Observing E-Readers in the Wild

photo credit: Bruce Stokes via photopin cc

photo credit: Bruce Stokes via photopin cc

Before heading out on my blogging break, I loaded up my Paperwhite with several books to read.

One of my biggest joys while traveling is the opportunity for lots of reading time. An e-reader is a glorious invention for travel, because you can bring an entire library of books and magazines and yet carry it all in the palm of your hand. Awesome.

Most interesting to me is how common e-readers have become.

I remember not-that-many-years ago when I got my very first Kindle. I never took it out. I kept it at home because whenever I used it in public it caused such a flurry. To whip it out and read with it in public was nearly impossible because people would stop and ask questions or simply want to see it. And since I enjoy sharing 🙂 I wouldn’t get much reading done.

But today! Oh, my. E-readers are everywhere.

Over the last two weeks I found myself in several places where lots of people were reading. Relaxing reading and/or waiting-for-something reading. But basically, rooms full of strangers, reading.

And so I did some very unscientific counting, in a variety of different places. If I saw reading people gathered in clusters, I counted.

E-readers vs paper books.

E-reader here, book there. Book, book, e-reader, e-reader, e-reader.

The winner? E-readers usually outnumbered paper books whenever/wherever I counted. I’d get results like 6 to 4 or 8 to 5 or 3 to 4. Almost half, but usually nudged in favor of the e-reader. Not always, but usually.

Totally unscientific, but certainly interesting. And a big big change from the hiding-the-Kindle days.


46 thoughts on “Observing E-Readers in the Wild

  1. I love this post, SC…and you know WHY I love it so much? BECAUSE :YOU’RE BACK!! Wooohooooo. I’ve really missed your posts and your visits! Hope you had a great time while you were away, and oh, yeah…I also like this post because it’s interesting, too! Welcome home!

    • It’s true. An e-reader can have a single book on it or a thousand, and it doesn’t change the weight or the size. Pretty darn handy! Thanks for the welcome back. 🙂

  2. That’s also my experience here in Oz, Kathy; the e-readers outnumbering the paper books. I must admit to being a little interested now in getting one. I have the free kindle from Amazon that I use on the PC however, I’m moving toward an e-reader for mobility sake… Well, well… Looks like I’m coming into the 21st Century after all…. 😉

      • David Gaughran has a wonderful book out on Self-Publishing and why it is a great way for a writer (especially a new one) to go. (“Let’s Get Digital”) In the book, he talks at length about what’s happening in the traditional publishing industry, and he has some VERY insightful thoughts on the future of printed books. Plus a ton of info about how retail book stores and publishers work, which was all news to me, and pretty interesting. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty of why traditional publishing is in so much trouble, it might be worth a read. And if you are a writer, it is most definitely worth checking out. I have learned SO much from this little book, and it is available as an eBook on many platforms. (Kindle, Nook, etc) Just FYI.

  3. Glad you made a comeback 😉
    Scientific or not, I’m not surprised at the outcome. You can find people e-reading EVERYWHERE! I’m happy because there’s never enough time to read.

    • I know what you mean about time. That’s something else that I love about e-reading…your books are ALWAYS with you, so you can grab a little reading almost anywhere, anytime. 🙂

  4. Welcome back! 😀
    I use both 🙂 I love the practicality of the e-reader because I travel quite a bit, but during the holidays I found an interesting book at my parents’ house and I borrowed it. I took it with me back home and while I was reading it on the flight, I realised a(nother) downside of e-books. A passenger across the aisle saw the cover of the (print)book and during a pause, she asked me about the book, whether I liked it, recommended it etc. and we had a nice conversation. Now… with an e-reader people can’t really figure out what you are reading, can they? No interesting conversation to follow with another fellow reader. Technology can be somewhat anti-social 😉
    This being said, I generally prefer e-readers when I travel. They are just SO practical. 🙂

    • You make a REALLY good point about the anonymity of e-books. (you realize that there are some people who might consider this a positive 🙂 ) I also used to enjoy scanning a crowd of readers at an airport to see what the ‘hot’ book was. Can’t do that anymore!

  5. Daniela says:

    Welcome Back -:)!

    An interesting post; in my end of the woods, books still dominate, although I also see more e-readers around this year than ever before!

    • Thank you for the welcome back 🙂 It’s nice to be here! Keep your eyes peeled in airports, public transportation and waiting rooms …. those e-readers are like bunnies, multiplying daily 🙂

  6. When I travel, I still take both. No worry about batteries, etc. with a paper book. I love my iPad, and have a Kindle application, but I hate to read books on it. Mainly, I use reference books on it. Sigh. I still like to ready paper. The eReaders hurt my eyes after awhile.

    • Actually, I don’t especially enjoy reading on my iPad, either. That is because the iPad has a backlit screen, and yes yes yes…. it DOES hurt after a while. That is why the dedicated e-reader is such a great device. It uses e-ink, and the screen is NOT back lit (not even on a paperwhite). This e-ink screen is like reading paper (only better, because you can adjust the font size, etc). Back-lit vs e-ink. E-ink is easy on the eyes.

      • That may be why my daughter loves her Kindle Fire and thinks I’m nuts for not reading all my books on the iPad! Could you post some time about how we can all share books? My husband has an ACSIS tablet reading the Kindle format, I read the iPad (sometimes) with Kindle, and out daughter reads the Fire. We’d love to share ebooks like we do paper ones. Thanks!

        • KDKH, the Kindle Fire is actually backlit, also. It’s the answer to those who want to do as much surfing and game playing as reading. In other words, as SC put it, it’s not a “dedicated” e-reader, designed for books alone. The Kindle Paperwhite IS, as are some of the older Kindles. If your eyes bother you, those would be the ones you would want to try. They are as close to reading on printed paper as you can get, only better, in many ways. If you look at Kindles, be sure to check out others besides the Fire. The Fire would be exactly like reading on your iPad, only smaller.
          But the Paperwhite is a wonderful experience! I’m eager to upgrade my older Kindle to one of those asap, because the built-in lighting is perfect, without making the reader backlit. (SC says this so much better than I. I should just go away quietly now. It’s just that I love Kindles so much!)

            • Dang those young eyes! How dare they be so much better than our older ones! The good news is, older HANDS like e-readers, too. No more soreness in finger and thumb joints from struggling to keep some of the thicker paperbacks open wide enough to read properly. You really should give one a try. Maybe you can borrow one from a friend? Once you’ve read a book on a good e-ink reader, you can see exactly why they are so popular. (E-ink being the term for non-backlit readers that look like a printed page, as opposed to backlit readers, which look like your iPad.)

              Good luck!

              • Marcia, You are a delight! You have that awesome enthusiasm for the Kindle that I feel as well… so many reasons to love it!!! I remember the last big PAPER book I read “World Without End” … I couldn’t keep it open, it was so big and heavy. 🙂

                • Aw, thanks! I get a bit carried away, I know…but I just love my Kindle so much, and it makes me sad to see people thinking they have to choose between print books and e-readers. Why not enjoy the best of both, right? But your blog has taught me to appreciate this technology even more! You rock, SC!

              • REALLY looking forward to it. I know the difference in a very general and basic way, but I’d love to know so much more about it. Thanks for keeping us so well informed. Man, I’m glad you’re back!

  7. welcome home! i am fascinated with your observations because we both read on electronic devices now … the bookclub books were spilling from the shelves here … however i am suffering from blurred vision caused by too much screen time, so i have to be careful …what do you know about that sharechair?

    • Are you reading with a backlit device like the iPad or with a dedicated e-reader like the Kindle? The dedicated e-reader uses e-ink and so the experience is much more like reading paper (only better, I think, because we can adjust the font sizes and spacing). Back-lit reading bothers me, too, but I have found no limits to my e-ink reading experiences.

      • I so agree with you, SC! I simply can’t read an entire book on a backlit device. My eyes really start to bother me. I love them for other things…surfing the net, reading short magazine articles, etc. But not for reading books. For that, I want e-ink, and the Kindles work so beautifully. (Except the Fire, which is backlit, too). For me, it is every bit as comfortable on the eyes as a paper book, AND much more comfortable to hold. Plus there’s that ability to set the type at the size I prefer. Having a Kindle is a wonderful addition to the books in my physical library, and after reading a couple of books on it, I almost dislike switching over to a print book. (But I’ll never give them up entirely.) And it’s so easy to slip that Kindle into my purse and know I am actually carrying around an entire library in that little device. They are one of the best things technology has done for me.

  8. Yeah! You are back. I/we certainly missed you!!! I have a question. My old Kindle is full. I have to delete books. Will I lose them for ever? Is it like a lending situation, and now I lose the books? Just curious. I have books on 4 different devises, and they don’t all have the same books. It’s a little strange,and I don’t get it, but so far I just read the book on the device that has it, and let it go at that. 🙂 M SO so so so so glad you’re back!!!

    • OH, no no no!!! You own all those books. Yes, they exist forever and ever! You don’t have to keep them on your Kindles. You know what? I’ll bet you are not the only one with this thought….. I’ll write a blog post about this tonight, and explain exactly how it works. Thanks for the great idea! 🙂

      • I’m really looking forward to this post, too. I know the books are in my archive and I can access them whenever, but I would like to understand it better. Thanks, Kathy, for all you do to help a doddering old fogey like me try to keep up with the latest and best!

  9. I really enjoy my Nook, but nothing can replace a physical book. The smell and feel of a real book just can’t compare. However when it comes to traveling or going overseas, an e-reader is sublime.

    • It sure is wonderful to be able to bring along a bunch of books when you travel. I used to feel as you do about physical books. And I feel a bit guilty now that I don’t. I love browsing in a bookstore, but when I get down to the reading … it’s an e-ink kindle all the way.

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