Ten years of ebooks

Amazon is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Kindle, and the introduction of the Kindle is what made ebooks a real thing. Still, things can be slow to catch on and it took nearly four years for early-adopter me to buy my first Kindle (third generation, the last to have a mostly-useless keyboard).

I’ve been a devoted user ever since, though my patterns of use have varied over the years. At times I have scoured the internet for free ebooks, and was almost offended by prices higher than $5. Now I will click on a $2-3 book offer if there is any chance I’ll want to read it in the future, I don’t object to paying $10, and will occasionally pay more when I want to contribute to a writer’s efforts. A good example is How to Think by Alan Jacobs. I love Jacobs as a writer, but have only ever bought his books used from AbeBooks (purchases for which he earns nothing) and then only if I can find a decent copy for under $4 with shipping—the others I’ll find in a library, or forgo reading altogether. But I paid $12 for a Kindle copy of How to Think, and even pre-ordered it months ago, because I want this particular book to succeed and am happy to send a bit of cash his way, even if it means paying a great deal more to a greedy publishing conglomerate.

When ebook self-publishing was in its early days I anticipated a revolution in what was being written and read, while the traditionalists saw it as just one more fad. The reality ended up somewhere in the middle. Still, I think it’s very early days for ebooks and ebook readers. I don’t expect that the essential nature of the book will change, but I do think there is a lot of work left to be done to make e-readers usable and ebook libraries manageable. And a lot of the work is being done, steadily and quietly. Every so often I notice that my Kindle works a little bit better—things are easier to highlight, or the procedure for highlighting something makes more sense, or it’s easier to find passages in a book. And the potential for huge jumps in usability are there, particularly in library management and in saving material discovered online for later offline reading.

I have a Kindle Voyage, and although I love it I would be nearly as happy with a Kindle Paperwhite for about half the price. You can save another $40 by getting the entry-level Kindle, but the screen is lower resolution and there is no backlight, and those two features are pretty important to me.

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2 thoughts on “Ten years of ebooks

  1. Interesting thoughts, Rick. I would have thought that you would have adopted the Kindle earlier than 3rd gen (although that was still pretty early).

    I avoided the first gen Kindle (although I wanted one) mainly because of the price. I had a Sony reader instead and, like you, scoured the Internet for free books – most of which were classics I hadn’t yet read and intended to get caught up on. But I capitulated with the 2nd gen Kindle and never looked back.

    With later versions, I did actually have a tough time adapting to NOT having the keyboard. I found that I took a lot of notes when I had it and did miss it when it was gone. The screen-based keyboard was never the same for me and I slipped more into just highlighting instead of also noting my thoughts. But I do like the lighter weight and backlight of the modern versions.

    My kids have benefited from my love of the Kindle and subsequent upgrades because they have received the hand-me-down models as I advanced. Interestingly, they prefer actual books. They generally only use a Kindle if when traveling.

  2. I bought a used Kindle in 2011 (pre-Fire) and I use it very, very occasionally. 2-3 times a year. If I want to read a book on the screen, I do so on my laptop, and that usually because I’m writing about it and want to use the cut / paste function. Sometimes that is via the Kindle app, but more often it’s not. Otherwise, I am a super-user at the public library, a regular user of PaperBack Swap, and buy and read paper books, used if possible.

    I think this happens mostly because I don’t find reading on the screen relaxing. I’m always rushing ahead, and it’s not pleasurable.

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