If you are at all a fan of books and reading, you’ve by now heard that Borders books will be liquidating their stock and closing their remaining stores. This has to be incredibly tough on the 10,000 or so employees who will be jobless at the end of this process. And yet, I felt like I saw this coming. People have argued that e-books are killing off traditional bookstores, and that may very well be true. In my own case, it has been an interesting evolution, and an example that even someone with strong opinions can change his mind.
As e-books became steadily more popular, I shied away from them. The reason, I told myself and others, was aesthetics: I liked the feel of a book in my hand. I liked the smell of a musty old book. I liked turning the pages. I felt that paper books were superior in many ways. A paper book’s batteries don’t run out for instance (although reader’s might). Every once in a rare while, I’d give an e-book a try and it simply didn’t feel right to me.
Then, in June 2009, I got a Kindle and everything changed. The Kindle managed to capture a lot of the aesthetics of a real book without some of the drawbacks. It was easy to read from and it felt like reading a book. It’s battery lasted long enough that I was never concerned about power. Sure, I didn’t have those rich book smells, but on the other hand, I could mark up the book to my hearts content without feeling that I was “damaging” the book. And of course, I could instantaneously purchase new books with a few clicks.
It was the latter, of course, that signaled the death knell to bookstores. That and that fact that e-books are generally cheaper than their paper counterparts. (Sure, there are people that will argue that they should be even cheaper, but I’m happy to pay the prices as listed because of the additional convenience offered.) Because of the Kindle (and the iPad which followed), my book-buying habits have changed dramatically since June 2009: