Sunday, November 23

To Book or Not to Book?

Posted by Shelly Holder

So as the resident English major spending a lot of time with her family around the holidays, I get asked a lot if I've heard about the Kindle, the Amazon.com product that downloads eBooks and magazines to handheld device. The Kindle has been getting a lot of praise lately due to a relatively recent endorsement by Oprah, which .... well, this post is about a different topic.

Now I actually own a different device, Sony's eReader. Before my purchase I researched both the Kindle and the eReader, and what I found was that the eReader dealt specifically with eBooks, while the Kindle was geared more towards the daily uploads of magazines, journals, and blogs. Some eBooks were available for the Kindle, but the device design was not geared towards that concept. I choose the eReader.

Which leads to the question that has been shuttling around literary circles for the past several years- will the trend of eBooks and handheld devices make books obsolete, like tape cassettes and VCRs?

Well, any literary afficiendo is going to immediately say no, nothing will destroy the love for actually holding a book, feeling the pages, smelling the paper and ink, bending the spine. But others have been recognizing the potential in eBooks.

I personally love my eReader, but in a surprising way. I have not actually uploaded my library contents to the handheld device, and I made the purchase over a year ago. I actually have really enjoyed being able to access the eBooks straight on my computer. The screen is bi-sected, to resemble the layout of a book, and can be adjusted to font size preference. The arrow key controls page turning. It was a little unusual at first, but I have really enjoyed the extreme accessability and the conveniance of having a virtual library on my computer. I have downloaded several favorites as well as some classics and new finds. I am currently carrying around 30 books in my laptop, and another 20 on the desktop. That's about 100 pounds, four boxfuls, and 10,000 pages that are not, completely portable and available to read spur of the moment. Going to school and living in a dorm room meant that I really have to downgrade in living amenities, but with the eReader I have access to all of my favorite books with out also needing the storage space.

I also really enjoy the opportunity to discover new books. Publication of eBooks is limited, and the choice of books in the eReader store is accordingly limited. Some authors are only partially represented, while others are not available at all. So it forces you to be creative. Bundle packages are also nice, bringing series to the forefront through discounted prices for the entire collection of titles. Because there is no labor and printing costs, the eBooks are also cheaper, usually by 2 to 3 dollars, so authors that would not be considered worth a risk in the full-priced bookstore are now viable options, and I've discovered many good names that way.

Of course there are downsides. The instant downloads are very bad for my pocketbook, enabling me to get caught up in impulse buys and bulk purchases. But really, is that truly a downside??? =)

So I would recommend that you check out the eBooks. Sony's program is available for download without the purchase of an eReader. I won't say anything corny like it's the way of the future, but it's definitely a modern convience, and I don't regret it's invention. Besides, I would never abandon my library. It's the convience of taking the entire library will me while I travel that holds the draw. Because is it really the act of reading a book, or the words of the book that constitutes the reading experience?