Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why an e-reader

This week, I asked people who were intense readers why they went to e-readers or kept with print books. I put the pros in order the group discussed their preferences, not my preferences:

Why to use an ereader:
1. Ease of acquiring books.
2. Size of the portable library in hand.
3. Adjustable font size (reading for poor vision)
4. Economics for those 'intense readers'
5. Lack of eye-strain (mostly vs. mmpb)
6. Ability to switch to text to speech.
7. Ebooks do not take up physical space.

Why not to use an e-reader
1. Pleasure of the p-book experience
2. Economics for those who 'read little'
3. Lack of eye-strain reading hardcovers
4. Books can be disposable.
5. Ease of book borrowing/sharing

One group was at a kiddie birthday party, so for all, the ease of acquiring books was paramount. Everyone agreed that they just do not have the time (nor hands) to browse a bookstore. Time with the kids is precious, so book buying must be done during the child's nap/sleep or other times that do not require a dedicated trip. The same was true of disposing of books. So parents of young kids are gravitating to e-readers for convenience.

I find it interesting how fast some of my friends are losing visual acuity. :( For those having this happen at a younger age, they simply cannot find large type books that are of interest. For them e-readers are a blessing.

Of interest was how good the android 'text to speech' readers have become. The father that 'hacks everything' had his android equipped with a variety of voices. To be blunt, Amazon had better match this technology or I might switch e-readers!

There really was a line drawn between those who mostly read hardcovers and those that mostly read mass market paperbacks (mmpb). Most mmpb readers had gone e-reader; perhaps 2/3rds of them. Most of the holdouts will borrow a Kindle and/or a Sony e-reader to see if they want to switch.

Most intense readers had to give up space previously used to store p-books. Let's say I wasn't the only one who made the switch to cut out the clutter.

For some hardcover lovers, the preference was visual acuity (ease of reading). They switched to hardcovers due to the higher quality paper. Two are going to borrow a Kindle to try it out.

The other hardcover lovers 'retreat to books' as a break from the modern 'fast paced tech society.' For them, a p-book is like an old piece of furniture; it isn't there for its practical worth, the p-book is to take the reader away to a better place that doesn't have blackberries or screens with Microsoft project deadlines.

Overall, a few more will try e-readers. But I finally found a reason I can understand why tech savy individuals might resist e-readers; the relaxation aspect of retreating into a favorite reading location that is in a 'tech free zone.' So now I understand why some intense readers want the piles of books, inconvenience or procurement/disposal, and cost of Hardcover p-books. It is the retreat from tech. (All love & work tech, but that isn't the same as not wanting a break.)

I've argued p-books will survive with better than 20% market share. After this discussion, I could see stabilization at 40% market share (at most). Used book stores will be around as long as the acid in the paper allows them to trade.

Note: among those I polled, we had very different experiences in how older mmpb's held up. Hardcovers definitely have less acid in the paper, judging the durability of the books.

The other points didn't seem worth taking your time discussing. If you would like to know more, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

For me, my retreat is getting into the book's story and having the reading medium disappear. For me, e-books provide the better experience. But I finally had a group of people able to explain the reasons behind 'loving the page turning experience' for reasons that didn't seem either contrived or a resistance to change.

Let's face it, this is healthier 'escapism' than drinking, over-eating, or smoking.

Got Popcorn?

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