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GRETCHEN HAERTSCH ON: Chris-Kindle: My E-Book Christmas

January 3, 2011

This Christmas, my husband and our two twenty-something kids bought me a Kindle e-book reader. This may not sound like much of a news flash for folks who don’t know me, but I’ve found a fair degree of incredulity among my close friends and relatives. “Did you actually want one?” they gasp. I am, after all, what marketers call a “late adapter” – someone who trails the pack considerably when buying into new technology. My God, back in the 1980s, my mother had to talk me into buying a microwave oven. And, as a dyed-in-the-wool devotee of books and a writer, wouldn’t using an e-reader feel a bit like heresy?

Turns out it feels pretty good. In fact, I was so excited with the gift that in the wee hours of December 26th, I got out of bed to play with my Kindle under the Christmas tree. I purchased my very first e-book, the new biography Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever. I began devouring it immediately, eliciting surprise from by family: “How did you know how to do it?” my husband asked. I acted a bit smug, but the truth is, ordering and downloading a book is amazingly easy, even for the techno-challenged.

Using the Kindle also feels green. We’ve long outgrown our book shelf space, despite some pretty impressive shelf-feet and frequent agonizing purges. Being a college professor with two English-major kids doesn’t help. We all love books and have trouble parting with favorites. Of course, deliberating over when to obtain the hard copy book and when the electronic version will suffice is sure to be the next conundrum. I suspect I will still want my favorites to be traditional versions. But for a novelist and writing teacher who must survey a large number of books to stay current with the market, the e-book reader is a Godsend.

Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007 and has sold 7 million of the devices in the three years that followed. According to a September 10 Los Angeles Times article, “roughly 1 in 10 people who shop on Amazon’s Web store have purchased a Kindle.” The article predicts that sales of the “devices and books are projected to hit nearly $2 billion, up 342% from 2009.”

A December 23, 2010, article in Bloomberg Business Week is equally upbeat. It predicts 2010 sales of the Kindle electronic-book readers for 2010 at more than 8 million, at least 60 percent more than analysts had predicted.

As I’ve written before, e-books offer lots of exciting options for writers; we’d be foolish to ignore their existence. I predict that traditional books will be around for a long time, but e-books are gaining serious ground. Publishers are still not making the kind of money they’re used to on e-book publishing, but backlist e-publishing could change that. That could help pay the advances for new writers coming along. After all, Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle content, wants to make “every book ever written in any language, in print or out of print, all available within 60 seconds.” Quite a goal…and think what that means to us as writers!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emilie permalink
    January 3, 2011 12:33 PM

    One thing I’m wondering about the e-readers is how it will change lending books. Not just with libraries, but among friends. I wonder is they will develop a feature for this…

    • Gretchen Haertsch permalink
      January 3, 2011 8:34 PM

      Interesting comment, Emilie. Lending a favorite book is a nice part of owning books, after all. I suspect Amazon and other providers wouldn’t be too big on this. Their profits are already taking a nosedive with the e-readers. Pretty fascinating to see all this evolving, isn’t it?

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