March 22, 2013

Ereading Update

On a recent episode of Bookrageous, one of my favorite book podcasts, the hosts revisited their attitudes toward and experiences with ebooks, because a couple of years had elapsed since they last discussed the topic in depth. Now that I've spent almost a year with my Kindle (after a couple of years of ereading on my phone), I thought it might be time for an update of my own.

I had this thought, and then before I got around to writing this post, another one of the podcasts I listen to also focused on ebooks. I haven't recommended The Readers yet because I only started listening to it a few months ago, but it will definitely be in my next list of podcast picks. One of the show's two hosts has often voiced his opposition to ebooks, but he admitted that he recently got a Kindle. The podcasters spent much of an episode discussing this big event and the list of Kindle commandments that Simon set for himself (and immediately started breaking).

My own Kindle ownership hasn't significantly changed the pattern I'd fallen into when I was only using the Kindle app on my phone: I'm still doing about half my reading digitally and half in print. Lately I've upped the number of books I have going at once in both formats, and that may be partly because of spending more time with the Kindle, but it's also because of so many reading projects. I read on my Kindle device more than on my phone, but not as much more as I might have expected. My phone still has the advantage of being in my pocket, so even if I'm at home and my Kindle is only in another room, I might not bother to get up and fetch it.

When I first started ereading, I wasn't buying too many books in Kindle format because I wasn't sure I wanted to commit. I downloaded a bunch of free public domain classics, and I split my purchases between Kindle and Google ebooks bought through my local independent bookstore. After Google discontinued their independent reseller program, and after I acquired a Kindle, I accepted that I would lock myself into a digital library controlled by Amazon. I have many mixed feelings about Amazon as a company, about the impact they've had on the bookselling and publishing industries, and about the good and bad things they've done for readers. Modern life is complicated.

Some people get a Kindle or other ereader, and they never buy another print book again. I'm not ready for that yet. I know that what matters about a book is the words, but I'm too much in love with books and covers and bookstores to abandon them. So every time I want a book now, I have to decide what format I want it in. This was a big point of discussion on both podcasts.

I have a not-huge-but-not-small collection of books that at this point just barely fits onto my available shelves. It's still the case that I haven't read most of them. I'm not getting another bookshelf, so I shouldn't buy any more physical books until I read and give away some of the existing books. But I haven't convinced myself to make all my new purchases digital.

Bookrageous pointed to an article by Amanda Nelson at Book Riot, The Largely Irrational Reasons I'm Not Ready to Go All-Digital, in which she expresses concern about her physical book collection becoming frozen in time and only reflecting what she read before she got a Nook. I hadn't specifically looked at it that way, but I do think this is one of the reasons it weirds me out to think of no longer adding to my shelves.

As a result of all this, there's a whole heuristic around my book buying. I consider the rather nebulous question of whether I want to possess the book on my shelves as evidence for the future and/or guests, which has partly to do with anticipated quality and literary merit. I guess at whether I'll want to loan the book, and to who -- I share my Kindle library with another member of my family, but for anyone else, a physical book is more sharable. If I have a personal (read: online) relationship with the author of a new release, I'll probably buy a hardcover to show maximum support (though I don't actually know if this is an accurate motive). In other cases, if the book is only available in hardcover, I'll buy it digitally because I find hardcovers less comfortable to read than paperbacks. If I want to start reading the book right this minute, I'll download it to my Kindle -- and I have a rule that I only buy ebooks when I'm about to read them, not because I want to read them someday, which more sensibly should be my rule for paper books. If I'm in or near an independent bookstore, I'll buy a book. If I'm having a bad week and need cheering up, or a good week and deserve a reward, I'll put in an order to pick up at my local independent bookstore. Oh, and if I need to read a book but don't expect to be excited by it, or if it's out of print, I'll borrow it from the library.

Basically, as with much in my life, I don't want to choose. Right now I'm in the middle of an exciting book on my Kindle that I'm eager to get back to after I finish this post about my ereading habits. But now that I've written all this, what I most want to do is visit a bookstore.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Livia Blackburne gets her first editorial letter and learns how to be a better critique partner: "When I critique manuscripts, I tend to focus on things that I don't like. But I've come to realize that it's equally important to be look for good things so they can be emphasized -- for example, noting an intruiging character trait that be brought out more, or pointing out intriguing themes that are hinted at but could be developed."


Anna Scott Graham said...

I love this post, for a number of reasons, but like you, I'm not eager to choose just one reason. So here are the reasons I like this post.

1. That you admit to not wishing to choose. Eggs all in one basket is a little precarious, even if the store is only a block, or a click, away.

2. I too love physical books! And I prefer paperback over hardcover.

3. I like the ease of ebooks, and I'm also not sure which is the best way to support a writer, print or digital.

4. My shelf space is limited, and I can't justify buying more books until I read/give away some that sit there.

5. I too have an uneasy feeling about Amazon, heh heh heh...

6. Now I want to go to a bookstore too!

My biggest problem with buying ebooks is that I am troubled by spending money on what is basically a digital file. So it ends up that the ebooks I buy are either by indie authors, or for charitable notions. My new paperbacks aren't really 'new' at all. But the day will come when I want a novel or non-fiction book, and it will only be available as an ebook. Then I will have to choose....

Great post!

Lisa Eckstein said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Anna. This topic produces so many feelings! If you're interested to say more about it, here or or your own blog, I'm curious to know how your own reading habits interact with the fact that you're releasing your own work only as ebooks. I'm sure that complicates the issue even more.

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