It's nice to finally see ebooks going mainstream. By mainstream, I mean that my Mom bought a Kindle Fire with minimal angst and gnashing of teeth. I've been reading ebooks since my first Apple Newton and I coveted the Sony Reader nearly 5 years ago. Finally bought a Kindle for my birthday in 2008, so come January I'll have had a Kindle as a part of my life for four years.
Even more, I haven't purchased a physical book in that time. In fact, I actually spend more time in my local libraries now than I did before the kindle. My library is the place where I get dead tree books. Ironically, my local library just announced their ebook lending program.
Interesting Historical Aside: I did architectural consulting with netLibrary around 1999. They were a totally-ahead-of-their-time e-book company. They scanned thousands of ebooks in anticipation of the coming ebook revolution. It's tragic they were at least a half decade if not a full decade ahead of their time. They are gone now.
According to the Amazon Kindle Social Network (yes, they have their own social network! You and I can connect and you can stalk my books as well) I've purchased 141 books since I got my Kindle and read 90 of them. It doesn't see books that you copied to your Kindle from free websites, so that's maybe another dozen or so. I'm in the middle of reading 5 books right now.
The Kindle keeps my current page sync'd between any other devices I may choose to read on. A few pages on the iPhone, a few on the PC, then back to the Kindle.
I read before, but never so much as when I got a Kindle? Why the change? Laziness. It's effortless to get books. The Kindle is literally a one-click link between my wallet and Jeff Bezo's bank account. I see a book and click, I'm reading it. You might think that gets expensive, but for every $8.99 book I get (which is not a lot) there's a lot of really good books I grab under $5 and some for free or 99 cents.
Remember all the blog posts about how Kindle would never work because it was $359? Well, three years later and the cheap Kindle is $79. That's less than two copies of The Walking Dead Compendium.
It's the reading, stupid.
A recent study showed that it doesn't matter if you read from paper or from an electronic screen. The words make it into your head all the the same. Here's a passage from the Mashable article, emphasis mine.
The study was conducted after readers in Germany became skeptical about reading from electronic devices like ereaders and tablet PCs compared to traditional printed books.
Participants in the study read a variety of texts with different levels of understanding on an Amazon Kindle 3, Apple iPad and in print. Their reading behaviors and brain activity were examined using an EEG machine and eye tracking tools.
The study proved that reading from an electronic device instead of print has no negative effects, contradicting the misconception from German readers.
Everywhere I go I take my Kindle with me. And everywhere I go I end up meeting someone who says what all non-Kindle owners say "I just like the tactile experience...the feel of the paper." At this point I ask them if they've ever read a book on a Kindle or used an ereader. Most never have. They're just down on the idea of change. I get that, and I too, mourn the end of the physical book. But at the same time I, for one, welcome our new e-ink overlords.
I issue them the same challenge I'll issue you, Dear Reader. Read one book on a Kindle or small e-ink device. Just one, cover to virtual cover. I'm confident that most folks will never go back. I realize there are advantages to reading from paper just as there are advantages to using photographic film over digital cameras, but they are few and they don't outweigh the overwhelming advantages of a small e-reader.
Some folks swear by iPad or other illuminated LCD reading, but I believe those screens cause eye fatigue. They have a lower resolution than eink, they are hard to read - if not impossible - in the sun or outside, they have limited battery life and they just don't look like paper. Each of these reasons is reason enough to go with e-ink. I went overseas for a week and didn't even take my Kindle charger. No need to. It lasts weeks on a full charge; that's almost long enough to pretend it's not an electronic device. Even the 3G wireless worked seamlessly all over Europe without me doing anything special.
I feel awful about it, but I can't count how many times I've been at a small airport bookseller, browsed, looked at a book, then purchased it on my Kindle while standing right there. If only there were a way to give that book seller some money for the referral.
My 4 years with a Kindle have got me reading more than ever because the Kindle has:
- made it easy to get books
- made it easy to carry my whole collection
- made it easy to read even large books with thousands of pages (I'm looking at you, Neal Stephenson)
- made it easy to finish a book in a series and immediately start the next book.
These are the reasons I've read more in the last 4 years with my Kindle than in previous years. It's removed what little friction physical books had imposed while seamlessly fitting into my life.
Nicolas Negroponte said last year that physical books would be dead within 5 years and Kindle ebooks surpassed the sales of physical books at Amazon last July. In fact, it's starting to be a multiplier, where for every 100 physical books sold there's perhaps 200 ebooks sold.
Everyone believes that the DTB (dead tree book) is on its last legs. How long do you think it'll take, Dear Reader? 5 years? 10? Will it be Amazon's centralization and DRM (digital rights management) that will hold it back or do you think that Amazon will eventually do what iTunes did, turning off DRM in favor of MP3s and low prices?
How long until physical books die, then are brought back from the dead by future-hipsters just like vinyl records? (Bet you didn't know vinyl sales were up 40%, did you?)
I don't know, but I know physical books will die. Why will physical books die? One reason and one reason only.
Because it's cheaper to move electrons than molecules.
Ultimately that's why ebooks will win.