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Curling up with an e-book?

Some local readers among digital-device converts

– To book or not to book? In deference to Mr. Shakespeare, that appears to be the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to bask in the soft glow of an e-reader’s illuminated screen, or lounge – either fireside or beachfront – with a traditional text, personalized with dog-eared pages and coffee stains?

Much to the chagrin of Gutenberg’s contribution, and with a thumbs up toward Edison, readers have been coaxed into the light. Since the e-book format established a popular foothold in 2008, sales of titles have increased from less than $900 million in 2010 to more than $2 billion the following year, according to BookStats, the statistical program headed by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group.

The research says that 457 million e-books were sold in 2012 – an increase of 4,470 percent from 2008, when 10 million e-books were sold. The nearly 500 million e-books account for about 20 percent of all book sales reported by publishers.

And like Sherlock Holmes reappearing after having apparently leapt to his death over the Reichenbach Falls, the question returns – with a twist: To e-book or not to e-book?

The answer depends on the consumer.

“I’m very much a Kindle reader,” says Audra Pape, 28 and single, who works at Rainbow Child Care Center.

Pape admits she wasn’t much of any kind of reader until she asked for an e-reader and received a Kindle Fire for her birthday four years ago. There were the usual bells and whistles of games, apps and free stuff on the device. Now she says she reads about a book a month.

“I have no idea why the Kindle made me read,” Pape says. “Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not carrying around a ginormous book and I’m not feeling that, OK, I have 3,000 more pages left to read. … And traveling with the Kindle instead of multiple books is a lot easier.

“Once I started reading on it, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can go through books a lot faster than I would if I were just reading a book.’ It’s not like I wouldn’t try to read a book, but more often than not, I was more inclined to read on my Kindle than I would an actual book.”

But for Rebecca Cameron, there’s something about an honest-to-goodness book, with paper pages and a front cover and back cover and the very tangible feel of it.

“I tried to embrace the (e-book) technology, but I just can’t. I’m a book-in-my-hands kind of person,” says Cameron, 45, wife, mother of six who works at Lincoln Financial Corp.

“I grew up going to the library for fun, and I’m a writer by nature; a bookworm, word nerd. I probably embrace all of those monikers when I was growing up. I love books. I love being in the library. I love hearing the crackle of the dust jacket when I open it, and the smell of the book.”

Industry analysts say the e-book market is leveling out. In the first quarter of 2013, sales were up 5 percent, compared with 28 percent in the same period of 2012, and a massive 252 percent in 2010.

“We still see a steady transition in reading from print to digital,” Amazon vice president for Kindle content Russ Grandinetti told USA Today. “As e-books have grown from practically nothing, you can’t expect it to keep doubling every year.”

Just as the number of e-books available from the Allen County Public Library has increased from 25,698 in 2011 to 38,701, the number of users has catapulted from 8,961 in 2011 to 26,293 last year.

Jeremy Glick, 38, admits an affinity for both traditional books and e-books. But if he had to choose one … well … he practically has.

“I love the feel of a book in my hand,” he says the 38-year-old father of three. “But for convenience’ sake, I’ve been using my Kindle. If a book is interesting, but if I get bored with it after a time, I’ll switch to another book. I probably have 200 books in my Kindle right now. It’s easy to switch over.”

Glick says that before e-books, he had books stashed everywhere. He had them in his car, four or five on his bedside table, others near a chair downstairs. He would steal snippets of reading time.

“With Kindle, I literally have all the books I need and want,” he says. “I still go to book stores and see what the new books are and see if there are any books out that I’m interested in. But I end up buying them on my Kindle because it’s cheaper.”

E-books, Glick says, tend to be nearly half or a third of the price of traditional hardcover books.

“A book (‘A Dance With Dragons’) by my favorite author (George R.R. Martin) came out, and I immediately ran out and bought the hard copy version. I was excited and had been waiting for it. And it was, like, $42. The e-book was $15. That was a couple years ago.”

Glick says that since obtaining a Kindle, he has culled his collection, somewhat regrettably.

“I still go to bookstore. I like the smell of new paper, the smell of a book. … I got to a point where I had several boxes of books in the attic, just sitting there. They took up space. I wasn’t reading them. Nobody in my house was reading them. It was time for them to go. I hope somebody else is reading them and enjoying them.

“I’ve always been an avid reader. Books that I’ve read multiple times, they were dog-eared, and I got rid of those. It was like saying goodbye to a friend. And I’ve since replaced those with e-books, which take up almost no room on a hard drive, and I can come back to them again and again and again and don’t have to worry about them wearing out.”

stwarden@jg.net

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