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Books in all shapes and sizes

By Ashley Wright | Copy Editor
On February 15, 2012

If you had told me in April of last year that by 2012 I would own and absolutely adore an e-reader, I would have laughed in your face and asked if the zombie apocalypse had arrived yet.

Last spring, I wrote a paper about e-readers and how they are destroying the already-declining book publishing industry.  My arguments were the usual ones: e-readers will be to writing what the digital camera was to photography, they will halt the production of good literature, they will be the death of the printed word and they will bring a plague upon your house.

Okay, not the last one.  But close enough in my mind, back then.  My aversion to e-readers was fueled by the fires of my passion for books and bookstores, which were on a rapid downward spiral of profitability.

It had just been announced that Borders was going out of business, and I was heartbroken over it.  The Borders store in Salem, Ore. will always hold many happy childhood memories for me, and it was sad to watch it be slowly emptied out.

But now, looking back, I can realize that the paper I wrote denouncing e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook was just a grief-filled rant about how the industry in which I want to make my living is slowly declining.  The e-reader may actually help revive bookselling and publishing; even a year ago, Amazon reported that e-book sales already outnumber sales of their trade paperbacks.

I was first drawn to e-readers because of the free books they have in the public domain: Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare and hundreds more all have books available for direct download to the Kindle from the Amazon store.

After downloading about a dozen free books on the unlimited 3G internet that comes with the Kindle Touch 3G I got for Christmas, I read a few and put the others aside for later.  Word documents are also easy to send to a Kindle through your e-mail, which makes it easy on the eyes to read anything you could have ever wanted to read on a computer.  

About a week and a half after getting the Kindle, I actually bought a book from the Amazon store, paying about half as much as if I had bought the physical book.  The upside is that I got to start reading it that night instead of waiting for it to ship or going to multiple bookstores without finding it.

Loving my Kindle does not mean I have forsaken physical books.  I have a collection of nearly 300 books from signed, first-edition hardbacks to well-worn second-hand paperbacks, and no plans to suddenly get rid of them in favor of my little metal rectangle.  Books carry memories; they will always hold a special place in my heart, especially the ones I have from my childhood.  

My Kindle does not mean I will stop buying physical books, either.  In fact, the same day I bought my first e-book, I bought nine paperback books at a thrift store.  (They were a great price, okay?)  

Because I want to work in the publishing industry, I know I need to embrace the new electronic world of literature; if I am familiar with e-books and e-readers, I will be much more desirable to prospective employers than someone who is clinging, kicking and screaming, to the slowly declining age of paper books.

There will still be struggles in the publishing industry, but I think that will be the same story in every industry that has not yet embraced the global media climate we have entered.  Actually, books are doing better at adapting to new technology than the music and film industries have.  Some think that the age of electronic entertainment is still in the future, but really?  It's already here.


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