Monday, September 19, 2011

Assuaging My Conscience

I have talked to some people recently who hate and distrust my Kindle (Writer Friend, usually in favour of the written word in any form, eyed it suspiciously on first meeting it as though it were a large growling dog. It took them a while to learn to get on).

I've heard that Kindles and their ilk are killing 'real books' (I have read tons of books on the Kindle at this point and the only one that felt like a fake book was, well, my own). I've heard that as a writer, I shouldn't own one because I should want 'real books' to survive.

My usual answer to this is 'I have bought over 100 books this year, for my Kindle, and I've only had it for seven months. How many have you bought?' If the 'but they're not real books!' argument continues, I tend to say 'This year I've managed to give royalties to more authors than I ever have before. And they get a higher royalty rate from my purchases than yours. I don't see how this is a problem?'

Depending on whether or not I'm doing my Scary Voice, most people back off at this point. You should never mess with a short girl who likes books - she will have honed her sarcasm skills.

But there is one thing I feel bad about, and that is bookshops. I love bookshops, and I am very aware that the money I have spent on books this year has benefited authors and publishing houses. But not bookshops.

I don't believe print books will die anytime soon. There are far too many well-read and intelligent late adopters of technology. I live in a country that doesn't have universal broadband availability yet (#firstworldproblems), which will no doubt affect uptake as buying books online is a headache with slow speeds.

That said, I am concerned that, as a young city-dweller, bookshops may die out in my own environment soon. This year, Dublin lost Waterstones. Who knows who it will be next year?

So what is a broke, Kindle-loving bookshop enthusiast to do?

Well, my mother's birthday is next month. I'm buying her a book. And for the dreaded C-word of which we do not speak, I usually buy books for at least a couple of relatives. This year, I'll be making an effort to buy as many books as I can (there are no Kindle/Nook/iPad owners on my gift list - well, there is one iPad-owning uncle but he prefers print books).

Have your book-buying habits changed? Do you make an effort to buy any kind of book (new releases, special editions, etc) to support the retailer or the industry?


  1. I was given a Kindle as a gift. Until then I had no desire to own one as I love going to book stores and also reading paper books. BUT I do have to say I love being able to have so many books at my fingertips in one handy device. It's also great because the books arrive immediately. I still buy print books though. My nightstand is stacked with print books and my Kindle. Mainly I haven't given up print books because I can buy them cheaper than Kindle books on Amazon. So I don't believe that print books will be phased out immediately. At least, I hope not...I still love the smell of new books.

  2. I'm the same, Kitty, I still buy print books. Admittedly fewer, but still, I buy them.

    And I find the Kindle brilliant for travelling. And for those days when I'm heading out the door to work and realise that I'm close to the end of my current book. Instead of having to lug a second paperback with me, I can read something already on the Kindle or I can download something new :)

  3. I don't understand the "not real books" argument. All of the books I've bought on Kindle so far have also been traditionally published. I buy them on Kindle partly because I don't have to worry about where to put them afterwards (no more room on my bookshelves) and because they are cheaper, which makes me more willing to spend money, actually. ($17.99 on a relatively unknown $7.99...possibly.)

  4. Yes, I recognize that dilemma : I love books and bookshops ... and my Kindle. Still, paper or screen is just a medium isn't it? It's the story, the words of the book that really matter, rather than how they happen to be delivered to your brain.

  5. I go back and forth between print and my e-reader. I love my Nook because it's easy to read at the gym, I can put documents on it, and I can buy a lot of books at once. I can even bookmark and highlight pages I want to analyze in my Nook. But I also love the print/paperback books. I can write in them, underline, make notes, brainstorm my own work as I'm reading and do all this very quickly. My handwriting is faster than the cumbersome Nook with all its buttons. So I buy both.

    There's room for both!

  6. I still haven't bought a Kindle, but only because I haven't gotten around to it yet. I definitely want one, but don't think that'll mean I no longer read books printed on dead trees. I'll be an equal opportunity reader.

  7. Okay talk about feeling guilty, I usually get my books for free at the library, or haunt used bookstores and buy them that way. But I am buying more books on the Kindle than I have before. Ebooks has been good for writers, bad for bookstores. But then so has Amazon, it's been that way from the beginning, why should they change now? And I believe that the really top notch indie bookstores that run things like a business and work very hard to keep their customers and get new ones, will survive after all this is over.

  8. Mine will change the moment I get a Kindle. I'm tired of being stuck in a country where I don't get the books I want without importing them...

  9. You know, I love my Kindle, but I still buy a lot of books. Sometimes Kindle books are too pricey to compete with a print book for me. Sometimes I just want a regular copy - if there are pictures, if it's reference material, if it's a beach read. I'm not sure I bought fewer print books at all this year; I think I just bought additional books for the Kindle.

    Thanks for the kind comments on my blog. It means a lot to me! :)

  10. I put off getting a Kindle for the longest, for the usual reasons. Well, it didn't take long for me to get hooked on the convenience. And, with Border's closed, I use the Kindle more and more - I still buy books, paid full price for Daniel Silva's latest - so think there's a good balance.

  11. Laura, I agree completely. I have bought some self-pubbed books on the Kindle but the majority are traditionally published.

    Storage is an issue for me too. I like with my mother, and she is not happy about the amount of space my books take up!

    Simon, definitely - story was king when we told them around campfires, when we put them on celluloid, when we wrote them by hand or when we posted them online. That never changes!

    Christine, I'm faster at handwriting than typing on the Kindle too, but I do type when I have to. There are a few advantages of paperbacks too - no 'low battery' woes for one!

    Susan, sounds like a good plan :) if you do get a Kindle, hope you enjoy it.

    Karen - I will be very sorry if the ebook revolution costs us bookshops, but I think the good ones will survive. I buy a lot of books second hand too, because they're cheaper and I'm often broke, so I feel much better about buying on the Kindle because it's still a recordable, royalty-earning sale. I know WiDo has a huge focus on ebooks, do you think ebooks have been good for small presses?

    Misha - I feel your pain. After buying Kiersten White's Paranormalcy on the Kindle I saw it in a bricks-and-mortar-bookshop in Dublin and squeed aloud (quietly, might I add!). It was such a novelty to just be able to walk in and buy it. YA isn't quite as big here as it is in the US.

    Guinevere, that's definitely an ethical use of the Kindle - more books :) There are definitely some things you need in paper form alright. I'd feel that way about comfort reads - the kind of things you curl up with. I haven't quite adjusted to curling up with the Kindle yet.

    You're very welcome for the comments. You've had a rough year and of course your blog buddies care and are thinking of you :)

    Kittie, I got seriously hooked myself. I work in a suburb with one fairly good new bookshop and one good secondhand one, but for anything a bit unusual, I have to go into the city. It isn't far but realistically I can only do it twice a week. So nice to think 'Oh, I want that book. I'll get it now!'

    I'm dreadful for downloading them at work actually. I'll pop into Amazon for five minutes and buy about seven books and they'll be waiting for me when I switch my Kindle on at lunchtime or on the way home :)


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