Word has it that e-books are now outselling p-books (er, paper books) over at Amazon.com:
Amazon released its quarterly report for the end of last year and says that for every 100 books sold on its site, it sells 115 Kindle ebooks.
And that’s despite neuroscience blogger Jonah Lehrer’s insistence that e-readers are “too easy” on the eyes. He may be partially right, though I think the culprit here is that Helvetica is simply boring as fuck. Consequently, anything displayed in Helvetica is going to be boring as fuck, and anything boring as fuck is probably not going to be prioritized by your brains. A crisp, clear, elegant, easy-to-read serifed font is where I’m putting my money. Having readers default to some sort of Garamond would be kick-ass, though at the moment the Kindle 3 renders most Garamonds pretty shittily unless you do some hacking.
Over the holidays I traded in the rest of my magic beans and got a Kindle 3. Initially, I was merely out to more accurately format the e-books I distribute through Smashwords, but in the month and a half since, I’ve read two novels and a handful of short stories on the thing. The non-LCD screen has thoroughly seduced me (and, now that I’ve studied the Laptop Kama Sutra, I’ve made adjustments and seduced it back). I totally see a growing market for people weary of Microsoft’s (Un)ClearType text rendering. Or Apple’s soft, fuzzy iPad approach. Reading a novel on a dedicated e-reader is not like reading a novel on a laptop, iPhone, or iPad, the latter of which are perfectly suited for news articles or blog entries that include photographs, or for porn site “Enter if you’re over 18” warnings, but not for long-form novels or text-based books. Ironically, all the screenshots provided in Bill Hill’s “The Future of Reading: iPad Magazines” are proof that reading for extended periods on an LCD-based device is just lame. At least using current LCD technologies. If someone started mass-producing ~200dpi LCD screens tomorrow I’d so be there. In the meantime, as Amazon’s Kindle or B&N’s Nook excel at displaying text, and Apple’s iPad excels at displaying graphics, we’re looking at two separate e-reader markets: one for readers of newspapers, magazines, and manga / comics, the other for readers more interested in long-form books and novels.
Either way, I get why e-books are finally outselling p-books. Hardcovers sport excellent typefaces and quality paper stock, but are cumbersome to handle. Paperback novels may have enjoyed their “warm and cozy” reputation for the last near-century, but reading those two novels I mentioned above on a Kindle has proved to be just as enjoyable. More so, even, when you consider the ability to change font size or line spacing based on your preferences. You don’t have to worry about margins being so close to the binding that you have to pry the book open just to read complete paragraphs. If you’re dirt-poor, like me (or if you’re a college student), you don’t have to sacrifice modest living space for the sake of storing your dusty volumes. Best of all, you don’t have to shift the book to suit odd or even pages if you’re reading while lying on your side in bed—which is totally something I love to do. It’s such a small thing, but makes such a big difference.
Now, come up with a reading device that’s hi-res, can do color, and has an adjustable back-light, and you’ll really start outselling your mom. And your dad.