eReaders and eBooks

As some of my more regular readers may recall, I also write a literary criticism column for Bibliobuffet. I have a long standing love of books and I would gladly give up my television before I would give up my library. Admittedly, I would miss the Jack Benny Show, Fringe and Survivor but if something had to go, it would definitely be the TV.

In the August 18 entry to the Bibliobuffet blog, Bibliobuffet’s publisher quoted me saying “I would not review an e-book unless there were NO bound books available anywhere in the English or French languages. I have tried the Sony Reader, Nook and Kindle. Unless the technology improves materially, I find that I cannot immerse myself in anything on one of those screens.” Those are strong words, and I mean them. I really do not like the notion of curling up with a good…screen. I want paper and ink!

To be honest, however, I also really believe that frugally minded people should jump on the ereader/ebook band wagon and take the time to explore the Kindle, the iPad and the other tablet devices that display content. The devices themselves do not cost that much — less than $200 for many of them — and owners will quickly make back the cost of purchasing one in savings from buying books. Moreover, I expect Amazon will drop the price of its entry level Kindle below $100 in time for Christmas. Of course, that is just a hunch but, when battling the iPad for the first time this coming holiday season, Amazon is not going to want to lose its market dominance. That usually means price cuts so people who are on the fence should be ready to jump when the price does drop.

I will leave it to you to explore in detail the price savings that ereaders offer. For me the highlight would be the inexpensive availability of content that is in the public domain. After a book (or any other expression of creativity) has entered the public domain, it is no longer protected by copyright. As a result, anyone can copy it. That means that that no royalties need to be paid and any publisher can make use of the book. It stands to reason that with the limited cost associated with the electronic publication of public domain works, the price should be much lower than the price paid for books that have to be printed and bound. That seems to be how the market is developing as I have seen numerous classics appear in the Amazon and B&N ebook stores for a very small fraction of the price of a bound volume. For example, when I recently looked at the Kindle version of the complete Brothers Grimm, I found it for 99 cents. The bound versions were upwards of ten dollars. The Kindle versions were generally under a dollar, and one was free.

Many readers will point out that as long as we have libraries, buying an ereader is still an extravagance. I do not argue that point. Anyone who can find the books that they want in their local library can, and probably should, continue to use the library. Book collectors will not want to see their libraries go digital either and, like me, will ensure that used book stores have a continued existence long after the other major brick and mortar books stores are shuttered. For the people who do not have access to libraries, or who prefer to own the content that they read, ereaders really should be given strong consideration as an essential tool for people who like to read, and to save money.

When it comes to buying books, do as I say and not as I do. I still won’t buy an ereader, but as book reviewer, I do not have to buy my books, either. When that day inevitably comes, we’ll see if I change my attitude.

What do you think about ereaders and ebooks? Will you read from a screen when you want to cozy up with a good book?

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12 Responses to eReaders and eBooks

  1. Annie Jones says:

    At this point, I wouldn’t consider getting an eReader or eBooks. I don’t thin I would enjoy reading as much as I do with print books, and I can’t justify the expense of either the reader or the downloads for it. I read from the library, books I buy used at garage sales, or books I trade/borrow from friends.

    However, if I were a frequent traveler, I might consider an eReader for it’s light weight. It would certainly be easier than taking a stack of books along.

  2. Natasha says:

    It’s interesting to consider, actually. I own an e-reader expressly because I was going to Kenya for three months, and I knew I’d do well to have reading material. It was FABULOUS. I, like with a book, quickly lost myself in the story and was gone.

    However, now that I’m home, I haven’t picked it back up. Occasionally, I consider doing so, but I’m more motivated by actual books.

    Still, I consider the $100 I spent on the e-reader well worth it, for that time period. And if I do pick it up again, I imagine I will quickly be reading via that device with no issues again.

  3. Dave Roberts says:

    My wife and I started using eBook readers back in March of this year. Very quickly it became our preferred method for reading. As a business traveler who hates watching TV on the road my new found ability to have dozens of books to choose from in such a small form factor made the eReader a necessary luxury.

    There is a learning curve to get used to it, but I don’t think I’d want to go back to not reading this way. My wife especially likes that she can adjust the text size to as big as she wants for any book. To her reading without her glasses on is worth our re-buying some of her favorite books digitally.

    My only complaint is I feel trapped in re-buying as I did when favorite VHS tapes were replaced by DVDs and favorite tapes and vinyl were replaced by CDs. However, I am happy to clear out some shelf space for books that had been in boxes as I donate other re-purchased titles to my local library. Print books won’t go away, but many a novel I am happy to store digitally.

  4. Lauren says:

    David’s editor here. I smiled when I saw this column (courtesy of Google’s Search), and I just want to add that I, like David, strongly prefer printed books. In addition to reading them I love their look, their smell, their soulful presence on my shelves. I could not imagine walking into my home and not seeing books line the walls.

    Undoubtedly, I could fit all my books onto an e-reader and free up those walls. But why? They offer not only a history or me but a sensual pleasure. For savings on books, and because the prices of new books now being in the impossible $28-$35 range (ouch!), I haunt used book sales and remainder dealers (Edward R. Hamilton being my favorite). I get used books through Powell’s with free shipping of anything over $50. There is simply no reason to buy new because I feel no need to have the newest immediately. If I did, I would get it through my library.

    We at BiblioBuffet are supporters of independent bookstores, not Amazon. I do, however, have a Kindle. It’s the first version that a friend gave me when she got the current, third version. According to her, there are only minor differences. I find it interesting and amusing. I have gone on Amazon and downloaded fifty of their “free collection,” that is books in the public domain. There are apparently hundreds more, if not thousands but I’ll need time to get them all. Then there’s Project Gutenberg.

    I have not read any of them on the Kindle yet. It sits in my bedroom nightstand drawer. It simply does not attract me the way a hardcover does. But, like David, I think it will have its uses such as traveling. Maybe not, though. Isn’t one of the good things about being a reader in public showing off what you are reading? Or sneaking a peek at what others are reading?

  5. Spokane Al says:

    I recently purchased a Kindle and like it very much. After buying books for years, reading them once, and then putting them on a book shelf to gather dust, it just seemed like good sense to me as we work to slow down the accumulation of our stuff.

    I also enjoy using the library but my problem is that I have difficulty in reading the books in the time alloted by the library and must continually extend the checkout date (when possible). With a Kindle I read at my own speed.

    One last point is that recently a friend recommended a book that was available for free as a pdf download. I saved the file on my hard drive, emailed to my Kindle address, and within a couple of minutes it was on my Kindle ready to read. Technology is pretty cool.

  6. Jaime says:

    I love to read, love it and consume anywhere from 1 book a week when I’m busy to 4-6 when I’m not. I love the idea of the eReader for travel and to carry around tons of books virtually.

    Unfortunately, a lot of my collection would not be free to replace and many aren’t even available in an electronic format. For the newer books, it would just be too cost prohibitive to rebuy them. Also, I don’t have a clue how the data is stored and whether it could be accidentally erased with battery issues, etc. And let’s not forget the Amazon snafu with 84 and other books. Once I’ve bought a tangible book, it’s mine and the publisher can’t just come to my home when I’m gone to take it back. I also think that considering the lower cost to make a book available digitally versus in paper that even new books are overpriced currently. I think ALL ebooks should be $3 or less, not just ones that have reached the end of their copyright protection.

    That said, if the costs come down enough I’ll probably get one just for the travel convenience if nothing else. Plus, for those public domain books you can also download a bunch for free through Google Books as well. 🙂

  7. Linsey says:

    I have a Nook from Barnes and Noble. I love it. I’m a huge reader and it makes a lot of sense to me to have them all in one place. Ebooks are great prices that I’ve found..most are 9.99. There are always sales though, and I have most of my classics library, which I bought for under a dollar each, some even for free. My husband gladly bought me the ereader, since I was running up bills with my constant book buying, and new releases especially are not cheap. But with the ereader, ebook new releases are almost always 9.99 or maybe 12.99. Not only does it save money, but it also cuts back on shelf space in our house. I’ve been able to pack away my favorite books that I’ve bought in ebook format and it gives us a lot more space.

  8. Arthur Stururgulewski says:

    I have always loved books and reading ever since I can remember. I love everything about books; the touch, the smell, the pictures… everything! I could never be the owner of one of those machines or appliances or whatever you want to call it! NEVER! I enjoy going to bookstores, yard sales, and and finding free to inexpensive reading material. If it’s a keeper, on my bookshelf it goes and will remain until my demise. If it was just OKay or not so good, I trade it. Indeed, oftentimes I have even given books away either on Craigslist or at: and it makes me feel good knowing that someone else will have the opportunity to enjoy that book. All in all, I’m all for all books! 😉

  9. Allison says:

    I love books and love to read, and would never ever consider getting a Nook or the likes. It saddens me to read that people are turning to e-readers so they can pack their books away and make more space in their house, or so they can travel with a lighter load, or because it saves them money. I frequent used book sales/stores and swap books with my friends. I can’t imagine life without being able to hold a book while I read it and feel the pages in my fingers.

  10. Jaime says:

    Also, maybe when you can borrow an ebook from the library, then I might invest in a reader. But who knows.

  11. Eric says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the environmental impact of eReaders. The article is right in that the current implementations of eReader technologies are poor substitutes for ink and paper. However, eReaders are important in that they can be a viable solution to the environmental issues involved in printing books. Over 30 million trees are cut down each year to publish books. Is it really worth it in order to get that new-book smell or feel the paper under your fingers?

  12. Judy says:

    I have always loved reading, since I was a child. I am now 71 years old.

    I do love reading REAL books, but as I have gotten older it is harder on my eyes (yes I do wear glasses). However, I load digital books on my MP3 player from our local library. At the end of the day when my eyes won’t support reading, my ears work fine, HA!

    Our library also has digital ebooks for the eReaders that you can download from their web site, just like the MP3 books.

    I am asking for an eReader for Christmas from my family just so I can have the enlarged text for any book I choose. At the library only certain books are in large print, so this will be wonderful for me.

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