Rise of the ebook
I used to be an ebook skeptic. I’ve been a big believer in the affordances of paper, and as a lifelong reader I thought the emotional appeal of printed books was too strong, that ebooks would never be able to get significant market share because that obstacle was too big. I figured there might be a niche market for textbooks and professional journals – things which are expensive to produce and expensive to buy – but I was convinced that fiction ebooks would not really take hold until we had used up all the trees and exhausted the paper supply.
And then I got an iPhone and had a baby.
One of the hardest transitions of my first few months as a mother was the lack of reading time. Yes, babies sleep, but usually when they do you’re either trying to sleep yourself or frantically trying to accomplish something before the baby wakes up. I found that I had little pockets of time while trying to get the baby to sleep or during the middle of the night when I was trying and failing to get back to sleep myself, but I couldn’t manage a regular book while I was holding the baby. Then I heard about the Kindle app for the iPhone. People, it changed my life.
I can hold the iPhone and navigate the books with one hand, no problem. The screen is bright enough to read by in a dark room, but not bright enough to disturb the baby. Best of all, I always have books with me, wherever I am. I used to choose purses based on their ability to hold at least one book in addition to all my other gear, but now I always have a selection of books on my phone, and can easily download another if needed so I never run out of reading material. I now use two different reading apps – the Kindle app and Stanza. Yes, I pay for new content, but there are also plenty of public domain books that are available for both apps for free. I can bookmark significant passages and go back to them later. I can adjust the text size according to my preference. Sure, it’s easier to flip back and forth between sections in a printed book, but I’m finding that the benefits of the ebook format far outweigh the inconveniences. In short, I’m sold.
In a professional capacity, I’m also very intrigued by some of the collaborative options that are becoming available for online books (CommentPress, BookGlutton) and by new publishing models (Free). The long-term implications for libraries are going to be huge. But ultimately it comes down to the question: “does this work for me?” Surprised as I am, for me the answer is a resounding “yes”!