Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Whatcha Reading?

A few weeks back, the WSJ had an interesting Look at the Reading Habits of E-Reader Owners (sub req):

A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books. Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before. And 55% of the respondents in the May study, paid for by e-reader maker Sony Corp., thought they'd use the device to read even more books in the future. The study looked at owners of three devices: Inc.'s Kindle, Apple Inc.'s iPad and the Sony Reader.

I have no doubt that when the day finally comes and I bridge the digital divide by procuring an e-reader, I too will read more than I currently do. The ease of getting what you want when you want it and always having something available to read with an e-reader almost makes in increase in your reading productivity almost inevitable. The only question now is when I will take the leap.

When it comes to embracing technological change, I'm what you might call an "early dreamer." Like the early adopters, I follow the development and release of new products with interest and enthusiasm. But unlike those who jump onboard the bandwagon immediately, I usually end up holding back and waiting to make sure that the new technology takes and, probably more importantly, for the price to drop to what I deem is an acceptable level. In my heart, I want to be an early adapter. In my head, I know that it's better to wait.

In the case of e-readers, my waiting may soon end. The prices on the Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook are now right. And we've also reached a point of acceptance where there is no going back on e-readers. The iPad is also a tempting option--I'm working my way through Beethoven: The Music and the Life by Lewis Lockwood right now and it would be slick to have one device to read the book while listening to the music--but it would be a more significant investment so I'll probably stick to a straight forward e-reader.

On my last few business trips, I've been observing my fellow passengers to see what kind of e-readers they are using. I've been a bit surprised by how few I've come across. While I've noticed a few Kindles and iPads in use, it seems that most people are still doing their travel reading the old fashioned way: in print.

With an e-reader, readers can hold and turn pages with just one hand. Some readers hail how the devices can become large-type books with the click of a few buttons—and back-lit devices like the iPad work in bed even when the lights are off. Free sample chapters, common on most online stores, make it easier to try out—and potentially give up on—books before committing to a 400-page tome.

But paper pages do have one benefit that electronic devices don't have: They don't need to be put away during takeoff and landing on airplanes. On a recent trip to Seattle, 64-year-old Jamie McKenzie, a Bellingham, Wash.-based writer, said he felt a sense of superiority when his seatmate was asked to turn off his Kindle to prepare for takeoff.

"That guy may have had access to 10,000 books, but I was the one who was able to keep reading," he says.

That probably says more about the silly regulations on using electronic devices on planes than it does anything else. I think I'd be more than content to pull out a magazine to while away the time until I could fire up an e-reader. In terms of tradeoffs, that seems like an easy one to make.