Can The Kindle Bounce Back?



When e-readers were first introduced, book lovers reacted as if it was the end of the world. Despite the fact that many early e-readers were badly made and connected to poorly organised online booksellers, paper books were suddenly feared as dead as investigative journalism and independent fish shops.

After struggling with various models including a Nook and a Sony eReader I settled on the ugly but Amazon-supported Kindle. Living a somewhat minimalist life, I decreed that all my books would now live inside this electronic slate, freeing me from a lifetime of being chained to paper, dust, leather mites and Weird Items Used As Bookmarks.


First, I discovered that hardly any of my books were available in electronic versions, which said a lot about my niche-market tastes. Then I found that Kindles were very easily broken. So far I have sat on, dropped, crushed, baked, soaked, filled with sand and lost so many Kindles I’ve lost count. But the reading experience was terrific; illumination, the ability to control print size, the inbuilt dictionary and the highlighter notebook won me over. Best of all was the fact that, as a slow reader, I didn’t notice if I was reading an 800-page book. Eventually I combined my Kindles with purchased paperbacks.

Well, it’s been 10 years now and in 2015 it was found that Kindle sales are falling while paper book sales are rising. Why?

Several reasons; smart phones got bigger, and support Kindle. The 18-29 demographic prefers now paper to screen, citing the fact that they regard paper as relaxing and screen-staring as ‘work’. Plus, nearly all said they concentrate better with print media. Then there’s the electronic tsunami of bad self-published books offered on e-readers. Paper books are more likely to have been vetted for quality by experts. They make great gifts and work as impulse purchases, whereas e-books don’t. And publishers upped their game, rethinking how physical books should look.

That said, Europe has avoided the mess caused n the music industry, and e-reading sits alongside paper-reading as a viable alternative.

But there’s a further twist in the tale; Amazon has opened its first bookstore and plans to open many more. It makes sense; books are a point-of-sale impulse purchase. Now bookshops need to look at the way in which they sell in order to compete at street level. The problem is that the large chains look like that for a reason; those awful front tables are paid for by the publishers, and some sell toys because children get bored waiting for their parents.

I think there’s room for both. I love my Kindle and keep it with me at all times, but if I read something I particularly treasure and the print version looks attractive, I’ll eventually buy that too.

NB As a comparison, check out the piece I published here, ‘The Future Is Knidle’, in 2012.

15 comments on “Can The Kindle Bounce Back?”

  1. Jo W says:

    ‘Can the Kindle bounce back?’ – judging by the number of ways you’ve injured your Kindles in the past,I’d say only if it’s encased in foam rubber!

  2. Rachel Green says:

    I love my kindle app on my nVidia tablet.

  3. Carl says:

    I like the convenience of the kindle but for some books (poetry, science, histories I intend to keep) it has to be hardback.

  4. Vincent C says:

    Magnificent! Thank you so much for advising you are a slow reader. It is very comforting to know I am not alone. I do not see myself as thick as two short planks but I see other people zipping through books and I am always plodding along. Frequently I have to stop to read the same sentence several times before I am satisfied I have something approximating to an accurate understanding.

  5. Dave Skinner says:

    I’ve tried to love my Kindle. I really have. I ought to be just the sort of person to embrace it. But it only really gets used for books I don’t especially care about, and that I therefore want cheaply, and books where the print version is four times the price of the Kindle version and doesn’t even have lots of colour pictures.

    I find it’s okay for stuff that’s read sequentially – stories, popular science books, etc., but I can’t get on with it when it comes to proper textbooks. Electronic bookmarks just aren’t the same as keeping your finger in the page with the diagram on it.

  6. Vivienne says:

    I am something of a slow convert. I bought a Kindle fairly early on in its existence – and haven’t broken it yet! Found way back a sort of soft plastic cover that just fits one side – over the screen when not in use and on the back when it is – never did fancy a fake leather cover for a modern device. But didn’t use it at all to begin with, although I loaded it up with a couple of favourites. But, of course, travel and holidays are much easier without a suitcase full of books. Also found that things you cannot find in a bookshop can be put on Kindle – the Epic of Gilgamesh a recent example. Then there’s BookBub which gives you free downloads every day if you want them – sometimes just the sort of thing you want to read with not much concentration on a tube journey. Still have so many books on my shelves to get through, I really shouldn’t ever buy any more – but I buy real books too, and too often.

  7. Wayne says:

    I Loved the Kindle App so much I finally bought a Paperwhite. Mr Fowler once told us that the LCD screen of a phone or tablet computer would not do ones eyes much good. I have to agree on that score. That is one reason I changed to an E-Ink reader. The Kindle Paperwhite with built in light is amazing and so much better than I would ever have thought possible. Another reason for changing from the App to a Reader was Battery life. My Paperwhite lasts weeks not hours. I like the weight too and the ability to travel with a choice of books.

    I have to agree with the comment about self published books, most of these tend to be horrible things. I have however found some real gems and original ideas along the way. The trouble is you can’t see how many books are there waiting to be read. At least with a book shelf you know you shouldn’t buy any more until you have read at least those books laying on top of those neatly on the shelf. Having said that carry a couple of hundred paperbacks around with you and you would get some curious glances, with the kindle nobody knows how many books you have with you or how fast your reading, I too am a slow reader and love to read every word on the page.

    Real books still hold a special place in me though and those books I cherish will always be bought in Hardback wherever possible.

  8. Paul Tinkler says:

    Apart from holidays, my kindle is brilliant for reading in bed ! No more squirming around with a 600 page hardback trying to find a comfortable position, and I don’t wake my wife up putting the light on to read if I can’t sleep !

  9. AC says:

    I have the B&N Nook. As a matter of fact, I think I have every version they ever made. I also have the Kindle app on the Nook for books that B&N doesn’t have in digital format. The problem with real books is I only have a finite amount of space so many books have to be donated when they are read. With digital media, I can be a true hoarder. The same is true of the downloaded audiobooks I listen to at work ( I wait impatiently for every Bryant and May at I read some advice to American Idol contestants that would benefit self published authors: get someone besides your mother to tell you how great you are. I would add, don’t give it a title like “Shut the F**k Up and Die”.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Weird Articles Used as Bookmarks. Ask any librarian for their ongoing list. My question is Why? I have probably three dozen nicely designed, appropriately sized, non-paper damaging, expressly made book marks so why are so many of my books marked with kleenex (unused), ruler, piece of fabric, or paper clamp?

  11. mel says:

    I love my kindle. Having a lit screen has really made my late night reading less of an issue for my partner. I love that the experimental browser works just well enough to download non-Amazon content. The only downside is the country restrictions and inability to purchase from foreign Amazon sites. I am still trying to figure out a way to buy the upcoming releases from the US. I with Sony had stuck with it long enough to make an lit screen version. Their readers felt more sturdy and a bit better built than the kindle.

  12. mike pitcher says:

    enjoy finding weird bookmarks , ownership signatures etc in secondhand books love collecting 1st editions and signed books ,kindle is the work of the devil, o.k so I,m old fashioned !

  13. Ford says:

    You can’t share books on a Kindle! Or can you if you for Prime?

  14. snowy says:

    This might depend on which exact device/software revision you have! And they don’t make much of an effort to tell people about it..

    You can share Kindle ebooks within what they call a ‘Household’, consisting of: 1 adittional ‘Adult’ + 4 additional ‘Child’ accounts. Don’t think it requires Prime, but if one has it parts of that can also be shared.

    [Terms and conditions need to be studied carefully. The ‘Adults’ can both order using the stored credit card info, while ‘Child’ accounts cannot.]

    Outside of that books can be loaned to somebody for up to 14 days, you will be locked out of the book while it is ‘on-loan’. Only 1 book at any time and the book must have been set to ‘lending enabled’ by the publisher.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    Admittedly, lending a hard copy book might be possible only once, unless the borrower is very conscientious, but otherwise that whole explanation Snowy gives proves what a waste of space these devices really are. No, that’s overstating but if you like books to circulate it’s not a format you want to use.

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