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Adventures in eReading

June 30, 2011

I’m now going to now give you the eReader spiel: what I tell nonreaderly types what the whole deal is with eBooks and eReaders.

I could throw around some numbers about Amazon’s Kindle book sales trumping printed books sales and how industry experts project the phasing out of the mass market book altogether, but in doing so I would probably be boring myself more than boring you.

So I’m going to do something slightly different. I’m going to talk about my readerly experience with my eReader. Just to offer a glimpse of what the reading life is like with my device.

I often use my mother’s iPad, I’ve read on the Kindle, and I’ve played around with the Kobo, but at the end of the day I am more than happy with my device, which is a Sony Reader Touch Edition. I was prompted to buy it a year ago when I had a summer job at an educational publisher for which the commute via public transit was very long. I was tired of lugging around two or three heavy books at a time, and it is necessary for me to carry that many books because I never know what I’m in the mood for on any given day.

I was the first of my friends and family to get a dedicated eReading device, and no one was surprised. I’m very big on going digital. My friends crack up every time I insist that they send me e-cards only, that if they draw something for me they send me a scanned version of it as well, and that I don’t really see anything “endearingly personal” about receiving a handwritten note, as I’ll simply be too guilty to throw it away and annoyed at the prospect of finding a place to store it.

So it was only a matter of time before I jumped on the eReading bandwagon. And it’s been awesome. Here are the highlights from the year I have spent eReading:

  • I love the visual element of shelves filled with books. But I also really, really like it when when I don’t have too many things cluttering and taking up space in my life. So with an eReader, I started getting more exposed to and start reading all the possibly crappy books out there, and not even be worried about shelving it or returning it to the library. This experience is reflected in studies done on eReaderly habits: that people who are eReading are not only more open to trying out different genres; they are also read more in absolute terms.
  • A lot of books on things like relationships are not books I want to be seen carrying around, so my knowledge on how to handle men has increased exponentially ever since I bought my eReader. On the same reader, mind you, I also read more than half of Remnick’s epic biography of Obama. It was only out in hardcover at the time and weighs 2.5 pounds in that format. Had I not had it on my eReader, I wouldn’t have been bothered to carry it around and read as much of it that I did.
  • I look for content that speaks for itself. You know a book is good when you forget what you’re reading it on. In a weird way, I become a better judge of what’s good.
  • There’s not very many negatives to it, but there’s one downside with eReading that I experienced. Unlike printed books, I must admit that an e-reader does let you down. My battery is great and lasts me almost a week if I read for about 2 hours every day. But if I don’t get around to charging it, I do end up having it die on me and not having anything to read on the subway ride home.
  • Library eBooks are BRILLIANT. I’ve paid an alarming amount in library fines for printed books. An eBook that expires itself not only keeps me from racking up fines–it also pushes me to finish a book before it expires.

A lot of writers and readers are very spooked by the eReader revolution and dislike eReading. I sympathize with their attachment to physical books, but can’t help but notice that their reasons for sticking to printed books are not that practical; they are more romantic. eReading, I feel, has its own way of growing on you, and even if it doesn’t compare to reading printed books, it’s a whole new experience unto itself.

So what do readers think? Am I on to something here, or has my love for all that is digital gone to pathological extremes? Do you read eBooks, and if so can you relate to the highlights I listed above? If you don’t read digitally, do you think you will make the transition sometime? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2011 2:10 pm

    Salam sister Sarah,

    I must confess I’m not a huge fan of the idea of e-books… but have no first-hand experience of an e-reader. I spend so much time at a computer that I treat books as a happy retreat from screens. There’s something altogether more romantic about being alone with a book than an e-reader.

    But I suppose in years to come, one person might say to another, “I don’t know what you see in those brain downloads… I much prefer to read a book the slower, old-fashioned way on the old e-reader…”

    • June 30, 2011 2:16 pm

      Wsalaam!
      One must do justice to the reading experience in the way that works for them best. And good point re retreating from screens.

      Plus, you’re an author! Are you for or against The Victory Boys being an eBook? What about the idea of having an app as a spinoff of the book? 🙂 It’s happening a lot with children’s books nowadays.

  2. June 30, 2011 2:27 pm

    Well, I think I’ve learned to never say never, as history is filled with examples of me holding an opinion of a 180 degree rotation from the one I held before, but… the thought of a TVB app doesn’t particularly excite me. If people wanted to read TVB as an eBook (and would otherwise not be inclined to read it) then that would be a strong enough case for going down the eBook route, but then there are all those issues of illicit copying etc. – sure, you can photocopy/scan a book, but copying and circulating a .pdf file might be quicker than the feeling of guilt!

    • June 30, 2011 2:37 pm

      It’s unfortunate that piracy is posing a threat to eBooks, and I’m glad you brought that up. However, publishers won’t be putting out eBooks as PDFs as much anymore but EPUBs that are are locked via DRM (Digital Rights Management). And they’re pretty good with it! For example, I can’t just e-mail a friend an eBook; she won’t be able to open it because the book is already on the reading software that is registered to me.

      However there are malicious people who looking for loopholes so they can proliferate eBooks via P2P, etc. But with DRM at least novices/laypersons can’t do that easily.

      So I think the solution is to not have atrocious pricing for eBooks; readers will be more willing to make the purchase and less willing to go the pirated book route.

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