You’ve probably seen a headline like this on Twitter; the particular one that broke this camel’s back is from CTV News Vancouver. On a light note, I’d like to point out that Canada are reporting paper book sales up just after I had a trip to Canada and filled my suitcase and my partner’s with new books from Indigo and various non-chain bookshops. Coincidence?
Well, yes, but I like it anyway. Even though I was in Calgary, not Vancouver. And made some of my purchases in Edmonton. You’re missing the point.
Anyway, I’m getting pretty sick of these headlines, which inevitably come with lines about how reading a “real” book is more satisfying. More interesting, perhaps, are the articles which I’ve seen that show teens are not big adopters of ereaders and ebooks. I’d love to see more about that, because this is a generation that has grown up reading from screens all the time. Maybe it’s because when we’re reading, we want to escape from the everyday world. When screens are your everyday world, maybe you want something that creates a bit more separation, and has no extra bells and whistles to let you know that you just got five emails.
Maybe it’s because many teens just aren’t that interested in books, and therefore won’t invest in an ereader, and teen purchases of books tend to be one-offs, in paperback. I don’t know; I’d love to see studies on why teens aren’t adopting ereaders/ebooks — link me, if they exist!
But what I really don’t get is the way people are crowing over the “failure” of ebooks. I walk into the eye clinic I volunteer at, and I clock at least three Kindles in each 2.5 hour session. They’re great for making books accessible. Large print books are usually not cost effective: the library I volunteer for have a collection of older ones, but I don’t think we’ve added a new large print title in years. They’re just not available for reasonable prices. But you can choose your own font size — uniquely calibrated to your needs and preferences. You can pick your own font, too. Some ereaders even have the font designed for dyslexic readers as an option.
I’m not seeing the failure here. People are choosing what works for them. Ebooks constitute 17% of sales in Canada, for example. That’s not nothing, or a failure. It’s people choosing the technology they’re comfortable with, and which suits their needs. The stats don’t even tell us anything about whether people use both.
For me, it doesn’t matter. I’m not “more satisfied” reading one way or the other. I love my ereader for the access I get to ARCs and the way ereaders create opportunities for short fiction and serialisation. I love paper books because, yeah, I like the smell of the pages, I like to own things. I like my ereader because it has a backlight which adjusts to current lighting conditions, and I can get new releases cheaper. I love paper books because they make my room look lived in. I love my ereader because I can travel, with all the books I want still at my fingertips. Kindle sales can be amazing, but there’s also the satisfaction of carrying home a nice stack of books.
It’s weird how invested people get in the “death” of ebooks, in how “artificial” they are or how they’re “killing” the book industry. Nope, Amazon across all book sales is much more of a threat than ebook sales as a whole, including non-Amazon sources.
I have no big investment in how other people read. Ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks, audiobooks — whatever floats your boat. Just read, I don’t care in what format.