Thursday, May 06, 2010

E-books and e-readers

Yesterday, I was following the May Blogroll over at NaBloPoMo and stumbled across Becky's blog called Musings from the Sofa. She had classified it as a blog that is predominantly about books, so of course I was interested in seeing how she was doing with her daily posts.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that she had posted a mild rant about e-books and e-readers. I felt compelled to respond. You should go read Emily's comments and criticisms. Here is my response:

I’m an e-book evangelist. To me the most important thing is the story. For a novel, short stories, even a biography, I really don’t care if the characters that I read are printed onto paper or rendered onto a screen. It *does* matter to me how comfortable it is to read. Therefore, I’m not likely to be reading on my laptop, netbook, or even a flat-screen monitor. But give me the e-Ink screen on a Kindle, Sony, Nook, or other electronic Reader, and I’m terribly happy.

My biggest complaint today is that most publishers haven’t taken e-books seriously. Formatting is often substandard—which the publisher would not accept in a paper book, but which they are glad to sell me in electronic format. And, I probably wouldn’t mind so much except that current e-book sales carry terms and conditions that basically say that I don’t *own* the e-books I buy. I can’t sell them or give them away after I’ve read them. Well, if the book must remain in my permanent library, it ought to be produced to higher quality standards.

I don’t need color. I don’t need things that move & wiggle. I don’t need to drag Internet content into my book. I can go get those things with my laptop or netbook. I need stories; at a fair price point; in a well-crafted product.

I still buy paper books—paperback only ’cause the hardbacks are too large, too heavy, and too expensive. I don’t think e-books will ever replace paper books, but they are great alternatives.

So, what do you think? Do you own an electronic reader? Do you use it? How often?

Of the 54 books I've read this year, 45 of them were printed on paper. This is largely related to the active book swapping that I do at BookObsessed and BookCrossing. I also loaned my Kindle to my librarian for a couple of months to give her an opportunity to see how she liked reading with it and to evaluate whether she might want to purchase a couple of readers for lending to patrons. I just got it back at the end of April, and I've already read two electronic books. I'm sure that the ratio of paper-to-electronic will change a bit during the year, but I'll still finish out the year having read more paper books than e-books. That's OK, though. It's the story that matters.

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