One thing the Long Tail panel got me thinking about was the electronic distribution of writing. Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other e-readers are increasing in popularity. While there’s a lot of contention over the numbers of e-books sold (are the increasing numbers representing dollar sales or units sold, for example) there is little contention that more and more people are consuming more and more written works electronically.
I discovered that my Android phone has a Kindle reader app already installed on it. I decided to try it out and discovered a great use for it at a ‘con. Many of the panels I went to offered suggestions for books to read. I fired up the phone’s browser and went to Amazon. Nearly without fail, Amazon offered a Kindle version of the books I looked for. Not only that, Amazon offers sample chapters. Downloading a sample chapter not only provides me with a reminder of the books discussed, but then I can read the samples to see if I want to read the whole book.
What remains to be seen is, what will the Kindle (or a device like it … I’m still not sure if Kindle is the format I want) mean for my bookshelves? What kind of reading do I want to be in paper and what kind can be in a more ephemeral format?
My initial thought is that the casual reading would be a good thing for an e-reader. I love medieval murder mysteries, but I never read them more than once. If I move, those are the kinds of books that get purged. So perhaps the casual books are the ones that can be electronic.
On the other hand, e-books can have a search function. Kindle seems to offer bookmarking and annotations (The android version doesn’t and I haven’t used the Kindle itself. Those features don’t seem to be available in any version of the other main readers). That would be really handy. I do a lot of writing in coffee shops and having all, or at least a large percentage, of my research books available without having to lug them all around would be a marvelous tool.
Considering something like the Kindle can hold thousands of books, it may be a both/and situation. I may be in the market for a Kindle or other e-reader. I may have a use for it. It may be that the bigger question is, do I still have a use for my bookshelves?