From the Post's article about e-books:

“We don't see people buying both versions,” one publishing executive told Wyatt. “I think there is almost a one-to-one cannibalization.”

Curious. Could it be that there exist people who will buy a $9.99 electronic version but would not have bought the $19.95 paper version? Yes! For I am one of those people. I've bought a good number of books on the Kindle, few of which I ever would have purchased otherwise. And most of the actual books I buy on Amazon are used anyway, and that's got to be worse for the publisher.
I deal with a lot of books for research, reviewing, and Bloggingheads book chats. I don't so much read these as use them. The Kindle is very bad for riffling, which I do a lot of. And it's useless for the scholarly task of creating and looking up citations, since, through some gross oversight, the Kindle fails to relate e-book locations to the page number in the corresponding paper text. However, I find it wonderful for actual reading, and I have been on a kick of buying novels and other sorts of edifying literary entertainments for the Kindle. I don't think I would have otherwise bought The Emperor's Children, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or Kafka on the Shore, for example. So the Kindle is making these publishers money they wouldn't otherwise have made while improving my literary um… literacy.
Question: Is the fact that people often wait for the less-expensive paperback version of a book also comparable to eating the flesh of your own kind?
Also: The Emperor's Children is overrated. It felt to me like an Ayn Rand novel with slightly less cardboard characters (or maybe the conversations of New York intellectuals really are that shallow), no really interesting ideas (despite the evident ambition to have ideas), and often overly precious prose. But it was really fun to read because I like Ayn Rand novels.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center