I don’t own an ereader: I’m too cheap, plus it seems backwards to buy a single-purpose device. An ereader would have to be an extraordinary reading experience to get me to pay for it, and I’m not really seeing that.

My Moleskine Kindle case

But that’s not to say I don’t read ebooks. Mostly free ones–public domain books or books that are free for some promotion. And I read a LOT of sample chapters. I’ve even bought a couple ebooks: my favorite book, The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, and then another book I bought for 99 cents on a whim because I was sick and wanted something to read while I was in bed all day. It wasn’t amazing, but it was 99 cents.

I think the predictions that we’ll all be on ereaders in the near future are a little too hopeful. Even someone like me, who can barely remember a time without a computer in our home (I’m part of the first generation that can claim that), prefers a paper book to an electronic. It’s not like I’m an older generation that fears or mistrusts or gets frustrated with technology. It’s always been a part of my life. You’d think I’d naturally gravitate toward electronic books rather than paper.

What would make me switch?

Price. Price is everything. I’m such a cheapskate that it IS the factor. ereaders are at a price point that, if the experience is worthwhile, I could afford it now. I remember, when the Kindle first came out and I coveted it, I made this spreadsheet tracking the price and, assuming a certain print book price, figured out how many books would I have to read to make the Kindle cheaper than buying all those books in print. It was more books than I would ever buy in my life. But now, just over $100, that story is far different.

ebooks still vary widely in prices, but they’re mostly reasonable. You can get plenty free, many cheap, and the rest fairly inexpensively. But paying $7 for an ebook is still more than I’m personally willing to pay.

But with the recent developments in publisher deals, with some authors keeping electronic rights, I think the prices of high quality ebooks is going to keep going down. When authors keep their electronic rights, they get to keep 70% of the money from each ebook sold. When a publishing house keeps the rights, the author sees a lot less–I’d estimate 15% or less. For an author to make $5 off an ebook, then, the publisher would have to set the price at $33. Way more than even non-cheapskates like me would pay for an electronic book. But for an author to make $5 if they own the rights, they’d set the price at $7. Big difference.

What would I miss?

I like the trustworthiness of a printed book. It can’t be deleted. Nobody can take it away from me. Read the fine print of Kindle books: if Amazon has a reason, they can delete the book from your library and refund you the money (for example, if they find out the book was pirated or something). I prefer to own a book, if I’m going to pay for it. Of course, a physical book can be destroyed in fire or whatnot, but that happens a lot less than electronic glitches and problems.

I like having a trophy shelf of books. I like perusing it occasionally and picking up a book I haven’t read in a while. Of course, since I’ve converted to library books, my shelf hasn’t grown much, so this is a minimal concern.

I’d miss holding a real book in my hands…for a while. This will be the first preference I’ll forget about, but, for now, I like holding the physical book. I like seeing, at a glance, how much I’ve read and how much more there is left. You can do this on ereaders, too, but it’s not the same.

What do you think?

For thrifty people like me, the switch won’t happen until libraries offer more ebooks. But for people who actually pay money for books on a regular basis, I would think they either already own an ereader or will by Christmas. This year.

Have you made the switch to more ebooks than printed books? What made you change? Or are you holding on to the physical? Why?

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