When Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007, readers everywhere were amazed. Suddenly there was a device that allowed constant access to literature: novels, anthologies, poems, newspapers, magazines, etc., all at (literally) their fingertips. For some, it would provide the opportunity to increase the frequency in which they read and the conceptual convenience of buying books electronically almost instantaneously trumped the idea of driving to the bookstore or library, looking up a title or author, and going through the check-out process. For others, it was a terrifying forecast of things to come in the literary world; the absence of a paper-back book, the eventual inability to flip a page, both symbolically and literally, the end of book stores and libraries as we know them. Then came Barnes & Nobles’ Nook in 2009 followed by the ever-famous IPad (which, among many other things, may act as an E-Reader) in 2010.
So, if you are an avid reader, someone who salivates at the idea of a rainy day, knowing it will be the perfect chance to stay on the couch with a book, or if you are someone in love with the magic that reading provides, in love with the magic of characters, of plot and irony, how are you supposed to know if these E-Readers are for you, and, if they are, how you may maintain a balance between the expedience of technology and the time-honored tradition of the paperback book?
The first thing to consider is the price of an E-Reader. They may range anywhere from 100 to 500 dollars, depending on the features you choose. Factor this in with your reading habits: will the device be an eventual money-saver? How often do you purchase paperback books? For the next few months, keep track of the books you buy and how much they cost. If you find that you are hitting the triple-digits within a few months, then an E-Reader would have already paid for itself. Another monetary consideration is classic literature. The Amazon Kindle, for example, offers free classics, including British authors like Jane Austen. Since the average classic paperback costs around seven dollars (new), the device will have provided you with convenience and rebate. And, if you are like me, then you have that one book (To Kill a Mockingbird, let’s say) on your shelf. You will recognize this particular book by its barely-there binding, its stained edges, and the dog-ears on every page. How many times have you purchased this novel? I ask because an electronic book will not wear or tear. It automatically saves your spot for you, so dog-ears are non existent, and the pages will never get cluttered with notes in the margin because E-Readers allow you to bookmark and highlight as much as you’d like, all in a separate, far-away, digital place. Also, if you are someone who loves the individuality of different covers on books, there are plenty of wonderful and personal accessories to be bought for E-Readers, so your self-expression will not be lost. Phew.
Now consider this: these portable, electronic, rectangular wonders of utility make it very easy to get lost in how much you are spending. Picture yourself wandering through the aisles of a bookstore. You look down at the pile of books that has formed in your arms. You think: do I really need six books? So, you ditch a few of them. This occurrence can be lost in the electronic world, especially because books are purchased individually. If you find that you are someone who becomes a bit compulsive when they shop or that you have a tendency to spend more than you realize, perhaps you may want to reconsider a device that is going to make it much more easy and convenient to be separated with your hard earned dollar. Also, devices have the tendency to stop working, to freeze, to break, to shatter. A book doesn’t have a hard-drive. If you drop a book, you won’t be overcome by the insatiable desire to cry, and a book certainly doesn’t necessitate a screen protector.
So, all that being said, E-Readers can be a wonderful way to experiment with what you read. Although the initial cost may be, for some, unjustifiable, if you buy two or more books every couple of months, over a years time your E-Reader will have made itself worth your money. Check out Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, or Apple.com to find out more about E-Readers. Mostly, remember that it is possible to enjoy the luxury of modern technology while holding fast to your traditions. You can still have the books on your shelf, you can still visit the library or bookstore, and you can certainly still relish in the charm and enlightenment a book may bring.