Do You Love Your E-Reader?

Industry experts much smarter than I have been talking about the merits and demerits of e-books and e-readers for months. Discussions of the agency model, lower royalties for authors, and what that means for agents and publishers populate the web more than the number of visitors to Disneyland in summer. While the subject has many of us in the business of publishing fascinated and waiting with baited breath to see how this is going to affect the way of business we’ve known, I’ve met more than one glazed-over look when bringing the subject up to folks outside of the industry.

But watch what happens when I say, “So what do you think of the Kindle [or the Nook … or the iPad]?”

Suddenly, a fire lights up in their eyes, and they take a deep breath and tell me with great passion

a)      why their Kindle is the best thing in the world and all the great features it has;

b)      why e-books and e-book devices are the end of civilization as we know it.

Friends, colleagues and I have also talked about the social ramifications of e-readers (“Between iPods, iPhones, and iPads, no one will know how to communicate with anyone anymore!” [They probably said that about TV, too]), the physical effects, (“It hurts my eyes to look at a device for so long.” “But you can adjust the backlighting and font size …”), but none of us actually owns one.

Cited as the most gifted item on Amazon during the Christmas season in 2009, it’s obvious that Kindles and their competitive devices are catching on with readers. Look around on a bus, metro, or in a library, and you’ll see them everywhere. As I said, I personally do not own an e-reader. My reason (excuse?) is that in my job, I look at and read documents on a computer screen all day that the idea of looking at another for my off-hours pleasure reading is horrific. Another elephant-in-the-room reason is, of course, the price. It doesn’t quite make sense to me right now to invest in a device for hundreds of dollars, with  another $10-$15 on top of that for each book, when I can simply go to my bookstore and just pick up a book.

An obvious parallel to owning an e-reader (and an argument I’ve heard) is a DVD player or computer for which you can buy/rent/download movies, TV shows or whatever else you want. I do own both of those (a majority of us do), but I would argue that with my DVD player and computer, I get far more bang for my buck, as I can watch a movie or a download TV show in a fraction of the time it takes me to read a book. But just as with TVs and computers, the price of e-readers will eventually come down, and that particular reason for my not having one will be eliminated. But will that encourage me to purchase one? I’m not sure at this point.

Which leads me to my question for this post: How do owners of e-readers really feel about e-readers? Do you like yours?  Was the investment worth it? Would you go back to paper books?


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  8. I’ve had a Kindle for the past 5 months and I have to say I’ve changed my mind. Started off feeling it was marvellous, the best, most convenient electronic thingie I had ever owned.
    Now, I’m not so sure.
    I still love it. Sure, it definitely has its uses:
    1. when you travel, you can take along 2 or 3 novels and some non-fiction work rather than lug all the books in your suitcase. The Kindle fits nicely in my bag, I can carry it on the plane, I can read anywhere whenever I’m waiting for something or somebody and getting bored. Very useful!
    2. I get my newspapers on it (the Herald Tribune – yes, I live in Europe and the Stampa – yes I live in Italy). I get it punctually every morning while I’m still in bed and just sipping my cup of tea. Don’t need to dress and rush out in the rain and cold (or heat in summer) to buy my papers. And I’m often far away, tucked in a nice little place in the countryside, where there’s simply no newspapers available at all. So the Kindle is indeed very, very handy
    So what’s wrong with the Kindle – or any e-reader and e-book for that matter?
    Simple and obvious: it’s not paper!
    Now if that sounds silly, it really isn’t. Think of it. There are books in one’s life that are really, really important – a great novel, a history book, an economic essay that you want to keep so you can refer to it.
    You want it on your book shelf.
    You want to lend it to friends and family.
    You want to talk about it, turning to your favorite pages and perhaps reading out.
    In short, the minute you want to have the book handy for lending or reference you need to have a paper version. Not the e-book that is irritating to consult. Remember, with an e-book you can’t flip the pages – and no, the so-called “highlight” system incorporated in the e-reader is not easy to use, it’s slow and confusing.
    So I guess the Kindle has its uses but it will NEVER replace a good old-fashioned paper printed book!

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  26. Amberly, Like many of my generation,(those who had to drive to an arcade to play video games as teenagers) I find the prospect of reading a book off an LCD screen as unlikely as pepperoni pizza at Buckingham Palace. However, this is the technology age and the flood of new, hyped products is virtually unstoppable.
    I don’t own a Kindle, but in doing research as an author, it was easy to see how this tech-savy 20-30-something generation could eventually go paperless, even when it comes to books. Look how far cellphones have evolved in just the past ten years. Kindles right now cost about $250, making them unaffordable to many people in this struggling economy. Yet, like cellphones and the Wii, this price will eventually drop with time and competition from other companies mass-producing e-readers. With a little comparative shopping, I found that Jodi Picoult’s House Rules sells for $28 hardcover, yet the Kindle version is only $14.99. And to add to that, there are thousands of Indie authors selling their work electronically for even less. You can buy great novels from Indie authors like Karen McQuestion for just $1.99. The Kindle offers books in under 60 seconds, holds over 1,000 books, and you can buy bestsellers and new releases from $9.99. In this age of fast and inexpensive, I think the e-readers are here to stay.
    However, I totally agree with you. There is nothing quite like the weight of a good book in your hands, the smell of the paper, and the crack of the binding as you turn to page one.
    Cathryn Bonica, author

  27. How do owners of e-readers really feel about e-readers? Do you like yours? Was the investment worth it? Would you go back to paper books?

    After using a Kindle for a couple of months, I wrote Kindle land, with requisite ruminations on the iPad regarding the experience, which was (and is) more positive than it could have been but not good enough.

    The biggest problem I have is the Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) attached to the books. The second biggest problem is that I discovered something about myself: I tend to flip back and forth frequently. This is way too hard with a Kindle because a) not much text is on screen at a given time and b) the page refresh rate is slow. The third biggest problem I have is that I’m in graduate school, which means I need reliable texts and ways to cite reliably, which the Kindle doesn’t offer.

    This is a longish way of saying that my Kindle doesn’t actually get that much use.

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