Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why a Kindle and ebook lover is going back to paper books?

My company, Salish Ponds Press, sells its two books in paperback and for the Kindle. That is because I read books on the Kindle and on paper. Recently there has been a lot of press about ebooks and ebook readers. The attention is probably a byproduct of the release of the Ipad by Apple. In addition to the Ipad other companies are releasing ebook readers. Sony has one. Barnes and Noble has the Nook. There seem to be new ebook readers hitting the market every few weeks. As the market fills with ebook readers, I find myself migrating back to the paper book.

I have the first version of the Kindle. For the run-of-the-mill novel, I prefer reading on the Kindle to reading a paper book. For the most part, the Kindle is easier to hold and carry than a paper book. Turning pages and adjusting fonts is easier on the Kindle. Kindle books do not collect in corners and baskets around my house so that they get in the way and eventually have to be carted off to relatives, the library, or the used book store.

There are some aspects of the paper book that I miss when I read on the Kindle. I like cover art, back page blurbs, and all the one line excerpts from reviews designed to get me to buy the book. Hitting the button on the Kindle isn't the same to me as perusing the cover and tasting the other preliminary treats you find in a paper book. I like page numbers and knowing exactly how close I am to the beginning or end of a book. The Kindle doesn't have that. Kindle books are hard to browse. Paging forward or backward to look for something is a pain.

In the final analysis, reading books on the Kindle beats out paper books by a nose. It isn't a lot better; it is a little better. What has me returning to paper is economics.

Ebook readers are expensive. The new Kindle is $259. A new Ipad is at least $500. Other ebook readers tend to be priced somewhere in between the two. That is a good chunk of change for a book reading device that has a limited lifespan and requires you to pay again for the books.

I got my Kindle in the spring of 2008. A year and a month later--a month after the warranty expired--the screen when kaput. Amazon allowed me to buy a refurbished Kindle to replace it for one hundred dollars. The first replacement had a broken modem and would not connect to Whispernet. Amazon sent another one, and it is still working. I am keenly aware, however that my ebook reader is reaching the end of its life expectancy and will need to be replaced soon. The money I will spend on these reading devices could buy a lot of paper books.

The beauty of the Kindle when I first got it was that the books were cheap. It was difficult to find a book being sold for more than $9.99. For me that made best sellers which were being sold for $25 down at the chain bookstore into impulse buys. I hit the "buy now" button on my Amazon page with wild abandon and was suddenly reading new releases that I never would have purchased had the full price hardcover been the only option.

These days, however, things have changed. Like a lot of people, I am a fan of the Stieg Larsson mystery novels. I want to read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest as soon as it comes out. Amazon is selling the Kindle edition at $9.95 as usual, but is also selling the hardcover for $11.50. I buy enough from Amazon that I always get free shipping. That means the deeply discounted hardcover is only $1.50 more than the ebook. With the hardcover, I can read it, pass it on to friends, or even sell it for a few bucks at the used book store. If I factor in the resale value of the hardcover, the ebook is now more expensive than the hardcover.

The above example is due to deep discounting of popular hardcover books by Amazon. On other titles the change in prices is due to the publishers demanding what is called the "agency model" from Amazon. Under that model the publisher sets the ebook price. Thus, The Shadow of Your Smile, has a notation on Amazon that the ebook price is set by the publisher. That price is not $9.99; it is $12.99. The hardcover is discounted to $15.20. Just as with the Stieg Larsson book, the hardcover is so close to the ebook price that the value of being able to resell the hardcover makes it the better deal.

The economic advantage that used to fall on the side of ebooks is disappearing. As it does, my motivation to pay out a few hundred dollars for an ebook reading device begins to wane as well. I may lament not having new releases to read on my Kindle, but I will give up the small advantage of the ebook in readability for the dollars and cents advantage of the hardcovers.

I recognize the ebook readers still have a huge advantage over paper when it comes to books in the public domain. I am reading Trollope's Barsetshire Series for (almost) free because I own a Kindle. I don't have to pay Penguin for each book in the series. That is a huge advantage and it may be that an ebook reader is worth the price for that reason alone. However, if reading newer authors on paper becomes a habit again, it will be very hard for me, when my Kindle gives up the ghost, to put out a few hundred bucks for an ebook reader just so I can read public domain classics.

So there you have it. The Ipad is the new star. New eInk readers proliferate and I, a reader who loves both ebooks and his first generation Kindle, am going back to paper. Go figure.

No comments:

Post a Comment