Lessons on E-readers

A Picture of a eBook
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I’ve been considering getting an e-reader for a long time because I read a lot of books, but I hate the clutter that they leave behind. In fact, a Facebook friend recently commented on my sloppy bookshelves which were in the backdrop of a photo. Can you imagine? (Thanks a lot, Todd!)

Anyway, I have been holding out on getting an e-reader for three reasons:

1) Sheer laziness: For a long time, I just couldn’t justify moving up “Research e-readers” in the queue ahead of “Buy new bra.” Guess what? Went to Victoria’s Secret yesterday! 😉

2) Fear. I am definitely afraid that the e-reader could become a chore, another gadget that I have to charge and worry about losing. I worry that I won’t like the experience of an e-reader because I like to write in my books. Back in 1940, Mortimer Adler told his readers in his article “How to Mark Up a Book” that:

The physical act of writing, with your own hand, brings words and sentences more sharply before your mind and preserves them better in your memory.

As a teacher, I could not agree with him more. And yeah, I know you can highlight and leave notes with these gadgets, but there is nothing like flipping through an old book and finding my old handwritten scribble to remind me where I was at a particular point in time. I pick up favorite old books all the time and giggle when I find: “This is sooo mom!” or “Make husband read this whole paragraph!” I’m not sure I’ll have that same experience with the e-reader.

3) There is something creepy about e-readers. I don’t know. I’m not anti-technology or anything, but it’s like when I found out one publisher of the latest version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn had taker out the “n-word” and replaced it with the word “slave,” I got a little bent out of shape. Things felt all Big Brothery to me. I worry that libraries are going to start closing, and I love libraries – even though, these days, they seem to have become places where the mentally unstable like to hang out to avoid the inclement weather. I don’t know, for me, books are as much a part of my head as they are my heart. I’m not so sure I’ll feel that in an e-reader.

Still, Valentine’s Day is coming up, and all the stores seem to be insinuating that the best lovers buy their significant others e-readers, so yesterday, I drove around town trying out various e-devices. I needed to feel them in my own hands, see what they could and could not do.

And so I am definitely leaning in one direction, and I must admit, it is not the direction in which I thought I would be going.

Without dragging things out (you know, the way I usually do), I figured I’d ask you, my beloved readers, for your opinions.


Note: iPads are not in the running. (I don’t need all those bells and whistles. Plus I need to be able to read outside, and the iPad has too much glare.)

For those of you who have e-readers, can you tell me which one you have, what you love most about the one you have, and if you had a chance to do it all over again, if you would make the same purchase. If not, what would you choose now?

52 thoughts on “Lessons on E-readers

  1. “Fear, ” “Creepy” isn’t that what you thought about sex when you were 14 (or so)? And how did that turn out? You go log right on to Amazon and do it! I bought a Kindle when they first came out and I just got the latest one just for the hell of it. Love it! I literally do not leave the house without it. I read more and always have a bunch of books with me. Also gave Kindles to dear wifey, to twin sister and one to brother-in-law. All of them still talking to me.

    More to the point, books and e-readers are not mutually exclusive. I still buy tree-readers for a whole bunch of reasons. But for my favorite thrillers and spy novels or something on the NYT list I “kindle”

  2. I love my books on bookshelves but I read far too much to keep all of them neat. So enjoy your jumbly bookshelf and keep it. There will always be new books that you’ll want on that shelf.


    I use my droid for reading books. I have used similarly sized multi-function appliances for years quite happily. Here are my reasons:

    1) One appliance does it all.

    2) I can download reader apps and purchase titles from different dealers and have them on my single appliance. There are 140 books on my droid right now.

    3) I am never without my phone so if I get stuck in traffic or have a break down I can read while I am not moving. (Yes, officer I was reading a book while my engine was running as I sat not moving on the road, please ticket me) I never txt or read while driving.

    Now if you are absolutely set on having a special reading appliance? Go ahead and get an iPad, the Kindle also appears to be an excellent option. But before you do see if you can also use your phone to read the books you own. I am sure there will be times and places that you are without your reading appliance.

    1. Heather:

      I have a PDA where I could, in theory, read books, but I can hardly what is there – even with the stretch feature on my iPhone, so I don’t think that that would make for a particularly pleasurable reading experience for me.

      I don’t want an iPad. (See bloggie.) Don’t need the extra bells & whistles, plus you simply cannot read in the sun with that screen. Too much glare. Also, carrying an iPad is like trying to hide a dinosaur in your purse. And I’d be forever worrying about someone stealing it. I know – for a fact – that no one would ever steal a paperback. I know this because students leave their books in my classes all the time. They stay for weeks, untouched. But if someone forgets an iPod, it’s gone.

  3. Please don’t equate an e-reader with reading on a phone. Consider a phone to be an emergency reading device if you are stuck on the Thruway for 12 hours and going crazy. I at times will try and read something on my Iphone as I did recently in the dentist waiting room but a full-size e-reader is so very much better. No comparison

  4. The iPad shouldn’t glare if you put the screen brightness way up. The only problem I have with it as a e-reader is that, well you will be sitting there, holding your ever so beautiful iPad, reading a lovely book through iBooks, but then noticing that just underneath that book is 1000+ games and other apps. It’s just way to tempting 🙂

  5. I still like being able to cuddle up with a good book and actually turn the page to see what comes next. That is how books were meant to be read. I don’t see myself cuddling up with a Kindle.

    As far as clutter – I have some, but I try to donate or give away books to friends or family when I’m done. I only keep a few favorites. Just think of the bookshelf as a window to your soul. You can tell a lot about someone from what he or she likes to read.

    Plus, you know me. I’d lose my $500 IPad within a week! Losing a $5 paperback or even a $30 hardcover is less traumatic.

    1. I love a good book cuddle, but the spineless book seems outstanding for reading in bed. And I do become so attached with my books I think it’s getting to the point that I need to just not bring them in the house in the first place. (I blame you, Book Club!)

      That said, I do like to go back every once in a while and refer to something so I’d hate for my books to just disappear. I don’t think I can give them to charity. (Call me selfish, I’m okay with it.)

  6. Love my Kindle but be aware – it doesn’t show page numbers! Trying to figure out what being 37% through on a book equates to is just annoying.

    Nook also now lets you borrow from the library which the Kindle doesn’t (yet). However the Kindle battery lasts 30 days and the Nook only 10.

    Neither one has the back lighting like the Ipad (which as your hubby can tell you) causes eye strain.

    1. Rachel, I heard Kindle done an update, don’t know whether it’s out or not but it makes the Kindle show numbers instead of percentage.

      1. Jay: I don’t see how than can work. The Kindle “page” cannot match a book page because the font size is variable so a Kindle “page” is whatever you want it to be. About all they could do (and it would be great) is to show a notation “hardcover page.” (If you are reading at a large font setting that hardcover page might be the same for several Kindle pages).

        BY the way…lots of other Kindle advantages. There are many books (classics) that can be downloaded free. You can keep your own documents or manuscripts on your Kindle. You can subscribe to many newspapers and periodicals on the Kindle (and others). Instant gratification…friend mentions a book or today’s NYT and you can have it on your Kindle in less than a minute. Books are generally cheaper on an E-reader (but at times only within a buck or two of the hardcover version which is annoying, considering.)

      2. Steve:

        “First, the throwback. The most buzz-worthy change coming in the latest update is the addition of “real” page numbers, a quiet homage to the e-reader’s predecessor. By popular demand, the 3.1 version software will display the page number that corresponds to same the location in a print edition when a reader presses the “Menu” button. These old-fashioned markers will show up alongside those new-fangled location numbers that correspond to each line of text and are displayed at the bottom of the screen.”

        Read more:

  7. I have the Pandigital Novel. It’s basically a 7 inch Android tablet running Barnes and Nobel’s Nook App. I love it. I also never leave the house without my ereader. I also read a lot more with it. I have read 12 books in the last month and a half (a new record for me), with no sign of slowing down. The Nook software shows page numbers, allows the borrowing / loaning of books you have either purchased or downloaded, and has access to more books than Amazon’s Kindle.

    My brother has the Kindle (since they first came out), and loves his. He takes it everywhere with him.

    We got my mom the Sony Ereader for Christmas. She loves it, even if we really don’t.

    I say go for it. I resisted for the last couple of years, yet now, I am so glad I have my Novel. I carry 300+ books (all I’ve downloaded so far) in a device that is about the same size as a paperback (but much thinner!). The Novel isn’t for everyone, however. You have to swipe to change pages, and the screen is resistive rather than capacitive (like the ipad).

  8. With an e-reader, it’s way easier to multitask, like read a book and hold a glass of wine. You just need one hand to turn the page!

    My lovely friends gave me a Kindle three weeks ago for my birthday. I love it. The text is so easy on my eyes (you can even adjust the font size). And something I didn’t expect: you can forward any document and it’ll throw it automatically into pdf/readability. This is fantastic when fellow writers ask you to be a beta reader. Or when you download stuff from the web but don’t want to print it.

    And as an English teacher, books will always be in my life. But for once, I’m half a step ahead of most of my students.

    Good luck!

    1. IM:

      You always make me feel so much better about myself. You are the best person I’ve never met. I tip my glass of cyber Canada Dry Ginger Ale too you.

      Question: If your friends had purchased a Nook for you, do you think you would be as happy? It has PDF format/readability and can access stuff from public libraries, unlike the Kindle. Plus, you can share books with other Nook owners, supposedly.

  9. I am totally into real books. Recently received 2 gift cards from Barnes & Noble. Several people said, ” Oh, now you can buy a Nook.” Well, no, it still costs more than that. But when I get to B & N I will be buying more books…while they are still publishing them.

  10. I have really mixed feelings about reading books with virtual pages. If I were someone who traveled a lot, and could never decide which novel or six to take with me to break the tedium, a Nook or kindle or whatnot would be ideal. But I still like the idea of holding the book, turning the pages, even squinting at the small type! And yes, I’m probably one step away from bi-focals.

    For those of you who have books on electronic gadgetry, how does it compare to the real McCoy? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages?

    1. That’s why I went driving around, to get a sense of the real differences. I can tell you the Kindle has something akin to a QWERTY keyboard at the bottom and the Nook has a virtual keyboard. The Nook is more user friendly when it comes to taking notes (in my opinion) and currently has more free reads. Amazon seems to want people to pay for everything. The Kindle, however, does come in black or white. And we all know white gets positively filthy. You can only get black in a Nook if you get the Nook Color, which is like $250 bucks – and the screen is more like an iPad – a touch screen with lots of glare.

      They both refresh in a similar way. One was definitely more intuitive to me.

  11. @ Jay – thank you! You made my day…
    @Steve – yes, there truly is an update. I just did it. The page numbers may not correspond to the printed book – but at least now you’ll know that you are on page 37 of 300 rather than just seeing 12% or something. According to Kindle – the page numbers are put in by the publishers of each book.

    They told me they are also working on being able to borrow books from the library.

    In that case – full steam ahead for Kindle!

    1. Rachel, any idea about WHEN they might be getting that access to PUB files. Last I checked with my iGeek magazine, I heard that is what Amazon is telling their customers, but they are not really pursuing it in any meaningful way.


  12. I believe technology is a wonderful vehicle. But give me a plain old-fashioned book with wrinkled pages, coffee stains, thumb prints made by little old me or someone else. The main thing is to READ. It keeps the brain in top gear.

  13. I always thought I would detest an e-reader because I love the feel of a book, however, once I bought the Kindle for my teenage daughter and tried it out before the holidays I had a very hard time actually giving it to her as a gift. Being able to enlarge the text is nice and the Kindle can be read in the sun. I also like that I can get a sample of the book for free before I actually commit to buying it. Now that I am reading here about the page number upgrade and the potential for library access in the future I’m thinking it’s time to go shopping for myself this time. I have heard that with the Nook you can share books with friends…….anybody know if this is also a future Kindle upgrade?

  14. I am more on the side of point #3 maybe. I’m not lazy about it, just not motivated. And I haven’t had to buy a new bra since the last time.

    I like the way Ironic Mom put it there. We’ll always have books too. So, I voted for the Kindle because Amazon owns the industry for now, and if I make the leap I’m going with the bestest.

  15. Although I was ambivalent about them, I was given the Kindle 3G as an Xmas gift this year from Hubby. I put on a great show, smiled and “Oh Wow’d” with the best of them. To my great surprise I’m loving it! It’s easy to learn, use and maintain. All my fears about yet another technology-based chore and more cables and wires to lose melted away with the first download. I travel a lot by car, subway, airplane and boat. The 3G is wireless (which can be shut off/on) so I can download books almost anywhere any time. It’s purse-sized so I can carry an entire library wherever I go. HOWEVER, all that said, the Kindle will NEVER replace my love for handling traditional books, in fact, I’m sitting here looking at my latest stack of six!

  16. Ditto to Cheryl’s comment. Also got the Kindle as a gift (same 3G)…had been thinking about it but I love books and didn’t (don’t) want to give them up…even love the smell of books.

    But I really like it. You can make notes anywhere in the ‘book’ you want, you can share passages (on Facebook, for instance), you can dog-ear a page to mark your spot! I have such a dis-organizational tendency…and I have so many books….it’s not looking like a bad solution.

    I have books on spirituality, classics, poetry and games. Try it, you may like it 🙂

    the only problem i have is not

    1. Look at you, Mr. Oswald. You little lurker. Perhaps you should stay on topic. I think I would enjoy that. 😉

      Two sharp spankings with the ruler for that comment. Good day, Sir.

      (But really that is a good topic. I shall ruminate on it.)

  17. I, too, love reading books and am very sorely tempted by a kindle but I am worried this will destroy my dream of having a room covered floor to ceiling with bookshelves full of books. However at the moment I am traveling and don’t really want to have to ship boxes full of book half way around the world when I go back home.

    I think I will get one, but I really should go bra shopping first.

  18. After having a kindle for two and a half years, I love it. I still live with the fear of not having my book shelves full of books and am sure I have less tree readers due to this. However, I find that my fiction books are purchased on kindle and my work/psychiatry books are purchased in hard copy. I think your fear is warranted, but like anything else, it is time to keep up with the times. think how happy you were when you got your new phone and began texting. The lure is to provocative. Technology is not going away, it is only getting stronger. We can fight it and talk about how it is ruining the American mind or we can use it in moderation and know that the tree books will around for a long time.

  19. I have the kindle — not a year yet — but I only use it to download fiction — the kind of literature that is not “noteworthy.” A teacher myself, I love books — the feel and smell of them, and when they engage me, I write all over them. I’m trying to teach my college students to do the same. I show them how I teach short stories and poems from my illegible scribbles in the margins of my books. I still have my bookcases throughout my house stacked with books — my kids (8 and 4) each have two bookcases with their own collection of books. They need to have access to real books, not e-books. But fiction books that I don’t need to write in or engage with — they only entertain me — for those I use Kindle.

    1. Ditto ditto and ditto. Have you ever read Adler’s “How to Mark a Book?” It is fabulous, and I always use it to start off the year with my college students. Google it! I show them my copy of Lord of the Flies and they look completely perplexed as to why I would keep something like that. They do not understand that I treasure it.

      I’m doin’ it. I just have to decide Kindle or Nook. Everyone here says Kindle, hands down. I’m trying to understand why.

  20. i have an iPad and use the Kindle App almost exclusively. Kids have Kindles and love them. We are all reading more. I sometimes feel bad about moving away from “real books” but then I remember that we are all reading more! And iPhones are only for reading when all other options are unavailable:-)

  21. Here in Mexico, you’d think an international e reader would be a must. Getting my 2nd visa in Guadlajara a couple months ago, I sat next to a Brit who was bent on Kindle-converting me. Lovely lass, it was comica. She was deeply, madly in love with her device. English speakers overseas are keen to get international e readers and, wow, they are great in that respect.

    Yes, I like the feel of a book, but that’s not my issue. It’s price. I’m a long time library patron which, obviously = F.R.E.E.

    Luckly, I can walk to the biggest English language library in Latin America (That’s not saying much but there are some decent reads among the 20,000 books.) Right now, I’m plowing through Jung Chang’s “Mao”, published in ’05. Lots of periodicals in the library, as well, and those are on the honor system, no late fee. 🙂

    E readers’ free stuff? The last 19th century novel I read was something like War and Peace in the ’90’s and recently a bit of Sherlock Holmes: both library books. Sue me, but there is other stuff I want to read. I’m trying to do the research, but it doesn’t appear there is a whole lot I’d yearn for from the 2 or 4 dollar e book lots. Maybe I’m wrong. The Brit lass in the visa room was enthralled with a geology textbook.

    I’m wondering if $9.99 or $12.00 is too high a price for a book with no physical body, a book you can’t share (well, maybe for 14 days), a book you can’t give to a thrift shop or charity. We all know the stats on the world’s wealth index. E Readers. Not yet for the masses.

    But wait, there’s more! E readers greener than books? I understood the vast majority of book paper is grown on controlled farms for the industry, certainly not from old growth or the rain forest. Further, China and other places are now awash with tech garbage bits and pieces, which is certainly not green either. Library is greenest.

    Do I protest too much? It’s fun to come to Renee’s Teachers and Twits and testify! Next year, I may eat these words, deep into Moby Dick, flipping through some facinating magazine or fun scandal sheet.

    1. Annette, I have been wrestling with this. The “Green” issue. I cannot be quoted on this but I did read somewhere some ridiculous number of pages that a person would have to read in order to make an e-device considered a good alternative to paper. I believe the n8umber was something like 40,000 pages annually. As I said, don’t quote me.

      I’m a big fan of Benjamin Franklin’s invention: the public library – but somebody got me something for Valentine’s day. Stay tuned. As you say, we’ll see if I’m really reading more books or if I’ve become another consumer touting how fabulous it is to be able to “get it now.”

      Next thing you know, they’ll want me to throw out my abacus. 😉

  22. I’m a Book Girl, but I happen to have a Kindle as well. I love my Kindle. In fact, I have two now. One sits on my treadmill, with the font as large as it goes, so I can read while I walk my butt off. The other is always in my purse. I will never be without it, because it allows me to read whenever there is a free minute–like the other day in the endless grocery store line. But I will ALWAYS be a Book Girl! I love the feel, the smell, the sound of a book, the experience of shopping for a book, having a book, owning a book and seeing it on my bookshelf, there is no substitute for that. But I also want to read all the time. Cereal boxes during breakfast, tampon boxes while in the bathroom, the manual for my car if that’s where I am when I have a few minutes. But with my Kindle, I can read what really speaks to me, not just what happens to be available. And THAT is more important to me when I have a few minutes to pass!

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