Did the Sucess of Personal Tablet Applications Lead to Changes in How We Read? or Why Are These Angry Birds on my Kindle?


I'm not claiming to be Carnac the Magnificent or Steve Allen's Answer Man,
1 but I am feeling a bit proud of myself.2

The other day I was in a Barnes and Noble. I took a moment to fondle, I mean experiment with...Hell with it. I picked up a Nook Tablet. A good friend of mine had gotten a new Nook for Christmas (she already had an older version) and was thinking of changing it in for the tablet model. She really wants an iPad, but is a bit put off by the price. Since I'm the resident Apple guy, she wanted my opinion. I looked over the Nook's features (and was fairly impressed) and gave her an assessment.

That has almost nothing to do with what I plan on discussing here.

Almost five years ago I appeared on a panel at Penguicon to discuss e-readers, their potential impact, and future of publishing. There were two others on the panel. As it turned out, we each had a different device (one Kindle, one Nook, and my Sony). We also each had a Kindle app on our phones.

This observation prompted me to say something along the lines of:

Digital reading will make inroads into traditional publishing over the next few years. For the most part, people who read on dedicated reading devices are going to be the minority. People who are avid readers are going to want them, especially if the cost of a digital book remains below the price of a traditionally published book and if libraries get on board and allow free digital loans. The other people who are going to pick these up are going to be the gadget lovers, the tech savvy. Both types are over-represented here.

Laughter from the audience.

However, this is not going to kill traditional publishing. There are a lot of people who love the feel of a "real book." There are collectors. There is also a huge number of people who we could call casual readers. They pick up the latest books by the favorite author -- King, Grisham, Rowling, Patterson. They probably don't make a special trip to a bookstore to do it. These are the people who buy their books at Meijers or the grocery store. They are not going to go out and get a Kindle. The only way they are going to switch to digital reading is if they have a device which they already use for something else that also functions as a reader.

To be fair these aren't original ideas, lot's of people thought the same thing.

Fast forward to the now.

I still have my Sony e-reader and I still read books on it. I also have an iPad which, in addition to Apple's iBooks, has a number of other reading Apps.
4 I probably do more reading on the iPad than any other way. Interestingly enough, digital audiobooks are probably the next most used.

I suspect this is the case for a lot of people. Over the previous holiday season I noticed the both the Kindle and the Nook were being billed as much more than "just a reader." Both showed happy people watching movies on Netflix, watching television programs, updating their Facebook accounts, and playing games (especially Angry Birds). Rather than a new device which doubles as a reader (like my iPad), people were encouraged to by a reader that has other applications.

I am not sure how I feel about this. There is part of me that likes the idea of people who have devices just to read with. This part feels sad people may be torn away from their books, distracted by a recent Tweet. Another part feels happy that at least these people have the opportunity to read something new.

Readers that do more. I guess I can be happy that I was half right.

1Look it up yourself, youngsters. I'm not Google.

2Yeah, it's weird to me to.

3Also, to be fair, I probably did not present the topic so succinctly. I'm sure there was a lot of stammering involved.

4 Nook, Kindle, iBooks, Stanza, Kobo, IB Reader, ComiX, and IDW