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.