Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Lust, the (digital) sequel

Sandra Parshall

In May of 2007, the last time I wrote about book lust – we all know what that is, don’t we? – the publishing world existed in a universe quite different from today’s.

I waxed rhapsodic about the bookness of a book:

What in this world is more wondrous, magical, intriguing, alluring than a book? An entire world contained between two covers! But It’s not the content alone that I love. I enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, I admire a sturdy spine, I appreciate an attractive cover and an elegant design. I’m a type junky and always check to see whether the book includes a note about the type. I’m disappointed when I don’t find that information. (My favorite typeface, at least for the moment, is Sabon, which is used in Stephen Booth’s British editions.)

I admitted that once I owned a book, I never wanted to let it go. When we moved, about 20 years ago, from one Washington, DC suburb to another, we thinned our book collection and donated dozens to the Arlington County (VA) Central Library’s used book room. As soon as they were gone, I began to suffer an agonizing remorse. How could I have given them up? How could I live without them? For a long time after we moved next door to Fairfax County, I made regular trips to the Arlington Library, where -- yes -- I gradually bought back a fair number of the books we had donated. They were mine. They belonged at home with me, not with strangers.

Every reader and writer I knew felt the same way. Although they sometimes complained about the lack of space in their houses for other objects, not to mention humans, they could not part with their books.

That was May, 2007. On November 19 of that year, the Kindle went on sale. Some of us laughed at it. We already knew about e-books. We knew that practically nobody read them. After all, who would want to read off an electronic screen when they could be holding a real book in their hands?

But while earlier e-readers had languished in the marketplace, the Kindle had the might of Amazon and its breathtakingly huge inventory behind it, and the Kindle began to sell. We heard a rumble deep in the heart of the book world. We felt a faint tremor in the earth beneath our feet. The rumble grew to a roar, the tremor built to a violent convulsion that threatened to leave no bookstore standing.

And the definition of book lust morphed into something undreamt of in the spring of 2007 B.K.

People who coveted printed books in the Before Kindle era started looking askance at those piles of rectangular objects that took up so much space at home and were a nuisance to carry while traveling. To be sure, diehard fans of “real books” remain. But many have turned into hybrids, declaring that as much as they love printed books and always will, they don’t have room for any more and prefer to acquire e-books instead. E-reader tablets continue to sell, and as many as one-fourth of all Americans already own one. (At the end of 2011, Amazon sold a million Kindles a week.) E-book sales are gaining market share by leaps and bounds.

In the wake of all this change, I have noticed the parallel growth of e-book lust. Some people declare that they have more e-books on their machines than they will ever get around to reading. They troll for free e-books online and download them in staggering numbers. I suspect that a great many of those books will never be read, which is not something the authors want to hear. Electronic book hoarding has a lot in common with print book hoarding. Its one virtue is that it takes up less space.

I have an iPad with the Kindle app on it, and I’ve downloaded a handful of e-books. If a reference book I might use often for research is especially cheap as an e-book, I will download it. I stay away from the Kindle Store because I know I am a book addict and I don’t want to tempt myself. Once I give in to the urge to go browsing, I will be lost.

Now let’s talk about your book habits.

Do you own an e-reader?

How many books are on it right now?

How many downloads have you bought in the last month? The last year?

Are you buying more e-books than printed books?

How many of your downloads have you actually read?

Have you downloaded books on impulse, only to realize later that you’ll probably never read them?

Do you remove a book from your reader after you’ve read it or decided you don’t want to read it?

Have you ever given an e-book as a gift? Do you think you ever will?


Dru said...

Do you own an e-reader?
- Yes, Nook and Kindle

How many books are on it right now?
- on the Nook (365); Kindle (261)

How many downloads have you bought in the last month?
Jan-Feb (66); The last year? 347

Are you buying more e-books than printed books?
- Yes

How many of your downloads have you actually read?
- 54%

Have you downloaded books on impulse, only to realize later that you’ll probably never read them?
- Most books I download I plan to read, when, that's anyone's guess

Do you remove a book from your reader after you’ve read it or decided you don’t want to read it?
- I've only removed 1 book from all the books that I downloaded

Have you ever given an e-book as a gift? Do you think you ever will?
- Yes and yes

Sandra Parshall said...

Wow, Dru. That's all I can say about your list. Wow!

Harbingerdc said...

My name is Janet, and I am a book addict.

At the moment I have over 1,000 books on my Kindle.

I bought probably 20 ebooks since the first of the year and over 150 last year, not counting the huge amount of free-for-a-limited-time ebooks I've downloaded which accounts for the ridiculous number I have on the Kindle.

I only bought about 11 new printed books last year and none, so far, this year.

The percentage of downloads I've actually read is dropping fast as I download so many free books, but I started to read several of the series I now follow because the 1st book in the series was offered free.

I keep my special series books in their own folder and add to the folder as new books come out. I like to go back sometimes and reread right before a new one is due out.

I have never given an ebook as a gift, but I can certainly see it as an option as more of my friends buy ereaders.

Kelly Saderholm said...

I have a Kindle. I 'only" have 66 books on it. About half the books are freebies. I'm still buying more print books- but I do get a lot of books at library sales, used books stores etc. Ive read between a 1/4th and a 1/3 of the books on my Kindle. I plan on reading all the books I have downloaded. I will be traveling a fair amount later in the year and so am building up an Emergency back-up library on Kindle so I'll always have something to read. I still prefer printed books. For her birthday in a couple of months, I am planning on buying an e-reader for my mom who loves to read, but can't get out to libraries/bookstores etc because of health problems. Also, she can adjust the print to be larger.

Diane said...

I had to go to my Amazon account to see, but I have 184 books. (For the record, I bought/received my Kindle in Sept 2010). And I have read most of them, and am planning to read the few I haven't yet. Granted 4 of those are for my grandson's Kindle (his Christmas request): one a graphic novel and 3 are James Rollins' books. But I've already read those 3 myself back in pre-ebook days. He's just discovering them.

Looking over at Dru's answers, I see I'm a mere piker. But I am catching up.

I can remember a friend coming for a visit, and reading like crazy, digging through her suitcase for the next book. The ebook is so much easier and lighter for travel.

When I finish a book, I remove it from my Kindle, but it's still on my Amazon account. To really remove it, you have to do it up there, and I've only done that with 2.

Every few days I go up and check what's new, and buy a (or some) book(s) when I find them. Sometimes if I know one is coming I will pre-order it. BTW, re the release date, it is after mid-night Central time. (Say it's due out on June 1, it is available 12:01 am central time). What can I say, I was curious and wanted my book!

Susan said...

I am definitely a hybrid. I published a book, The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks), as a hardcover, softcover, and ebook. The ebook continues to sell well but people are also buying the paper books.
I live in a small town and love going to the library because it is a wonderful place. Now I can also download from the library on my kindle. But I still get hardcover books there and I still buy both kinds of books. They seem to serve varying needs in my book-reading soul. I'll never be an exclusive kindle reader.

GBPool said...

Even though I have both the original Kindle and the new Kindle Fire, I buy e-books like I buy 3-dimensional books. But I do find that if the book really isn't that good or written by a friend, I won't finish it. This is new for me. I used to read everything. Now, since the cost of e-books is lower, I don't feel bad not finishing one. It is more about the value of my time and the fact I use that time to write my own books.

Beth Anderson said...

I'll answer the last question first. I do delete books after I either read them or have read enough pages into them to have found them unreadable (to me) for one reason or another. A few pages will tell me nobody but the writer ever saw those pages before they were uploaded to Amazon. It's very clear which books they are.

I do own a Kindle. I love it. I have about a hundred fifty books on it at the moment. Maybe thirty have been quickly deleted so far, another thirty or so have been read, enjoyed, and then deleted.

In February I downloaded about 20 books. Some were immediately deleted. The rest are a combo of both bought and free books. Three are e-books costing around ten dollars. Two are Jody Picoult. Worth Every Penny and Then Some. One was by Lee Child. Also worth the bucks.

I buy printed books by favorite authors as well as reference books because it's easier to find what i'm looking for since I can flip through paper pages. The Kindle is horrible for re-locating pages you really want to read again.

I've learned to always read a few pages available on Amazon's Take a Peek feature before I download or buy anything because the first few pages tells me a lot, or at least tell me whether this is something I want to take time reading. Sort of like an agent or editor reads them. In fact, exactly like that, because it's amazing to me how many poorly written and clearly unedited books there are suddenly floating around, and I won't/can't waste my time wading through all that, even for well known writers or good friends.

I am buying more ebooks than printed books, but I already have so many great printed books I haven't yet read and I want to read them, so it has to be pretty special in print to entice me.

Sandra Parshall said...

If a writer I love is at a conference and has a new book out, I may buy it and get it signed. But I may come home and put in a request for the audiobook at the library. These days I listen to many, many more books than I sit down and read. I use the library constantly, but I also buy some audiobook downloads. I have an account and can download one book a month for $14.95. First, though, I make sure it's not available through the library and isn't likely to be.

Warren Bull said...

I own a KIndle but I only have about 40 downloads. So far my lust to collect has remained centered on physical books. I have only about four or five downloads I have not read. I still buy more books than I download.