I think it has been established by a lot of people that the chances of the Kindle, or any kindle-like device, eliminating the paper book are slim. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it adds a certain element of uncertainty to the book purchasing decision. Do you want to have something to put on your shelf? Something that you can crease and write in and pile up with a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day? Or would you rather always know that you can have your book at the push of a button? Sometimes it’s just nice to know that wherever you go you can have a huge selection of books to choose from without destroying your back carrying around a whole library.
It tends to come down to a personal decision based on preference, price, and the nature of the book in question. I wouldn’t mind spending an extra few dollars for that first edition hardcover from an author I like. Maybe I’ll never get around to having it signed or anything, but it’s nice to see it on the shelf and there’s something to be said for having something you care about right there in your hands. When my options are eBook or Mass Market Paperback, though, the choice swings the other way pretty abruptly.
This becomes significantly more complicated, of course, when it comes to giving gifts. We all know people for whom books always go over well, but it’s getting hard to decide if the fact that somebody really likes their Kindle is grounds for not providing a physical copy to unwrap and open. It feels almost anticlimactic to say “Hey, I got you something! Check your email to unwrap it!”, but if the person you’re gifting at is an eBook fanatic or doesn’t have much space for dead tree products, it would seem to make more sense at a glance. How do you decide?
For me, a lot of it comes down to the person and the circumstances of gift giving. Do they travel a lot or commute daily? eBook. Will I be there for the unwrapping or is this a distance-bridging gift exchange? If I’m not there to hand it over, eBook. No more impersonal than an Amazon box in the mail. If, on the other hand, this is a family gathering sort of thing, paper is the way to go. The nieces and nephews won’t be too happy, at least in my family, with something intangible.
Now that we can be fairly certain that the eBook is here to stay, I would say there’s no harm in throwing the occasional bit of Kindle media out there, if you think that it will be enjoyed. Worst case scenario, the recipient can always choose to take that gift card for the value of the eBook rather than accepting the gift. If you get really lucky though, you might just introduce somebody you care about to a whole new assortment of reading options to enjoy.