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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paper or Plastic?


Paper or Plastic?

When the Kindle was first released in 2007, many people speculated and feared the end of paperback and hardcover books. So, what is the effect, if any, that the Kindle and its peers have had on printed books? Ryan Hinderaker, manager of Book House, a used bookstore on 14th Street in Dinkytown, says he has not really seen a change in business, good or bad, due to the release of e-books. Ryan mused that his used bookstore carries a vast amount of literature, fiction, and classic literary books; however, Book House does not carry romances or other dime store novels. Thus, he sees mostly students and a disproportionate amount of graduate students walk through the doors; the type of books these customers need are far easier to access in a print bookstore, and he therefore counts on their continued business.

Ryan goes on to say that Book House does sell online; their accounts with both Amazon and ABE make up about half of their sales, and of that 50%, Amazon sales total 60%. Amazon helps the bookstore business, in Ryan’s opinion, because he can set competitive prices by comparing with Amazon’s price lists, and also list certain books which may not move as quickly in the store. The irony of selling their books through the company that created the enemy of the printed book is not lost on Ryan and his coworkers.

Humorously, some people seem to prefer not leaving an electronic trail; these readers abandon e-books and online retailers and instead head to print bookstores. Ryan explained that his customers come in searching for books on neo-Nazi support groups, Mein Kampf, and other taboo subjects. Apparently, customers do not want to purchase these books and subjects on their Kindle because they fear being placed on a government or electronic list and do not want to be traced. Instead, these particular customers are happy to come to a bookstore and purchase said books with cash. Ryan and I pondered whether incidents such as these will keep Kindle advocates secret paperback supporters.

Are there financial differences between e-books and paperbacks? Naturally; however, the e-books do not always come out on top.  A current best seller, Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, is actually cheaper in paperback.  While the Kindle edition sells for $9.99, Amazon offers Fifty Shades of Grey brand new in paperback for $9.57 and used for $7.47. Half.com, eBay’s sister site, offers used copies starting at just $6.00, and Book House itself boasts the best guaranteed price of $4.00.

There are both positives and negatives to having an e-book versus printed books. An e-book provides easy and convenient storage. A reader can easily change books on a Kindle with a few clicks, a delightful plus while traveling, versus the paperback fan that cannot conceivably carry piles of books to choose from with them.  However, readers cannot share their favorites through an e-book. It is up to the next reader to purchase the recommended book.  Printed book readers can borrow, lend, buy, steal, or even hit up their local public library to access books. Neither the Kindle nor the Nook has a library-style application, but there are books that are free to download.

In closing, Ryan speculates those who love literature, books, and reading view books as collectables. The future of small bookstores is a nitch market. The Kindle at times may seem the future medium of books, magazines, and newspapers; however, the tradition of the printed book has withstood and will continue to withstand the test of time.