Have eBooks Changed Your
Reading and Book-Buying Habits?
I’m spending less on books, and reading less too.
How about you?
I hate shopping—except for books. When I walk into a bookstore I exhibit the same behavior we men disparage in women: spending an inordinate amount of time wandering around, sampling everything, trying this and trying that—and coming out of the store with a lot of stuff I don’t really need.
Especially those bargains: “It’s only two bucks! Can’t afford not to buy it!”
Except . . . I’ve been using the present tense.
Since I got an iPad, everything has changed.
When was the last time you got a book—a printed one—for nothing? Probably as a present, or when a friend was clearing out his shelves.
Pretty much the first thing I did with my new iPad was download a whole bunch of free science fiction books from Baen Books’ free library, classic economics texts by Mises, Rothbard, Hayek and others from mises.org, and dozens of other titles like the complete works of Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare and much more on Amazon.
And if one of those Amazon free promotional books looks interesting, I grab it. No need to sample it first. I’ve lost count of how many free books I’ve downloaded from Amazon, many of which I may never read.
But . . . time spent reading free ebooks is time you can’t spend reading a book you’ve paid for.
My shelves are littered with bookmarks indicating where I stopped reading. Hundreds of books I paid for—that didn’t live up to my expectations.
Amazon et. al. make it easy to sample books. Instead of buying a book based on a quick skim, the author’s “brand name” or the plugs on the back cover, you can download the first few chapters and then decide at your leisure whether to buy. Yes, I’ve still bought some ebooks I haven’t finished, that petered out halfway through. But not many compared to all those half-read “dead tree” books on my shelves.
I’m Spending Less Money on Books
Aside from the free ebooks, the fact that ebooks are, generally, cheaper than their printed versions (except for the mass market paperback), and the effect of sampling, there’s a class of books I’ve just stopped buying altogether.
At last count, I have 27 concepts for books I might write. I’ve bought dozens, perhaps hundreds of books which will come in handy—if I ever write book concept #X.
But ebooks are forever: there’s no sense of urgency, no feeling that “If I don’t buy this book now, it might not be available when I need it.”
Now, when I see such a book, I download the sample instead. If I ever do start concept #X, then I’ll buy it.
I’m Reading Less
I have more books—but I’m reading less.
There are certain things you can’t easily do with a flick of your finger while reading a printed book:
- Check your email
- Look up something on the internet
- Play a game
- Switch between half-a-dozen different books with a couple of taps.
Thanks to the wireless connection reaching into the bedroom, I did all those things last night.
I also note that when I’m reading a regular book, I’ll persevere through any tedious passages. When I’m reading on the iPad and my mind starts to wander, it’s just too easy to do something else.
I Don’t Haunt Bookstores Any More
I used to visit a bookstore at least once a week. Usually several.
Now, I go into a bookstore more like once or twice a month and spend a whole lot less time there. And when I see a book that looks interesting, the first thing I do is pull out my phone and see if there’s an ebook on Amazon which is cheaper. (It usually is.)
These days, I only exhibit my previous bookstore behavior in secondhand bookshops.
My experience may not be typical. After all, I’m at the age where I’ll often think “they just don’t write ’em like they used to.” And I can reread an Agatha Christie for the umpteenth time and still not remember “whodunit.” So—since I have thousands of books on my shelves—when in doubt I’ll probably reread something I really liked last time around rather than something new and uncertain.
And since I wrote my [anti-] political thriller Trust Your Enemies, I’ve become far more aware of flaws in the writing that the general reader probably doesn’t notice.
While your experience may not mirror mine, I imagine that ebooks have probably changed your reading experience in some way.
Are you reading more or less than you did five or ten years ago?
Spending more money on books—or less?
More—or less—involved with what you’re reading?
How about posting a comment on your experience below.