Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cupcakes and E-books (How NPR is rocking my world)

Some great content from NPR has not only caught my attention today, but has gotten my mind thinking about information and librarianship (which shouldn't be too surprising, it doesn't take a whole lot to get me thinking about either topic).

First there is this article: At Amazon, E-Book Sales Outpace Hardcover. As I read it, I imagined bibliophiles around the globe FLIPPING OUT. I think there are a lot of implications to the fact that e-books are selling more than hardbacks on Amazons website, and I think there is some reading-between-the-lines that also needs to be taken into consideration.

There are multiple reasons why E-books appear so popular. First are the apparent reasons:

Aside from the cost of the reading devise, they're cheaper than most real books ($10 for an e-book versus $12 for a quality paperback, or $25 for a hardback).

We're a society who loves toys. With the proliferation of Kindles, iPads, iPhones, Nooks and what ever sad attempt Borders has at breaking into the market, there are more and more opportunities to read E-Books.

But on the other hand:

Reading the article, we have to realize that this information is specific for Amazon's website. People who buy things online are going to be way more tech savvy (and have more money) than people who don't. As a perpetually broke grad student, I refuse to give up the pleasure of reading just because I don't have the dough (or time). I do utilize the library more often than not - but when I want a "new" book to put on my shelf I head to Goodwill, where paperbacks are $.99 and I have yet to find a hardcover for more that $4. So while it may seem that more people are utilizing e-books, it's just that more of Amazon's customer's are.

While e-books are more and more common, no one is taking away actually books. Well, yet.

And, while amused at this story, I'm not too freaked out about it. Living in a digital age, digital content is becoming more and more familiar to people. People who constantly look at a screen for information are going to find comfort and convenience at looking at a screen for entertainment as well. When I ride public transportation to work, instead or reading the New York Times over someone's shoulder, I'm reading the New York Times over someone's shoulder on their iPhone. This is just the way things are going and I think folks are starting to get used to it...

And the other bit that caught my eye was a post on the the Monkey See blog: Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries.

There's not a whole lot of analysis that needs to happen here. Blogger Linda Holmes just does a phenomenal job at describing the awesomeness of libraries and librarians. Between Gaga dance videos and The Old Spice Dude (and his Mormon knockoff, which I think is better than the real thing), the cultural presence of libraries is building some serious momentum, and there will be a culmination of society remembering how important they are as a democratic institution. And I'm looking forward to riding that wave.

Special thanks to Flickr user weir thru a lens for use of the cupcake photo.


  1. I'm still not really buying the e-book thing, either literally or figuratively.

    I've been seeing a lot of consideration lately of the ways in which we read on digital devices differs from the way we read glue-and-paper books. Specifically, that we have a vastly short attention span when we're looking at a screen than we do when we're reading from a page. And while the only evidence I have is anecdotal, this feels true (or at least truthy) to me -- I know that when I'm reading an article online, I have to bludgeon myself to keep focused for more than, say, ten to fifteen minutes at a time. (For example, I've been trying to read this article < http://www.thenation.com/article/37165/kabuki-democracy-why-progressive-presidency-impossible-now?page=0,0 > for days, and I'm still working on it. And sure, it's long, but it's not *that* long. There's just something about reading off my screen that keeps me jumping around, skimming text superficially at best.

    On the other hand, if I sit in my chair with a book, I can read quite contentedly for an hour or two at a time without feeling my attention wander much. Now, I wouldn't suggest that there's anything about the essence of a digital screen that breaks my concentration up into tiny pieces, but I associating reading from a screen with not really reading. The internet moves so fast, my patience to sit and dig into something substantial has waned to almost nothing.

    So would the same hold true on an e-book reader? I don't know for sure, but my instincts tell me that if I want to really read, I need a book in my hands rather than a gadget.

    TL;DR: Reading on digital devices is hard because I can't... oh, look, a kitty!

  2. Good points, Amy. I love to sit with a book in my hand(s) and read forever. However, I'm just glad people are reading!

  3. I agree Amy - I've had one of my school texts completely online this term, and it's so hard to read! Everyone in the class has been complaining about how tricky it is. Granted, it's online, so it's easy to read a line and then check Facebook, and then read a line and then check Gmail.

    However, I've never used an eReader, other than glancing at other folk's devices, so I'm not sure what that would be like.

    I think a lot of people are seeing this article and pulling a Chicken Little. It's important to see that this article reports that e-book are doing well on Amazon's website - this isn't an industry wide statistic. Paper-ink-and-glue books aren't going anywhere anytime soon!

  4. @Renjitsu - sometimes I look at e-books like I look at the Twilight books. I don't understand the attraction, but I'm glad people are reading!

  5. Excellent, thought-provoking post! I don't think books are going anywhere anytime soon (and especially agree on the point regarding SES and Amazon). Bikes, records, and film have all remained - even with the advent of their more technological replacements.

  6. You can also get a lot of great, quality hardcover and paperback books from Title Wave! It's often even cheaper than Goodwill and you support the library too.

  7. @Ronit- It seems with some technology, especially transportation, we are almost seeing a backlash- with the Hummer going the way of the dodo and a raise in popularity among cycling and public transportation.

    @Becca - I LOVE Title Wave, but haven't been in a while. I really like getting used children's books there for my friend's kids (kids always need some books that can get ripped up and drawn on).

  8. Yeah, the Mormon video guy is funny.

    I moved 12 large cartons of books out here. I also promised my wife I would sell a large portion of those to Powell's before the move, but I broke that promise.

    I'm proud of my 4 shelves stacked full of books (in Colorado; there's much more left in Ohio and New York), and I'm torn between having a house big enough for a personal library some day, and the fact that I hold on to things far longer than I should.

    But for now, I'll just keep the books.