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Posted by on Aug 12, 2013 in At TMV, Science & Technology, Society | 19 comments

A senior’s take on E-Books

Kinddle At 67 I am officially a senior. A tech savvy senior, I have been writing code for 40 years and have been an IS administrator.  I resisted the Kindle and e-books until recently however.  About a year ago there was a book I wanted to read that was only available as an e-book  so I put the Kindle app on my PC.  Reading it on my PC was not easy but it was better than not reading it at all.  When I moved a few months ago I had to move boxes of books accumulated over the years so when I got my tablet I downloaded the Kindle app and got a couple of books.  The tablet was much better than the PC – it was possible to read in bed once again.  It seemed to be an acceptable way to read a book and for books not yet out in paperback much cheaper and a lot lighter than a hardback.  So this old fart made the leap and I purchased the Amazon Kindle Paper White.  Much smaller and you can carry it around and read much like you would a paperback.  As an aging hippie the fact that I can adjust the font size is also a plus.  This 67 year old is sold – better late than never.  I just purchased 3 New York Times best sellers for what I would have paid for 1 hardcover.

Over at the American Conservative Daniel McCarthy wonders if e-books have peaked.  He sites an article by Nicholas Carr who observes a “flattening of e-book sales.”   It’s not always clear if this is a decline of  the sale of readers like Kindle or a decline of book sales.  My thought is Amazon and others should target the new seniors, more tech savvy.  Seniors read a lot, like to save money and the font thing should be a real selling point.

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  • jdledell

    Ron – I consider myself at 69 a techie also. Even though I have run systems divisions for Pru as well as software subsidiaries, I to resisted e-readers until this summer because I love the feel of books in my hands. I have flat out run out of bookshelves for a lifetime accumulation of books. Two rooms in our house have been turned into Libraries with floor to ceiling bookshelves. My wife put her foot down and said no more.

    Since I cannot part with my old books (what if I wanted to read one of them again?) I bought a kindle in anticipation for our cruise of the Hawaiian Islands. I knew I would need at least 5 or 6 books for the two weeks and put the new ones on Kindle. I am now a believer in e-books and I also got a Kindle for my wife and she is also now a believer.

  • KP

    This is great to hear from you two. I love the feel and smell of books and have resisted. My daughter, an English major, just told me the other day that she hates that she loves her Kindle. The three of you have convinced my to try one. I am having trouble reading a book after Lasik surgery to improve long vision (that was not a good move) so font changes is a clincher. Thanks for writing Ron!

  • SteveK

    After reading these rave reviews here (Ron, jdledell, and Kevin’s daughter) I had to check it out BUT being a strong fiscal conservative (read frugal) I thought I’d see if Amazon had any free books that I could get to see if Kindle would work on my Samsung Tab 2.

    Good news X 3!
    1) Amazon has a large selection of free books letting you ‘test drive’ a Kindle book;
    2) There’s a free ‘Kindle App’ that works on Android based tablets; and,
    3) It’s easy, books download quickly, and it reads like a book.

    Now I’ve got to decide whether of not to sign up for Amazon Prime which, for $79 a year, you get:
    Free 2 day shipping on your Amazon purchases.
    Free streaming movies and TV programs. (like Netflix Streaming)
    One free book a month from the Kindle Lending Library.

    Decisions, decisions, decisions.

  • KP

    I signed up for Amazon Prime a couple days ago, just for the free two day shipping as I order from them quite a bit. The Netflix and Kindle service is something I didn’t know about. Ha! Just purchased my Kindle and got $40 off with Prime.

  • jdledell, I moved three months ago and I have a room with ceiling to floor bookshelves and boxes of books still sitting in the middle of the room – obviously I’m divorced.
    KP, it really is like reading a book. I upped the font size to the next one from the default. I find I am actually reading more, it is really easier.
    Steve, Give it a try on your android like I did and if it works out and if it does consider a Kindle – reads more like a book.

    Thanks for the comments, I figured this was one of those posts that wouldn’t get any.

  • epiphyte

    My wife and two of my kids have switched pretty much completely to kindles/ tablets of one variety or another, as have I for the most part. The one holdout is my 8th grade daughter, who is otherwise very tech-savvy but has always cherished her books and is a tireless advocate of their continued production in tangible form.

    As one who is intimately familiar with the problems of long-term data retention, I have to admit that she has a point.

    Viz: What would we know about the Romans if they had had such devices and Homer, Livy, Pliny, Caesar et al had all been published exclusively in electronic form? Given that the dark ages lasted about 300 years longer than it would take to reduce every digital record now in existence to random noise – not much.

  • epiphyte
    A very good point and a concern I have about all information and data that is stored digitally. Will it be accessible in the future?

  • Bob Munck

    Hello. I’m Bob and I’m a Techie (“Hi, Bob”). Just to fill in the gap between Ron and jdledell, I’m 68. I love my Paperwhite, and my 90-year-old mother loves hers, though she sometimes has trouble remembering how to turn pages. The Kindle has put to rest the ongoing argument between my wife and me about what happens to my 8,000 SF paperbacks the next time we move. Sure, I’d like to digitize them, but don’t see Vinge’s solution from Rainbows End happening soon (it involves putting the books through a high-tech wood chipper.)

    One thing I like is that it’s possible, though not always entirely legal, to find entire large sets of books on the Net. For example, I have all the Travis McGee books, all of Nero Wolfe, and all of Miles Vorkosigan; working on all of Phillip K. Dick. Copies of everything on three local disks, a couple of thumb drives, and a remote cloud.

    If you don’t know about it, calibre is a wonderful piece of software for managing your e-reader.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    Hi there, author here of five books, 30 audio series. Just saying: An ongoing and large challenge for many authors who are midlist, for instance, with google books and kindle DRM- free [which i agree with so all ebooks can be read across all platforms] and nook, kobo, sony ereader etc, has been ‘unregulated’ piracy. [oxymoron]

    Huge numbers of broken copyrights by certain uploaders, with no income to writers who already rock and roll with free lending of books on paper via libraries [way ok with me] and used books on paper sales that also bring no income to the author [also ok by me]. Hoards of the pirate sites are rumored to be owned by same groups, organized crime, and money for memberships to download pirated goods is often used for nefarious means, to support other matters: arms, drugs,trafficking, etc. At first I said no, no way, but then many began to ask, why would any org crime group NOT pirate goods that it can merely ‘pick up that fell off the back of a truck’… lol esp since everyone looks the other way, or rationalizes it all or feels they have bagged some kind of trophy by ‘buying without buying’ while cutting out the author, publisher and others who depend on the works, as such. I really dont know for sure, just see that many authors see the significant dip in their paychecks as they try to continue to care for family and themselves. Some literally ‘billionaire authors’ say, pirate away. They say they think of it as free publicity. But millionaire authors [per year income], and billionaire [in the aggrregate] author’s volume sales in a month often equal what a midlist author might sell in a year. So, not sure where to stand in such crosswinds of opinion. Many authors watch the huge bite from their incomes for books that often took years to write, but are waylaid by bandits. Same for audio, theatre, film, games, software etc. Goes for indie publishing as well as small presses as well as Big Five. Illicit free, means the author is not paid their already measly commission which is usually for those pub’d by Big5, 5-8-10% of net, which after agent fee of 15-20% on every single sale, is precious little. And authors from presses are trad. paid only twice a year. And tho books shipped to bookstores are counted as sales with commissions due the author, the books are actually not ‘sold: they are only consigned and can be returned to pub at any time, as B&N did in a massive returns of millions of books to pubs a few years ago. Most authors saw a huge divot in income, and some literally because they were taken down to Zero-, actually owed their publisher money. It was/is a mess. And yet, that merely 5-8-10% net on each book actually sold, minus commissions and ah yes, fed, state and FICA taxes, help the author to keep writing and producing, [and for heirs to care to keep certain iconic books in print] even though often other means of support are also needed, such as teaching etc. And that is a certainty. Most self published authors and midlist authors struggle as it was, before ereaders and the subsequent lifting of others’ works without paying them.

    On another note: I have a kindle which I dislike for its a one pager b and w. And was not sold on ereaders when they first came out looking sort of like an Amstraad instead of a refined Apple. [that’s a joke for those of you who know Amstraad]. I wrote an article here at tmv about nah kindle. But since have changed my mind, some. I have an ipad which I like more for it carries two pages in color, and I may buy an ebook if there is no hb or pb avail, or if the price of the work is outta sight [for textbook hb,] but reasonable more or less as an ebook. I still prefer print on paper for i write all over my books, and the notetaking on tablets and ereaders is stone age.

    But what I really wish for is an actual virtual book ‘in the air’ that has no hardware to hold the text, rather the text appears on white paper background in thin air, in one’s hands, on the desktop, wherever one wants it and is controlled through movements of hands. And takes notes on the page in the air in handwriting, and one can flip fast back and forth cross referencing pages, and that doesnt get hot the longer it runs, and that has at least a 27×18 ‘in the air’ page area if one wanted to read four pages across and two down. Ok ok, so I live in another world. lol

    Just my .02

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    xkcd… Bob M, didnt quite understand your link. It goes to xkcd? which appears to be a tshirt site? Or?

  • JSpencer

    I’ve always been lucky enough to be surrounded by good libraries (with excellent interlibrary loan access) and therefore will continue enjoying my love of paper, print, and bindings. You others go on with your bad techie selves, I’ll hold down the old fort.

  • rudi

    Almost old enough to be a senior, tech background and I still love the smell of new and old paper. But the E reader is the way to go for schools. Kids gotta save money with digital books over $150 to $200 text books…

    And E books for something that won’t go into a library is the way to go.

    Don’t see Kindle replacing a morn9ing at John King Rare Books.

  • dduck

    Not to mention saving the kid’s backs. I still see plenty of little kids with low hanging back packs that look like they weigh a ton. The book publishers are still in force.

  • KP

    Exactly, rudi and dduck — school books are expensive; especially university. My little girls carrying enormous, heavy backpacks each day to and from school because lockers were phased out really bugged me.

    I am moving next week and my collection of books is the only thing I haven’t thinned out. They will all come with me.

  • SteveK

    My little girls carrying enormous, heavy backpacks each day to and from school because lockers were phased out really bugged me.

    Not that I disagree but PE was also phased out in a lot of schools and maybe toting that backpack full of books was one of the few genuinely good things the current education system is doing for the kids. (Regarding the cost of the books, you’re all right on that… They are too expensive.)

    edit to add: Good for you on taking your books, half the ‘things’ I brought to AZ were books and I think that was the right choice.

  • KP

    I was a bit concerned about their little spines. They had to walk all hunched forward under the loads. Turns out they weathered it just fine.

    On the PE, in elementary school my girls had PE once every two weeks and art once every two weeks. Once they got to middle school they had PE everyday. Once in high school they played interscholastic sports. However, the school required non sports team members to have the equivalent of two years PE.

  • dduck

    I know for a fact that some schools make a tidy profit selling books to the kids. What I don’t know is if the publishers and their sales people do a little monetary/perk giving to encourage schools to keep ruining kids spines. We have labor laws protecting children who is protecting them on this?

  • Bob Munck

    your link. It goes to xkcd?

    What I see when I click is a 5-panel cartoon titled The Cloud in which the characters are stick figures and there’s a lot of dialog. Here’s a hotlink to the cartoon itself:

    xkcd was recently in the news for publishing a 3100-panel cartoon that updated itself every half hour for a couple of months, telling a quite subtle science fiction story. He’d previously done a single panel that could be scrolled about a hundred times in all directions, revealing a gigantic landscape seen through a tiny window.

  • Bob Munck

    certain uploaders

    I don’t think that was directed to my address, though I did mention downloading. Let me add that I don’t download anything that I don’t already own in paper form. I own all 21 of the the Travis McGees in pb first edition (and keep them in a little case, allowing myself to read them once every five years), all the Nero Wolfe, etc So John D McDonald and Rex Stout (actually their estates) are losing nothing by my downloading to my Kindle.

    a kindle which I dislike for its a one pager b and w.

    Most of my physical books are like that too: one page per page, monochrome. No backlighting or adjustable font size, though, and none of them will read themselves aloud.

    virtual book ‘in the air’ that has no hardware to hold the text, rather the text appears on white paper background in thin air

    Google Glass

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