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Go Buy an E-reader (Not You, Hailey)

I have a dear, sweet* young friend named Hailey who loves books.  She loves old books and new ones.  She loves the smell of them, the crackle of spines, the sound of each page as it turns.  She loves the weight of a book in her hand and the way they look, lined up on shelves.  (*And please understand, I don’t mean “dear” or “sweet” in a condescending way.  She’s as dear to me as a niece and anyone who knows her can attest to her sweetness.)

But Hailey’s love of paper books is a jealous love.  She is adamantly opposed to digital books and e-readers.  She goes so far as to smile at the thought of EMPs leading to a dystopic future where we are all sadly in possession of worthless gadgets, while she is still the proud owner of a prized library. 

So when I decided to write about e-books, Hailey came to mind.  And if you’re thinking that conceding to her viewpoint before even beginning to express my own is a lousy way to arrange things, you’re probably right.  I’m willing to admit this right up front:  persuading people is not really my thing.  I once took a public speaking class at Arizona State and the only assignment I remember was the persuasive speech I was required to make.  I know I passed the assignment. I passed the class too.  But I didn’t persuade anyone of anything.  There are things I’m passionate about, yes; but I’m also hyper aware of differing opinions, and when people start arguing the merits of this view or that, I’m most likely to move toward the corner, silently invoking Rodney King’s famous line.

If you are like Hailey and adamantly opposed to embracing electronic readers, this post is not for you.  You may be excused to find other blogs to read today. I’m sure there are some that feature odes to bookmarks, haikus about paper cuts, or ballads decrying the Green Initiative.  Or perhaps you can fill your free time with a trip to IKEA to invest in triptych Billy Bookcases.

For the rest of you who would consider buying an e-reader – and especially for you fence-sitters -- here’s my pitch:

E-books are here to stay.
In 2010, while paper book sales fell as much as 17 percent, e-book sales rose 164 percent.  (That kind of increase is unsustainable, of course, and attributable to the newness of this technology, but that doesn’t disprove my point, it reinforces it.)  Further evidence?  In May of this year, Amazon reported that e-book sales began to exceed those of traditional paper books.

E-books are inexpensive.
I have always loved all those things about books that Hailey loves.  But I have to confess, I rarely buy books – especially new books, especially hard-bound books.  You know why:  they are too expensive.  Unless it’s a book that I LOVE and will reread again and again, I just can’t see paying $20 to $30 for it.  That’s what libraries are for – or used book stores, or garage sales.

There are exceptions.  I have impulse bought a hardbound book with a description and cover that were too good to pass up.  But most often, I’ve regretted those purchases. 

E-books are affordable.  To everyone.  Most of the classics are downloadable for free.  Even books at the top of the best seller list are usually available for under $15.  If you want to take a chance on an unknown writer, their titles are often available for under $10.  Many indie writers (ie: self published) offer their novels for 99 cents, or free.  (You may get what you pay for here, but reviews are readily available to help you make a decision.)

It’s possible that e-readers will get non-readers reading.
Stay skeptical, I do.  But I have seen children learn without knowing it, just because they were learning on their DS, Wii or computer. 

Maps have been around for years, but how many men bought them (and talked and talked and talked about them) until Garmin, Tom Tom and Magellan came along with interactive versions?  I know it’s not the same thing, but you can’t deny the lure of new technology.  People like gadgets and sometimes, after they’ve bought them, they actually use them.

E-readers are more versatile than you may think.
Did you know you can share your e-books with your friends?  That you can check out books from the library and read them on your Nook or Kindle?  That you can download crossword puzzles, Sudoku and other games?  That pdf files can be converted and read on most e-readers?

How many books can you carry at once?
If you have an e-reader, you can carry a whole library of books around with you – without breaking your back.

There are many options to choose from.
Worried about the eye-strain of backlighting?  Buy a Kindle. 

Want full color so your kids can read CAT IN THE HAT and you can read REDBOOK?  Buy a Nook Color or an ipad.

Hate Apple?  Choose a reader/tablet that doesn’t have an “i” in front of it.

E-readers are available at many price points.  For Kindle alone, you can pay for 3G connectivity and download new books from any place with cell phone service, or you can pay a lot less and download new books in any WiFi zone.  If you don’t mind seeing Avon ads in place of Steinbeck photos when your device is in sleep mode, you can save even more.

Want instant gratification?
Yep.  You can buy a book now and start reading now.  No need to change out of your jammies.

Still can’t decide which one to choose?
Read reviews online, ask your friends.  We girls love to talk.

You can also download a FREE e-book reader to your computer – to use as long as you like, or just to try out and see how you like it.  (Understanding, of course, that it’s not the same experience.)

To download a FREE Kindle program for your computer, visit:
(On the left column under KINDLE READING APPS, you can choose one for PC or MAC.)

To download a FREE Nook program for your computer, visit:
(Again, choose from options on the left column.)

Just a note to those of you who feel as strongly as Hailey, but are still reading this post.  First, thanks for sticking with me.  Second, it’s possible that you’re wrong.  When a friend of mine bought a Kindle for her mother-in-law, it was received with antipathy.  She wanted “real” books, not some gadget!  Of course, now she takes her Kindle to bed with her every night and wouldn’t dream of trading it for the stack of paperbacks that used to crowd her nightstand.  If you have book guilt, just remind yourself, it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.  I still have my bookshelves.  I still buy hardback versions of my favorites.  I still browse old bookstores looking for those treasures.  But where I used to buy paperbacks now and again, I don’t anymore.  Where I once in awhile gave in to temptation and bought a hardback on impulse, I stop myself.  I buy e-books instead. 

So there’s my pitch.  And if you know anything about me and a certain novel that I’m releasing next Tuesday (DREAM OF ME, available in all e-book formats), you know that my advice is not altogether altruistic.  (Hopefully it’s not entirely Machiavellian either.) 

I’m honestly just a reading enthusiast, no matter what the venue.  But if the availability of e-readers means more books in more readers’ hands, I’m 100 percent onboard.

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