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Neil Gaiman on Ebooks

Neil Gaiman is the award-winning and bestselling author of American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, and the comic series Sandman. He blogs at http://journal.neilgaiman.com.

This is an excerpt from Gaiman’s essay in the January 2011 issue of Locus Magazine, “Neil Gaiman on the Internet”

ON DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND EBOOKS

Paper books are really, really useful things. They are wonderful things. I’m still convinced that the paperback book is something that will probably live forever. Because it’s cheap, it’s cheerful, you can drop it in the bath, you can put it in your pocket. It’s driven by sunlight. You can find your place in it in seconds. But there are places where Kindles win.

*

There are two huge things about the Kindle that are incredibly good and useful. Thing one is that normally technological innovation bumps up against age: there comes a point somewhere in the 40s where people cannot be bothered to keep up. And by the time you get to your 60s, normally you definitely can’t be bothered. It’s not like 60 year olds were going out and buying iPods. On the other hand, all you have to do is be past the age of reading glasses and discover, as you start lamenting the tiny size that paperbacks books are printed in these days and realizing that you’re probably going to have to grit your teeth fairly soon and go and look for those large-print paperbacks, that’s the point where you discover that you can have any book in the world on your Kindle and you can just change the typeface to suit yourself. And that suddenly means that you’re getting one for your grandmother. Advanced tech changes everything.

The thing that actually I’m loving about the current incarnation of Kindle is that you can be reading something using Kindle software on physical platforms other than the actual Kindle. This may not seem that important, but I just proudly finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo, this 1,000-page book, that I bought several copies of over the years. And it’s huge, and it’s heavy, and I would get a chapter into it or whatever and always mean to keep reading it but never quite get around to it because it wouldn’t be wherever I was. The joy of this was, wherever I was, and whatever I had with me electronically, I had The Count of Monte Cristo, and it knew what page I was on. Which means that if I have ten minutes and I have my phone with me, or I’m on a plane: just grab that ten minutes.

I watched the Kindle win on things that were simply too big to go into your jeans pocket. But given the choice between that and a thin paperback that’s jeans-pocket sized, paperback still wins for me.


Comments

Comment from Steve Burt
Time January 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Right on, Neil. I held out a long time on “tree books” and finally Kindled my thriller FreeK Camp. In October the sales of the ebook outpaced the paperback, library, and hardcover version ALL TOGETHER by 6 to 1. Of course, at Christmas the paperbacks outpaced the Kindles slightly, but that was because folks needed stocking stuffers the recieving parties could actually hold in their hand. But the next couple of days proved they had gotten Kindle readers in their stockings, because my ebook sales rocketed. I’m becoming a believer.

Comment from Steve Burt
Time January 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Neil, almost forgot, congrats on the marriage.

Comment from Stephen Hunt
Time January 14, 2011 at 12:02 am

I have to agree with Steve Burt. Having seen how my novels’ Kindle sales have grown compared to my print ones through HarperCollins/Tor, I’ve switched from being a curmudgeonly non-believer in e-books (I was stung by being a Rocket e-book owner), to being a believer.

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Time January 14, 2011 at 12:37 am

[...] Locus Online by Graham Sleight, and an extract from an interview they did with me about ebooks at http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2011/01/neil-gaiman-on-ebooks/ And there is a huge backlog of questions to answer on the FAQ line. I’ll try and do some of [...]

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Time January 14, 2011 at 3:07 am

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Oliver Morton, Jason Erik Lundberg, Endless.hu, Stacy, Stephen Gordon and others. Stephen Gordon said: Good points => RT @locusmag: Perspective: Neil Gaiman on Ebooks http://tinyurl.com/4ccknyo [...]

Comment from Bev Vincent
Time January 14, 2011 at 6:34 am

Agreed — in addition to my main Kindle reading, I’ve been working my way through Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island on my iPod for the better part of a year. I read it in bits and pieces whenever I’m in a waiting room or in a queue somewhere.

Comment from Terrance Foxxe
Time January 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Paperbacks will survive, and the Kindle will thrive. Readers, even us oldsters, are stepping up to e-books. Writers are taking advantage of what the Kindle can do for us. They advertise! Amazon got something right, for a pleasant change. My dark fantasy is there for that reason, and all of the above. When it all works, it’s a win, win.

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Time January 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm

[...] Gaiman siger, at det er ok at ville have en Kindle. No Comments, Comment or [...]

Pingback from Booksprung » What Neil Gaiman likes about the Kindle, and why you should care
Time January 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm

[...] need a Famous Author to validate your purchasing decisions, so I’m not posting about Neil Gaiman’s opinions on the Kindle just to make you feel better/worse about your new ereader. Instead, I thought it might provide some [...]

Comment from Kristen Bishop
Time January 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I am a school librarian in a teeny tiny school in Maine. I grew up within walking distance of Harvard Square, in one of the most bookish areas possible. There is so much to troll through – libraries, lovely bookstores- in an urban area. Rural areas have such a shortfall. I am trying to build a case to purchase a Nook. The product has certain features that are so complimentary to the spirit of a library. The font changes of ereaders offer wonderful options to help struggling readers. We could access many times the number of books on the shelf for free. I am preaching to the choir.

Neil, as a Newberry author and ereader fan, please consider endorsing this tool for use in schools and libraries. Please write a letter at large to the school boards, parents and institutions regarding the possibilities the ereaders offer to readers. So many people are caught up in a book vs tech struggle – it is so pointless . You are so urbane, suave, and sugar-tongued , you could clarify it for everyone. You are the perfect person to do this.

Pingback from The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: January 17, 2011
Time January 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm

[...] Neil Gaiman on Ebooks… and why you should care. [...]

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Time January 18, 2011 at 6:03 am

[...] Neil Gaiman on Ebooks… and why you should care. [...]

Pingback from What Neil Gaiman likes about the Kindle, and why you should care | The Digital Reader
Time January 18, 2011 at 10:08 am

[...] you don’t need a Famous Author to validate your purchasing decisions, so I’m not posting about Neil Gaiman’s opinions on the Kindle just to make you feel better/worse about your new ereader. Instead, I thought it might provide some [...]

Comment from Metylda
Time January 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm

My problems with e-books is this: I don’t like having to both buy the book and the thing to read it on. I like being able to underline and write in my cheap paperback book. I like that if I leave a paperback book on the bus/plane or it gets stepped on, I can replace it pretty easily, and inexpensively. Having been camping and had the skies open up and a river flood my tent, I prefer a paperback to get washed away. Yes, I’m a Luddite, but I’m proud to be.
(I also like to snoop and see what other people are reading and judge the covers. It’s a small piece of fun that’s being taken away…)


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