thrill of ebooks

Fred Fenton is a retired Episcopal priest who lives in Concord, California and follows technology news on a daily basis. In a letter to the editor published in the New York Times last December, he wrote that a Times article headlined “Booksellers Wary About Holiday Sales” had noted that ”e-book sales [were] down without citing what [was] perhaps the major reason for the decline.”

“Digital sales were attractive to readers like me when most new titles were available for $9.99 or less,” Fenton told the Times in his letter (which did not appear in the print edition of the paper but only on its digital website). “Now the price of e-books is in many cases approaching the cost of print books. No wonder ‘the e-book thrill is gone.’”

When TeleRead reached out to Rev. Fenton to amplify his remarks,  he kindly took the time to respond. Born in 1935, Fenton is online almost every day and is very interested in issues impacting reading and technology. When asked if does most of his reading via books on paper surfaces or on screens, Fenton said: “I mostly read paperback and hardback books. My wife, Billie, prefers her Kindle because it is lighter and easier for her to hold.”

Asked what he likes about ebooks, he replied: ”What I like is the ability to carry a lot of books with me when I am away from home.”

Does he feel that ebooks are priced too high and does he think they will continue to rise in price in the future? He responded with,  ”I feel ebook prices are too high now and will go higher. They should not be over $10.”

Fenton’s own feelings about books and newspapers that he reads at home will be familiar to many readers, too, even though he is also a fan of ebooks.

“I like the feel and look of a printed book and the ease of leafing through its pages. I have walls covered with books. I like that,” he said. ”I also spend a couple of hours each morning with the paper edition of the New York Times which gets delivered to our home”

Peering into the future, Fenton said he believes that ”print newspapers and paper books will disappear completely one day”.

“But I don’t think it will be a good thing,” he added. “It will contribute to ‘instant news’ that comes without much reflection and disappears just as quickly.”

His prediction for future days: ”I believe Kindles and computers, cell phones, wrist watches and cameras eventually will be replaced by iPad-type devices.”

So while the “thrill of ebooks [might be] gone,” according to Rev. Fenton and due, in his opinion, to the rise in prices, he and his wife remain solidly involved in what is happening with gadgets and reading devices, including those old standbys, the traditional paper book and the delivered-to-the-home-every-morning [snailpaper]. Although Billie Fenton still prefers her Kindle.


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