The year of the e-reader?

I saw this article about an expected holiday rush on e-readers in the New York Times and it got me thinking about my Christmas wish list, which includes about 453 million books.  Yet, as I was assembling this list of holiday desires, it never once crossed my mind to ask for an e-reader.

There are a whole big bunch of new e-readers out there this year.  You can get them in black-and-white or in color, in big sizes and small, with snazzy covers or without.  Booksellers all seem focused on how the rise of e-readers will change the publishing landscape and the monetization of the written word.  It’s a must-discussed, much-debated issue on which I have not yet fully formed an opinion (except this simplistic one: the more people read, in whatever format, the better).

Right now, I’m more concerned with deciding what I think (as a consumer) about the devices themselves.  I see these lovely contraptions everywhere – and especially on the subway.  They seem so light and small and useful–cramming all the books you could ever want in one slim device.  Ingenious!

But I’m still not sure I want one.  It’s partly because I resist change just to be willful (ask my husband, he’ll agree), and partly because I really like the feel of a paperback in my hand.  But the biggest reason I’m reluctant to get an e-reader is that I already spend 99% of my time staring at a screen.  I write, research, draft, and revise on the computer.  I watch television on the computer.  I “relax” by playing video games, wasting time on Twitter and Facebook, or reading news and blogs on the computer.  I prepare and present my lectures for class on the computer.  I make most of my phone calls on the computer via Skype.

Reading a book is one of the few ways I take a break from the bleary-eyed consequences of my computer-focused existence.  It’s not just a form of pleasurable relaxation, it’s a literal rest from technology.

Will I someday buy an e-reader?  Most likely.  Would I turn my nose up at one as a gift?  No chance.  Do I worry about what will happen when I’m never more than 2 feet from an electronic device?  Absolutely.

2 thoughts on “The year of the e-reader?

  1. NicoleMD

    I’d really like one just to critique manuscripts on. Also to read the free chapter excerpts from novels I’m interested in. Then I’d go to my local indie bookstore buy the real thing. 🙂

  2. Rick Zawadzki

    I hear you Miranda. I’m as big a technophile as any guy out there- I read Gizmodo, Engadget, Slashdot, etc… every day. But, when it comes to books, I’m really torn on the idea of the e-Reader. I like it in concept, especially the eInk models. But, sadly, the reality is that the devices open up a whole slew of concerns for me. The first is that, at least for the 3G enabled Kindle, Amazon has the ability to remotely wipe purchases from your device. This happened sometime last year. A number of people purchased “1984” and “Animal Farm” through the Kindle store and shortly thereafter, remotely removed them. They removed the books because it was brought to their attention that they did not have rights to sell the electronic editions. However, if a book seller had sold print editions without proper rights, while they would likely have to cease selling it and return or destroy the remaining stock, they could not go house to house and retrieve each illegitimately sold copy. I don’t like the idea that a reseller can remotely connect to device and remove items that I paid for.

    The other concern is the more traditional aspect of being able to lend somebody a book. The B&N Nook has a “share” feature but it is an optional function that can be enabled and disabled by the publisher. In a way, it’s using technology to encourage the sale of more copies. While I can see it from an author’s point of view, I do think that good-will equity is lost by disallowing the sharing of books.

    So, for now I’m avoiding the eReader because for all the convenience of books-on-demand or thousands of books in one device, the cons of not being able to share or having an organization remote wipe something I’ve purchased after the fact outweigh the pros. Just my take…

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