Monday, November 19, 2007

E-Readers: Suckfest or ... Not?

So I've never been in love with the idea of e-books. I'm too cheap to buy a reader, because to me they just look like heavy, carpal-tunnel-aggravating little monsters with blindingly bright screens--a headache in a box, if you will. And as I spend so much time on my computer all day, the LAST thing I want to do is read books on it during my leisure time. When I've bought e-books (generally by friends), I usually print the things out--an act of environmental terrorism that I'd rather keep to a minimum. (Can't give a printout to charity or a used bookstore for reuse, after all.)

But I clicked on today to find a letter from CEO Jeffrey Bezos introducing a little e-reader called Kimble, and I have to confess, my curiousity is piqued. OK, I'm actually kind of salivating over the thing. Not that I'm ready to convert all of my books to Kimble, but I'll be watching this little device to see whether my fellow readers (who aren't technophobes when it comes to all things book-related) are feeling the love.

Bezos' first two paragraphs didn't set my hair on fire. First, he says:

The physical book is so elegant that the artifact itself disappears into the background. The paper, glue, ink, and stitching that make up the book vanish, and what remains is the author's world.

For me, that's not true. I love the reassuring weight of a book in my hands. I love the crack of a fresh binding and the crisp smell of new paper and fresh ink (hopefully it's soy ink, or I'm probably giving myself a lung condition...). I love flipping a book over sporadically while I'm reading to look at the cover art and reconsider the artist's interpretation of what I'm reading. I REALLY love beautiful books--with interesting fonts, beautiful cover art, or even evocative illustrations or photos. The physical book is very much a part of my reading experience--it's never disappears on my planet.

Then, Bezos says:

I've also been infatuated with the idea of electronic books. The booklover in me often has asked the nerd in me, "Is there a way to get the emotions and experiences I love from books, but combined with the possibilities of advanced technology? Can something as evolved as the book be improved?"

He almost lost me there. For the reasons stated or implied above, I've never been infatuated with e-books. And I don't think the paper book can be improved--other than perhaps printing it on more eco-friendly paper that isn't going to eat the rainforests, decimate entire animal and medicinal plant populations, and exacerbate global warming to the point where my family's future destination of Minnesota might actually become warm and beachy within my lifetime.

I have to admit, I find a geekalicious joy in shelving my pristine-as-possible favorites on my beautiful oak bookshelves, occasionally pulling them all down to dust and re-alphabetize, just because for some peculiar reason, I find that soothing. I love going into brick and mortar bookstores and losing myself among the shelves, pulling down book after book and feeling its promise like a weight in my hand--it's my therapy after a week gone wrong. The thought of all of that disappearing makes me want to pelt anyone who would dare render the paper book obsolete with clunky, garishly bright e-readers until they cry, "Aunt!"

(My brother is shrieking, "NERD!" at his computer screen right now. Shut up, Tom, who has every Voltron, Defender of the Universe DVD ever made on his Christmas wish list.)

But because I'm procrastinating (Shocker.), I kept on reading Bezos' letter. Kindle, it seems, is a wireless, portable reading device that enjoys access to more than 90,000 books, blogs, magazines, and newspapers, downloaded in 60 seconds or less.

The wireless part is intriguing--you don't need a WiFi hotspot or a wireless modem at home, because it uses cell phone technology (satellite, maybe?). Best of all, there are no Faustian, interminable contracts where you pay the monthly equivalent your children's college tuition for spotty, unreliable, perpetually call-dropping service. That spotty, unreliable service is free!

It weighs 10.3 ounces, so no carpal tunnel aggravation there. And, Bezos claims that the "electronic paper" technology used on the screen is sharp, natural, glare-free, and nothing like reading a computer screen.

They've got a little video on the Kimble product page featuring none other than Toni Morrison endorsing it, if that kind of thing matters to you. As well as some dude with the unfortunate name of Guy Kawasaki. Neil Gaiman claims it's "just like paper," and James Patterson calls it "kind of magical."

I promised myself I'd try to calm down with the book buying next year and calm down with unnecessary purchases, as well. But I have to confess, for the moment, I'm not hating on the thought of an e-reader. I think I just drooled a little, too....


Cathy in AK said...

One downside of an e-reader: If you're reading a particularly bad paperback book and feel like flinging it across the room, you won't hurt the wall or the book much. But an e-reader? *crack!* *crunch!*

Just saying.... : )

Tracy Montoya said...

LOL! Very true, Cathy. I'm thinking that I won't be giving up my paper books any time soon....

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Ah, but if you hate it that much? DELETE and it's gone. LOL.
I haven't given up my paperbacks either. I, too, love the feel of a book in my hand.
But ebooks ARE cheaper and with over a thousand books in my house, I don't have room for all the stuff I love to read.
So, I compromise. I'm still looking into a good ebook reader.
Tracy, might I suggest you check out
She does reviews of the different technologies out there.
And she's VERY tech savvy.

Tracy Montoya said...

Jen, somehow hitting a delete button isn't as satisfying as dropping a bad book in my driveway and running it over. I've only done that once, but still....

Everyone's been telling me to check out lately. I'll have to do that! (More procrastination tools! Yes!)

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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