205-223-4415 shawn@shawnwright.net

The Guardian website posted an interesting article titled “How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip.” It seems that in the past few years, the sales of ebook readers have declined while sales of traditional paper books have increased. The article by Paula Cocozza goes on to state that “books have become celebrated again as objects of beauty. They are coveted in their own right, while ebooks, which are not things of beauty, have become more expensive; a new digital fiction release is often only a [dollar] or two cheaper than a hardback.”

She’s right. A printed book is a wonderful object to have. As someone who grew up as a print designer, I for one can geek out on paper selection, how it was bound, the cover design and even the endpaper that hold the cover to the rest of the book. The books look awesome on my shelves where I proudly store them after I read them.

One of my favorite books is Moby Dick, an edition produced by Barnes and Noble in 1994. It is beautifully bound and has some excellent scratchboard illustrations by Mark Summers. It looks as good today as it was when purchased 20+ years ago because I have never read it.

You see I am not a great reader. It’s not that I have any reading deficiencies, I just read slowly. I read every word, and sometimes I go back and read the page again because I realize that I was day dreaming. When I was in school, the thought that I would have to read multiple books during the semester terrified me. I never knew if I would ever finish in time. I love reading books, but I have never been able to lose myself in hours of reading. There are too many other things I would rather be doing. Reading is for the times in between.

One thing you find out when you leave school is that you still need to learn. In my case, I needed to keep up with changes in technology and to help grow my business. I needed to acquire new skills and learn about management and leadership. I didn’t get my MBA, but I still needed the skills taught at business school. I needed to learn on my own, and for that, I needed to read.

I made a decision to make reading a bigger part of my life for both business and pleasure. Most of my reading time is just before I go to bed and I am usually in bed. I also read on vacation, while traveling and camping. I get tired of dragging books with me on these trips. I couldn’t take just one, what I wanted was three or four to choose from depending on my mood. At home, a big book like Moby Dick was not going to get read. A pet peeve of mine is holding up a big unwieldy book in bed. That may be a lazy excuse, but it kept me from reading.

The first Kindle book I bought was The Secret Life of Houdini. I downloaded it to my in March 2009. I wanted to see if I could read it on my iPhone. It sounded like a great idea. What a mistake. The constant scrolling made the book unreadable. While a good book, I have to this day I never finished it. I went on to purchase other Kindle and iBook e-books to read on my iPad and half-heartedly tried to keep reading e-books. This was fine, but the experience was never better than reading a traditional book. On the iPad, I was always going down a rabbit hole to find out about something that was in the book. I would make a quick trip to Google, and before I knew it I was watching funny animal videos posted on Facebook. Having access to email and the internet was a problem.

What I needed was a device that was dedicated to the book and wouldn’t let me go down a rabbit hole. I needed something that I could read in the daytime and nighttime. I also wanted a something that had great battery life. I wanted something portable like my iPad. I knew I needed a Kindle and it was time to give it a try.

If you aren’t familiar with a Kindle it is a device produced by Amazon as a way to sell more of their books. There are four different versions with different price points. I chose the Kindle Paperwhite and added a protective cover.

The Pros of the Kindle are:

  • Battery lasts weeks
  • Holds thousands of books
  • Can download books by wifi
  • Screen is readable in most any light
  • Small and portable.

The Cons of the Kindle are:

  • Feels like the technology is from the 1990’s
  • Most ebooks cost the same or more than the printed version
  • Images in the books are low resolution and hard to see

Now that I have had the Kindle for awhile I have finally become a reader. I load up the Kindle with books that I want to read, all of them. If I find a deal on an interesting e-book, I buy it and download it to read later. I upload manuals that I may need and for courses I teach. I can upload long-form blog posts for later reading as well.

If you noticed earlier in the story I mentioned I read on campouts. I am heading to Boy Scout summer camp for a week in July. Kicking back in a chair, in the woods under the trees is a great time to read, in between naps that is. I can take all my books with me in a device that will not run out power before I get home. It’s small and can go in my daypack.

If you want to start using a Kindle, I have a few recommendations:

  • Sign up for the newsletters from Amazon about book deals. You can find them for a couple of dollars. When you see one you are interested in, buy it and load it for when you are ready to read it.
  • Sign up with BookBub for daily emails on free and discounted ebooks.
  • Add books you are interested reading into Amazon’s wish list. I have a wish list just for books. This is the first place I go to when I am looking for something new to read. If they one of them goes on sale I usually get a notice.

If books are your thing and you don’t want to switch to ebooks then I have a suggestion for you. When shopping on Amazon, look below the Hardcover or Paperback options. You will see something like “26 Used from $1.99.” If you are not looking for that untouched copy of Moby Dick, then you can find some used books in fantastic shape at much lower cost than new. I buy art and photography books this way and have yet to be disappointed.

One of my favorite phrases is “Out of sight, out of mind.” I use this about advertising your company, finding new clients or getting a new job. If they don’t see you, when they need to make a hiring or appointing decision, they won’t think of you. I see books the same way. If they are in a stack by the side of my bed I won’t think about reading them until it’s too late at night. If they are in a portable device in my daypack I can sit down and read anywhere, and all of my books will be right there.

eBooks may be losing their shine, and yes, they are clunky and unhip. But eBooks and the Kindle have helped me to finally become a reader.