Friday, September 23, 2011

10 Reasons eReaders Are Reading More

Two things struck me about a Harris Poll on book reading released this month, but only one was a surprise.

One in every three American adults failed to buy a single book in the past year, up from 1 in 5 the year prior. The percentage who didn’t even crack a book in the last year increased to 16% including nearly 1 in every 5 Generation X and 17% of Baby Boomers.

The surprise though is that only 15% of Americans are using eReaders with another 15% likely to move in that direction soon. But given that they didn’t become readily available outside of libraries until 2007, I guess that rate of adoption is pretty good. The dedicated readers are now much more affordable but apps for smartphones or tablets are mostly free.

The research shows that people using eReaders read more books than those who read hard-copies. Of course, electronic books aren’t new. Project Gutenberg was launched about eight months prior to when I graduated from college in mid-1972 by another student who invented the electronic book or ebook. Michael Hart has now digitized about 36,000 items.

I began using an eReader in 2008 about a year after the Kindle came out but I’d already been reading many publications for work via computer for about ten years by then.

About two years ago I shifted to reading ebooks on my phone and tablet via apps for Kindle, Google Books and iBooks. Even though I purchase those I download into Google Books via my favorite local bookstore, I have mixed feelings because I love actual bookstores, especially independents and find myself browsing whenever one is nearby as well as during stops on cross-country trips.

But here 10 top-of-mind reasons why I find eReaders so useful:

  • Within moments of hearing or reading about a book, I can download it via my phone or tablet or computer or, depending on where I purchased them, on a dedicated reader.

  • The books are then available on three platforms and each one synchs to the place where I finished reading on another.

  • The backlighting and ability to enlarge fonts makes them very useful in any light whether it be at night before I fall to sleep or out on a deck at the lake. I read a thousand-page book during one cross-country trip using only the screen on my smartphone.

  • I can easily check the meaning of an unfamiliar word or click through to read a citation or to enlarge a chart or image.

  • I can read during moments of opportunity regardless of whether I’ve been thinking ahead. This includes during meetings when the subject matter has begun to recycle, in waiting rooms, in restaurants when I’m dining alone or waiting for friends to arrive, even when I’m stuck in traffic.

  • I now digitally receive and/or read all but one of the five or six newspapers I regularly read as well as five of the eight magazines to which I subscribe.

  • eReaders make it easier to read several books at one time.

  • eBooks can be loaned for a limited period of time to other readers. They can also be sent as gifts.

  • eBooks can be searched by clicking on parts of the table of contents or by searching key words or by highlights and notations I’ve made and want to share or reference again.

  • If an eBook is ever lost or deleted on one of the readers or my computer, it can be quickly re-downloaded. If I change or upgrade a phone or computer or tablet, I can easily access them again.

Of course, while ebooks may be even "greener"now that libraries are loaning via apps, I still buy some types of books in hard-copy. Books of large-format photography or with elaborate historical illustrations or data-charts and especially poetry which I have to read aloud to truly enjoy are examples of hard-copy books that I buy.

I hope there will always be a place for bookstores, not only for browsing but possibly, in the future, as a portal where a very limited number of copies of each book is on hand - but can be downloaded using the bar code.

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