The rise of e-reading

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Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:27 pm Post

Americans, when they’re reading to a child, want a print book. When they’re travelling, they prefer an e-reader. Sort of makes sense.

Among those who own an e-reader, on any given day, about half say they are reading something on their Kindle or Nook. But in that same group, more than half say they are reading a print book. A bit harder to sort out, but still credible.

Thirty percent of people who read e-books read them on their phones. (They obviously have sharper eyes, smaller fingers, and bigger phones than I do.)

Those are only a few of the conclusions from a survey by the Pew Research titled “The rise of e-reading.”


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Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:22 am Post

Readers read. At least that's my conclusion from my own experiences.

I strongly prefer e-books when traveling, for obvious reasons. I also prefer e-versions of library books, because they appear on my reader without actually having to go to the library to check them out or return them. (I consider electronic library books to be one of the best ideas since the invention of free libraries.)

And I've purchased e-versions of a number of technical books, both because of the searching and annotation functions and because that's the fastest way to get a book that I only just realized I needed for a project with a looming deadline.

But paper is still better for browsing, for careful study over an extended period or, at the other extreme, for books that I'll read once and then give away. Paper also still has a much larger list of available titles.

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Wed May 02, 2012 11:20 pm Post

I grew up in an era long before hand held calculators, let alone computers (Well, there was the IBM 360 with Fortran IV, but not very portable :P ). So 12 years of public school, and 13 years of graduate studies all in the days of hardbound books. So I’m very partial to them. But I have also adapted to the new era. When I began traveling four years ago (70%+ time on the road), I began to appreciate the portability of books, namely e-books. Just as I was transitioning, my job changed dramatically, and now I seldom travel. So, I am still a hard copy kind of reader. And reading anything but short pieces of text on an iPhone, I’m with PJS, just doesn’t seem practical. But I am getting longer journal articles etc. for the computer. I have iMac (2011), MBP (15” 2008), and an iPhone. I still haven’t justified in my mind an iPad, Kindle, Nook, or, ...

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Thu May 03, 2012 2:06 pm Post

I haven't found a lot of value in reading on my phone, or the computer screen. Not for long pieces anyway. I do like reading on my e-ink nook, though the form factor (1st generation) is a little too big. It's amazing to see in daylight; easier to read in that lighting condition than paper, in my opinion, and far better than any LCD display (iphone/kindle fire, nook color, etc...).

I've also read some books in public that I might feel embarrassed to carry around (because of who the covers were targeted to). If I were moving frequently or carrying text books again, I'd much rather carry around any e-reader instead of the gargantuan books I was required to bring to some of my classes (700 page physics book, 800 page chemistry book, etc...). I actually tore through the seams of a satchel walking to class because I needed to reference one chapter's worth of information in each tome.

A more device agnostic system is something I'm hoping for some day, so that my book collection isn't fragmented by which retailer I bought each book from. There is hope, with Tor Books going DRM-free. (And yes, I know how to strip the DRM. But I shouldn't have to.)
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Thu May 03, 2012 5:21 pm Post

I was given a Kindle about six months ago, and I have to say I think it's pretty wonderful.

For travel - yes, but in the micro as well as the macro sense. I'm a reader who likes to pick up a book and read it any time, any place - in a commercial break whilst in front of the TV, in the car whilst waiting outside a shop, in the dentist's reception room. The Kindle is perfect for this.

For keeping several books on the go. I have a heap of (hardcopy) books I like to read at any one time. The Kindle makes it possible to carry my virtual heap everywhere.

For re-reading the classics. How else could I take the complete Charles Dickens on holiday?

For buying cheaper books. How else could I buy the aforesaid Dickens for less than £2? Or most other books more cheaply than the equivalent print versions?

For reading any fictional story where the sting is in the tail. Harder to read ahead than with a print copy.

For not filling every corner of the house with physical volumes, and upsetting relatives, fellow occupants and Significant Others. (And thus requiring additional space, expensive shelving and more complicated house moves. And sadness when you have to give or throw good books away.)

For buying books quickly, easily, without fuss or much guilt. :oops: So much easier than visiting a bookshop - or even Amazon via a computer. Too easy, frequently. :|

I imagine that all these advantages may apply to other readers as well. At least I hope so, and that for the writing industry, including many of us, they'll outweigh the greater opportunities for piracy that e-books provide. Based on my own experience, I hope that books will become much more of an impulse buy. Perhaps readers will collects books unread on their readers like food in a 'fridge.

Funnily enough, unlike Katherine, my main reservation about e-reading is reading books that are in any way technical. I want to be able refer back and annotate, a bit of a chore on a Kindle. The page size is also something of a disadvantage.

Oh, and reading to young children. Something tactile and colourful is needed there.

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Thu May 03, 2012 5:52 pm Post

I got a Kindle two months ago, and was reading exclusively on it--to the point of acquiring digital versions books I already owned but haven't, through less official channels. There are a few things I really like about it:

- Portability. I read long books and often hardbacks. A Kindle is a lot smaller.
- Automatic bookmarks! I cannot tell you how many bookmarks I've lost over the years. And when I'm smart and just stick them in some other part of the book, I forget to place it properly when I'm done reading, which makes things even more confusing.
- Syncing between devices. I've run into a few situations where I've had a couple minutes to read, but no Kindle nearby. Thanks to device syncing, my phone and even the cloud reader have let me continue my book.
- Faster reading. I baby my books, and try my hardest not to crease the spines. This means holding books at awkward angles that slow down my reading. I don't have to worry about that with the Kindle.

Ebooks have also made it much easier for new and less-known authors to get their works out there. As someone who is gearing up to publish their first book by the end of this month (thanks, Scrivener!), this is a great thing.

That said, there are a few areas where an e-reader isn't as good as a proper book. The obvious ones are the inability to buy a used ebook or sell one, and draconian "lending" systems are obnoxious. The main reason behind these issues is DRM. I have no problem with authors receiving compensation for their work (obviously, since I hope to be one), but treating every customer like a criminal is not the right way to do. I applaud Tor for going the DRM-free route, and plan on buying several Tor ebooks to show my support.

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Thu May 03, 2012 7:02 pm Post

I've several times complained about (and to) The New Yorker for its reliance on cartoons which are little more than illustrated gag lines. And I respect copyright laws. Those points established, I have to admit to liking a cartoon from the current issue. It addresses the topic, and this is fair use, inasmuch as the illustration is pointless without the caption (and vice-versa) -- for which you'll have to visit the NYer site.

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Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:25 am Post

Love the random access of books. I would say I buy 1:1 ratio of ebooks v. print. It depends on the book's price/availability. If the print used copy is cheaper than the kindle version (it usually is), I'll buy the print copy. But, if the difference is close, or if the book is newer, I'd buy the kindle version.

I tend to read on a Nexus 7" screen tablet, but have also read on my phone. The font size is the same, but there's a lot less text on the page.

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Fri Dec 07, 2012 4:56 am Post

I agree that ebook readers are great. I have a Kindle Keyboard myself and I use it a lot. Not only is it easier to carry round a Kindle than a regular pbook but one size fits all when it comes to fitting in a pocket or holding it. It doesn't matter if the tale is 25 pages long or 500 the thickness of the Kindle doesn't change unlike with a pbook. And ebooks have another advantage. They store easily. I have a good collection of old fiction through which is made up of books from Project Gutenberg that have been cleaned up and given some very nice covers and they are easily transferred from a DVD disk to my Kindle. So I don't have to keep a large collection of pbooks around or repurchase a book again if I get rid of a copy (to open space) and then decide some time later that I want to re-read a particular book again.

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Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:43 pm Post

I actually greatly prefer print books when travelling. Yes, they take up a bit more space (a typical holiday will see me carry 8 paperbacks), but you don't have to switch them off during take off and landing, and you don't have to worry about leaving them on the beach when you go for a dip in the sea!

The major turn-off for me is the flash the screen makes every time it turns the page. It's far more jarring to me than the act of turning the leaf of a real book.

As for storage... A small portion of books that I buy get kept. There has to be a very high liklihood that I'd want to re-read a book for me to keep it... which reduces the number considerably when you factor in the sheer number of great books in the world that I've never read. The rest are donated... In downtown Calgary there is a lamppost with a small metal box welded to it where people leave books they are finished with for anyone to pick up.

And I'm increasingly not buying books. I joined my local library a few months ago, and am loving the experience!
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Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:10 pm Post

I read both paper and e-books. I still prefer paper books for pleasure, but can tolerate e-books. The arrival of the iPad mini will let me know if the advantage of iBooks and Kindle for iPad will make the e-reading experience winning.

I've never been in tune with my e-ink device (Nook Single Touch), because 1) I read at home most of the time, so the display is too dark for me; and 2) sharing, organizing and annotating books is really annoying. In addition, everything I purchase from Amazon has to be converted via Calibre.

Essays that have to be heavily annotated are much better in electronic form. Researching is way easier. And it is a lot easier carrying e-books than paper books, as I had to discover when spending some time studying abroad, and my library was not with me.


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Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:12 pm Post

By the way: what do you do with books you already have on paper? Amazon just sent me an offer for five Maigret's novels at 2,99 euros. I already have all of them on paper. Should I get them, or be confident I'll always have access to my home and my library?


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Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:22 pm Post

I recently resigned my academic job and so also gave up access to the university library - but I still write freelance in (roughly) the same academic area, so e-books and other documents - e.g. from Open Library, sites like U. York Toronto's collection of history of psychology and other academic portals - read and annotated in Sente, are a god-send. For pleasure reading I now have Kindle on a Nexus 7 - great for bed-time news reading; but I still get (and ask for) real books at gift times ...

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Tue Dec 11, 2012 6:23 pm Post

I received a Kindle back in 2010, and I have to admit that aside from books I need for academic purposes (I'm a teacher), or books that aren't available on the Kindle, I've almost entirely switched over to e-reading. I just love the device, and I find I don't have any problem getting into a book that is on the kindle as opposed to paper (and I confess I don't get it when others say they have that problem; each to their own).

When teaching novels, I have been known to allow students to use Kindle books instead of the school's copies, but I also encourage kids who are serious about reading to buy their own paper copies to annotate. Few do.

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Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:14 pm Post

pigfender wrote:...but you don't have to switch them off during take off and landing.

Bunch of malarkey. I think the main reason for the ban has more to do with limiting the number of heavy objects free-floating around in the passenger cabin during the two most risky portions of the flight (and so, not quite applicable to a Kindle, but definitely the artillery slug that would be an iPhone with a sudden severe case of inertia). Or look at it this way: if a bunch of cell phones and laptops could cause an airplane's avionics, server and communication systems to hiccup or fail, then modern offices would be a ceaseless catastrophe of cyclically crashing computers crashing other computers and phones bringing the servers down and... hmm, actually that might explain a few things.
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