The Smell of a Good E-Book

9 Sep

by Savannah J. Foley

~~~

A few months ago I was given a Nook. I would never have purchased one of my own accord, but now that I had one, I had to face my own stereotypes about e-books and e-readers, and have since become a convert.

There’s still a strong debate going over whether e-readers have come to destroy the world as we know it. Writers and readers get up in arms about this topic quite easily, so today I thought we’d explore some e-reader stereotypes, and what I’ve discovered since owning one:

Stereotype 1: I could never use an E-Reader because I love the way books feel and smell.

Eh, I don’t mind as much as I thought I would. I love books, too -the smell the, feel, the wing-like sound they make when you flip them with your thumb… I love them, honestly, but I think roughly the same argument about e-books could be applied to music: People didn’t want to switch from Vinyl to Cassettes, and from Cassettes to CDs, and from CDs to virtual albums. But now we listen to our music online, on our laptops, on our iPods… you can download individual songs without ever seeing what the album looked like. It’s the same with e-books: the data is the same.

Did virtual music kill physical album releases? No. Will e-readers kill physical book sales? I doubt it. (See this article for elaboration)

Stereotype 2: I like being able to flip through books in the bookstore before I decide to buy them.

If you’ve ever previewed a book on Amazon, you know that’s a cop-out excuse. But, the cool thing about the Nook at least, is that if you go to a Barnes & Noble you can sample books using the store’s own network. The only disadvantage is you can’t scan through pages quickly like you can with an actual book.

Stereotype 3: If I buy into e-readers, then I’m a traitor to the cause.

This is the most prevalent stereotype I’ve seen. I feel like writers are afraid that if they embrace e-readers they’ll be labeled either hipsters or traitors, and I think this stems from unfair prejudices about e-readers.

We’re human. Often, we fear change. E-readers came along, and they’re the first evolution of book formats in centuries. Music has certainly undergone some rapid changes, but books have remained the same until now. I think it’s natural that we would feel some apprehension and nostalgia. I remember when e-readers were first introduced, everyone was in a hysteria, asking, are books dead? Is the publishing industry failing? Will self-publishers ruin us all? Writers are going through the same trials that musicians started going through in the 90’s. But the music industry isn’t dead, and neither is the literary one; we’re just evolving.

E-books are a fact. Digital rights are being worked into publishing contracts. Digital books aren’t going away. This resistance will fade in a few years, just as resistance against iPods and DVDs flagged.

And, let’s think to the future… do you think the evolution of book formats is going to stop here? Hell no! In a few decades we’ll have foldable virtual devices. We’ll be able to flip holographic pages at the same speeds as analog. If you truly object to not being able to touch the page you’re reading, just give it ten years and a virtual option will be available to you.

Conclusion:

You don’t know until you’ve tried it. You can talk about theory and preferences and what you feel like now, but until you’ve spent some time with an e-reader you just don’t know how you’re going to like it. I remember when I got my first cell phone, I was disgusted. What do I need a cell phone for? Then, what do I need texting for? Email on my phone? Internet browser? I didn’t know what I was missing until I had it.

And it’s not like I’ve thrown out all my physical books. I still have boxes and boxes of books, and I probably will forever. I like having physical books on my bookshelves. There’s just some stories that I want for my personal library, physically beside me while I write. But when I’m running around town, I want my little Nook device in my purse, not taking up much space, and ready to whip out at a moment’s notice.

Additional Benefits of the E-Reader:

  • If you drop your book in a lake, it’s gone forever. If you drop your e-reader in a lake, you can re-download the books onto another e-reader.
  • I can take my whole library with me in my purse.
  • I can download a new book and be reading it within two minutes. I don’t have to go to a bookstore or wait for one to ship something to me. I see it, I want it, I click it, I read it. That simple.
  • E-books are cheaper (generally; see this article for the reason why some stay so expensive). I buy books I never would have normally, because the price is so good.
  • Lots of e-books are free. I can read classics and public domain books for free. Sometimes bookstores even give away new books for free as a way of generating interest.
  • You can customize your text and font on an e-reader. I can make it any size and style I want; whatever helps me improve my reading experience.

Drawbacks of the E-Reader:

  • I wanted to loan my mom The Hunger Games… only to realize I had it on my Nook. So I either have to loan the entire device to her (not gonna happen), or wait until e-readers are standard enough that everyone has one.
  • Flipping pages. Boy, do I love to flip pages and search for stuff. But that’s a really slow process on the Nook.
  • You have to charge it. Once I left my charger at work over the weekend… by Sunday I was sitting on my couch staring at a wall because I’d run the battery into the ground.

What are your thoughts on e-readers and our future?

~~~

Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.

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10 Responses to “The Smell of a Good E-Book”

  1. samanthabina September 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM #

    I bought a nook this summer, mostly for work, but now I’d die without it. I have a cookbook on mine, and it’s handy for in the kitchen; I even have a few books for class on it. I was totally opposed to ereaders for so long, but I am officially a convert. At least I’ll never have to worry about THOSE books getting moldy!

    • svonnah September 9, 2010 at 11:55 AM #

      That’s a good point… no e-mold!

  2. September 9, 2010 at 11:51 AM #

    More benefits:
    – less waste given number of books printed vs sold
    – lower production cost = higher royalty rates for authors (ideally!)
    – easier to republish backlist titles

    Cons:
    – Once you buy it, it is harder to return
    – Easier for piracy (though admittedly, too late for most)
    – Can’t buy/sell used

    I’m very curious about if POD can be mainstreamed so that books are printed (cheap & well) only once a customer buys it.

    • svonnah September 9, 2010 at 11:56 AM #

      Thanks for adding these! I completely forgot about the environmental benfits.

  3. Caitlin September 9, 2010 at 2:36 PM #

    You have a Nook so you totally can lend Mockingjay to your mother, she just has to download the B & N e-book reader onto her computer. A friend and I both borrowed my best friend’s e-copy of Mockingjay like this.

  4. Cari September 9, 2010 at 9:15 PM #

    Thanks for posting that link about ebook prices. I’m going to take it to work so customers will stop yelling at me like I personally raised the price of their James Patterson. And I’m glad you like your nook!

  5. Gabriela Da Silva September 9, 2010 at 10:00 PM #

    I’m already labelled a hipster so I can get one! Yay!

    In all seriousness, I really want one. My room can’t hold any more books dammit all. That way I can get more and more books without worrying about space!

    And also, if it turns the book was crappy, I can console myself by thinking “Hey, at least it was cheaper!” And if I buy an embarrasing book (can’t think of one), nobody can tell.

    In all seriousness, I want an e-reader… but I’m waiting for one that’s actually supported in my country :p of course I can use Amazon, but I’d like to use it in my own libraries too. So until they work in Mexico or I move to Canada, no e-reader 😦

  6. Kristy September 9, 2010 at 10:10 PM #

    Hi all,

    I’m new to this site and this is my first post, but I was intrigued by this topic because it has come up quite a bit lately in my world. I am against the e-readers myself. My mom likes to read as much as I do and she got one. My dad was thinking of getting me one for my birthday and I’m glad he told me because I told him not to waste his money. My reasons are not because I would feel traitorous in any way. I LOVE technology and I’m all about change and staying with the times, for the most part. But, when it comes to books I am old-fashioned. For me, it’s about the aesthetics and without those, I can’t get into the story. I’ve tried the devices, being the avid technology freak I am, and they were not for me. I like the feel and smell of the book, I like the anticipatory feeling of being able to turn to the next page when I’m in the complete grip of the story, I like the cover art that another artist took the time to create to make that book appealing, and I like being able to walk into my library and see all of the wonderful stories I own. Being able to see those stories, there on my shelves, helps me feel connected to the literary world in a way the e-readers simply cannot live up to.

    That being said, I don’t judge others for their preferences. If you like the e-reader, great! And, as a writer, I wouldn’t be opposed to putting my books out their in the e-book format. But, it’s just not for me personally, despite some of the great benefits you’ve listed.

  7. Elizabeth September 9, 2010 at 11:04 PM #

    I agree with Kristy. I’m against e-books and e-readers for myself because I’m in love with owning physical copies of every book I read. I love the smell and feel of a book as well as turning the page. I love looking at my book shelf and seeing my ‘life’s work’. I love highlighting my favorite lines and sections. I don’t even mind my books getting roughed up and dog-eared or anything because, to me, that means I enjoyed my reading experience. I also love walking into a bookstore on a release day and finding the book on the shelf. I can’t imagine not doing that.

    I also like physical books because they’re part of my personal history. I can look at my bookshelves and see everything that I’ve read–I know which books I read when and, in many ways, they reflect on what I was doing and thinking when I read them. And if I have children, I can pass my books on to them and *show* them all of this. I want to pass down my love of books and reading to my future children and the only way I can really, truly do that is with a physical copy.

  8. RandomizeME September 10, 2010 at 6:24 AM #

    Are you allowed to share accounts with B&N/Nook?

    The way we do it in my family is that all our Kindles/ Kindle apps are registered under my dad’s account. That way, any Kindle book that is bought under that account is shared by everyone. It’s kinda like one of us buying the hard copy of Mockingjay, then passing it around after having read it. The difference is that with the Kindle, we all get to read it at the same time.

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