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.”