Tag Archives: E-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.

Why some think that the sale of e-books is flattening

Nicholas Carr, the author of The Shallows has underlined a few points in his recent blog post about why the growth of e-books is overrated and the conventional, paper books, consequently, are underrated. According to the US data that he cites, only 25 percent of the books sold are e-books:

E-books are still taking share from printed books, sales of which declined by 4.7 percent in the quarter, but the anemic growth of the electronic market calls into question the strength of the so-called “digital revolution” in the book business. E-books now represent a bit less than 25 percent of total book sales. That’s a healthy share, but it’s still a long way from dominance. The AAP findings are backed up by a remarkable new Nielsen report indicating that worldwide e-book sales actually declined slightly in the first quarter from year-earlier levels – something that would have seemed inconceivable a couple of years ago.

I think this data is based on many presumptions and constraints. The first constraint is that it is highly U.S.-based and I don’t know what story the data from other countries tells. Second, the price of an average e-reader is still prohibitive considering the fact that people already don’t spend much money on books. Carr rightly says that there isn’t much difference between paper books and e-books in terms of pricing. If the prices are more or less the same, why do people still prefer to buy paper books? There might be two reasons:

  1. Since they have already spent a good amount of money on the e-book reader they want to hold back on spending more, despite the fact that they are defeating the very purpose of purchasing the device. Many good books can be downloaded from websites like Project Gutenberg and converted to various formats.
  2. Many people still read books for the purpose of showing that they are reading books. They want to be seen reading books and this is not possible with an e-book reader that almost looks like a tablet and most people think tablets are for browsing the net or playing games – a nonserious occupation. Reading books on electronic devices isn’t considered to be as cool as reading paper books. Conventional paperbacks and hardcovers look good on bookshelves and tables.

These are of course cultural attitudes, but they seriously impact the sale of e-books in one way or another. I’m sure over the time this attitude will change and there are many people, including yours truly, who are reading more and more books simply because they’re available in e-book formats.

No, Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 is not a substitute e-book reader

I was quite excited when I came across this Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 advertisement

It shows a person setting Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 to “Reading mode” Which basically means that you can read books and novels on this tablet just like you would on any other e-book reader.

For a very long time I have been thinking about purchasing a dedicated e-book reading device like Kindle or the Nook reader but since I keep on purchasing books from different vendors, I don’t want to tie myself down to a single device. A good thing I like about my Android tablet is that I can install applications from multiple e-book vendors and read their books. The reading is not as much fun as it would be if I read from a reader supporting e-ink display, but my reading experience has been enhanced manyfold ever since I started reading e-books rather than paper books. Although most of my purchases are from Amazon.com, I have so far resisted buying the Kindle reader. I want something that would act both as a tablet as well as an e-book reader.

So naturally I was quite excited when I saw the above advertisement. I assumed that with a single tap, you can convert the Samsung galaxy tablet into an e-reader. Now when I talk about an e-reader, I mean a device that can be used under natural light as well as under sunlight. You cannot use conventional tablets under the sun. Suppose you want to enjoy your book in a sunny afternoon sitting in a park, you cannot do this with your conventional Android tablet.

My excitement and research led me to this video:

It properly explains to you what the “Reading mode” is. It is no big deal, and it does not turn your normal screen into an e-book reader. All it does is, automatically reduce the brightness of the screen and change the settings of your tablet so that the screen doesn’t automatically turn off after a set interval. Both these tasks can be achieved in a tablet that you might already be having.

Right now I have Samsung galaxy Tab2 and I do most of my reading on it (I say most of because these days I am also reading plenty of Hindi books and you don’t get good quality Hindi books in e-book formats). When you’re reading a book through an e-book reading app such as Kindle or Play Books the screen doesn’t shut off anyway. I have seen this. Whether you read for 10 minutes or for a couple of hours, the screen doesn’t shut off. And every e-book reader app allows you to alter the brightness of the screen. This is a misleading feature and they should properly explain it to unsuspecting customers.