Friday, June 25, 2010

To eRead or not to eRead

I'm seriously considering getting an eReader and leaning towards the Kobo, which Borders is going to start selling in early July.  The price point is decent at $149 and I like that a charge lasts about a week.  I don't like having to plug things in every night to charge.  Plus it comes with a 100 classics pre-loaded.

I work at Borders (disclaimer!) and we've carried the Sony Pocket and Touch editions for a few years, but I'm not completely won over by either model due to price points.  I've never held a Kindle in my hands and I'm not crazy about its proprietary limitations.  A friend at work has a Nook and he let me play around with it. I liked it but the price point is a little higher than what I'd like to spend on something I'm not sure I'll love.

While I enjoy technology, I'm not one to jump on new techno toys.  I inherited my first computer and only got a cell phone when my company assigned one to me.  I did, however, buy a Palm Pilot which I used for a few years on-and-off, but I'm more of a paper calendar girl.  For me, its faster and I don't forget to recharge it.

Back to eReaders: apparently its all about the price point for me.

Borders also announced that they'll soon be carrying the Libre which is only $199.99 CORRECTION: $119.99, but all the buttons put me off.  The thing I like about the Kobo is how smooth it looks.  There's only one big button on the front of it and it looks like four little ones on the side.  Guess I'll just have to wait to see it until July.

Since the Kindle first came out I've been rather ambivalent about eReaders, but for the last six months or so I've been warming up to the idea.  I've never been one of those book lovers who is completely against digital books.  Like many book lovers I do have the fear that books will "go away."  Its similar to the prevalent bibliophile fear that raged ten years ago that brick-and-mortar bookstores were going away due to online ordering.  That hasn't happened (yet), although the bookstore landscape has changed dramatically (to put it mildly).  Long live bookstores and libraries!

But the thing about books is that they, like the English language, are always changing, allowing new things in and letting old things die off and so become stronger in may ways because of these changes.  I imagine there were scribes and illuminators who looked down their noses at Gutenberg's printing press.

To date I've read one digital book.  It was an out of print biography of Willa Cather in Word format that I cut and pasted into my Palm Pilot.  It was convenient to carry it around in my pocket and whip it out whenever I had a few minutes to read.  I did have to remember to charge my Palm each night while that was going on.  However, the big bonus was getting the book for free and not having to inter-library loan it.

Here are some pros and cons that I'm considering:

The pros:
  • Carrying dozens, hundreds, thousands of books around with me in one little device. How cool will it be to go on a trip and not have to lug around my book crammed backpack?
  • I've been downsizing the number of books that I keep for years now in an effort to live leaner.  I don't know what my book collection peaked at, but I do know I had about four times as many books ten years ago than I have now.  The number of books I owned was a huge point of pride for me.  I also suffered from unacknowledged bibliohordism back then.  I'm in recovery now.  These days the books that I choose to keep on my shelves really mean something to me.  Or they're waiting to be read.  However, I still want to have a handsome library in my mansion when I grow up. 
  • People report that they actually read more books with an eReader.
The cons:
  • Carrying dozens, hundreds, thousands of books around with me in one little device.  Will it/they distract me?
  • Impulse book buying--the dangers of downloading books wirelessly late at night when I'm obsessed with a new subject or theme.  (I suppose this is quite similar to online compulsive ordering, but without the shipping charge to break the spell.)
  • Losing the ability to easily flip back through books, highlight, write marginalia, sticky notes, etc.
  • Not being able to loan books to friends (I've heard you can do this now with some eReaders). 
  • While some people say ebooks are green books, the plastic & batteries that you need to read them are anything but.  They're toxic.  They're nowhere near as biodegradable as a paper book.  Or vellum.
  • Having to make sure the device is charged. 
  • And the biggest con of all for me: Missing out on that emotional re-connection with a book days, weeks, years after reading it when you happen to glance at it on your shelf. 
 What's your opinion on this issue?  If you have an eReader, how has it changed your relationship with books?

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