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Why eBooks are dead (and the paradox of choice)

“Choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.”

Barry Schwartz

Do we have too many choices today?

Call me old fashioned, but I love good, old hard/soft copy books. I was a fairly early adopter of eBooks and I’ve had a Nook for a couple years.  After I bought my first iphone (last Fall), I began to read on that.  I’ve found that there are quite a few limitations with these.  Ok, so I don’t think they’re really dead, but I don’t buy into what people are saying about normal books going away either.

Here’s the deal.  Maybe it’s that I’m bad at focusing, but I have about 30 books on my nook/iphone and I can’t seem to finish most of them.  I believe it’s quite simply that I have too many choices. I start one book, read it for a while, and then I switch to another book….and the cycle goes.

Check out this great TED video by Barry Schwartz. Dr. Schwartz talks about this paradox of choice and if we have too many choices out there?  The answer is undoubtedly yes.  Just turn on your TV.  How many channels do you have?  This isn’t the 50’s, when you had 3 channels.  Now, you have hundreds of channels.  Am I the only one who feels like crap when I’ve been channel surfing for a while?

What about the grocery store?  How do you pick a salad dressing out of the 175 choices?  Or, Best Buy.  Want a new flat panel TV?  Here are 75 options.  I don’t know about you, but I feel anxious when I shop.  Target?  Don’t get me started.  Of course, I can’t get out of there without spending at least $150!  Same goes for health care.  I had six or seven choices this year.  Before, it was two.  I couldn’t decide.  So, I stuck with what I’ve had for the last three years.

I spend a good amount of time at work negotiating deals.  I’ve found that the optimal number of options to provide a client is three.  Any less and you don’t look flexible. Any more, and it gets too complicated.  It’s funny how these things correlate.

Back to books…..I fly a lot.  As you know, on takeoff and landing you can’t use electronic devices.  If I’m doing work during the core of the flight, these 10-15 minutes are perfect reading time.  With the eBook – I can’t read it!  With the hard/soft cover, it’s game on.

Let me make one thing clear.  I’m a huge fan of all the bloggers/writers out there publishing eBooks.  I think it’s a great way to enter the market and provide fantastic content.  Here’s what I’ve discovered, however.  For me to get through a whole eBook, I typically have to print it out.  I know, totally against the web 2.0 explosion, but it just works for me.

I’ve read about authors like Seth Godin, who may only go the eBook route in the future.  I realize the concern with the traditional publishing process and the hoops you have to jump through.  If Seth goes this route, I believe that would be a big mistake.

From flipping real pages, to writing notes, to ear marking certain pages…there are so many things I miss when I’m reading an eBook. It also feels kind of weird when I’m in bed and I’m reading an electronic book.  I’ve also written in the past about it being okay to read more than one book at a time (click here to see that post).  I’ve changed my tune.  For me, it needs to be one at a time to get the most value out of it.  This will be different for other people, but for me, I’m back to one at a time.

Maybe I’m crazy and maybe I’ll change my tune if I buy and iPad or other tablet.  Time will tell, but for now, I’m going back to regular books.

I’d love to hear what you think.  Do you think I’m an idiot for saying this?  That’s okay – I’d love to hear about it.  Please post a comment, I dare you ; )  If you believe this is worthy of sharing, please send it via the email link below to one person;  or, via twitter/facebook.  Also, don’t forget to sign up to receive weekly posts.

Thanks for reading!

All the best,


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jon-
    The overwhelming number of choices has created a greater need for the “Information Sherpa”. We now need an expert to guide us through the maze of choices. Sounds like you are filling that role for your customers.
    I’m 180 degrees from your on the e-book subject. I got a Kindle for Christmas and am reading more books than ever! My wife appreciates the suddenly missing stack of books which used to pile up next to my bed. I also appreciate the built in dictionary when you hover over a word. I can highlight passages, see passages others have highlighted and even tweet a sentence or two to share with others. Lastly, I seem to have a few of books I go back to over and over for re-reading. When you’re carrying your whole library in one device, that’s a snap.
    By the way- for reading e-books I prefer the Kindle over the iPad.

    1. David,

      Thanks for the insightful comment. Yeah, the ebook thing is an interesting one. The efficiency of it is great. They’re definitely here to stay and will continue to grow market share. I don’t think regular books will ever go away though. I think I’ll end up taking a hybrid approach. Reading ebooks as well as hard cover. For example, I was flying home today and reading a great book that I wanted to take a bunch of notes in. I just wrote right in the book. How has your experience been with the Kindle and note taking and/or highlighting? Maybe I should try the Kindle….I’ll check it out. My biggest problem is buying too many books at once. I tend to get on a certain topic and will buy four of five books on that topic. That could be a factor. Thanks for the comment! Hope all is well.

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