Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kindled or Kindred?

I was watching the interview between the CEO and Jon Stewart, and I could see the attractiveness of the Kindle 2. Yeah, I can also see the attractiveness of a new handbag. For the cost of a kindle 2, I could buy a Coach handbag—or a LOT of books. (Even a nice wristlet and a fair number of books.)

Oh, but I can put 1500 books on my kindle. Look, I can put 1500 books in a Coach handbag, too. Maybe not all at the same time, but I'm not going to read all of them at once anyway. A kindle isn't an iPod. Reading a novel isn't like listening to an album. The novel is going to take me considerably longer to finish, and I don't feel compelled to carry a library with me. The current book I'm working on will do me fine, thanks.

Yes, I realize it sounds like I'm dragging my feet against the pull of the inevitable, but hear me out. I've thought about this from more than just the financial angle. There are valid reasons why I cannot get a kindle 2.

You see, I love books. I really do. Not so many years ago, I'd read anything I could get my hands on. Good books. Great books. And a lot of really, really awful books. It was like I felt guilty about not finishing a book I'd started. I read a few I truly loathed, because I felt a masochistic need to know how they ended.

Since I devote most of my time to writing—and if you know me or have followed the blog, you know that the majority of my sensory input comes from television and films. When I sit down with a book to invest the time in reading it, I want to feel it was worth it.

This seems to argue for the kindle 2 purchase—digital space. Didn't enjoy a book? Delete it! Banish it to the binary ether. Not so much. When I don't enjoy a book, I can donate it to a library or take it to any of the numerous second hand stores in town. Or even just pass it on to someone who will like it.

When I do like a book, when I want to share it with others, the same things goes. How do you pass along a kindle 2? Is there a way to bluetooth beam books to one another that I don't know about? Because I seem to think the publishers and Amazon would want to put a stop to that.

It's easy to point out the flaw in my logic. To state that an an author, I should be advocating that everyone buy their own copy of a book and buy it new so that the authors get their royalties. That the Kindle 2 promotes this.

Well, you've got me there. I can only reply that I know many books that wouldn't get read if it weren't for libraries, secondhand stores, and opinionated friends.

Here's what it all comes down to—why the kindle's brought a knife to a gun fight: A book is tangible. When I make a row of the ones I've purchased but not yet read, I have a visual reminder of what's waiting for me. It curbs my impulse book buying. (Somewhat.) Call me low tech, but I need to see books. Touch them. Let them occupy physical space with me so that I have a responsibility to read them.

Maybe it's elitest, but as an author, I can tell you that receiving a digital PDF means nothing compared to holding a bound volume in your hands. Seeing your name on the spine and cover. Gripping the final manifestation of all your sweat and tears.

Eventually, we're going to go digital. I'll follow, because it's the natural progression of the industry and this is career I want. Barring the robot apocalypse and the decision by world leaders that fiction is an unnecessary evil.

However, until then I'm going to fight to be low tech about real books, so they can continue to remind they were written by real people.


Leigh said...

Good arguments...I think the Kindle itself is elitist (in its current incarnation). Who can afford one to begin with? And then to buy the downloads...whereas a person who's struggling financially can go into a store (or even on Amazon) and buy a cheap copy of an actual book. Where's the cheap Kindle?

Zita said...

I agree with you, kinda. I have a Sony Reader, not a Kindle, but--same thing, really. Since I got it I have read books from authors I probably would never have bought. And if I like it, I go out and buy all the other books that author wrote. Because I do like books, too. The eBooks have just let me expand my reach affordably.

Chandra Rooney said...

I think Zita's making a great point. So I have a follow-up question: Can an ebook that comes out after the Kindle 2 launch can still be viewed on a Kindle? Or do we have a PS3/PS2 fiasco on our hands?

Does a used kindle (first gen) then become our more economic solution or will they be made obsolete like previous iPod generations?

Zita said...

I certainly hope not! That would be a really rotten thing for Amazon to do. I don't know about the sharing between Kindle 1 and 2. I know, with the Reader, you can. The only real difference between Reader 1 and 2 is that 2 is wireless. Since I have never yet found myself having to have a book that very second, I feel no desire to rush out and buy the wireless version.

Chandra Rooney said...

Compatibility should be something they considered.

The weird thing about the interview was Jon Stewart asked about piracy and basically the response he got was that Amazon had left it up the publishes to pay for the Digital Rights. (I'm not certain if that even answers the question.)

Jessica Kennedy said...

I'm a Kindle 1 owner since December 2007. I understand your logic behind not wanting to give up the physical books yet. I thought the same thing at first. Actually, no, I didn't. I wanted something that was small, didn't take up any bookshelf space and saved me money. The Kindle does that and more.

I've compared what ebooks cost to physical books. I keep a detailed spreadsheet. The Kindle has nearly paid for it's self already. I get the same satisfaction from reading on my Kindle that I get from reading an actual book. If not more because I find the Kindle SOOOOO much more comfortable to hold.

Another point I'd like to make is that I don't pay for a book I don't like. I LOVE the preview option. If I see a book I want to check out I get the free sample. If I like what I've read, usually 1-2 chapters, I buy the book. If I don't like it...I don't buy!

Basically, I <3 Amazon. I'd have the Kindle 2 if I had it my way but the hubby doesn't agree.

Check out my blog for more feedback from me!

Chandra Rooney said...

Leigh? I think Jessica just sold me on the Kindle by mentioning this "preview option."

Two questions though--just playing devil's advocate and anyone is welcomed to answer them...

1. What does Kindle/eBooks mean for independent bookstores?

2. What happens to book signings?

Jessica Kennedy said...

1. What does Kindle/eBooks mean for independent bookstores?

Good question. Not EVERY book is available for the Kindle. I believe Independent Booksellers, God love them, will become more focused on those books we just can't put in digital format. There's always going to be that photography book or history book that a digital version will just not do it for the reader.

2. What happens to book signings?

Another great question. I think these will still happen. If you are in love with an author you'll probably buy their physical book. I get a lot of my favorite authors books via ARCs, however, I do love getting that signed edition. I don't think author signings will disappear. People still love their favorite authors and will support them by visiting their signing. People who are dedicated to their favorite authors will continue to support them. I do not doubt that in the least.

In the end I think it all has to do with online marketing. Blog reviews and the ever increasing internet sharing sites gets the word out about books. It's faster and easier than print media and probably more effective.

Digital is where it's at and I'm there.


Chandra Rooney said...

So in the future, will hardcopies of books will return to an elitist symbol of status and wealth? :)

The economic benefit of the kindle for me would be if we could get manga for less on it. Cuz I love to collect them, but they take up a lot of space and I can read them so quickly.

Are you listening, TOKYOPOP? I think this is something you should make happen.

alanajoli said...

I like the idea of e-book readers quite a bit--but would love for them to come down in price and to carry things like textbooks. As a student (and as a TA on tours abroad), I need something like 10 heavy books with me, plus fun reading material--and those are much easier to pack if they're e-books. But at home? Give me a paperback novel any day of the week. :)

Also, aren't manga made available on cell phones in Japan? The technology should already be there, right? Right?