How technology is (and isn’t) changing our reading habits

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Alexandra Alter, who covers the books industry for The Times, discussed the tech she’s using.

Given that you write about the books industry, how do you prefer to read books? On a Kindle or iPad or some other device, or printed books?

I came a little late to e-books, but I became a convert in 2010 when my older daughter was born. I needed a way to read books with one hand (and in a dark room), so I got a Kindle. The Kindle and ice cream sandwiches — also easily managed with one hand — are what got me through the brutal early weeks with a newborn, when you basically can’t put them down. Now I’m on my fifth Kindle.

I still love print books and find it to be a much more relaxing and immersive experience, but when I’m reading books for work — honestly, the bulk of my reading — the Kindle is incredibly convenient.

How is technology affecting the publishing industry?

About a decade ago, when Amazon introduced its first e-reader, publishers panicked that digital books would take over the industry, the way digital transformed the music industry. And for a while, that fear seemed totally justified. At one point, the growth trajectory for e-books was more than 1,200 percent. Bookstores suffered, and print sales lagged. E-books also made self-publishing easier, which threatened traditional publishers.

But in just the last couple of years, there has been a surprising reversal. Print is holding steady — even increasing — and e-book sales have slipped.

One possible reason is that e-book prices have gone up, so in some cases they’re more expensive than a paperback edition. Another possibility is digital fatigue. People spend so much time in front of screens that when they read they want to be offline.

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