A few years ago, I happened to catch Nathan Bransford's first poll on the future of e-readers. Since 2007, he's been asking the same question every year: will you ever buy mostly e-books? The change in answers over the last five years has been pretty startling. I remember voting a firm no in the early days, convinced that you'd never pry my paper books away from me.
And you won't, I'm pretty sure. But this year will be the first time, I admit, that my answer has flipped to the other side- I do, and I will, now buy more e-books than paper.
This change in my own opinion has sort of sneaked up on me.
My husband and I are both huge readers, and between us we worked in a bookstore for 11 years. As a result, more than half our home contents are books- or they were, last time we moved. There's been an interesting shift for us lately, though. We're trying to clear space where there is none to fit a second baby, and for the first time ever, one of the things we've had to get rid of in some volume is books. We've always been determined that once you own a book, that book is yours for life. But given then choice between a room full of books and a kid who has to sleep in a sock drawer, we're erring on the side of good parenting and making a little space.
This means looking through all these books with a really critical eye. So we've read and loved it. Would we read it again? If yes, it gets to stay. If no, gone. Have we read it and hated it? There are plenty of those on the shelves- it's a no-brainer. Gone! Have we been meaning to read it forever but we keep finding excuses to delay and delay? Will we really, truly, realistically get around to it, or are we just slow to admit that it's not really something we want to check out? We've had a fair few of these, too. All in all, I think our cull probably sliced at least 30% of our book collection- unthinkable a few years back.
Or at least until 2009, when we first got a Kindle. I love the Kindle, but I always saw it as a backup for books we didn't care much about- the Steig Larsson and Janet Evanovich and Kathy Reichs ones that were never going to be of lifelong importance.
Enter the iPad in 2011. Even after I adapted to the Kindle, I never thought I'd want to read a book on the iPad. But like everything Apple, it has managed to win me over, against all expectations. And suddenly, looking back on the past year of reading, I realise that I probably purchased at least 90% of the books I read in electronic format. It's now my first choice rather than my second. And world-changing, amazing books aside, I can't see that being any different in years to come.
One of the greatest discoveries of the e-book world for me has been fabulous series of books at great prices. I devoured all six Nell Sweeney mysteries by P. B. Ryan last year, and paid no more than $2.99 for any one title. And over Christmas, I discovered the brilliant Captain Lacey mysteries by Ashley Gardner, and I've chewed through six of those in a fortnight, again paying no more than $1.99 per book. For someone who reads as fast as I do, this is a revelation. It allows me to read so much more than I did before. I'm also reading my way through a small virtual stack of modern classics that I should have read before but never got around to- like The Great Gatsby, which I picked up for 0.99c.
In short, my e-readers have changed my reading habits for the better. They've brought me back to reading in much greater volume than I was before. They've saved my son from having no bedroom while allowing me to keep my book collection booming.
So, against all my expectations, my answer is now yes- I will buy mostly e-books from here onward. And I can see why the market is shifting, because if I move in that direction, it means there are plenty of others out there who've done so well before me.
The only thing I still don't believe will change for us is that our kids' books will be paper for as long as possible. Growing up surrounded by words, pictures and stories is far too important to move it all to another piece of electronic wizardry for them. But I can hardly imagine what the reading world will be like by the time they're my age.
How about you? I'm curious not only as to whether you'll ever buy more e-books than paper, but as to how your opinion has changed over the last few years.