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November 07, 2009

Dana Stabenow Guest Blogs

"You Don't Scare Me, Kindle."

by Dana Stabenow 

Kindle. eReader. EZReader. The Alex. The Que. The Nook, iRex, Plastic Logic.

Every time a new e-reader debuts, the book world hurls itself into a panic. " . . . publishers are distracting themselves by fretting over the price of eBooks, without eBook released so as not to cannibalize hardcover book sales, and watching helplessly as their businesses erode," Reuters quoted Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

So. Is this the end of the book? Am I about to be out of a job? Man, I was just getting started here.

I'm bucking the trend. I don't think so.

The October 25 Sunday New York Times writes, "Amazon says Kindle owners buy 3.1 times as many books as they did before getting one." Sony says its e-book users are also inspired. "You are going to see very significant growth rates," said Jeffrey P. Bezoes, the head of Amazon.

Of course, they add, "Publishers had doubts. 'Do you really believe that people are going to be reading more because they can get in on a screen? I don't see the scenario," said John Sargent, MacMillian's chief executive.

All due respect to Mr. Sargent, who is after all my publisher, but I don't think he's talked to anyone under thirty lately. Gen Xers were raised reading on screens, and that's how many of them are now reading books. Further, I believe that the explosion of online blogs is accustoming many new people to the habit of reading. an e-format book is going to look familiar and reassuring to these folks, in the same way it frightens many boomers.

I myself recently downloaded a Great Books app to my iPhone, and guess what? If I were stuck in an airport waiting for a late plane and I'd accidentally packed my book in my checked baggage (it's happened, and the horror), I could re-read Pride and Prejudice on my iPhone just fine. It scrolls past at a speed I set, in a font I choose, and I've got oever 150 public domain titles from which to pick, including all of Sherlock Holmes and The Three Musketeers, plus both sequels. If I were toting all that around in book form my bag would never fit into the overhead bin. Not to mention what it would do to my back trying to get it there.

So I'm selling my Star Svensdotter novels, long out of print, on Kindle and iPhone.  I have commissioned cover art for the first nine Kate Shugak novels so I can sell them on Kindle, too. And as soon as I get five minutes I'm going to get tech-friendly with uploading all my out-of-print titles, including the Kate Shugak short stories, for sale on all other e-devices as well.

As I was writing this post, I checked the iTunes App store book page. The number one free app? The B&N eReader.  The number two free app? The Kindle for iPhone. As it happens, I don't need either one of them because my app has its own built-in reader. And it and all the books it comes with cost me a magnificent sum of $1.99.  At that price, you think I won't buy more?

Erik over at Pimp My Novel says, "These cheap books might be the death of publishing, book sharing might be the death of publishing, Stephen King is delaying his e-book because e-books are the death of publishing . . . is anyone else bored of this conversation?" and then links to Lit Drift's 5 Reasons Why the Novel is Not a Dying Medium, where they channel Mark Twain in saying that the death of the novel is greatly exaggerated.

Literary agent Nathan Bransford says, "Things are changing, it's going to be an interesting/challenging couple of years as we gradually succumb to our coming e-book overlords, but it doesn't mean the novel is going to disappear or that w're all going to hell in a handbasket. Things aren't going to be worse (at least in the long term), they're just going to be different . . . "

I can do different. My feeling is that the more ways you can read, the more you will read, which is only good news for me. I do not mean to make light of the real changes facing everyone at every level of the publishing industry, from Mr. Sargent way up there to me way down here. Change is always scary.

But change doesn't have to be bad, and in this case, I don't believe it is.

Dana was born in Alaska and raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska.  To learn more about her unconventional life, check out her website. Her seventeenth Kate Shugak novel, A NIGHT TOO DARK, will be published February 16, 2010.



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I don't have a reader device---yet--but I've used my daughter's Sony reader and find it perfectly acceptable for reading books. It's cool (and makes me feel cool!) and lightweight and perfect for lugging on vacation. But part of me fears that such a device will have to be replaced---like a computer---every few years, and what becomes of the books you've bought? I love my book collection! (The first thing I notice when entering someone else's house is their books--or lack thereof! It says so much about their personalities.) So I'm still thinking it over. Call me a fuddy duddy.

I'm looking at the Droid with longing, though. I think it's my next big purchase.

Thanks for being our guest, Dana. Love your books! And I have them right here on my shelf.

I've not made the leap yet, and am putting it off. Old fashioned as I am, there's something about holding a book, the feel of it, the scent of it, the excitement of opening the cover, the first few pages.

Don't think a gadget can ever duplicate that.....

I got my reader device in April - a Kindle. And it is even cooler than I expected. The ereader is coming whether we want it or not; the device and format may be up for grabs, but not the ereader option.

Personally, I've bought at least ten more books with the Kindle than I would have in paper. Plus a monthly story subscription that I hadn't gotten on paper.

The ereader is much more physically friendly - I had serious back surgery a few months ago, still recovering, and can't yet comfortably hold a paper book for any period of time. But my kindle is light and easy to manipulate (and probably saved my sanity!).

My 7yo has even been reading on my kindle. I would say he adapted quickly - except that I don't think there was an adaptation; it was just automatic. (Magic Kingdom For Sale was a free download :)

And of course the ap's are awesome - I can open my current book on my phone when I'm stuck waiting for an appt or whatever. This is only going to encourage more reading, which is cool too.

I have a Kindle and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. I am buying and reading MORE ebooks because, especially w/Kindle it's so EASY. I don't have to carry a bazillion books in my carry on in case I finish (or get bored by) the one I'm reading. I don't have stacks and stacks of books that I don't have space for lying around my house. The downside? I can't pass on my favorites.

Nope, I don't work for Amazon,and I'm surely not a Gen Xer either (just hit the big half century). I just LOVE my Kindle. And I hope it doesn't spell the end of the novel. It's mostly what I read :)

Have to add, Nancy, that with Kindle, Amazon keeps records of each book you buy on Kindle so if you have to replace the Kindle or delete something and want to reread, you can re download your books. I don't know if Sony has something similar.....

Naturally this story came out the day after I submitted my post for this blog:


Money quote: "...in the last four months, book apps have exceeded the popularity of games apps – with one out of every five new apps launching in October having been a book."

One in five. That's a statistic that works for me. Now let's try for one in four...

>My feeling is that the more ways you can read, the more you will read, which is only good news for me<

Oh yes! I'm like you in this respect, I love the idea that there are plenty of ways to get my books into the hands of readers. Imagine sailors at sea--no room for books? Take an e-reader, and that's just one example to your many.

I love all SORTS of ways to read: print book, e-book, audiobook. I love the choices I have.

BTW, my 75 y.o. mom just got her Kindle and is so happy she can buy books, newspapers, blogs, etc. and take them with her wherever she goes.

This isn't the death of publishing, but it's definitely signaling a sea change in HOW publishers do business.


I have a 'dinosaur' e-reader, but it suits me fine. It's back-lit, so I can read in bed without disturbing hubby. I can take it on a trip and have plenty of reading material. When I buy books for my reader, I'm more likely to buy 3 or 4, or more at a time since they all 'fit' in the same space, and I don't have to think about where to put them.

However, the button-pushing part of these arguments for me is that everyone says, "EITHER-OR". It's a choice. I don't see the demise of the print book. I write for both a print e-publishers. The e-publishers put books in print as well, so you don't have to dismiss a title due to format.

It's the format wars, and the "you have to shop HERE for the kindle, and THERE for the Sony that's holding things back.

What's wrong with alternatives?

Just not for me at this point. I prefer galleys I can mark up as a critic. And for art books, only a book works for me.
As for consumers, the devices are still too expensive and the iphone is also expensive.
The line between the haves and have nots continues to grow. But I can see those who have been weaned on the texting boom are a perfect fit for this device and its mobile appeal is obvious!

As someone with arthritis in both thumbs, paperbacks and hardbacks are both painful reading experiences. That hasn't stopped me yet, but I'm looking forward to buying an e-book reader because I've heard that they are much easier on the hands.

Traditional books are going to continue to be with us. A book of paintings, architecture, astronomy, etc. will need to be large format books that can be studied closely.

@Terry Odell My thoughts exactly, and if the post sounds liked an "either-or" manifesto. I don't ever see a time when I won't buy actual books. The more delivery systems we have for the book, the more books we will sell in every format.

Further, I don't have to share any of my Kindle earnings with my publisher. I can envision a future, dimly I admit, when many in the publishing process are self-employed. I write the book, I hire an editor to edit it, an Internet graphic designer to translate it to an easy and attractive onscreen/online read and maybe drop in some links and images, and then I upload it to Kindle et al for sale.

Ack, meant to say "if the post sounds like an "either-or manifesto" that was not my intention.

Change is scary. You're right. If you want to keep the kids reading you have to keep all the options open. They're fascinated with technology. Ultimately it's what you write, what's inside that's important.

I'm surrounded by books but have a Kindle as well. Right now there is room for both. Hauling books with you in your suitcase...weightlifting. But, the Kindle is great for travel.

William, I love you! You have described my feelings about books perfectly.

Aaah! The Kindle, The nook, The Sony Reader, The apps on the Iphone. I have been immersed in reading info on all the possibilites. One conclusion that I have come to is adjusting the font size on these devices could be a real plus. I fielded a few questions to my ten year old grandson and tried to disguise my interest in all the new technology. He commented after all the pros and cons that "Grandma, what would happen if they lost all your books in cyberspace?" Gosh, I haven't thought of that. I guess I'm with William possessing the paper book and holding it in my hot little hands is heaven. The Barnes and Noble nook has a lending feature that allows you to allow a friend to share one your nook books for fourteen days. But after that unless your are a speed reader you are out of luck. C'est la vie. To each his own etc., etc., etc. Happy reading whatever your choice.

Last year when we were traveling through Turkey, two women left their Kindles out in the sun......they were out of comission for three days.................just saying.

@Buff The new tech has traps a paperback doesn't, for sure, and all the more reason to not restrict your reading to any one format. Ever seen a photo of an old telephone (http://www.dcwstore.com/z-telephones-Crosley-oak-country-kitchen-wall-phones.htm)? Compare that to your cell. The only sure thing is that tech will either improve or die. I'm betting e-reader tech will improve.

From my storytell e-mail list -- I recently unearthed a cartoon I had clipped and saved: One caveman is scolding another, who has drawn some glyphs on the wall, "Writing? But you'll put all the storytellers out of work!" -- Page 18, Sept 9 1990, Parade Magazine
New stuff is always a bit scary. I put a 20-book classics app on my iPod touch -- and while I don't read it for hours, I know now that I'll always have "something to read" if I get stuck somewhere . . .Nice!

Elaine's book signing _Fashion Hound Murders _ was great fun with plenty of "real books" -- enhanced by Karen Maslowski's visit all the way from Ohio (she spent Friday night here at the eco-house). I put some photos on FB, but 3/4 of the book signing photos are in the "Last import" bunch, with some mystery red leaves photos . . . -- Alan took many more (better, I'm sure) and I hope he will post also.
Alan and his princesses and queen opted for a romp in a park rather than lunch at Mai Lee's -- a good choice on such a pretty day. I gave the girls a Frog and Friends CD, and I'll be looking forward to the princesses' opinions on the Frog - -- hope they like it!
I expect to be reading most of the rest of the weekend.

I'm all for using whatever format makes it more convenient for me to read. I'm not ready to give up books, but I would have liked an e-reader when my husband spent three months in the hospital. I read an average of two books a day and having an e-reader would have made it easier, especially on the days when I wished I'd brought a different book with me.

Forgot to say, Welcome, Dana! I LOVE Kate!! . . .and Mutt!!
I was introduced to your work while on a trip to Alaska with my sister and many storytelling friends, and I love traveling back by reading. Thanks!

Nancy, I'm also lusting after a Droid. Especially after I saw Mary's iPod Touch with the classics. Very cool.

I'll be taking a two-week trip to South America next spring, and I'm thinking of getting a Netbook to take with. It's small, has Internet capabilities, and I can read books on it. Anybody see a negative there?

I just bought an Acer Aspire netbook to go with my EZ Reader. Since it runs Windows, it also runs every ebook reading software known to man, meaning I don't have to choose one DRM scheme and stick to it, I can have them all. I can't wait to try reading on it in bed in a dim room, to see how my eyes react to the backlight. However, the backlight is adjustable, so I'm thinking I made a good decision. Dana, you already know most of my feelings on this, I'm just really happy that Amazon is coming out with Kindle for PC, so I don't have to wait anymore for you to have time to get your books converted for Smashwords, etc!
I *usually* buy ebooks since I got the EZ Reader, but I just spent over fifty dollars at Barnes and Noble tonight on titles not currently available in ebook form, anywhere. I got tired of waiting, LOL! That is unusual, but I can tell you that I have spent more on buying books since I got my EZ Reader than I did the previous three or four years before that.

Dana, I am so late to the party, but I love your attitude, I love this post, Go Kindle!

I have a netbook and I love it. I can take it anywhere, and I have over 200 books on it. Just download your books to a flash drive and transfer them to an external hard drive. that let's you save all of your books. I will tell you to check hard drive memory before you buy a netbook. When I got mine, some models only had 6-8 gigs of memory. I found one with 2 hard drives with a total of 130 gigs memory. Between the books and music, I can go anywhere and be amused.

Perhaps what's needed is a new marketing approach. Giving readers the book community experience at the point of sale would provide the tipping point for many readers to puchase. By book community experience I refering to the internal and external marketing material already available; websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, appearance schedule, online community etc.
See an example of a James Patterson book at http://www.SmartSymbols.com/demo.html

I love my Kindle. I have one of the first made. I like it because I can bump up the font. I can read faster, and therefore, more books, when the print is large. Also, I have a friend who has published two books online. I read the first one on my computer. Even my friend said she would not have done that. Kindle came along in time for the second book and it was great. And btw, if you are a student or have children who are students or are about to head for college, start lobbying for getting textbooks in e-reader form. No further explaination needed.

The Kindle has helped me change my behavior. It really is not logical for me to keeping buying books and more books that continue to fill my home endlessly. With Kindle I have a lightweight tool for reading no matter where I go and it is a godsend when traveling. I still love to hold a book. Reading from a Kindle is simply an expanded option very and convenient for more ease.

Glad to learn that you are offering your out of print material with the ebook strategy. That is a boon for many.

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