Saturday, 9 June 2012

E-readers: aye or nay?

I have had a mental block against e-readers pretty much ever since I found out they exist. My reasons are as follows:
  • I love the feel of a book.
  • I am worried that if I have an e-reader loaded with 1000 books, my attention span will reduce, meaning that I will vacillate between books rather than commit myself to reading one at a time.
  • I like having a house filled with books. I also enjoy having little piles of books around the house; my 'to read' pile, my 'to return to the library' pile.
  • You can't borrow books other people have downloaded, or lend other people books that you have downloaded. I enjoy lending other people books, and enjoy borrowing books even more. My sister has a Kindle and recently downloaded a book I want to read. That doesn't help me read it, so I am instead (im)patiently waiting for it to be free at the library.
  • I am worried about what e-readers will do to the book industry. I love a good bookshop and there are some excellent ones in Wellington - specifically Marsden Books and Unity Books.
  • I like the idea of Amotai seeing me reading books. Not looking at yet another screen.
  • I have heard that some conversions from paperback to e-reader have been riddled with mistakes, and in some cases, altered Tolstoy.
Amotai enjoys the classics
BUT, I can see some plus sides to having them. Namely:
  • They are easy to carry around. No more having to carry an extra bag to work to allow me to take a tome with me for lunchtime perusal.
  • I could download every single Agatha Christie. Awesome.
  • You can theoretically read books like Fifty Shades of Grey on the bus and no-one would know that you were reading something rude. Or you could read Salman Rushdie in Iran.  Or enjoy the new Lee Child while in the company of pretentious literati. It would be your little secret, much like listening to the Britney Megamix on your i-pod.
  • It is much cheaper than new books.
  • I do have far too many books. My sister's boyfriend just returned 7 (!) to me that I had totally forgotten having had lent him. Books are a pain to move.  Even with my current attempts to buy fewer books I still end up going to enough book fairs or being impatient with waiting for library books I still probably end up averaging a new one a month.
  • Amotai won't rip an e-reader.
  • The NZ book industry is pretty dire anyway, and sometimes I wonder if the Whitcoulls chain as a bookseller does not deserve to be saved. Their business model is terrible, and the owners seem to think that having 50 of one book in a pile is better than having 2 copies of 25 different books. The shops have minimal variety, and don't seem to stock books at all until they have hit a certain level of popularity. I tried to buy the Hunger Games there last July, the staff had never heard of it. Now there are about 100 copies in store, but it's too late - I got it from the Book Depository months before it was stocked.
So, I am still undecided, but think I will hold off getting one for the meantime. To be honest, I've never really been an earlier adapter to any new technology, so am in no hurry to fix something that's not broken. I am interested in your views though ...


Maria said...

I own a Kindle, and while I'm like you in loving the feel of books and having them stand on my shelves afterwards so I can gloat over them ;) there were a few things that got me convinced that I needed to own a Kindle. The biggest of these was convenience! On my trip to NZ last year, I could have filled up half my suitcase with books... or I could bring my Kindle and have 500 books with me just like that.

Actually, you can loan out ebooks - I do it all the time - it just requires that you trust the other person to delete the file after they've read it.

Andrew said...

I am a big advocate of e-readers. My opinion may be a bit biased however - Cara works in the publishing industry (formerly Random House NZ and now RH UK) so there is a fair bit of discussion on this topic in our house.

To address your concerns - there are ways and means of loaning e-books, although obviously not as easily as physical books. The advantage is that you will almost certainly get them back! Physical books will never be completely replaced by e-books, any more than CDs or digital music has replaced vinyl. There will always be a market, because there are some kinds of books that just don't suit the e-book format (e.g. big full colour coffee table hardbacks). Ultimately, you do not have to decide between one or the other. There is a place for both, and really the inherent advantages of digital are just too good to pass up, particularly with the Kindle being so cheap now.

We both have Kindles, and they are just awesome. I carry mine everywhere. An incentive for us was that we don't want to acquire 'stuff' while we are here in the UK that we will have to eventually bring back. Our place in NZ was the same - full bookshelves everywhere. We both still buy physical books, but for the most part we use the Kindles.

Some other advantages - It is easier to handle an e-reader than a physical book, they weigh virtually nothing. You can use them for any kind of digital text file, I also use mine for e-tickets and maps (you can scan barcodes off the screen). If you use an RSS reader, you can have a daily digest delivered wirelessly to your e-reader each day (It's also much nicer to read e-ink than a backlit LCD).

As far as the industry goes, there is good evidence to suggest that e-readers are actually increasing the amount of reading people are doing, which can only be a good thing!

Don't worry about the publishers, they are busy adapting their business model to make digital work. Whitcoulls have been slow to react, and are now paying dearly for their contemptuous treatment of both suppliers and customers.

Andrew R

Lauren said...

Thanks for the comments - that's so interesting Andrew. I think I probably will get one eventually, and am so interested to see how publishers do adapt. I read on the Guardian that Waterstones have done a deal with Amazon re the Kindle (I think it was Kindle) and watch with interest how the industry changes. I am not surprised to hear that more people are reading now, I know I listen to more music since getting an i-pod

Tane said...

I'm not a fan of e-readers, though I certainly appreciate their convenience. They'd be great while doing a long trip - books take up a lot of space in a backpack.
In my opinion the biggest argument against them is an environmental one. How many of the components are biodegradable or recycleable? How much more will they add to the mountain of e-waste? Granted, producing books comes with an environmental cost, but at least they're little more than paper and ink.

Grant said...

We got a Kindle to share, but Libby loved it too much, so I got an iPad. Then it turned out that an iPad is much handier than a laptop or a desktop PC when you're breastfeeding and lying on the bed with baby a lot, so now we have two iPads! With Amazon (not sure about others), we can (legally!) have a book bought on one account sent to more than one device, which avoids "who gets to read it first?"!

It's fantastically handy for me when I travel; once all the work gear is in, I have little to no baggage allowance for books; for a three-week stint in Australia, I just loaded the iPad up with a whole bunch of ebooks.

We still buy physical books, although not as many - and Hamilton Public Library lends e-books, though the collection wasn't that large when I last checked.

(Also, we do have all of Agatha Christie's mysteries in physical book form!)

Rachel D said...

I love my Kindle. I love to read, but now that the kids are older and I'm driving 100 plus miles a day, and don't really have time to swing by the bookstore...yeah, I actually get to read my Kindle. It's my time off when I get to sneak away and read in the bathtub. I no longer have to worry about the kids picking up my book and coloring in it/loosing my page. And since I move every couple of years, it makes it much more pleasant for the movers.

Saying that, I still like to go to libraries and bookstores with the kids, and the Kindle is only for me, not the kids. They only read real books. It just gives me the freedom to actually read.