So I've been doing a little survey for a few days. (You can take the survey if you'd like; it's ongoing.) It asks people the basic question, Have you tried an ebook reader recently under realistic, comfy reading chair conditions?
It's not asking if people own an ebook reader, or read ebooks, or any of that. I wanted to get at a more fundamental question: Do people like the experience of reading ebooks, under their normal reading conditions? Standing up in a noisy store holding a reader that's tethered to the counter like you're planning The Great Ebook Reader Demo Model Robbery is far from ideal. With the tether pulling the thing out of your hands like a hungry black hole it's hard to get a real sense of the feel. Not to mention the store demo models probably don't have any books on there you're really interested in reading right then.
So I wanted to know if (a) people had even tried an ebook reader under realistic conditions (e.g., borrowing from a friend); and (b) if they had, did they like it or not.
A whopping 80.0% said Yes, and liked it. That's as of 150 responses so far. I didn't post this to any ebook-friendly sites; just in groups where people like to read. (And that, of course, is the target market for ebooks and ebook devices.) Holy cow. That's a huge amount of support in favor of ebook reading.
A tiny 2.7% said they had tried a reader under those conditions but didn't like it.
That leaves 17.3% who said they had not yet tried an ebook reader under those conditions. (But one suspects they eventually might, if 82.7% had already given a test drive.)
That's probably good news for those who like ebooks. Given the cost of printing and shipping paper copies, not having them in the right place (thus getting sold out in one store and not selling in another), as well as the cost coming down to the levels many have said over the years "Unless a reader device cost $X they'll never get popular" — and now they cost $X or less — it sure seems to me like ebooks have a bright future. Paper, hmmm, not so much.
Dr. Andrew Burt (www.ReAnimus.com), former Vice President of Science Fiction
and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., has published dozens of short
stories and one novel, herds Critters (www.critique.org), the first writers
workshop on the web and specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and
horror (though now expanded to all genres!), also home to other writers'
resources, such as the Black Holes response time tracker and other fun
tools for writers (and readers). He's also recently founded ReAnimus Press,
helping authors such as Ben Bova, Robert Silberberg, Catherine Asaro, and
many others convert their books to ebooks on author-friendly terms.
Outside of science fiction, he's been a computer science professor
(research in networking, security, privacy, and free-speech/social
issues), founder of the world's first Internet service provider, and a technology
consultant/author/speaker. For a hobby, he constructs solutions to all
the world's problems. Fortunately -- nobody listens. He lives in the
Rockies with his wife and their two parrots.