Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I have an Ereader, Yes I do.

One bright day in Sunny San Diego PoseySessions and I walked into a Barnes & Noble and we walked out with a Nook. It was an amazing gift from the greatest gal ever. So I have an ereader (more like we have one, I think she uses it as much as me) so what, right? No! I have found this device to be a blessing, and sometimes a curse. One amazing thing about owning an ereader is the freedom it offers. I can get any book anytime I want and I can take it and a thousand others anywhere I go. It is also ergonomic. While opening a book and holding it in your hands is not the most physically demanding of activities, it can sometimes be annoying, especially with big bulky hardcovers, that refuse to lay flat or cooperate with our one handed attempts at holding them while multitasking. My nook lays flat anywhere, that is actually the first thing I realized I loved about it. I could set it on my lap and hold my bag of chi…err carrot sticks in one hand and double half calf soy milk mocha frap in the other, and never once have to contend with the pages slowly creeping shut on me. So I guess I fell in love with the lazy factor.

The amount of books I have on my nook is ridiculous, honestly I dont think I will ever read them all, even though I would love to do it someday. Along with books my nook is also home to a number of academic articles that, because the Nook reads .pdf, are easily accessible for studying on the go. Thanks to sites like Project Gutenberg I feel like I am never far away from thousands of (free) and enlightening books. After entertaining lectures, or reading the bibliography of a particularly good book I find myself browsing the Gutenberg library of public domain books in search of more and more information on whatever topic has caught my eye. Another amazing site is NetGalley where book reviewers big and small (me) have access to hundreds of ebook ARCs made available for review purposes. Between these two sites I will never run out of stuff to read.

However neat it may be, gathering thousands of books is not really a good thing. I have no sense of urgency or expenditure, and I am often lacking motivation to read or finish the books I have amassed. When I think of reading something on my Nook I often end up saying “I can read that anytime".” Whereas, having checked it out from a library, or more pressingly, spent money on it I am much more likely to read something. Every ebook I have paid for has been read to completion on the device. But the other few hundred remain unopened, so far.

I feel a little silly complaining about having too many books. So I will stop now. And instead focus on why I think the device, and to a lesser extent the Kindle (I have only spent a few minutes using one) are still lacking necessary features, or maybe feature. I first envisioned the Nook as a great way to further and assist my studies. I have spent many hours with my faced buried in articles from academic journals, sometimes printing over 100 pages of them in one sitting. I dreamt of easily highlighting and annotating my articles and then during discussions easily searching my notes for points. It did not happen this way. Highlighting and annotating on a Nook is an excruciating process that takes the reader out of the article and into a maze of menus and buttons. So much so that I refuse to do it. I manually (with a pen and paper!!!) write notes and page numbers to avoid having to manipulate the device. In next gen readers I would love to see easy touch screen highlighting that automatically popped up a little touch keypad where notes could be entered, and then a notes file generated where then entire ebook could be uploaded to a pc in highlighted and annotated form with a glossary of notes. Cross your fingers.

In the end I think ereaders are a wave of the future, not THE wave of the future. I do not see them easily replacing paper books. Their is a romanticism surrounding the bound book and I doubt it disappears rapidly. Only when every other aspect of society is paperless do I think we will see real physical books go the way of the buffalo. An ebook reader is a great investment just in terms convenience. When you consider the low prices of some of the great readers on the market they even make sense financially. Some of the best stories ever written, some of the most interesting philosophy, and some of mankind’s greatest observations are freely available in public domain. For the price of ten or twelve of those books in paper copies you could own your own ereader packed with hundreds of them for free. I know a lot of people are resistant to making the switch. But I don't think of it as an all or nothing change. My Nook has its place, as do the hundreds of physical books I have lining my bookshelves. The Nook merely compliments my reading and makes getting a book on demand so much easier. I downloaded a book while standing in the middle of times square, because I just couldn't wait! and for me, that's freedom.


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