One of the first articles in my mailbox this morning was one by Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer: "Why I Finally Bought a Kindle -- And You Should Too." I smiled, because it reminded me of a conversation I had this past weekend at a gathering of academics. One of them asked me how sales were going for Beyond All Price. I said they were slow but steady, and then commented that the Kindle version was selling particularly well.
There was a moment of shocked silence. Now, I should have been prepared for that. I know these people pretty well, and I understand that they are all book people. I've been in their offices and seen the shelves weighted down with their personal libraries. Then the conversation went something like this:
I don't want to go back over all the selling points for Kindle. You can find those all over the web, including in Dana's post mentioned above. But here's what particularly appeals to an old retired academic.
1. Ease of use. I've put in my years of carting loads of books everywhere I went. The Kindle fits in my purse and only adds ounces to its weight. When I'm reading a hefty volume, my arthritic thumbs no longer protest at the weight of the book itself, and the pages don't need a steady grip. I can hold the Kindle in one hand, or prop it on my knee.
2. Affordability. New books, even best sellers, are available for under $10.00, and some are ridiculously low-priced. After today, my own Beyond All Price can be had for $5.99. I've also published 2 small e-books, one on Civil War cooking and the other on Civil War medical treatments. They're both downloadable at $2.99. A Scratch with the Rebels, the history of the Roundhead Regiment that sold at $24.95, is now only $9.95 in the Kindle Bookstore. And then there are the classics. Books that are out of copyright are not only readily available but usually free. You can download a whole set of Shakespearean drama or Agatha Christie mysteries without spending a dime. You don't even have to pay a shipping charge.
3. Space availability. When we moved into our new but downsized house, many wonderful books ended up in cartons in the garage or on a sale rack at the library. We simply did not have room for the collection that used to line my office walls. But my Kindle? It can hold 3,500 books, every one of them available instantly when I want a particular volume.
4. Convenience. No, I haven't lost my love of reading. I read more now than I ever did. On a beach? Sure. Sunlight, ocean breezes, and sand are no problem. On a plane? Of course. No plugs or cords needed, and no extra space in the carry-on bag. In a dentist's waiting room? A Kindle book is much better than a ragged magazine from 2005.
5. Transfer ability. The greatest benefit, for me, comes from the Kindle App. It is available free for tablet readers, smart phones, and desktop computers. I have a copy on every one of my electronic gadgets, and they all synch automatically. I can start reading on the Kindle, do a bit more on my iPhone in a boring meeting, read another chapter in my office while waiting for a computer program to update itself, and finish a suspenseful story on my lighted iPad in the middle of the night. Kindle keeps track of my place, no matter which device I'm using. No more dog-eared pages or bookmarks lost to devilish cats who love to pull them out of books.
My colleagues who shook their heads over my lack of academic purity might remember that I have long been an early-adapter. I love what's new if it makes life easier. As a medievalist, I revere those old 12th-century volumes, hand-written by dedicated monks on the thinnest possible vellum. But I'd have been first in line when Gutenberg started cranking up his press. So I still am today.