Books Beat Kindles

Josie Leavitt - March 15, 2010

Yesterday, I spent seven long hours waiting at JFK Airport, trying to get back home from a quick weekend away in Florida. When faced with so many hours in an airport, I don’t read. I people watch.

I saw more Kindles than I ever have in my life: three. I was curious about these Kindle readers, so I tried to speak with each of them. Only one was interested in talking to me.

I was curious what he was reading and was very surprised to hear he was reading a Louis L’Amour novel. He actually whispered it, telling me, “I would never go to a store to buy this.” He loves his Kindle.I asked if he still went to bookstores and he said somewhat sheepishly, no. This echoes what my family in Florida said, too. I was worried about this, then I looked around the gate area.

The three Kindle readers had stopped reading and were just looking around, as if they needed a break from the screen. All the other book readers, and there must have been about thirty readers at my gate, had their heads down, happily turning pages, fairly oblivious to the chaos around them.

One other thing I didn’t see was anyone recharging their book. Not beholden to the proximity of outlets, the book readers were literally strewn about. (Before folks get mad at me, I understand the battery life of the Kindle is long, but at some point they do need to be recharged.)

Are books dead? Hardly. But it’s clear to me at least, who lives in a very bookstore-friendly state, that the e-reader is creeping into the larger book reading world. The Borders here at the airport even sells preloaded Sony e-readers.

One last quick scan of the gate revealed book readers outnumbering Kindle owners by ten to one. That’s a number I can live with, I think.

15 thoughts on “Books Beat Kindles

  1. Karen

    I just returned from a trip to Mexico and lamented having to carry 12 books for myself and 10 for my husband, and thought a Kindle would be convenient. But I wouldn’t have been able to leave those books behind to share with others. And by the way I saw no one reading a Kindle at the resort where we were during the entire 2 weeks. But tons of book readers.

  2. Aly

    Funny you should find the kindle readers less engaged. I generally find them more so because they don’t have to try to juggle other stuff to hold their place in their book. Kindle readers can sip their coffee or eat a snack while still being able to read steadily without trying to prop open pages. I agree with Amy, you really need to try one for a weekend…especially if traveling. You will be amazed at the convenience and comfort. (And there is really no need to turn off your kindle when taking off and landing since the wireless signal is easily turned off…the airline folks are just not very well informed and just say to turn off anything with a switch).

  3. Jill Guempel

    I have a Kindle and I love the convenience of it, but the idea of my house without books lining the shelves fills me with horror. I hope the e-reader doesn’t destroy the paper book market!

  4. Donna Sugg

    I am firmly in the “both” category! The immediacy & compact size of e-readers (I have a nook) is great – when you need it (for me, that’s when waiting for my HS age kids to be done with whatever activity they’re at – I spend half my life in parking lots!). But I still LOVE paper books, and want the freedom in certain types of books to flip back to locate a passage (especially in longer, character-dense stories like fantasy). Just because you buy an e-reader doesn’t mean you can’t buy paper books. And the nook has an airplane mode that I believe can stay on during takeoff & landing – tho I haven’t tried it yet to confirm 🙂

  5. Rhonda

    I commute daily into the city and have observed ereaders and book readers as well. There they too far out number ereaders. In four years I have seen maybe three ereaders, and recently that number has gone down to none.
    Personally I don’t what the big deal is. When audio books came out I don’t recall everyone running around talking about how audio were going to close down bookstores. Why can’t ereaders too share the platform in the way audio books still do?

  6. Amy

    I read both books and a Kindle (a gift b/c I write). And I read both intensely. E-ink is great and is very different than reading on a computer screen. If you haven’t tried it for a trip especially, you must. For travel I love the e-reader. (By the way, plugging in is NOT an issue. I can go an entire weekend reading several hours a day without plugging in. Another thing I love.) If I am not traveling and am at home, I read both books and ebooks. I have NOT stopped going into bookstores — browsing books is one of my favorite things to do and this cannot be replaced by going to a website. In addition, the selection at the Kindle Store isn’t good enough yet. There’s plenty I read that can’t be found there yet. But do I think e-readers are the upcoming thing? Yes. I think everyone is going to feel this…What I think bookstores and publishing folks need to do (if they haven’t) is find a friend they can borrow one of these things for a whole weekend. Travel with it, use it. Find one with e-ink (it’s great — I’m not sure about the ipad as e-reader yet b/c I believe it’s not e-ink). That’s my advice. You need to be with this thing for awhile to get the idea of it. It’s a nice gadget if you love to read.

  7. KLR Literary

    A drawback to flying with eReaders: you can’t read on the plane during take-off and landing. eBook readers have to put away their stories while those lugging around books can continue to read all the way to the gate.

  8. Cathy

    I too have been conducting my own mini research.On a recent trip from Seatle to LA then on to Mexico,I wandered the airport looking for ereaders.I was astonished at how few, in fact only one.I also chuckle when everyone is asked to power down long before landing,I happily keep reading1Think we can live with this balance.

  9. Rob

    I love books in physical form and don’t have a Kindle but would considering getting an e-reader (iPad actually) for at least one reason beyond portability: OOP (out-of-print) books, esp. with regards to the Gutenberg Project, a truly worthy endeavor. I’m fortunate to be in a state with Half-Price Bookstores so I am always resorting to garage/library sales or ( or Ebay, where “used” books are often priced higher than original retail price) for a specific book not considered bestseller by the brick-and-mortar stores.

  10. Publisher

    Just remember that when electronic reading devices hit their tipping point, there will be no going back. Just think about digital music before iPod…it was terrible. Digital music players didn’t replace CDs right out the gate, but the right digital music player did. And I’m not trying to suggest that Apple’s device will be the one to do it. I read a survey of PGW publishers’ conversion of their books to ebooks and was surprised by the % of publishers that were converting few or none of their titles. This stubbornness will eventually cost these publishers a lot of money.

  11. Julia

    I’m a librarian. I love books and I own a Kindle. I read both formats equally. One just can’t beat the slim shape of a Kindle that can easily be slipped into a purse or bag when travelling. One’s place is not lost if a Kindle falls from your hands while reading. However, for tactile pleasure, flipping back through the pages to refresh your memory, and for looking at photographs or illustrations, absolutely nothing beats a book. I believe that both formats have their strengths and weaknesses and have a place in the reading world.

  12. Shirley

    Josie…I had the same type of experience at an airport recently. It appeared to me that the Kindle readers weren’t as intent on their reading. A dear friend of mine recently got a Kindle at his retirement party. He whispered to me…”I really like the way books feel!”

  13. Chris

    Thank the reading gods that books still out number Kindles, at least in my humble opinion!!!
    Just went through this very debate with my sister (it took several days and many email exchanges!) and we’ve had to agree to disagree.
    Nothing will ever replace a real, live, honest-to-god printed-on-paper book – at least not for me!! (And I admit to being a techno-geek, just not to the degree that I’d replace my books with a Kindle!).


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