I just spent two days cruising the BEA in New York City. One day as a publicist, the next as an agent. From what I can see the book is still alive and well--it's just morphing as I write this.
On my bus trip home from the city I sat next to a lovely young woman who was juggling her smart phone along with a Kindle. As she settled next to me she seemed to be having difficulties with the latter. We were just leaving the Lincoln Tunnel when she turned to me and said, "Please excuse me. I am not one of those people who talk on the phone all the time, but I do have to make this call."
I thanked her for her courtesy and told her that it was no problem. But, since I was practically sitting on her lap, I overheard every word of her conversation with the Help Desk at Kindle headquarters:
Oh, I hope you can help me! I just took my Kindle out of my bag and it's stuck. The screen isn't cracked, but there are black lines running through it and I can't turn it off or on......No, I didn't drop it. I'm right in the middle of this book and now I can't read it and I'm so devastated!...What? Oh, you will? When?....Oh, I can't believe it. You'll send me a replacement? Really? But, what about all my books?....You can load them onto the new one? Oh, my!....You'll have my new one shipped right now?....Of course. I'll pack the old one up and send it back as soon as the new one comes!...Thank you so much!
The young woman turned to me and said, "That's the BEST customer service I have every had! I'm positively addicted to my Kindle and they will replace it, no questions asked!"
"My husband gave me the Kindle for Christmas--a complete surprise! I didn't know if I would like it, but I tried it and fell in love. I've read 30 books since then. I work at home and have two little kids, so you know I'm a dedicated reader. But what will I read on the way home?"
I mentioned to her that my new Droid smart phone has a Kindle app. Her phone did not, but she was able to download it right then and there, access her account, and read the rest of her book on her smart phone. The book she was so desperate to finish? A Discovery of Witches. She finished it before I got off the bus 2 hours later and had already begun another.
So what does this tell us about the state of reading? I think it's an inspiring and hopeful story. People of all ages are still reading--books, e-books, audio books--they're even reading on their smart phones.
We still need authors and publishers are still important. The trick is to make sure authors get paid well for their work and don't become victims of the e-book revolution.
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