Will E-readers One Day Rule the World?

Print books, e-books or both. What do you prefer?

This Christmas two people in my husband’s family got new e-readers so we spent a lot of time discussing reading — print or ebooks and what we each read.  Not surprisingly, e-reader fans are a bit like religious converts.  They are the BEST, the MOST CONVENIENT and likely to be the only thing available one day soon.

Really?  Because those of us who don’t have them at this point in the Edwards family simply don’t want them.  Got that?  Do Not Want Them.  We prefer our books in print.  We don’t mind having shelves of books in our home or carrying them with us when we travel.  (Yes, the e-reader fans complained about the space that books annoyingly take up in their homes.  I had to work very hard not to laugh at them since none of these people have a 20foot long book shelf that is full.  None.  Novices.)

That seems to be the big selling point for e-readers.  The books take up so little room.  You don’t have stacks of books on your bedside table or shelves of books in your home.  And they are much easier to travel with.

To a point, I get that.  Especially if you have a book loving toddler, you can travel with an e-reader with 40 picture books much easier than you can lug a tote full of books.  That makes sense.

But I can’t see turning a host of toddlers and preschoolers loose with e-readers on a regular basis.  Face it.  Haven’t you ever checked out a picture book from the library and then had to carefully separate two pages that have been joined by cereal or some other goop?  Though I’ve heard some people say that fewer picture book kids use e-readers simply because of parental conservatism, I suspect it may be parental intelligence.  A book can handle much rough treatment than an e-reader.

Personally, I also wonder about the longevity of individual e-books.  I own books that I bought in grade school.  My 12 year-old has read them.  My grandchildren will be able to read them.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve also got books that belonged to my great grandmother.

I also have computer games that I bought for my son when he was 6.  We no longer have a machine that will run them.  We cannot buy new technology that will run them.  When someone wants to borrow my copy of Janni Simner’s Thief Eyes, I can hand it to them.  An e-book?  Copyright issues come into play.

This doesn’t mean that I think e-books are inconsequential.  But I also think that anyone (reader or publisher) who thinks that they will replace print books is extremely short sighted.  Not everyone can afford an e-reader let alone a reader for everyone in the family.  Lots of people.  Then there are the people who can afford them and just don’t want them.

For three years now, Verso Digital has collected data from consumers of both e-books and print books.  The most recent data collected yielded some interesting numbers.  Of those surveyed, 15.8 percent already own a reader, 6.4 percent are likely to purchase one, and 9.9 percent are somewhat likely.  51.8 percent, on the other hand, say they are not at all likely to purchase a reader.  51.8%.  That’s not an inconsequential number folks.  You can read the rest of the Publisher’s Lunch article here.

Just some interesting food for thought.