Last week, Barnes and Noble announced that they're giving away free e-book reader software for your PC, Mac, Bluetooth, iPhone or iTouch. A small library of free books comes with it, and additional titles are about ten bucks a pop. Also last week, John Green blogged about the possibility that physical bookstores are going the way of physical CD and music stores: going, going, gone. In the electronic world, he argued, covers won't matter as much. You'll download your books online.
As a reader, I have a hard time accepting that books will be downloaded like songs. Songs are only 3 minutes long so I need lots of them. Oh, alright, I need a lot of books too, but not like I need thousands of songs. Plus it's hard to beat the portability of a paperback. If I lost my iPod, the mourning period would be long and painful. If I lost a $5 paperback on a beach trip, I'd recover quicky with a margarita.
Now talk to my husband about it, who cringes every time I bring a book home because we don't have room for the books we already own. He says, woo-hoo, finally, let's get back some space!
What about the library? I argue that most of the books I read are checked out of the public library. But I have to admit that it wouldn't be that hard to work out a system where e-books could be rented. In fact, it might cut out the hold period for popular books, or the nuisance of having to reserve books from other branches. Gasp! Is it possible to have a world where every book you want to read could be downloaded from the library on demand? That seems too good to be true.
There are some books I'll always want a treasured copy of. But the more I think about it, the more an e-reader appeals to me. Could my eyes actually take any more screen-staring? I could increase the font and control the lighting on an e-reader. If I wanted to find a passage in a book, I could use a search feature. I've always had trouble reading books in a car (motion sickness) and I wonder if reading on a device might help that.
Right now, I don't read e-books. I would have to read them on my PC. I read a lot of manuscript on my PC for critiquing purposes so it's not like I don't read on my PC. They're just not officially e-books (not yet anyway). I think to get me to buy e-books, I'd need a good reading device so I could read in bed.
If you're published or shopping a book, how do you feel about your books going electronic? Do you and your agent have a plan for it? Does your publisher support it aggressively or sidestep the issue?
-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages