Saturday, December 18, 2010

Potentials aren't realilty.

I was sitting in my office, drinking a glass of wine or two (a rare occurrence, these days...) and staring at my ceiling fan, and thinking about potentialities and actual use.

I can pull a little chain and that fan will start spinning. Sure, it's winter and why would I do that? But I don't do it through most of the summer, either. And yet, the potentiality is always there, even if I don't use it 99% of the time. It looks good, it could be useful, but really -- does it really replace the air-conditioner?

I'm sitting at my computer, and I use maybe 1% of of it's potentiality -- but that 1% uses an incredible amount of my time.

So -- the Kindle.

I can see myself buying it, but will I use it? Or will I fall back to reading books as usual? Will other people buy it, only to let it sit on the desk? Or will it take off, in a truly useful way?

I read that Amazon will have the actual ability to know how much or how little you actually read of a book you download. Never mind the slightly Big Brother aspects of that notion; but it points to how much we all want to have the capability of things, but don't always actually use them.
The technology for picture phones existed for decades, but no one really wanted them.

I was talking to a librarian yesterday, and I said, "Gosh, no one seems to talk about the impact of e-books on libraries."

"Well, we can loan out an e-book, too. E-books still cost money, you know. "

"And then, when the loan-out period is over, the book simply disappears," chimed in her husband.

"Wow. Is that a good thing? I mean, that means that anyone could do that -- Amazon, the government, ...."

I still swing back and forth on the potentialities of the e-book. Half the time, I think that we bookstores are bemoaning our fate a little too much. Other times, like when I look at what happened to anime and manga in my store (the little darlings are pirating these off the internet to an almost exclusive rate), I think we might be all underestimating it.

In a sense, I've positioned Pegasus Books to be something like a Gift Store. People wander into gift stores and see something they like -- and for that you need tourist traffic, walk-in traffic, and maybe a bit of inventory that draws regulars.

The more "destination" you are, the more I think you'll be hit by 1.) the mass market. 2.) the internet and 3.) e-books. I'd submit that Barnes and Noble and Borders meet these criteria more than your small independent bookstore.

I sold a bunch of books yesterday to people who didn't know the book they bought even existed. "Night of the Living Trekkies." "Dick and Jane and Vampires." "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy." That kind of thing.

I can keep that up all day, because there are no end of quirky books, and there is no substitute for stumbling across them and picking them up and reading a few paragraphs and declaring, "I must have this...."


H. Bruce Miller said...

After resisting for years, I have finally decided to go over to the Dark Side and acquire an e-reader. The rationale: I'm continually buying paperback books (mostly novels) for light reading (mostly in bed or on the beach). I pay $12 or $14 for each one, read it once, and then try to find room for it on my increasingly overcrowded shelves. And there it sits forever, or until I give it away to Goodwill. The e-reader will solve the too-many-books problem -- not to mention the fact that e-books cost less than half as much as paperbacks.

I will continue to buy conventional books if they're ones I want to keep around for reference or re-reading -- for example, the Mark Twain autobiography I'm currently slogging through

RDC said...

If you have a smart phone, iPhone, Droid, etc. You can get free versions on the e-book reader software including Nook, Kindle, etc.

That way you save the cost of the reader and you are not limited to one e-book source. Also you don't need to carry another device, just your cell phone.

H. Bruce Miller said...

RDC: I don't have a smart phone and don't plan to get one in the foreseeable future. The iPhone costs almost $500 (cheapest model) and the Nook only $149, and I don't really need all the other capabilities the iPhone has.

I don't plan on carrying the e-reader with me except when I travel out of town. Most of the time it will stay at home.

Also, it's my understanding that the Nook can read e-books from Barnes & Noble (of course) and also from the library and, among other sources, whereas the Kindle only reads books from Amazon.

RDC said...

Each of the ebook readers are limited as to format and source. Where ever possible I get books in unlocked epub format. The real concern with any of the e-book readers is the long term survival of the company that produces them. I would not consider either Boarders or Barnes and Noble to be in a strong position right now. While Amazon is in the strongest position I do not trust their long term strategy. After all Amazon purchased Mobi Pocket, took their e-book format and used it for the kindle with a slight modification. However, they then stopped development of the Mobi product and did not provide for conversion for mobi formatted books to the kindle, even through Mobi is a fully owned subsidary of Amazon. As a result Amazon is my vendor of last resort and I tend to buy most of my e-books in epub format directly from the publisher.

Leitmotiv said...

blackdog, why do hold on to so many books? I know as an American the urge to hang on to everything is a part of our way of life. But really, there's no need to hang on to so many books! Keep a few, and recycle the rest!

I can't stand ereaders personally. I like that books aren't electronic.

DaveRobFreeman said...

So, call me a wimp.
I will not spend my money on an e-reader. My local B&N and Boarders are both belly up. Who knows how long they will be around? If I can't find it at the library, or buy it locally, I sometimes download it or read it on my big fat computer screen. Me, I like the old-fashioned hard copy book. I donate the ones I won't read again, or use for reference.

H. Bruce Miller said...

RDC: You may be right. But I'm willing to bet $150 or so that B&N and Amazon will be around for at least another two or three years. And by that time I probably either will have gotten tired of the e-reader or found something better.

Leitmotiv: "blackdog, why do hold on to so many books? ... Keep a few, and recycle the rest!"

Nobody wants used books. It's hard to even give them away. And I hate to just throw them in the recycling bin. First, there's always the thought at the back of my mind that I might read them again someday. (Almost never do.) And I was brought up as a child with the idea that it's just wrong to throw away or destroy books. Silly, maybe, but that's the way I am.

RDC said...

Donate them to the local library. That is what I did.