Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Top 10 Myths About E-Books

After my recent post about the inevitability of e-books, I was surprised that there were so many misconceptions in the comments section about e-readers and e-books.

For the record, I don't think everyone is going to or should or will like e-books and converting people is not what this post is about. But I do think people should at least have the facts.

Now would also be a good time to state for the record that I have no financial interest in e-books or e-readers whatsoever and in fact, my job would probably be easier if they didn't exist. But they do exist, I genuinely like them, and I don't think this industry can afford to be behind the curve on technology.

Here's my personal Top 10 list of the mistaken beliefs people have about e-books:

1. "They strain your eyes" / "They're bad for people with poor eyesight" / "I'll go blind."

Aside from reading on an iPhone, which I personally love but realize isn't for everyone, most dedicated e-readers use e-ink displays, which are very different than the backlit screens of computers and televisions and phones. E-ink literally looks like ink on paper, you can read in sunlight, and it's crisp from any angle.

Also, all e-readers have the ability to change the text size, so you can instantly turn any book into large print if you have difficulty with small fonts.

2. "You can't back up your files" / "If you lose or break your e-reader or if a new e-reader comes out you lose all your books"

Different devices do indeed favor different formats, but even still the above statements don't accurately reflect the landscape.

Let's start with Amazon and the Kindle. Amazon stores the information about all of the titles you have bought centrally, which means that you can access the titles on any device that has a Kindle app, whether it's a Kindle, iPhone, or a PC (coming soon: Macs). Better yet, Amazon syncs between the different applications so that if you stop reading on a Kindle and open up the app on your iPhone it will turn to the page you left off on. If you lose your Kindle or it breaks or you want to get a new one you can still read all of the titles you bought on a computer or another device.

Now, Amazon usually uses its own proprietary e-book format, and some people want a more universal format. If so, you might consider the Sony Reader or nook. Their stores use the ePub format, which can be read on most e-reader devices, so you're not beholden to one device or vendor after you have purchased your books and you can always take your library elsewhere.

3. "I don't want to have to scroll endlessly through a book" / "I'll miss turning the pages" / "I like taking notes"

Most e-readers, including the iPhone apps, have pages that you "turn" either by clicking a button or tapping/swiping your finger. While I know some people view this as a sign of the apocalypse, you'd be surprised how quickly it becomes second nature.

And most e-readers allow you to take notes, bookmark pages, search within the text, and highlight sections you want to come back to.

4. "They require a lot of power" / "They're hot to the touch like laptops"

When they're not using their wireless function, e-readers using the e-ink display consume very little energy, and you only have to charge them once every few weeks, even if you read often.

They're also completely cool to the touch.

5. "You can't check e-books out from the library"

According to the NY Times, about 5,400 libraries now offer e-books, and more are signing up every day. Most library programs work like with physical books - you "check out" an e-book onto your e-reader and "check it back in" when you're finished, and only one patron at a time can "check out" an e-book while you're reading it.

6. "You can't lend to friends or family"

Amazon allows up to six users to access the same account for most titles, and nook has a LendMe function that allows you to share a title for 14 days (if the publisher allows it).

Admittedly these aren't the freest means of sharing content, but my wife and I share a Kindle account and are able to read each other's books whenever we want.

7. "E-Readers are bad for the environment"

A Cleantech study asserts that e-readers have a much smaller carbon footprint than physical books when book production and shipping physical books are taken into account, though one blogger felt that the Cleantech study didn't adequately address paper recycling programs. Although, it's not as if it's impossible to recycle electronics.

8. "You can't read an e-reader in the bathtub" / "I would never take an e-reader to the beach

Put it in a Ziploc bag and it's more waterproof/sandproof than a paper book.

9. "They're too expensive."

E-readers may be relatively expensive now for a wide swath of people, but prices will inevitably come down. And because e-books are (usually) much cheaper than print books, it doesn't take long before an e-reader pays for itself - since most hardcovers that sell for $25 or more are available for $9.99, all it takes is roughly 20 e-books for an e-reader to pay for itself. You save even more if you read e-books on a phone or computer you already own.

For a casual reader: yeah, a dedicated e-reader probably doesn't make the most sense. But for people who read a lot, especially new books, it can result in actual savings relatively quickly.

10. "E-books are bad for publishers and authors"

While most agents I know are not thrilled with the royalties authors are currently receiving from the major publishers, so far the deep discounting has been absorbed by the e-book sellers and publishers have little to lose from e-book sales, at least in the short term. According to reports, most publishers still receive roughly 50% off the list price for every e-book sale, meaning that a $9.99 e-book is a loss leader for Amazon and the other e-book publishers, while the publisher receives the same amount as they would for a hard copy.

And while, again, we agents would like to see authors get a fairer split, authors still receive royalties for e-book sales. The low price points of e-books have attracted some of my cost-minded friends who used to mainly buy used books, for which authors of course don't receive any royalties, so from that standpoint they are much more author friendly than used books.


Tori said...

Thank you so much for this post Nathan. I do not personally want an e-reader, but I like being informed. I didn't know a few of these things, so I learned something today. I can breathe easier now. Maybe they aren't as evil as I thought....though I still won't buy one.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I love reading on my iPhone, too! I thought it would be annoying, but I quickly got used to it.

Thanks for a great primer on e-books/e-readers. I agree that the trend will only grow, and those of us in the publishing industry should be ready for it.

Love your blog!

Margaret Yang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fireside said...

I wonder if library e-books will lend to more piracy...

Emily White said...

Wow! You're up early!

I'm glad you answered myth #2 because that is the one I was wondering about. It's good to know that your books won't be lost if your e-reader happens to break down.

I might get one some day. I love to read on trips and it's just not practical to lug a suitcase full of books with me (yeah, I like to read that much).

Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

Well that 9.99 price point won't last forever. The trouble with dedicated readers is that the publisher can increase prices and you're stuck with a 300 dollar device. There is a tradeoff involved--the lower the device price, the higher the ebook prices will go.

Lydia Sharp said...

Good post. Numbers 5 and 6 were new to me.

howdidyougetthere said...

You had me at e-ink looks like ink on paper!! That's my BIG issue with my laptop which I would take to the beach if I could... will now read the rest...

Teresa D'Amario said...

Anonymous is concerned the prices will go above 9.99, which is true. I expect that too. But that's only on HARD cover prices. There are millions of paperback books at 6.99 or less, books that are as exciting as they have ever been. I've only purchased 1 hardback book in the last ten years, and then was disappointed because it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Now I wait for them all to come to paperback.

For now, ebook prices are $1.00 or so less than their print companions. I like that. I think it's the way things should be. And I love my ebook. Yeah, I have thought about the ziplog bag in the tub thing myself. LOL

Jill Christine said...

I'm still not with you on #1, sorry. I finally saw a Kindle in person recently (a woman in line at the post office had one, and I peeked over her shoulder for a while), and while the screen was easier to look at than a laptop screen, it still wasn't exactly like words on paper. Granted, I have sensitive eyes and I deal with a lot of excessive eyestrain because of it, but reading for hours on a Kindle would be a very bad thing for me.

As for #8, I believe waterproof cases are available for some e-readers now. I'd still much rather risk an $8.00 paperback than a $300 toy, though. said...

Great post!

Now, Amazon usually uses its own proprietary e-book format, and some people want a more universal format. If so, you might consider the Sony Reader or nook.

Okay, if I buy a Nook, for example. From where may I buy my eBooks -- just B&N?

I'm still confused. Really very cnfused.

lynnrush said...

Oh yeah. This is good. Thanks!

I've been dragging my heels on the Kindle. . . . I read a ton, so I need to just take the plunge.

Chuck H. said...

I still prefer the bookcase full of books I bought from Easton Press. Does that make me a Luddite or a Butlerian Jihadist? said...

Finally, why can't I buy an eBook directly form the publisher and have it downloaded to my reader?

That should increase the net a publisher receives for a title and up the author rolayties, no?

Since no warehousing, shipping or brick-and-mortar diplsay, or handling is requred, why are publishers letting eBooks out the door for the same "booksellers's cut" as paper books?

Jen B said...

I can't imagine how difficult it would be to use my iPhone's touch screen while it's in a Ziploc bag (#8.) But I think the rest of this post is useful and a definite improvement over all the "E-books mark the end of civilization, run, go!" posts circulating the web. Thank you!

J. Matthew Saunders said...

I have a Berlitz First-year French primer that was published in 1889. Someone has doodled in the margins of several pages, things like “Feb. 11, 1902″ and “Class of ‘03,” meaning 1903. These doodles make the book so much more valuable to me than it’s actual contents. I can imagine this poor student, sitting in French class, doing drills, bored out of his or her skull, and randomly scribbling in the margins of his or her textbook, more that one hundred years ago.

I also have a stamp collecting book published in 1941. It had space for stamps from countries that don’t exist anymore. It even has space for Confederate stamps. It also has a few actual stamps in it, from Epirus and Nazi Germany. I paid fifty cents for the book, and I have a snapshot of the world as it was almost seventy years ago from a very interesting angle.

When I was in college, I checked out a book from the library in order to use it for a paper I was writing for one of my linguistics classes. This was in the early nineties, and the library had just transitioned from the old system of using the card in the pocket affixed to the inside front cover of each book to keep track of who checked out which book to using barcodes. The book still had the card in its pocket. The last person to check out the book had been a teacher from my high school, who had attended graduate school at the same university, in 1969.

When my wife and I traveled in England, we visited Leeds Castle. The tour guide led us through the restored parts of the castle, including the chapel. While we were there, she told us all about the new cross and candlesticks on the altar that had just been donated, and she completely neglected a glass display case containing several items, including a book. Only when everyone was leaving did she wave a hand at the case and say, “By the way, that case contains a jewelry box that belonged to Anne Boleyn and a book that belonged to Catherine of Aragon.” I still want to know about the book.

I can't have any of those experiences with an e-reader.

LJCohen said...

I've had a kindle (first gen) for about a year now. It hasn't ended my book buying habit--I happily buy and read paper books along with my ebook purchases.

Where the Kindle rocks is when I travel and can take a library of books with me in a tiny package.

It is also a godsend in reading for my crit groups. I figure it's saved me a fortune on ink and paper, not having to print out work for critique, while saving my eyes from the glare of reading on a computer screen.

I don't see myself as an either/or book consumer. The kindle format is wonderful for some things (text size, for one) and not so wonderful for others (you have to turn pages twice as often since you only see one page at a time).

My perfect ereader device would be the size and flexibility of a placemat and can be rolled or folded for travel so you could easily read a newspaper and have 2 full pages to scan through at once.

I'll be using my kindle while I wait for that one. :)

Tchann said...

I love books not just because they can take me to other places, but because they can shut out the world around me. I can grip the book firmly with both hands and pull it in front of my face, stick my nose in it and the rest of the world vanishes.

With an e-reader (which I had on a Palm Pilot for a time, so I'm not inexperienced here) the world stays dangerously close, and I can't get lost the way I can with paper and ink. And the smaller and more portable the devices get, the less I'm likely to acquire one.

Scott said...

Can someone help a brother out?

I have the Kindle app on my iPhone and on my two PCs. I do not own the Kindle device itself.

For the life of me, I can not figure out how to get a book on my phone. I've downloaded books from my phone, but they go straight to my PC account.

Do you have to own a Kindle itself to be able to use/read on your iPhone?

I've tried Stanza and like it, but their prices are much higher ...

Thanks in advance

Maya / מיה said...

I've been thinking about buying an e-reader ever since I moved to Israel, but a few things have held me back. I borrow most of my books from the library, but you addressed that pretty well. (On the other hand, I doubt that the English section of the Kiryat Bialik library will go digital any time soon-- my "library card" consists of a number written in ballpoint pen on a library bookmark!) I also buy a lot of my books second-hand. I know, this makes me something of a hypocrite given that some day I hope people buy my books new, but so it is. I do buy new books, but I manage to keep the cost of new books (which are easily $25 when I buy English novels in Israel) spread out because I borrow or buy second-hand the rest of the time. Every e-book would be cheaper, but I would most likely need to pay for every one.

Do you think there will ever be virtual libraries where anyone can download an e-book (if it's available)?

My other objections are more illogical... I stare at a computer screen all day for work and love using something that doesn't need batteries when I get a chance. Do e-readers take time to boot up? I realize that e-readers don't cause eye-strain, like to know that my book won't freeze up and that if I spill coffee on one page I'm not spilling coffee on every page of every future book I will read. :)

I'm probably in the wave of people who will buy e-readers once good e-readers become cheap second-hand.

Maya / מיה said...

Ooh ooh-- brilliant e-book library idea: Netflix for novels! You pay for a subscription and can download a limited number of novels at one time, based on availability-- and it's all online. I would seriously pay for that.

Run and make millions off my idea! (Let's just hope that my word verification word isn't somehow ominus: rewarre)

Ink said...

"Look! It's the Inanimate Carbon Rod! Three Cheers for the Inanimate Carbon Rod!"

Ah, the Simpsons...

Just poking fun. I'm saving all my paper books for when I have to do my Viggo Mortenson turn down the long long road. Knowledge and kindling! I'll use Kindles (since, oddly, they're probably not much use for kindling - false advertizing?) for discus-like weapons to fend off the cannibals.

Nathan Bransford said...


My understanding with the Sony Reader and nook is that you can buy ebooks from any website that sells in a compatible format. So you don't have to buy only from the company that sold you the ereader.

Gehayi said...

Thanks for the information.

I still don't want an e-book reader, though.

Jane Steen said...

No point complaining about e-readers, they're going to become part of the publishing scene. (I can remember all the hatebombs lobbed at PCs when they first came out...) And I say PART of the publishing scene, because I believe "real" books will always have their place, just as people still write longhand in journals as well as on their computers. Prices and formats will sort themselves out as the market matures. I'm waiting a bit to get my first e-reader for that very reason (and because I want to see what Apple & Microsoft come out with).

I agree with J. Matthew about the thrill of old books, though. I guess they'll just become rarer and more valuable.

Seth Hanisek said...

re: J. Matthew Saunders:

Actually, you can't have those experiences with brand new books from a bookstore either. I love my books too, but e-readers are a great idea, and there are good, non-dismissable reasons that people like them. This kind of smugness makes me want to hide the fact that I like print books, as I would rather not be associated with it.

Imagyst said...

Thank you for posting this; I'm not a fan of e-books, or e-readers. Mostly because it isn't the same as a 'real' book- but I feel a little bit better about it. And if I can find one, I might test it out. Thank you.

Reesha said...

Thank you! Finally, someone has said what I've been trying to tell people ever since buying my eReader.
Not that I'm an eReader evangelist. It's just...I hate to see people miss out on some cool technology because they think it'll give them eye strain. When it won't.

The only downside I can see: turning pages is not as quick. But I'm willing to put up with that. I don't read very fast anyways.

Brittany Landgrebe said...

I'm glad to hear... er, read - that eBooks and eReaders are not so bad as I considered them. I recently downloaded and tried Kindle for iPhone because one of my published friends had her new book coming out, and I really wanted to buy it and read it. I loved it.

But while I'm slowly starting to like the idea of eBooks and eReaders, I can never truly stop loving my hardback copies. While I downloaded the free edition of Pride and Prejudice, I will always treasure the 1920's edition I have in a place of honor on my bookshelves. I do like the idea of eBooks for my hardcover purchasing options though - a way to ensure a new book is something I'd want forever.

What I would like to see in the future follows that line of thinking. I'd like to see publishers offer discounts on hardcopies when a reader purchases an eBook copy, and/or vice versa. A bigger incentive for me, and other readers, to buy a hardcopy book I loved on an eReader. But then, the partnerships involved with that would probably be rather complicated. Still, it's an idea, one I'd support from the start. said...

My understanding with the Sony Reader and nook is that you can buy ebooks from any website that sells in a compatible format. So you don't have to buy only from the company that sold you the ereader.


Crystal balls said...

Hi Nathan

Been lurking for a while now, and your blog is very informative and helpful. Lots of fun too.

I'm old school, I love my books, and I even print out web pages and pdf files so I can read them on paper.

I've been following your take on e-readers, and warming up to the idea slowly. I agreed with some commenters on your previous post that the take-over of e-books is inevitable but sad, and on principle alone, I'd never buy one; some form of rebellious, stubborn support for paper books.

But after this post, I admit, I'm sold!

I'm going to wait for the prices to drop before I run out and grab my Nook though...

Josin L. McQuein said...

Glad to hear #1, because it's one thing I was worried about with e-books. I have trouble seeing large blocks of text on a conventional back-lit screen.

Though, they still won't smell like a book. :-P

Ver word: factsupe

What Nathan served for lunch today - a big bowl of factsupe.

J. Matthew Saunders said...

Re: Seth Hanisek

Today's new books are going to be old someday. My concern is for future generations. Printed books are a tangible connection to the past. I don't want that to be lost.

I also understand that there are valid reasons and uses for e-readers, but so much of our history and culture is tied up in printed books. What happens to the data stored now on e-readers in a few generations when new technology makes them obsolete, or worse, when all the lights go out?

Brigita said...

I'm sure Kindle is a cool toy, but unfortunately it isn't available here otherwise I'd love to try it out.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks for posting this. I haven't taken the plunge yet, but now that I'm more in the know I'll kick and scream less when I finally do.

Nathan Bransford said...

J. Matthew-

If there's something that happens that's horrible enough to cause all the lights go out everywhere all at once we're going to have much bigger problems than what happened to our ebooks.

CKHB said...

Meh... I still object on grounds similar to your #3. I don't always know which part I'm going to want to come back to later. With a real book, I can recreate in my head where that now-sought-after passage was within the book... top right side, abut 1/3 of the way in. With an e-book, there IS no left or right side, and page 23 and page 233 feel exactly the same. I'd lose my ability to navigate based on tangible memory.

Remus Shepherd said...

Mind if I debunk some of your debunking, Nathan?

1. E-ink can be hard to read for some people. Often it's not crisp, it's gray on slightly-lighter-gray. I hate it, myself...and reading on my iPod causes severe eye strain.

2. The flip side of Amazon being a custodian of what you read is that they *control* what you read. If they decide you shouldn't have a book, they can delete it from your reader remotely. If they get mad at you for any reason they can forbid you from accessing your library. Leasing books, rather than owning them, is risky.

3. Whatever the reader does to turn pages, you're locked into it. I'd prefer scrolling, myself, but no reader I've found offers it. Hopefully the software will offer more options soon.

4-8 are all fine, IMHO.

9. The price of ebooks is based upon hardcover prices, which comes as a shock to people who mostly buy paperbacks. Often it's a markup of over 50% from the paperback price. That's outrageous, especially on the cost of the reader.

10. The big problem with ebooks, from an author perspective, is that they do not get shelf space. They're thrown into a search database along with every book ever digitized, to be found only by people looking specifically for them. Not to mention that the 'outside' of a professionally produced ebook, the part that's supposed to entice readers, is indistinguishable from vanity press. It is much more difficult for an author to advertise and market an ebook, and much, much easier to become lost in an electronic sea of garbage works.

The technology and business model just isn't friendly for users and authors yet. It might get there before long. But I'd suggest ebook readers only for people who like being early adopters of technology, and then only if they have money to throw away.

health nut said...

Nathan, do you know anything about whether the ebook readers emit radiation like computers and cell phones?

This is, seriously (she says, identifying herself as a total freak) my main (only) hesitation in switching over. I read a lot. A lot more than I talk on my blackberry. But even when I used my blackberry, whenever possible I use the speaker phone fuction to have it away from my body. Are we going to find out that e readers are similarly harmful? Because if I am lying down, that book is usually pretty close if not touching me. For HOURS.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Two points:
I can't wait for the E-Ink laptop screen so I can work comfortably outside!

Also, if you can negotiate retaining electronic rights, or especially if you have a comfortable, well-known backlist, a writer can essentially self-publish books on Kindle, etc and make money. JA Konrath is a well-known example of this, even going to the lengths of posting his earnings online.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Wow, lots to chew on there! I have yet to see a Kindle in person, but I have a couple books on my iPod touch. One is a PB that the kids like. Thanks for this information. I'm passing it on to Santa :)

Christine H said...

I'm so glad you cleared up that whole bathtub thing!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Nathan, alright, how do you solve this one: as a children's author, I have loved going into schools and sharing my books with kids. The height of the visit often includes a book-signing session for those who have purchased books. It never fails to delight me to see the looks on their faces, and I am always honored to sign books for kids. This will be impossible with e-books, unless I'm missing something. So, grieving that aspect of it in advance, and maybe it seems selfish, but I always felt it was as much for the kids as anything -- handing something tangible to them. They seem to get a real thrill out of it. Signing pieces of paper just doesn't cut it. Oh well. Things are changing and I know we'll have no choice but to change along, and I know a lot of it will be for the better. Thanks for keeping us informed. Appreciate that.

Kristin Tubb said...

Great post, Nathan - thank you. I love my Kindle, and I'm surprised when people gasp and say, "but you're an AUTHOR." I make a higher percentage when my book sells in an electronic format, so the actual dollars are almost equal. I purchase a lot more books now that I have instant access to them, too - another benefit for authors. Still, I would never take my Kindle in a bathtub! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Reading on an e-reader to me is equivalent to lodging in a Japanese capsule hotel. The reading experience meaning space is like immersing in a claustrophobic coffin world. And I can't see a way for technology to get past that. Long live books!

Anonymous said...

Disclosure: I have owned a Kindle since the gen 2 model came out.

I only have a few problems with eBooks. First, amazon provides a limited selection of books. Second, the Kindle is fragile, so get a good case. Last, where's the teenager proof eBook?

I suspect that adults mainly read non-fiction and kids mainly read fiction. Thus, the expanded teen reader section in bookstores and the huge popularity of SP's new book.

But if I want to write for teenagers, as a writer, I'm screwed. How many parents are going to buy their kids the fragile Kindle to read books off of? Where's the kid-proof eReader at a reasonable price for the whole YA/Teen market? Kindles do break, and if you drop them, they can crack. My cellphone is tougher than my Kindle.

Susan at Stony River said...

I laughed out loud at the ziploc bag---and must admit I'd never even thought of several of these points.

I'd love to get hold of an e-reader just for the fun of playing with it; I know I'd end up buying many more books between the convenience and the savings. Now I'm surprised that I knew so little about them. Thanks!

Just Another Sarah said...

I saw a Kindle for the first time last month, and I have to say--it set me at ease more than I thought it would. I'm not necessarily going to convert over to it...but I'm not necessarily against it, either. The e-ink think really made me feel better about it, too. I had also been under the mistaken impression that it would be a different screen. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong.

DCS said...

A week ago Vince Flynn gave the keynote at a mystery/suspense festival in Minneapolis. He made the point that in his most recent monthly sales figures, one half of the sales were e-book versions through Kindle, a huge change from a year ago. He observed that with the aging baby boomer population moving to smaller homes and having to get rid of large book collections, the market for e-books may be arriving from that source. Predicting culture changes is always difficult, but it's looking more and more than in fifty years people are going to be asking what all the fuss was about with changing to e books.

Patrice said...

Hmm. I wonder.

I remember the old fashioned pasta maker my grandmother had. We anchored it to the kitchen table, rolled out the dough and fed it into the wheels. My bothers and sisters knocked each other over, vying for the best position from which to turn the crank. When I got married in the early 90s, someone gave me an electric pasta machine. I think my husband is using it somewhere in the basement as an anvil.

So now, the crank types are all over. They've made a comeback. Part nostalgia, maybe, but they're back.

I have been loving my Kindle/iPhone system for about a year now - full steam ahead. But a few weeks ago, I wanted to read a book that wasn't available on the Kindle, so I bought a paper book. It felt wonderful! The tactile sensation, feeling the spine give way, the smell. That got me thinking: Maybe the e-revolution will change everything, then we'll start feeling nostalgic (and there will be more trees?) and we'll start buying paper books again. Maybe after 15 or 20 years, books will make a comeback?

Or, maybe publishers will be able to pour the contents of a book right into our brains. Have you seen this Mind Flex toy? You maneuver a ball through an obstacle course with brainwaves. Seriously. Fasten your seatbelts.

Thradar said...

I don't agree with the price argument. I don't buy hardcovers, ever...and most people don't. So my price comparison is to paperback. When the paperback version of the book hits the shelf the e-book prices should be about $3.00. In fact, many e-books are MORE expensive than their paperback equivalent. Ridiculous.

Mandajuice said...

I bought my Kindle because I kept getting reader's elbow - a lovely burning sensation that began at my wrist and ran its way up my arm to my shoulder.

SERIOUSLY. What kind of a nerd gets READING INJURIES? But, the bigger the tomb, the worse my shoulder would get.

The Kindle is lighter than the average paperback, but more importantly - it lays flat on the table - you don't have to hold the spine open - which means I can read without actually holding the device at all. Within 48 hours of buying it, my shoulder was healed.

There are COUNTLESS other benefits as well:
- text-to-speech means I don't have to stop reading to do the dishes and I don't have to keep my husband awake reading in bed with a book light

- you can load your own manuscript onto it (or, even better, have it READ YOU your own manuscript, which is the best way I've found to find errors)

- you can buy a book WHEREVER you are, which means when I'm at the park with my kids and one of the other moms says, "hey, you should really read XYZ," I get to buy it and start it RIGHT NOW.

- I'm convinced that e-readers actually increase book sales. Before the Kindle, I mostly went to the library or bought paperbacks at the grocery store. My monthly book habit only cost me about $25/month. In the six months since I've owned my Kindle, I've read over 100 books on it and I've routinely spent over $200 a MONTH on books. It's 100% IMPULSE purchasing and I'm convinced it'll be what saves the industry, not what kills it.

Sindaena said...

My family of six has two kindles. We love them for not taking up too much space. You can put books on them other than from Amazon; you just have to convert them to .mobi format (which can be done using free converters if there is no drm) and use the cable to move them from your computer to your kindle.

My problem with letting the kids have the kindles is that it took them all of five minutes to figure out they had complete access to my Amazon account to order as many books as they could stay up all night reading. While I am generally willing to buy them books, that gets out of hand very quickly. While I still only rarely get a kindle myself, reading on my laptop instead since kids usually have the kindles, I also take them to the library twice a week and pass the kindles around so all four kids can read the books we do buy.

JenL said...

E-readers do sound intriguing, but I still have some concerns.

It is great that Amazon keeps your book information for you and you can read the book from several devices...but what if Amazon goes out of business? Will you still have access to your books? Would that make it impossible to share books...or worse, if you get a new device would you then lose all of your books?

Plus, I worry about the pause between pages. If it took a second or two to turn the page, it would pull me out of the story and that would irritate me to no end.

Mira said...

Cool - great post Nathan. Loved how you addressed a lot of concerns!

Rowenna said...

I have to say, I've read counterarguments to #7--some have pointed out that the effect of publishers using recycled or recycled content papers wasn't taken into account, and that there are nasty byproducts of ebook production and breakdown in landfills (like any other electronic--of course, paper has nasty byproducts during production, too). Of course you can recycle both, but electronics are often difficult (and sometimes expensive) to recycle--the paper just goes in the bin (or, at my local center, books are placed in the "trading post" section where people can pick up and drop off pre-read materials).

In addition, though you can share your e-books, everyone has to have a reader to access those files. A single paper book can serve, potentially, hundreds of people. Personally, I own relatively few books and do most of my reading from the library and borrowing from friends. Is the environmental impact of my reading going to be different from someone who buys each title? Definitely. Yet it seems to be a "buy each title" mentality that these studies have assessed.

Not to say either way is or isn't environmentally friendly--it's just that you can make greener choices with either method, and those choices aren't always a simple consumer decision. Picking up an ebook and thinking you're done with greening your reading might not be taking the whole picture into consideration.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't considered the fact that people may be willing to buy e-books instead of buying used books. That indeed is better for the author. Good point.

Etiquette Bitch said...

nathan-the turning pages for me isn't so much a "thing to do" -- i know you can "turn" pages on a screen -- but it's the tactile sensation I won't give up. I'm a tactile learner, so interacting with a physical thing is more enjoyable for me than a screen. I'm ready to cry after a day spent staring at my screen for 8 hours.

gigi said...

Count me in as one that loves reading on my iPhone (and I agree, even the page scrolling is fun). As the mother of a 2-year-old, being able to buy and read books right on my phone -- right when I want them -- is a godsend. While my toddler loves a trip to the bookstore, it's virtually impossible for me to shop with her along. I think it's safe to say I've purchased more since I downloaded the Barnes and Noble app to my phone -- which can't be a bad thing, right?

Anonymous said...


Back to one of last week's posts which mentioned google docs - how secure from hacking are they? I saw conflicting reports (one mentioned techs finding loopholes last March) and wondered if they were now considered safe to use.

Thank you!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Agree with all these as myths but here are two points:

[1] Ebook ink -- ereader devices were specifically developed to mimic page readability as closely as possible. They aren't perfect but they are very close. The technology will continue to get better. The whole reason ereaders took off at ALL is due to the advances in this area of technology.

[2] Turning pages--there is a slight lag on the Sony eReader (I haven't tested other ones). Turning pages is, as Nathan says, second nature and fine. But I think manufacturers must make this instant. Maybe the latest versions of eReaders have solved this issue.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I have a few friends who've bought my book on Kindle or some other e-book form and they love reading it in that way, and that's great. But, for me personally, I love to read my bound books, at night in bed, curled up *smiling*

Although, I do travel a few times a year and sometimes I think it would be nice to have an e-book reader to read a book--lighter and more compact! So....who knows...I may one day think about it...maybe... :)

Thermocline said...

It's not you, e-reader. It's me. I've been in a long term relationship with Paper since the "I See Sam" series.

We can still be friends, though.

Marilyn Peake said...

I’m delighted to realize that I already knew about everything in your post today. I guess I’ve come a long way since first getting onto the Internet and trying out eBooks about five or six years ago. I really love both the Internet and eBooks!

Dara said...

You know, I should've known that there was at least one eReader out there that supported loaning eBooks from the library considering I used to work for the company that is the largest supplier of eBooks to libraries :P

Big "duh" moment on my part!

Well, an eReader is getting closer and closer to being a possibility for me. Now I just wait for the prices to drop and for more eReaders besides the Sony to come out with the capability :)

I'll still probably be an old-school avid library patron though since there are many titles that aren't available in the eBook loaning system.

Voidwalker said...

Thanks for clearing these misconceptions up. I'm really excited about getting my first e-reader and I'll definitely post about my experience with it!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Ok, I'm going to try #8. But if my SONY reader goes on the fritz--I'm coming after you. LOL

Kathleen said...

thanks for this post. I learned a lot.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I wonder if there was this much argument when people started reading books instead of scrolls. Snort.

I don't think there needs to be an either/or scenario. There's room for both books and ereaders in the world.

ajcastle said...

8. "You can't read an e-reader in the bathtub" / "I would never take an e-reader to the beach

Put it in a Ziploc bag and it's more waterproof/sandproof than a paper book.

I do this. *blush*

Kristi said...

I've never seen you post so early on a Monday before - not even when you were addressing the topic of rhetorical questions. :)

T. Anne said...

Great list. I'm glad you doing some serious debunking. As cell phone's progress everyone will soon discover they didn't have to pay for an e-reader after all. The app is available on itunes.

Anonymous said...

"If you lose your Kindle or it breaks or you want to get a new one you can still read ALL of the titles you bought on a computer or another device."

I capitalised the ALL above from your point about 'backups'. This isn't actually TRUE. The problem is that Amazon will only let you re-download a book you 'bought' if you haven't downloaded it already some 'magic number' of times, the number varies and is not made known to the 'buyer'. This also assumes the book is still available new from them, as then that number becomes zero, and you cannot redownload the book at all.

I put 'buyer' in quotes because e-books are essentially a form of rental, not *real* purchasing. If that's how they were actually being presented by the 'seller' then that would be fine, but they are not.

While e-books remain in this licensing limbo and are not really for sale, I will not be 'purhcasing' them. I would consider renting a book (like a sort of paid library subscription) but only in that basis and only if it were fully disclosed up front.

What the e-sellers are doing amounts to fraud, plain and simple.

This is a pity since rented e-books would be a reasonable avenue, between public-type library access and *actual* purchase, with a corresponding price/availability variation to suit that route, but the powers that be do not wish this to happen so they go this route instead.

Moira Young said...

Thank you for writing this. I've been leaning towards buying one for a few months now, but your post has cleared up my lingering doubts. (Proprietary formats by their very nature bother me, so I'm glad I have options.) Originally I thought I'd wait until my next cell phone upgrade, when I plan to get an iPhone. Now I'm going to put one on my Christmas wish list!

Debbie said...

I think my biggest issue with e-books (other than losing the romantic notion of a worn paperback)
is the price. Yes, for middle income people and above, splurging for an e-reader ends up being worth it. For low-income families, e-readers are completely out of the question. Books need to be accessible to people of all income levels and e-readers just don't provide that. And frankly, to them, the Kindle isn't quite as cool as a Sidekick or iPod. It's hard enough to push reading on these kids - there's no need to make it more difficult.

Also there's the problem of running out of battery. Who wants their e-reader to die in the middle of an intense plot twist?

David Ferretti III said...

Hello Nathan
My concern can probably be number eleven on your list. You mentioned the miniscule amount of money an author earns for every e-book sale but you did not talk about the simultaneous publication and sale of e-books and hard/paperback editions. As an author I would like to know that I have a choice to hold off on having my manuscript published as an e-book until the hardback editions have run their course in the book stores.

DG said...

I think the Kindle and Nook are dead once Apple is fully on board with its iTablet.

I think B&N felt compelled to make a proprietary e-reader in order to move the e-book format along, and also because Apple has taken so long to get a larger than iphone/itouch screen to market. Apple is very careful about how and when they enter a new market. Expect the e-book to really take off when they do.

The Kindle and Nook will then go the way of the early MP3 players that preceded the ipod.

Loren Eaton said...

I used stanza on the iPhoe to read my first ebook, and it made me want to tear my eyes out with my own hands. Ouch, ouch, ouch, eyestrain. And trying to find your place if you didn't bookmark? Not fun.

Loren Eaton said...

That should read "iPhone." I can spell. Really.

ryan field said...

I didn't know this:

"You can't check e-books out from the library"

I think that's wonderful.

Steven Gaskin said...

r.e. 5) Seriously? They're crippling a ubiquitous commodity, surely in the name of DRM, by making eBooks behave like physical books? You have to take the intangible eBook back to the library? I'm bemused by their clear intent to fail on all fronts.

Shattered said...

I love my Kindle and I love how easy it is to read, use, access books, the list could go on and on... I also love the ability I have to download PDF docs. That comes in very handy for work-related reading.

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks for the clarifying post, Nathan. I'm a Kindle2 owner already, so I appreciate finding out things about my eReader that I might not have known.

My ownership of an eReader also hasn't hindered my purchasing bound books either. This weekend, I plunked down the $27 that Borders wanted for WOLF HALL and then just today, decided that my lovely new hardcover might get messed up if haul it around with me all over creation. So today, I downloaded the $9.40 Kindle version too. I'd promised myself that I wouldn't buy the e-version since the bound book came first, but I'm a creature of habit and convenience and it's easier for me to cart my Kindle around with me.

Nick said...

I'm still in the "Sit in the dark corner and make Clint Eastwood faces at it" camp. Won't be touching an e-reader any time soon, preferably ever. But hey, to each their own. Certainly an informative post if nothing else.

Terry said...

I like the Ziploc bag idea for the beach, probably the freezer bags, as opposed to the storage bags. They have a tighter seal.

And the used book people were an eye opener for me. That is good news. Thanks.

Marilyn Peake said...

I discovered something on the Internet today that amazed me. I had no idea that so many public libraries now offer eBooks as well as other downloadable media (including audiobooks and music) that their patrons can download from home. Here are the eBook divisions for several libraries:

The New York Public Library and

Los Angeles Public Library and

Chicago Public Library and

The Seattle Public Library.

Very cool!!

Kait Nolan said...

While you can certainly check out ebooks from the library, the ONLY reader I'm familiar with that actually WORKS with the time limited file access is the Sony. This is, I feel, the biggest problem with ereaders. I simply don't WANT to buy all the books that I read, and I would love to have more options in terms of what readers will work with my library's ebooks. I was really disappointed to find out that Nook won't do this.

Lisa Dez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Dez said...

And, tying this in with last week’s uproar about Harlequin, I just posted that self-published e-books are readily available through Amazon and B&N, which is going to dilute the literary pool much more significantly than Harlequin, or any other traditional publishers foray into the self-publishing money wagon—and longer term since, like it or not, e-books are the wave of the future.


(couldn't get the link to work--sorry)

Mary Anne said...

I'd love an e-reader!

Another attorney gave my boss a "thank you" gift-- 2 Kindle DX's (the big, bad, expensive ones). My boss hasn't yet figured out how to open attachments on his cell phone.

He asked me - what do you do with these things? I fought the urge to say - you give them to me.

I hated to think of the poor devices wildering in the bottom of his drawer, so I got creative and came up with some business uses. He took one of them home and left the other around for "general office use." Yeah - what's the office budget for romance novels?

Longsuffering Sigh -- someday, I'll have a Kindle of my own, but probably not a DX unless that price comes WAY down. At least I got to hold an actual working Kindle and see how samples of my books looked on the things!!

Annette said...

Put it in a ziploc bag - brilliant! Why oh why didn't I think of that...

AM Riley said...

I write books that are sometimes published as ebooks, so I am biased.

But when I read articles bemoaning the evil of ebooks, I am reminded of a sound house I worked with back in the early days of digital music. They had a plaque on their front desk that said, "the future of digital is analogue". Needless to say, they are now out of business.

I'm sure ereaders will become more affordable, easier and more pleasant to use. I am sure publishers will find a way to make money on books published electronically. I'm sure everybody will adapt. I am absolutely positive that the future of publishing is digital.

Resistance is futile.

Scott said...

A handy list for the upcoming holidays, Nathan. Cheers.

As I read it, it brought an opinion out in me I didn't know I had. Something continues to stick in my craw about e-books and readers, and maybe I've finally found it.

I read so much about how this technology is going to revolutionize the publishing industry, and perhaps it is in a few ways for certain groups of people. I also hear the technology being compared to compact discs and such, and I when I first heard about e-reading stuff I started fretting over the end of books as we know them.

But outside of my very serious writer or reader friends, when I bring up the e-reader I get something like "oh...yeah, I heard of them" response. Back when compact discs were breaking the scene, it was more like, "Oh, I can't wait! No more scratchy records and warped cassettes!"

My point being, e-readers don't really improve the reading experience to the level where books just no longer will do. In fact, I just borrowed a book from a friend and there are literally hundreds of books I haven't read that I could easily borrow, as well. The last book I read was actually mailed to me by a friend, and she got it used off the internet for pennies.

Now, my father who's retired loves his Sony reader. He reads four books a week, all on WWII. To say he's on the edge of the WWII publishing curve cannot be overstated. For him, quick and fast makes sense. For technophiles who also happen to be serious readers or who need to read for their occupations, the e-reader couldn't come fast enough. For the rest of us, isn't it more like On-Demand movies as opposed to, say, Netflix?

So, I guess what sticks in my craw is more how I feel the industry is trying to convince me I need this than my actually needing it. I don't include you in that because you cover all things book and are a valuable source of information. But if I never get an e-reader in my life, I can't say I've really missed anything, can I?

Ink said...

Hail, Borg E-Reading Overlords.

Ink said...


That's an interesting point. I've never actually seen a real e-reader. Most of my customers have never even heard of them. Most aren't particularly interested when they do...

I do sometimes wonder how far they'll pass from the early adopters. Not everything that's popular within that group goes on to be popular in the general populace. Will e-readers build momentum, hit a tipping point and become the dominant force in books? Level out at some shared interest level with paper books? Falter and remain only a niche market?

Where's that Nostradamus fellow when you need him...

Nathan Bransford said...

Bryan, Scott-

With advertisements running on tv for the Kindle and Sony Reader and with the Apple tablet coming next year and smart phones becoming more common I think we're reaching the point where pretty much everyone knows they exist. We're still in the early adoption/"how do these things work again?" stage, but they're going to keep spreading as people get mire familiar with how to find them. In the immortal words of Mike Tyson, I don't think they're going to fade into Bolivia.

Nathan Bransford said...

Bryan, Scott-

With advertisements running on tv for the Kindle and Sony Reader and with the Apple tablet coming next year and smart phones becoming more common I think we're reaching the point where pretty much everyone knows they exist. We're still in the early adoption/"how do these things work again?" stage, but they're going to keep spreading as people get mire familiar with how to find them. In the immortal words of Mike Tyson, I don't think they're going to fade into Bolivia.

Pam said...

Does anyone here own a Kindle DX, or do you know someone who does? After reading the specs, I like the idea of the bigger screen, but I'm wondering if the DX is awkward to hold.

Would love some feedback. Anyone? Anyone? said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Heine said...

I should be able to find this myself, but the information I get is unclear (to me). Can the Kindle connect to a regular wireless network, like the one I use to connect my laptop(s) to the internet? Or is it only the cellular wireless available in "the US and partner networks in other countries"?

If the latter, this is one of my issues. I'd love to have a Kindle, but if I can't use the wireless feature from Thailand I'll feel like I'm wasting a significant chunk of money.

Ink said...


Hey, Bolivia doesn't sound so bad. I bet they get a lot of sun, at least.

And I really don't think e-readers will fade, though anything is possible. What I'm not sure about is whether they'll really take over and reduce paper books to a small minority. I mean, lots of people don't really need paper money, but they use it anyway. And lots of people still use only cash. Lots of people don't have credit cards. Heck, a surprising number of people don't have bank accounts.

So I think e-readers are here to stay... but I could see a split format market pretty easily, though I don't discount the possibility of e-books becoming dominant (particularly as the decades slip by). I guess I'm curious to see where the dividing point will end up, and how long it'll take to get there.

Lauren said...

I should think about getting myself an e-reader...maybe. I might be too traditional.

Nathan Bransford said...


well, to the best of my knowledge digital music sales still don't exceed CD sales even ten years after mp3s started sweeping the nation. So I don't imagine ebooks are going to be a whole lot faster, particularly when the benefits of ebooks over paper books aren't as clear cut to most people as mp3s over CDs. I see this as a steady change rather than a tipping point and agree that the formats are going to coexist for some time.

At the same time, if ebooks reach even 25% of sales it's going to have enormous repercussions throughout the industry. Publishers are going to have to adapt to lower price points and piracy, bookstores are going to face still more pressure, and authors will be increasingly tempted to epublish first.

It will look like a slow burn to the outside world, but publishers especially could be under enormous pressure.

Shelby said...

I can't have my bookshelves full of digital nothingness. I want actual books with backboned spines sitting on my shelf. They require no batteries or electricity or e-anything. I just use my hands and pick it up. And put it down. It is quite simple.

Nothing is better.

Absolutely nothing.

Ink said...


Do you think the espresso book machine technology will have any impact? It would cut out a lot of those same storage/delivery costs - sort of a combination of the digital and print models. But that technology still seems very very expensive.

Susan Quinn said...

Nathan - Great post! I'll be passing it on to my mom, who's shopping for an e-reader.

I think e-readers for kids may come sooner than expected.

Have you seen the Nintendo DS Flip Books? They're bringing authors like Eoin Colfer, and possibly Harry Potter, to your kid's DS. For now, they're only in the UK.

Also there's Disney Digital Books, but they're not handhelds, just on the PC.

The wave is coming.

Ink - people don't have bank accounts in Canada? Did the City of Windsor outlaw those too?

Ink said...

Ah, Windsor... the City of Concrete. Where unemployment is an artform!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a regional thing. Scott commented about how no one he knows is excited about e-books. I'm surprised, because everyone I know, where I live, is talking about e-books. If they don't have an e-reader, they are talking about which one they want, and they are excited. And these are not people in the publishing industry. They are teachers, high-end realtors, people in health professions. My friend who is a realtor and travels between NY and S. Beach, lives for his e-reader on planes. A friend who is an ICU nurse just started reading e-books on her daily commute to work by train. Not everyone I know is reading e-books yet, but I honestly don't know anyone who hasn't been excited about them.

Christine H said...

Hail, Borg E-Reading Overlords.

ROFL! Resistance is futile, people!

Espresso book machines? They actually have an e-reader with an espresso machine attached??? How cool is that!

You could stay up ALL NIGHT! Even better than a book light.

I want one of THOSE.

Nathan Bransford said...

It's possible, and it could help bookstores compete with ebooks, but I think Google Book search is probably going to be the gamechanger here, if the settlement is ultimately resolved. You can bet there's going to be a print component and that's something else that bookstores are going to have to compete against, particularly if that's the primary means by which people locate obscure books. But if people were more confident that they could find virtually every book they could want via the Espresso at their local bookstore immediately that could definitely help them level the playing field some with the people who still want paper.

marye.ulrich said...

Oh Nathan, the hero of the myth busters:

Is it e-books, eBooks, ebooks, EBook, Ebook, E-books, e-Books????

One editor told me to only capitalize Ebooks when it is the beginning of a sentence. True?

Thanks, e-damsel in distress.

Sarah Olutola said...

This was insightful. Thanks!

Steve Fuller said...

I feel like it's 1983. If the Internet existed back then, I imagine these same discussions (and level of ignorance by consumers...and thst's not an insult...just the reality with any new technology) taking place online.

"What's up with cable television? I only need 4 channels."

"What's up with the microwave? My oven is perfectly fine."

"Why would I buy a VCR when I have a perfectly good Beta machine?"

"Cassettes are a fad. I'll never give up my records."

People are silly. Eventually, we will all have some form of an e-reader. Of course we will. It's the way technology works. There will still be paper books, just like there are still record players. But convenience always wins out.

As writers, let's learn how to use technology to our advantage instead of remaining ignorant.

What's really scary is that really smart people are already working on a new technology that will eventually make e-readers obsolete. Cassettes, welcome to CDs. CDs, welcome to iPods. And on it goes.

Anonymous said...

yet, none of these are the reason i don't want an ereader.
nathan, you can be rahrah ereaders, and with your job it makes sense, but your enthusiasm doesn't overtake all the concerns raised in the comments last week.
And, while I enjoy your blog, I come for a humorous insight into agent life. How about a query critique? How about a guest blogger? You're harping on this issue and it is (at least currently) a side issue in publishing.

Ink said...

Thanks, Nathan.

Nathan Bransford said...


The amount I'm blogging about it is a reflection of the extent to which that I think this is much more than side issue. It's one of if not the biggest topics facing the business. We can't be ostriches about this!

Erik said...


I think you've done a great job on the topic of eBooks and ereaders, one area I think that everyone forgets about is Higher Ed. I happen to work in the area as a National Sales Manager for ebooks, not a plug, just giving some background. Anyways, the big difference between leisure reading and research reading is that the readers and ebooks have different uses and needs on the user end.

As you said, ebooks aren't for everyone, I personally wouldn't read an ebook for leisure but for research purposes, you bet, all I want is the content and move on to the next chunk of content to write a paper or whatever I am working on.

Question for you, do you see a difference in the response from publishers of academic materials vs the mainstream publishing industry selling into retail? What are your thoughts on the DRM issues and pricing, just curious?


Valerie L Smith said...


You said, "...I have no financial interest in e-books or e-readers whatsoever and in fact, my job would probably be easier if they didn't exist."

Were you referring to e-books or e-readers? I thought the e-reader had simplified your job a little so are the e-books complicating it?

Anonymous said...

I loved reading on an ereader when a friend lent me hers. It was heaven on the treadmill!

But the pricepoint is still too high. I buy hardbacks from author friends at signings.

Simon said...

It's been reported that Japanese scientists have invented accessories for the Kindle. One of these accessories is a waterproof indestructible cover that feels like the shiny paper cover of a hardback. Another is timed fragrance of paper release device that provides that real old book feeling. The Fragrance called "Go With the Wind" will retail for about 3.99 a pop and last through two recharges.

Richmond Writer said...

Amazon syncs between the different applications...

Can they monitor reading? As in know that 10,000 people bought BookA but only 2,000 read it past chapter 3?

Alex said...

I liked this - especially the point about ziplock bags (though I doubt I'd have the temerity.)

The one thing I think about whenever I think about e-readers and prices though is Saundra Mitchell's post from a few months ago. She responded to Sherman Alexie's claim that the Kindle was elitist, and at the very least gave me food for thought.

This is the link:

Nathan Bransford said...


I actually think price will be what eventually drives most people to e-books, and in that sense I think they're (eventually) going to be seen as anti-elitist. Yes, they're expensive right now. But that's always how it is with new technology. It starts expensive, but then prices come down and eventually the devices achieve mass adoption. That's true of everything from televisions to DVD players to cell phones to calculators to refrigerators to, as someone pointed out last week, digital wrist watches.

In the short term, yeah, only people who are relatively well off can afford e-readers and smart phones. But that's just right now - things aren't always going to stay that way. E-books are going to force lower price points and make books more affordable.

Once the devices that can best display e-books become more common I think you'll see the same thing you now see with vinyl and CDs- they're the collectors items of the well-off, while the masses buy CDs and mp3s.

Anonymous said...

I was in the habit of copying your articles and pasting them (and the comments) into a word document so I could read them later, at my leisure.

The ability to scroll down the text, copy and paste it elsewhere no longer seems to work for your type of Blog. You might want to find out why this is.

Nathan Bransford said...

I think that's on your end, anon. Works fine for me.

Ashlyn Chase said...

Great job debunking the myths. There are loads of advantages, but no one is challenging the space saving and portability of ebooks. I carry 25 books in my purse when we go on vacation. My husband usually has to make an additional trip to the bookstore after reading the latest hardcover blockbuster novel.

One other advantage for authors is that their books remain for sale in the publisher's virtual store for infinity if the author chooses to leave it there.


Shannon said...

This was really informative. Thanks. I've never even looked at these, but I do like the idea of being able to search within the text of anything that I'm reading...

Jan said...

As a book reviewer, I would consider a Kindle if one of the publishers wanted to spring for one for me and then let me download all the ARCs. I would love to not have my living room overflowing with ARCs. I would love not trying to find a home for all of them after I read them. I would love to just go to a section of the publisher's website and download the ARCs that actually fit my review specs. The only drawback would be that they aren't graphic novel friendly and I often do books with unique illustration elements -- like graphic novels.

Still the very thought of making these ARCs more efficient makes me giddy. But until then, I'll not have a Kindle. I only very rarely buy books since I don't have time to read books that aren't for review.

Gordon Jerome said...

@ J. Matthews Saunders,

What you are describing regarding books is very interesting from a historical point of view, but it really has nothing to do with e-readers. Those books you mentioned are historical objects. They will always be historical objects. So, go ahead and collect them by all means. That's what bookshelves should be used for. I bought "Under the Dome" by Stephen King so I could own a historical object (1st print, 1st edition hardcover with dust jacket).

I mean, imagine if you had a scroll from the first century of one of the Gospels. You can get a copy of, well, Matthew, anywhere including on e-readers, but the scroll would be a historical object.

Your argument in my opinion is comparing apples and oranges. And there's a bit of irony in it, too. I was reading your post, and I was truly interested in what you were saying and revealing. I really thought it was neat what you were talking about and the books and stamps you were describing--and I was reading that off a computer screen.

I just want to say that I hear you; I understand you; and I agree. I only want to add that historical objects will always be historical objects and e-readers won't take that away. One day, my first generation Kindle will be a historical object.

Take care, my friend.


Anne Lyken-Garner said...

Can't seem to tweet your page from the share button at the bottom.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks for the info, Nathan! My books with Leisure are available in print and as ebooks simultaneously. I think lots of publishers are doubling up on the formats because the more ways to reach readers, the better.

Still haven't bought a reader myself though. I'm sort of waiting for the industry to standardize things more.

Savant said...

Interesting. Most of the issues folks have seem nitpicky to me. No offense, but 1-2 second delay to turn a page is about the same - maybe less - as when you accidentally turn 2 pages in a print copy, which is something I do all the time. And it's never taken me out of the story.

Anyway, here's my big issue (which, to some, may seem hypocritically petty): When I bought an iPod several years ago, the first thing I did was I spent a weekend ripping my 500-600 CDs into iTunes. Instant library.

The eBook readers out now cost about the same as I paid for that iPod several years ago. And yet, there is no way to "rip" (electronically :) the hundreds of print books I already own and transfer them, selectively or en masse, to the device. Not even a way to "rip" the several dozen books I have that I haven't yet read. The only way to get those on the device would be REpurchase them.

Honestly, I have no really good ideas about how to fix this.

Further, try - just try - to go out to an electronics or bookstore and actually hold an eBook reader in your hands. The major electronics superstores don't carry them (at least in my neighborhood). B&N does not have a nook on display. (But they are taking preorders, of course.) Amazon has no local brick & mortar I can go to. Target has the previous generation of Sony Reader on display. I played with it and didn't like the way it drove. But, then again, I have nothing to compare it to except the eBook reader app on my old PDA.

Comparing the ubiquitous nature of MP3 players and the like, I don't think print book lovers have much to worry about. Ebooks won't be taking over if the hardware is only available to buy online. I know a lot of people like myself that need to "kick the tires" before making such a large purchase. (And, yes, I consider several hundred dollars a large purchase.)

Finally, I have read eBooks, as I alluded to, on my old PDA. I feel I must be missing something because I have never experienced any eyestrain, I have never felt like it was a lesser experience than reading the paper book, nor any of the other (to me) seemingly minor issues people raise. I love BOOKS, whatever format they come in. I just want to (a) be able to somehow incorporate my existing and future libraries (a pipe dream, I realize) and (b) be able to sample eBook readers like I can digital cameras, stereos, or even books themselves. :)

Jeff C said...

Nice post. Do to lack of space, I am moving to all ebooks. I have 6 bookshelves stacked to overflowing, and since I also get arcs to review on the blog, it has gotten out of control. I've pretty much stopped requesting arcs, unless they are digital (which most don't do yet). I like reading on my iPhone, and had pre-ordered a nook. While waiting on the nook, i bought a netbook from Best Buy to try. Turns out, I like the flexibility of the netbook. The computer screen doesnt bother me (I turn the brightness all the way down), and I never have to worry about ebook formats, since I have programs to read them all. And the FBReader software is awesome, especially the text rotation, so that I can turn the netbook 90 degrees and hold it like a book. I decided to keep the netbook and just cancelled the nook. Sure the nook is lighter and smaller, but I like the extra features of the netbook, and the 10.1 inch screen is nice. Its also nice not needing a booklight to read in the dark.

Kim Richards said...

Thank you for this post. I'm going to print it out to show people who are constantly asking me about my Sony reader. Someone once said that once you go ebook, you seldom go back. I'm not that far but definitely read more now that I can take it with me on the bus, coffee shop, doctor's office.

As an ebook publisher, I also appreciate you debunking some of the myths. We don't expect to replace print but it's a very nice option.

JoAnn said...

I have a kindle...and at first, I didn't think I would like it. But as a stay-at-home mother of 3 who never finds the time to leave the house to actually get a new book to read, the kindle is a lifesaver. I've found that I'm reading A LOT more nowadays, although I do still read my paper books as well.

And I don't have any eye strain from reading on the kindle, even after hours at a time.

Leslie said...

I'm always astonished by the number of people whose main objection to ebook readers is the lack of "new book smell" (or actually, old book smell). For me, this is one of their pleasant side benefits--the dust etc. generated by old books gives me allergic reactions comparable to a bad case of the flu. And I have a LOT of old books, and I have spent so much money on them I can't afford a maid to come dust them for me. I also delight in being able to read while I eat without getting gunk all over the pages, which are pinned down precariously with salt shakers, silverware, or other books, not to mention being able to read a book over the back of the cat parked on my chest without straining my hands and wrists.

I understand that ebooks are not for everybody, but it does disturb me the smugness of people who are so attached to books as physical objects as opposed to content. I do wish ebooks displayed graphics better, but I am also confident that it's only a matter of time. As someone who reads books into oblivion, I am resigned to the fact that I will purchase the really important books in my life multiple times. And I also suspect that the market is going to push ebook-reader purveyers to do things like freely/cheaply upgrade the books in your library if there is a major software upgrade, and I do not see Amazon going out of business in the foreseeable future. But even so--are paper books so incredibly resilient as objects? Yes, there are a lot of old books around, but it isn't like every copy of E. Phillips Oppenheim's Enoch Strone: Master of Men is still in existence after 90 years. Books decay; books burn (anybody remember the Library of Alexandria? Or the Los Angeles Public Library, for that matter?); books are written in languages that become extinct (Tocharian, anyone?). What I want is the content of books and the ability to read them whenever I want, and ebooks do that for me.

Steve said...

DRM'ed eBooks are not portable between devices. A paper book can be read by anyone anywhere without restriction.

eBooks can only be shared between people with the same brand of device. A paper book can be shared between any two people without restriction.

eBook manufacturers may back up your books online for you but those backups do not store your markups. Those are only stored on the device. Further, sharing that book doesn't share your markups.

eBooks are still expensive and fragile. I can drop my paperback book into a pool and only be out $8. If I dropped my Kindle into the same pool ... yea, you get the picture.

You misrepresent the "greenness" of ebooks. Take into account the lithium ion batteries and the fact that it's a petroleum product (read foreign oil). It takes a lot more shipping and releases many more greenhouse gasses to create a reader than over 4,000 copies of a book. Most will land in the dump regardless of some future recycling program. Books wlll biodegrade naturally; eBooks will still be around for centuries.

That's enough for now.

Nathan Bransford said...


Not quite true. epub books can be read on multiple devices. You also don't lose your e-books if you lose your device provided you've either backed them up or bought from Amazon, who knows you bought them. I'm not an expert on the green issue, but I've only seen studies that say that they're green - the only dissents I've seen have come from nonexperts.

Nathan Bransford said...

Oh - but yeah, if you drop your Kindle in the pool you're out a Kindle.

Jessie Sven said...

Thanks so much for this. I've been considering getting a Kindle once the price goes down and this really helped seal my approval for them. I wasn't worried about too much... I think anyone who's actually seen an E-reader in real life knows most of these myths to be untrue. Still, some of those tidbits were really helpful. I, for one, would've never considered putting an E-reader in a ziplock bag for the beach XD Thanks again!

Ryan said...

Does anyone know if Kindle or Nook plan on having the technology to play a short video within a book file? We love pictures in books. Why not a short movie in an e-book? Imagine a memoir with tightly edited shorts within the pages. Mine can be the first. :)

I'm thinking shorts no longer than two minutes long that would add to the experience. Still lots of work to do on the videos and more revisions on the book itself but something along these lines.

Kat Sheridan said...

@Ryan, check out the Vook, which actually looks very cool and has LOTS of possible applications (the cooking and exercise books being great examples of a good use for this):

Anne said...

I love reading on my iPhone. I reread War and Peace, and it was a fabulous experience. Now I am rereading Proust. It works very well for very long books.

Eric said...


Bad Guy Zero said...

Thank you so much for this information. I've been debating whether or not to purchase a Kindle or similar reader. I like to read when I'm on a plane but it's hard to predict what I'll be in the mood to read. An e-Reader would take up less space in my carry-on than the three or four books plus crossword and sudoku magazines I generally bring.

I can't see my having an e-Reader causing me to stop purchasing hardcover books and such. There's something intimately tactile about having a physical copy of a beloved book in your bookcase. Besides, I imagine they haven't figured out a way for authors to leave a personal inscription in an e-Book.

Thanks again for compiling this information. At the end of the day I think anything that has the potential to get people to read more should be welcomed and embraced.

BrennaLyons said...

Some things I can add to this...

According to ophthalmologists, even backlit screens in use today are much better for your eyes than the old CRT screens. They recommend them for their vision impaired patients. The only caveat is that you should not use backlit screens in a completely darkened room. THAT is bad for your eyes.

Many places you can purchase e-books have a bookshelf for you, so you can download books again in case of catastrophic loss. And, only DRMd (secured) formats are difficult to back up. Indie press usually uses unsecured formats which can be backed up. In addition, many of the unsecured formats can be converted to other proprietary formats AND there is such a thing as backward compatibility.

Not all e-book readers are expensive. While Kindle admittedly is, other readers, like the Cooler, eBookwise, and others are very reasonably priced. The eBookwise--which is a very basic reader, durable, able to be taken into schools with kids, and so forth--is selling for less than $100, including shipping.

I'm glad to see you singled out the major conglomerates as giving low royalties on e-books. Indie/e tends to give between 30 and 50 percent on site sales and that amount of net on third party sales.


BrennaLyons said...

I don't think Anonymous has much to worry about, personally. There's all this scare going on about $10 for e-books, but the fact is that it's the high end Kindle set, not the average or low end or (heavens forbid) a price they set and give publishers no choice in...and it's the high end on a book also available in hard cover.

If you check indies selling through Amazon, you will find Kindle books selling for $2-7, depending on length and genre. Even if Amazon made it difficult for indies to sell through them,-- and they don't want to do that, I'm sure--you can covert books bought other places for use on most readers. There's currently no way to force readers to purchase from just one place.


BrennaLyons said...


Usually you can purchase certain formats elsewhere and convert them for the reader you own. The easiest things to convert are things like RTF, DOC, HTML, and ePub. The hardest would be some forms of PDF, DRMd of all types, and proprietary formats.

And can purchase e-books direct from the publisher and then put them on your handheld, as long as you're buying the right formats.


BrennaLyons said...


The point is that e-books aren't about killing the print book. They are about choices for readers and increasing markets (books available nearly worldwide in English language from day one, expats buying books, and so forth). If your tastes run to print books, read them. Personally, I read about half and half these days. Some of my favorite authors are available in e first, so I get the books the week they come out, just as I do with a bestseller I adore that comes out in hard bound...or something that comes out in mass market.


BetweenTwoBooks said...

> For a casual reader: yeah, a dedicated e-reader
> probably doesn't make the most sense.

You should have added "financially" here as overall, an e-reader still makes sense even for a casual reader.

Anonymous said...

Point No. 2

It is not a myth. I have lost ebooks because of software upgrades, changing pcs etc.

I "bought" adobe drm files (more fool me) because I liked the they looked on my pc. I don't have an ebook reader, I can't afford it. They ARE expensive for someone on a low income.

Anyway back to the adobe books that I lost because of the FORCED upgrade. I couldn't not upgrade. I have back-up copies but adobe won't read them. I can't redownload because the store no longer exists. Another time I changed computers and I had to redownload my books. A couple of them I had apparently reached some arbatory limit set by the publisher. I contacted the store back in February when I bought my new pc. I'm still waiting to hear back.

So while you may be having a great time with Amazon and your Kindle. All stores, and all ebook formats are not equal.

Some now I'm out $30+ on these books that I have lost. It doesn't encourage me to buy ebooks with drm I can tell you.

This is not comparable this to the music industry where even if I buy a track with drm I can burn it to disc and play the track in another computer. I can't do the same with a drm'd ebook.


Lisa Lane said...

As an author who has published primarily in electronic format, I can't tell you how nice it is to read such a positive post on electronic media. While I do have some books available in both print and e-book (one of my books is only available in paperback, and I also have a book available in audio) the royalty rates for the e-books can't be beat.

Thank you, Mr. Bransford, for setting the record straight.

Dana Fredsti said...

As someone who is e-published as well as traditionally published, let me just say thank you for this post. you made a lot of my fellow e-pubbed authors very happy as well...

Samantha Clark said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the info. I haven't tried an e-Reader yet -- still in love with paper books too much. But this makes them seem more attractive.

Anonymous said...

One other way ereaders save money - I can (and do!) subscribe to a major national daily newspaper for much less than the paper copy of the regional paper I used to buy. The actual dollars-and-cents penciled out to recovering the cost of the Kindle in less than 6 months.

Anonymous said...

Starbucks - except for that whole "non-compete" clause in your contract. If your publisher does an electronic edition (mine does) it makes sense to let them have the rights, with a time-limit on their exercise of those rights.

Mary Lindsey said...

I love my e-reader. I can't imagine going back to paper only. I was resistant at first, but got sick or lugging my laptop or critique mates' manuscripts everywhere. I bought the Kindle for that reason, but ended up addicted to it. I have doubled the number of books I read a year simply because of the ease of book purchases and the portability of the device.

Thanks for the post. I now have a place to point my nay-saying friends.

Mike Fook com said...

I wrote a "50 Reasons Ebooks Are Better" article at my personal MikeFook com site. If anyone is interested. 157 comments here already - amazing stuff! Great article - I shared it with my other writer friends.

Linda M Au said...

I've had my Kindle for about a year and adore it. I suffer from ocular rosacea and chronic dry eye, and book reading had become painful (especially if I did it at the end of the day). With my Kindle, it's actually clearer than printed books (no uneven inking) and the adjustable font has been a blessing. I can read for hours on the Kindle -- something I cannot do on a backlit screen or even a printed book anymore.

Plus, being able to tote a thousand books with me on vacation is marvelous.

It's paid for itself in public domain classics alone (which are mostly free from various sites).

A little over a year ago, I thought e-readers were evil (I'm a writer too), but I've done a complete about-face since owning the Kindle. Now I'll likely always own an e-reader of some stripe.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Nathan, thanks for this post. I am still very firmly planted in the print books camp, for reasons much like those expressed by J. Matthew Saunders and Remus Shepherd, but it was good to hear that there is a little more flexibility in e-readers than I had previously thought.

I just like printed material. I like the weighty feel of a book in my hand; I like that I can visualize where in the book that part I liked and want to go back to was (on the left hand side, near the bottom, just short of halfway through, big paragraph starting with "however"); I like the smell of a printed book, and the feel of the paper between my fingers; I like that no-one can sneak into my house without my knowledge or permission and take my books off of the shelves. I also love that printed material is a physical link to the past, to our history and our culture. Electronic media is good for some things, but for me, it isn't a good way to read a book.

Someone in an earlier thread about this said that reading a book on an e-reader was akin to the experience of going to see a movie, while reading a book was akin to buying the DVD. For me, reading a printed book is a far, far more enriching experience than reading electronically stored text off of a screen, AND I get to keep it at the end!

Brandi said...

I think that if more college textbooks were available as ebooks, e-readers would be the most popular electronics in history. Not only are e-textbooks more affordable than the bound versions, but think of the backs we would save if people no longer had to carry around back-packs. They'd just grab a bag with a notebook, paper, calculator, and e-reader. Oh, the possibilities... I just hope that more e-textbooks are available before my sophomore year; then I'd be living in a dream world.

Cherie Le Clare said...

I agree with you 100% Brandi. Schools and universities will benefit from e-readers, and be very popular with students.

Cherie Le Clare

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