Wednesday, March 23

The Enigma of E-Readers

Ereaders have always been somewhat alien to me. I see people discussing them and debating the dawn of ebooks but thus far I have kept my distance. Like a lot of things I've heard about in the past but never thought I'd warm to - such as Twitter - I have become more knowledgeable about ebooks and, though I am no expert, I'm enticed.

I'm not a technophobe, but as a book lover I have always thought of myself as somewhat of a purist when it comes to publishing formats. I like the idea of ezines and reading short fiction by other writers online, but when it came to novels I felt that turning pages should be something tangible, paper that you can grasp.

Ebooks made me wary. The music and film industries were the first to hit the web, with devices such as iPods causing simple files to trump clumsy discs. All the time I hear and see warnings about piracy and what a threat it is to these industries. As an aspiring author, it was not a cute prospect that the same fate could come to books. Some fanatic even scanned and uploaded every page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows weeks before it was released. An existing file would make it that much easier to spread through cyberspace.

However, I'm not longer timid or afraid of ebooks. They excite me. I like the prospect of accessing books on my own little portable device. I may live in a country now where I am surrounded by titles I would never see on shelves in New Zealand, but the idea that I could easily obtain a title without having to wait for it to ship is extremely pleasing. Ebooks still seem to carry that romanticism of a hidden secret. I'm never going to leave printed books behind but I'm open to reading electronic ones too.

Since my interest in ebooks has blossomed, I've been tempted to get my own ereader. I had no clue what ereaders did (besides the obvious) and had only read a little about them in passing.

The first ereader that caught my attention was the Kobo. That is because it was the only one being sold in stores in NZ and the first one I was physically able to touch, since one of the people in my writing group had one. It was light to hold but all I did was push a few buttons. Clueless me had no idea how to work it, even with directions.

The second ereader that caught my fancy was the Kindle. This seemed like the ereader to have, and after a fair amount of research and questioning, I had already coveted it as my desired ereader. Another of the people in my writing group ordered the newest Kindle and I was able to discover what it was really like. It wasn't quite what I expected. The way the screen went black in-between page turns bothered me and I was at war with those little click-click buttons. Still, I had the Kindle in mind as my preferred choice.

After moving to New York City, I became acquainted with the Barnes & Noble stores. They are the thriving bookstore chain here and at the entrance of every B&N store I have entered is always a display of the Nook Color, with staff on hand to answer questions.

I did some research on the Nook and decided that it appealed to me as a new front-runner. It was touch screen, in colour, had a lot of space, a good battery life, and I learnt that - unlike the Kindle - it would allow me to borrow books from the library.*

So today I went to my local Barnes & Noble and experimented with the Nook Color. It was a little heavier than I expected but I adored the touch screen and ease of turning the pages. When talking to the sales assistant though, there were a couple of snags I learned of.

First, I cannot buy books from the Amazon website. This was news to me as I thought Kindle ebooks were accessible through the Android system, which the Nook has but apparently it is a specific type which doesn't allow Kindle books.

Second, a Nook ereader would not be as useful to me outside of the US as it would be harder for me to purchase eBooks. Not a great situation to be in when I go back to New Zealand.

In the end, I'm still inexperienced on the ereader front and all of these models still appeal. They offer so much and I know there are many other options out there that I haven't even come across yet. The only question remains: Which one is for me?

What are your thoughts on eBooks? Do you have your own eReader?

I'd love to know what you think of the different models and how they affect the way you read.

*I now borrow books all the time from the library with my Android Kindle app, so this is an obsolete problem if it ever was one.

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