23 August 2010

The ebook experience: one woman’s perspective

How should one interpret ebook sales figures? We're always hearing about growth, growth and growth. Devices are here, there and everywhere. No device? No problem! Here's the software for you, freely available. Go forth and prosper. Yes, we’ve known for years that anyone who has Adobe Reader can read an "ebook". There's also Adobe Digital Editions and in a galaxy not too far away there's Blio. Within ebook library portals you've got the reader that works best for that ebook vendor. Yada Yada. Basically there’s an ebook vendor, reader, system in every corner.

But let us take all of the technology out of the equation. And the library model too. You want to read an ebook. Good for you! You've worked out where you are going to source your titles from, how you're going to read them (yes, I’m speaking about devices not eyes for those of you being smarty pants), but did you ever think about how your buying behaviour was being analysed? Hmmm, ebook sales are growing but are we really surprised?

This blog documents my ebook experience from day one. Not the library portal, industry work I do everyday in my job, but personal reading experiences. Ah yes, I fondly remember loading Adobe Digital Editions and working out ways to download the Sony platform (tricky when it is programmed not to recognise Australia). But we worked it out. The Sony e-reader was sent from the US, other e-readers came my way to assess them for both professional and personal use. It seems like a lifetime ago but it’s only 15 months ago.

This whole blog was about me trying to understand the consumer experience of ebooks. Of course it developed over the time to ebooks in general and my professional experience, but let’s take ourselves back to the beginning of the blog when bestseller lists for ebooks spoke only of Stephenie Meyer. All I knew about her was bestseller, teenage fiction. Should be an easy read, I thought. So Twilight it was. Ah, my first ebook purchase. I remember it fondly. I read on a computer within a few days. It was cheap. It was easy. Click. Download. Read. Next book. Same thing. E-reader arrived. Two more books, click, click, tick, tick. Now, all opinions on my reading tastes aside, I was amazed at how easy it was to read the ebooks. I read both on the laptop and on a device.

I read several ebooks in quick succession. I was eager. I wanted more. I was like a newborn vampire. I needed to feed! So I found myself downloading from every possible site. I used publisher sites, library sites, Gutenberg, Sony. If I saw the words free e-book, I signed up. If I saw e-book bundles or $1.00 books, click click, purchase. I couldn’t help myself.

GOODNESS when I think of what I've done, I just shake my head. Did I ever think about how those purchases would track in figures? No, I just wanted lots of books on my device to read whenever I wanted! So I got to the point of having dozens of physical books in the "to read" pile and dozens more of e-books on the list. Over time I’ve deleted books from the platforms and the Sony e-reader itself but thought I’d take a close look at what’s currently in my Sony portal. Ah yes, my purchases. What have I acquired, predominantly at the US$9.99 or slightly higher price? More importantly what have I actually read?

It didn’t take long to tally up the figures. I read 50% of what I purchased.  Was I surprised? No, not really. I now realise the books I’m buying in ebook format are those I don’t wish to keep. They are to read and discard. The books I love I still purchase in print. I can read them in anywhere I go. There aren’t restrictions like the weather, water, aircraft nuances. I can share them with friends. Granted they are much heavier, but the authors or genres I know I’ll love, I read in print. The ones I'm a little more uncertain about, I purchase in “e”.  The other interesting point, books I love in print, I also acquired in “e”, usually free.  The classics like Wuthering Heights or Pride and Prejudice.  That way I can take them with me everywhere.

But what have I actually read? Unfortunately only half of it.  It was too easy to acquire but unfortunately not to read.  Will I continue to purchase ebooks?  Darn right I will!  I'm just going to be more careful with the "buy now" button and watch those free ebook offers more closely... 

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