Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to Kindle a Love of Books

Last week one of my colleagues, a man more than 20 years older than me, came into my office and said "You're young.  I need someone young." 

Since I turned 49 on my last birthday I was flattered.  But when he told me that he needed advice on a graduation gift for his grandson who was leaving college and entering law school, a gift of "some useful new technology" as he put it, I told him that we needed someone younger.  So we walked down the hall to talk to someone who graduated from law school in the last five years.

What we ended up discussing was whether a Kindle would be a good gift.  He didn't know what a Kindle was, but when we explained it he was intrigued.  We all agreed that it might be a wonderful gift for a law student.  The case books for classes probably wouldn't be sold digitally but  if other types of books that a student might need were available digitally, it would be worth the price:  law dictionaries, etc.  He was going to look into it.

I've avoided getting a Kindle.  I like reading "real" books - paper and ink books.  But I can see the benefit of them.  My sister, who travels regularly for her job, has a Kindle and loves it.  She always has something to read wherever she is.  And it is much easier to carry around her Kindle than it is to bring 10 books with her.

Digitalization of most books is coming and will be here before we know it.  And in general I think that's a good thing.  In the same way that digitalization of music and television shows that I can buy online is a good thing.  I don't think it will kill publishing but it will change it. 

Last month Clive Thompson, in Wired Magazine wrote about the digital revolution in reading. His main thesis: Taking [books] digital will unlock their real hidden value: the readers. He made an interesting observation:

You're far more likely to hear about a book if a friend has highlighted a couple brilliant sentences in a Facebook update—and if you hear about it, you're far more likely to buy it in print. Yes, in print: The few authors who have experimented with giving away digital copies (mostly in sci-fi) have found that they end up selling more print copies, because their books are discovered by more people.

Maybe.  Or maybe they won't buy it in print but they will buy it in a digital format that is easy to read, such as the Kindle format. 

I'm considering seriously considering getting a Kindle.  But I'm not in a hurry to make a decision.