Tuesday, September 15, 2009

E-readers! E-readers! Everywhere!

Book Blogger Appreciation Week has posted a challenge concerning e-readers, and well, I can't resist the challenge!

We've discussed e-readers before on Jen's Book Thoughts, and it amazes me how much has changed in just the short time since that happened. Most folks know that I've always been a sucker for technology. It amazes me what the inventions of late have allowed us access to: travel, communication, calculation, gaming, music, you name it. But I've been resistant to the e-book. The three biggest reasons are 1.) money - let's face it; if the e-reader was $25, I'd probably have one now despite any other arguments. I might not like it, might not use it, but I'd likely have it. 2.) Amazon has dominated the playing field. I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of Amazon. Plus, their reader is proprietary. No matter how fancy it is, I don't like the idea of being confined to one resource for my books. 3.) Finally, I have a sentimental need for books. This is probably the weakest reason of the three that I have for being resistant to the e-reader because even when I do take the plunge, I'll still own print books. I'll still surround myself with their comfort and beauty. I'll still READ print books. It's much like my mp3 player - I own one; I use it; and I still have CDs all over my house! Probably not as many, but I still have the ones that mean the most to me. The ones I love and want to keep forever.

Let's look a little closer at my mp3 player. I know, I know, this is supposed to be a post about E-readers. But my mp3 player is a GREAT parallel for my thinking on E-readers. I did not own an mp3 player as soon as the rage started. Yes, I would have liked to have grabbed one up right away, but I also wanted to get something that would last me awhile if I was going to invest the money in it - call me frugal, I'll agree. And I didn't need a bunch of fancy extras that I wouldn't ever use. I knew right off the bat that I would use my mp3 player primarily for audiobooks. So, I wanted something that would easily play my audiobooks. I didn't need bells and whistles, and I most definitely didn't want it doing any "shuffling." So, I bought a Sandisk player that has been perfect for my needs. It was comparatively inexpensive at the time I bought it. It's probably much less so now. I don't need anything special to download to it...easy drag and drop capabilities. And I can recharge it easily as well. I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever with my mp3 player.

I'm going to be the same way about purchasing an E-reader. It's an investment, not an impulse purchase. The primary factor that will get me to LOOK at an E-reader is the price. If it isn't something I can afford without putting myself in some debt, I won't consider it. It isn't a necessity. It's that simple. I can still read without an E-reader. Once the reader is within a reasonable price range THEN I can look at it. But if it's in my price range and doesn't have what I need or want, then that's an equally pointless purchase. I knew I would use my mp3 player for things like exercising, listening to while I craft, traveling, etc. An E-reader I would likely use to reduce bulk in travel, to carry around in my purse or car. So it would need to have sufficient space for books and be capable of playing my mp3 audiobooks. I'm personally not interested in reading newspapers or magazines on an E-reader, and I don't need a wi-fi connection if the only thing it allows me to do is buy new books.

But here's the biggie. I will not buy an E-reader that is proprietary. I like my freedom to buy books where I want to buy them. One of the great joys involved in reading is scouring bookstores, finding both new and old treasures. Maybe one day an online bookstore will be capable of housing all the books ever written, but I'd still always like the option to buy books where I WANT to buy them. Not where my reader dictates I have to buy them. My hope is that our bookstores now will ultimately have portals to sell e-books. While I'm shopping one day and the bookseller says, "you might like this book," (because you know booksellers are IRREPLACEABLE when it comes to that sort of thing) but I don't necessarily think I need the book in print for ever and ever, I can still purchase the book from my bookseller and not kill the tree for the bound book I won't want to keep as a treasure.

E-books aren't going anywhere. And I don't view them as a replacement to my beloved print books. I see it as another medium in which I can enjoy the stories. Those stories were once stored solely in the minds of humans. Gradually they were written down on paper. That didn't mean they had to disappear from the minds of humans. Now we're seeing another shift and it doesn't mean that the stories have to disappear from paper or from minds or from audio recordings. It simply means the stories are now being retained in yet another container. Long live the stories! (In case you can't see clearly, the passenger is, yes, reading an E-reader as they're driving!)


sanctimommy September 15, 2009 at 9:11 AM  

Very thoughtful and well-written post. I like your idea about bricks and mortar stores selling ebooks: a very good idea. I feel the same way about ereaders: if they were $99 or under, I'd absolutely already own one.

Alas, however, I AM the poor sucker who bought the first gen MP3 player. The Rio I think it was? It was awful, and I returned it!

Cara Powers September 15, 2009 at 10:48 AM  

You and I have exactly the same thoughts on e-readers. I'm waiting for one that's non-propriety, that's can show the books' cover with HD (I love cover art), has page numbers, and will index my books by title, genre, and alpha-by-author. So far, nothing like that even exists.

Corey Wilde September 15, 2009 at 11:12 AM  

Well-thought out discussion on e-readers, Jen.

Me, I can't see buying one at any price because the only thing it can do that one book can't is be many books. But I don't travel much and I have no need to carry a host of books with me. One that I carry and a couple of spares in the back seat of the car for reading emergencies.

And someone's going to have to show me an pretty solid demonstration of flipping back and forth in an ebook that compares to the ease of doing that with a hardcopy book. I do that a lot with mysteries, going back and forth to check details.

Sheila (bookjourney) September 15, 2009 at 12:41 PM  

Great post!

Jenn's Bookshelves September 15, 2009 at 3:46 PM  

Great post! I have the original Sony Reader. I love it and I'm very happy with my purchase. I did a lot of shopping around before purchasing it. What sold me was the formats of ebooks it is compatible with. No, it's not wireless and no, it's doesn't have a touch screen. But it has all the qualities I need in an eReader. Affordability and ease of use.

Jen - Devourer of Books September 15, 2009 at 4:04 PM  

I'm with you on not being cool with proprietary readers.

Ryzmomplus2 September 15, 2009 at 6:34 PM  

Still on the fence about these. I'd love the ease of taking many books with me when I go away, but the price still keeps me away...

♥Jen♥ September 15, 2009 at 7:41 PM  

Hey everbody! Thanks for stopping to talk e-readers with me today. I'm glad to see so many folks with me on the non-proprietary issue. People need to make it known that we're not down with that idea!

And money is the number one reason people aren't buying readers. Just think about it. If you can buy a used book or a paperback for less than what an e-book costs, why would you pay hundreds of dollars for a reader to turn around and pay more money for the ebooks? The prices will have to come down for these things to really catch on. We'll see what happens.

Corey Wilde September 15, 2009 at 7:56 PM  

And of course, you can't loan a book on your ereader without loaning the device, too. Or donate books you've decided not to keep.

♥Jen♥ September 15, 2009 at 8:07 PM  

Nope. You're absolutely right, Corey. You can't do either. And right now I do a TON of loaning. I can't help myself; I just want everyone to read the great books. I need to work more on the donating part before these books take over the house, though! I have such a hard time parting ways with my books! Instead of thinking about donating, right now I'm thinking about transitioning a room into a library so I have more space to store books!

brizmus September 16, 2009 at 7:27 AM  

When I first heard about the e-reader, I felt exactly the same way as you do (about mp3 players as well), and I thought that I would never get one. I just love books too much.
Well, then I got one for Christmas - the amazon kindle.
And frankly, it is amazing! I travel a LOT, and it was amazing to get to travel with just my kindle and charger instead of the 10 or more books I always feel the need to lug around with me.
I also am living in France for three years and them moving to Japan before heading back to the states, and it makes living abroad SO MUCH easier - I know longer have a bagazillion books to bring home every time I go back.
The books are totally cheap, and I therefore don't feel guilty when, after reading the book in my kindle, I feel like I have to own the hardcopy and therefore buy it.
One last thing I want to say for the e-reader before I end this ridiculously long comment: I also was annoyed about the whole having to buy from amazon thing, but there are several ways that I have discovered to get around that.
Sorry for this long comment, but I just wanted to say why I am all for the e-reader after reading your ideas about it.


Sandra September 16, 2009 at 7:26 PM  

Wow, I'm sorry to hear so many of you knocking ebook readers without firsthand knowledge of them. I got a Kindle 2 for Christmas and it has literally rekindled my interest in reading books---in all formats. I often get introduced to an author through my Kindle by reading (free) the first chapter. Then I may read a book by the author, which may send me elsewhere to find more---to the library or to a local used book store where I have credit from selling old books. Or to my independent bookstore, because I like to support that store with a little business. On my Kindle I download---from a myriad of sources (not just Amazon) loads of books now in the public domain---free of charge---books I may not have found for myself in the library like Villette, The Tenants of Wildfell Hall, Dracula, etc. My Kindle not only allows me to carry around dozens of books, it allows me to enlarge the print when my eyes become tired. I love my Kindle. I thought I would enjoy it, but I never thought it would serve as a catalyst to increase the amount I read. Readers, don't knock eReaders until you've tried one. You sound like people with ballpoint pens saying they don't see the need to ever try a computer!

♥Jen♥ September 16, 2009 at 8:37 PM  

Actually Sandra, almost everyone here is open to the idea of an E-reader. However, what they are saying...as am I...is that we aren't willing to spend a lot of money to get a device to read on. None of us here need to have our interest in reading re-kindled. We are already extremely active readers with many book in our TBR piles...books we own, have borrowed from the library, etc. We will read with or without a device. What everyone here is pointing out is that IF we are going to invest a significant amount on an eletronic device - that isn't a necessity - it needs to have certain options to it.

And I'm sure the person who really wants to be a writer but can't afford a computer will make due with the ballpoint pen.

Glad to hear you like your Kindle, though.

Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 4:32 AM  

I soooo agree with your points but just wanted to point out that with some ebookstores you can share ebooks (albeit only 6 times) so at least you don't have to loan your ereader to a friend to share a book.

caite September 18, 2009 at 7:52 AM  

I do have first hand experience with several e-readers and still I am not a fan of the e-book. I have whined about the issue several times on my blog, including my latest about a school that has gotten rid of all their books in the library to go totally digital!

I agree that I too am not willing to pay $$$ to then have the 'right' to buy not an actual book but the ability to download a book. And with Amazon, to download it a limited number of times. Amazon's propriety software is ridiculous, and while there might be some ways around it, why should I have to deal with that?

Obsolescence, cost, no ability to loan (perhaps possible if they have already paid for a compatible device), problems with displays of illustrations. graphs, etc.., questions as to what you actually 'own'...there are so many unsolved issues.

I don't deny that they offer some benefits, like convenience when traveling, but with too many issues and unanswered questions for me at this point.

The Book Club Guide September 24, 2009 at 10:23 AM  

Great post. I've pondered getting one of these myself, but am waiting for the price to come down.

You know what will make me sad when everyone has e-readers, though? Not being able to spy on what people are reading in airports!

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