To E or Not to E?

Okay friends, help me out.

I think I want an e-reader.

The thought of all those free public domain books just there for the downloading! The portability. The clutter reduction. The instant access. The saving of trees! And yes, I admit, the novelty of a new gadget.

But then, there’s the electricity consumption – minimal though it may be. And the purchase price. And the complication of gadgetry (it could break or crash or I could lose it). And the piles of books I already own that I have not read. And the many more used books I could buy without any more trees needing to be cut.

Not to mention the library, a beautiful building just blocks from my house where I can get many of the books I want (though not all, not even through the magic of interlibrary loan).

But now even the library has digital books available!

What would you say to an one such as I? Fire away.


  1. Hey Julia……I like technology. I say go for the e reader. In the future the only place you will be able to see books as we know them now is in a museum. Times change and we must change with them or we get left behind. Just ask the phone booth or the LP or the 45. Hey,where is my ipod………….

  2. Julia,

    My brother bought me a Kindle for my birthday last week and it was sorting through all of the same issues that led me to buy one. The one additional factor for our family was moving books versus moving e-books. I have had to re-home more than a thousand books because of moving. I think though that once we get settled it will be a mix of buying used books and e-books. I will never be able to live without the feel of paper, the smell of the ink, and imagining who else has turned the pages.


  3. Oh boy, do I understand how you’re feeling! I went through this a couple years ago. On the one hand, I remember the horror of reading an Isaac Asimov science fiction story on the subject in 6th grade ( – feels wrong to link to that story on a computer screen). On the other hand…free books in the public domain, all at my fingertips. Eventually, I gave in and asked for a Nook for Christmas. Google Books was a biggie for me—that’s mostly what I use mine for. It’s also been handy to be able to take a 500-page novel with me when I travel rather than lugging it in my backpack or leaving it behind.

    I still prefer books and use them 75 percent of the time. But it does seem that we’re inevitably headed in the direction of the widespread ebook, and I’d like to stay on top of the game, especially if I’ll be publishing someday. One unexpected benefit for me is that I read faster on my Nook than I do on traditional books. The smell and the feel of the paper is so distracting to me that I spend more time holding hands with my book than I do reading it. 😉

    Do you have a particular e-reader in mind?

  4. Hey, Julia …

    Greetings from Bangladesh!

    We have a Sony Reader, purchased in preparation for our move to Bangladesh (no bookstores, no libraries, no friends from which to borrow). Admittedly, we never use it. In ways, it’s difficult to even explain why we haven’t been easy converts. We have such a tactile connection to ink and paper! It definitely appealed to us to have Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights “on our shelf” without the necessary weight/space demands in an international move. But practice has not caught up to theory in this case, sad to say.

    We’re committed to making better use of it this year. Having near-instant access is the primary motivating factor in a world that otherwise cuts us off from any access at all. But it’s just as likely that we continue to delude ourselves into the notion that we will ever truly be e-reader-readers.

    As an aside: I don’t know that we would recommend the Sony Reader. The user interface is harder to use and there is a much smaller selection when it comes to books published in the last 10 years. It is easier when it comes to reading books in the public domain as Project Gutenberg and Google Books publish in EPUB format. That said, free conversion software like Calibre makes those just as accessible via Kindle by adding a single extra step. It’s easier to convert files from EPUB to MOBI (which is the non-proprietary format read by Kindle) than to convert AZW (which is the proprietary format in which all books on Amazon are encoded) to EPUB. This just means that you have access to a wider selection with Kindle than with the other readers.

    Hope that helps.

  5. In my old age, I intend on being surrounded by stacks of smelly books, you know what I mean, a house with paths. An ebook would interfere with these plans. From what I know of you, you have potential to be a zany old lady full of inscrutable utterance, a house full of books, cats, maybe chickens etc. I think you should eschew ebooks.

    Also, public libraries need people like us to buy their old books. They are losing funding because of Rethuglikkkans.

    Also, if you have an ebook you won’t want to buy used books from, my favorite online bookstore:

    Dumb thing didn’t turn into a link. As someone who can’t copy a link and make it, you know, transform into a thing, I probably have plenty of reasons not to attempt an ebook….

    • Good heavens, I hit post and I magically make a link, maybe you could edit my post to make me look smarter, Julia….

      • Ineffable Nnox, I *could* edit your post, but I feel that would somehow deprive the world of a little extra joy 🙂

  6. Buy the e-book reader. All the public domain books, the books which are cheaper, the books which are only published in book form in another country, the books which are self-published, become accessible. The weight of objects in your home which do not really have a use becomes less: how many of your books have you opened in the last year?

  7. Thanks everyone for your helpful and entertaining comments! I have made a decision I usually end up making with technology, which is that I will wait at least for a while and keep thinking about e-readers while I continue to tackle the unread paper books I have in my house.

    @Jodi – I think my leaning right now is towards a Kindle. Any further thoughts on Nook vs. Kindle?

    • It’s been a long time since I’ve done my research, so the Kindle has probably changed a lot since then. I went with a Nook because it was integrated with Google Books (the public domain books were my primary reason for owning an e-reader) and because it supported ePub format, which is the publishing standard. With a Kindle, I would have had to buy everything from Amazon or else go through the process of changing e-books into an acceptable format. One major drawback there is that you can’t borrow e-books from the library and read them on a Kindle (though the director of my library told me Amazon plans to change that within the next few months). I also prefer a touch screen to all the buttons on the Kindle—it’s a distracting clutter thing.

      I like my Nook Simple Touch. It has a very user-friendly interface. Highlighting, bookmarking and making notes are easy to do and don’t interfere with the reading process as much as with other e-readers I’ve tried. But you might have other reasons for choosing a Kindle. A lot depends on how you’ll use it.

      Good idea to wait on the e-reader if you’re not completely sold. I did the same a couple times before finally deciding to ask for one.

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