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From printed books to eBooks – is it time to make the switch?

19 Aug

After releasing my first standalone eBook novel, I found myself frequenting this general conversation:

Me: “Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale is available on Amazon and B&N for the Kindle and Nook.”
Reader: “I don’t have a Kindle or Nook.”
Me: “That’s okay because you can also read it on your PC, Smartphone, or Tablet.”
Reader: “Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the feel of a book in my hands.”
Me: “Have you ever actually tried an eReader?”
Reader: “Well, no, but I just like paper better.”

Have you ever had a childhood experience where you thought your mom or dad just didn’t get it? Whether it be music, clothing, hair style, or other modern day trends? Guess what, we’re doing the same thing with technology. It’s not only a section of Baby Boomers who pooh-pooh the idea of eReaders, but Gen X’ers too. We’ve become our parents by saying no before actually giving the thing a try.

Are we afraid of complicated technologies?

Some time ago, I bought my grandmother a DVD player. VHS tapes were becoming expensive due to their limited availability. Since she loved to watch movies as much as I did, it was a common practice for us to buy videos as gifts for one another. The problem came when DVDs took over the market. Why? Because DVDs required more user interaction. My grandmother was used to pushing a VHS tape into the player where it would automatically play. With DVDs, she had to navigate the menu to find the PLAY option. No matter how many times I showed her, or patiently explained each step, for some reason or another it never sank in.The same concept translates over to printed books. All you have to do is open the cover and flip through the pages until you are done. Simple as that. Like the DVD, there’s more to an eReader. You must (1) get the book on the reader, and (2) select it from a menu.

Are we afraid of changing a good thing?

The old sang, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind. People have been reading ink on paper for hundreds of years. The Gutenburg Press paved the way for printed technologies many years ago. But until now, we’ve never removed the paper. We like our paper. We like how it folds in our hands. We like the fresh smell it gives to a new book. So why change it?

Are eReaders too expensive?

Another issue revolves around cost. A new paperback costs around $10-$27 dollars. Used books are typically half that. A new eReader costs somewhere between $100 and $200. For many, that’s just too much of a price jump. Bring the library into the equation–where you can borrow books at no cost–and you have a real argument against eReaders. Right? Read on.

Are eReaders worth the trouble?

As human beings, we often find comfort in the familiar. We generally like to wake up at the same time every day, pour our cup of coffee, and jump into the shower. We are creatures of habit and routine, and it’s only natural to be hesitant when something new comes around and threatens to invade our happy homes. But consider this: not all change is bad. Do you remember a time before the Internet? Before we had portable phones? Before movies came into our homes? How about a time before books? No? Well, believe it or not, but there once was a time where books did not exist. Stories were verbally passed back and forth between people. There were no pens with paper to write them down on. As humanity advanced, so did our resources for communication. Just think, if our ancestors never adapted, where would we be today? What if books never took shape? Can you picture a long deceased relative saying, “I just like the way a scroll unrolls in my hands; I’m not interested in those newfangled books”?

Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it seems (the benefits of eReaders)

Just as scrolls and VHS tapes had room for improvement, so also do printed books. Here are a few of the many ways eReaders are an improvement:

Space: Unless you have an abundance of needless space in your home, storing thousands of books can be a pain. On the 3rd generation Kindle, you can store up to 3,500 books. That’s a lot of shelves to fill. Even better is that this number only covers books that are on the Kindle itself. You can buy many more and keep them stored in Amazon’s archive until you wish to move them over.
Size: At about the same size as a standard paperback, eReaders tend to be thinner and lighter.
Comfort: As someone who struggles with hand pain, I’ve tried gadgets like Bookbax™ and Imak Gloves. Where they help, I still found it painful to read traditional books. With my Kindle, I don’t have to constantly force the pages open. There’s no resistance against my hands or fingers, and turning pages is a painless tap of a button.
Delivery: With the rate that bookstores are closing, many people are turning to online retailers. This often requires several days before one can start reading them, and in some cases extra shipping fees are added. Even with the library, one has to reserve a book and then pick it up. On an eReader, you buy the book and instantly have access to it.
Cost of books: Where the device comes with a bigger upfront cost, the overall price of eBooks tend to be much cheaper. For instance, at 155k words, my book would likely have to sell for close to $25. As an eBook, I can keep the price down to only $2.99. Many go as low as $0.99, and there are close to 2 million free out-of-copyright books out there too. If that isn’t enough, some publishers provide weekly specials, giving top rate books away for free. Let’s do some math. I’ll be generous and say a paperback will cost you $7.99. Now, a Wi-Fi Kindle runs $139 (Update: Amazon sells a $79 Kindle now). In the first year that I owned a Kindle, I easily acquired 200 free books from Amazon (and I’m not talking about outdated books). 200x$7.99 = $1,598. Taking that in consideration, does the $139 cost for the reader sound that bad?
Availability: Because Amazon and B&N have opened up their market to indie authors, you will find a deeper selection of books than what is available at your library or physical book retailer. Where it’s true that some of these are just poorly written, it’s also true that there are many wonderful gems. With traditional publishers comes a lot of rules and restrictions. Indie books provide a freshness to storytelling that has long been needed.
Size of type: With traditional books, you are stuck with the size of font that is printed. On an eReader, you can pretty much make it as big or small as you like. I know my wife loves this feature because it enables her to read without the use of glasses.

Still not convinced? Here are a few other common questions/concerns I’ve heard:


I can’t borrow out eBooks like I can with paperbacks
Actually, you can. Amazon allows you to click on books you purchased and borrow them out to others. There’s even an entire website (booklending.com) dedicated to connecting people who wish to share their books, making eReaders even more cost effective.


I don’t like reading on a screen
I agree that staring at an LCD for too long isn’t ideal. What people misunderstand is that not all eBook readers are equal. Some use LCD screens, like the Nook Color, but others use what’s called electrophoretic ink (or E Ink), like the Kindle. This technology best reproduces what type/text looks like on paper. There’s no backlight, thus there’s no extra strain on the eyes. E Ink works like a charm.


If my eReader or computer crashes, I’ll lose all my books
As with any digital platform, it’s best to make backups. That said, Amazon houses any purchases you make in their archive. If something happens to your hardware, just re-download the books free of charge.


I can’t read eBooks in the tub or on a beach
If you do a lot of reading near water, just toss on one of the many available waterproof cases. They aren’t too expensive. Heck, you can use a Ziploc® bag for that matter, you just won’t be winning any design competitions.


What about environmental impact?
It’s true that paperbacks don’t use batteries like eReaders do. That said, electronic ink has an extremely low rate of power consumption and can last over a month on a single charge. Whereas hardcovers and paperbacks use paper, which comes from trees. Limiting the number of trees being cut down can easily be considered environmentally friendly.


Will printed books go away if I switch?
No. At least, not anytime soon. I want my 2-year-old to rip pages out of her books without any concerns. I also enjoy reading graphic novels in full, lush color. Personally, I keep a small collection of my favorite and rare books, just in case the world is destroyed and aliens demolish the power plants. There will always be a place for the printed word, but the scope of it grows ever smaller.


I prefer the smell of printed books
Believe it or not, but they make a spray for this. I kid you not. My personal opinion is if this is why you don’t want to switch, then perhaps you aren’t ready yet.


I prefer getting books from the library
Many eReaders work with a system called Overdrive, which is covered by quite a few libraries. You can download and read eBooks for free just as you would check out a paperback/hardcover. Amazon boasts that their Kindle will have this option soon (Udate: Kindles now have this ability).



Conclusion

I’m not telling you to go out and buy a Kindle or Nook because I want you to get a copy of my book. As much as I’d love to gain more readers, I’m not worried about a decrease in sales. I’ve already sold over 100 copies of Traphis: A Wizard’s Tale in just over a month of its release. Those who have eReaders are finding it. The unfortunate thing is that most of those people are not my family or friends (people I would hope to receive an especially good review from). Why? Because, like many others, they are reluctant to adapt to this new technology.

Thankfully, there are plenty of people out there who do love eBooks, and I’m happy to share my story with them. All I’m asking you to do is to try it before you knock it. Let’s not be our parents by saying no without knowing what we are really saying no to.

Most everyone I’ve talked to who said they preferred the feel of paper, soon changed their mind when spending a week with a Kindle. My mother included. I bought her one for Christmas, and now she won’t put it down. Having an open mind will only benefit you, and a closed mind will only hurt you.

Once you take the scary out of the new technology, you may find that it’s much easier to use than you imagined. eReaders are lighter, easier to hold, take up less storage space, are easy on the eyes, have a long battery life, and are the fastest way to get the books you love into the palm of your hand.

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5 Comments

Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Books

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “From printed books to eBooks – is it time to make the switch?

  1. Karlton

    August 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Good article James.
    It is good to know that Boomers are not alone in becoming old farts 🙂
    Karlton

     
  2. James D. Maxon

    August 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Ha, thanks! Yeah, when people younger than me (which isn’t as young as it used to be) are tossing up the resistance flags, I can’t help but get my $0.02 in 😉

     
  3. Anne Franklin

    August 21, 2011 at 4:23 am

    I agree with all your comments. I’m not much of a techie, but I’m loving my Kindle. I have well over 100 books so far and have spent a total of $8. Because I have ADD I can lose focus quickly. But with the Kindle I just switch to a different book in seconds with only two clicks. I still have an attic full of paper books, but I pick up the Kindle 9 times out of 10. The only problem I’m having with the Kindle is finding enough time to read.

     
  4. Matt @ The Church of No People

    December 10, 2011 at 1:14 am

    My wife gave me my Kindle last year, and I haven’t looked back. I love making highlights in books and having everything right in one place. But paper books will never be replaced on my shelf. There are some things I want to have a physical copy of. Books are still a wonderful bit of technology.

     
    • James D. Maxon

      December 10, 2011 at 2:00 am

      Agreed. I think there is a place for both. Unfortunately, there are still many readers who won’t even give eReaders a chance.

       

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