I think PRINT BOOKS have an important role to play, even as technology changes. Print books are actually a class and economic issue, because of the secondary, used and donated book market that will disappear eventually. Perhaps it’s my social worker perspective, but I'm sensitive to the divide between the haves and have-nots, and the e-reader issue points this up.
How many older people can or will make the switch? How about the poor, the homeless, those in jail? Books are an important escape and route to education for working-class and poor folks, and libraries historically have been great equalizers and hangouts for a cross section of every community.
On Maui, our Borders store in Kahului functioned as a community center, a place where kids collected to read, real estate agents met their clients, and everyone gathered for poetry readings and ukulele jams.
The loss of Borders hit our island hard, and it hasn’t been replaced. Barnes & Noble, way over in Lahaina and much smaller, is all we have left. We all need to support them, or we’ll have nothing at all, and with the cuts to libraries, I worry we’ll lose access to those books too.
In Hawaii, because of our isolation, it’s a class issue. I believe passionately that everyone should have access to books—not just those who can afford and will use an e-reader.
For us authors, it's a difficult call. I'm trying to play the whole field in the interests of the most access for readers.
What do you think of the future of books, and access to them?
I won’t put my novel into the Kindle Select so that my indie bookstore can use an android ap to download the book from Nook to get a buy. It’s weird, because B & N has their own e-reader and give no support what-soever to indie writers. Won’t have the books in the store, no support with their work in Nook.
I am happy with the way my book is selling and on the good side, it wouldn’t have happened without Amazon. Books, I totally agree, are for all people, especially our vulnerable populations. Support libraries (some of the first democratic institutes in the American West) and bookstores.
I’m planning to donate copies of Orchids to the libraries here on Maui.
Love that Toby. Need to hold books in our hands … Thanks for delivering
NPR was just covering this issue yesterday or the day before. I’m assuming this is where you are making your decision from. It’s not right or wrong but most anything is a class and culture paradigm. The question is, how much action are you willing to take?
I didn’t know about the NPR thing, I honestly thought this up myself. as a social worker we are trained to try and see how underrepresented populations are impacted by societal change… so it’s that that informs my thinking, at least for now.
I understand where you’re coming from, Toby. Books should be able to reach as many hands as possible. Haven’t had to make a decision yet on the KDP issue, but my thoughts are that I want my books to be read by as wide a readership as possible.
Reading Blood Orchids now and enjoying it.
Whee! So glad to hear that and hope you enjoy!
I think that’s very noble of you (and that’s a genuine sentiment) and in the short term you’re probably right. But then, typewriters hung around for a long time after word processors took over. E readers will become dirt cheap, too. Personally, I think print books will go the way of hard cover books – only bought by collectors and die-hards. And I think eventually you’ll be able to borrow e-readers from libraries or have access to reading areas within in them. We just have to change and adapt.
I agree that eventually they will be that rarity–but not for longer than the pundits are saying.
I agree, that you are so good to make hard copies available to those who may not be familiar with or able to afford an e-reader. I still think there’s nothing quite like opening up a book and thumbing through its pages so I truly hope that books are here to stay. Information should be available to all, not just anyone who can afford it.
Now, if we could just solve the shipping issues and stocking issues and get the price to where people could afford it! Though, one book passes through a lot of hands. One staffer bought it at my school and it’s making the rounds. Cheaper in the long run than evryone buying it for e-reader!
I went the opposite direction with my latest book. I decided on KDP select because I’ve found Barnes & Noble to be making a lot of questionable business decisions as of late (their latest including threats to not carry Amazon imprints).
That being said, I’m in the process of proofing it for Paperback as well as I feel a paper version is likewise necessary.
That being said, I can see a future where devices like Kindles and Nooks become like cell phones. Ie they’re either free or dirt cheap, but you’re locked into one service. Amazon’s shown themselves to be fairly bold in this arena so I wouldn’t doubt them trying something like this. Also, keep in mind that Kindle and Nook apps are available for both phones, tablets, and PCs. Even if someone has an older computer, it might be more economically feasible to go down this route considering the low price of many ebooks.
As for libraries, those can be problematic in of themselves. Some will simply not accept some books (especially indie published) into their collections. Sure, they’ll accept the donation but then just go an try to resell them. I don’t mind donating my books to libraries, but it’s for the purposes of many people being able to enjoy them not for a quick pawn.
Gosh I’m shocked the libraries just get rid of indie-pub books! I hope that’s not true here.
It’s clear there are a lot of responses to the changes in publishing happening, and your idea of a phone reader tied to a service sounds scary, and likely! Thanks for weighing in, Rick!
My advice would be to speak to the librarian in charge of collections at any place you’re looking to donate to. At least that way you be able to get a straight answer as to the fate of your donations.
I’ve never thought about it this way. Those without the means are going to be further pushed down in class with less ability to read current works. Let’s hope there’s some kind of resurgence in local book stores sometime soon. Unfortunately, it’ll take somebody like Starbucks to do it, but some one needs to step up and offer more book stores.
I must confess…
I drank the Kool-Aid and love my Nook. Yet I don’t disagree with you, either. I think it’s part of a bigger shift – it happened with music, now it’s happening with books and soon even desktop and laptop computers will lose their ooomph. Wireless technology has changed the world and hopefully we will find a way to adapt. Can’t think of what it might be yet (lending e-readers? public e-readers readily available? price coming down to make them affordable to nearly everyone? I don’t know; just brainstorming). Totally agree with you re: Amazon, particularly after the Kindle Fire. Yikes…
I too mourned the loss of Borders, and hope that paper books will experience a revival, like radio. I love bookstores and paper books, and love being able to loan and borrow books – which is a lot harder with e-readers. Yet e-readers are mildew resistant where I live, so perhaps one day, when I finish my own stack of books to read, will shift my technology. Right now, my support goes to the Maui Friends of the Library, a used book store that supports Maui’s libraries. Books can get a second life there.
I’m with you, I buy my books at Savers! But if a new book never makes it into print, that whole ecosystem of secondhand reading is lost.
I am with Chris. I never really thought about the socioeconomic exclusivity of e-readers. Thanks for bringing a different perspective. There really has been a void on Maui post Borders. It would be nice if an independent shop could sustain itself in this market.
Toby, this is an AWESOME post. You are write on!
I support both, e-readers and print. But I’d hate to see books just offered on e-reader even if that is what works for me. I am in agreement on the loss of borders, there is something about touching books in real life, browsing that enhances the experience of reading. And we do need a space to meet writers, book clubs and other social activities based on a love of reading.
I grew up going to the library and am saddened to see the funding reduced. It is a class issue. Everyone should have access to books, reading and learning.
On 1 January B&N “purchased” forty-nine copies of two of my titles. I’ve offered these two free, and those are the only ones B&N “buy.” It apparently takes a good month and a half to get them into circulation, because in the last four days I’ve received three emails about the new one, demanding to know where the sequel can be found. I’m waiting to hear from Sony customers, because they also “buy” one of my titles — the free one, of course — although one-by-one.
1. People like free stuff, and if you can get them to look some will want to continue, especially if you end with the heroine on the train tracks and the sound of a whistle in the distance. But will they be willing to pay to continue? I dunno.
2. B&N, and maybe Sony, are playing some kind of game. Is it to benefit their customers only, and not themselves in some sneaky way? I dunno.
3. I now intend to break a long book, previously the only one with much readership, into a freebie and a sequel. Is this ethical? I dunno and I don’t much care.
Were these print books you gave them for free? How can you afford that?
Great article Toby! The digital world is taking over and will continue….sad but true. Even my mom who reads more than anyone I know and isn’t computer or electronics savvy at all, has a Kindle and loves it! She still have boxes of hundreds of books that she can’t seem to part with though 🙂 Losing Borders was very sad…it was a gathering place, meeting and hangout place. It’s too bad they could figure out a way to make it work…
We will for sure see less printed books, but I think the way to at least keep them going is for authors to keep the printed ones special by offering a little extra something only offered in the printed versions and of course you can’t autograph an ebook. Printed books may end up becoming collectors items…then you can charge more for them because they are special 🙂
I picked up Blood Orchids as a Kindle freebie. It is very unlikely I would have stumbled on your series otherwise. I enjoyed it very much and particularly relished the Big Island setting. I will gladly pay full price for your eBook sequels.
Regarding the impactof eBooks, I gave my 80 year old mother a Kindle 3 years ago and she reads nearly a book a day on it and calls it her “best friend”. It has given her much greater access to books than before. She has severe vision loss and limited transportation opportunities. Before Kindle she was restricted to reading large print library books which were too heavy to hold and difficult to obtain. Kindle has enriched her life immeasurably
Thanks so much for popping by and especially for raising the opposite side of the issue!
I am thrilled to hear this.
I think the fact that you gave it to her and helped her learn to use it is key. I wish all our elderly had someone like you in their lives. I think many cannot overcome tech phobia and/or cost issues. Once we have the kindle tho, there are a LOT of good free books out there, as you know! LOL
Great to meet you!
I bought my Kindle 4 years ago for over $400 dollars and at that time it was certainly a luxury item, but the basic Kindle is only $79 today. Transportation costs to and from the library/bookstore will go through $79 pretty fast.
Don’t underestimate the adapaptability of the elderly! I do supply the Kindle device and books for my mother, but I live 1000 miles away so she learned to use it on her own. I participate in a Kindle forum and through that have learned of nursing homes which have successful programs supplying Kindles to their residents. Perhaps I’m a bit sensitive on this topic… next year I’ll turn 60, an age many consider “senior”, yet I am employed as a software engineer, holding my own with colleagues decades younger, and planning to continue doing so for another 10 years at least.
Another important factor in access is the urban vs. rural reader. I grew up an avid reader with very limited access to books because our farm was so far from a library. Now think about that in the global scope. How many people in the world do not have access to libraries? Cell phones are widely used in the developing world, even among the poor (who can *receive* calls for free). Perhaps eBook readers will be the next accessible device for the have nots.
Another great point, Mary!
However, it’s hard to imagine getting immersed in a novel on a phone. I grew up poor and geographically isolated (Kauai) and our weekly trips to the library were my sole source of entertainment. I agree things are probably changing, and it won’t even be possible to have print books someday. Maybe the human brain can adapt to the sound bite formats that phones and devices provide–but it’s a profound rewiring issue.
I think we’re in a time of transition, and keeping our eyes open to repercussions for all populations is important.