Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Buying more books saves you something more important than money

Discussions about digital migration are often ham-strung by a version of the either/or fallacy. I'm sure the boss of Waterstone's would love to believe that Kindle sales have all but disappeared and the paper book is making a comeback. I'm sure it's not as simple as that.

The habit matters more than the product and the Kindle may have re-awakened the habit of reading books among some people. If I'm reading something major nowadays, the kind of thing that I'm going to want to have in my pocket to read at the bus stop, I'll tend to buy a cheap paperback and also get it on Kindle. Generally speaking, books are cheap. The major investment is the time devoted to reading them. If I buy both forms I'll read more quickly, which is a more satisfactory way to read. I'll then get through more books, which will make me feel better and also look for more books.

I think that's what they call win-win.


  1. The Kindle sales story seems to be about sales of Kindle units rather than sales of ebooks - not a surprise given the rise of alternative readers and tablets. Would be interesting to compare sales of ebooks with printed books - I'd go along with your point David that one has helped drive the other.

  2. What won't appear on any Book Selling charts is the resale market; either second hand or Amazon market place dealers selling remaindered stock. I'm just reading Mark Ellen's memoir and it was a similar deal with the NME in the mid 70s: it had weekly sales of 250,000 but you could probably multiply that 4X to properly gauge how many people actually read it.

  3. "Generally speaking, books are cheap. The major investment is the time devoted to reading them."

    Hmmm - surely the major investment is actually the time devoted to writing them?

    Still, at least buying paperback and Kindle versions pays back that investment twofold.

  4. Don't agree. It's up to me if I choose to spent my time writing. It's up to the readers if they choose to read what I write.

  5. Book publishers can learn from the music industry.

    When you buy a book, you get a digital copy free via a QR code/ bar code.

    Books take time to consume, so multiple formats, for use in different situations works. I want a kindle for commuting and a book for in the bath. ebooks at bedtime aren't good good for you, but they're better on a plane.

    Make that the norm and book publishers have a future, because an edited and promoted title still has a value.

  6. I am 327 pages into Mark Lewisohn's 800+ pages of Tune In. It's quite a tome but then again most books I buy are around 600 pages long.

    When I finish the book I will hold it in my hand,look at it with a touch of wonder at what it took to fill those pages. I will also be just a tad chuffed that I've finished it and that whatever wonders it might have contained have been vouchsafed to me.

    Do e-readers feel and do the same with their tablets?

  7. Andy..

    I would say yes in many respects. Admittedly I have a spreadsheet of all the books I own (paper or electronic) and use it in compiling end of year posts such as this one:

    but thumbing through the contents on my Kindle gives me just as much satisfaction of a tale well told or anticipation of something yet to come as staring at the bookshelves.

    The Kindle is brilliant for straightforward reading, but I will never stop hankering after gorgeous illustrated editions made out of real dead trees.

  8. The Kindle works for consumers. It has allowed me to read just shy of 100 books in three years - I'm sure I would never have got anywhere near that figure with paper/hard backs.

    Just need to make the suppliers happy now.

  9. I think that sometimes we're more fixated about how we consume material than actually what we consume.
    No one will convince me that, in 2015, vinyl is a better form in which to buy music than CD. Bizarrely, of course, when everyone was buying CDs for silly money in the 1980s, that was exactly the time to rummage around for vinyl!

  10. as i get older i'm finding reading on a tablet much easier than reading books[some of the older ones have yellowing pages too]and i do find these new lightbulbs rather dim.

  11. I enjoyed the 800 page version of "Tune in" so much, that I have paid a small fortune for Mark Lewisohn's 1500 page Writers Cut.
    Can't wait for the next volume.

  12. I know that some books certainly leave me feeling better. Really a lot better. 2014 was a stressful year made more liveable because of reading Middlemarch for the first time. And because of Knausgård. For all the banality and the long windedness, Knausgård's project is rich and curiously life-affirming. Also funny. Music lovers and ex-teenagers, can surely relate to the scene where the aspiring rock band playing their first ever gig, at an awful, shopping mall, are told to turn their amplifiers down, and then off.