A Year of Digital Reading

by Sarah on April 19, 2011 · 17 comments

Last April, I bit the bullet and purchased my first digital reading device. I was hooked on ebooks within the first few days. A year on, I don’t think I could ever go back to print, at least not for fiction.

So what’s changed (for me) since making the switch? Several things.

1. While I now buy and read more books than I did previously, the number of books I purchase from traditional publishers is way down. No surprise as to why: geographical restrictions.

2. Despite my initial misgivings about price discrepancies between print and digital, an ebook which is priced more than its print equivalent doesn’t deter me from opting for the digital version — within reason. If the difference is a dollar or less, I’ll opt for digital every time. If I order print books from Amazon or The Book Depository, they take a week to ten days to arrive. I might feel differently about saving a dollar here and there if I had the option to walk into a brick-and-mortar store and find all the books I wanted to read at a reasonable price. (Note: This only applies to paperbacks. There is NO WAY I’m paying full hardcover price for an ebook. If there’s a new HC release I really want to read in e, I’ll wait until Kobobooks has a 30% or 50% off voucher and buy it from them. That’s how I got the latest Michael Connelly.)

3. My purchase of an ereader coincided with several romance authors releasing their out-of-print backlists digitally (e.g.: Patricia Ryan and Alexis Harrington). This trend has continued. I’m beyond thrilled by this development as it enables me to read books I’ve heard about for years, but which were out of print. (Yes, I could have tracked down some of them used from Abebooks or Amazon Marketplace, but buying used books internationally is expensive, and I’ve been burned a time or two by the books never showing up.)

4. For the first time since I was a teenager, I read several Harlequin/Mills & Boon releases a month. I’m a sucker for exclusives such as the following months’ releases being available in e a month early. I know this shouldn’t matter, but it does. I’m also loving Harlequin’s digital backlist program. Every year, I used to check the RITA nominations for series romances and then had a hell of a time tracking down the ones which interested me.

5. My attitude to self-publishing and self-published books has undergone a transformation from scepticism to cautious optimism. With the exception of a couple of turkeys, I’ve enjoyed many self-pubbed titles over the past few months. There’s a viable market here, and not just for fiction. A few of my favourite writing craft books are self-published. They include: Alan Watt’s ‘The 90-Day Novel’ (also available in print); Holly Lisle’s ‘Create a Plot Clinic’; Alexandra Sokoloff’s ‘Screenwriting Tricks for Authors’, and Stacia Kane’s ‘Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet’.

6. I mentioned further up the post that I’m buying fewer books from traditional publishers. Many years ago, I read a couple of books released by epublishers. I wasn’t impressed. Based on that experience, I regarded epublishing as inferior to the traditional print route. Since I’ve had my ereader, my attitude to epublishers has changed — with a caveat. I’m wary of buying books from an epublisher I haven’t heard of before, especially if they don’t have a PayPal option on their website. Approximately 33% of the books I’ve read over the past few months are published by Carina, Samhain, Ellora’s Cave or Loose ID. Carina and Samhain are particular favourites of mine. I’m finding more “unusual” stories to fit my tastes (i.e.: ones which don’t slot neatly into a particularly genre or subgenre, or which are shorter than the average print book). A recent example is Josh Lanyon’s ‘Snowball in Hell’, a 44,000 word mystery slash m/m romance set in early Forties Los Angeles (Sunita reviewed this at Dear Author).

7. I am already looking at alternatives to my BeBook Neo when it gives up the ghost – although I’m rather hoping it stays with me for while longer. :D One of my criteria for my next digital reading device is a superior highlighting and note-taking function. I still purchase reference books in print where possible. This might change if I could colour highlight and bookmark pages in the same way I can with a print book.

To conclude: If digital reading isn’t the way of the future for everyone, it certainly is for me. Of the 180 novels I read since making the switch, 5 were in print.

Do you own a digital reader? If so, how has it changed the way you read and/or the books you buy?


Jeroen Steenbeeke April 19, 2011 at 10:28

I do not own a digital reader, but I am interested in getting one. My primary objection has always been that if a print version costs as much or less than a digital version then I prefer print.

On the other hand, I only have so much space to store print books, and there are plenty of e-published titles that are priced at less than print that I would probably enjoy.

Whether or not it will change the way I read or what books I buy remains to be seen. My favorite print authors combined release about 4 or 5 books a year, so I’ll probably keep reading those. What else I’ll read in addition to that? Who knows!

Tumperkin April 19, 2011 at 14:56

I couldn’t agree more. When I got my Kindle, I figured I would use it on holiday and for books I couldn’t get in print. I was very wrong. It has transformed how I read and indeed what I read. I only got it at Christmas and I’ve read more new-to-me authors in the last four months than probably in the two years before that. Plus all my pre-conceived ideas about ebooks have been blown to pieces. I’ve only bought 3 print books since Christmas and have totally stalled on the print books in my TBR pile.

Sunita April 19, 2011 at 15:18

I’m nodding my head as I read this. I’ve been reading ebooks since the only books available were public domain and the device was the Palm Pilot, but it’s only in the last couple of years that ebooks have taken over completely from print books, at least in fiction. Like everyone else, I’m tired of trying to find space to put print books, and then giving away books I later wish I had kept (I never pick the right ones to keep, apparently).

The price points for ebooks from major publishing houses have made a difference as well. I read category and epub presses almost exclusively now. I can think of 2 books in the last 6 months that were major pub presses, and I read both because of recommendations from trusted sources. I don’t read many self-pubbed books, but the small epub presses are just as good a bet for unknown authors as the Agency pubs, and they’re a lot cheaper.

I am an electronic toys junkie, so I read ebooks on a Kindle 2, a Kindle DX (good for pdf ARCs) and my iphone. My first dedicated ereader was a Sony, but it languishes, neglected, now.

I’m reading an old OOP western romance for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge, and I am finding I really don’t like the print format. It’s fat and bulky and the paper is crackly.

Nadia Lee April 19, 2011 at 15:38

I’m definitely interested in getting an ereader this year or maybe next year.

avoriana April 19, 2011 at 15:53

I’ve been ereading for two years, first with the Sony Pocket, then the Kindle 2, and now the Kindle 3. I never read a Harlequin before I got an ereader. I still have never bought a new print Harlequin, but I read about 6 Harlequin ebooks a month.

I prefer to buy everything digital because I can enlarge the font and because of storage. I buy used print when the digital is not available or when I find something in a thrift shop for fifty cents. Otherwise, digital. Except with books like Evangeline Collins’ Seven Nights to Forever, which is 9.99 for the e, which burns me to the point that I’m not buying at all.

FiaQ April 19, 2011 at 16:17

It was my husband who finally said, “Sod this. We’re getting an ebook reader for you (and another for me)” because of the costs of moving and storing my book collection. I had more than 5,000 books so yeah, it wasn’t practical or cheap, considering our relocations (five moves last six years). :D

I resisted ebooks for years because I didn’t like e-publishers’ preferred digital format at the time: PDF. Microsoft Lit was a massive improvement, but it still meant reading on PC. So my Sony Reader was a godsend. Almost all books I bought last two years are digital.

Only print books I’m easily willing to buy these days are children’s books. There are some digital books for children, yes, but I still want them to learn and experience the print book culture somehow. Plus, it encourages them to be independent and to form themselves as readers, such as picking books from shelves and pacing themselves with page-turning and so on. This way, they could alternate between print and digital books easily.

Sarah April 19, 2011 at 18:24

@Jeroen Steenbeeke: “I do not own a digital reader, but I am interested in getting one. My primary objection has always been that if a print version costs as much or less than a digital version then I prefer print.”

Initially, this was my primary reason for not getting an ereader. As I’ve discovered, if the price difference is not astronomical, and I want to read the book straight away, I’m prepared to pay a bit more for instant gratification.

Space was a major consideration for us, as well. By the time my husband and I made the switch to ebooks last year (he has an iPad), we had no space left on our bookshelves, and limited possibilities for building more.

Sarah April 19, 2011 at 18:36

@Tumperkin: Hee! Once you start reading ebooks, it’s hard to stop.

@Sunita: You’re clearly familiar with digital reading devices. Can you recommend one which can achieve what I’m looking for when reading non-fiction? Or does that not exist yet? Thanks!

@Nadia Lee: As the prices come down, I think more and more people will make the switch. For readers outside the UK and the US, the Kindle still isn’t the best device. Now that Kobo have announced they’re opening stores in Europe, I’m curious to see how long it will take Amazon to do the same.

@avoriana: I would love to know if Harlequin authors see a significant increase in royalties thanks to the ebook versions. I’d imagine they must given that the print books disappear off the shelves after a few weeks.

@FiaQ: 5,000 books? Wow! And I thought we were bad. :)

Thanks for mentioning children’s books. That was an issue I meant to touch on in my post, but forgot. Like you, I still buy print for the kids. It is the sensible option at the moment as I want them to be able to pick and choose what they read, and kids are drawn to colourful covers. As much as they love their father’s iPad, there is no way I’d get them one (or two) of their own until they are much older. Note: I don’t let them next or near my BeBook!

heidenkind April 19, 2011 at 19:23

I got a Kindle for Christmas. I do like it for some things, but I’m not as gung-ho about eBooks as you are (not yet, anyway). Usually after finishing an eBook, I want to go back to paper. I do like the fact that I can download classics for free now and read them, which is mainly what I’ve been using my kindle for, or get eARCs (I’m reading Snowball In Hell right now, coincidentally), but I don’t know… for some reason I still prefer print!

Edie April 20, 2011 at 01:37

As I spent the last couple of years reading ebooks on the computer, I wasn’t too fussed about getting an ereader – the geo-restrictions also played a role.
Then last year when a friend showed me a deal I couldn’t resist, I grabbed one.
OMFG I am soo in love!
I buy a lot less print than I used to for personal reading, and am reading even more epub than what I was before.
I also find print book reading annoying now, I read a trade last week and it was a good book, but it soo awkward a reading experience in comparison. argh

PS. LOVE Carina and Samhain.

Edie April 20, 2011 at 01:38

oh and the omnilit shop where you buy ten and get a coupon for a free book also = win.
Especially as it allows me to get the odd overpriced Loose Id book.

Keishon April 20, 2011 at 03:06

Since I was converted to digital (almost five years ago), it has def. changed how I read books. I would NEVER read series books because I hated the font in them and the packaging. Ereaders let you get around that. I have reading quirks (big font, huge margins, etc) that used to annoy me for print but those are no longer an issue. I def. buy a lot more ebooks and have gotten rid of a lot of my print copies. I love digital reading despite it’s challenges. Hate the pricing and the DRM though (well I think that’s understood).

Sarah April 21, 2011 at 14:29

@heidenkind: What did you think of Snowball in Hell? It was my first Josh Lanyon book.

@Edie: I hate trade paperbacks. They’re expensive and awkward to hold. I’m glad you’re enjoying your ereader. I’m also a fan of Omnilit. The deals tempt me into spending more than I should.

@Keishon: The ability to adjust font size is one of my favourite aspects of digital reading. DRM was another annoyance I forgot to mention in my post, but I agree.

Sunita April 21, 2011 at 14:38

Hi Sarah, I meant to answer your question but got distracted by that stupid day job.

Sadly, I have no really good solution for non-fiction books. You can take notes on the Sony Daily edition, and even write on the screen, but it’s expensive and the screen is too small for pdfs. The Kindle DX has the perfect screen for larger non-fiction but is horrible for note-taking. They both do highlighting and bookmarking well, and you can export your markups in both, I believe. The DX price just dropped in the US. But it’s quite large, so I don’t carry it around all the time. If the books come in ePub, rather than pdf, then I think the Daily Edition is better overall.

I rooted the NookColor for my husband. I haven’t used it, but from what I read the bookmarking and note-taking are not good. You can bookmark in the Kindle app, of course.

Eve Langlais April 27, 2011 at 18:18

Since hubby got me a Sony last May, my reading has gone way up as have my purchases. I live in a small town so was restricted as to my selection of paperbacks which went from 6$ and up. Most romances which I loved were at 9.99 which considering I read one a night was kind of pricy. With my e-reader, I’ve not only discovered some great ebook deals through Fictionwise and AllRomance, but even greater prices from Indie writers. I’m now back to reading a book a day or every other day but without breaking the bank even though I’m now spending more. I have to say, not all great stories come from NY. There are some ebook pubbed only authors whose backlists I’ve devoured. I love the e-book age!

Marg May 8, 2011 at 13:57

I haven’t gone as far digital as you but I love, love, love my ereader, in a way that probably surprises me a little bit. I still read a lot of books from the library, and buy paper books occasionally, but for reading egalleys, and downloading other books including romances etc the ereader is a god send!

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