I’m going to make a general assumption that most people who write also love to read. I know that’s the case with me. I read at the dinner table, and earned spankings for it as a child. (Even having my own children can’t cure me.) I take books to doctor and dentist appointments. You won’t find me at the license branch without one. I read in bed and outside on my deck, whenever and where ever I get a chance. I haunt the library in the summer, and bookstores are my favorite stores at the mall. When I go antique shopping, I end up with books, old favorites to treasure again.
So when I saw the glamorous commercials about the new e-readers, I was torn. I love technology, but I also love the anticipation of putting a new book on my lap. The stiff feel to the spine when you first open it. The colorful (and sometimes hideous) cover art. The smell of fresh pages. The relaxing rhythm of turning those pages. Getting back into those favorite or new characters is such a thrill. How can you get that from a device that’s a combination of plastic and parts? An e-reader lacks the soul of a book, right?
Then my wonderful husband bought one for me for my birthday. It was a complete surprise, but an intriguing one. How would this thing, with its glitzy buttons and screen, compare?
First off, I discovered e-books are cheaper than new hardcover novels. Pleasant shock! A way to save money and justify buying more books! It’s even true of established authors. The most expensive E-books are a good ten dollars cheaper.
Next, I found the e-reader is lighter than the usually vast tombs that make up my fantasy novel selections. Another bonus! I can hold it easily with only one hand, and it fits in my purse. Who knew!
When I set it on the table with my peanut butter sandwich at lunch time, the pages don’t flip closed! I don’t have to turn the book over to keep my place and risk injuring the spine, and I don’t have to fear losing my place if a bookmark falls out. The dang thing remembers exactly where I stop reading. It goes to sleep when I have to stop and attend to a teenage drama fit and wakes up when I’m ready to read again. It plugs into the wall or my laptop and the battery lasts for days. I like this! The thing even gives you pages numbers and shows how many total pages so you know where you stand.
Turning the pages isn’t the hassle I expected. There’s two ways to do it. You can press the button each time or drag a finger across the touch screen almost like turning an actual page. And the time it takes the screen to change isn’t more than turning a real page either.
Then the first drawback greeted me. You have to wait for it to start up. No instant gratification like a true book. Any amount of waiting is too long when you have only twenty minutes to sneak in your lunch break before returning to work. I labored around that by starting it up before my lunch. Problem solved.
To balance that, I don’t have to drive anywhere for a new book. Books download in minutes, and it holds more volumes than I can afford. Hey, I’m saving gas!
Then I learned you have to go through every page to reach where the book actually starts. That means the title page, the copy write page, and all the author thank you and dedications, plus any blank pages and chapter indexes. Well, that not a big deal. I can flip through ten pages or so to find the start. Not a problem, just an annoyance.
The next drawback held more challenges. Say you’re reading along and you forget something and want to flip back to it. In a book, it’s pretty easy to hunt around and find what you’re looking for because you’ve got a general idea based the amount of pages you’ve read. On an e-reader, it’s a bit more difficult. Want to refer to that map at the beginning of the first section? Do you remember the page number? Probably not. Did you think to bookmark it? Call me stupid, but I never do. Run across a name you don’t remember and want to check the glossary? You’ve got to use a search to find it. Not so reader friendly. Okay, so there’s one thing I don’t like about the experience so far, but it does keep me from skipping ahead to get to the good parts. No more indulging my weakness of passing over the boring scenes to see who lives or dies. My stealing a peek at the ending days are over!
Also, I can take it outside and read it in sunlight, unlike my laptop. The screen is not an LCD so glare doesn’t affect the pages. Excellent! I can enjoy my deck and fresh breezes while continuing to read.
On it goes, back and forth and back and forth; is the e-reader plus or minus? I don’t have to find space on my already crowded bookshelves. Big plus! But, on the other hand, I can’t display my new acquisition for visitors as proof of my good taste. (Yes, I’m that shallow.) Minus. If I drop taco sauce on my e-reader, it wipes off without an embarrassing stain on the pages. (This seems to happen a lot.) Plus. Yet, my local library is behind the times and doesn’t have e-books to lend. (Darn, no freebies!) Minus. Hooray, I’m saving paper and not cutting down trees. That’s the ultimate plus of an e-reader for me.
Improvement keeps balancing against setback. Perhaps what I’m complaining about is not the e-reader itself, but the differences it makes in my life. Though I still buy traditional books at times, my reading habits are forever altered. What I saw as drawbacks were simply changes. Changes? Adjustments to welcome and come to treasure like an old friend with a facelift. Reading is still the same friend, who’s just been made fresh with an electronic scalpel. Shouldn’t we all try to stay fresh?
What’s your opinion? Have any of you gone through the e-reader switch? Love it or hate it, want one or shun them? Give me your story.