scared me because I don’t want my beloved physical book to ever go away. I don’t think that will happen but I do think that eventually in order to get your book published as an actual book that people open, and turn the pages physically, you’re going to have to prove to them that you will be capable of writing a story that will sell MILLIONS!! The rest I think would be easily sold as an e-book or PDF file for considerably less than a real book. The more I play with my iPod and listen to audio books, podcasts, and such,the more intrigued I am about having a Kindle or Sony Reader…we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds!!!

  75. I was especially interested in the reflections on the novel as a commodity, which is what the piece seems to suggest — were early novelists simply out to make money; their novels seem to suggest otherwise. Were early audiences simply consumers? There seems a motif in this article that reduces books and reading into producing commodities for consumers, when the author mentions that now there seem to be “more books, written and read by more people . . .”

    But as far as the future of the book . . . I don’t really have an interest in cell-phone novels (and I didn’t really see the analogy between fan fiction and cell-phone fiction, at least as the article presented it), largely because I don’t have a cell phone. Which leads me to one of my chief problems with e-book readers — access. (I’m not anti-technology, obviously.) Books are relatively cheap, by comparison to a Kindle, which is currently priced at $359. And, if I understand it correctly, you still have to buy and download individual texts.

    Until e-book readers become affordable, and are available in libraries in large quantities and can be loaned by libraries, books are still the best portable technology. Of course, I can see the value of e-readers when doing research to access journals and books through inter-library loan.

    Plus, I still have a sentimental attachment to books. I like having a personal library. I like holding books, I like the feel of them. And I like see words on paper.

    Even when I download e-books onto my computer, I print them out to read them. I still don’t like to read large quantities of text onscreen.

    I’m not really sure how publishing will adapt to current technology (books are a technology, after all, much better than papyrus scrolls) in order to survive as businesses. Though some of the changes in business practice suggested in the article — lower advances, etc. — may work.

  76. I love the concept of e-books, but I don’t really enjoy using them to read. They hurt my eyes. And they don’t provide the satisfaction of holding an old, smelly book in my hands. But I do love that there are always new and interesting ideas about communicating ideas. In some ways though, we are moving beyond the concept of reading for the masses. Published books were available to many, but books via cell phone, computer or kindle are for those who can afford the latest gadgets. Perhaps the publishers have been the “gatekeepers” all these years, but to say that money is now not an object is ridiculous. There are so many people who have no access to the internet or computer equipment for many reasons — location, proximity, religion, culture, war, politics — the list could go on and on, that dismissing money out of hand is not possible.

    These are just some of my immediate responses and not well thought out.

  77. Well, the question is apropos today because Harlequin Romances is celebrating their 60th anniversary and has made 16 books available for free to download to your computer or Kindle or whatever electronic device you use. I rarely read books online because it just isn’t the same as reading a real book. However, the opportunity provided by publishers and authors to download their books, gives the opportunity to decide if you like their writing. And if you like their writing, then you’ll buy the book, right? In theory, that is supposedly how it should work.

    I see the benefit the technology has, but I’m an old fashioned rather buy the book and hold it in my hands type of person. Book reading is not only a educational, enlightening, entertaining experience, it is also a sensory experience. I can’t see myself snuggling up on the couch or curled up in bed, reading a kindle. I’ve considered buying a Kindle, but would only use it while traveling and not for everyday usage. Right now the cost doesn’t justify buying it to use solely for that purpose. But it’s tempting.

    I really don’t think e-books are going to take the place of real books. Same as the music business with the mp3’s, e-books will augment what is available out there enabling more people to read. It is just another avenue and won’t take the place of paper.

    The article mentions several authors who couldn’t find a publisher, so went the self publishing route. Self publishing served to get them out there and noticed. They each went on to getting a publisher after that. Self publishing is just another medium, like e-books that will enable more people to get their books out there. Whether the books are good, bad or in between, that remains to be seen. But the avenue is there, another option available.

    As times change, the options change or grow with the times. Self publishing will never take the place of real publishers. E-Books will never take the place of real books. The digital age is causing many growing pains, but in the end, don’t you think it will all be worth it.

  78. Hi!

    I have always preferred and will always prefer to read the paper version of books. E-books? Nah, not for me. And no, I don’t own any e-book reader and I don’t need one. I also don’t like the idea of reading books online.

    It’s not healthy for the eyes to keep staring at a computer screen for hours and that’s why, it’s always better to read books the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I hope e-books don’t take over paper books one day. Even if it does, I don’t think I’ll resort to e-books.

  79. Since I do so much reading online now – blogs, news, and magazine articles especially – I don’t cringe any more at the very idea of reading a book on some sort of machine, but I haven’t thought much about getting an e-book reader. I can imagine reading books on my laptop some day, but I’m in no hurry to do it. I like the physical qualities of books – the paper stock and typography, the cover designs, the way they feel in my hands – as well as their contents, and I really don’t want to give that up. “Curling up with my Kindle” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    Here’s the rest of what I said – great question this week!

  80. i’m glad there’s a new channel for new writers to get discovered without the burden of coming out with the money to self-publish their books. however, i prefer printed books. i have a few e-books, but never could read them. instead, i bought the printed copies. nothing beats the physical books in my hands. and to have them stacked on the bookshelves.

  81. I don’t have one of those ebook readers, like a Kindle, but I’ve seen the Sony version on display at the bookstore and was impressed at how easy on the eyes it was. That “eInk” technology is actually pretty cool.

    I also understand that the reason Kindles have been “out of stock” is because they’re coming out with a new version, which they’re expected to announce in the next week or so … so I think that Amazon has been nicely holding off filling orders so people will get the NEW ones.

    And, yes, when they come down in price and start having color … yeah, I’m probably going to want one of those. Reading is reading!

  82. I have pros and cons for this, as I’m sure we all do.

    Pros: I’d like to be able to “carry” several books with me at once all in one device. That way I could keep on reading without having to switch books. Plus, I’m sure it’s lighter weight (total assumption here as I have never even LOOKED at an e-book reader). I also like the idea of more choice, etc., and cheaper cost. I find myself lately going to the library a lot more often than the book store just because I’m trying to save money, even though I really prefer to OWN my books instead of BORROWING them.

    Cons: I like turning pages. I like making notes in the books (sometimes), or just holding them in my hands. I like cover art, I like printed text. I can barely get through lengthy blog posts on the computer screen; I just hate reading that way. You can’t fill a bookshelf with e-books. Maybe that would reduce clutter in my life, but it would be less satisfying in some way. Plus, how do you let a friend borrow an e-book from you?

    Also, I’m just going to put on my literary snob hat for a minute. I like GOOD writing. I like GOOD books. This means, most of the time, I like books that have been professionally edited. I recently read a book that I got as an early reviewer on LibraryThing, and it was terrible. It made me wonder who in the world had actually wanted to publish it, and also who this guy’s editor was, because the grammar was bad in addition to the content. The publishing process usually weeds out a lot of that junk. So I worry that all this self-publishing leads to crappy writing, and it may be harder to sift through to find the good literature in all the rest.


  83. I only skimmed the comments so this may have already been addressed, but I wonder what would happen to libraries if all the books went digital. I am strictly a library gal; I rarely buy books. I can’t figure out how I would be able to borrow books if they were all digital. Would they make files that self-destruct after two weeks? 🙂

    I don’t have a problem with reading from screens. I do it all day long. I also like the idea of classics being available for free on the internet. Thanks to technology, I don’t have to buy that copy of “Art of War” my daughter needs for a class but that I know none of us will ever read again.

    I am about 75% in favor of e-books. However, I would miss paper books for the non-text parts. I mean, what would happen to the great art in children’s picture books if they went digital?

  84. I love used book stores and I like having my own library and being able to swap with friends. A book frequently passes through several sets of hands. Sharing good reads digitally wouldn’t be as easy, especially if a digital reader is needed.

  85. I love books. I love the feel of the paper, I love the new book smell, and I especially love the feeling of a book that has never had the spine broken. I want to hold it and flip through it. I want to be able to ear-mark the pages, or underline the text. I love it when I can go to my bookshelf and pick up an “old friend” to read. I cannot imagine a world without actual books. I have no desire to purchase a Kindle, and, I have purchased books that are part of the Gutenberg project, even though they were “free.” I don’t think books will ever disappear. There are too many of us out there willing to spend the last dime of our grocery money on a good book.

  86. I use the Kindle, and I love it. Given the choice, for space, for longevity, for fast access to books, for reading comfort, for price, I choose Kindle books every time.

  87. I’m 50/50 on the eBook issue.

    On one hand – I love reading a book… Just relaxing in a recliner, reading a good book… it puts me in a good mood in general. I am on BookMooch and PaperbackSwap, so I love being able to read a book, send it to someone else, and get another book. I still buy books that I just can’t wait for or that I know I won’t be swapping. For me, books are fairly cheap. I work at a bookstore, so I get 20% off the price to begin with, I can check out any one book at a time for free for two weeks, I swap used books online. I probably spend less than $100.00 a year on books, yet I have read 10 books so far this year.

    On the other hand – having an eReader could be better for some people. I think I would prefer an eReader once I start college (I’m waiting til my baby is in Kindergarten) to carry around instead of all the textbooks they usually need. My boyfriend is a grad student who is going for his doctorate and I know he’s prefer to have an eReader with all his textbooks on it instead of having to pay hundreds of dollars per book & carry them around all the time. I’d also like an eReader to help me read at night when the lights are off.. having an eReader would be better than struggling with a booklight each night!

    In the end – I think eReaders are a good companion to old-fashioned books, but I am sure that books will never cease to exist. Books are too much a part of the society.

  88. http://xinef.livejournal.com/332181.html
    I still strongly prefer paper books over e-books, except when I’m travelling. I don’t have to worry about batteries, screen visiblity, etc. I find paper books easier to read. Admittedly, the only way I’ve read e-books is on my Palm, which has a relatively small screen and thus I feel like I’m constantly turning pages.

    Other e-book readers are still expensive. When they come down in price, maybe I’ll splurge.

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  91. I am so glad to take part in this most interesting conversation. First, I need to mention that I am a guy who loves nothing more than to curl up on the couch or in bed, and read a “real” book. I have never downloaded an e-book and do not own an electronic book reader.
    But, on the other hand, I am also a writer and my first book “French Bred: Laughable chronicles of an average Parisian boy” was published online three weeks ago. If not for the increasing popularity of e-books, I would still be trying to sell my story to a publisher.
    About three years ago, having finished my first manuscript, a literary agent agreed to represent me and has attempted to sell my work to a major publisher ever since. Publishing companies are not willing to take too many risks with unknown commodities and would rather publish authors with whom they have a reasonable chance of making a profit. Being an unproven writer, bringing my story to the general public became a tall task. Eventually, our patience and tenacity was rewarded, and Eloquent Books offered to publish my book online.
    The emergence of e-books has provided me with a fantastic opportuniy to feature my work, gain exposure, and potentially attract the eye of another publisher who will take me to the next step: a book in print. In the meantime, my book is already selling suprisingly well online, and I have approached a large amount of readers, reviewers, and other fascinating folks in the book industry.
    My opinion on e-books is that it has tremendous benefits for all involved.
    -for the publisher: It offers the possibility of publishing new author with limited financial risks, being that printing is by far the largest upfront investment they have to make, and given that the price of paper is continually rising. Also, exposure through the internet is practically endless and can determine if a book is worth publishing in print, depending an its online sales.
    -for the author: Besides the obvious opportunity to spread one’s work far and wide, it serves as a previously unavailable stepping stone towards a successful writing career. Plus, the percentage paid to the author as royalties is much higher than on a print book, again because of the lower overhead cost to the publisher.
    -for the reader: electronic book readers offer the convenience of easy storage of dozens of book onto one device, light weight (ideal for travelers), multiple formatting and size options, and time saved by shopping from home. Also, e-book are almost always more affordable than their paper cousins.

    While I still love turning the pages of a good book, I cannot ignore the inexorable march forward of the electronic publishing industry, and it has served me well so far. No matter what happens, there will be no turning back, and while print books won’t disappear, the e-book business is here to stay and grow.
    When I read the article that started this discussion, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful and excited about my own potential because this author’s success story began very much like mine.
    I am a bit overwhelmed and awed to realize that a idiot suburban soccer dad like me has made it that far already, and could perhaps move on further. Not of this would have been possible without the option of e-book publishing.

  92. I love paper for the history, memories, and community. I also like what they say about the readers. On the other hand, electronic has a lot to offer, so, while I’ll mourn if we lose paper entirely, I’m looking forward to adding e-readers. Long-winded details and memories on my blog, http://cricketb.livejournal.com/43670.html

  93. […] January 29, 2009 in Bookish Notes | by Christina {Booking Through Thursday for Jan. 29} […]

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