A few weeks ago, I did something I thought I’d never do. I bought a Kindle. It was a combination of the new model (faster, lighter), and the low price (only $139 for the Wi-Fi version). I’ve been reading ebooks on my iPhone with the Kindle app, which I could do pretty well. But the iPhone battery doesn’t last very long, the screen is really small, and it’s backlit—which gets a little tiring on the eyes.
Plus, I was heading to my dad’s in Florida, so had plane rides and quiet time ahead of me. I was also bringing my lovely dog, and didn’t want to further load myself up with books to read. So, great solution. Add to that the fact that I literally have no more bookshelf space and must start thinking about deaccessioning…
When I got to Florida, I was rather excited about showing off my Kindle to my dad. He’s pretty hooked up with technology, an ardent Mac user who just treated himself to Photoshop CS5, but he’s never really gotten into the wireless thing. He has a cell phone that stays in his car, and he usually forgets to turn it on.
Imagine my surprise when he told me he’d just gotten his own Kindle! And he loves it too. It’s lighter to hold when reading in bed than the chunky, science-fiction hardcovers he likes to read, and the books are a little less expensive. Plus he can make the type bigger if he wants (although his eyes are in pretty good shape).
I helped him find some free books on Amazon to download and sync to his Kindle. But he’d basically figured it out for himself. My dad. E-book reader. Well I never.
There’s a lot of conversations going on in the book community about the pros and cons of e-books, the economics, the royalties, the benefits of e-self-publishing as well as the hazards. But I don’t think the true extent of how e-readers can benefit the aging population, by being light, economical, and making it possible to consume lots of books without cluttering up limited living space, was clear to me until I saw that buying one was a decision my own 87-year-old father made. And it truly makes perfect sense for him.
I know there’s a long way to go until all the stakeholders—authors, publishers, and readers—are happy with the balance of cost, reward, and convenience of e-books. Are young readers willing to consume books that way? With lower production costs, shouldn’t authors get a bigger share of the royalties? Which formats are best to publish in? These are just some of the questions.
Then there’s the fact that, frankly, I love a book. I love to see the spines of books lined up on my shelves and remember reading them, to browse and flip through and re-read. I also treasure the hard copies of my own books. It would have been a very different experience to have only electronic copies. So my own feelings are by no means settled. But I definitely took a large step toward becoming an avid e-book advocate after my trip to see my dad.
After all, the point is that books are read, in whatever form.