Of Two Minds About Books Yana Paskova for The New York Times
Alexandra Ringe, right, an editor, and her husband, Jim Hanas, a fiction writer, both 41, fell in love over books.
SAN FRANCISCO — Auriane and Sebastien de Halleux are at sharp odds over “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” but not about the plot. The problem is that she prefers the book version, while he reads it on his iPad. And in this literary dispute, the couple says, it’s ne’er the twain shall meet.
“She talks about the smell of the paper and the feeling of holding it in your hands,” said Mr. de Halleux, 32, who says he thinks the substance is the same regardless of medium. He added, sounding mildly piqued, “She uses the word ‘real.’ ”
By the end of this year, 10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the United States, buying about 100 million e-books, the market research company Forrester predicts. This is up from 3.7 million e-readers and 30 million e-books sold last year.
The trend is wreaking havoc inside the publishing industry, but inside homes, the plot takes a personal twist as couples find themselves torn over the “right way” to read. At bedtime, a couple might sit side-by-side, one turning pages by lamplight and the other reading Caecilia font in E Ink on a Kindle or backlighted by the illuminated LCD screen of an iPad, each quietly judgmental.
Although there are no statistics on how widespread the battles are, the publishing industry is paying close attention, trying to figure out how to market books to households that read in different ways.
A few publishers and bookstores are testing the bundling of print books with e-books at a discount. Barnes & Noble started offering bundles in June at about 50 stores and plans to expand the program in the fall, said Mary Ellen Keating, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman.
Thomas Nelson, a publisher of religious books, offers free e-books with a print book for some titles. It is particularly good for readers who want to share books with family or friends who read in different formats, said Tod Shuttleworth, senior vice president and group publisher at Thomas Nelson. The bundles have sold well, and Thomas Nelson is considering adding more for the holiday shopping season.
Meanwhile, Amazon.com is doing its best to convince print lovers that “reading on Kindle is nothing like reading on a computer screen.” Its Web site promises a display on which “text ‘pops’ from the page, creating a reading experience most similar to reading on printed paper” because it produces neither glare in a well-lighted spot nor a glow in the dark.
Sony, which introduced a new line of e-readers Wednesday, said they were smaller and lighter than before, with clearer text and touch screens, all to make them feel more like printed books. “Consistently the No. 1 thing we heard was it needs to feel like a book, so you just forget that you have a device in your hand,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.
This straddle-the-line marketing underscores a deeper tension: the desire to keep the print business alive so as not to alienate a core market, while establishing a base for a future that publishers see as increasingly digital, said James L. McQuivey, an e-reader industry analyst with Forrester.
“There is much more emotional attachment to the paper book than there is to the CD or the DVD,” said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “It is not logical — it’s visceral.”