Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A year with my Kindle (Bonus: my suggestion to publishers)

Last week I re-posted a reflection I wrote last year on "How the Kindle killed my reading plan". While that post took a largely grim outlook on owning a Kindle, I found that the majority of my bad habits (book hoarding, surfing, and infidelity) were due to having a "new toy" more so than the liabilities that the Kindle presented.

Once the newness of the Kindle wore off, I found it much easier to pick up my print books at home and just grab my Kindle when it was convenient (e.g. leaving the house). So in the past year, I and my Kindle have developed a working relationship, and my reading habits haven't changed as much as I thought they might.

The Kindle takes a back seat when picking a new book. When I finished one book and it was time to start a new one, I always found myself drawn to my bookshelf first. There's something far more appealing about the spines of real books, various fonts and colors, and a quick peek at each front and back cover to pick a book versus a sterile list of book titles or a digital bookshelf on a screen. While I consider myself a reader, I cannot deny the superior aesthetic appeal that a well-done print book offers.

As a side note: I'm sure this means that, all other things being equal, I will usually buy and read books that have a bigger budget and better layout. That sort of rankles the reading purist in me (You know, the whole "don't judge a book by its cover" thing), but I can't deny this seems to be the case. 

The Kindle makes reading a book more of a social event. Because you can connect to Twitter and Facebook through your Kindle, it is much easier to share what you're reading. I especially like being able to share an extended quote through my Kindle rather than having to sit down with a book open in front of me and typing it all out.

Similarly, because so many deals (and even free ebooks) can be found, it's much easier to turn friends with Kindles onto the same deals and read those books at the same time. This is rarely the case with my print books and, at best, I usually end up loaning out my favorite print books to my friends one at a time after I've read them.

The Kindle has a clear advantage in searching you book collection. Have you ever spend half an hour searching your book collection trying to find "that quote"? I have. With the Kindle, this process is a breeze. It also collects all your highlighted texts in one place so you can go back and read everything you noted in all your books together. Very nice.

Bonus - My suggestion to publishers: If I have one gripe about the ebook revolution, it's that I'm often forced to choose whether I will buy a book in print or ebook form. On more than one occasion, I've bought an ebook on a deal, and then liked it enough that I ended up buying it in print as well. Sure, the publishers win twice in this instance, but not as often as they would if they would do this:

Offer Print + eBook bundles. If I could read, mark up, and loan a print book, and get the option of having my entire book collection portable and searchable at all times on my Kindle, I would be one happy reader. I would happily pay a little more to buy a print book with the ebook thrown in, and I imagine I'm not the only one.

The movie industry has already set precedent here offering "Blu-Ray + Digital Copy", and I think "Print + eBook" offers even more advantages for the buyer. Now I haven't figured out all the practical difficulties (like keeping download codes secure on the print books) but I think it'd be great way for publishers to adapt to the rise of the ebook rather than be threatened by it.

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