Friday, August 28, 2009

Joys And Tribulations Of Owning An e-Reader

Joys And Tribulations Of Owning An e-Reader
by Allison Knight

The world of publishing is changing. However, there are still people who can’t or won’t accept that fact. I’m reminded of the beginnings of the automobile industry. Over a hundred years ago, the horse and buggy ruled. When the horrible, smelly and noisy automobile began to occupy a place on the roads, everyone said it would never take off. No one wanted, or claimed they needed an automobile. The machines broke down, they were uncomfortable to ride in, they sent sprays of dirt and dust over the passengers. No, they were not dependable, they upset the horses and were ugly – to boot.

Buggy makers smiled and nodded in agreement, and buggy whip makers proclaimed the advantage of a horse. After all, they got you from place to place with ease, they didn’t make much noise and their manure was essential for the farmers.

What has this is do with e-readers. Well, people who read books claim e-readers are inconvenient. They don’t feel right, they lose their charge, and you can’t take them to the pool or beach, because if they get wet, they’re useless. Print publishers smile and bookstores are quick to point out e-readers will never replace books.

Sound familiar?

I see a correlation here. Of course we still do have horses and some people still use buggies, and need whips, but they have almost faded from existence. No, I don’t think books will follow the same fate. We will always have books, but I do believe e-readers will replace most books in the future. Here are some of my reasons.

I have an e-reader, a Sony. I sang it praises so much my husband wanted one too. But he wanted a backlit one. The Sony is not so I got him an e-Bookwise reader for Christmas. And, he loves it. Okay, I’ll be honest, there are some disadvantages, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. No, they don’t feel or look like a book. They are expensive, very! And they don’t smell like a book, either. Yes, I did have an acquaintance tell me she couldn’t read from an e-reader because it didn’t have the ‘smell’ of a book. (No kidding!)

What do I like about my reader and what does my husband like about his?

First we belong to the over fifty club – way over! I was told long ago that once you reach thirty-five your body begins to decline. Your eyesight begins to go, your hearing isn’t as good, you develop aches and pains you can’t or don’t want to identify. (Sorry you younguns’ but it’s true.) With an e-reader you can change the font and make it much easier to read. That has to be the first great thing to mention. You don’t have to worry if your favorite author has a book in large print because you can enlarge the print yourself. I love the ease with which I can turn pages, look up words I think have been misused with the reader (It does have its own dictionary) and I also like the way I can bookmark a page and return to it without losing my place. I was always losing bookmarks with a print book.

The next advantage for us is a personal one. My husband’s favorite authors write a new book about every 18 months, but the wait for the book to be released in paperback can be more than three years. However, in most cases, the books are available for purchase as e-books shortly after the hardback has been released. There are great advantages to downloading your favorites. Expense has to play a big role. Those hardbacks are expensive and e-books are much cheaper. Of course, it’s faster and available at any time. A trip to the bookstore might be inconvenient: the new book is out of stock, they haven’t come in yet or you have to drive miles to get to the bookstore, etc. etc. etc.

Of course, in our case there’s another reason I love e-books and readers. There is only so much room in our house for bookcases, and believe me when I say they are brimming over now. My husband likes to keep his books. I write fiction and have a small library of my own, so the fewer books I have to find a place to store the happier I am. Hardbacks or even paperbacks take up space and as I said he likes to keep his books.

Another great advantage is the number of books a reader will hold. If you read fast, travel and want to carry your books, you might need a small suitcase to hold your selection. But with a reader you can download dozens of books, available at the push of a button. If you’re like me and read three or four novels at a time, a reader is wonderful because you can pop from one
book to another with the push of another button.

I don’t have a Kindle, nor have I handled one, but I understand they are nice as well. I can only comment on the Sony and the e-Bookwise readers and I’ll be honest there are some disadvantages other than expense with them. You have to have a computer and an internet connection to buy a book. You also need to have a fairly fast internet connection. I’m not certain dial-up connections would handle a download well. Once you buy the book, you download the book to your computer and then upload it to your reader. You have to have a debit card or a major charge card to be able to buy the download in the first place.

You also have to keep the reader charged up. They do run out of ‘juice’ and if you are traveling and forget the charger, too bad! You can’t do any reading. My e-reader can’t be read in the dark, however my husband can and does read his in the dark. That’s why he wanted one with a back light. I understand the new Sony supplies you with a light that attaches to the reader. Of course, I already mentioned you can’t take them to the beach or the pool. Water and e-readers don’t go together. And, until recently, they were available only in black and white, or a kind of gray! I understand a reader that will read color is soon to be on the market but the price tag is high.

Of course, you don’t need a reader! You can use an iphone, a palm, a blackberry, a computer or a notebook, but for us the reader is more enjoyable. And yes, we do enjoy reading from them. I believe their popularity will increase. The younger generation is already communicating electronically, so a reader will be a easy step for them. However, I would like to debunk a widely held belief. The older generation, the over 50 group, even those over 70, use computers – a lot.

All of my friends, and some of them are a lot older than 70, e-mail all the time. It keeps them young. Have they started reading from readers? Unfortunately, as I said readers are expensive, so many can’t afford them. Some also don’t have credit cards. I did say they were older than 70. But yes, a couple of them have begun the switch and I truly believe more will do so. I think the latest statistics bear me out. That’s why I’m proud to say, yes, I’m e-published.

Allison Knight
May, 2009

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