Is Print Here to Stay?

Yesterday, Sarah pointed out a link that had been posted on Facebook leading to a post on the Wall Street Journal site reassuring readers that print is here to stay. Since I happen to believe there will always be a market, albeit a niche market, for print books, I didn’t have any issues with the article — until I started to read it. So, for good or ill, I feel the need to discuss what the author of the article, Nicholas Carr, had to say as well as some of the responses and their implications for readers and writers.

Don’t Burn Your Books — Print is Here to Stay appeared  online January 5th. It is, apparently, an updated version of an earlier post.

In the third paragraph, Carr comments that hard cover books are showing a “surprising resiliency” and that e-book sales growth has slowed markedly. He goes on to point out that the purchase of e-book readers has also slowed as consumer opt for “multipurpose tablets”. He concludes the paragraph with, “It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.”

So what is his proof of these conclusions? A Pew study he doesn’t link to — so we don’t know the size or make up of the study sample. The study allegedly shows a “modest” increase in the number of adults who read an e-book from 16% to 23%. The study also supposedly showed that”fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.”

Okay, let me count the problems I have with what Carr has to say in that paragraph. First, I have problems with not being linked to the study. We don’t know the ages, locations or even the size of the test sample for the study. Did Pew talk to college students or people over 65? Did they talk to a cross-section of Americans geographically or only in one region? How were the questions phrased? What were the actual numbers? You get the drift.

As for a “modest” increase of 7%, well, that’s not so modest in my opinion. I’ll lay odds that if that had been a 7% increase in the number of people who had read a book, no matter what the format, Carr would have been crowing about how reading was growing by leaps and bounds. Such a declaration wouldn’t fit the message he is trying to get across, so he can only classify it as “modest”. Perhaps it would have helped if he’d included some additional information in the paragraph to explain why this is so “modest” of a gain.

Another indicator that he is, perhaps, skewing the results of the Pew study to meet his needs is how he phrases the last sentence: “fully 80%. . . only 30%. . .  .” Ask yourself this, considering the fact we don’t know who was surveyed in the Pew study, is it any surprise that the majority of readers had read printed books instead of e-books?

He notes that the Association of American Publishers reported a sharp decline in the growth of e-book sales, down from triple digits to 34%. Once again, he doesn’t link to the report. However, in July 2012, e-book sales surpassed hard cover sales for the first time in the US.  As for the fall from triple digits to double digits, that is only natural as more households already have e-book readers or tablets/smartphones capable of being used to read e-books. So the impulse buying that comes with getting a new device will have slowed. But there is another factor Carr seems to have overlooked or forgotten: traditional publishers and cost/reporting of sales. Many people who read e-books will not pay more than $9.99 for an e-book and that means they don’t buy an e-book from a traditional publisher when the e-book and hard cover are first released. So the reporting for those sales is delayed. Then there is the issue of how the sales figures are compiled. Are purchases from small presses and self-published authors reported? On the whole, no. So there is a big hole in the figures.

I think the statement that had me shaking my head the most was when Carr said “the shift from e-readers to tablets may also be dampening e-book purchases.” According to him, e-books lose their “allure” on tablets because they are competing with Facebook and games, etc. Sorry, but no. First of all, there are free apps for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Having a tablet or smartphone that can connect instantly to the e-bookstore of you choosing — unlike some e-book readers that require either a wifi hotspot or side-loading — makes tablets and smartphones good alternatives. The way to combat the so-called allure of games and Facebook is to write entertaining books. It’s the same reason you want a printed book to be good. You don’t want your reader setting the book aside to watch TV, etc.

Then there’s Carr’s comment that e-book bestseller lists have been “skewed disproportionally” toward fiction. WTF?!? How is that skewed? It shows that readers, on the whole, want to read fiction. Reading is a means of entertainment and escape.

But he overlooks another issue. Traditional publishers were slow to jump on the e-book wagon. Let’s be honest here, most non-fiction — at least non-fiction most people consider worth reading — comes from traditional publishers. So, if they weren’t in the marketplace, that isn’t the fault of the e-book reading public or the resellers like Amazon. That lies at the feet of the publishers.

Carr goes on to show his own prejudice about what books should be when he comments that e-books are like those mmpb books we used to be embarrassed to be seen reading. Those guilty pleasures we read once and then got rid of. You know what I mean: fiction. Not literary fiction, mind you, but fiction that told a good story or let us escape into a life we’d never have. According to him, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon wouldn’t have happened without e-books. Of course, he doesn’t mention Harry Potter — which didn’t have e-books until recently — or Twilight, etc. But those, especially Potter, wouldn’t suit his purpose.

As a juxtaposition to Carr’s article, let’s note that print units fell 9% in 2012, according to BookScan. This pretty much matches the decline between 2010 and 2011. According to Publishers Weekly, the largest decline came in adult non-fiction ( – 13%). Mass market paperbacks fell 20.5%, slightly less than in the year before.

Publishers Weekly also reports that the number of people who read a book this past fall decreased 3% over the same time a year ago. Twenty three percent of Americans 16 years old and up read e-books. That is up 7% over the previous year — gee, here’s some of the information I was looking for when reading Carr’s article. PW goes on to report that the percentage of folks who read print books fell from 72% to 67%. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember seeing that reported in Carr’s article. Just like I don’t remember seeing that the Pew report included the information that “33% of Americans 16 and up had either a dedicated e-reader or a tablet, up from 18% in late 2011.”

Let’s be honest, print — especially hard covers — is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. E-books are still in their infancy. People who buy print books are more likely to continue buying hard covers because 1) they come out first, as a rule, and most people want to buy a book when it first comes out; 2) those who buy hard covers tend, as a general rule, to keep the book. They are the collectors, the ones with their own private libraries; 3) cover price aside, most folks are buying their hard covers at a discounted price either through Amazon or other on-line retailers or by using their “club card” for their favorite local bookstore. That makes them think they are getting a really good deal on the hard cover when they can see the publisher marked it at $25.00 and they were able to get it for $18.00 or so. Because of agency pricing, you don’t get that with e-books — yet. That will soon be changing, at least for most of the so-called Big Six publishers.

But Carr needs to remember that our world is changing. Our children are techno savvy. They aren’t intimidated by reading on a dedicated e-book reader or their tablet or smartphone. They like the fact they have instant access to most any book they want. They appreciate the fact they can carry hundreds of books around with them at any one time, more if they have an SD card filled with books as well. Then there are those who are environmentally conscious and appreciate the fact e-books don’t use paper, etc.

What that means, in my opinion, is that time will show e-books taking over a larger and larger portion of the market. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen. The fact that you have major publishers with digital only lines now shows they feel this is the way of the future. Print books will remain, in fewer numbers and more of a niche market in the future. Frankly, I think we are going to see more and more expresso print machines popping up as publishers go to more of a print on demand model: you go into your local bookstore and browse. If you see a book you want, you go to the expresso machine — no, this one doesn’t give you coffee — and program in the appropriate title, etc., and it prints out the book, binds it, etc., right there while you wait. But even that isn’t going to happen quickly. If there is one thing I’ve learned about this industry, it’s that the traditional arm of it hates change more than most do and will drag its heels and kick and scream as it is forced into the current century.

78 thoughts on “Is Print Here to Stay?

  1. My mind flashes back, oh probably fifteen years? When my children dragged me, kicking and screaming, onto the internet. “We need it for homework,” they claimed. Right . . .

    So my New Years resolution was that I was going to learn about this thing. Not that _I_ would have any use for it, but it was something I ought to know about so I could monitor the kids and . . . Hmm. Could I search for my favorite author . . .

    I _think_ once the Traditional Publishers get off their high horse, they’ll find out how very useful electronic commerce can be. But they’ll have to drop a whole lot of baggage along the way. Snobby, upscale, Literary luggage. With much kicking and screaming.

    1. Pam, I think for that to happen, there will have to be at least one major house crumble. Right now, they are trying to find ways to merge without changing their way of doing business. That will only temporarily prop up their house of cards. But, yeah, when it happens there will be very much kicking and screaming. I just want to have the popcorn concession when it happens.

      1. Yeah, they don’t have kids. They have younger staff. You can’t fire kids, when they get bossy. And you can’t pick ’em for shared values in the first place. Could take more than one crumple to _drive_ them into the 21st century. I just hope they shed their holdings in the good smaller publishers before they crash. I’d hate to see Baen dragged down by the undertow.

  2. Hm. I’d actually guess the opposite, about PoD. I’d rate it as a purely transitional technology, meant for those who can’t quite manage the niche collector’s prestige of traditional hardcovers, but don’t want to entirely give up on the (rapidly-shrinking, but still quite large) audience of people who only read their books off dead trees. Once that audience dies off (which I fully expect to live to see), the only books that’ll be printed _at all_ will be the ones selling to the collector market.

    1. Yes. That is exactly what I think, as well. I also think hard covers will go more upscale and collector. Signed, numbered editions, for the mega bestsellers like Pratchett, maybe even leather bound.

      1. Sarah, you are exactly right on the hard covers. Although, as it does begin to happen, I think we will see some publishers making missteps by trying to go too high end too soon and forcing themselves out of business because they can’t sell enough of their premium Corinthian leather books (cue Ricardo Montalban voiceover)

        1. The nice thing about that is, if those of us that use e-books (and I’m hardly a kid) want to get a nice Corinthian leather copy, all we have to do is wait a few weeks or a few months for the publisher to slash the price down to a small fraction of the overly inflated price they tried to set on it to start with. 😉

      2. It might be appropriate to compare the market here to that for scotch. E-books represent blended scotch, dead tree is the single malt market — a luxury item catering to a niche market, employing deluxe bindings to attract the connoisseur/aficionado (it can be argued that this is already occurring in the marketing of classic novels and works by beloved (large dedicated fan base) authors (e.g., L’Amour, Heinlein) collected in fancy leather-bound editions for the collectors’ market.

        This suggests the proper analysis of the e-book market would contrast e-books with the ppbb market: essentially low-cost presentations for the consumer who wants merely to inexpensively consume reading material.

        1. I suspect that it will open a decent market for people with the skills to hand bind, add gold lead, etc.


          1. Exactly! Is there anyone here who would not (cost of purchase and storage being no impediment) buy a subscription to the Compleat Heinlein in leather binding, printed on archival paper with gilt-edging?

              1. Ah, well, the volume of that array of volumes makes any such enterprise rather daunting, no? Even if you limit it to his fiction it will require a sizable number of feet of shelves.

                But consider, instead, an effort by the SFWA and various critics to compile a library of the 150 most essential works to be properly grounded in the genre … or heck, just hire Harlan to edit the “50 Essential SF” books, then hire Pournelle to “rebut” his selections with “25 Essential SF Books Harlan Left Out.”

                  1. None taken – I deliberately selected based on highly-opinionated / knows history of the field / publishers likely to think this name on the set would help sales basis. And you will note that I posited him merely as a starting point, with Pournelle to balance. Probably other authors to put in their own additions.

                    But it would be an interesting exercise, and I think preferable to the old “let the SFWA vote” on the choices. I doubt 50 books gets a significant number of the “essential” SF, nor am I even sure how many books would be necessary to get such a basic SF library, esp. as the number is growing annually and the definition of “essential” is so subjective.

                    How many Heinlein should be included, just for starters? I doubt this group could get full agreement on the number, much less which ones.

                    1. Actually, I believe seeing the highly aggressive and controversial Ellison’s name on the list would drive more people away from reading the list than to it.

                      Let’s run an informal poll, if anyone besides us two is still reading this… would Harlan Ellison’s name make you more likely or less likely to read the list?

                      My vote is “less likely.”

                    2. I think you missed the key point. It is not whether you would be more interested in a Harlan-selected list, it is whether a publisher would think Harlan’s name as editor would help sell books. While Ellison may be sufficiently out of the publishers’ visual field to carry no cachet is a separate matter from your interest.

                      As I believe myself to have long since read over 80% of the “essential” SF I would find Harlan’s list of only intellectual interest, but I daresay that <I<my name as editor of a selection of essential SF would sell very few books.

                      All of which might raise the question: Who would be a good choice for making an initial list of the 100 books every SF fan should have read? Is 150 a better base?

                      For that matter, where should such a list start? Wells? Verne? Doc Smith? de Bergerac? Samuel Butler? Thomas More?

            1. And Complete James Schmitz, REH, etc.

              Even though I haven’t read a hardcopy book in nearly two years.


            2. Yes, Books are for reading not display. IMO “Leather binding, archival paper, gilt-edging” are for people who want to display books. Those things won’t *increase* the reading pleasure for me.

              Now, there’s nothing wrong if you want those things. [Smile]

              1. There is a tactile experience to reading on dead tree that only a barbarian would deny. Whether that constitutes added value is a matter of personal taste. Personally, I very much enjoy the contrast ratio of well-chosen ink on paper and the feel of a well-bound book in the hand, although I admit my willingness to pay for that enriched experience is very limited.

                1. While I must agree that the tactile sensation is pleasurable, I must admit that for myself, living as I do in a town with one new bookstore and one used bookstore — neither of them totally devoted to just books, but also selling other things, in the case of the new bookstore, everything from video games to music CDs to DVDs — the near-instantaneous delivery of the books to my Kindle is a Godsend.

                  Not to mention the convenience of being able to carry my entire library in one device.

                  1. Our one and only bookstore also sells model trains. Which makes sense in a way. Neat place.

                    Next closest bookstore is a two hour drive, and is soooo boring.


                2. Of course, some of us interested in such deluxe bindings have little or no interest in displaying our preciousess, preferring to keep them stored in acid-free bags and away from any source of light that might fade their vibrant colours or prematurely age their bindings.

                3. The “tactile experience” does exist but does “leather binding, etc” really add to the reading pleasure? [Wink]

                  On the other hand, my “tablet computer” is lighter than a hard cover and I can increase the print size. [Grin]

                  1. Some children and grandchildren might appreciate parents and grandparents who bought such. If not for themselves then for being able to sell them to those who collect them. Problem being, of course, trying to guess which writers will be the future equivalents of Jane Austen and co.

                    If I was rich I might buy some. I like the idea of having a good looking old fashioned library. The smell, tactile sensations and just the look DO add to the pleasure, to me anyway. Now add a very comfortable reading chair, small table for a favorite beverage and a pleasant light for evenings (or in my case, also nights, after close to 30 years of working nights I keep funny hours). Maybe a fireplace… Oh yes… but just those books I know I will be reading more than just a couple of times.

                4. There is one other advantage to a hardcover that most folks overlook; it’s orders of magnitude more effective for fighting off ninjas than an e-reader. Although I am a hardcore e-reader man, if I’m ever ambushed by ninjas, I’ll take something like Jane’s Fighting Ships — preferably a late-Cold-War edition — over my Kindle any day.

                  1. A very good point. For combat purposes I like a good atlas, preferably a coffee table edition, although there’s nothing like an unabridged dictionary for close-in fighting.

              2. Actually, I disagree. The attributes listed are all calculated to extend the lifetime of a book, making it more of an heirloom, able to survive the ravages of time, skin oils, and dust.

                1. Nit pick here. Mark, please note that I said “reading pleasure”. Your statement has more to do with “lifespan of the book” than “reading pleasure”. [Smile]

                  To me, “reading pleasure” and “lifespan of the book” aren’t related.

    2. I didn’t phrase the part about the expresso machines right. That’s what happens when I do these posts without enough coffee in my system. What I meant to say is that I think this tech will be a transition piece for them. They don’t want to give up on print but also can’t cover the expenses of traditional print any longer. I’m not sure the legacy publishers will ever embrace it. But I can see small to mid-sized publishers doing it. There will be a market for print books for years yet, albeit a shrinking one. This would be one way to tap into that market without all the costs, especially since the bookstores where the machines are located will be the one either leasing or buying the machines and not the publisher.

      1. I can see options in buying ebooks becoming popular “$5 off if you decide to print this book later” which I suspect would be most useful with non-fiction. Any book you refer to regularly might be handier in Dead Tree.

        1. Interesting idea.

          Amazon is already discounting the Audible (audiobook) version of their Kindle titles, if you buy the Kindle edition first. Don’t see why they couldn’t do the same with dead-tree editions.

        2. Absolutely. I was wishing for something like that last night when I had to pay more than $140 for a download code for a textbook for my son. This is a book that used to be available in print for just about the same price. But now the publisher only issues it as an e-book and only through its own site. Buy the download code from the university bookstore, go to the bookstore to pick up the physical copy of the download code, and then log into the publisher’s site to enter the download code and download the, I presume, heavily DRMed copy. Sheesh.

          1. But think of the wonderful profits they are making! Pardon my sarcasm.

            I prefer the idea of Open Text Books as a solution myself.


          2. Apparently the Major Text Book Publishers are suing an Open Text Book company for Copyright Infringement.

            They allege that the Open Text Books use the same chapter titles, in the same order, not that the chapters, or any of the text in the chapters, was copied. I am speechless.


    3. Hmmm…I hope not because in a future I can imagine..if dead trees go completely the way of the dodo bird, and someone decides they want to keep the people stupid…it’s called EMP. Dead trees can be stored and hidden. So can electronic back faraday cages. But how many people actually BOTHER to back anything up? As for the audience for dead trees dying off. You may be right and like you I expect I’ll live to see it…it’ll be a sad day.

      1. addendum…you wouldn’t have to even bother with EMP Virus and malware proliferate everyday like blowfly maggots on rotting meat. *shrug* and again…how many people bother to back things up?

      2. I do a lot of my reading on a Kindle. However, I insist that my “survival” books be “dead tree” books. Should the day come when I can no longer charge my Kindle, I can still read the paper ones.

        I have never had any desire for leather-bound, gilt-edge editions. I still have paperbacks I bought in the 1960s. If you treat them well, they last just like hardcovers.

        1. I still have a handful of paperbacks my father bought in the ’50s. The ones I bought for myself in the ’80s and ’90s? Not so much. They didn’t survive the moves, because the glue holding the binding together failed. Some printers, you can’t even trust the bindings to last 5 years. (I’d know, since there are books I’ve bought more than one copy of just since moving into my current place of residence, which was less than 5 years ago.)

          My digital archives, on the other hand, go back to 1986.

          Do I want the knowledge to rebuild civilization to be on paper? Of course I do. And not all of that knowledge is non-fiction, either. But the overwhelming majority of what people, including myself, buy to read doesn’t really fall into that category. 🙂

      3. I don’t see dead tree books completely disappearing. I do see them becoming a much smaller part of the market and POD becoming more of the rule rather than the exception.

  3. But Carr needs to remember that our world is changing.

    Actually he doesn’t need to remember this. He is free to join the frozen Siberian Mammoths, with buttercups in their stomaches.

    Of course he is also free to join the 21st Century.

    There are a lot of people, in a lot of industries, who are terrified of the future. In one way you can’t blame them. The changes keep coming harder and faster. What you knew, which provided you a decent (or indecent) wage five years ago is no longer sufficient.

    So they post stuff like this, to try and convince the rest of the world that they are still relevant.

    They always loose in the end. Ask the ice-box men. But they can do a lot of damage on the way down, and hurt people who believe them, in this case writers who don’t take the new business paradigm seriously.

    Good debunk, I absolutely loved it.


    1. Thanks, Wayne.

      No one likes change, myself included. But when it keeps hitting you in the face, when your customers keep telling you what they want, there comes a time when you have to listen and adapt or disappear. Publishing, at least legacy publishing, runs the risk of disappearing if it doesn’t stop listening to the bean counters who have no feel for the industry now. It’s time to start listening to the young bucks who know and embrace new tech and to stop trying to publish the “right thinking” sort of books at the expense of books their customers want to read.

      1. I predicted a while back that the majors would disappear. I now think that I was wrong, but that are likely likely to get a lot smaller, even as the individual major companies get larger through mergers.

        So we could see the new giant, Random-Penguin loosing, say, 50% of its sales over the next 4-5 years (note that the number is a wild guess, I haven’t read their recent SEC reports).

        The random factor is Amazon. If Amazon decides to back the large publishers by making their books show up higher in rankings by cooking the algorithms, then the majors could hold out longer. My assumption is that the majors are negotiating with Amazon to do this, or already have. Standard Operating Procedure. If you can’t win in the market, deny the market to your competition.

        Boy am I cynical.


  4. A few minor statistical errors in this piece.

    First, an increase from 16% to 23% represents not a 7% increase but rather a (rounded) 150% increase.

    Second, as the base numbers grow the rate of growth necessarily slows. If in base year 2010 there are 100,000 e-book purchases and in 2011 there are 200,000 e-book purchases, the rate of growth is three figures: 100%. If in 2012 there are 350,000 e-book purchases the rate of growth has slowed to “only” 75% even though the raw increase is half again the increase in sales from.2010 to 2011.

    To quote Twain, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

    1. Thank you. I was wondering about that but am stuck in an interminable conference call meeting for work at the moment, and was/am too busy saving my remaining brain cells from the toxic boredom such meetings always create to devote them to working out the math. 😉

    2. Well, yes. As a one-time statistician, I’m deeply puzzled by percentage increases as they are often reported. If e-book readership went from 16% to 23%, that may or may not be significant: unless we know what happened to total readership, the percentages are largely meaningless. If e-book readership went from 16-23% and total readership increased from, say, 1 million to 2 million readers, then the e-book growth is more than spectacular (160,000 readers to 460,000, or 187% growth, not 7%). If total readership declined from, say, 1 million readers to 900,000 readers, then e-book readership is still impressive (160,000 readers to 207,000, or 29% growth, still not 7%).
      Just to throw out precentage growths by themselves, without telling us what happened to the universe/total market, always makes me suspicious.

    3. Thanks for the math correction — I mean it. Math and I have never seen eye to eye and trying to do it before fully caffeinated is deadly.

      Also, I agree with you that as base numbers grow, the rate of growth will slow. That’s only natural and it points out just how this guy tried to skew the so-called facts to suit his premise.

  5. I’d be happy to buy more nonfiction if it wasn’t at textbook prices. I wanted a book on fermented food safety the other day. Everything was geared to college student (captive audience) pricing. They don’t even hold a gun on you. $100 to $200. The rest is by ‘Let’s live in the hills and love the Earth, Birkenstock wearing hippy wannabes.

    1. Mackey, agreed. My bank account is still smarting from buying my son’s textbooks for this, his last term, at university. I particularly hated paying for a digital download key that ran in the triple digits. Sigh.

  6. I’ll admit, I was floored this morning to look for a new academic press book and find that an e-version is already available and that costs less than the discounted cover price. I’d guessed that it would be at least another year or two before any university press started doing co-release e-books. The times are a changin’ indeed. I will not get the e-version, however, because the book will be for reference, meaning annotated to death and kept within arm’s reach of my work desk. When you gotta have three or four books and journals open at the same time, dead tree wins (thus far).

    1. Thanks, Mike.

      Well, he couldn’t say that if he wanted anyone to take the premise of his article seriously. (Shakes head)

  7. Mostly I view the problems with traditional print as pricing themselves out of the market on the one hand, and not getting into recycling early enough on the other. (This would’ve curbed the green issues, or at least minimized them. Some pubs did this, but added more fees onto it, which just didn’t help.)

    I’m writing this late at night so none of this may make sense, but here’s the main problem I have with e-books: I get migraines. That means reading an e-book can set it off, and has. Whereas I seem to know when I can stop a little better with a printed book, and it doesn’t set off nearly as many migraines (not for the same reasons, either) . . . I’m sure there’s a way on a dedicated device (I don’t have one, as I just read off my desktop) to set the backlighting to minimize the chances of an e-book setting off a migraine. But I’ve never once seen one person discuss this as a problem, even though it is.

    I’m not the only migraine sufferer out there, either. Which is why I do see this as something the various dedicated devices need to try to do something about. (Maybe they have. I don’t know.)

    So there’s price on the one hand vs. convenience on the other. And “doesn’t wreck my health” on the one hand and “probably will cause many more problems than it solves” on the other.

    Maybe dead-tree editions will become similar to glasses — some people need ’em, some don’t, for some it’s a vanity statement (those wearing glasses just for show versus those of us who need ’em to see, etc.), what have you — and those of us who prefer the dead-tree format will be seen as akin to the handicapped?

    1. That’s a fair reason for not using e-books. Though I do wonder, have you tried the e-ink versions of the Kindle as well as the LCD versions? I mean that honestly, the e-ink display is very nearly the same as paper, it’s not like reading a computer screen.

      However, where your medical issues make e-readers unattractive, a very good friend of mine, who passed away a few months ago, found the Kindle allowed her to get back into reading. She had cerebral palsy and tended to drop a dead-tree book every time she turned the page, but she could hold onto the Kindle for hours with no problem.

      1. I haven’t yet had the money to try any of your suggestions, CW. But I may try them in the future. I also deal with carpal tunnel syndrome and can sympathize with your friend’s condition to a degree even though what my hands do when tired is probably not a patch on what happened to your friend.

        I’m very sorry for your loss.

        I’m glad that she was able to find some enjoyment from reading due to the Kindle.

            1. Not just Kindle – look into the Kobo too. You won’t be able to use the Amazon store directly (and the Kobo store when I tried it on my Kobo is so slow that it’s easier for me to sideload anything onto it rather than use the store).

              I got mine direct from Kobo, refurbished, for about 40 dollars including S&H. I think Amazon also does the refurbished deals.

              1. The iPad version of the Kobo software is a terrible piece of junk. The iPad version of the Kindle software is OK, but not good.

                The best eBook software on the iPad is Apple’s, which allows you to make you own directory structure. The big problem is that it uses iTunes to transfer files, and iTunes may be a decent music player, but it’s a horrible file syncing utility.

                What I usually do with Baen books is email them to myself, and then open them in the iPad mail app, and then import them.

                Of course you are stuck with the software for that store when DRM is used, which sucks.


            2. The only caveat I’ll add to this, Barb, is to buy your used Kindle or Nook, etc., only from those sellers on ebay with high ratings. There have been a number of times when stolen or bricked Kindles have been bought through ebay and Amazon will not stand by the warranty on those.

    2. Barb, I suffer from migraines on occasion so I sympathize. I’ve found that using my e-ink kindle doesn’t cause any problems. I think it is the lack of backlighting. As for being seen as akin to handicapped because someone prefers paper to digital, nah. Old-fashioned, possibly. But even that will be some time to come.

      1. Amanda, if I can get any money ahead in the upcoming year, I’m going to try this. Both you and CW have recommended it, and I know you also suffer from migraines. If it doesn’t set you off, then it’s unlikely to set me off.

        I would like the lighter weight of a dedicated device or smart phone on some days, to be sure. 🙂

    3. Ouch. That’s nasty.

      My wife gets migraines, but luckily using an iPad as an e-reader doesn’t bother her. Based on what I know from living with a migraine sufferer for 26 years, it might be the screen on that particular e-reader, but I wouldn’t want to be you, trying to test different brands to see which one doesn’t give you a migraine. That would be torture.

      And it is an issue that I’d never considered, and should have. I know that screen flicker from a variety of devices is a migraine trigger.

      Which one have you tried – I’m curious.


      1. I’ve used, very briefly, a few of the Kindles (but not the e-Ink dedicated readers) and my late husband had a MobiPocket that I liked but would set off migraines. (It broke not long before his passing, but I still have it. Palm has a lifetime guarantee, but I don’t know if it would apply in this case as my husband, who bought it, is deceased.)

        I’ve also seem some of the tablet computers and used ’em in stores very briefly but definitely could tell those would not be good fits.

        The main problem on a desktop computer is the lack of variety in lighting. (Or maybe I just don’t know how to re-jigger the settings.) There is one plus that will apply to nearly any device these days, the zoom feature (d’you remember how it was before zoom was used so often?), so the days I’m more farsighted than near, at least I can adjust for that.

        1. Sorry to hear about your husband.

          Um, getting warrantee service from Palm could be a problem. Palm got into bad financial trouble, was bought up by HP, and then they closed the division about a year later.

          E-ink may be your best option. I agree 100% about adjustable font sizes. Even with bifocals, larger fonts are a life saver!


          1. Yes on Palm service. I was unfortunate enough to own some Palm stock when they got in trouble (it wasn’t just that they got in financial trouble, they were also cooking the books to try and hide it, and possibly attempting some not so kosher fixes). The only time I have ever seen a 50:1 reverse split in a stock, and I had to own it 😦

    4. For what it’s worth, the e-Ink dedicated readers probably won’t aggravate your migraine problems, since they’re not backlit. (Also, they have way better battery life than tablets do.)

      1. Thank you, lelnet. That’s three for three on the e-Ink dedicated readers, so I’m definitely going to have to try that should I get any money ahead this year. (One can always hope. My first book will be out in August. Maybe it will be profitable. Who knows?)

        1. When you do go for an e-ink, be sure you get the ones that aren’t lit. Amazon and BN both have versions now with lighted edges, etc. and I don’t know how those would work with migraines. Also, someone mentioned upthread that you ought to check for refurbed models through Amazon, etc. I agree. They aren’t always available, but if you can find one, it will be at a lower cost than a new model and would have the Amazon/BN/Kobo warranty. Also, springing for the addtional $25 or so for the two year extended warranty is worth it as well.

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