Once upon a time, I was an early adopter (I have the first generation iPod to prove it). Somewhere between when my trusty iBook died on me and the disappointment I experienced after buying a lemon VW with Nick Drake’s Greatest Hits permanently lodged in the CD player, I lost that desire to be the first kid on the block with the coolest toy. (could also have something to do with having a mortgage and a garden)
I am admittedly a late-bloomer to the e-reader trend. The former road warrior in me sees the major benefit to traveling with something much lighter than a paperback, but a lighter travel schedule put that purchase further down the to-buy list. A few months ago, my best friend gave me her Kindle so I could take it out for a test drive. I had wanted to read Justin Cronin’s The Passage, but at nearly 800 pages my arms quivered at the thought of curling up with it (not to mention they were still jelly from reading Franzen’s Freedom). The Passage was my first Kindle read (awesome book, by the way) and it was probably more enjoyable without the workout involved. But after that, I picked up a physical book to read next and had an equally enjoyable experience.
Do I think e-readers are going to take over the printed book? I really hope not. Don’t get me wrong, any time I want to dive into a large book, it’s going to be on my Kindle. But I think they do have their limitations. For example, one of my summer guilty pleasures is to float in the pool with a Bud Light with Lime (I did say this is a guilty pleasure) and the latest Sookie Stackhouse book. Now Heaven forbid my Kindle get wet and short circuit during one of Sookie and Eric’s steamy sex scenes (Team Eric here). So, I’m pre-ordering the hardcover rather than downloading it. And, I rely on books to keep my old dog from getting into things she’s not supposed to while we’re at work … an e-reader wouldn’t stop this determined pooch.
Now that I’m trying to break into the publishing business, I think about it much more than I did when I was simply an avid observer. I love spending a rainy Saturday roaming through a bookstore with a coffee in one hand and about a dozen books in the other. My whole life I wanted to have my own library, and now that we have one in our house, I couldn’t imagine its shelves bare. But with my bookstore options dwindling (exactly one in a 20 mile radius) I start to wonder about the future of the printed word.
I don’t think books in the physical form will go away completely. My guess is that somewhere books and e-readers will learn to co-exist peacefully. And, if the e-readers make reading suddenly cool again, then I’m all for that. Some medium I think could greatly benefit from going purely digital (magazines, newspapers), but call me old-fashioned, there’s just something about reading a book that keeps me from taking the plunge completely. Maybe when Kindle comes out with a version that spritzes the air with the smell of pulp …