Tag Archives: Digital Books

Less people are reading e-books than expected

E-Books Or Paper Books

My wife and I constantly discourage our daughter from using gadgets such as her iPad or our mobile phones, especially for reading books. We prefer that she reads paper books.

On my blog I have written multiple times in favour of e-books and I myself am a great fan of e-books. Almost all the books that I read these days are either on my Kindle reader or my Android tablet.

I don’t know if it is real or rumour, Steve Jobs, when he was alive, didn’t allow his kids to use either the iPad or the iPhone. Again, I don’t know if it is real or rumour, most of the CEOs (and people in similar positions) send their kids to schools with minimal use of computers. Somewhere, somehow they understand, the conventional way of acquiring knowledge and facilitating intellectual growth is much more effective than technology-supported. Besides, there are no comprehensive studies regarding how these gadgets affect our minds when we use them on an ongoing basis. But that’s another issue.

Just like any other technology, whenever new gadgets hit the market, and if that gadget is good like your average e-book reader, there is a rush to buy it. People want to be seen whether it. People want to experience it. It is a novelty.

Besides, people like me want to know how this particular gadget improves the overall experience as well as make achieving a particular task more effective. My primary support for e-books and e-book readers is that it is extremely convenient for me to read books. Books come in different textures. Some books are very thick. Some are very thin. Some you can open easily. Some are hard to open. Then, I can just carry a single book with me if I’m going somewhere on my wheelchair.

On my Kindle reader or on my tablet, there is no such limit. There must be hundreds of books on my Kindle reader. When a carry the device, I carry the entire gamut of my collection with me. What happens in case I lose my Kindle reader or my tablet? No worries; all my books are saved in the cloud and they will be there just like they are once I log into my account from another device.

Recently someone commented on Twitter (I have forgotten the name of the person) that with e-readers, it is just convenience and the act of reading and nothing else. There is no experience. There is no environment. There is no feel. I agree. The sort of feeling that you get while reading a paper book you don’t get while reading an e-book. It’s still like using a gadget or a toy. But personally for me, the advantages outweigh the small sentimental snags that come with e-books.

This article states that the sale of e-readers is drastically reducing. Less and less people are purchasing e-readers these days and the dwindling sales of paper books seem to be picking up. There was a time when people had started thinking the time of paper books has gone. Now they think it is coming back. Conventional publishers have something to cheer for. The article quotes an expert:

Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.

E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.

I think it is not right to compare music and television industry with book reading. Book reading has been here for centuries whereas television and music industry in its current form has just been here for a few decades. Books are more personal. Reading a book is normally a personal activity unless it is being read in a group or in front of kids. So other trends may come and go, I think books are going to remain in demand in one form or another.

Why is it happening? If e-book readers are so convenient, why don’t people enjoy reading books on the e-readers rather than paper books? One reason can be that there wasn’t a shift anyway. People wanted to try out a new technology. It happens whenever a new technology or trend is introduced into the market. Everybody wants to buy it (those who can). People want to be seen with new gadgets. Being seen with the latest gadget becomes a status symbol. But when everybody seems to be using it, the interest begins to ebb and people begin to think that well, it’s no big deal flaunting a Kindle reader.

Another reason is that people are getting wary of constantly using gadgets. While I’m constantly discouraging my daughter from using her iPad, how can I sit in front of her using my Kindle reader even if it is being used merely to read a book and not to browse the Internet or watch videos? Although she knows that nothing much can be done with a Kindle reader aside from reading books and hence, it is different from other gadgets, I sometimes sit in front of her with my paper book just to let her know that reading paper books is a normal activity.

There is a global shift of attitude regarding adaptation of technology; whenever possible, people try to distance themselves from the gadgets they have so gotten used to having all the time. So a move away from e-readers and towards paper books might not much have to do with people’s perception towards e-readers, but their general disenchantment with technology overdose.

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Are digital books changing the way authors write?

Digital Books

A very balanced take on the way digital books are shaping the way books are read and written, in this article. For more than three years now I have been reading digital books and I read paper books only when digital books are unavailable (which rarely is the case these days). Initially I used to read e-books (even when I purchased them from Amazon in Kindle format) on my Samsung tab that was quite outdated. Seeing how much I read my wife motivated me to purchase the Kindle reader.

I read digital books more for the convenience and less for the supposedly positive impact that they have on the environment. The article above talks about how youngsters these days use the same device to read books as well is interact on social media and social networking websites and also use the same device for playing video games, music and movies. This sort of, takes away the exclusivity book reading demands. Book reading is supposed to create a totally different world, segregated from your surroundings. Is this possible with digital books with so much distraction going around? And how does it impact the way writers write, in order to capture as much attention as possible?

Any word in an ebook can invoke its own dictionary definition, simply by selecting it. If a passage in an ebook strikes you as cogent, beautiful or profound you can bet – once you’ve switched the highlight-sharing function on – hundreds of other people have already highlighted it. It’s a short hop from realising that to paying special attention to the highlighted bits – not out of laziness but as a wise learning strategy.

Where I see the problem is that books can be read in almost all the devices. Once you have purchased the Kindle book, for example, you can read it on a tablet, on an iPad, on a phone, on a computer and on a laptop and basically every device that has an operating system and the ability to connect to the Internet. In terms of sales, it must have been profitable for the publishers (as I mentioned above, I had started purchasing Kindle books much before I actually purchased the Kindle reader). But, books should be read on a device that only makes you read books. There should be no distraction. In fact I’m sure, this is how gadgets like Kindle reader were born – to create a digital space where only books are the consumption. There is no social networking. There are no phone calls. There is no instant messaging. There is no notification area. There are no message bubbles. Just pages and pages of the book you’re reading.

Every medium changes the way literature is written and read. This has been going on since the time immemorial. Even before digital books, the way people wrote and read was constantly changing. Just see the way writers like Dickens and Dostoevsky wrote and the way contemporary writers write. Writing styles change. Reading patterns change. This is an ongoing process. Instead of resisting it, we should embrace it, both as writers and as readers.

Having said that, I would insist that there must be separate devices for reading books, just for reading books.

When it is not advisable to use something like Kindle reader

A Kindle reader is certainly not an all-solution reading device at least in its current avatar. I don’t mean to say that there should be social features or there should be multimedia or other such fancy features. But if you want to recommend a device for students as well as people for all ages, a tablet is far better than a Kindle reader.

First of all, images and graphics don’t look good in a Kindle reader. They are black-and-white first of all. And even the rendering is not as good as it is on tablet screens, especially higher end Android devices as well as the iPads.

Another problem is that if you want to make lots of notes the keyboard is not as good as the one you get with a tablet especially when these days you easily get virtual keyboards with swiping facilities (you simply drag your fingers on the keyboard instead of tapping individual alphabets or numerals). People may not realise it right now, the ability to swipe instead of tap is a very big deal especially when you do lots of typing on the screen.

Am I advising you not to use the Kindle reader or another such device? Not at all. It is definitely a great reading experience because one, you almost feel like reading off a paper and two, there are practically no distractions. The device is just for reading and nothing else and this is a big plus. For just reading text my choice will always be an e-ink reader. But if there are lots of images (for instance, a book for my daughter) or if I need to make lots of notes (for instance, one needs to make notes to review the book later), the tablet would be my first choice.

My new Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

I was writing the review of “The Remains of the Day” when I realized that if I really wanted to write a good review, I should have taken down some notes. Up till now I had been using the Android Kindle app on my tablet as well as on my computer to not just read the books, but also search through various texts while writing the occasional reviews that I publish on this blog. But recently I purchased Kindle Paperwhite – the actual digital book reading device that I had been planning to purchase for the past two years but always managed to come up with excuses for not buying it. Well, now I have bought it.

I must’ve already mentioned that ever since I started reading digital books, the number of books I read every six months must’ve increased by 10 times if I’m not exaggerating. There used to be years before I would actually pick up a book and read it completely. That was before I started reading digital books. For the past three years, I think on an average I read 10 full-fledged books every year. I know compared to many it may not be a good record, but personally, it is a great achievement considering for 2-3 years I wouldn’t even read a single literary book.

With the purchase of the new Kindle Paperwhite, I think my reading is going to increase significantly. Last weekend I finished reading “The Remains of the Day” and this weekend I’m pretty sure that I’m going to complete “The Book Thief”. Reading on my Android tablet was quite convenient, but it is easier on the Kindle reading device simply because it is much lighter and, well, you may already know this, the text appears just like normal paper.

The convenience of reading a particular book for me is not just a matter of luxury, but it can decide whether I can read a book or not at a particular place. For instance, due to my disability, with conventional books, I couldn’t read without a table, and whenever I read, I always needed to be in the sitting position. Using a device such as my Android tablet and now Kindle Paperwhite enables me to read while I’m lying on my bed. The benefit of using Kindle Paperwhite is that I can read my books under any sort of lighting condition. This was a problem with the tablet – one cannot read under the natural outdoors light. Even indoors, after a while, it begins to strain your eyes. This is not the case with the Kindle reader. You feel as if you are reading a paper book, just with the convenience of a digital device.

While reading books on your Kindle Paperwhite you can highlight particular portions and insert notes for later reference. Once you have created multiple notes, all you have to do is tap the top portion of screen and on the extreme right hand side there is a drop down menu and within that menu you can find a link to your existing notes. This is great when you need to retrieve text while writing reviews. This was a mistake I committed when reading “The Remains of the Day”. The same mistake I have committed while reading “The Book Thief” but I will certainly remember to insert some notes while reading my next book.

You may think why I have purchased a Kindle device when I was already conveniently reading books on my Android tablet. Frankly, I have been using a tablet to read books since December 2011 but then I was reading like, during weekends, not like now when I normally read everyday for 60-80 minutes. It not just causes strain to the eyes it also becomes cumbersome, and of course, full of distractions. I have a Samsung Galaxy tablet and it also acts as my phone and my means to checking my Twitter updates. In fact, from making and receiving calls to maintaining my schedule in Evernote to interacting on Twitter, I do basically everything on my Samsung Galaxy tab. Book reading is something I had always wanted to keep separate and incurring the cost just for that was worth it.

But that’s not the only thing. My space for reading has increased manifold. Now I can read everywhere, no matter where I am. The lighting around me is not going to restrict me. I’m always going to keep my Kindle Paperwhite in the bag that I have tied to my wheelchair. Whenever I get some time, I’m going to take out my Kindle and start reading. This is, for me, the greatest advantage – the ability to steal moments of reading whenever I can.

And of course, it is quite light. I can just hold it in my hand and read a book for hours without my wrist getting tired.

The things that I’m going to miss are the colors, and the ability to use the swipe keyboard. Pressing individual keys for typing seems so archaic now, and so is, using a black-and-white display. This was one of the reasons why I was still waiting – I was hoping that soon we would get a color display.

But anyway, the more important thing is the ability to read as and when I like. This is what I’m getting from my Kindle Paperwhite. Thank you technology, for making reading so much easier.