Does Anyone Actually Like eReaders?

by Joel Friedlander on October 27, 2009 · 15 comments

Have you ever made a podcast? I listen to them all the time, every day while I’m at the gym or in the car. It’s a great way to take in information and I find a really good podcast can bear repeating because each time I hear it a different part of my brain seems to be listening.
PRS300SCI’m planning to start making podcasts for theBookDesigner.com but I’ve been pretty disappointed with the sound quality of my experiments so I headed over to Best Buy to find a replacement.

Sometimes You Find What You Weren’t Looking For

Here’s something you may not know: Best Buy doesn’t sell microphones. A friendly floor-walker there suggested Radio Shack or the local music store. On my way out, grumbling over a wasted trip, I stopped to have a go at the Sony Reader display.

The basic model, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition was fully operational and I spent some time moving through the menus and loading up texts. I have to say that the liquid paper screen technology these e-readers use is quite good, giving a readable surface without any glare or backlight that wears on the eyes after a while.

Other than that, and the efficiency of being able to carry “hundreds of books” on you all the time—none of the ads for these readers can supply any credible reason why someone would want to walk around with an entire library in their pocket—I just can’t see why these things are popular.

You Call This Reading?

Forget for a minute that even the stripped down model is two hundred dollars. Scrolling through the menus was anything but smooth. Page “turns” caused the unit to do that “LCD flash” thing each time, which disturbs the restful state you had been in from reading the page you just finished.

Except for title pages and the odd decorative element the pages are bleak, the type faces choppy, the justification awkward, the sizes boringly the same. All in all, not really a pleasant experience.

Even a mass-produced printed book is a far superior experience. What’s more, it is likely to transmit the author’s thoughts and expression far more effectively than the experience you have—moderated by still-primitive technology—with an e-reader.

Is This The Future? Don’t Close the Paper Mills!

Maybe this is the future of books, when all the trees will be saved from the paper mills but we’ll be consigned to a world of flat and lifeless e-readers. Of course this technology will continue to improve and, for a while at least, the printed book will be the model on which the e-readers are based, and against which they’ll be judged.

But I’m not looking forward to it. How about you? Are you a Kindle-lover? An e-reader enthusiast? Why? I’m curious.

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    { 15 comments… read them below or add one }

    AM October 27, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Yeah! I am a technology fan… a big fan… but I do not love e-readers, not yet.

    I’m sure they are the future of content distribution, but I hope it is a long time before they replace pbooks. I enjoy reading paper and so far, the ereaders are not a suitable replacement.

    Reply

    Sarah Ettritch October 28, 2009 at 4:53 am

    I do most of my reading on transit. I’m also downloading e-books from the net more and more (not pirated–either free or I buy them). I bought a Sony eReader a few days ago so I can read those books when I’m on transit. Otherwise I’ll never get to them. Many freebies aren’t available in print, so it’s the e-book or nothing.

    Reply

    admin October 28, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    @Sarah,

    It does seem to make sense on transit, I mean, how many books could you carry? And I like the idea of freebies!

    I’m curious, though. When you’re at home, do you reach for the Sony or for a “book”?

    Reply

    admin October 28, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    @AM, I can see the readers as a great solution for students who have to carry expensive, heavy, hard to update textbooks. Now that sounds like a good idea, otherwise, I’m not convinced yet!

    Reply

    Sarah Ettritch October 28, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I haven’t had the eReader long enough to say for sure, but I strongly suspect that I’ll reach for a book. If a book is only available as an e-book and I’m at home, I’ll read it on my computer (larger screen). I see e-book readers as an “on the go” gadget, at least for me.

    Reply

    Wendy Bertsch July 19, 2011 at 12:02 am

    Who on earth wouldn’t want to walk around with an entire library in their pocket?
    I love anything that will put the words in front of me. I love books — I have a house full of them, including some really beautiful antiques. But when I’m reading, it’s all about the words, and I barely notice the format. I’ve been reading the classics for years in vanilla text on a backlit computer screen and enjoyed every word.
    I just checked, and of course you’re right. There is an LCD flash thing going on every time I change the page on my eReader. I’ve had it since January, and never noticed until now. It would take a lot more than that
    to break my concentration.
    So, you see — different strokes for different folks. If I were a book designer rather than a writer, I’d feel quite differently.
    But the short answer is, I think eReaders are the greatest thing since Gutenberg’s press, and unlike books, they’re just going to keep getting better!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 19, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Wendy,

    It’s interesting to look at this piece after almost 2 years. e-Books and e-book readers have come a very long way since then and, although I don’t read many books on e-readers, they have become an intrinsic and growing part of the publishing world, and it looks like they are here to stay. Thanks for your perspective.

    Reply

    Anke Wehner February 3, 2012 at 12:24 am

    One reason where having a whole library, or at least a whole lot of books, in compact form would be if you like reading on your holiday. Saves lots of space and weight in your luggage.

    I got an ereader mostly because I noticed I’d almost stopped buying new books for the simple reason that I’m running out of room for them, but I found it actually more pleasant to read on that than on paper. It’s very comfortable to only hold the reader, compared to having to hold a book open to keep it from flapping shut. And neither do I have to look half-sideways at a bent page, or worry about cracked spines. That made up for the relatively dark background and ever so slightly slightly pixeliated type.

    I’m not sure what you mean by LCD-flash, particularly since you were talking about an eink reader, but that may be because I’ve got a later model, at least if the image is accurate.

    I agree with the previous commenter: It’s really more about the content, for novels. Coffee table books, or anything else with a lot of illustrations, I agree works better in print, but for straight text it doesn’t matter to me. It’s about the story.

    Reply

    Thomas February 3, 2012 at 1:33 am

    I read a lot of your articles as I get them on twitter. For me, the only thing I’d truly miss if print books went out is the ‘feel’ of the pages and maybe the scent. But for me, a book is a book, regardless of the format. For 3 years I read fanfic on the net while reading paper books. I love stories, period. The kindle thing isn’t an insult to the paper books in my mind. More a interesting development. I barely notice the big flash myself.

    Reply

    Laura Pauling February 3, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I enjoy both. I like that i can make the print bigger. Some print books, the print is small and crammed on the page. Not fun at all. I enjoy both. But for a book I love, I’d rather have print. But it doesn’t seems to detract from enjoying the story.

    Reply

    Andreas Krauß March 14, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Well, if you mean strictly eReaders, as in “Kindle”, no, I don’t like them. I hate them. Tried 3 of ‘em, and was frustrated by their performance, that stupid “e-ink” feature, their inability to depict PDFs right, the missing color etc. every time.

    So I finally went to ebay, and bought an Ipad 1 used, for about 300 $.

    And know what? I LOVE it! Finally, you can read your books as they were meant to. In color. On the beach. In the train. In the waiting hall. Even in the waiting line, although that’s a bit extreme.

    I tried Galaxy tab too– but as it turned out, the GT is just too small to read some documents (the complex ones with lots of color images and/or a complex layout) comfortably. And it has a big problem with PDFs, despite all the apps for PDF-reading.

    Whereas for Ipad, all you need is Goodreader, and you’re all set, since it will depict even the most complex PDF cristall clear, no matter HOW many color pictures and other design hoops it has to jump through.

    And the Ibooks app is a GREAT solution for reading epub books, too.

    So my advice is: FORGET about “ereaders”. They’re toys, designed more for people who want to brag, “I read so much, I nead an eReader because I’m ALLWAYS reading!!” than for people who really want to *enjoy* their books everywhere.

    Ipad, while more expensive than the average eReader, depicts books far better, hence, makes for a far better reading experience and you can do much with it that you can do with your PC: listening to music, writing books, drawing, researching on the web, etc.

    So although I first shied away from Ipad (it seemed to be more for the video crowd), I finally tried it, and now I take it with me whenever I expect to wait longer than 5 minutes.

    To make it short: Don’t waste your time & money trying out the latest eReaders. Just buy an Ipad 1 used on Ebay or some store. And start reading.

    Reply

    Anke Wehner March 14, 2012 at 5:59 am

    Black and white is perfectly serviceable if you’re mostly reading novels, rather than illustrated nonfiction, or comics, or other books heavy on pictures. So it depends on personal habits what’s more suitable for which person-who-reads.

    Reply

    Andreas Krauß March 14, 2012 at 6:31 am

    Certainly, b&w is serviceable. But if you want the whole works, an ereader just isn’t good enough.

    I prefer to read layouted novels as opposed to .txt novels, which you can’t really do in an ereader.

    Then there’s the illustrated non-fiction you just mentioned. Or even fiction that uses color and color graphics as a part of its design, as many PDFs do. What then?

    And yes, I do read comics mobile, albeit just the pre-90s classics from DC and Marvel. That too was one of the reasons I tried the IP. With a lowly “ereader”, I would be unable to do so.

    As I implied earlier, ereaders gave me (at best) a highly crippled “reading” experience, as opposed to my current mobile reading vehicle. Why should you limit yourself to living in a black and white world if you have the chance to enter a four color world?

    Reply

    Thomas March 17, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Andreas Krauß it sounds like you are making an advertisement no offense. We can debate all we like but it all comes down to opinion. I like books, ok stories. While I relish Hardcover books; the ones that I try to get with my FAVORITE books, you can’t get that with any ereader. So if you have like hundreds of dollars to blow, then go for the Kindle FIRE or ipad or whatever, but if you don’t? Well, the Kindle Touch sounds cool too.

    Reply

    Andreas Krauß March 17, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Sorry, but it’s no advertisement. It is my experience.

    Yes, if you lack the hundreds of dollars (I got my ipad used, after all, and 500 $+ would’ve been out of my budget, too), then you’ll just have to settle for something else. But I had a sudden money-burst, I was frustrated by the attempts of getting a good ebook reader to through 3 attempts to the point of giving up on it altogether, and I finally made an investition and found my IP cheap; and I tried it and never looked back.

    I can’t talk about the kindle Fire, since I never used it. But it seems to me that if you pay more than 100 $, the gadget should be able to do more than read books on a small screen.

    No, my favorite books aren’t in ebook format, not yet. But I have that problem already solved. One way is scanning them to PDF, which was my plan all along anyway. And there are other solutions too.

    But if you don’t like tablets or or don’t want to read complexely designed books mobile, there’s little cause for you to shill out the money for a good mobile reader, that is true.

    Reply

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