I've got a Kindle. Yes, it's true. I am a writer. I am a publisher. I make my living in the book business and I have bought...an electronic book reader. Actually, Mark bought it for me, but he asked first and I said "Yes!" Why?
In the 10+ years I've been in the book business I have seen our industry go from printing and storing thousands of books to books that are published and able to be instantly sent to the reader by electronic means. I can't help it, I love it.
Love the electronic paper; love the Oxford dictionary that can tell me what words I don't know mean; love the pictures on the screen saver; love being able to browse Amazon and read reviews from the comfort of my couch. Love the ability to bookmark, copy and save items within the book, enlarge reduce the type, and, if feeling weary-eyed, listen to the weird male/female voice read to me.
The first book I read on the Kindle was by Jodi Picoult: Handle with Care. I couldn't put it down. Once I started reading I was unaware that I was reading on anything other than a traditional book. Once the story captivates you, it seems to not make a difference.
The second book I ordered was Art Incorporated. Then I received a notice that His Majesty's Dragon was available for free. I've never been into sci fi/fantasy/alternative history, but what the heck, free. So I downloaded it and started reading. I was hooked. I read all 400+ pages in a happy weekend and purchased Book 2, Throne of Jade, in Naomi Novik's Taumeraire series. Then, I went to the local library and took out books 3, 4, and 5. I'm going to purchase the printed versions of the books too, though the hardcover of Throne of Jade is selling for $87.50. What's with that? There's a nice boxed set of books 1 -3 in mass market format. I think I'll get that set to keep forever.
The thing is: I only have so many bookshelves. Let's see: there are floor-to-ceiling shelves in Mark's office on 3 walls. They are pretty much totally full. I have 1 wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves in my office: full. We have various coffee table art books in the living room. Stacks of art/literary/news/craft/pet magazines throughout the house, and I have several shelves of art/craft books in my art studio. I plan on reading for a few more decades, where would I put all those new books?
So, my plan has changed.
In the case of fiction: I will first see if a book is available at the library or on Kindle. If it is and I read it and love it, and want to read it again in the future or gift it, I will purchase it.
In the case of nonfiction: I will most likely purchase it in printed form or take it out of the library. I find I like reading fiction on the kindle better than nonfiction. Part of that is my reading style.
In the case of books with color photos or graphics, I will purchase the book new after looking at it in the bookstore or using Amazon's search inside the book feature. I love books on art, crochet, alternative arts, etc... I love the idea of going to a museum by looking at a book (since I don't travel as much as I'd like). These books, I can't image ever being replaced with an ebook. I like everything about beautiful physical books.
But I like everything about reading fiction on the Kindle. I don't need to hold a "real" book in my hands when reading Jodi Picoult any more than I need to have the $14 St. Andre's cheese when a $4 cheddar will suffice for an afternoon snack.
Now, Amy Tan... I love and collect her books- I will always get them in hardcover. But if I were traveling, I'd want to download them to my kindle. Yeah, says my back and carpel tunnel hands. Yeah, says the airline and my husband who carries my book bag.
Do I worry about my friends in distribution, shipping, printing? Yes, but I think the industry will adapt, as businesses always have. It's just that things seem to be changing faster and faster, don't they. It seems not to give businesses a chance to revise their mission statements. There is certainly a lot to consider.
In the March 30, 2009 Newsweek, Jacob Weisberg states: I've done most of my recreational reading on the Kindle...and can honestly say I prefer it to inked paper. It provides a fundamentally better experience, and will surely produce a readically better one with coming iterations...The notino that physical books are ending their life cycile is upseeting to people who hold them to be synonymous with literature..."
Weisberg goes on to ask why should a society that reads on electronic readers be any less literate than one that reads on printed books? I agree. The Internet, the Kindle, the local bookstore, the used bookseller at the flea market--they are getting out the words of writers, and that's a good thing. I don't care if someone reads my words on a computer, a Kindle; a newspaper; or the back of a t-shirt. If I'm compensated fairly for my writing and people deem it worthwhile to read, then I am thankful.
Read Weisberg's article "How the Kindle will Change the World" at slate.com. He says "When it comes to literature, I'm optimistic that electronic reading will bring more good than harm."
I couldn't agree more, and I'm not going to apologize for it.
Update: Amazon has released a larger-size Kindle that will make it easier for textbooks and books filled with photographs and graphics to be included on the Kindle. Learn more at this NY Times article.
New update: 6/18/09: Appalachian Morning Creativity Blog is now available to download to your Kindle! Click on this link, and you can enjoy 14 days free (including reading all past articles) and after that it is only $1.99 a month to read this blog anytime, anywhere. Automatically updated to your Kindle, as I post new articles.