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E-Readers Must Tread Carefully January 3, 2011

Posted by Peter Varhol in Publishing.

I am not an early adopter of consumer technology.  The financial risk of being the first on your block to have a new gadget is very high.  You pay the premium of buying first, and the very real risk of rapid obsolescence or even irrelevance (case in point – Internet TV devices).  I would rather do other things with my money.

So I have an e-reader, courtesy of a Christmas present.  It’s the low-end Barnes and Noble Nook, now retailing for about $150.  After a week or so of reading with it, I’d like to declare my favorite way of reading, print or electronic, along with my reasons why.

I’d first like to say that I’m not one of those people who declares with absolute (and probably false) conviction that paper is here to stay because “it feels good in my hands.”  Such a declaration is simply bogus.

It’s a draw.  Both the e-reader and paperbacks have their advantages and limitations.  Of course, your own mileage may vary.  I travel a bit, so reading in airports and on planes represents a large percentage of my reading time.  Here are my considerations, and my conclusions.

1.  Running out of books.  When I travel, I typically underestimate how much time I have to read.  You might say I can always do work on planes or in the airport, but this is usually my only time to spend several relatively uninterrupted hours in pleasure reading.  I treasure it.

But I often run out of paperbacks.  Only a couple of weeks ago, I had to scurry around Phoenix Sky Harbor airport for a less-than-satisfactory supplement as I was running out of the single book that I brought with me.  I can always carry more (they are light, and don’t take much room), but for whatever reason I underestimate.  No worries about that with an e-reader, where I can store multiple books in the same form factor.

Advantage, e-reader.

2.  Reading on the plane.  Except for taxi, takeoff, and touchdown, the e-reader is the clear winner here.  It’s small, easy to handle, and I can choose from multiple books.  But the time when no electronic devices are allowed is a big problem.  It can amount to well over an hour of the time I’m in an airplane, and I need something to read during that time.  I continue to need a paperback here.

Advantage, draw (with a nudge toward the paperback).

3.  Convenience in general.  This is, of course, the most subjective of them all.  And it’s where I’m most ambiguous, because, to be frank, it really doesn’t matter to me how I read.  So this represents just a few impressions during my time with both types of, um, technology.

You can drop the e-reader and have a problem.  The same can’t be said for a paperback.  The e-reader is still a bit clumsy (the Nook is just larger than the size of a standard paperback), but the paperback can be difficult to hold open while you’re reading.  The Nook takes almost a minute to boot, but I love the flexibility of choosing what to read once it does.

Advantage, hmm, I guess a draw.

4.  Cost and benefit.  Other than airplane time, my one big beef with an e-reader is that you have to pay for the book (around nine bucks on barnesandnoble.com), and also pay for the e-reader to read it.  There’s something wrong here.  Granted, the more books you amortize it over, the less expensive it becomes, but it’s still a sunk cost.  I have disposable income, and this initial foray into the technology was a gift, so it’s not burdensome, but it is still an insult to anyone who loves reading.

Advantage, paperback.

I recognize that we are all going to be e-reading before too long.  I hope that we can fix the airplane problem in the near future (but please, please don’t let ever cell phones be used on airplanes, at least for calls).

But prices have to come down considerably, or we need a new pricing model.  An additional surcharge on the books, perhaps, but not to spend $150 or more just for the privilege of reading.  Further, the technology has to stabilize, so that we’re not constantly required or encouraged to upgrade.

Really, a reader should be forever.  It’s what we do, not the gadget we use to do it.



1. E-Readers Must Tread Carefully - January 3, 2011

[…] of buying first, and the very real risk of rapid obsolescence or even irrelevance (case in point… [full post] Peter Varhol Cutting Edge Computing publishing 0 0 0 0 […]

2. Cyril Gupta - January 4, 2011

I used to have an infibeam pi, but i broke it. Then I bought a Sony 650 e reader, but I hate i because it doesn’t let me browse folders for books. Instead it presents a list of books by title names and author names… I can’t browse thousand of books that way!… I seriously think the guys at Sony who made 650bc were brain damaged not to leave such a design flaw

3. E-Readers Must Tread Carefully | World's Greatest T-Shirt - January 13, 2011

[…] Go to Source » […]

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