Saturday, 23 June 2012

Is the rise of the Kindle bad news for books?

from the Kip McGrath Urston blog

At the age of 8, my end of year school report contained the comment, “Kelly must realise that there is more to life than books.”

BooksPossibly a tad harsh for a Y3 pupil but it nicely illustrates the fact that I have always loved reading. I am happy to say that I have passed this trait on to my 3 primary school aged children. Our house is full of books, the children’s rooms are also full of books and our bookshelves are bulging. Any attempt to re-home books is met with extreme resistance from the younger members of our family.
Last year this began to cause problems; there was no room for new books and we were beginning to look like one of those hoarder’s houses you see on the TV. This is when I made the decision to go over to “the dark side”; I bought a Kindle!

A report in the Guardian this week described how a bookseller in Hay on Wye is leading a campaign to ban Kindles and e-readers often get a very hostile reaction from book lovers.

When I first got mine, fellow book loving friends were horrified! How could I? Surely an electronic gadget can’t be the same as a book? I was bombarded with questions and incredulity. Despite this I very quickly began to love my Kindle just as much as I had loved books.
  • I love the fact that I can get a new book straight away online, I never need to worry that I will finish a book and not have another to go onto.
  • I love the built in dictionary and thesaurus; I can find the meaning of a new word without having to take a break from my reading.
  • I never lose my place.
  • I can read whilst having my lunch without having to prop the book open!
  • It is fantastic for holidays.
  • I now have the Kindle app on my iPhone and iPad, making reading on the go and in the the dark even easier! Furthermore the apps are free!
  • I can read free samples of any book I find interesting in the comfort of my own home and Amazon often has free titles available.
  • I can subscribe to newspapers and magazines on my Kindle which cuts down my paper consumption significantly.
 Before I knew it I actually loved my Kindle more than books to the extent that I now put off reading actual books because I find them awkward and cumbersome. Several of my friends who had expressed disdain when I first got my Kindle are now converts too.
This is a worrying time for the book world, this year sales of e-books have matched sales of real books. Some “real book” advocates have even gone as far as suggesting thatKindles should be banned. It must also be a very worrying time for public libraries, particularly with many of these suffering budget cuts at the moment.
I spoke to Debby Woods who is the Team Manager at Urmston Library to find out her viewpoint on electronic reading devices. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she also has a Kindle, having become a convert after being bought one as a gift! Trafford Libraries are well aware of the rise of e-books and are responding by introducing their own system of e-books this summer. Their version of a Kindle, called Overdrive, will be available to borrow after paying a deposit of £20. There will then be 900 titles available to borrow via the library’s own website. These e-books will also be compatible with Kindles and have a loan period of 1 to 3 weeks. Once launched the website will continue to have more titles added, including children’s books. This is great news for parents with children like mine, who specialise in losing library books!

Some books will never be replaced by a Kindle. A beautifully illustrated picture book can never be replaced by an electronic gadget and it isn’t a great idea to read a Kindle in the bath! We have a selection of children’s books in our centre that children can borrow and our pupils love browsing through them after lessons, again you can’t peruse books on a shelf with an e-reader! Nevertheless we need to celebrate the best of both worlds rather than attempting to resist progress. There is no denying that e-books will continue to increase their share of the markets but, with libraries now making this technology available to all and e-reading apps free on many smartphones, I think that this will make reading easier and more accessible or all. How can this be a bad thing?

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