Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book hunger

The Wall Street Journal says "Your E-Book is Reading You":
Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.
The privacy issues are disturbing. So's the idea that publishers can predict when readers think to themselves "So bored now! Done with this book!" and can push for killing off characters or shortening books. On the other hand, Hunger Games or Game of Thrones fans tend to gulp books right down. That's one kind of book hunger.

 Except for Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power, which I just finished, most of the e-books I read have a grand total of 5 people worldwide reading and highlighting them, although I usually turn off the feature that tells me this. As a result, I'm less concerned than I might be or should be, probably, about the privacy issue. Caro on the Kindle app is a lot easier on the arms than the heavy bound version would be, although the latter would be, as Dorothy Parker would say, suitable for throwing purposes.

 But what e-books don't satisfy is the second kind of  book hunger. I like to look at books on shelves, books I don't own. I like to think about reading books that I don't have. I like to leaf through books and look at unfamiliar print. Near me there's a used bookstore, and I've been looking at it longingly recently while saying to myself, "Stop that! You have plenty of books. Just go down and pick some off the shelves."

That didn't help, though, especially when Bookstore tempted me with the bargain racks outside. So I started cleaning up my shelves, found some duplicates and other books I didn't need, and took them to Bookstore to trade them in.

 Once I had the trade credit, I could indulge my book hunger. I could browse. I could leaf through the books. Ultimately, I could use my trade credits to buy a couple of books.

 Why is that process more satisfying than the 60-second Kindle or Google Books download? I don't know, but it is. I wonder if people who read exclusively on e-devices, especially students, will ever get that kind of book hunger.


anthea said...

Interesting article isn't it. I thought about the issue about publishers collecting data and it struck me that they'd have to be aware that they'd not be able to collect or even use as much information as they might like since the EU privacy laws are much stricter than those used in the US. It's why both Google and Facebook are sued all the time since they just continue to breach EU privacy laws all the time. The DofJ legislation just isn't as strong or have such sharp teeth.

undine said...

anthea--I thought it was interesting, too, and that's a good point about EU laws. DoJ legislation seems to say that if you're on the internet, you don't have much expectation of privacy and ought to get over it, which isn't helpful.