Saturday, July 16, 2011

EBOOKS AS CHRISTMAS OR BIRTHDAY GIFTS--Your thoughts?

Hi folks,

Just making some observations about ebooks and wondering how others think about this.

First, I’m a believer in ebooks. Big-time. I was old-school until about a year ago when I bought a Kindle. Now, I get nearly all my books on Kindle and even pass up buying books that don’t offer an ebook version. It’s changed my reading life. And, I buy way more books now that I don’t have to run to the bookstore or wait for them in the mail. I used to buy an average of four books a week and now I’m buying closer to seven books a week. Truth.

I even bought my wife Mary a Kindle and her reading habits have mirrored mine. We both love our Kindles! And, we’re both buying a lot more books than we ever have and we’ve always bought lots and lots of books. In fact, for over twenty years, as a family we visited a local bookstore every single weekend and we always bought lots of books.

Since we both got our Kindles, we’ve only gone to the bookstore a couple of times. One was solely because the local Borders closed their doors and we went to get in on the close-out sales. But, our tradition of going every single week is over.

And, I’ve got my next five novels coming out as ebooks. So, I’m solidly in the ebooks corner.

However, I was thinking about a weakness in the ebook market and wondered what others thought about this.

The weak spot in the ebook market I see is the Christmas and birthday or other gift market. It’s much more attractive to send a physical book to the person you’re gifting, plain and simple. It just feels like you’re giving a  bona fide gift when you can wrap it up and put a bow on it. Giving an ebook just doesn’t give me that kind of satisfaction. Plus, it’s really hard to send an ebook to a child in particular, because most of the kids in my family just don’t have Kindles or Nooks.

I’m sure that will change somewhat over the coming years, but I don’t think there’s going to be a mass exodus for parents to buy their kids their own Kindles. At least not in my family. I suspect that will be the case in the majority of other families as well. I’m aware that there are people with more disposable income than I enjoy and that there are those who were buying their kids cell phones years before the parents in my circle did, and those folks will perhaps purchase Kindles for their kids, but I suspect that’s not going to be a sizable market, at least for awhile. At least not on my block. As one kid answered his father the other day when he asked the little guy if he thought money grew on trees, retorting, "Not in our back yard."

I have no way of knowing this and am basing my assessment solely on my own experience, but I also think I’m probably typical. I suspect that last Christmas season, physical books sold far more than ebooks and I also suspect that will remain the case this year and for at least the foreseeable future. When I send my grandson Logan a book as a gift (which is my usual choice of gifts for him), I can’t even consider an ebook. It has to be a physical book. One, I want him to have the experience of opening up a present. That still trumps—experience-wise—clicking on an on-switch, even if he had a Kindle, which he doesn’t. That’s just an aesthetic that I don’t see Kindle overcoming, at least for now. In the future, perhaps.

What about you folks? Do you buy books for gifts and if you do, do you buy ebooks or physical books? Myself, even though I could send a gift certificate for an ebook, I probably won’t. At least for the kids I send presents to. I want to at least visualize them ripping open a brightly-colored package and getting their little sweaty mitts on a real object. Not a piece of paper that has the emotional value of getting a Burger Doodle Gift Certificate. I just can’t see them waving a slip of paper in the air, jumping up and down, and screaming, “Look what Grandpa sent me!” I can see that with a book…

Also, in years past, whenever I did a booksigning, there were lots of folks who bought more than one copy of the book I was signing and asked me to sign the extra copies for their friends or relatives. Not going to happen with ebooks. The vast majority of ebook buyers buy one copy. Which really makes the sales pitch  I've always made at those signings to "Buy 10 copies! Christmas is just around the corner!" pretty much invalid. I'd often say that in signings held in January. And, it worked. No mas... Actually, not as many signings either... I'll miss that!

I’m all for ebooks, but I see this as a market I think they’ll find difficult to make a lot of headway in, at least for now.

Thoughts?

Blue skies,
Les

18 comments:

Sally Clements said...

Agree with you Les. My family are big readers too, and I like to give kids books - but the experience for kids is often so much more than the words, its the present, as you say, the ripping of paper, and also the pictures, the tactile. I can see gift certs being a great idea - I'd be happy to receive one. At the moment, I get quite a few gifts of books at present time. If they're not my sort of thing, I can pass them on -if I loved them, I can pass them on. My last book came out in paperback too, and a lot of people I know bought it to have a signed copy, and to show to their friends (on the 'look, she wrote a book!) sort of way. Ebooks aren't the same!

Les Edgerton said...

Sally, it's just different, isn't it! What I can see, in a limited way, is giving e-readers to kids for Christmas or a birthday, but then that's basically a one-time gift. I just think physical books will continue to rule as Christmas and other gift time purchases. And, your experience with your book is the same as mine--selling multiple copies to a single person. Don't see that happening with ebooks.

Thanks for the comments!

Ann Best said...

I've had friends already say they want to buy some of my books near Christmas time as gifts. Though I love my Kindle too and find it easier on my aging eyes to read on it, I don't want printed books disappear. And I feel sad when, say, a Borders closes (esp. Borders as one of my grandchildren works in one).
Ann Best, Memoir Author

Helen Ginger said...

The only person in my family who has an eReader, that I know of, is my husband. He buys books so fast, he'll have all his favorites bought by Christmas. He travels constantly, so he keeps books ready to be read. He offered to get me an eReader for last Christmas. I declined because they're so expensive. I have since decided that I'll ask for one this coming Christmas. I covet his.

Les Edgerton said...

I felt the same way, Ann, when our local Border's closed. And, it was one of their outlets that showed a profit! The manager said it was a lease problem that the home office wouldn't agree to. Sad. We loved the whole atmosphere of the bookstore. We still have two B&N outlets and they're great, but it's reduced our choices each week. Before that, a few years ago, we had one of the best Little Professor's stores in town and that closed and that was sad, too. When I lived in New Orleans we had a neighborhood Little Professor across the street from out house on Carrollton that's now shuttered and that makes me sad also.

I've owned two bookstores and never thought I was going to get rich (and didn't!), and I absolutely love bookstores, but then I liked gas station attendants putting the gas in my car and washing the windshield and exchanging banter, and I've been able to go on without that. But, it's still sad...

Les Edgerton said...

Helen, when you get your ereader, it will change your life. If you think you read a lot now... just wait...

They're truly a great innovation, but the tradeoff is that we lose another source of community by losing the brick and mortars. We become even more fragmented and isolated, especially as writers and readers. As a writer, it was always a thrill to lurk by the shelves where my own books were and occasionally see someone pick up my book and take it to the counter! Little thing, perhaps, but a little thing that made my day. Oh, well...

Sarah said...

Hi Les - I support eBooks, but there's nothing like holding a book for me. I treasure my books and cannot imagine not having to lug them with me. I am willing to lug - yes. I suppose a Kindle or iPad would come in handy for newspapers, magazines or other such disposable carriers of the word, but I prefer the smell of a book. I love to examine the binding, the print...I remember watching a beloved writer friend caressing his most current published work. Overall -I am with the cardboard and paper kind of word. I will someday have a Kindle or iPad, but nothing will replace my books.

Elle Strauss said...

This is a good point. Presents are better when you can wrap them. Or at least put them in a card. Unless you can buy an e-book in a gift card format? I guess that's called an Amazon gift card :)

Les Edgerton said...

Never say never, Sarah! I know exactly what you mean, but since I've gotten my e-reader I've changed my attitude. In fact, books now feel a bit awkward, if you can believe that! I wouldn't have ever believed I'd say that, but it's true.

Les Edgerton said...

Elle, I can see a gift certificate for an adult, but not for a kid nearly as much. That's what I was referring to when I said, "Not a piece of paper that has the emotional value of getting a Burger Doodle Gift Certificate. I just can’t see them waving a slip of paper in the air, jumping up and down, and screaming, “Look what Grandpa sent me!"

That's one of the weaknesses in the market I meant. For adults, Amazon gift cards are great, but for a six-year-old, I think most would open up a card and look at the certificate with the same emotion as they do when they open up a Christmas present and find out it's underwear....

Chloe Anderson said...

ebooks as personalized birthday gifts? hmm...they could work!

Judd Exley said...

Yes to the Hells Yes, e-readers are first changing the publishing/authoring world and will next completely change the reading world (or maybe concurrently).

Wifeage was going to splash out for a Kindle for me last Xmas (here in Oz they're about 2x what you'd pay in the US) but got me a welder instead.

A wise choice, I reckon, as I've got the Kindle App on my PC and Android phone, so I'm never without a book. And Holy Cats and Yammers, I'm blowing through about 3 a week, all for about $0.99-$4.99 each. Value like that is hard to find in my li'l world...

Awesome post mate, loving finding this blog.

Les Edgerton said...

Chloe, I agree gift certificates for ebooks can and do work well for adults, but I just don't think they work for small children. It's like my example of a MacDonald's gift certificate--a great many kids love to go to Mickey D's, but I just think that a gift certificate to such is a downer for a kid opening presents at Christmas or a birthday. Adults are okay in visualizing the concept a gift certificate promises, but I really think kids visualize what they're holding in their hands, and no matter what it promises, to a kid it's just a... piece of paper. Letdown. For me? Absolutely, I'd love such a gift certificate. But, as a six-year-old, I think I'd be much more excited holding a brightly-colored package containing a "real" object, i.e., a physical book. I'm not against ebooks in the least--I just think children's Christmas or birthday gifts is a weak segment of the ebook market. That said, I suspect they'll figure out a way to overcome this element, but as of now, they haven't.

Les Edgerton said...

Hey Judd, thanks for joining up, mate! Folks, Judd is a transplanted Wyoming-ite (is that the right word?) who now lives in Australia and enjoys dual citizenship and is one of us--a fellow writer.)

I agree that ebooks have completely changed the environment. I've always bought tons of books, but with my Kindle I buy half again as many now. I love my Kindle and I love ebooks. And, go crazy when I get a gift certificate.

But, I'm an adult. I just think gift certificates for kids represent a weak segment of the ebook market, at least at present.

Picture two kids. One is opening up a small present and inside is a... gift certificate. One is opening up a larger present and inside is a... actual book.

Which one is going to be happier?

Even after the gift certificate is redeemed, put yourself in the mind of the child. He still doesn't have a book (in his or her child's mind.). He has a story on a screen.

As adults that's great. All I'm saying is that I think a kid's perception and reaction will be different.

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Waseem said...

it's just different idea i have come up with..thanks for sharing it as i might need it when design Gift Card envelopes..thanks for sharing.

Muhammad Amjad said...

This is a good point. Presents are better when you can wrap them. Or at least put them in a card. Unless you can buy an e-book in a gift card format? I guess that's called an Amazon gift card :) Thank you for sharing.

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