Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What's On Your Bookshelf: Why I'm Still Holding Out On Buying an E-Reader

The local Books & Co. had several Nooks on display the other day. I've resisted e-readers for lots of reasons, but mostly because of Amazon's weird "You bought it but we can take it away" thing. If I download a book, I want to download it like a PDF. A file that's mine. No DRM. The idea that Amazon or a publisher can suddenly decide to retract something already given scares the anti-censorship fiend in me.

And yet... and yet.. I have too many books. I'm tired of moving them. And sitting in bed curling up with a 800-1000 page book isn't really cozy. It's awkward. Carting it around on a plane is even less cozy. Reading from a slim e-reader seems so much easier. 

But I'd also like to actually be able to, you know, read it. I love the color Nook, but the backlight kind of bothers me on that version. But I'm not sold on the non-backlight because if I can't read in the dark on an e-reader without and extra light, what's the point? And why am I paying as much for an e-reader as I am for a laptop? At that point, why not just read books on a laptop? And that's just no fun. And why should I pay extra for Wi-fi? 

That said, I realize how much easier life would be if I could fit all my books onto a hard drive... but also how easy they would be to lose. Knowledge is great. But it's also hard to hold onto.

I suspect that I will always buy really good books in print. The kind of books you really love and cherish. The ones you want to have signed by authors. Or the ones with really important information that isn't likely to go out of date soon.

But there are other kinds of books - the popcorn reading, or the 8-book sagas, or the 12-book history compilations - that will just be easier to read and forget about or read and easily access on an e-reader. I love books, but the more junk I get bogged down in, the more I realize just how many of them I can live without. There are only so many books I love at any one time.

When book and movie libraries both move totally digital, I expect to have a couple bookcases of prized books, and that's it. The more times you move, the more you appreciate having a clutter-free life. E-readers help with that. But I don't love the technology enough (and it's not yet cheap enough) to make the switch.

I'm a notoriously late adopter. I resisted getting a cell phone until I live in South Africa, and then I ditched it again for four years in Chicago.  I didn't get a proper one again until 2007?

The e-reader will be the same. All the cool kids will have them, and stare at me wide-eyed when I talk about how much space all my books take up, before I finally find something that really turns me on.

3 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Meghan said...

I have a kindle, which is brilliant, but I only bought it for school. Imagine 40-50 different pdf readings plus my research for various papers for my 5 classes all in one slim little volume! So it's great for that but I haven't read very many BOOKS on it yet. A) I have no time and B) it doesn't yet seem to have a great variety of titles. So far I have a bunch of gutenburg's free books but with a weakness for fusty 2nd hand book stores...

I do like it a lot better then reading on the laptop however.

David Moles said...

The Kindle and iBooks apps on my iPad are 10% work-related, and 85% trashy mass-market stuff I'd be ashamed to be seen reading even at most SF conventions.

Well, at some SF conventions, anyway. A few of them. The ones I go to.

(The other 5% I feel like I should probably buy in paper at some point. How are you liking the Gilman BTW?)

A.R.Yngve said...

If it's any comfort:
In a recent interview, freakin' WILLIAM GIBSON admits he's a late adopter... apparently he's more interested in watching other people use their gadgets, and observing how they find unexpected ways to do use them...

Which, when you write SF, is a smart approach. It's easy to become "enchanted" by new gadgets, and you need to distance yourself a bit from them to understand their impact.