Broken Screens

Blog No. 246

kobo-e-readerRecently, my trusty ereader died. It’s a first generation Kobo, bought when I was working at Chapters seven or so years ago. A lot of book lovers I know (including writer friends of mine) have very strong views about ereaders, mostly against. Some are so strongly anti-ereader that they cheer the articles that proclaim digital death to electronic books. I’ve spoken before about my ereader, and my feelings that there is not only room for all books (physical, digital, or audio) but there are real benefits to having the option. Some authors have even made whole careers through the Kindle store alone. (Though a lot of that stuff is the kind of scam/crap that authors bring up when arguing against ereaders).

I’ve been looking to replace my ereader for some time. It was showing its age and some of the modern features are worth looking into. I held off for so long because most new ereaders in North America don’t have buttons anymore. I love a good button, but more importantly, I am not very fond of screen tapping. Especially when the screen is matte plastic. Let’s not even get into the idea of swiping. No thank you. I have found, there are a bunch of nice looking European ereaders with buttons, but the ones you can order end up being way too expensive with shipping, exchange, and fees. Kindle has a couple with capacitive buttons that I’d be willing to try, but I’m not big into the Kidle ecosystem, and it’s all or nothing with Amazon. I’d like to stick with Kobo, since that was my first one and there is still a small Canadian connection, but that means no buttons. It’s all moot, because I don’t have the extra cash to buy one right now anyway.

canadianbookconsumerpurchasesbyformatBut, you may be asking why I’d want an ereader if they are dead (or dying). The issue is much more complicated and somehow very simple. The reports (at least the ones most people refer to) are from newspapers like The Globe and Mail or the New York Times. They tend to say, often with a catchy title, that ereader sales are down and that spells doom for the industry. The problem is, with very simple research, there are industry articles that explain the issues. A few years ago, the booksellers gained control over ebook pricing and immediately set the price to equal to (and sometimes more than) the cost of a paperback book. As soon as the change was made, the sales of ebooks plummeted. Who would buy a digital file for fifteen or twenty dollars when you’re used to paying one to five? By the time the pocket book is out, the ebook is often more expensive. No wonder the industry is in shambles.

Dead though? Not yet. The convenience of digital books, the availability of hard to find or independent titles, and library rentals are keeping things moving forward until things get back in order price-wise. That being said, I am still a fan of physical books. I’m even quite fond of some audio books (when the narrator is good). There are books I love so much, I have to put them on my shelf. Few things look as good as a row of your favourite hardcover books (especially when they are designed well). Reading a hardcover though. I’ll take an ebook every time. That’s the thing. There is room for both. I can understnad if someone just doesn’t like the experience, but to hate ereaders seems strong to me. They don’t threaten physical books, they just add more to the pot. Now, I’ve just got to save up enough for a new one. I’ve got a few books I’m half way thought I can’t wait to finish.


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