Last night, I curled up in bed, and read three sample downloads of books on my iPad. Two of them were business books: Little Things and The Corner Office. The music was playing, I learned a lot, and I loved the experience.
I’m ready to weigh in… The iPad is the way to go for book lovers.
First, this caveat… I do very little reading outdoors. (make that none…) Yes, I’ve read that the iPad does not work as well as the Kindle for outdoor reading, but to me, that is a non-issue.
So, let me tell you how I am using the iPad to read books. To start, let me remind you of what I have written before. If you want to know what is in a book, read the book. That is the first, preferable approach. (I have never jumped on the audio books train, but to some, that may be as good an approach). But, to read the book, carefully, thoroughly, is the best way to glean the wisdom in a book. Everything else is “lesser.”
If you don’t have time to read the book, then download one of our 15minutebusinessbooks synopses for books we have presented (recorded at our live presentations at the First Friday Book Synopsis). You receive the audio of our synopses, plus the multi-page handout.
If you don’t have time to do that, then read the reviews of the book, and the best reviewer I know is Bob Morris, who shares his excellent reviews on our blog, among other places. Has he reviewed the book you are interested in? A good/quick way to find out is to simply google the title of the book, like this: Enchantment Bob Morris First Friday. It will take you right to his review (click here) of the new Guy Kawasaki book, Enchantment.
It is after this step that the iPad has become a wonder. When I read a review by Bob, and think “I really want to know more about that book,” I now immediately go to iBooks in my iPad and download the sample. It is a long enough excerpt that it really does give me a major taste of the book itself. I then can decide whether or not to read the entire book.
Here are a few observations from my experience, so far:
#1 – Of the two apps, iBooks is better than Kindle. Yes, you can use both the Amazon Kindle app, or the native to the iPad iBooks app, on the iPad. I have read books, and downloaded samples of books, on both. To me, the more readable/usable format is the iBooks. (Of course – that is what Apple is so good at).
In both formats, I like to hold the iPad in the landscape position, with two columns of text – practically like holding a book open. I make the print plenty large, so there are more “pages” in the book, but it facilitates a really fast reading pace. And I prefer the sepia background – just easier on the eyes, to me.
The highlight/note feature is easy to use on iBooks. Kindle has the highlight feature, but I do not find it as easy to use. (Maybe I am just a klutz).
#2 – With apology to Karl Krayer, my colleague who has weighed in heavily on this blog against e-books, and with apology to myself (I have written before about my love of actual, physical books), I hate to say this, but… reading a book on the iPad is actually every bit as fulfilling an experience as reading a physical book is. And, it is easier. The book is never too heavy, too big, the pages never flop closed. I hate to say it, but it may simply be a better experience.
Now, I know the worries – I share them. What will happen to the book business, to bookstores? And, yes, browsing in a bookstore, picking up volume after volume to flip through, is still superior to the iBooks and Kindle experience. But, once you’ve decided to read the book, I am really liking the iPad.
#3 – And, of course, the iPad beats the Kindle because of eveything else you can do. With a tap on the screen, I can turn my music on. I can, in a flash, check my e-mail or check a web site – and then, go right back to reading the book.
I don’t remember who first said it (it might have been Farhad Manjoo of Slate.com), but the iPad is the perfect device for “input.” It is not as good as a desktop or laptop for “output” work, but for input, like reading a book, it is a marvel.
Now, don’t take me wrong. I will still buy, and read and use, physical books. (For the First Friday Book Synopsis, I will have to – we give the books away at the end of each session). And I will still be adding to my physical books library.
But it is not an either-or proposition — it is a both-and proposition. And the iPad has become the “and” that I am really enjoying.
An increasing number of consumers now download and read books on electronic devices, such as the popular Kindle by Amazon, the Nook from Barnes and Noble, or the iPad from Apple.
As you survey my blog posts, I have long been an opponent of these devices. I have previously argued why traditional books should be the way to go. I will not repeat those arguments here – they are readily available in our archives.
I think the “show-stopper” will be the investigation and results that come from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) of the Federal Government. This watchdog association is notorious for its detailed and long-lasting impact on products that put consumers at risk.
My prediction is that tests will continue to reveal a negative impact on consumer exposure to these devices. An increasing number of reports available on the internet now reveal questions about the effects from reading text with these devices, including eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, and short and long-term vision loss.
To be fair, there are also a number of reports that call these claims “silly,” and there are also available posts that show consumers how to adjust the backlight and contrast in order to make the exposure more suitable for the individual.
All of this is fine, but the reports have brought enough attention where we will see serious, not anecdotal investigations into the effect of these products. You can regularly see recalls of products that the CPSC has deemed unsafe. Their decisions have brought dozens of manufactured products to their knees.
Will the CPSC be bold enough to go forward to apply the standards for safety that they have long used to these electronic devices for reading? What will the scientific investigations reveal? And, regardless of the findings, will enough consumers be scared, and return to the purchase of traditional books? I believe that this will happen. One credible report, with one major recall, that is announced with enough publicity, will be enough to significantly debilitate consumer acceptance of these devices.
In the meantime, what is your own tolerance level for risk? Reports from both sides are available on the internet. Who and what do you want to believe?
Let’s talk about it really soon!
(personal note – I have taken a few days away from blogging – and from a whole lot of other stuff. I hope to be back in full swing in a day or two…)
News item (Huffington Post): Bon Jovi rips Steve Jobs for killing the music industry…
“God, it was a magical, magical time. I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.”
Interestingly, his criticism isn’t about illegal downloading or any skewed road to success; instead, Bon Jovi is complaining about the actual experience of listening to music, which he thinks has been downgraded by iTunes downloads and iPods.
He may be right. But, the complaint will be the same for the book industry – “The Kindle killed the book business.” And for television: “the internet and dvrs killed the networks.”
The list is endless, and the point is inescapable. Technology marches on, and it is not pretty, it does not wait, it is not fair. (this is a paraphrase of a quote from some business book I have presented, and I can’t quite remember which book. My apology to the author). In fact, google the phrase “technology does not wait,” and the quotes are numerous… When technology arrives, the world changes.
I was in Austin reading a book (yes, an actual book) to my granddaughter over the weekend. The title of the book was Opposites. She is 14 months old, so it is pretty much a point to the picture and try to hold her attention for a few seconds experience. One picture was an elephant (no guarantee that I am remembering the animal, or even the title, correctly) talking the right way and the wrong way on the telephone. But in both pictures, there was a phone with a cord and a handset. My granddaughter may never live in a house with such a phone. In fact, my son and his wife do not have a phone at their house – they each have a cell phone.
So, Bon Jovi can blame Steve Jobs for killing the music industry. And he may be right – but he is wrong. Jobs was just the guy at the time. If not him, someone else would have introduced a magic music machine based on the new digital technology, and the world of music would have changed.
We may as will get over it. We may not like it, but it happened, it is happening, and it will continue to happen. Technology marches on.
Here is some more ammunition for Kindle-bashers, coming from the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal on February 12-13, 2011.
In the weekly Books section, Eric Ormsby writes that “books beget books – and sometimes writers are moved to pay tribute to the ones that formed them” (p. C7). His article points out that writers claim that their inspiration for writing comes as much from the books they have read, as from life itself. And, especially so from those they read as a child.
In the piece, he argues this: “an interesting feature of such reminiscenses is how strongly they depend upon the physical nature of the book. The printed book’s physicality presents a challenge to e-books, however convenient they are. We tend to remember the love and heft of a book that we fell in love with. Will we feel the same about ghostly glimmerings of a monitor?”
And, then: “One reads a certain edition, a specific copy, recognizable by the roughness or smoothness of its paper, by its scent, by a slight tear on page 72 and a coffee ring on the right-hand corner of the back cover.”
Ormsby’s piece reminds me of Tim Sanders’ best-seller, Love is a Killer App. Sanders advocates working with a book, not just reading it. He said to buy hardback books – 4-6 at a time, write in the margins, and draft a summary at the end of a chapter before going to the next. The book even shows sample pages from books Sanders worked with.
There is no way that innovations on electronic readers such as a Kindle, including emoticons, highlighters, and flash pens come close to duplicating, or even replicating, working with a book in the way Ormsby and Sanders talk about it. Hold your book, work with your book, and remember your book. That is how you build and capture your memories. And, that is what inspires additional writing.
In conclusion, a glimmering monitor does not hold a candle to that experience.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it!
Rob Walker is the author of Buying In, and writes for murketing.com, the New York Times, and has contributed to a few books. He introduced the concept of “murketing.” From the Amazon page about his book:
Walker takes a close look at past and present consumerism in the United States, positing that older forms of advertising are no longer successful. In their place, the trend has shifted to what the author calls “murketing,” a mix of “murky” and “marketing.” He argues that instead of being manipulated by marketing, consumers are using it to their advantage; and instead of being shaped by products, consumers are using them to express individual identity and social outlook.
But… this may be just the ultimate sign of the times…
Love your Kindle but miss the feel of holding a real book?
Do you get a kick out of seeing objects being used in a way other than their intended purpose?
Then I bet you’ll enjoy carrying your Kindle hidden inside a book.
This hardcover copy of “Buying In” by Rob Walker has been sealed and cut by hand to fit Amazon’s Kindle 6″ Wireless Reading Device.
(Please note that the Amazon Kindle seen in the picture is NOT included.)
This is an official “Don’t Judge Me” piece. You can see more at: http://bustedtypewriter.com.
It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.
I wrote about this in a comment on my post, “What Three Books Should I Load On My Kindle For My Cruise?,” but let me add to that comment.
I think that it is inevitable that e-books will drastically impact the sale of physical books. But, for now, I think that maybe there are simply more total books being sold overall because of e-books.
The article that has generated this round of conversation is this one, from the N Y Times, E-Books Top Hardcovers at Amazon by Claire Cain Miller:
Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come,” he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions.
The shift at Amazon is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months,” the chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, said in a statement.
Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industrywide sales are up 22 percent this year, according to the American Publishers Association.
Amazon is being helped by an explosion in e-book sales across the board. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have quadrupled this year through May.
The numbers are undeniable. The sale of e-books are rising faster than many could have expected. Notice that key phrase: Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industry wide sales are up 22 percent this year… It appears that e-books are booming, but physical book sales are also quite healthy at the moment.
So what will happen? Remembering Yogi Berra’s warning (see above), here’s my two cents worth: physical books will be around a long while, maybe forever. But ultimately, the overall sales will significantly tilt toward the e-books. I think it is inevitable. And the accelerated pace is evidence that such sales are ramping up very, very quickly.