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.