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New media reading habits on tablets and ebook readers

eBook reading

With the latest releases of ebook readers and tablet devices (iPad, xoom, galaxy tab, etc) reading habits are changing from paper based to digital in a faster pace than before.

I’ve been using my Samsung Galaxy Tab for reading a lot more. I enjoy more reading my social media updates (Twitter, Google+, Facebook) on this device than using my laptop. Sometimes I even prefer to use that device even when having my laptop in front of me. Maybe touch scrolling feels nicer than wheel or trackpad scrolling. I still don’t know what exactly it is that makes it feel better.

Broken Kindle

I once borrowed a Kindle from work and one day, right before a 6hr long flight, the screen got damaged. On that trip I wanted to try out travelling with only the Kindle and no paper books, so I was left without any reading material. It was a frustrating waste of time. The advantage of travelling light is no longer very attractive to me over the advantage of reliable reading material.

On the other hand, I’m also very concerned about DRM in ebooks and the volatility of digital goods. Being in a “third” world country, I’m not used to buying digital goods, since there hasn’t been much services available and many US based services are blocked or restricted. The good side of it is that with free software like Calibre, I can convert any PDFs I find into Kindle format easily.

Google Books

I am yet to try out the Google Books app in the tablet. I found a lot of excellent classic reading material for free so I can try before spending any buck like books from Jules Verne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The advantage I see on reading on the Kindle over reading on my Android tablet is that the Kindle is a distractions free gadget. On my tab I’ll get easily distracted with new email notifications, app updates, status updates, etc.

Some friends claim to be reading more now that they have a Kindle than when having paper books. While other friends who own an android tablet or iPad device tend to use their laptops less at home after work is done.

So I still wonder why is ebook reading on these devices more and more attractive lately. Is it because of the novelty of the gadget? Is there a real advantage or commodity over paper books or is it just techie fashion?

By Gabriel Saldaña

Gabriel Saldaña is a web developer, photographer and free software advocate. Connect with him on and Twitter

4 replies on “New media reading habits on tablets and ebook readers”

I believe the answer to your question in the conclusion of your article is convenience and economy.

Convenience on ereaders come in 2 forms in particularly. Acquisition and Transportation.

Acquiring a ink and paper book by either legal or illegal means requires you getting up and going somewhere. As you mentioned, you didn’t have a physical books with you on that trip where you kindle kicked the bucket. To acquire one, you would have to go to a book store or library (legal), or go find someone with a paper book and borrow (legal) or steal it (illegal).

Acquiring a new kindle book was as easy as going to a URL from wherever you are and purchasing (or downloading) another one. With the connectivity options built into the kindle, you can even do it from the kindle itself. Other e-readers, such as the nook have the option to lend books to other (amazon is slowly getting this feature) people even thousands of miles away. I could lend a nook book that I own to you from here for example and you could read it.

Convenience is also in how you can read it. You mention the kindle broke and so you couldn’t read anything on it. However there are kindle apps for everything, from your galaxy tab to your computer to a simple web based version in the cloud. While the device died, you could just switch to your computer and still have something to read (perhaps not as comfortable as using a kindle device, but you can still read it).

I do surprisingly little of my kindle book reading on the kindle itself. I use apps and the great whispersync to keep my place in the books I read. I find I do read more because of this, because I now always have a book with me, even if I don’t actually have my kindle with me. If I find myself waiting at a doctor’s office, or in line at the movie theater without my kindle, I take out my Android, load up the kindle app and I’m already on the same page I was on when reading my kindle last night. I read a couple pages, which then prompts me to want to keep reading when I get home, where I pick up the kindle and bam, there I am, already synced to the right page.

When you buy a paper book on the other hand, you are limited to… the paper book, which I am almost certainly less likely to carry with me wherever I go. If I still read on paper primarily and I found myself in a waiting room at the doctor’s office without my book, I am out of luck.

Another thing is economy. I prefer to own books rather then borrow them, so I don’t really frequent the library that much, however a new book in hardback can be quite expensive, and publishers often publish books in hardback first, and only after a year or so do they publish a cheaper paperback version. However the prices of ebooks tend to hover around the paperback prices (which only makes sense, making an extra copy of an ebook is as simple as copying a file, there is no overhead of paper, printing, shipping) even though they are available the same day the hardback book comes out. I am able to buy new top seller books for considerably less on average then the physical equivalent.

I like your insight on it. Availability as you just mentioned is a great advantage over paper.

If only there was a way of buying the paper book and getting the ebook for free, or a small additional fee, that would totally convince me to use readers. I still don’t have the ownership feeling with pure digital goods purchase, and a physical backup of your digital good is always handy. Buying both paper and digital versions is too expensive at the moment.

I’d have that feeling of ownership on a pure digital download if it were free of DRM. If someone were selling new releases with a big back catalog at paperback prices with no DRM, I’d buy the heck out of them. I trust my backups. The current ebook business model? Not so much.

I didn’t understand either why would anyone buy such a device when there are tablets that can do the same and a lot more, until one day I saw a kindle and everything made sense.
I have heard a lot of people saying that they prefer paper books than devices because devices make them dizzy or hurt their eyes after a long period of time, so when I saw the kindle I knew that my parents for example would prefer that over a tablet, and any asiduous reader in general.

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