May I just say that e-books are a wonder. Roughly half the sales of my newest book, In the Garden of Beasts, arose from the e-book edition. Half. I do worry about how e-book sales are affecting the many lovely independent bookstores that continue to sell the paper variety and to dispense smart recommendations on what to read, but I’m heartened by how e-books seem to have caused an upwelling of interest in reading among people who haven’t been big readers in the past. Last summer, for example, I was doing a signing at a Costco store when a man of middle years stopped by, closely examined my new book, and assured me he would buy it, but not right then. He planned to buy it later, for his Nook e-reader.

I asked how he liked his Nook. I’m always curious to see how people feel about these electronic devices. Some people love them the way I love my iPhone 4, which is to say with a disturbing level of obsession. They read The New York Times Sunday Book Review with their Nooks or Kindles or iPads at their sides, and if they see something that looks compelling, they order it. (By the way, there is a porn-only version of the Nook, called the Nooky. Sorry. That’s lame humor. But there is in fact a New Jersey only version, called the Snooky.)  

My Costco visitor told me that before he got his Nook he would typically read only one or two books a year. But since the start of the year, he had ordered and read 12 e-books–and at the time we spoke it was only June.  That means that if he continues reading at that pace, by year’s end he will have read two dozen books, or at least ten times the number of books he had read in any previous year.

That’s extraordinary. And I have to believe, and hope, that he and other readers like him will find books they like so much that they want to give them as gifts, and will go to their local book stores, or to Costco, or to Wegman’s, or wherever, and buy a couple of copies in hardcover or paperback, so that they can give their friends something pretty, with wrapping and bows and that pleasing heft that books and babies have in common.  

It all gives me faith that a good story well told will always find an audience thrilled to read it. 

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The e-book edition of Isaac’s Storm, about the monster hurricane that destroyed Galveston in September 1900, came out in October, as scheduled. Of all my books, Isaac’s Storm is the one my wife likes best. I don’t know why. I doubt it’s because of the burning corpses at the end. It’s probably because it’s the one that made her cry the most.