A couple of days ago, Neil Gaiman twittered that his short story collection Fragile Things was on sale at Amazon for only 99 cents for the Kindle edition. (It is still on sale this morning, which is why I'm including the link. No idea how long it will last, of course.)
I don't have a Kindle.
But I have an iPhone, and the Kindle app for the iPhone is free. (And why wouldn't it be? Sure, Amazon would like me to buy a Kindle -- but I'm sure they'd much rather I get their app for free and then give them money for the books. There will always be more books to sell, but 99.9% of customers are only going to have one reader device, and they're only going to replace it every few years.)
What the hell, right? So I downloaded the Kindle app, and I bought the book, and then I spent an hour poking around Amazon's Kindle Store looking for free books to download. There are lots. Most of them older books in the public domain, but some are first books of series, or excerpts from authors who want to whet your appetite. I downloaded some foreign folk tales and a couple of classic novels and a couple of what will probably be bad trashy romances (but hey, they were free!).
I'm about half-considering switching to the Kindle app the next time I have to buy books for Book Club -- they're almost never books I'd want to keep, anyway. Might as well not have the physical book cluttering up the house until I get the time to take it to the used bookstore, right? (Though being able to re-sell the physical book has obvious advantages, so I'm still pondering it.)
Certainly, I expect I'll be downloading the Kindle app for my laptop -- not because I expect to do a lot of reading on it, but just because it's got a larger hard drive, and I'm not going to want to keep my entire e-library on my phone.
I don't think I've "chosen" Kindle as my e-reader app of choice. It happens to be my first (not counting plain documents and PDFs, obviously) but only because of the serendipity of a sale. I'll probably eventually collect the other free e-reader apps as well.
(Additionally, it occurs to me just now that I had been debating with myself over which e-reader to get, if I were going to get one, and I'd put the iPad in the running with all the others... but because the iPad can have not only its own native reader app but also a Kindle app and the Nook app and assorted others as well, then the iPad kind of wins hands-down on functionality, because it's always going to have all the functionality that all its apps have. Which nudges me a little bit closer to making an iPad my next diet-goal reward. Assuming I ever get there, but that's another post for another blog.)
I'm sort of looking forward to seeing my physical book library do what our physical music library did, really: we didn't throw away any of our old CDs, but we never got them out. So we chucked the cases and packed them into binders. I don't think either of us have opened the binders for months. Years, maybe. I'll probably take them to the storage unit, the next time I do a big household purge, because right now, they're just a barrier I have to step over from time to time. We haven't stopped buying music, by any stretch of the imagination, but now we buy it online. Sometimes, someone gives us a physical CD as a gift, but that's about it for the physical growth of our music collection.
I don't see myself replacing most of my physical books with e-books (though there are a few favorites that I'll probably eventually purchase digitally), but I can certainly see myself turning toward digital versions in the future. It cuts down on clutter. It cuts down on dust. It's easier to move. And while I do enjoy the visceral sensation of holding a real book in my hands, I don't mind reading on a screen, and my phone is a hell of a lot more convenient to take with me to the gym or the doctor's office.