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.