Scenes from the eBook Revolution

Chef Tom Douglas cooks in Seattle

“I got the Kindle WiFi for Christmas, and if I ever lose it, I will sell a kidney to get it back.”

That’s a real comment that Amazon just shared on the Kindle’s Facebook page. And what’s even more interesting is that new Kindle owner only had one kidney. He told Amazon that when it comes to his Kindle, “I love it that much…”

Christmas apparently created a lot of happy new Kindle owners — I’d estimate several million Kindles were given as gifts — and all around the world, they’re already making their presence felt. I was curious when USA Today reported that for the first week of 2011, ebooks were outselling printed books for more than a third of the titles on their best-seller list. But would it happen again the next week? It turns out the answer is yes!

Thursday USA Today announced that for 36% of the books on their best-seller list, the ebook version was still outselling the printed edition. (That’s 18 of the top 50 books!) It’s good news for companies that sell ebooks, but it probably also means that drastic changes are coming soon if a store’s survival depends on the sale of printed books. Ironically, I know of two employees at Borders bookstores who already secretly prefer reading ebooks. In September, my friend Mike even chatted with a Borders cashier who “started complaining about e-books and how they were killing off the bookstores… As I walked out, I noticed she went back to reading whatever book she was reading – on her Kobo!”

At a newspaper in Alabama, the book editor shared his own unique perspective. In an interesting editorial on Saturday, he reported that apparently people are reading more now that they own a digital reader. “No need to drive to the mall, browse crowded shelves or call a clerk – simply tap a few keys and in mere seconds you’ve got it.” And he also reported that Kindles are especially handy for travelers, as one man in his mid-60s explained. “All my friends swear by the Kindle for trips. One buddy and his wife went to Spain recently, and they were able to download a dozen guidebooks onto their Kindle. That’s a serious weight savings on an international flight.”

But that’s about to get even better, since Amazon just launched their own original ebook series of restaurant/tour guidebooks for travelers, starting with the city where Amazon has its headquarters: Seattle. Amazon’s Vice President of Kindle content said the ebook guides “allow for a little extra space in your bag for local specialties like coffee or wild salmon,” and for Chef Walks: Seattle they tapped the award-winning chef Tom Douglas (pictured above), who’s also a one-time winner on Iron Chef America! The book is already available in Amazon’s Kindle store, and one reviewer is already applauding the ebook for “A great idea, well executed, and hopefully the start of a great series of Kindle publications.”

But as the ebook revolution continues, there’s an even more interesting story in North Carolina. According to a local newspaper, the Rowan County Public Library has 12 Amazon Kindles now that it’s checking out to its patrons, just like books! “[A]ccording to librarian Betty Moore, demand has been exceptional, with 68 people on the waiting list late last week… The library’s devices contain about 80 titles, and if you want a specific book that is not already on the Kindle, you may request one book and the Library will purchase that title to put onto the e-reader.”

I keep asking if this is the year when we’ll see humankind take a leap to an entirely new way of reading. But apparently, that transition won’t happen without a few bumps! Back in Alabama, the book editor reported a funny conversation when his wife tried to help his elderly mother set up her new Kindle. They charged it, checked its instructions, registered it, and then downloaded a John Grisham book.

But then she complained that “I’m too exhausted now to read it!”

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