Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finally, some cogent thoughts on the role of the ebook

From today's Shelf Awareness.

Alas, I would have posted a link, but the link I've got points to my Gmail account. That won't help anybody. So here is the text, and if you don't already read Shelf Awareness, do yourself a favor and check it out.

E-books: Attractive to Some Readers All the Time

Robert T. Mize, owner of Hidden Secrets Book Covers, Albuquerque, N.M., offers an unusual perspective on e-books:

Hidden Secrets Book Covers manufactures cloth covers for paperback and hardcover books and for the Sony Reader II and Kindle I. I have been a vendor at the regional independent booksellers association trade shows, several Romantic Times conventions and the international sci-fi convention last August. Three years ago only a few people at the Romantic Times convention mentioned e-books. The next year there were maybe a dozen. Last year dozens were interested, and there was incredible interest at the sci-fi convention. All of the interest was in Kindle covers. I have yet to sell a Sony cover.

I do not agree with the comparison of e-books to the music business. I suspect that e-books will take around 15% of the new book market in the next two years, but I doubt that it will have taken 50% in 10 years.

Readers express interest in e-books for several specific reasons:

Commuters and frequent fliers like the compact nature of the e-reader. They don't have to fuss with folding a newspaper or magazine. If they finish reading something, they can quickly download something else with a Kindle.

People who read a book a day or more like the ability to store multiple books in a tiny space. These are the people who go on vacation with one suitcase that has 35 lbs. of books. They also don't have to worry about what to do with all of the books after they read them. If they want to keep a book for reference, they can store it on an e-book memory card.

For readers with medical problems like arthritis, M/S, carpal tunnel syndrome, lost limbs, and neck and back problems, the e-book is a godsend. The changeable font sizes can help many readers with vision problems.

Techno-junkies love new gadgets like e-books.

Textbooks are where e-books should dominate the market. In school, what would you have given for the ability to search any keyword in the textbook and be able find all passages immediately and be able to highlight sections and find them immediately? Purchasing one e-reader in elementary school that will work through high school is not unreasonable, and e-textbook packages could be put together and sold for various courses without the school or professor being locked in to a single textbook for several years.

Far more readers love curling up with a book. They also don't want to risk ruining an e-reader poolside, boating, at the beach, in the bathtub or anywhere else around water. They love sharing a great book with friends, and giving books as a gift.

Bookstores are very different from music stores. At music stores, you went to get what you had already heard or your favorite artist's newest album. At bookstores, you go to see what is available by both your favorite writers and other writers whom you have never heard of and to see books of local interest. A well-informed staff is of little use in a music store and rarely available at corporate chains. The well-informed staff is the greatest competitive advantage that independent bookstores have. Those bookstores who capitalize on handselling are the ones who will survive.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

The school & textbook application is one I'd not thought about before! What if a student could download all of their texbooks on one reader? That would remove about 20 pounds from their school bags.

L. Diane Wolfe

Barbara, Goddess of Champagne said...

Suddenly a Kindle looks like the perfect HS graduation gift...or it will be, I guess, once the textbook co's get it organized. That seems to be in the early stages.

Shoqua said...

Honestly? My last year of college, I did almost all of my reading online. I would have given much for a Kindle instead of having to carry my laptop around. A Kindle with the ability to write notes in would have been even better.

Barbara, Goddess of Champagne said...

Ah, so. That's good news.

So what you want is one of those cute tablet computers. Me, too.