May 23rd 2014
My E-Reader and Me: A Match Made In “Meh”
This year, around the holidays, I finally broke down and bought myself an E-reader. Actually, it was a gift, but it was one of those gifts. You know the ones. I told my wife that I was interested in getting one, and spent so much time telling her exactly what I was looking for that she finally said, “It sounds great. Order it, and when it arrives I’ll wrap it, slap a ribbon on it, and hand it back to you.”
What did I want that was so specific? Well, I wanted something small, that I could use as easily out in direct sunlight, say at the beach, as I could in bed late at night when she was already asleep. So it had to be one of the old fashioned black-and-white readers with a matte screen and back light — an iPad Mini, which I REALLY coveted because they’re just so cool, wouldn’t work. Too much glare. I wanted it to be compatible across as many ebook platforms as possible — I did NOT want it to be specific just to Kindle format or the equivalent. In fact, I really didn’t want to buy into Amazon’s empire at all, nor Barnes and Noble’s, nor Apple’s. And I wanted to be able to read not only published books, but also unfinished manuscripts, be they my own or those of colleagues. So it needed to be able to handle .pdf files, and, if possible, .doc and .rtf files as well. And finally, with our first kid in college and our second not that far away from same, I didn’t want to spend a lot.
In the end, I ordered a Kobo Glow. It was relatively inexpensive; it handles computer files and a variety of ebook formats. The screen is glare-free; the back light works well. It’s not too big, and the cover I bought with it works nicely and looks classy. And I liked the idea of buying something from a plucky little Canadian company instead of one of the behemoths.
So, now I have an E-reader. And despite getting pretty much exactly what I was after, I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Oh, the device itself is fine. Kobo’s online bookstore interface is a little clunky, and there are things about the Kobo utility software that annoy me. And it’s not an iPad Mini. Those things are so cool . . . I guess I said that already. But the Kobo does what it’s supposed to do, and it has enabled me to read through a number of manuscripts with ease, and without having to lug the pages around. On the whole I’m pleased if not overwhelmed with the purchase.
But I like books. Paper ones. The kind that I’ve been reading since I was a little kid. My wife has an iPad — not a Mini (which are so cool) but one of the full-sized ones — and she reads on it almost exclusively now. I know lots of people who are like that. They got their E-reader and haven’t touched a paper book since. I still read paper books by default. In part that’s because I have so many of them sitting in my office that I have yet to read. It could take me years to get through all of them, and by then my little black-and-white Kobo will look about as new and exciting as a Smith Corona Selectric. (For those of you who don’t get the reference, that’s the brand and model of electric typewriter I received as a present when I graduated from high school. [Cue crickets] Okay, for those of you who don’t know, an electric typewriter is a device that . . . Oh, hell, ask your parents.)
Sometimes I enjoy the E-reader. I love gadgets, and I will admit that carrying the Kobo with me when I travel is a lot better than carrying a couple of books and two or three manuscripts or bound galleys. I’m not a Luddite — I’m not at all tech-adverse. I love my computers (yes, I have a couple) and my smart phone. And I’m also aware of the environmental arguments in favor of ebooks: from production, through transportation, to warehouse storage, we as a society pay a hefty cost in carbon expenditure for our paper books. I get that. But on the other hand, on a purely personal level, I spend the better part of just about every day in front of either my desktop or my laptop, or fiddling around with that phone. The last thing I want to do when I decide to kick back with a “book” is stare at another screen. And it’s not as though the manufacture of electronics is easy on the planet.
In the end, my preference for “real” books is probably pretty basic. It comes down to aesthetics. People talk about the smell of a paper book, the tactile quality of turning pages, the comforting heft of holding a hardcover. I can relate to all of that. An E-reader is more convenient, but much of that convenience is tied to eliminating those sensual elements of reading that I like most. An E-reader is sleek (but there’s no paper smell or feel). I can turn pages with a tap of the screen (but I like turning real pages). It’s light and easy to hold (it’s almost too light).
I’m not saying I’m going to ditch my Kobo. There are times when convenience is more important than aesthetics. And it is a cool little device — I mean it’s no iPad Mini, but what the hell. That said, though, I won’t be getting rid of my paper books any time soon; in fact, I’ll keep buying them for as long as they’re available.
What about you? Where are you on the whole paper versus screens thing?David B. Coe http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://www.DBJackson-author.com
David B. Coe
David B. Coe (http://www.DavidBCoe.com) is the Crawford award-winning author of the LonTobyn Chronicle, the Winds of the Forelands quintet, the Blood of the Southlands trilogy, and a number of short stories. Writing as D.B. Jackson (http://www.dbjackson-author.com), he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a blend of urban fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction. David is also part of the Magical Words group blog (http://magicalwords.net), and co-author of How To Write Magical Words: A Writer’s Companion. In 2010 he wrote the novelization of director Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Visit site.
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