Sunday, April 22, 2012

eReaders: My Take On Them


There have been several posts on eReaders lately.  People seem to love them.  I think my opinion of them is in the minority.  I don’t dislike the idea, but currently they are not for me.  Here’s why…

I am a book lover.  Like most book lovers, I love the stories, I love reading, I love to escape my own life and dive into someone else’s world, if only for a little while.  But the main reason I am a book lover is because I love the actual books.  I love the smell and feel of books.  I love turning the pages, seeing the progress I make with every chapter I read.  I love how the cover is meant to capture the essence of the story with one photograph—if it’s a good one, I can stare at it for hours thinking of the words that lay just beneath its surface, revealing feelings and relationships and journeys I may never have felt or had or taken without that particular book.

I think the idea of eReaders is great—they allow the reader to carry several “books” with them without having to carry the weight.  They’re great for travel.  And if your eReader also happens to be a tablet, well then, you can connect to the Internet with ease.  If I traveled a lot, I might be tempted to get one.  If I got a tablet for Internet purposes, I might use the eReader feature once in a while.  But I can’t see myself buying one just for the sake of reading.

As a librarian, I can tell you that eReaders are extremely popular right now.  Most libraries have a service that allows you to download titles for free (the license expires after two or three weeks).  It’s a fairly easy process, or so it would seem.  Because we offer this service, I have to be able to train patrons on the downloading process.  This means, however, that I have to be familiar with every device that is out there, because the process of each one is different.  If you have a Nook, you have to download specific software before you can get books.  If you have a Kindle, you have to know how to download via the cloud.  If you have a Kindle Fire, you have to know to sync it before you’ll see the title appear on your device.  And if you have an iPad, you have to know to download the app—but which app?  Well, it depends on how you want to use it—do you want to use it like a Kindle (therefore downloading the Kindle app) or do you want to use it as a general eReader (therefore downloading a different app)?  Don’t even get me started on the Android devices, because that’s yet another process.  And of course, in order to be able to show the patrons how to perform these steps, I need to know how each individual device works, because a majority of the patrons who come in don’t.  Some of them have never even turned the device on.

And this does not even get into the fact that certain publishers are making it very difficult for people to download titles through the library—they are so afraid of not making money that they make the process (regardless of which device you have) incredibly difficult—although you’re device is wireless and can download through the cloud, this publisher forces you to connect and download through the USB cable; that publisher doesn’t even offer library versions of ebooks; and of course, the patrons aren’t aware of which publisher has what rules.  It’s up to me to inform them of these differences.  This is just a way for publishers to make money though, because libraries have been doing this very thing since their inception—they purchase a certain number of hardcover books that get circulated a certain number of times before it needs to be replaced, at which point the library will purchase another.  But with eBooks, there is no physical item, so there is no physical damage.  Some publishers are doing what they’ve always done—libraries can buy one title, allow it to be downloaded a certain number of time before the library has to repurchase the license.  To me, this makes the most sense because it reflects what we’re already doing with physical books.  So those publishers who require patrons to download a certain way or don’t allow it at all are really doing it just to be a nudge.

With every change in technology, there is a change in how things are done and I am supposed to be able to keep up with all of it.  It’s tiring, damn it!  Just when I’ve mastered one process, it changes and—boom!—I have to learn it all over again.  The more eBooks that are published, the less the physical book is.  To me that’s sad—at some point, society will not have a physical book to turn to for answers—everything will be housed in some “cloud” we can’t see or touch.  And people wonder why I am not full-heartedly embracing technology.  I’ve said it before—technology is great, but I don’t think it needs to take over everything, and I certainly don’t like it to be forced on me.  Unfortunately though, I work in a profession where I am required to know it and I live in a society where everyone believes we should have it.

It doesn’t mean I have to use it at home though.  I answer eBook and eReader questions every day.  It’s nice to come home and turn to my analog book, one that doesn’t require a password, doesn’t require me to log on to a wi-fi network, one that doesn’t require me to download updates or check my battery level.  I can simply open the cover, turn to where I left off, and continue without worry.  I am finding that the more technology evolves, the more I turn to paper and pen to accomplish things my own way, rather than letting some app do it for me.  There is something to be said for concrete things we can touch and feel and smell, not to mention personal activity and productivity, no matter how small.

Will I never get an eReader of some sort?  I can’t say that exactly.  But it’s not something I currently want, and I don’t see myself wanting a device specifically for reading anytime soon.

This quote from Stephen King pretty much sums up how I feel about books, and I don’t expect it ever to change:

“Books have weight and texture; they make a pleasant presence in the hand.  Nothing smells as good as a new book, especially if you get your nose right down in the binding, where you can still catch an acrid tang of the glue.  The only thing close is the papery smell of an old one.  The odor of an old book is the odor of history, and for me, the look of a new one is still the look of the future.”

7 comments:

  1. I have finally got an eReader - like you I adore books and thought I would never get on with an electronic version. To be honest, I've used it more than I thought, but I still far prefer the physical book for reading a novel. I like my Kindle for going away though, just for lightness.
    The thing I prefer my Kindle for though, is all the non-fiction (and largely free or very cheap) stuff... I have downloaded a lot of things that are all pretty short and I do enjoy being able to browse through those. Whereas I would happily carry a novel (or two) in my bag, I would never carry the twenty-odd 'pamphlet' sized non-fiction things I have on my Kindle, on the off-chance I would dip into them, but with the Kindle, they are there and I can browse them easily. For me, that's the best aspect.
    Still vastly prefer a physical book for a novel or thesaurus etc!

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    1. Yes, the lightness would be the main reason I would use one. But usually I only read one book at a time, so even then it would only be for when I travel, which I don't do all that much. I know people love their eReaders, and I have thought about it myself. But even though I've been tempted, I probably will hold off for now.

      Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Hello!

    I have a Kindle and I love it. But . . . on Friday I went to the library and took a book out, and on Sunday I bought a second-hand book from the Oxfam Book Shop. I use my Kindle a lot but I also love actual books as well. They both have their place.

    My Kindle is great because it's always with me, so whenever I have some spare time, I can read. It's brilliant for Doctor's waiting rooms!

    To read a book on my Kindle, I simply press the 'on' button. It opens at the last page of the last book I was reading. Easy.

    To download a book, I click on 'buy it now' on my laptop and it magically appears on my Kindle. It's just one button - it really couldn't be easier. (Although I accept that being a librarian might be a tricky issue in respect of the different eReaders available and downloading instructions etc.)

    As for looking at the cover of the book, you can still do this on a Kindle.

    One thing I really like about reading books on a Kindle is the privacy. I often read self-help books and I don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry knowing what my personal issues are!!! When I read it on my Kindle, I can read it anywhere and not feel embarrassed or self-conscious because I know nobody else can see the front cover.

    You can also get many free books to download on a Kindle. That can surely only be a good thing!

    I do agree that it will be sad when real books disappear altogether (if they ever do) because technology changes and there are many compatibility issues. Also, I don't like the fact that you can't hand a book to a friend with a recommendation. I do miss that. I also don't like the fact that I can't read the 'blurb' of the book without connecting to Wi-Fi. That annoys the hell out of me!

    I love browsing second-hand book shops looking for a bargain, and I also love buying second-hand books online because, ridiculously enough, they are often cheaper than Kindle versions.

    As far as I see it, both eReaders and actual books have their place and I will carry on reading both as much as possible. Anything that helps me read more is a wonderful thing!

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    1. I always have a book in my bag, so like you, I'm never without reading material. As I mentioned in the comment above, I have been tempted because it's so light. And you make a great point about the non-fiction titles and privacy. Still though, it will probably be some time before I invest in an eReader. My husband and I have contemplated getting an iPad, so we'll see - if we do, I might end up using that as an eReader as well. That is, if he'll let me use it long enough to get some proper reading done. ;)

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  3. Hahaha yes I can imagine - men and their gadgets! LOL!

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  4. I absolutely adore books, but last year before going on vacation we bought a pair of kindles to take with us on vacation. As we sat on the beach in Bermuda it was really an eye opener to see all the kindles in use on the beach (don't get me started on the fashion of their covers!)... As much as I love reading an actual book, what I do like about the kindle is that I can adjust the font size and now that I'm getting older it really helps as I cannot even read a magazine without reading glasses... So at the salon while I wait for the dye in my hair to process, it's not unusual to see me with a kindle and the font size at the largest I can go... I read Pillars of the Earth on the Kindle and being a 700+ page book it was actually quite convenient to read on a kindle... I do have Jane Eyre on the kindle which I haven't started yet... I sort of feel weird reading a classic novel like Jane Eyre on the kindle..because that's the kind of book you want to read thru the pages.. etc..

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    1. It's funny, when we went to Turks & Caicos, we saw more people with books than eReaders - I wonder if that's because there was such a diverse population there - so many people were from outside of the US - maybe they're not as popular elsewhere? I don't know, maybe not. I just remember being surprised that there were more books than eReaders. Though to be honest, the way people left their belongings at the pool for long periods of time while they were elsewhere, maybe that was more th reason - I wouldn't want to leave my eReader laying out where anyone could take it.

      I LOVED Jane Eyre - let me know what you think. I agree about the classic titles - I can't even read them in paperback form. I almost feel like I should be reading some dusty old parchment copy of the classics!

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