With the rise of e-books I have reached a crossroads in life. Do we as a society throw away centuries of reading real ink on real paper for the newfangled devices known as e-readers? What a quandary and what exciting times we live in to witness such new technological wonders. Now I know how my sainted mother felt when permanent press fabric was introduced and she no longer had to dread spending hours tethered to her medieval era ironing board. (Not that she ever ironed, she just always dreaded it.)
It is still hard for me to let go of books as a tangible thing. They seem so real compared to a collection of bits and bytes. Will future totalitarian societies have to forgo book burning and instead replace these ceremonies with book deleting?
On the one hand, I like real books. They’re all I’ve known and they have been faithful companions throughout my life. On the other hand, maybe e-books are better for the environment since they use less paper and ink. But are they really? They are made up of chemicals and toxic materials that will eventually be tossed in a landfill as a new generation of e-readers with built-in cappuccino makers is released. My brother is a professional forester (as opposed, I guess, to an amateur one) and he assures me that wood is a renewable resource so the use of paper isn’t a major issue.
Even with all this new technology how do you decide which one to get? With names like Kindle, I-pad, Libre, Literati, Velocity Micro, Touch and, my gosh, Nook, they sound more like sexual aids than something I would carry on a plane. They tout their ability to carry 3,500 books but even as an avid reader I doubt I have read that many in my lifetime.
My wife and I are planning to take a year off and travel around the world. I figured an e-reader would definitely come in handy for such a journey. Then I found out that I wouldn’t be able to download books in other countries as freely as I do here. In fact the Nook will only allow US downloads.
I contacted the good folks at the Amazon.com customer service department to see if I would be able to download books overseas. Their answer was definitely maybe. So a gadget that is designed for traveling would not be useful for…traveling.
The other day I tried out a Kindle for the first time. It seemed nice enough but what’s with that black and white flash it emits when you turn the page? I felt like I was watching the onstage pyroblasts at a Metallica concert. That type of light show doesn’t seem too relaxing for bedtime reading.
I asked my friend Charlie what he thought of the e-book phenomena. Although a few years older than me, Charlie is an early adopter of new technology. He was using the Internet when it was still a gleam in Al Gore’s eye and was paying his credit card bills by touch tone phone while I still had a rotary dial.
Charlie was an early purchaser of the Kindle and loved it. But then a funny thing happened. His phone, in his case an I-phone, natch, can also download books. He has now ditched his Kindle and reads books on his phone. I’m starting to think that e-readers will go the way of other here today gone tomorrow technology, the high-tech equivalent of eight track tapes and Michael Dukakis inauguration tickets.
If anyone can offer me advice on this issue I’d appreciate it.
UPDATE: July 21, 2011
Well I bought the Kindle about a month ago and I have to say it’s not rocking my world. I DO judge a book by its cover and in a Kindle they are coverless. You can’t flip through Kindle books easily and the total experience comes nowhere near to reading an actual book. Plus I am used to borrowing books for free at the library (they still do exist) or browsing used bookstores for hidden gems. The Kindle may come in handy on my year-long trip but I have a feeling that upon my return I’ll be selling it on Ebay.