Adding A Kindle To The Book Bag

Even as Bloomberg and PW released reports about the rise of Kindle, and an editor who shall remain nameless continued to tweet "I don't believe it," I joined the masses who can now have Kindle in their home.

It was a very unexpected but welcome Christmas gift from Phoebe who has been experimenting with e-book publishing over the last year. Like many professional authors, she went back into her personal archives, picked up titles that were out-of-print, and went where her publishers (all major NY houses) didn't want to go. She published them again for Kindle.

Back in the dark ages of publishing (i.e. the 1980s), standard contracts usually reverted rights back to an author once a book was no longer available in print. Usually this happened after three years, but some contracts reverted rights in as little as six months.

Phoebe, being much better than me about file keeping, had copies of all her 20-year-old contracts neatly stacked away. With a little Google assistance, she found the current addresses of her former publishers and shot off e-mails or letters stating that she was exercising her rights (basically a courtesy but also a good way to establish a paper trail if anyone has questions later). Some of the houses, including one who had bought out her original publisher, responded. Others did not.

Then she got to work publishing herself. Where that will take her in terms of fame and fortune have yet to be seen. But she was excited enough about the project to send me a Kindle so I could join in the ride. I'm beginning to eye some of my out-of-print and rights-reverted material and thinking about doing the same thing.

I started 2010 with my first e-reader, a Sony Pocket Reader picked up on floor sale for $119, and I found it an reliable travel companion. With free e-books checked out from my local library, it saved me from lugging paperbacks on and off planes, trains, and buses. The ability to increase the print size was a boon to my very near-sighted eyes.

My only grumble was Sony's stunning lack of customer support -- the Pocket Reader needed rebooting on a quarterly basis, a process only accomplished through the truly gracious help of other Reader owners and information published on non-Sony blogs or e-reader groups.

Because of Sony's ability to completely wipe the history of my Pocket on a regular basis, I never purchased anything from their store. Losing a library book out of Reader meant checking it again (for free). Losing a book I purchased was less appealing.

Now with Kindle, I can go to the next level, buying new books at any hour of the day without leaving my chair. Or as one fellow writer put it "there's something seductive about being able to make a purchase at 3 am just because I can."

Will it reduce the number of print books that come home with me? Probably not. The Sony didn't. I am still adding new volumes every month to my already crowded bookcases. Will it broaden my horizons and introduce me to new authors or older works, once unavailable, from authors that I love? Oh, I hope so!

As for my nameless editor friend who keeps saying that these e-books are all a fad and he is sure that there really aren't that many people reading books via Kindle, I just won't tell him that I now own two e-book readers. All that gnashing of teeth can't be good for his dental work.

2012 Update
The Sony went to the Goodwill this month. It's a nice little machine, but the Kindle does everything that it does, including checking out library books starting in 2011. And the device stability remains far better for Kindle than Sony in my experience. New Sony readers may be better -- remember that this one was the least expensive 2009 model.  

As for what happened to that editor that kept saying e-books were a fad? Well, he was laid off and is now e-publishing a number of his earlier works.  Interesting how things keep changing! 

And Phoebe keeps publishing new e-books! She's enjoying new readers, a little extra cash at the end of the month, and a true feeling of DIY accomplishment.

2014 Update

My first articles on Red Room were about the excitement of finally having an ebook reader, the Sony Pocket. My final article on Red Room was entitled "If a Sony falls in the forest, will anyone notice?"  At the beginning of 2014, Sony shut down its ebook store and passed its customers to Kobo. And Red Room shut down a few months later, absorbed by Wattpad. 


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