...A definitive moment. A reader downloading a book in real time, while the author talked about it, tells us something about what the trade is calling the 'digital revolution' in publishing...the ebook is now part of the landscape of normal, (but) this doesn't imply the death of the physical book, as the Jeremiahs suggest... Kelly Smith, Mslexia 2011.
|photo of Kindle from |
I first decided to throw my instinctive, Luddite dislike of e-books to one side when my children bought Jim and me a Kindle for Christmas. I found it surprisingly pleasant to use, and although I would still rather hold a book in my hands, there are sufficient reasons (cost of downloads, size of print, lightweight packing) to use the Kindle quite a lot. So I was excited when the publisher of my most recent children's book Tough Luck, told me that they are hoping to get the e-version of the book out and into Kindle before Christmas.
It was recently reported in The Telegraph that sales of children’s e-books nearly tripled over the first six months of 2012 ... 2.6 million were sold over the first half of this year, compared to 1 million the previous year. They've taken off in an “explosive” way partly because kids are techofiles and partly because advances in technology have meant that e-books with pictures are easier and cheaper to produce.
This does suggest that the next generation will grow up reading more from Kindle screens than from real books, and I can't pretend that doesn't raise a shudder in me, but then I stopped shuddering and got to thinking. Kids spend a lot of time - an inordinate amount of time - at their computer screens now. I would rather they were holding a Kindle in their hands than an Xbox and I would rather they were reading good fiction (my fiction, actually!) than mindlessly surfing the net. And for parents, once they've costed out the initial price of the e-reader, downloading children's stories is going to be cheaper for them than buying from Waterstones. So, if a lightweight Kindle gets kids reading, and the cost of the books gets parents buying, then I'm absolutely all for it. Kindles have one further advantage over paper books for kids, and that is the facility to 'search and find' within the text; and to quickly move to 'dictionary' and 'thesaurus'. Kids aren't known to put their books down and flip through a heavy tome to find a word they don't know or reference something mildly interesting, but when this turns electronic, it's fun.
However, the odd thing is that there's not bad news for the paper book. The Times recently reported that while e-book sales are up, it seems as if the market for physical books has not been affected, as of yet. Kate Double, from Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, an independent bookstore in Bath, was positive about the stores' sales - "E-book sales haven't affected our business. Our customers do own e-readers, but while they purchase e-books, they still see value in physical books. It's not uncommon to have customers come in and request books that they already have on their Kindle, because they would like a copy to put on their bookshelf." I think that might especially be true of picture books and illustrated story books for children; it's wonderful to turn the pages.
Caxton need not roll in his grave just yet, methinks.