An amazing thing happened to me at Walmart yesterday (besides finding a parking spot less than two miles from the door). While wandering around the book aisle, I picked up a likely prospect and read the back cover copy. I decided I’d like to read it and then…I put it back on the shelf and made a mental note to look it up on Fictionwise when I got home.
I prefer digital to paper now?
EC offered me my first contract (for Twice Upon A Roadtrip) on the 31st of January 2005, so I’ve lived in the land of ebooks for almost four years, so why did it take so long for reading ebooks to catch on for me?
I think the biggest stumbling block to spreading the ebook love is that, despite the wide variety of digital devices and formats for the books, finding the right combination is personal and experimental—almost trial and error. Well, you can’t go to Walmart and spend an hour hands-on analying all the different ereaders and ebook formats, can you?
I consider myself average. I’m a little more tech savvy than some and a lot less than others. I may be a stay-at-home mom, but I also work from home (and that includes the husband’s business). Throw in errands, appointments, and all the normal crap and when do I read? I read while sitting in the
parade of morons pick-up line at school, standing at the stove stirring sauce, waiting for the dentist to catch up to appointments, in the tub, and yes…stealing a few paragraphs here and there in the bathroom hiding from my kids.
I think the average person’s first exposure to ebooks is reading a PDF copy on her computer. At best it’s far less appealing than having a paperback to curl up with or stand at the stove with. At worst it’s so miserable she decides ebooks aren’t for her, period.
“Oh, but you don’t have to sit at your computer! You can buy an ebook reader!”
Sure, shell out several hundred dollars so you can be frustrated by formats, syncing and DRM and a whole list of things you don’t understand. Oh, and you can’t try out the readers and formats so you have to pick blind and order it. (Hopefully the Sony unit being in Borders and Target and where-have-you will help that.) Seems a lot easier to toss a book into a cart with the toilet paper and Hamburger Helper, no?
So how did I wind up putting that book back on the shelf so I could hurry home and buy the ebook?
I started out not seeing the appeal of ebooks. Reading on the computer sucks. Even the laptop isn’t portable enough for reading in the car/at the stove/etc. While I was buying some ebooks here and there I rarely read them. Time went by and eventually I got one of the lower-tier iPaqs and thought ebook revolution, here I come! Wrong. Adobe never worked right on it, so I put Microsoft Reader on there because it was easy and I’d used the desktop version (which I hated). While it was certainly more portable than the laptop, I could never get the font small enough and it felt like I was ‘turning the page’ every 2 seconds. It was annoying and eventually I stopped trying.
Then at some point I heard mention of Mobipocket and managed to load that on the iPaq. Now THERE was a format I could get behind. I could make the font small enough so I felt like I was getting to read a page before having to turn the page and it was easy to use. Loved it. Unfortunately that was around the time the iPaq’s battery started crapping out and I couldn’t get the battery to hold a charge long enough to even try to read a chapter. See, I thought, this is why paperbacks rule the world.
Then last Christmas I got a Palm TX. Experience taught me I preferred Mobipocket so I loaded that right away, and I began feeling the ebook love. It still, however, was a way to read Samhain books and books I couldn’t find at my Walmart. And then I belatedly discovered Fictionwise, from which I could buy books from all my favorite authors and publishers in one place, and get micropay rebates. It doesn’t take buying many books at all before you’ve saved up enough for a free category romance. While I was buying and reading a lot more ebooks, my first instinct was the Walmart shelf grab.
And then (an den…an den…) the great remodel. There’s nothing like loading up boxes upon boxes upon boxes of books—most of which have been “TBR” for years—to make a person appreciate digital books. Plus, with my bookshelves gone and every inch of my house overrun by refugee items from the den, I didn’t have the space to bring more books in. Feeling a little meh about it, I switched over to ebooks for the duration. Throw in some awesome eHarlequin sales and spending enough time e-reading to help break the “habit” of paperback reading and I appear to be hooked to the point I deliberately chose digital over paper.
When you think of the fact I’ve been published with two epublishers for several years and was still slow to embrace the technology for my own leisure reading, it’s not hard to imagine why paper still so clearly rules the sales roost.
I did do the happy dance when I saw the Sony reader at Target, though. That’ll help spread the love! (Although it would have helped even more if the display model actually worked and showed a book, but whatever.)