I remember standing at a publisher cocktail party years ago, talking with a publicist about electronic books, and she was shaking her head firmly, saying that e-books were still a non-issue. At the time, I was utterly hooked on Mario for GameBoy (the original, clunky, white one) and I made the case for a reader something like that unit, with a bigger screen. Something you could hold and transport easily. Everyone with me just shook their heads. If I stop and think about that fat, old GameBoy, I can guess this cocktail party was about a decade ago.
We’ve all seen the revolution coming for the past two years. Sony pushed things along, but Kindle set the game afire, and now Barnes and Noble has joined the market with their Nook. My oldest son, who is the kind of reader a writer dreams of, and was the kind of geeky kid who had to have every brand-new version of Zelda the day it came out, obviously has a Kindle. He’s on his second, actually, and it’s a lovely machine. I’ve played with the Sony reader, too, and I like it fine. Now there is Nook, which is pretty, pretty, and not available in any meaningful way until after Christmas. They all have their pros and cons, which you can read about in depth in this article from Wired.com. Since getting my iPhone a few months ago, I find I want that touch screen technology on everything, and at the moment, those e-readers are pricey.
Finally, this morning Christopher Robin sent me a link to an article firming up rumors that the Apple tablet is likely to be available in the spring. These snippets particularly caught my eye:
Apple has been approaching U.S. book publishers with what Reiner describes as “a very attractive proposal” for distributing their content: an App Store-type 30/70 split (30% for Apple) with no exclusivity requirement. [See UPDATE below.] According to Reiner, publishers are disgruntled by Amazon’s (AMZN) terms, which force exclusivity, disallow advertising and demand a “wolfish cut” of revenue. The typical Kindle/publisher split, he says, is 50/50, rising to 30/70 if Amazon gets exclusivity. Apple’s tablet would make ebooks more attractive for the education market by simplifying functions such as scribbling marginalia. [Me: can you imagine, my fellow researchers, how this would simplify your life?]
For me there are two reasons to have a reader: space and ease of transport. When I moved from my old house, it took two DAYS to clear out the books. I gave away hundreds of boxes of books to local charities and used bookstores. I swore I’d never let it get that far out of hand again. While I adore reading, I also like to be able to move around my house, and at the rate I read, that means a lot of books stacking up. With an e-reader, I can collect hundreds of books in the palm of my hand.
The other reason I want one so much is related to the space issue: I travel, and sometimes far, far away. Deciding which books to bring with me is one of the biggest problems on every long flight. Which to carry in the suitcase, which to put in the backpack to carry on the plane, which ones to leave at my destination to make room for those I buy at faraway bookstores? Books are heavy. An e-reader allows me to load whatever I like onto my machine, and leaves space to pick up books on my travels.
Also, there is something inordinately comforting about knowing I can connect to the internet and get any book I want at any moment. (This, actually, is the biggest downside. I already spend more than I ought–even as a writer–on books. I suspect I am single handedly keeping at least two publishers afloat. How much worse will that be if I can buy books whenever I feel like it?) I currently have a couple of titles on my iPhone, just in case I get stranded somewhere and have no book with me. (One must be prepared.)
I strongly feel we’ve hit the tipping point in women’s fiction and romance this season–when we look back, this is the season we will point to as the Great Shift. Some statistics have shown romance readers in particular are starting to buy a great many more books this way (thanks in part, I’m sure, to groundbreaking imprints like Wild Rose and others, who allowed readers to grow accustomed to the format). Over the past two years, my royalties from ebooks have steadily risen, and the happy news is that sales for older titles are rising, too. This is very good news for writers.
That Apple tablet is my dream machine, I have to admit, but I probably won’t be buying one for quite awhile. After Christmas, when all the sales are on, I’m going to choose a reader and buy one.
How about you? Do you have an e-reader? If so, which one? How much do you use it? If you don’t have one, why? (No judgment. Just getting a feel for preferences here.)