A little e-reader evangelism
October 19, 2011 § 10 Comments
I don’t own an e-reader. Yet. I love buying books in bookstores, I love having books on the bookshelves in my house, and I love the smell of the paper, so I held out. But here’s the thing: the smell of the paper is not my favorite thing about books. My favorite thing about books is the opportunity they provide to experience the world (or different worlds) through the eyes of someone else and an e-reader can do that just as well as paper and ink.
The world of music changed with the creation of iTunes, Netflix changed movie rentals, and now the world of books is changing too, but change isn’t always a bad thing. Interestingly enough, there are lots of indications that e-readers are actually increasing readership. A survey conducted last year showed that almost 50% of e-reader owners read more after getting an e-reader than they did before. There are also indications that e-reader owners are buying a greater variety of books than they would’ve in print, meaning they are exposed to more new ideas and more authors are exposed to them. On top of that, Scholastic’s 2010 Reading Report suggests that 50% of kids 9-17 want to read e-books and 33% said they would read more if they had an e-reader.
All this is enough motivation for me to throw my support behind e-readers, whatever the brand. If kids are going to read more because their book has an “on/off” switch, then I say give them the switch. The convenience of e-readers rivals that of any other medium by delivering books at your convenience whether you’re in your living room, in an airport, or in Guam. E-books tend to be cheaper than their print counterparts, and with the recent announcement of the $80 Kindle, it actually might save money for the avid reader, and that’s not to mention all the independently published titles available for $2 or less and all the classics that are available for free. An added bonus is the environmental friendliness of e-readers as compared to print books. If you buy 23 e-books over the life cycle of a Kindle, it’s more environmentally friendly than buying print books (I didn’t link because it was a pdf, but if you Google “kindle environmental analysis” you can see the report).
Obviously there are downsides to e-readers and lots of worry and unanswered questions about what will happen to bookstores, libraries, the publishing industry, etc. I love a bookstore just as much as the next guy, and I will fight long and hard before I see public libraries go quietly into the night, but at the end of the day the crux of the e-reader argument for me is that it gets more people reading, and isn’t that the goal?
Do you own an e-reader? Has it affected your reading habits? Is it blasphemy to take more reading over more bookstores? Are there any other negative (or positive) sides to e-readers that I missed?