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6 Features E-Readers Need Before I’ll Use One

E-Readers

I don’t mean to be that guy. But I just can’t help it—I’m that guy.

I’m the guy who doesn’t use e-readers. I know that makes me a literary old fogie—part of a dying breed that includes snobby lit professors and hipster independent bookstore owners.

But it’s true.

Now, before you berate me for being elitist and antiquated and the most horrible human on earth, let me say this:

If you like e-readers, I won’t judge you. I really won’t. It’s your literary life, my friend. You live it like you need to live it. I understand why you like them, so more power to you.

But me? I’m not an e-reader guy.

That is, I’m not an e-reader guy until the following things happen.

They need to smell.

Like paper. I recently read that “digital scents” in televisions are the next big thing. So, for example, if you’re watching a Pizza Hut commercial, your television will emit the smell of a freshly baked pizza. Don’t ask me how these things work, but I want digital books to do that. I know, I’m such a loser sentimentalist.

They need to come with a free version of the paperback.

Or, at least, a highly discounted version. If the digital version is $10, I should be able to get a paper version for $5.

Their covers should be more prominent.

I love book covers, but I feel like they get lost with e-readers. With paper books, you see the cover every time you pick it up. How often do you look at an e-reader cover?

They need to be sand resistant.

My wife always buys paper books, instead of using her Kindle, when we go on beach vacations. That seems to defeat the purpose of the Kindle’s convenience and portability. Can’t we figure out a way to make sand not kill these things?

They need to be spill proof.

Two words: Toilet water. If I drop my paperback into the toilet whilst taking care of my business, I buy a new one for 12 bucks. If I drop my Kindle into the toilet, I’m out $100 barring a miracle in a bowl of rice.

They need to be readable 50 years from now.

I plan ahead. If I like a book, I want to remember that I liked the book. I want to see it in front of me, not embedded in some folder archive on my computer. So what happens to my e-reader books 20 years from now when e-readers are antiquated and book holographs are the cutting edge technology?

Let me expand on that last one. I mean, I have two hard drives at my house with files from my old computers that I’ve never done anything with. I’m not even sure, though I hope, I can access the things if I ever need them. So how am I supposed to keep up with all the e-reading technologies over the next few decades, making sure I transfer all my books in and through all the different versions of the e-reader?

That’s a lot of work. Forget about iOS 7, I never updated my iPhone to the previous version. I suck at updating my tech gadgets.

For me, it just eases my simple, non technology-savvy mind to know that the paper book I buy in 2013 will still be just as readable in 2053. That’s the crux of the issue.

My wife loves the things—and you probably do as well. After all, according to the New York Times, 20% of American readers own a digital reading device.

So maybe these are ignorant, uninformed questions. That could be true. All of these issues might have already been addressed, and maybe I’m just living in an old fogie paperback bubble.

So that’s where you come in. Are the above e-reader “issues” even issues to you? And, if they aren’t—why not?

Keep it civil. People seem to get disproportionately angry about this topic.

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93 Comments Post a comment
  1. Other than they need to smell – I am with you. They also need the ability to be read in the bathtub or pool with out dying. :) Great post.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • I’ve read my kindle thousands of times in the tub. Pretty much every night I bathe, which is, er, every night.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
      • :) Well you must not be as klutzy as me. Re my comment of smell for future books, since you bathe every night then we know you do not smell. ;0

        Like

        September 27, 2013
        • Oh, if you’re klutzier than I am, you’re probably managing to write this while in traction. :)

          I’ve dropped the actual Kindle many times, just not in the tub, but it’s in a ziploc anyhow. I trip over air, the blind dog I know is not about to move. Sometimes I choke on my own saliva. I often miss my mouth with the fork. Bite the inside of my mouth. Have chipped a tooth on a bottle. Almost broke my nose on the bathroom sink, because I misjudged the trajectory of standing up from the, um, seated position.

          Stepped on an acorn, did the comedic attempt to stay upright seen in movies where jars of marbled are let loose on dance floors, thought I had righted myself, and then found myself staring up at the sky like Charlie Brown after Lucy yanked the football away.

          Put a pyrex dish on a turned-on electric burner. It explodes with a sonic boom, and I found glass two rooms away, and one piece jutting out of my leg.

          I need a keeper.

          Like

          September 27, 2013
          • It is official – I Like you! And maybe we are twins. :)

            Like

            September 28, 2013
          • Carey #

            2 Thanksgivings ago we were gathered in Mom’s kitchen. She takes a pyrex dish of stuffing out of the oven and sets it on the still hot stove top. Out of nowhere the thing explodes sending glass everywhere. I had no idea this could even happen…it is a casserole dish meant to with stand oven temps…so we are just like WTH!! I had never heard if it happening to anyone else…till now. :)

            Like

            September 28, 2013
  2. Ahhh, Let me be the first. By the way, I think you LOVE being THAT guy… LOL
    I take my E-Reader to the beach. Never got sand in it. I’ve not dropped anything I cared about in a toilet while doing my business… Not sure what you are doing in the bathroom that would make that one possible. As far as the 20 years from now thing goes… I figure if I want a real book in 20 years, I will just go buy it. The risk seems to be about the same for having a fire in the library and losing all my books.

    Give in. Come over to the dark side.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • The toilet was mostly a joke. I think millions of us have lost or severely compromised our iPhones or some other technological device because of water damage, though.

      And it’s out of sight, out of mind. If I don’t occasionally see a book I liked in front of me, then eventually I’m going to forget I liked that book at all. 20 years from now, I won’t remember it enough to know that I need to buy the paper version.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
      • You have to admit one thing. Carrying your entire library around with you, where ever you go, is pretty cool.

        Like

        September 27, 2013
  3. I love the last requirement. I honestly never thought about that before. I, personally, have a love affair with actual books. Every tactile thing about them makes me gitty. I do own an ereader, but it kind of just sits there.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  4. bookgeeking #

    I understand where you are coming from, I use both kindle and paperbacks. A kindle is meant for traveling, but I do not use it for such, last time I did, it broke, had to get a new one, okay putting it in my handbag was probably not the best idea, but I was careful, obviously not careful enough. I know just use it at home and take paperbacks when I travel. I like being able to buy a book and read it straight away especially if I have gotten engrossed in a series. Also there are plenty of books you can only get on a kindle and some of them are brilliant. It allows me to get ARCs from netgalley too. For me personally the positives outweigh the negatives .

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  5. I am almost never a black and white kind of person. I own a Nook, but I also still love reading traditional books. Right now I’m at the point where I will download a book, and if I really love it, will then go buy a hard copy. There is something impersonal about the e-book in contrast with my worn, page bent, coffee stained real books.
    I think you bring up a valid point with the obsolescence factor. I remember when I gave up my cassette tapes for CDs, and then those for an Mp3 player etc. but I suppose technology has reached a point now with things like Cloudplayer where we can keep our stored digital libraries “forever”. Forever being an concept for optimists.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  6. Tammy #

    Most of your concerns are my only complaints about e-readers. I do read mine in the bathtub though. I’m just careful. The only time I’ve had a water problem with mine was very random. A kid knocked over a water glass and one drop–literally one drop–hit the wrong place at the right time. I had to get a new Kindle after that. But given all of that–I still love my Kindle. I do miss sorting through my stacks of unread books though.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  7. I understand your viewpoint completely, but I have decided that by reading those books that I would only read once on my Kindle, I save money to buy the books I want in good hardcover editions.

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    September 27, 2013
  8. bba #

    Forget eReaders. You are the worst person in the world b/c you don’t update your iphone. Just freakin’ hit the auto update button!

    And I must agree with ebdawg, you doth protest too much about being “that guy.”

    Also, eating boiled peanuts in the shell is old school. My great aunt did it and she was hardcore cuntry Southern.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • iPhone: I used to auto update and then my phone slowed down every time I did that. So I stopped until I started getting reviews on the updates. No way my 4S can handle iOS7, so I won’t be enjoying that until I get a new phone.

      I really don’t like being “that guy.” I feel like one of the anti-vaccine people in a world full of logic and common sense. It’s not a good feeling, but I can’t help it.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  9. But look at the pros! I had 40 hours of plane time to cover in August. I had not nearly enough room in my bag for the amount of books I’d need. Instead, I packed up my little Kindle with over 50 books. Not only did I have enough reading material for the entire trip, I even had an option to CHOOSE! I wasn’t limited by the few books I’d picked out a while back. In fact, I could even download MORE once I landed.
    Furthermore, the problem of reading a book while lying down and not seeing one side is solved. Now I can read on the side and I don’t have to keep rolling over to see the part of the book that’s usually laying down on the bed.

    I agree with what you’ve pointed out. Coming from a non-English speaking country, the Kindle also allows me to get “less mainstream” novels easily. I like to mix it up and read some on paper, some via device.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • I definitely see all the pros, like the ones you mention. That’s where my temptation comes in, but the cons outweight the pros for me.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  10. I use them both…and like them both. In particular, I like that the kindle fits on my phone so I am never without reading material when I get jammed up waiting for kids, doctors etc. I also like that I can read in bed without a lamp keeping my wife awake. And lastly, probably best feature, I read about 30% faster on the kindle. 1000+ page books are much less daunting.

    As for your “worry” over 50 years from now. Please. Do you really think with the billions of ebooks sold there wont be some conversion software?

    For the books sitting on the shelf reminding you of their stories…I totally agree and will often buy a hard copy of the best books.On look at the cover and I’m back underground with Tyler Durden…a fun place to be sure.

    I now I have some bad news for you. Technophobia will be your undoing. The ability to fix and maintain tech gear is the modern equivalent of unplugging the kitchen sink. It’s just a man-skill all men need.

    Update that iPhone, use some cloud storage, code a little HTML. Your beard will thank you.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • There will be some conversion software, sure. But who wants to do that every 5 years? And are you really sure there will be? Look at the Xbox One. It isn’t backwards compatible with any 360 games.

      And, Greg, I’m a walking paradox. I love football, but don’t own a gun. I appreciate a good beer, but couldn’t change the oil on my car if my life depended on it. I can watch sports until I’m blue in the face, but I hate action movies. And I can’t grow a beard so it will never thank me for nothing.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  11. Do not own e reader. Do not want to own e reader. I love books: holding them, turning the pages, looking at where my bookmark is to see how far in I am, how close to the end. The content transports me to other worlds, teaches me and makes me think about stuff I may never otherwise consider. The physical presence comforts me. I can sit amongst my books and be reminded of all those amazing other worlds. Can’t see me getting that warm, fuzzy feeling scrolling through a contents list on a tablet. Rooms full of books are the best place to sit and dream. Other people’s books give inspiration for conversation. Can I lend a book to a friend if I only own it on an e reader? I cannot strike up a conversation when I recognise the cover of a book I have enjoyed if all they hold is a tablet. By all means let each read in whatever way they choose, at least they are reading. For me though, I want books, books and more books; sitting on my shelves reminding me of the good times I have shared with them.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • You can in fact lend books to other ereader owners.
      Your point about striking up conversations is fantastic though.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
      • Can you lend out to different devices or is compatibility an issue?

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        September 27, 2013
        • Not really sure b/c I’m not very active in the whole Kindle community and I haven’t been looking into the newer models, but I heard a couple years ago – back when they were totally new – that you could in the Nook. Amazon has probably implemented that in theirs as well.

          Like

          September 27, 2013
          • Don Heath #

            You can loan Amazon to Amazon or Nook to Nook. Non-Amazon or non-Nook e-books can generally be loaned without problem between non-Amazon or non-Nook e-readers, although you may have to convert the format using an app like Calibre. Perhaps things have changed and you can now loan between Amazon and non-Amazon or between Nook and non-Nook but I doubt it. Also, if you bought your e-book without rights restrictions (most non-Amazon and non-Nook e-books will lack these restrictions), you can simply make a digital copy and transfer it to another device although you may have to convert the format first.

            Like

            September 27, 2013
    • My Kindle causes more conversations than print books ever did. Often a nod at it, and a “How do you like it?” People also ask me what I’m reading, which might be unnecessary with a print book, but the print book eliminates that opening gambit unless the person feels they have something to say about that particular book. Their curiosity gets the best of them, but since none have been cats, no fatalities.

      There was a scene on Gilmore Girls where Lorelei tries to get Rory to take only so many books in her backpack, and Rory justified every choice in a way that made me howl with recognition, because I read the same way. I want lots of choices at once, I want to decide exactly what I want to read at any given moment, and switch off if my interest wanes. I want to take novels, histories, essays, and short stories everywhere I go. I want to be able to pull up a book I think Random Stranger Who Struck Up a Conversation would like, because I suck at titles, at least sometimes.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  12. I hear you. There is nothing like the smell and feel of a traditional book to get one in the zone…

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  13. Bernadette Craig #

    I read my Kindle in the pool all the time, just put it in a zip lock bag.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  14. kansamuse #

    I use them both. The kindle helped save my sanity when my husband was in the hospital for chemo. If I did not have a kindle I would had been toting loads of books back and forth to the car. I could read, play games and surf the web. I have taken the kindle places. It is great reading at night in a car. I would not take it to the beach but I usually do not read at the beach anyways. I would leave it at my mom’s house (10 minutes away )or hotel room. That said I almost always buy my reference books in paper but for the fiction I either get from paperbackswap or buy but swap it later. I try to keep my books to two big book shelves. I will have to look into ereader swaps.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  15. Today’s post was very funny and the comments and Robert’s responses even funnier. TGIF everyone!

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  16. Ever since ebooks became “a thing” I swore I’d never join the dark side – for basically everything you pointed out. There’s just no replacing books.
    However, I’ve recently decided I’d like to get an ereader for a simple reason: some books and short stories (especially short stories from series) are only available as ebooks. I’ve been reading these on my laptop, but since there’s quite a bit of them, I’d prefer reading them more comfortably. Still feel a tad guilty, though, and I haven’t even bought one yet!

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  17. E-Books will never replace ink and paper books for me.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  18. So in other words, you want it to look like a book, smell like a book and feel like a book? Lol
    I gave in because I can’t argue with the convenience and instant gratification of hearing about a great book and downloading a sample to my Kindle without having to leave the house. I still read books but I love my kindle.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  19. I also have neither e-reader nor desire for an e-reader. For one thing, I hate reading on a screen. I feel like I only read superficially. It’s harder to concentrate and it wears my eyes out much more easily.

    I love sinking into a good book, curled up in an armchair, feeling and smelling the pages, flipping back to my favorite parts every once in a while. It’s not the same with an electronic device. It doesn’t feel right.

    Being surrounded by physical books is comforting to me. Being surrounded by electronics does not.

    If someone were to give me an e-reader, I would accept it and see if I could figure it into my life somehow, but I have no intention of buying one on my own. And the more someone tries to tell me to “get with the program,” the more I resist. I don’t take kindly to people telling me what I should or shouldn’t enjoy :)

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • electronics *is not. Grrr.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
    • Understandable, but people with ereaders are also admonished to get with the program — the older, “much better,” real reader program.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
    • Limr, I feel exactly the same about e-readers. If someone will give me one, okay, but I certainly won’t buy one however practical it may be. I love my books and being able to thumb them through with that special noise and the smell.

      By the way, yesterday I heard from someone that he lost his entire electronic library of 4000 volumes. I don’t know what he did, but he was devastated.

      Like

      September 29, 2013
      • “By the way, yesterday I heard from someone that he lost his entire electronic library of 4000 volumes. I don’t know what he did, but he was devastated.”

        What kind of reader? He might want to call customer service of whatever company, because if he has a Kindle, his whole library is stored/backed up online. Barnes and Noble is similar. I am thinking he needs someone to explain to him how to access his stuff.

        Like

        September 29, 2013
  20. JadedPsyche #

    I own a nook, but I don’t love it like I love my ‘real’ books. It’s convenient for books that are hard to find or are not published as traditional books, but I can’t help but think (and I know it’s weird) what would happen if there was some horrible apocalyptic event. If I didn’t have access to power I wouldn’t be able to read any of my books! Every time I pick up my nook I have a momentary flash of Planet of the Apes. Yep, can’t help it.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  21. I am with those people who have to hold a book, not scroll through the pages on the screen. The only thing I would add to this would be that you shouldn’t have to pay for books after you purchase a kindle. Its already costing you upwards of about $200 to buy the thing, why pay for books when you’ve already bought the thing to read it on?

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • Because readers are usually sold at a loss because the profits are made with the purchased content. $200 for a dedicated book reader is double to triple the price.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  22. I’m not sure about the free paperback, but I know some publishers and companies are considering a free (or seriously discounted) digital version of a book with a physical book purchase. I like my kindle, an older one, and read it in a ziploc bag when I’m in a pool or on the beach and it works great because it is an older version whereas all the new touch ones make it difficult.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • Now that is a fabulous idea! We buy our much loved, physical book to read, display, prompt conversation and lend out; we have a digital copy to carry around on an e reader for convenience (holidays et al). Like that :)

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  23. I like both paper and e-reader but I’m delighted that there is no smell to my e-reader. I’ve borrowed books from the library and I gotta tell ya, you don’t want to take a whiff. I do agree with you about the covers or lack of covers sometimes. I also find that you can’t thumb back through the pages easily, like when you want to find out the name of that crazy guy the author put in the bar or reread the sexy scene. Paper is much easier for both of those activities.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • If I could search the mysteries I read for the name of the character introduced three chapters ago, or the offhand remark about a restaurant that turns out to place the speaker in the right place at the right time, I would catch a lot more murderers before the last page!

      Like

      September 28, 2013
  24. I love both! Traveling a lot makes e-readers my best friend. Plus at night, I don’t have to use a book lamp. It’s the little things :)

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  25. Whoffs #

    As long as people are reading I don’t care what form they do it in.Of course having said that….
    I don’t think I will ever get the e-reader. I’m a huge reader but all of my books come from the library, and I feel like a lot of library systems (or maybe just mine) are still trying to work out exactly how to tackle the e-books. I think I will also will always stick with paperbacks for vacation because it’s one more expensive electronic for me to a)lose b)break or be too tempting by a sticky fingered baggage handler/pickpocket/fellow traveler or what have you.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • Whoffs #

      Also its just about my favorite thing ever when I see someone reading a favorite book of mine and then excitedly talk to them/scare them about it, and it’s harder to see that with the e-readers.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
    • Go to OverDrive, and they’ll tell you if your library lends out ebooks.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  26. Denise #

    I love that you opened with the smell of a book. That’s what makes libraries so gorgeous is the permeating smell of paper and glue. It’s a musk beyond all others. Obviously I love the smell of a book and I have actually chosen books by their smell. I’m also an out-of-site, out-of-mind kind of girl, so without the bright multihued spines on my shelf to remind me, I would forget I ever read a book or what I loved about that book with the yellow and orange stripe. Digital information does not stay with me but passes right through as ‘not real’ for some reason. I retain far less info read on screen than info read in print. I actually like all your points here. I’m not an e-reader fan, nor am I a snobby lit professor, nor a hipster independent bookstore owner. :)

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  27. Totally agree. I received an e-reader for my birthday and I have tried my best to use/enjoy it…but I just can’t. Back to real books for me!

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  28. My husband got me one of the early Nooks when we were first married, and the only time I’ve turned to it is when I was nursing. It’s very tricky to hold a book and nurse at the same time; 1-click page turning is the way to go. Now I only use it for digital ARCs, but I give preference to paper ARCs every time.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  29. Yes, I’m with you. I have something called Kindle iCloud, I think. And I’ve purchases a few ebooks through Amazon, but I have to say, I haven’t made myself read the books on my MacBook Air. I am very resistant to change. It took me awhile to figure out how to make it all work on the Mac. And I can’t stand the thought of reading on my iPhone. So, those books sit out there somewhere in limbo, waiting for me to read them. Perhaps I’ll buy the paperbacks. I can’t see buying an eReader.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  30. This debate reminds me of the one about blu-ray vs. dvd, or cd vs. vinyl. Do you replace your old technological stuff with new technological stuff?

    I finally broke down and bought a kindle. I resisted for quite a while. The issue for me was that I usually read more than one book at a time. A lot of the time I am reading one book for pleasure, another for research. Also I read at lunch. I had been looking for something to hold my books in place for years. One stand worked for some, another worked for others. But nothing worked for all. Recently I hit upon a book weight and that seems to work. But I still like my kindle.

    Initially I read only on the kindle. Guess it had something to do with the fact I wanted to get my value out of the darn thing. I have taken to alternating between a real live book and a kindle book.

    One of the benefits of the kindle I had never realized until I started using it was that my reading speed improved. I have always been a slow reader. I didn’t realize this until I read a live book after reading ten eBooks.

    I do understand your dilemma though. I love the smell of a new book and the feel of it. But I offer this in response to the last point. Have you gone back and looked at a book, especially a paperback book, published ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. A good many of them turn brown. And some fall apart. I have even bought new books and I am not talking about inexpensive books. I am talking spending $30 or $40 on a book. The spine did not hold up and the pages started falling out. I work in a library and I see this, especially with graphic novels. But I also see this with other books too. Some publishers have gotten very cheap with their materials. This is the great thing about books published by companies like The Library of America.

    Another benefit of the kindle: For years I have been a reader of the New York Times Book Review. I would go online and read as many of the reviews as I could. Sounds like I am cheap but I never wanted to subscribe to the full newspaper. I wanted just the book review section. Now I can get that with my kindle.

    And I still purchase live books. (Don’t know what else to call them.) But I am more selective. There is nothing like a book of great photos just to sit and hold in your hands and look through. So I don’t think it is an either/or. I think it can be a both/and. Oh, and I have only the eReader not the kindle fire.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  31. Suzanne #

    As a retired librarian, I love the physicality of books. However, I also love my iPad (and previous Nook). I do still check out lots of books from the library as I really don’t like to buy many books when I can get them for free. It’s getting harder to read a big/long book in bed comfortably, so the iPad is a plus in that regard. My biggest complaint about e-books is that I can’t share many of them with friends (or I couldn’t on the Nook). That doesn’t seem fair to me. I definitely agree with your 2nd point–a free or cheaper paperback version (or vice versa ).

    I bet many of you would despise the new library in Texas that only has electronic devices, no physical books. Hopefully there’s also a “real” library in the town.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  32. Alright I use to be THAT girl, but I’m not her anymore! So there’s hope for you yet! I am still the girl that has to have something to read at all times, even if it’s just for the 15 minute wait to pick up my kiddo.I went digital kicking, screaming, and threatening to withhold my wifely duties if my husband foisted an e-reader on me. Yeah, I took it that far…My husband gifted me my first Kindle despite my threats when we were living in England and traveling a lot because he was tired of me having a carry on with nothing but books and therefore forcing us to always check a bag. (Men get upset over the strangest things) Did he really expect me to not have spare books while riding the train or trapped on an airplane? Please. Be reasonable, dude. So being that it was my duty to be accommodating and mature even in the face of unsolicited gifts I decided to load a few books and give it a try. The heavens parted and the angels sang Hallelujah! Do you know how many frackin’ books you can load on one of these suckers? I’m in love and I ain’t afraid to show it. My newest Kindle is the big Kindle Fire and it is officially my “Precious” and I guard it as well as I do my children and dog. Come out of the darkness and step into the light, it’s glorious. For those of you who may be concerned my husband was quickly back in my good graces. I do still buy the occasional physical book because sometimes a bargain book is actually cheaper than the eBook (that’s a whole other can of worms) but I don’t like cookbooks in eBook form very much at all. I admit that I miss the smell of book pages, but you can always keep some handy and take a nice long whiff whenever you need a hit!

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  33. Don Heath #

    I am a cheapskate when it comes to my personal purchases so the habit of regularly checking the contents of the local library and thriftshops for my reading materials is an old one. However, I am also fascinated by technology and avidly read most of what I can find regarding the latest gizmos, including e-readers. I was not going to buy an e-reader but wanted to know a lot about them so I wasn’t too surprised when, a couple of years ago, a co-worker asked for my advise about the purchase of an e-reader. I recommended the purchase of a Kobo or Sony e-reader over a Kindle or Nook because I resent Amazon and Barnes & Noble restricting the purchasers’ rights to the book they buy from either of these two vendors (basically, the “purchaser” is buying a possibly permanent lease on the book, not getting an outright purchase). I was surprised when it turned out that the co-worker was buying the e-reader (a Kobo) with a pool of funds from our fellow co-workers in order to give the device to me for my birthday. So i became an e-reader user. I downloaded a lot of free books (mostly classics in the public domain) and occasionally buy a full price book. I don’t buy these books from Amazon or B&N because their selections will only work on their own e-readers but I can buy from Kobo or many other vendors (almost any except Amazon or B&N). The online service Calibre lets me convert e-book formats to one that works on the Kobo. I have also found that there are many sources to buy even recently published e-books for deeply discounted prices or even free.

    My reservations about the e-readers follow. Price is not such an issue now as prices have fallen and great bargains are available in refurbished models (I recently saw a refurbished Nook Simple Touch reader being sold by B&N for $29.95). The prices of many e-books is still too high so I wait and get a paper copy from a thriftshop for about $1.50 or $2.50 for a hardback copy. I recently found a like new hardcover copy of Oliver Sachs’ memoir for $2.50 and found that it was an autographed copy, pretty cool. “Thumbing back” through an e-book is ridiculously frustrating, paper copies have a total advantage here. These devices should be waterproof, sandproof, shockproof, etc. by default. The screens are too low resolution to use maps, etc. Even magnifying glasses don’t help. This may be a non-issue with the newest tablets, I don’t know. I am not a fan of the black on grey page look. In broad daylight, the grey does tend to look more white but still doesn’t really match the appeal of real ink on real paper. The newer e-readers with the built in front-lighting help mitigate this but the issue of not being able to see the screen of the older e-readers in darker places, like many restaurant tables, for instance, is very real, especially for us older readers. Lastly (for me, anyway), battery life is not nearly as good as the right-ups would have you believe. Having to recharge your e-reader once a week shouldn’t be that big an issue but for me it is irritating.

    However, there are many pluses for e-readers, especially regarding portability and convenience. There are many ways to back up your e-book collection and I would recommend that any e-reader user employ at least a couple of them. Also, you can download a number of free e-reader apps to your computer, tablet and/or smartphone, including Amazon’s Kindle app, B&N’s Nook app, and Kobo’s app. That way you can read e-books on any of those devices. I have spent a good bit of downtime reading my e-books on my phone. It’s not bad at all.

    I still prefer the paper copies and still haunt the thriftshops and the library (and even borrow e-books from the library). I’ve made room for both forms of book in my life. Both have their singular drawbacks and advantages.

    By the way, if you are the Robert Bruce that i think you are, your dad, Ed, is my cousin (his mom and mine were sisters). I mention this because of something you posted the other day about your mom being a great reader and having a big collection of books by Louis L’Amour. I think the world of Judy (and Ed) and I am not surprised to discover that she is a big reader (I guess that this is where you got your love of reading), but it was a surprise to find that she is a big fan of westerns. I think that is very cool.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
    • If you haven’t discovered it, I’d like to recommend a site called eReaderIQ. You gave them the ISBN of the ebook you find to be too expensive, tell them the price you want to pay, and they’ll email you when the price drops. It’s also cool to simply go there and see the recent price drops. (You can also have them alert you when a book is converted to “e.”)

      While they are checking Amazon’s prices, but Amazon price matches, so if they’ve lowered the price, the price is probably lower for your Kobo.

      Like

      September 27, 2013
  34. Yes, all these are issues for me too and I’m very ambivalent about my Kindle. However, if you read older books and for your project you do, you can save so much money. Most of the classics are free on e-readers or they’re really cheap. I just bought Gandhi’s autobiography in paper book because I was being sentimental and then I discovered that if I had bought the e-version I would have paid £0.77 instead of £10.99!

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  35. It is for your last reason that I have never taken the plunge with an e-reader – I don’t often re-read books but I like to know that I have the option and I would be worried that I couldn’t preserve a digital book through the years and the inevitable broken e-reader. I read somewhere recently that there is a proposal to give away a free digital copy of a book when bought with a physical book, like they do now with CDs. If this ever actually happens then I would be much more likely to buy an e-reader.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  36. I bought a Kobo Touch 2 years ago and love it. I have read nearly all John Buchan’s novels which I downloaded for free. I also bought Stieg Larsson’s for my e-reader and was able to read them on my journey to work. The paper copies were massive books to carry around.

    E-readers are easy to carry about. I like them.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  37. I have to agree with you, I much prefer ‘paper’ books. I do have an iPad on which I red iBooks or PDF’s but I don’t like reading from it so rarely use it. OH bought me a basic kindle and I have used it but again I’m not keen.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  38. LOVE this. I kind of hate e-readers – I just can’t really see myself getting and using one until I’m forced to if/when paper books aren’t printed anymore. I’ll ALWAYS choose paper books over e-books. The one concession I’ve given into recently is using the Kindle app on my smartphone for those .99 cent novellas that authors tend to release in e-format only. I really wanted to read Mira Grant’s companion novellas to her Newsflesh trilogy, and I can handle reading on my phone for an hour if I need to. Kind of sucks because I would definitely shell out $5 for a paper novella, but that isn’t an option these days.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  39. I refuse to purchase an e-reader either, Robert. After staring at a computer screen all day long, and also at home to check e-mail, etc., the last thing I want to do is read a book on a screen!

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  40. torylawyer #

    There is something about physical books that appeals to the senses in a way that an e-reader will never be able to replicate, and that, for me, outweighs the many positives inherent in e-readers. The smell and feel of the paper, the way the typesetting looks on the printed page, the cover…an e-reader could never compare, no matter the bells and whistles.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  41. I’ve never dropped my always with me Kindle in any body of water. I *have* dropped my cell in the toilet, but I didn’t demand it be waterproof as a result.

    I support people who prefer print, but my Kindle allows me to read more, buy faster, interact with more readers and authors, and I’m too greedy for these things to give them up to seem more like a “real reader” — not saying you, just referring to the ubiquitous insult — to people who are too worried about how and what other people read.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  42. I have a kindle paperwhite and it has become my electronic baby. I probably treat it with as much care, if not more, than my laptop. Thats something at kind of grew the more I had it however.

    If I was to choose between a paper book and an ebook, I would choose the paper one every time. Very few things beet the smell of a real book, if my kindle had that I would probably die happy. I also prefer paper because of the way it feels in my hands and the feeling and look of charging through it. These things you dont get on a kindle. Sure you get a time left in book (which is kinda handy) and the percentage of book that has been read, but that will never beet the feel and look of a real book to me. Also, I like to visually see all my books displayed on the bookshelf. I like to watch my collect grow, and yes, I like to look at the covers too.

    I got my kindle because I started reviewing authors books and they cant always send me a hard copy, specially if it hasnt been released yet. I chose really carefully when picking one, It couldnt have a back light, it had to have a front light or my eyes would die, and it had to kind of look like book pages to me, and the paperwhite was the best for those things.I have also grown to love it because it makes to visiting my family easier because I dont have to carry 20kg of books with me when I travel.But, no matter how I love it, paper books still win. I can’t sit down and just soak up the ebook like I can a hard copy, I tend to have to put the book down quite a few times before I finish.

    Like

    September 27, 2013
  43. This post made me smile but I completely understand your point of view. A few months ago I jumped on the bandwagon and bought a Kindle but I hardly ever use it. It’s currently sitting on my nightstand, out of battery and a little bit dusty. ‘Real’ books definitely win this battle, in my opinion. The cover issue is the one I really dislike. Sure, the words of the story are the thing that matters and the cover doesn’t add anything to that. But I like different cover illustrations and the delicious feel of a brand-new book. No matter how hard it tries, I don’t think an electronic device can match that. And that’s why I will never stop buying and reading the good old printed word!

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  44. Yes! These issues are issues!
    I own two e-readers. I gave it a go, now I say no.
    I’ll be buying books, real books, forevermore.

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  45. When your eyesight demands that you own an ereader or exclusively listen to audiobooks, you get over these other factors right away.

    (I don’t need an ereader to read, but I own one. I still buy treebooks, too. I use my Kindle about 15-20% of the time. It’s great for long travel and taking with me to places where I might have to wait for an extended period.)

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  46. I had planned to reply to a specific post, but there’s no way to do it without seeming combative. Suffice it to say, this thread is filled with people referring to print as “real” books, not always in quotes.

    Several years ago, Nora Roberts said she hated the term “dead tree book” that people were tossing around to refer to print. It is snide and condescending. I never really used the term, but I struck it off my list entirely.

    What do you now have to do to get fans of print to stop referring to their books as the real ones? I don’t believe you mean offense, not at all, but to the person who reads hundreds of ebooks a year — I’m only at dozens — it’s dismissive. Or the elderly person who has read all of his or her life, and now has physical limitations that demand they use an ereader or lose the thing that has been the great passion of their lives longer than many of us have been alive. Suddenly what they’re doing, someone who is faced with the female dog of the aging process, is treated as lesser by people with more options who are sure that time will not take its toll on them as well?

    Of all the barriers between people, this one is ridiculous. Readers dismissing over readers over preferred formats? When we could be discussing books?

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  47. I own an e-reader and all of the above mentioned issues for you are issues for me. I love the fact that I can load a bunch of books on it and only have to take a slim, electronic device, but that’s about it. I’ve been reading since I was five, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving the smell of the paper (be it new or old), the way the pages yellow with time, the way my books get more tired as I love and read them more. I want to like the Kindle, but I almost always buy physical books, even now. Plus I like how full my bookshelves are getting. Also kindles suck for writing notes in the margins, which is definitely something I love.
    Vive le livre!

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  48. I understand I love book paper books

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  49. I own an e-reader, but I don’t use it much. It was a gift for Christmas one year. I’ve downloaded maybe about 100 books onto it and have only read about five of them. I never think about it. Sometimes I’ll look through the books on my kindle just to see what’s there if I’ve gotten into one of my moods, but I never take the time to read them.

    Like

    September 28, 2013
  50. Reblogged this on Hello from me to you and commented:
    I’ve gone off my kindle at the moment even though I have two books for bookclub to read on there but here’s another argument against e-readers. It’s a shame a lot of kids will not get what we’re on about especially with that awful amazon advert going about. shudders

    Like

    September 29, 2013
  51. I resisted the Kindle for many of the same reasons you have. There is a waterproof case for Kindle which I have invested in (keeps water and sand out), and I file “I *definitely* want to reread” books into a folder on my device, so I can find them easily (and I do use that feature). But I don’t have a solution for covers or scent. I definitely miss those features… though being able to carry an entire library on a beach vacation is awfully handy. (Because I DO tend to bring an entire library with me, and it used to be back-breaking!)

    If they can restore scent to the experience… and if airlines will stop making me turn off my book during takeoff and landing… maybe this whole Kindle thing could work out. :)

    Like

    September 29, 2013
  52. Ha ha, excellent points. I love it! It’s all about the smell for me.

    Like

    September 29, 2013
  53. I too want to hold a book in my hands. Something about actually turning the pages and marking my place. My friends also think I am crazy!

    Like

    September 30, 2013
  54. I consistently cite “They Need to Smell” as my #1 reason for disliking e-readers. Overall, I think you just lose a little (or a lot) of the magic behind a book in a digital format. I recently inherited my mom’s old Kindle when she upgraded to the most recent model, and I have now read three books on it. I haven’t found it to be any more convenient when traveling, and I absolutely hate clicking a button rather than turning a page. I haven’t completely given up on it, but I’m still on your side. Real books for the win!

    Like

    September 30, 2013
  55. Natasha Musa #

    I’ve been wanting to get an e-reader for while now but I think even if I bought one it can’t replace an actual book, the smell and feel of paper is something I’d miss the most.

    Like

    October 1, 2013
  56. Reblogged this on yourgirlsbestfriend.

    Like

    October 1, 2013
  57. The smell. The covers. Yeah I definitely agree with you. I mean I can see some advantages in e-readers, but they don’t have me crossing over yet. I still prefer paperbacks.

    Like

    October 4, 2013
  58. Reblogged this on hanan fatima.

    Like

    October 5, 2013
  59. Covers – most of the time, reading a book on my Kindle, because of the amount i read, I have NO IDEA of the title of the book or the author – and that is because, as you say, you never see this. Turn on your Kindle and you go to the last page you were reading. So……….when people say what at you reading, my reply invariably is its called (coughs, mumbles, clear throat) and its by………..I have no idea

    Like

    October 5, 2013
  60. I’m not a fan on them, I want to because I love the idea of just carrying all these books around without my bad weighing a ton but I just can’t get into it. I’ve got an iPad where I have loads of classics as lots of them are free which is cool but it just doesn’t feel the same, maybe one day.

    Like

    October 7, 2013
  61. End Wage Slavery #

    I don’t have any interest in jumping on the e-reader bandwagon. It strikes me as the next fad, the latest gadget that people are buying mainly so other people will see them with it and say “Wow look at him, he’s got the latest gadget”. To me an e-reader doesn’t remotely look or feel like a book. It looks and feels like a little electronic device.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against new technology. I love my computer, can’t live without it. I long for the day electronic cars are perfected enough to displace the internal combustion engine. And so on. But the e-reader is really a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. I’ve been reading since I was very small and I love the look and feel of books, love their smell as you said, love being able to put them on a bookshelf after I’m done reading them so I can see them all and perhaps peruse them another time if I feel like it. What’s so wrong with traditional paper books that they suddenly have to be replaced with something that (to me at least) destroys much of the experience of reading? Most books I read contain more than about 15 lines of text per page before you have to flip the page but the pages I’ve seen on e-readers look ridiculously small. I love to read but nobody on earth reads so much that they need 1,500 books right at their fingertips every second.

    And a normal book I can loan to a friend and let them return it when they’re done. So far the closest thing to that with an e-reader that I’ve heard of is one of them that “allows” you to loan the book YOU ALREADY BOUGHT to a friend as long as they can read it in 14 days. Not everyone can read that fast or has enough time on their hands to read a lengthy book in 14 days especially if they’re reading it a few pages a night. If I paid for it then it’s mine but from what I understand nobody who “buys” e-books for their e-reader is actually buying them but merely paying to be allowed to ACCESS the material so they can read it. Whereas if I bought a real book in a real bookstore and someone tries at a later date to take it back because of some change in copyright law or some nonsense then they’d damn sure need a bigger gun than I have as I’m armed and I don’t suffer fools gladly.

    Besides, real books are durable. You’re not going to be opening someone’s sarcophagus a thousand years from now and finding an e-reader that still works but a real book will still be in readable condition so long as it was in a fairly stable environment like the inside of a sarcophagus. Hell if you so much as drop an e-reader it will break and you’re out a hundred bucks. Download an e-cookbook and try to use it in your kitchen and you’ll get water or spaghetti sauce on it. Drop an e-novel in your bathtub and you’re screwed whereas with a real book you can just let it dry out. The pages might be a little more fluffy but so what? It gives it character. Basically books, real books, have some soul to them. E-readers are soulless like any other electronic equipment. Not pleasing to the eye and an answer to a question nobody asked doesn’t sound like a good investment to me. And no, I’m not some old-fashioned conservative. I’m far more progressive than the Democorporatocrats and their Wall Street hand puppet of a president. And like I said, I like new technology but if it serves a useful purpose, not just new technology that is the equivalent of a kid doing a headstand saying “Look what I can do!”

    Like

    March 29, 2014
  62. End Wage Slavery #

    “Electric” cars rather, not “electronic” cars. The cars today are already pretty well electronic but sadly not electrically-powered.

    Like

    March 29, 2014
  63. I have a nook loaded with books. A great many are ‘classics’ that I read years and years ago. I have always gone through about two, three books a week. For years I got books on loan from the Library but then I reached a point where I had read most of the one that interested me. And I didn’t like that idea of always going to the library because I was running out of books. If a costly ebook interests me, I get it from the library via my nook. It suits my life style, but I do admit I miss a real book.

    Like

    May 7, 2014

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