You’ve heard of the “tipping point” concept, right? Because it’s an idiom that has its roots in a scientific concept, a variety of definitions abound…but I like this one:
Small changes may have little effect until they build up to critical mass; then the next small change may suddenly change everything. This is the tipping point.
In the case of my kindle, I was a slow adopter. I received it for Christmas almost two years ago and, like many people in my position, immediately downloaded a few books I’d been meaning to read. I signed up for trial subscriptions to my regular newspaper as well as a magazine I occasionally read.
My initial reaction was decidedly lukewarm. I didn’t mind the reading experience for books; I didn’t love it, either. Reading the paper was damn irritating and I soon went back to my favored combination of online news during the week, physical paper on Sundays. I never even opened the magazine.
(Magazines are probably the most stubbornly tactile of all media. While I imagine there are young women happily reading their Elle or Shape or whatever on an iPad, I can’t imagine reading my own favorite consumer magazines without the tactile feel of the pages; and yeah, i like the perfume samples as well as tearing out pages with ads or recipes I want to remember. Like the cigarette ads of old, I’d rather fight than switch; but then again it probably won’t be my decision to make, considering the death spiral of the consumer magazine – subscribership is way, way, way down across all categories.)
The first “small change” in my reading habits as referred to in the definition above was that I could read manuscripts on a portable device. This is incredibly handy for the blurbing author. I probably read 8-10 books a year with an eye for giving a quote, and a couple of years ago I was still faced with the choice of reading on my computer or printing out the manuscript on paper. Neither choice was very satisfying, and I dreaded this aspect of my job. Now, however, I can “stack” manuscripts on the kindle and tackle them whenever I have a few moments.
A second change was my conversion to the kindle as device of choice for what I’ll call, for lack of a better term, “directed reading,” or books I need to read for my job: either recommended to me by an agent or editor as relevant to a current or potential project, or comp books in my genre, or research that doesn’t rely on images. Generally I want these books when I want them – fast.
A third change came when publishers gave in on the delayed release issue. It’s not entirely over, but it is far more rare to delay an e-release to “give the hardcover a chance” to sell. So you can choose a cheaper format on release day even if the publisher isn’t releasing a trade or mass market version for months or even a year. This is so in flux, I can’t even imagine trying to predict what release schedules will look like a year from now, but I definitely am buying electronic to save money in some cases.
A fourth change came when I wanted to buy a book that did not exist in any other format. I’ll be honest and say this doesn’t happen to me very often, but I’m openminded about the future. It’s been rare that a title I want to read exists only in electronic format, but that day may come, and it would not prevent me from buying a book.
A fifth change was when I went on a six-day hike last summer. I was able to carry more books than I could have possibly read, and my kindle’s charge was more than adequate. Without it, I doubt I’d have taken more than one – and I would have chosen a skinny book because weight is such an issue for backpacking!
So that’s five changes that have moved me along the dial over the last two years. Still, until a few weeks ago, I would have called myself an “occasional” user of my kindle, someone who spends much more time with physical books.
Then I moved, and I lost my kindle somewhere in the process – and discovered that I’d rolled right over my tipping point and didn’t even know it.
The most critical issue is the three books I’m reading for blurb – deadlines are approaching fast, but I cannot bear to read the manuscripts on my monitor. The thought of it makes my eyeballs hurt.
But I also miss the half dozen books I’ve been reading “casually” for months, meaning they’re waiting for me on the exact page I left off the last time I was in the mood for them. These are obviously not page-turners, but they’re not duds either – they’re simply books that require a certain mood or circumstance, like the dense literary novel that I like well enough to finish but not enough to spend my precious bedtime reading on, or the research book on a topic I already know well enough for my purposes, but which is mildly interesting nonetheless. In the “old days,” these books would have found their way ever lower on the TBR stack and eventually been given away -and I might have thought the same thing would occur on my kindle, but for whatever reason I’m more apt to return to a book I’ve stored electronically.
I’m *desperate* for my kindle, enough so I was going to have a new one overnighted – but in a cruel twist of fate, the cheap touch-screen model won’t be available until the end of the month, and I want that feature badly enough to wait. I’m not waiting patiently, and I do have some pretty significant issues with Amazon right now that are making me feel a little conflicted about the purchase, but when my new kindle arrives on December 1st it’s safe to say I’ll be doing a happy dance.
How about you guys? Have you reached your tipping point yet?
By the way, here’s a little opportunity for any writers out there: I’m giving away my writing library, because I don’t have room for it in my new office. Read the details on my personal blog – there are some great books there, and I’d love for them to go to a good home!