Could Publishers Experience an E-Book Replacement Boom?

by | Mar 9, 2011 | Uncategorized | 100 comments

I know I’m not normal. I know that. I am inordinately obsessed with the weather, I get giddy every time I see L’Oreal spokesman Collier Strong appear on a reality television show, and I watch this video every time I need a laugh.

And lately I’ve been doing something else that may be a tad out of the ordinary.

Booksellers, please cover your eyes…

I have gotten rather obsessed with reading on my iPad. I love reading e-books on my iPad. At night. On the train. At lunch. Upside down. In space. YOU DON’T KNOW.

I genuinely feel like reading on an iPad is a superior experience to reading on paper.  There. I said it.

Reasons: No nightlights or bookmarks needed. I can instantly buy new books. I can highlight passages without breaking out a pen and look up words without grabbing a dictionary. I can set it down on the table while I’m eating lunch without the pages going crazy. It doesn’t take up much space. Yes, I can’t read as easily in the sun, but have you been to San Francisco? We do fog and rain, not sun.

I don’t know if I can go back to paper.

Okay, booksellers, you can open your eyes now.

I still buy print books because they are beautiful and permanent! I love bookstores and buy from them accordingly. I do.

But when I wanted to read Into the Wild… I paid for the e-book. A PAPER COPY IS SITTING ON MY SHELF. I bought the e-book anyway. I’m that attached to reading on my iPad.

Now, like I said, I’m not normal. As an author and former publishing employee I have no qualms about sending my hard-earned money back over to the publishing industry and to authors no matter what’s in my bank account. Jon Krakauer deserves every penny I’m sending his way and then some. I know this isn’t a situation for everyone.

But the movie industry reaped huge rewards when everyone replaced their movie collection with DVDs. The music industry had a boom when people switched over to CDs.

Could something similar happen to the book world? Could people grow attached enough to their devices that they might replace their book collections? Could planned obsolescence come to the publishing world?


  1. Bohemienne

    Well, you just said yourself that you purchased an e-book of IN THE WILD despite having the print version right on the shelf. As much as I love my iPad I haven't bought a single book on it yet for practical but boring-to-explain reasons; however, when circumstances change and I do give in, I've already decided that my all-time favorite book (of which I already own 3 paper copies) will be the first e-book I buy. So yes! I think it's already happening. And if this whole crazy "enhanced e-book" thing takes off, almost like DVD bonus features or the essays and book club questions you find in the "P.S." books, it'll come even more so.

  2. Bittersweet Fountain

    I could definitely see people replacing entire libraries. I know when I really love a book, I go out and buy the hardback–even though I just read it in paperback. Last year I replaced my Wheel of Time collection in hardback and now I'm thinking about replacing it with eBook.

    But then again, I still haven't replaced my VHS collection with DVDs. That's right, I'm 24 years old and I own a VCR and several movies on VHS. I have a VCR, a DVD player, and a Blu-Ray player and as long as I have all three I feel no need to replace the movies I already own.

  3. Cid

    I've already begun slowly buying my favorite books in ebook for functional re-reading. I still like owning my favorite books, but you're right. eReaders are just more convenient!

  4. D U Okonkwo

    Nathan – of course you're not normal, none of us are, we're writers and in very good company here in Blogland! LOL

    In all seriousness, though, I don't think it matters whether or not most people turn to Ebooks eventually, the publishing industry will find a way to make profits from it, that's what they're in business for and that's fine. Change is good, it keeps us all on our toes. Fundamentally we want our readers to be able to access our books in the best way that suits them. We live in a world of choice and that's a blessing.

  5. M.J.B.

    I feel the same way about reading on my Nook! It has overtaken my reading life, and I've already begun to re-buy all the books that matter to me (I can't wait until "Harry Potter" becomes available….). There's nothing like seeing hard copy books on a shelf, but I now feel similarly when I am holding all my favorite books at one time on a single device! Overall, e-Reading has become my preferred way to experience a book….and publishers will get my money because of it.

  6. Vivacia

    Totally understand where you're coming from Nathan. I have a kindle and have already purchased a number of books I already own in hard back. Why? Because I just don't have space anymore. Those hardbacks will be going to a second hand store (or to freinds if any are interested) to give me more space for… well, more books likely!

  7. Deb

    Sold! I have a Kindle but really thinking, for me, Ipad is the way to go now. So, so many reading options and there is a lot I have to read on the computer, so why not go with IPad and I can do it on there. I don't think I'll be replacing my print collection or not buying print books anytime soon, though….but that is just me. In other words, my book habit is mighty expensive.

  8. Stephanie  Barr

    I own almost no books on my ebook reader that I didn't originally buy in paper versions (with the exception of some classics that came for free that I had never gotten around to reading). Part of that is because I wanted to invest in books I knew I liked and would read over and over again. Part of that is because many of my favorite authors are dead and so I already own all their books.

    And reading on my reader is so much easier. Taking a month's worth of reading in a tiny package is fantastic.

    In the future, though, I'll be buying more and more in eformat only.

  9. Monica-Marie Holtkamp

    Ah yes, I remember well my days in the Richmond district wondering why some parts of the city got a little sun but we never did! Those were the days! *SIGH* That being said……LOL

    Yes, even though you're addicted, I think that the book publishing world MIGHT forgive you since you're still buying print books as well as making them! LOL It isn't odd that you're addicted to something technological…after all it's in your DNA. Men are just naturally attracted to gadgets. I think that it's left overs from the caveman days and we were inventing the wheel etc.

    "I" say enjoy the fun you're having. It's a good thing that you love your ebooks…just remember your book books! LOL

  10. Silicon Valley Diva

    Oh good, glad I'm not the only who has bought a book and then downloaded the ebook version 🙂

    I alternate between my Kindle & iPad. I much prefer the iPad for nighttime reading whereas I bring my Kindle to the beach or throw it in my purse when I'm on the go. I find it more portable.

  11. stickynotestories

    Although I really can't afford to replace my entire library on my Nook (and half of the books aren't available as e-books yet) I did buy my favorite book as an e-book yesterday although I was reading the paper copy in bed the night before. It was mostly because the paper copy is falling apart (and yes, I will replace it with a new paper copy – I love the book that much), but I also wanted to have my favorite book with me all the time.

    I think as people get used to reading on the e-readers they will start re-buying their paper books as e-books, if only because they can read them any where at any time and it's so convenient. But just like DVDs – I'm not paying double for the ones I won't watch/read again.

  12. Silke

    My dearest significant other gave me a Kindle for Christmas.
    I'm now holding off buying new books, unless I can get them as ebooks.
    Older books, if I can't find them anymore, and if they are available as an ebook, will be replaced by the ebook.
    I LOVE my paperbacks, I truly do. But for convenience an e-reader is definitely the way to go.
    (I can't afford an IPad. But I wouldn't complain if someone got one for me lol.)

  13. Jess

    I am the same way with my Nook…it is just so convenient to read on, and for me (crazy girl alert) there is something extremely comforting about knowing that I have a few hundred books in my purse. As long as I have power I will never be bored. Plus, I can sync my place between my Nook, iPad and iPhone, so no matter what gadget I have with me, I can always pick up right where I left off.

    I have been reading ebooks since they were super expensive and only available on my Pocket PC…over the years I have purchased quite a few books I already own in paper copies just to be able to have them with me. Like you, I don't mind giving more money to authors that I love.

    I've also been using ebooks to fulfill my desire to read new books even though right now, I don't have a place to put any new physical copies. Until I get new shelving, real book purchases are few and far between!

  14. Anonymous

    I don't buy CD's any more if I can get a download– this includes books. My audible account is cherished.

    I rarely buy new print books any more. The books I would really like to buy to have on my Kindle are rarely available in digital. One old paperback fell apart on rereading so I scanned it and rolled my own ebook. It was surprisingly easy. I even checked it for spelling errors and OCR artifacts and was pleased to find that a book published in England in the mid 60's had none, while one Kensington title I read on my Kindle a year ago had an astonishing 49.

    But I think those of us who replaced our vinyl with cassette then CD will probably not be drawn along that path again.

  15. Elizabeth

    I'm not going to say it won't happen. But I will say it won't happen for everyone. To put it bluntly, some books aren't worth the re-read.

    For example, when I bought an iPod, I bought a lot of music to replace the CDs too scratched to import. Hanson's "Mmmbop" was not one of them.

    And some books, sad to say it, are just like "Mmmbop".

  16. Rebekah

    I am so glad you posted this, I was begining to feel like some kind of weird nerd for loving my ereaders so much!

    When we got our Nook and iPad, we decided that unless it was really something special, we would not be buying any more print books – we love our readers for all the reasons you said. For books we already own, we *Try* not to buy them again, but since we are both avid readers, it is easy to see a book you already have and think "Ohh I like that" and buy it, forgetting that you have a copy at home. (Yet another advantage of ereaders – you have your list with you when you go to the bookstore).

    I'm not sure I will ever go entirely to digital books, but I am now treating print books as a luxury expense item.

  17. L.G.Smith

    As long as you aren't whispering "my precious" to your ipad as you read, it's all good.

    I don't have a dedicated e-reader yet. I've read one book on my iphone, and I can see the appeal. If I ever do get an ipad I can imagine replacing all my favorite novels with downloads. I think people have mentioned before about packaging the two together: Print and digital. I'd go for that.

  18. Natasha

    I feel like I just sat in on an AA meeting. Love your candor. Haven't had the opportunity yet to read off an iPad although one is in the mail.

    Question: Do your eyes get sore? Looking at a monitor all day hurts my eyes. I'm not sure I'd want to spend my evenings reading off one.

  19. Ang

    As several folks have already noted, you aren't that abnormal, after all! I, too, have several nook books that I also have in hard copy on my bookshelf. You raise a valid point about planned obsolescence. The industry has to be forward-thinking if it is to survive, first and foremost, but ultimately to thrive.

  20. Erin

    Yes! I started reading "The Help" in hardback a year ago and set it aside after the birth of my second child. I'd love to finish it, but now that I have an iPad, the thought of dealing with a physical book is like a psychological barrier! I may end up downloading it from iBooks after all. Perhaps once you go ereader, you can't go back.

  21. Loree Huebner

    This may be a silly point, but for me, it kills my eyes to constantly read from a screen – large, medium, or small. I use all three. When I get eye strain now, it comes on a lot quicker after reading from a screen for an extended period of time. Do we know any long term effects from hours of reading on the computer, Ipad, Kindle, or phone screens?

  22. Laurel

    I do the same thing. I'm with Jess, my ebooks are my new security blanket. I can't be trapped anywhere with nothing to read. Get a yen for a re-read at 2 am and I am stuck at the mother-in-law's house? NO PROBLEM!

    The only reason I haven't fully committed to putting everything into digital is because I'm worried that formats will change significantly. What if .mobi gets replaced with something else and they slowly shift away from any readers that will use it? And my Kindle will eventually die. With paper, I know that outside of a housefire or some bizarre book-eating beetle infestation I can go back to that book in thirty years.

    If somebody can give me a guarantee, like "If we ever change formats we'll convert your library free", then I'm all in.

  23. Tiana Smith

    I am a chronic re-reader. In fact, the ONLY reason why I haven't purchased an e-reader of some kind is because I am waiting for my favorite books (that I already own) to be available in ebook form.

    I can definitely see me replacing a large portion of my physical book library once I get an e-reader. One of the main advantages of e-readers is that they are portable, and I want to take my favorite books with me, not just new books that I am taking a chance on.

  24. Donna Ball

    I actually am one of those people who doesn't mind paying for a book twice if it's a book I love. I'm a fan of Patrick Taylor's "Irish Country" books which I think are beautifully produced in hardcover and trade… but when I wanted to read one quickly over Christmas, I downloaded it on my Kindle and ordered the paper version later to keep. However, the sad truth is that unless a book has collectible appeal to me I'm not buying so much in paper any more.

  25. Mr. D

    Hhmmnn… That's a pretty convincing argument. I might just have to get an iPad one day.

  26. Kevin

    I don't yet own a kindle or a tablet, so I can't weigh in on agreeing/disagreeing with you. I must say, though, that it's brave of you to be so honest in a place that's likely so full of purists.

    Things they are a-changing, and hanging onto the outmoded media (as much comfort as people get from it) has never ended up being a good idea.

    I, for one, welcome our new e-book overlords.

  27. Michael Offutt

    I've had my iPad almost since it was first available last year and it's filled with ebooks. I use both the iBook application and the Kindle app depending on where I'm at on the internet when I purchase a book. I love the price of ebooks too…the last ten books I've bought haven't cost over $2.99 and I almost feel like anything more than that is too expensive and not worth it when I can find something cheap. I honestly haven't stepped into a Barnes & Noble bookstore in over a year. I used to buy stuff there all the time and I live right across the street from one. So yeah, it's just easier to sit in bed and download instantly and start reading than it is to run across the street and try to find a book on their shelves. Another thing I love is the free preview. It really lets me know if a book is something I want to continue reading or if it isn't for me.

  28. Leanne (Ironic Mom)

    I love my Kindle, too. I find it easier to read than paper (and as my vision starts to worsen, I can increase the font size). Although I'm only (?) 40, I can see a huge market in targeting the elderly. You have instant large print available, the pages can be turned with a click which is much easier if you're arthritic, and it's portable.

    The biggest revolution in reading since Gutenberg.

  29. Backfence

    I can't speak for the iPad, but I love my Kindle. And I have the 1st Generation, without all the improvements and increased speed and memory, but I really love the immediacy of purchasing a book I want and reading it like … NOW. And I love not having to fight to keep my page open when I'm eating & reading simultaneously.

    It finally(after some 3 yrs or so?)went Kaput and I am having severe withdrawal symptoms already.

    Now that there are more choices out there though, I feel I need to explore my options despite the fact I've been very happy with the Kindle.

    And, yes, I still buys shelvesful of real paper books.

  30. L.C. Gant

    Funny you should mention this. I just received my brand spanking new Kindle in the mail this week, and I'm already debating when I will start replacing all my printed books with their digital counterparts. I'll probably sell the hard copies first and use the money to purchase e-books.

    Anyway, I think you've pinpointed the coming trend brilliantly. An e-book boom is inevitable. It may take a few years, but I think eventually the temptation to access reading material anytime and anywhere will be too much for most people to resist. Some may keep a few printed versions for sentimental reasons, but I don't see that being the norm. E-books are just too convenient.

  31. Cristin Terrill

    I have the exact opposite problem. I too really liked reading on my Kindle at first, but I discovered that whenever I loved a book, I wanted to have a permanent, physical copy of it on my bookshelf. I was buying so many books twice that I actually STOPPED using my Kindle for everything but traveling. Not, I'm sure, the intended effect.

  32. Bryce Daniels

    Never thought I would find myself typing this. YES, I love my Kindle. My wife bought me one for Christmas, and now we each have our own collections at our disposal. Guess I know what she is getting for her birthday. (Here's a wild thought. Maybe they could come up with a "bi-fold" model where we could both read seperately at the same time. HA.)
    Will definately make our next move easier as well. Boxes of books are VERY heavy. Just ask my back.
    Go figure. All this coming from a guy whose 8-track didn't give up without a fight.

  33. Anonymous

    It might happen but (and this is purely anecdotal evidence) I find more people will re-watch a movie than re-read a book. So having the dvd of a movie you owned on vhs makes more sense than needing to buy the digital version of a book you love. Not to mention that vhs is of much poorer visual quality than dvd, you don't have the same problem with books. There's not much to be gained from "upgrading" your existing library to digital.

  34. Tere Kirkland

    I barely read paper anymore, either. And I was one of those paper purists for a long time. The only time I read paper books anymore is in the bathtub. I'd read my nook in there, but when else am I going to get through all these paper books I have?

    And I've had my nook since June, read on it for hours at a time, reading large to extra-large font, and have found my eyes actually get LESS tired than reading a paper book.

    Two people have loaned me hardcover versions of books I want to read, and I haven't touched them because they're too heavy, and the print is too small. I'm about to break down and buy them for my nook instead. 😉

    I still buy art books, but that's about it.

  35. Matthew MacNish

    That's a very interesting question. I don't think I would buy two copies of every 'book' if I had an e-reader, but I would LOVE to have two copies.

    I don't think I would be willing to pay twice, but I could probably handle paying slightly more than once.

    I can connect my turntable to my computer, and record a track to the hard drive, and then burn it to cd, or transfer it to an mp3 player. I suppose there is a scanner and some software out there that could do the same for books, but I'm not sure it would be worth the trouble.

  36. Sean

    These comments over the past few days have been interesting. It's kind of like traveling back in time with RuPaul to an old, drafty farmhouse in Christmas Past 1993, where an old married couple is arguing about the possibility of new confounded cell phones replacing their precious wall phones. They can't see RuPaul and I but I can hear the old man yell, "You'll have to pry this yellow, rotary dialing wall phone from my cold, dead fingers!"

    Of course we now know the old man's wife was right. Convenience is always a key aspect of evolution. When I was a kid, our wall phone never rescued us from an overheating radiator on the side of the road.

    I look forward to when the conversation turns to the different ways aspiring writers can take advantage of this new world. IMHO, debating whether or not the e-revolution is here – or even how to craft the perfect query letter – is only looking back. And remember what happened to Lot's wife when she looked back. That's tight, she was attacked by Charlie Sheen's zombie. Not pretty.

  37. Reena Jacobs

    The idea of replacing books with digital copies kind of makes me sad. I have a DVD collection I can look at. As outdated as I am, I still have a CD collection. But I think there's a difference between books and the other media. Books have always been pretty to me. I've never been able to flip the pages of my VHS or 8-track.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm still a fan of eBooks. My pile is growing like crazy. I can even see myself reading more digital than print as time goes by. What I can't see is walking into my library and viewing just my Kindle sitting on the shelf instead of a host of tree-books.

    I get an ache in my chest just thinking about it.

  38. Becky Levine

    It's a concept I have trouble with, but…I keep thinking about the days when print books became affordable. You know, when "all of a sudden" lots of people were literate and books were there and you could buy them and bring them home and put them…where? When did bookshelves happen? What was on the walls before that? What went away to make room for books. (In my house…art, duh!) And here we are now, maybe on the flip side of the coin. If we could fill up houses that had previously had no contact with shelves and shelves of books–why couldn't we move into a world where the opposite happened? Am I going to "suddenly" (in a couple of decades?) have room to hang posters from all my favorite kids books in my office? Will I have a wall quilt that shows silkscreens of the original art from the Secret Garden?

    Part of me says no way, but then I'm pretty sure that's what a lot of people were saying about paper books at one time.

  39. Tana Adams

    Thank you!!!!! I've been trying to convince people for months that ipad has bested the Kindle. I happen to have both and no longer even open my Kindle. In fact I gifted it to my boys for Christmas, and no, they weren't that thrilled.

    Before the ipad I thought the Kindle really had it going on. But in truth, comparing Kindle to the ipad is like jumping from a black and white TV with no remote, to a plasma with a DVR. The difference is really THAT big people.

    And no, it doesn't hurt my eyes.

  40. Scott Marlowe

    Ditto, but with my Kindle. Not only am I buying more eBooks than paper books, but I'm buying more indie authors b/c they (we?) price their books at a more attractive price. I'm reading one right now that *was* traditionally pub'ed, but the rights reverted back to the author who is now selling the eBook himself via Amazon. Best of both worlds, IMO.

  41. Bryan Russell (Ink)

    Like Lot's wife, I did not heed the warning, and have now been struck blind and turned into a pillar of salt.

    On the upside, my family's condiment expenses just went down.

  42. therealjasonb

    I think they could see some replacement, particularly if the ebooks are, shall we say, reasonably priced? I recently did a similar thing. My wife bought a big fat paperback (like 900 pages) that I was interested in reading, but when I started it, it just seemed so bulky and hard to deal with, I bought if for my Kindle instead.

    With the Kindle, I've also been more willing to sell/giveaway books I've read, since I don't have a ton of space to store them and I can just get them again for the Kindle if necessary.

  43. D.G. Hudson

    An e-reader is convenient, but I'm definitely not as converted as you are. The interconnection is the attraction. It's so easy to do all those things — like looking up a word, etc — with only a few finger flicks or taps.

    But if we get up less to do things like getting a pen, or breaking out the dictionary, then we had better do something else to keep us active. We could turn into sloths, with large eyes. It's all very efficient to use the e-reader, but I'm still reading my paper books. I'd only buy the same book on the e-reader if my paper copy wore out.

    If publishers experience an e-book replacement boom, then will the authors benefit or will it simply give a $$$ boost to the industry?

  44. Star-Dreamer

    This is a subject that has really been taking over the blogosphere and the writing networks lately… are ebooks better? I don't know. I don't have an ereader or an ipad and I don't like reading pdf's off my computer unless it's my own manuscript. However, that being said, I've plaid around with my friend's kindle, and I have to say, I could really get use to that. Now granted, I am definitely attached to paper books, but this is a whole new tantalizing arena.

    The one thing I note that is a + for ebooks is the fact that it is becoming easier than ever for indie authors to make it big… IF (of course) the have a well written book with a target audience, marketing strategy, and have actually put work into both. But, as people are finding out, this is often times the case. I noticed, Mr. Bransford, that you've recently posted about the "successful" indie authors out there… many of whom I've been looking into. Indie publishing is rising out of the ashes and the bad reviews and actually becoming NOTICEABLE.

    Now, I'm not published yet and so far I've made no plans to go indie, but that is not to say I haven't considered it. Believe me, I have. The world of publishing and writing is quickly changing. Writers need to stay on top of things, or fall back in the dust.

  45. Nathan Bransford


    Authors would definitely benefit, they'd get royalties on the e-book sales.

  46. Turbi

    I adore my ereader. That said I have been an avid book buyer since I would save my allowance to buy books.

    For the last few years, I have been replacing old books with ebooks. When you own 62 cartons of books, moving is not easy! With ebooks, they are just easier to transport.

    Also, when you are a fast reader, its nice to have a selection on hand to choose from. The ereader gives you that option. I always have my to read pile with me.

    I still buy physical books, but they tend to be more like treasured collectibles now.

  47. Lucinda Bilya

    Nathan, we all know you ain't right, but we love ya anyway. (could be because we ain't right neither)

    Your recent blogs have me studying and reading even more about the evolution of the e-book invasion.

    A conversation with my oldest son about the US postal service and its looming demise, and the closing of a major book store, we agreed that when traditions dig their heals in, refusing to adjust and change with the times, they will break. Barnes and Nobel made their own e-reader to jump on the band wagon. Even if they don’t survive the e-book invasion, they are at least trying. The US postal service didn’t think much about email and that nothing could ever replace sending cards and letters the “old” fashioned way. They are feeling the squeeze now.

    At first, I resisted the idea of reading an e-book, and although I have yet to purchase an e-reader, I read my computer ALL. THE. TIME! I read news on my e-device. I check the weather…I research e-encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. ON. MY. COMPUTER.

    So, I am adjusting my thinking about the publishing industry as well. For years, the advice has been, NEVER self-publish for it will ruin your chances of ever becoming a successful writer. Now, the world looks a little different, even though I feel I am running along behind that band wagon, I plan one day to hitch a ride on it one way or another.

    Keep on reading your e-devices! At least people are reading, right?

    Love Lucy

  48. Diana

    There's been a resurgence in vinyl records. I saw a turntable for sale in Target the other day. I haven't seen one in a store in over twenty years.

    If the publishing industry does follow the music industry, then in ten to twenty years we'll see paper books return to the shelves. 🙂

  49. P A Wilson

    I hope so. I've replaced my VCR tapes with DVDs I've uploaded all my CDs to my itunes library and would love to be able to put some of my favorite reads in my e-library.

    The other thing I would like to do is buy some back titles from my favorite authors.

  50. Gehayi

    But the movie industry reaped huge rewards when everyone replaced their movie collection with DVDs. The music industry had a boom when people switched over to CDs.

    Actually, Nathan, not everyone HAD a movie collection. Those who had one had to replace their movies when the technology for using anything but DVDs became rare. Likewise, the cassette players that people used to listen to tapes were replaced by CDs.

    People changed because the technology forced them to change.


    If the publishing industry does shift completely to e-books, it will be shooting itself in the foot. Print books are available to buyers who are not rich enough to spend 200 to 400 bucks for an e-reader. Given the economy, the number of people who DON'T HAVE THE MONEY for that kind of luxury is sizable. The publishing industry cannot afford to lose customers right now.

    I'm sure that the publishing industry will make money from e-books, and that's good. It should. But some of us who can afford to spend 7.99 for a paperback can't afford $200-400 for an e-reader AND the book AND the charger to keep the e-reader running. In your zeal for the new tech, don't forget that not all readers are so privileged.

  51. Anonymous

    "I have gotten rather obsessed with reading on my iPad. I love reading e-books on my iPad. At night. On the train. At lunch. Upside down. In space. YOU DON'T KNOW."

    I won't leave the house without my Kobo. I do know. And when it's in the house, it follows me from room to room.

    Why Kobo? Because it gives me the old fashioned reading experience without being near the Internet and e-mail. I want just books; no bells and whistles and disruptions. I spend most of my day online working and don't want to think about the web when I'm reading for pleasure.

  52. Sommer Leigh

    As you read on my blog on Monday, I am in the same boat. It's a big boat. There is plenty of room for all my print books and my digital books. And friends too.

    I have also (shhh, don't tell my husband) started buying digital copies of books in my TBR pile. I feel a little ashamed. Only a little though.

    One interesting thing that's happening? I like to shop used book stores for old reference books, particularly history books but whatever I suddenly need to know everything about (I have a sailing book from the 1930s I just had to have. I live in NEBRASKA. We don't exactly go sailing on the Missouri river.) Some of them are turning up on Amazon for the Kindle. I've been buying them "new" where it is impossible to buy new print copies. Curious!

  53. JoeGKushner

    As someone whose moved several times in the last few years, hell yes. Books are heavy. I'm a role player and the amount of books I have, for someone who rents, is damn staggering. Walls full of 'em. But when you move… god help you.

  54. collectonian

    I'm with Reena on this on. I get eBooks are great for "on the go", but thus far I still have little desire to own an eBook reader of any kind. My personal physical library has around 1,000 books, many of which I doubt would ever go to eBook, much like many VHS movies never went to DVD.

    I also just can't get into the experience of reading with an eBook. It isn't as pleasurable in the basic sense. I like the feel of paper, the smell of books, etc. Working in the computer industry, I stare at LCD screens 40 hours a week. At home, I'm on the laptop enough that its probably another 40 hours a week. Books give my eyes a much needed digital rest!

    I do have Kindle for the PC, but I have not bought even one eBook and probably never will. I have used it to read freebie erotica chapters and I downloaded some "classics" that I've never read. Similar to checking books out from the library. If I like it enough to want to reread, I'll get the physical copy.

  55. Kari Marie

    I love my Kindle, but I love having shelves full of books. I purchase all my books on Kindle, and if I discover I love it, i'll buy the paper version. For older titles it will happen more slowly (because they aren't all available). When it's time to reread a book, I'm going to check for the ebook first before picking up my paper copy.

    The electronic device is easier to read from and I love having access to all my books whenever I want.

  56. hillary

    I absolutely would replace some of my paper library with e-books. For one, I appreciate the additional shelf space (it would actually free up room for me to buy MORE paper books). And two, I love that I can carry my library with me everywhere, and search the text for a particular phrase/word instead of flipping through pages and pages to find it. I would be more likely to buy hardback paper books too, since my paper shelf space would be about a book collection and display and not just storage.

  57. Rachel Searles

    E-books rock–bring on the revolution! It's already made me buy three copies of The Hunger Games: a paper one for me, an e-book for my husband who only reads on his iPad, and I just gifted an e-copy to my mother for her new Kindle. E-books are so cheap and easy and fast, and I feel good buying them and did I mention how freaking easy it is to buy them! Love!

  58. Marilyn Peake

    HaHaHa. I love that you said, "I know I’m not normal. I know that." I’ve recently come to the same conclusion about myself. Lots of writers probably feel the same about themselves. I mean how many people torture themselves with writing? You’re not alone with enjoying the eReader experience, though. For my husband and I, it’s the Kindle. We were skeptical at first; but we absolutely LOVE reading on that device! My husband’s always been a big reader, but he’s reading a huge number of books now, and he takes the Kindle everywhere he goes. Last night, he formatted my novel-in-progress for his Kindle and is planning to read it that way to give me feedback. It was pretty cool for me to see my WIP on Kindle. My published books are already sold on Kindle, Nook, and iPad, but there was something really cool about seeing my WIP on Kindle. I haven’t repurchased more than one or two books I already own in paperback or hardcover, but I’ll probably do more of it because I find it so much easier to read on Kindle! One of my neighbors recently got a Nook for her birthday. She never really talked about books before, but now she talks a lot about books, the Nook and how much she loves reading books.

  59. Kathryn Magendie

    I've come to the slow realization that Apple is trying to infiltrate my brain with messages telling me to "go aahhheeead; buy the ipad you've been drooling over for months – doooo iiiit" – they've put tracking signals to attract me to people who blog their iPad joy, and when I go to Best Buy, they slip it out in the outer aisle, and . . .stuff.

    Ungh. I feel myself going over to the dark side! Ungh. Soon, Apple excecutives will claim to be my father. Ungh.

  60. Amy

    I love my Kindle and now strongly prefer to buy ebooks over print books (which is why I get so mad when they are priced higher than the print books, or even at the same price). But I don't have any interest in buying ebook copies of all my print books. I might do it once or twice for a book I really loved, but for the most part I'm not too interested in re-reading old books. I'd rather read something new.

    What I have done is buy a print copy of an ebook I already owned. This happened when I realized I wanted to share the book with several friends. I kept the ebook for myself and bought a print copy that is strictly for sharing. But I wasn't too happy about having to buy the book twice. I should have bought it in print in the first place.

  61. Ann M

    I love your honesty, Nathan!

    I got a Kindle for my birthday this past year and, you know, I didn't hate it! Amazing, no?

    I, too, love the ability to highlight, the ease of finding a specific passage, etc.

    I'm still a little stuck on physical books when it comes to novels (especially those that are my favorites) but for anything non-fiction, I'm thinking I'll be getting the e-version hence forth.

  62. Carol Riggs

    Yeaaah, I dunno. Books you can read even if technology or your batteries fizzle. I don't like depending on something with batteries. 🙂 It's like always having a regular toothbrush around even though you have a Sonicare. Always needed.

  63. karen wester newton

    As these comments prove, there is no wrong way to read. E-ink or LCD or print, go with what works for you.

    As a devout Kindle owner and closet Georgette Heyer fan, I have noticed this effect of wanting to own the books I love to re-read in my preferred reading format. I own in paperback every novel Heyer ever wrote, and have bought 4 or 5 in Kindle versions, too, but only those that I considered reasonably priced (which for these books was $6 and under). Heyer has been dead since the 1970's, but rights to her books are owned by different publishers, and one of them had put out a new line of trade paper versions; ergo they had priced the ebook versions at $9 and $10. No way, Jose. I just checked and they are mostly down to $7.99 but I think I'll wait and see before I do any wholesale replacements; she wrote over 50 books, so $7.99 a pop is just too pricey for me. Seriously, people, she has been dead for over 30 years! The cash cow should not be expected to continue giving much more than skim milk at this point.

  64. ARJules

    So I'm not weird!! There is someone else like me!

    I have a schlew of books on my TBR shelf(ves) and I have to say that as much as I want to read them, I will probable rebuy them on ebook. (Although I'm reading mine on a Nook. Haven't bought an iPad yet. YET!) I just prefer the easiness of the eReader. I can't help it.

    So thanks Nathan! I can breathe easier knowing I'm not the only one out there.

  65. K. C. Blake

    I have always been slow when it comes to keeping up with technology. I refused to switch from records to CDs until I had no other choice. I love holding books so much I figured I would hate reading on a Kindle, but I love it. I wouldn't part with my Kindle now for nothing. Like you said, Nathan, I love to be able to buy a book when the urge hits me without going to a bookstore or waiting for delivery. Sometimes technology is awesome.

  66. Mo Fuzz

    I don't blame you one bit, Nathan. If I had an iPad or other eReading capable device I'd be using it exclusively.

  67. Starband

    Books are permanent, yes, unless you live in Hawaii or Mexico where the mold and book worms slowly turn them into masses of powdery mildew. I'm seriously considering having a special bookshelf, a la humidor, made to house the books I am particularly attached to. Would such a device be called a secador? Do they already exist? Alternatively, I could turn my office into a mini climate-controlled vault…maybe I've found the fountain of youth as well!

  68. B.J. Keeton

    I feel the same way. I'm piloting an iPad program right now for the resource center I am going to direct next year. I've been using it to see how e-textbooks work for both students and teachers (I teach college English while I'm working on my Ph.D., so I get both sides in one semester).

    I have to say that even though I have been a huge Kindle fan for almost 2 years now, I am just as big a fan of the iPad. It's a superior experience as a teacher because I don't have to wag along an inordinate amount of books every day. I can just bring one device that has everything on it, from the novels to the actual anthologies. It's really nice to have in my hand in class, too, as I don't lose my page, and I can have my notes typed up with it.

    As a student, it's equally useful because, like you said, I'm never without a way to highlight or annotate the text. It's been wonderful to be able to sync between devices, so even if I forget something at home, I always have a copy of it on my iPhone.

    But for personal reading? I still prefer the regular Kindle. I love my desktop apps, my iPhone, and my iPad, but when it comes to reading for pleasure, the e-ink Kindle is a better experience. Sure, I can't get online like I can with the iPad, but when I'm settling in for some personal reading time, I'm not worried about my RSS feeds, Twitter, or email. It's more comfortable when I'm lying around, and while it's not as easy to annotate, I can read for much longer periods because it's so much easier on my eyes then the backlit screens are.

    I love books, and I always will. I still buy my favorite authors in hardcopy for collections and decoration. But just for passing the time or for work/school? Ebooks from this point on.

  69. JY

    Yes, yes, a million times yes. I am a Kindle loyalist, but last night, I finished a whole book on the iPad without disturbing my sound-sensitive partner in bed. I started with my Kindle, but my clicking the Kindle's "Next Page" button kept him up.

    I'm actually thinking of selling/donating most of my print books (I have moved whole libraries across three continents – NO MORE.), but I'm not quitting print entirely. Just going to be very, very select about what goes on the shelves. E-books have changed my reading habits in two fundamental ways – one, I read far more non-fiction as the fiction selection is still somewhat abysmal even on Amazon; two, I buy more print books from indie and niche publishers/imprints – great design, back-in-print "forgotten" novels.

  70. Alyson Greene

    I don't have an e-reader, but I often read on the kindle app on my iphone. There are a few books I've purchased on a whim on my phone, and then fallen inlove with them and purchased a print version.

    I'm a HS teacher and I like to keep my classroom library stocked, so if I read something on my phone that I want to share with my students, then I'll buy a print version for my classroom.

    I think there's a lot of potential for the double-buying of books. My husband reads exclusively on his iphone and he's accidentally purchased e-versions of books we have on our living room shelf.

  71. Ebony

    You know, I have gone back and forth on this whole e-book/ kindle thing and I think that I am starting to buy into it. Granted, I love having the physical copies of my books but perhaps I should consider building up an e-book collection. Besides, I have often wonder what I would ever do with all my books once me and husband decide to relocate to Africa in the next 5-10 years. Carrying my whole library probably is not the most realistic thing in the world. But an ipad or a kindle. Now that's genius!

  72. Toby Neal

    This is more than possible. Though my brain is still not quite absorbing the words in e-format as it does in print, with time it will be as meaningful. The convenience is just too damn good.

  73. Kristin Laughtin

    I might do this for a few books, the ones I read over and over and would have to replace eventually. I simply do not have the funds to replace my entire library, though, despite my love for my Kindle.

  74. Other Lisa

    Ahhhh….I'm still on the fence on the eReader, and it's not because I don't love gadgets. I LOVE my Mac Air! LOVE my iPhone! And I really do want a portable device to read on for when I travel. But I am concerned about reading on screens. For example, my Mac Air, which I'm on all day, has an awesome bright screen — so much so that I notice when I go to my older Mac Book, that screen seems dim by comparison. The iPhone, love it too, but if I read for a long time on it, my eyes have a hard time adjusting to, you know, real life.

    I know this isn't exactly on topic, apologies for that! Just wondering if anyone has had the same experiences and what device they recommend.

    (and I still feel like, from my limited eReader experiences, I focus better on a paper book. This in spite of the fact that I am perfectly happy to write and edit on a screen).

    Several readers, including me, have proposed that publishers consider bundling paper and e-versions of books — I think this makes good sense.

    Personally, I don't think I'd replace that many of my paper books. I'd probably go the other way — buy a paper book of an ebook that I particularly liked.

  75. Anonymous

    you're really into the "Into the Wild" book. what is it about again?

    seriously, the iPad love is probably deserved, and I'm a late adaptor (or, mentally handicapped, an idiot savant who can only … read) but – or, however comma – I'm still loving books, and do foresee staring at a screen as bliss.

    currently, I'm reading a Tin House book w/ those uneven pages. it's part of a their debut series, pub'ed in 2006. the story's hard-core, the cover's sublime and I will say, my experience of reading the story in the form of the physical book is intertwined, magnified in a way that screentime just wouldn't. Contempt prior to investigation? Possibly, but the material is so challenging, my visceral response is bound to the book, inexplicably so.

    Another book – a mass trade paper, semi-literary – would probably be equally served by an iPad platform.

    Maybe I'm deluded, or this is all imaginary until I get an iPad or equivilant, but I do believe there's a connection between form and content. When I read, for example, Kathryn Harrison's "Exposure," I squirmed, & was made incredibly uncomfortable (psychically) by the material in a way I cannot imagine pixels on a screen.

  76. Anonymous

    ^^^ I made the previous comment, and meant to write, "and do NOT foresee staring at a screen as bliss."

  77. Anonymous

    What always surprises me is that there's even a debate. A book is a book, digital or print. You get the same experience because of the content, not the way the content is produced.

  78. Katherine Hyde

    My house is overflowing with books. There is no room for more shelves, and all the shelves have books stacked on top of and in front of the books that are properly shelved. For that reason, if for no other, I would love to be able to replace a lot of my beloved, often-read paperbacks with ebooks. BUT.
    A lot of these books are not available as ebooks. They fall in that no-man's-land between the must-read classics and the hot new hits. A lot of them are probably out of print in paper editions, and the publishers have not made the effort to digitize them. In addition to that, my book budget is too small, and therefore I am not rushing out to replace my paper books with ebooks. Only the free ones.

  79. Jenn

    It's interesting that you bring this up, since I was just talking with my husband about this last night.

    Last year for my birthday he bought me a Nook, hoping that I would start buying more ebooks than physical books, since I prefer the pricier hardbacks and quite frankly we're running out of space for all my books. It was a beautiful and thoughtful gift, but unfortunately it backfired on him.

    You see, I do buy ebooks – lots of them. But if I end up LOVING the book, I will go out and buy a hardback copy – especially if I'm in love with the cover. (Like Andrea Cremer's Nightshade – GORGEOUS! The cover and the ragged pages make for a beautiful book.) Or, on the other hand, I have physical books that I love so much that I want the ebook as well so that I have it wherever I go. (I have the Nook app on my iphone as well.) So, while it has helped save precious space on my bookshelves, I end up spending more by buying a fair amount of books twice.

    I think print books and ebooks can live harmoniously together – there's really no reason to choose. For people like me, we like the best of both worlds. And until I'm forced to choose – by the publishing world or my slightly annoyed husband – I'll continue to do so.

  80. Anonymous

    Even people who go hard over to eBooks will probably not replace any significant number of books they now own in paper form. CDs and DVDs are used differently than books. I would never consider buying a CD or DVD that I intended listening to, or watching, only once. Yet, as much as I love to read, I have to admit that most of my books have been read only once and that condition will persist.

  81. Melissa

    e-Readers don't fit in with my lifestyle. I look at the specific places that I read. Hanging out in or by the pool. While sailing or boating, or in a kayak or canoe. Lounging around on a "floatie" in Barton Springs. Oh, and in the bathtub. Most of my paperbacks have serious watermarks, and several have been dropped in the pool and air-dried. And one thing I learned, having had several cell phones and two laptops stolen during the course of travel, is to never take these on any kind of public transportation. I can easily replace a paperback (and a piece of luggage). I can't afford to buy a new Kindle every couple of weeks.

  82. Eli Collins-Brown

    Nathan, me too!

    But in reality, I love reading on my Kindle, iPad and iPhone and being able to seamlessly switch between devices. I posted this under Monday's post (which was more about self-publishing but sort of kind of talked about e-publishing, so I got excited and posted about my use of e-reading devices…here). The only time I buy a hard copy now is for books that I know I'm going to need to give to someone else to read.

  83. veela-valoom

    I have a kindle which is not backlit but I'm right there with you.

    I like reading on my kindle. I like it better than a normal book. I like how I can hold it with one hand, turn the pages with the click and its so lightweight. I like the fact I don't have to search and work to buy the book.

    I'm just glad to hear that I'm not alone. Because even other people with e-readers will talk about how nothing replaces the book experience. My kindle I feel like improves the experience.

    Another pro: Some books have horribly trashy covers. Now I can buy them and feel no shame. And these are even trashy books–but I can't carry around a picture of a half-naked women on an urban fantasy cover. But I can carry a kindle.

  84. Sheila Cull

    Nathan Bransford:

    Because of your Post/s, I'm lucid in regards to the state of paper books versus e-books, now, and, what will likely happen in the future.

    Prior to reading you, I did not understand, too confused. After reading you, I breathe, offer you a million thanks and finally understand.

    Sheila Cull

  85. Mira

    Yes! I feel exactly the same way.

    I LOVE reading on my Kindle app. and I will never, ever go back. It is just too convienent, and it feel sort of weird now to read on a book – alittle awkward somehow.

    And of the last five books I've purchased, only one of them was new. The rest are old favorites that I wanted in the e-reader format.

    So, I completely agree. Books that have been around for awhile may start earning money again because people are replacing their collection.

  86. Juliana L. Brandt

    The reason of pages going crazy in a book when you put it down is the single best argument for me getting some sort of e-reader. I hate that.

  87. Wendy

    Personally, I have never read (bought / finished) an ebook in my life, do not own an iPad/iPhone/iPod etc., find paper much easier on my eyes (I stare at a screen too much anyway), can never find ebooks that I like, and find ebook stores, unlike book stores and libraries, a pain to browse through.

    You have good points though Nathan, and I haven't had much experience with ebooks anyway. But for now I'm going to stick with physical, paper books.

  88. Ellen

    I think it's very possible, and the fact that publishers aren't all over this shows how fear of change is freezing an industry that should be looking for ways to capitalize on new opportunities. For example, what about introducing new "e-only" imprints to introduce new writers? The successful ones could be reissued in hard copy, with an emphasis on an appealing physical look. In short, I'd like to see them think outside the box the way that you are. Bottom line is that people are still reading. As long as that's true, there's hope.

  89. Kris. Vockler

    I couldn't agree with you more. I loved paper but I've been won over by pixels. 🙂 your blog rocks, thanks for it.

  90. boros1124

    I prefer the books, such as e-books. I have e-books is unusual, there are hands. The book is good to the touch and smell. It may be useful for the Kindle and IPAD, but in everyday life, what breaks when you use this? Anyway, this is just a fashion wave. At first it was the iPod. Decreased subsequently in a few months. Today we hardly hear about it. In addition, many books can be downloaded as PDF or DjVu format. One of them is completely free and legal. Why pay when a free download from somewhere? Rárakomthe the PDA or on my mobile and I can just read . Those who are interested in classic books on the Hungarian-www.konyv page you will find a lot. Free and genuine.

  91. K.L. Brady

    I'm there with you, Nate. I have a Kindle and I've replaced so many books that I initially bought in print that it's not even funny. I will usually do that if the book is less than $10 bucks without even thinking twice. Or if it's something I really really want to read. Otherwise, I'll just read the print copy. But my Kindle books get read first.

  92. Molten

    Ah, now I want an iPad more than ever! The reason I haven't bought one is fear of eyestrain. I spend most of my work day on a computer, and I don't know if several hours of reading another screen would bother my eyes. Have you had any problems with that? (I've noticed commuters reading iPads on the train, but I imagine they only read for 20 or 40 minutes at a time.)

  93. Karin

    I hope not!! I will never get an e-reader. First off think of all the e-books you have to buy to compensate for the up-front cost of the e-reader, plus the yearly cost for batteries.
    I never saw an issue with normal ole books…not sure why we had to change it…DVD's are different, they are better quantity for both picture and sound and you can watch them more times with the quality staying the same. Additionally DVD's are not "eaten" by the DVD player 😉

  94. Mara

    I'm not replacing my beloved books, more augmenting. Soon I shall own two copies of all of my face works.

    1 for my bookself, so I can touch it, feel it, see it, smell it. And 1 for my iPad so I can have it with me wherever I go.

  95. Anonymous

    "I genuinely feel like reading on an iPad is a superior experience to reading on paper."

    And this is why I'm glad you're out of agenting.

    One down.

    About one thousand left to go.

    And, yes, I'm posting this anonymously, Mr. Social Media Expert, as is my right to do so. Clearly, that's what internet forums (and indeed comments sections) are all about. That I can post whatever the hell I feel like, anonymously, without any consequence of reprisal, is a beautiful thing.

    Also where's the post regarding piracy?

    Piracy took down the music industry, and at present it's having a dramatic impact on the gaming industry – isn't piracy going to be the death of the novelist? You bet it is. When a person can torrent an entire novel in literally a half a second, why would they pay for the novel? Only the most naive person would believe that the honor system will function. It won't. This is the end.

    When Gutenberg invented the printing press, it was a beautiful thing, for the very reason that a book is itself a physical artifact, and therefore its own form of DRM. How in the name of Socrates is the royalty system going to function now that books can be passed so freely and so easily? Answer me this, Mr. Social Media Expert.

    My god, I can see why you jumped ship.

    Turn out the lights. The party's over.

  96. Edward

    First, for full disclosure, I do not own any e-readers. The piracy comment above is a great concern. Musicians have shows to make up the loss from music piracy, is there anything comparable to a serious tour for smaller name authors? I personally prefer paper books, because I like to highlight, underline, dogear, and write in margins. Plus there is an added benefit if I need to go back for a specific passage to quote in my own writing. Do you think that collector editions of larger or popular series/books could keep a decent amount of paper book buyers? And would a book like House of Leaves or Hopscotch really work on an e-reader? As one who likes a 'visual' aspect in some writings(footnotes, italics, bold type, etc.), but not all books(actually working on a book that is inspired by various 'artistic tricks'), I ask the board, if e-readers take over, would books using 'interesting visual' dynamics be discouraged, disappear, or be forced to take an e-reader type-setting into consideration? Thank you.

  97. Clara Rose

    I love the digital reading too Nathan… but I'm afraid I won't ever give up the printed version. I love the smell of the pages and the feel of the binding.

    Don't you run your finger along the titles at the bookstore, stopping now and then to check out the cover, if one catches your eye?

    Could you give up a quiet afternoon at the book store, latte in one hand and a stack of adventure under the other arm?

    I might read most things digitally these days but my home library will continue to grow!


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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