On Kids and Kindles

Over the weekend, my two older boys (7 and 8) - who each got a basic Kindle for Christmas - spent their own money, earned from chores or saved from birthdays, to buy books*. This makes both writer-me and mom-me tres happy. I can't remember them ever doing this before and it got me thinking about how having Kindles has changed our book buying habits. The instant gratification of e-readers plays to kids (heck, everyone's) natural impulsiveness. And I'm all for it.

I don't even own an ereader myself and it's changed my habits. I'll buy pretty much any book priced $1.99 or less that I think they'll like. Not sure why I've settled on this number...I guess it seems like if I'm willing to spend two bucks on a cup of coffee sometimes, why wouldn't I buy my kid a book for that price? The caveat is that my kids are very selective...one likes inventions and robots and silly, the other likes sports and meatier novels, but can't tolerate anything scary. It's a very narrow market. So, when I find a book that fits, especially for such a reasonable price, I'm in.

I watch for the Kindle Daily Deal every day and my kids ask about it. I've found a couple books they really liked this way: The Lemonade Wars, The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep, Herbert's Wormhole, A Whole Nother Story, The Fourth Stall. And then they've looked for others by those authors or in the series. So, publishers...it's working like it should. At least, in our house.

But here's the crazy part. I just looked up all our purchases and, over the last six weeks, we've bought thirty-nine kids e-books. I love books and I am all for supporting authors, but I'm certain I've never bought this many books this quickly before.

In fact, when I decided to get them Kindles, I figured we'd borrow a lot of e-books from our library, but I realized on Day One that our library system didn't work with the basic Kindle, only the KindleFire and other e-readers. Then I thought maybe we'd join AmazonPrime and borrow from their library, but the limitation of one book a month made it not worth the fee. As a consumer, this was a little frustrating. But as a writer, it was comforting. Because before we had Kindles, I couldn't understand why people would keep buying books if they could just borrow them from their library or Amazon without ever leaving home. Now I get it. And have the bills to prove it.

I don't think the things I see in shopping for my kids' books applies to adults. Or at least, not to this adult. For my kids, I'm just trying to keep up with their reading. For me, knowing I only get to read fifteen or so books a year, each one has to really grab me. Pricing an e-book at $3.99 or $1.99 or even $0.99 isn't going to make me buy it for myself. I'm not sure where the tipping point is between time and money, but I'd guess it starts in high school, maybe late middle-school, when kids' time for pleasure reading shrinks and they're not zipping through three books a day.

All interesting food for thought with ebooks and self-pubbing on the rise.

*Their choices, for anyone wondering: The Candy Smash (Lemonade Wars), Shredderman: Attack of the Tagger, The Hardy Boys: Secret Files A Monster of a Mystery and Ballpark Mysteries #3