I found an interesting article in Washington Post. The article, written by Alexandra Petri, laments the impending closure of some B&N stores.
I am saying this on behalf of all your friends: the Publishing Industry, Book-Lovers Everywhere and — well, pretty much everyone but Amazon.com. We gathered this weekend and decided it was time we spoke up. We lost Borders. We cannot bear to lose you too.
I, too, love the Barnes & Noble, even though they never have my books out on time during the release week. I love the rows of books. I love walking through the aisles and seeing hundreds of covers. It gives me this light, happy feeling, an anticipation of finding something great to read. It would kill a little part of me if B&N closed. And, in the interests of full disclosure, professionally it would a catastrophe.
Alexandra makes an interesting point:
Your Nook e-readers are not bad devices, but that is hardly the point. Every week I get another e-mail from Barnes & Nobles beseeching me to buy a Nook. You have reached the point where you are offering me $30 worth of gift certificates. And every time I walk into the store, a voice comes over the loudspeaker beseeching me to buy a Nook in the most piteous tone. Look, I do not come to Barnes & Noble every weekend and purchase several volumes because I am laboring under the misapprehension that Nooks do not exist. I show up and buy because I like physical books.
That started me thinking about Nooks and then I went off on a tangent, so here you go, I’ll now ramble a bit below.
I own a Nook, a Kindle Fire, an iPad, and now a Galaxy Tablet. Having used all four, I’m firmly convinced that the time of dedicated reading devices is passing. Let’s face it, when I read a book, I also want to occasionally stop and check my email or twit about something cool I read. I want to read my blog feed in bed. Doing it on Kindle Fire is a giant pain. The keyboard is clunky. Typing on it is a chore. Accessing YouTube is a chore. Organizing your library is impossible. If I get a file in .mobi format, I have to email it to myself with CONVERT in the subject or Kindle won’t read it. Kindle doesn’t display pdf well either. Oh, and if I get an MS Word file, I have to have a special app to open it. It won’t just magically go to my documents. You have to go back to the browser, click the downloads, and access it from there.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when my Kindle Fire screen refuses to recognize that I’m touching it. Also copying and pasting is sometimes plain impossible. I found many of the same issues on the Nook.
iPad was better, but I wasn’t in love with User Interface. Galaxy finally hit that sweet spot for me: I can download a Kindle app, a Nook app, and I love the keyboard. Browsing is a breeze. For me, personally, buying a dedicated reading device seems like a waste of money now. Why? I can get a device that’s designed to do all things I want to do, and it does it better than a dedicated reading device. I’m fighting a cold, and yesterday I spent the day alternating between kitchen – I made a whole bunch of chicken fingers, because I knew everyone would eat them – and lying in bed. I played a cool game on my tablet, while Gordon played Settlers on iPad. It was awesome.
I also bought OH MYYY by George Takei through the Kindle app on it, and read it. I didn’t find it any different than reading on Kindle Fire, except my screen was bigger.
This post wasn’t really meant as a commercial for the Galaxy. There are plenty of other tablets out there that accomplish all the same things. What I am trying to say is, the nature of our reading experience has changed. It used to be that we’d buy a book and read it in solitude. Now we read a book and we talk about it. We discuss it on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Goodreads. We have blogs, and Tumblr, and Pininterest. We want to go to message boards and talk about our books there. We want to visit the author’s website. I saw a dude on Twitter the other day who had an epic fantasy out from Nightshade. I immediately went to his website to see what it was about.
Reading has evolved into a social experience. And this is a beautiful thing, because books we read define who we are. Finding others who like the same books we do reassures us that we are not alone. It helps us fight isolation and forges friendships. And we do this mostly through the use of email and internet.
I see it happening in real time: in the past year, Kid 2 has blasted through Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, The Pearl, Outsiders, the Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie Higson’s series and a few other heavier titles. It affected her deeply and she feels a disconnect with her peers, because reading all these books made her mature faster than some of her friends. She complained that she didn’t have anyone to talk to about the books, and my response was, “Make a Goodreads account.”
Nook and Kindle, at the core, are good reading devices but not very good all-purpose devices. And the majority of users, I think, want an all-purpose device. Even your stereotypical “older lady who doesn’t use computers that often” goes on Amazon to chat on a forum about Stephanie Plum. Gordon’s aunt, who can destroy computers by a mere glance, uses a Kindle app on her laptop.
All this makes me conclude that Nook and Kindle Fire sales will continue downward, while tablet sales will keep climbing. What it means to B&N long-term, I’m not sure. I do know that I don’t go to Amazon and B&N for devices anymore. I go there for content: awesome books that alter my reality, if only for a few hours, which I can discuss later with my friends.