The debate can heat up fast. Will electronic books (i.e., eReaders) replace ink and paper? Opinions of publishers, authors, book retailers, and readers span all camps on the mountain. And because of that, I’m not going to waste your time with my opinion, because to be honest with you, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody does. But if you are considering an eReader, I’ll share my foray into these gadgets.
When eReaders were first coming to market, I was resistant. That is surprising when you understand that, one, I love technology and gadgets, always have. (I’ve spent the last twenty years working in the technology field.) And two, I’ve loved to read since slurping my first bowl of alphabet soup.
So why the resistance, not just from me but many bookophiles? I believe the following reasons explain the love affair between the diehards and the traditional script and tome. It’s okay. You can confide in me. For years I’ve sleazed my way around bookstores and paid good money for the cheap thrill.
It’s the feel of the paper. The heaviness of a hardback. The warm almond color of a well-bound page laced with beautiful typeface. The sounds as you flip through the pages. The smell of a new book fanned just inches from your nose. The energy that went into crafting and printing. The bookmark, sometimes a torn piece of paper and other times a carefully selected companion, reminding you of how far you’ve gone on the journey, and how close you are to that long-awaited moment of literary satisfaction.
And the bookshelf. Ah yes, we cannot forget the bookshelf. That part of your home that so eloquently shows how intellectual you are; your literary bragging rights. And how much time you’ve devoted to the finer things in life while all those lesser non-readers spend their days living vicariously through reality TV celebrities and video games. How can you be esteemed by telling people that you virtually have 3,000 books on your little handheld reading device? As any good writer knows, I want to show (off my bookcase), not tell. 😉
So why am I giving in? Why would I sit on Santa’s knee and ask for a Kindle when he might suggest a nice football, or a toy train, or a hardback book? (Santa’s a traditional guy, you know.) Below are five reasons why I’m jumping into the eReader game, followed by my Top 5 reasons for preferring the Amazon Kindle.
5 Reasons Why I Want an eReader
1. eReader technology has matured. I tend to watch from the sidelines when any new technology comes to market. Let others pay exorbitant prices and post reviews for your benefit, then give the manufacturer a chance to fix the problems in the next version, and usually at a lower price. Amazon is on version 3 of its Kindle and it’s much improved over previous versions. (More on its maturity below).
2. It’s handy. I don’t travel much. That fact alone played a huge role in my resistance to eReaders early on. So if I don’t leave home much, why not just read real books at home? I’d bet most of us do get around town more than we realize. We visit coffee shops, go out for lunch, spend hours at practice with our kids, go to the park, etc. I almost always carry a bag full of books and magazines wherever I go. An eReader would sure lighten my load.
3. A cheaper alternative for trying new books and unfamiliar authors. Most new hardbacks that cost $18.99-$24.99 run for $9.99 or less in electronic form. Again, I do love the real thing and do not want to witness the death of traditional print; certain titles and favorite authors will always make their way to my bookshelf. However, maybe you’re interested in a newer author whose work is unfamiliar to you, and maybe the title is not available in libraries. I’d rather spend less on a book to test the waters of a new author, and not have to leave the house. Most eReaders allow you to preview samples before buying, too.
4. Millions of FREE books, and not just for old titles. Any book that is considered public domain (pre-1923) is, for the most part, available in electronic form. I was never into the classics as a young reader, so these days I’m trying to catch up. Why spend even $3.99 on a low-end paperback classic when I can download it for free? Beyond this, many authors and publishers offer limited-time free downloads of their latest works. As a recent example, Abingdon Press offered a free Kindle download of Dr. Richard L. Mabry‘s debut novel, Code Blue, through December 13. I’m all for supporting other writers with a book purchase, but what a gift!
5. eReaders are finally affordable. Most decent eReaders are under $150. Some are even less than $99, but as of this posting date I would avoid the latter–cheap is as cheap does. If you consider all of the free titles available plus the money you’ll save on digital vs. printed books, it won’t take long to break even and your eReader will pay for itself.
Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Choosing the Amazon Kindle 3G
1. Near book-quality readability (no eye strain). The Kindle uses a technology called “E Ink.” If you’ve never seen it, it’s unbelievable how much it resembles an actual page in a book. Many other eReaders utilize LCD screens, just like your PC flat-screen or laptop. Reading a 300-page novel on a laptop is likely to wear down your eyes from the constant light emissions, and some LCD screens suffer from glare (especially “touch” screens) and are hard to read in sunlight. E Ink technology allows you to read in bright environments, even sunlight.
2. Compact, lightweight, no heat, good battery life. The latest Kindle (version 3) holds 3,500 books, weighs 8.7 ounces, offers a 6 inch reading display (measured diagonally) and is about 1/3 of an inch thin. It’s not quite small enough to fit in your back pocket, but it’s close. The 6 inch screen is about the size of a paperback page, and the fonts can be made larger or smaller to your preference. Unlike a laptop or tablet PC, the Kindle does not get hot in your hand, and a single battery charge lasts up to one month with wireless disabled and ten days with wireless enabled on the 3G model. The non-3G model boasts a three week charge with wireless enabled. Click here to watch a video of Michael Hyatt (CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) opening his Kindle version 3.
3. Wi-fi and FREE unlimited 3G wireless. All Kindles include built-in Wi-fi for connecting to your home wireless network or Wi-fi hotspots. The Kindle 3G model adds free unlimited access to AT&T’s 3G wireless network for downloading from just about anywhere. I like the 3G feature because although I can load up the Kindle with books before leaving home (using Wi-fi), I can access dynamic information such as leading blogs, newspapers, and magazines from anywhere. If I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, mall, coffee shop, riding shotgun on a long trip, etc., and a Wi-fi hotspot is not available, I’m still connected using the 3G network–again, at no extra charge. Other eReaders either do not offer connectivity beyond Wi-fi or they charge you a fee to use a service such as AT&T 3G.
4. Whispersync network. Amazon maintains a catalog of the Kindle books you own and allows you to read your books on multiple devices. I have Amazon’s free Kindle reader software on my laptop and my Apple iPhone. All of my eBooks are available at any time on those devices. Amazon is also planning a Book Lending option for both Kindle owners and Kindle reader application users. This will allow you to borrow eBooks from your friends and family before you decide to buy it, and vice versa.
5. The price is reasonable for what you get. Today, the low-end Kindle runs $139 (Wi-fi only), and it offers all of the same features as the 3G model minus the 3G. The Kindle 3G runs $189. The high-end Kindle DX runs $379, and the only difference I see with the DX is the larger 9.7 inch screen (measured diagonally).
(6.) Bonus reasons for the Kindle. I like to jot notes in the margins and dog-ear pages I want to remember, particularly with non-fiction. The Kindle has a full QWERTY keyboard and allows you to add notes to the page, place bookmarks, clip passages, look up words in the built-in New Oxford American Dictionary, and even connect wirelessly to Wikipedia. You can then download all of your annotations to your computer. The new Kindle also allows you to post messages to your Facebook and Twitter accounts without leaving the page (very handy for the 3G model). Yes, I know, that could become a distraction from the reading experience, but maybe you want to share a quote or a passage with your friends and followers.
So there you have it. You have seven days until Christmas, and I’m sure Santa is still ringing a bell outside of grocery stores or sitting in an oversized chair at the mall. Or if you don’t believe in Santa, you can still buy one for yourself. 🙂
Do you own an eReader? If so, which product, and do you like it? If not, are you considering an eReader? If not, why not? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it (and others may appreciate your advice).