I’m sure you’ve had the same experience–or have been one of the players in this conversation.
But first, a bit of backgroundâ€¦.
In addition to being VP of editorial for Harlequin, over a decade ago I also chaired a digital/eBook task force charged with exploring this new business opportunity. Additionally, much later, I was part of the new business group launching a number of new digital initiatives. So I guess what I’m trying to say is: I swing both ways. And in the course of my work, I had a lot of conversations with people–readers, writers, booksellers, digital entrepreneurs. Today, I still love to find out what people are reading–and how they are reading.
Back to the present. So, I’m at a dinner party, or cocktail party, or just striking up a conversation in line or traveling–and the subject of books and reading comes up. Often one person has an eReader (frequently a Kindle, sometimes an iPad or other eReader) and is either extolling its virtues, or reluctantly (or not) going through the learning curve.
Someone else invariably chimes in (sometimes with passionate intensity) “But I love BOOKS! I could NEVER get an eReader!” Then they go on a bit about the smell, turning the pages & the multitude of pleasures, information and sensation that a physical object offers. The self-confessed eReader reader is given the hairy eyeball, or at best, a pitying look. Emotions can (and have) run high over this line in the sand, this perceived chasm.
And don’t get me wrong–I love books too. Physical books. But I am stumped as to why there is such a prevalent and passionate assumption that physical Vs digital is an either/or choice. Like once you purchase an eReader, a scarlet TTTWW (for Traitor To The Written Word) will be emblazoned on your forehead and a magnetic force field will drop down (visually similar to the Cone of Silence in Get Smart) preventing you from ever touching another physical book with your dirty digital hands. You have not remained faithful to the books that raised you–dipping your wick elsewhere is clearly felt to be a relationship ender.
Huh? I just don’t get it. My reading world is not monogamous! I believe in choice! I love stories. I love storytellers. Books have not changed my life–stories have, with their information, insights, compelling worlds, emotional challenges and eye opening truths. Stories that are shared though listening (conversation, audio, radio, lectures,…), seeing (performance, films, TV, museums,â€¦) or reading (books, newspapers, magazines, documents, letters,â€¦).
Yes, the story’s trasmission vehicle can make a difference in the impact of a story. Watching the Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels concert live Vs at an IMAX theatre with rabid fans Vs on a DVD alone at home delivers quite different experiences. Reading a hardcover, paperback, listening to the story on audio, reading it on an eReader all deliver a different experience.
Sure, there may be preferred formats for certain stories. Haven’t you heard people say “You don’t need to see that movie in a theater, it’ll be fine on DVD”? I assure you watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show live at midnight is a great example of the transformative impact of how you experience a story Vs sitting at home with the remote.
But everyone understands the benefits of access, choice, convenience. As a reader, I don’t like to be without something to read. And while I am usually a fairly committed reader, I must confess I’m not entirely monagamous. As a frequent traveller I have found myself lugging stacks of material: manuscripts, educational/business reading, fun reading, recommended reading, themeatically appropriate reading, books 2 and 3 in the series, just in caseâ€¦ You know what I’m talking about!
Now I can have everything on one slim tablet and people no longer ask me if I am carrying rocks in my suitcase. Maybe I’ll have a paperback in my purse too–cheerful in the knowledge if I tire of it or finish it, I have other options. Bedtime reading with sleeping spouse can cease to be an issue with a back-lit iPad. And another interesting aspect of the digital reading experience is product privacy. No one knows what you’re reading.
(Though for some that could be a drawback, as looking intellectual, educated, in-the-know and generally superior could be the key driver behind plowing through an improving literary tome. But surely a secondary market will spring up of sheaths for one’s tablet that will say perhaps: “Don’t bother me…Riveted by Rushdie!” or “Intellect @ Play” or “I’m improving myself. And you?”)
Alternatively, maybe you really don’t mind carrying two or three volumes around in your gigantic purse. Perhaps you are unmoved by the ability to download a recommended read instantly at the dinner table in The-Back-of-Beyond. Unlike me, perhaps you may have a house filled with empty shelves, just waiting to be filled, with your other bookshelves are stacked with easy-to-find, easy-to-search titles. But that is not my world.
So enough with this “I love BOOKS!”. Of course you do. But I love storiesâ€¦.
At the OCC meeting on Saturday, a friend asked me for advice on which e-readers to request from Santa. I jokingly said, “If Santa’s rich, ask for iPad. But if Santa isn’t, any of the e-ink readers should do nicely.”
Apple’s iPad, of course, is much more than a dedicated e-reader, and it’s quite a bit more costly. I’d sure love to have one, but I’ll wait. More companies are coming out with table computers and I’m figuring they’ll be cheaper than the iPad. (Sheesh, I had just published this post when I read an email about the Pandigital Novel, a “7-inch Color Multimedia eReader” which looks like an inexpensive iPad. It’s connected to B&N’s e-book store.) Apparently Bed, Bath and Beyond is carrying them, so I know where I’m going this week.)
At the moment, three companies dominate the dedicated e-book reader market: Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble. All make good devices, so how to decide which one is right for you? First, go look at them. I didn’t have that option when I bought my Kindle in December 2007. At the time, the only choice was the Kindle or the Sony reader and I chose the Kindle because I wanted the wireless delivery.
You can see and sample the nook at any Barnes & Noble bookstore. Last time I was in, I asked one of the sales clerks to show me and my husband how they work. He wanted to try out the internet browser function of the nook, but not being used to e-ink, he found it sluggish. That didn’t bother me, since I’ve been using a first-generation Kindle since 2007 and I know it takes a while for the little e-ink pixels to reorganize themselves into a new page. I have a couple of friends who have recently bought nooks and love it. If you want a reader that can also substitute as an internet browser, this is your best choice.
The Amzaon Kindle can be viewed at Target though the demos will be Kindle 2. The Kindle 3 has just been announced and Amazon is taking orders now for delivery in mid-September. The new Kindle offers a choice of wi-fi or wi-fi + 3G. If you buy a lot from Amazon anyway and don’t object to their proprietary format, this is a good choice. I have an Amazon Rewards card, so I can apply rewards certificates to e-books.
The Sony Readers can be seen at Target, Best Buy and Borders bookstores. If you can get into a Borders, you’ll get a better feel for the device as theirs seem to be fully functional, unlike the ones at Best Buy that flip between two advertising pages. I like the Sony Touch, with its touch screen and the ability to rotate the screen from portrait to landscape. I found it to have a more user-friendly interface than the nook, and this is currently my top contender for a new reading device. In addition to the company’s proprietary format BBeB, the Sony devices support PDF, ePub, MS Word and other text formats.
So how to choose one reader over the others? It depends somewhat on your reason for buying an e-reader and what you intend to do with it. One friend chose the Sony Touch over the Kindle because she wanted to be able to buy from the eHarlequin store instead of Amazon. She made a very wise choice for her.
Also think about whether or not you want a wi-fi or 3G (cell phone) connection. If not, you can probably save Santa a few bucks. But I warn you, once you’re tried a reader with the 3G connection, you’ll be hooked. I love that feature on my Kindle and I’ve updated my blogs and even bought books while riding in the car. But if you don’t mind transferring files the old-fashioned way, via USB cable, then look at the Sony models.
There are other e-book readers on the market: COOL-ER, the JetBook, and the Aluratek Libre eBook Reader, sold at Micro-Center. I don’t have any hand-on experience with these devices, so I won’t make any recommendations.
Which e-book reader do you recommend?
w/a Lyndi Lamont
I’ve had mine for almost a year now and I still love it. My acupuncturist lusts after mine, esp. since I showed him how to search the Kindle store from the exam room and we discovered that the Shanghai Daily is now available to Kindle users, along with 27 other newspapers, 18 magazines and 2 dozen or so blogs. And that’s in addition to the almost 200,000 books available for the Kindle.
I don’t know yet if the Kindle will be the “killer device” e-book readers have been waiting for, but it’s the best one I’ve ever found.
My primary Christmas present is an Amazon Kindle e-book reader, and I love it. In fact, my Kindle and I are pretty much inseparable these days.
Those of you who know me, know I’m an avid e-book reader, and some of you may wonder why. I like the portability of the reader. Instead of an armload of books, I can carry my Kindle, which currently has 40+ books on it, plus assorted personal files, magazine issues, blogs and MP3 files. And 30% of the memory is still unused.
E-books help to unclutter your life: Since the books are stored on the hard drive of your computer until youâ€™re ready to read them, storage is less of a problem than with print books.
With my aging eyes, I also like the fact that you can change the font size on an e-book reader. No more squinting to read the small print.
I’ve been an avid e-book reader for some years now. I’ve read e-books on my laptop, my RCA Germstar 1100, a PDA and a Pocket PC. I’ve enjoyed most of my readers (with the notable exception of the now-defunct Franklin eBookman), but the Kindle is rapidly becoming my favorite.
I’m amazed at how lightweight it is, much less than the comparably-sized RCA Gemstar 1100. The wireless is fast, unbelievably fast, so it’s really easy to buy from the Kindle store or download updates to magazine or blog subscription. I like being able to download a sample to read before deciding to buy a book, too. That’s a very nice feature. If you leave the wireless off most of the time, the battery life is excellent, and the device charges back up very quickly.
I thought I might miss the backlighting, and at times I do, but it’s also nice to be able to read in sunlight, particularly when traveling in the car. (Not when I’m driving, of course!)
I’m glad I waited for the Kindle instead of buying the Sony Reader because, for me, the Kindle is more useful and versatile. I already had a lot of books in unprotected Mobipocket format which can be read on the Kindle without any conversion. It’s easy to transfer files from your computer to the device using the USB cable.
The only real frustration I’ve had with it so far is that, while it will play MP3 music, it won’t play my MP3 podcasts. I can’t understand what the difference is beyond the fact that the podcasts in question are so much longer, about 45 minutes. They’re all MP3 files, so what the hey? Oh, well.
A common complaint of the Kindle is that it’s easy to hit the next page or previous page buttons by accident, but I figure once I get used to the device, that won’t happen so much any more.
Is this the “killer device” the e-book community has been waiting for?
Probably not, but the wireless connectivity alone makes it a huge step forward. The real problem remains the lack plethora of formats, so that’s a software problem that can’t be solved by new hardware. Chances for real standardization range from a best case scenario of years to a worst case scenario of never.
The only other downside is the $399.00 list price and the fact that the device is only available in the US. The price may eventually come down, but probably not anytime soon, since the Kindle has been “temporarily out of stock” almost since it was released. I ordered mine at the end of November and had to wait about two weeks to get. It may take even longer now. The fact that demand appears to be steady is a good sign for the future of the Kindle and e-books. 😀
If anyone has any questions about the Kindle, I’ll try to answer them.
Linda Mac / Lyndi Lamont