Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Tried to Like it

I received an eReader as a gift several weeks ago. I wish I could say that I love it but I cannot.

I can say a few good things about it:

1. It has relieved the dull ache I get in my bad wrist (broke it while on a kickboxing ‘date’ years ago). It is so light and I can hold it or rest it up against something.

2. Downloading books is so simple. I can get a new book at any time of day or night and in any kind of weather.

3. The e-books cost less than the hard copy versions.

4. Books are stored inside the little gadget instead of cluttering my office shelves. (I did a book purge a few years back and vowed then to sell or donate most of the books I buy in order to keep my office manageable.)

5. It is easy on the eyes – unlike my computer screen.

6. There must be environmental benefits. I wonder what size of carbon footprint an eReader leaves behind.

Although I have tried, I just cannot love this gadget. I prefer hard copy books. Here’s why:

1. Without the ability to turn physical pages, or flip back to a page I have read, or see in my left hand how much I have read, my memory is being challenged. Sure, I can push a button back to the last page or any of the pages I have read, but I cannot ‘see’ where that page lies physically with respect to the whole (although it is noted that the book is 85% read, for example). I am realizing how much this act of turning physical pages serves as a memory tool for me. With each page that I turn, it’s as if I store in my muscle memory, roughly ‘where’ something happened within the story. When reading a regular book, it’s easy to look back and find something I want to revisit. It’s almost as if my hands know where to look in the bulk of pages on the left side. When I have to click back to find something, I feel lost. I have no idea how far back something happened. I don’t know if other readers are in the habit of looking back within a book as they are reading it and I’m not sure how aware I was that I enjoyed looking back as often as I do until this habit was made problematic through the eReader experience. I am just beginning to understand the relationship between how well I remember a story and the physical act of turning pages.

2. It has happened just once so far, but my eReader froze and I was unable to click to the next page. It took a good 5 minutes to get it working again.

3. An eReader runs out of batteries. This is obvious but I didn’t anticipate the inconvenience of having to wait until it was charged to read my book again. Then there is the whole issue of forgetting to re-charge, night after night.

4. I can’t flag my pages with sticky notes! I’m forced to use the notebook that I keep beside my bed to jot down sentences or the numbers of pages that I love. (If there is some way of doing this electronically and you know how to do it, please let me know). I cannot write in my book. Or fold pages that I like.

5. If you are sensitive to scents, as I am, you might notice that your hands smell plastic after holding the eReader.

6. I haven’t looked into this but since there are various text size options, and each option impacts how many words are on a page, I wonder how difficult it would be to refer to page numbers when discussing books with others who have hard copy versions of the book, or have eReaders with a different text size setting than the setting I have.Maybe there is a way around this.

My overall feeling is that the eReader will now be passed on to other family members. I’m interested to see what their reactions will be. My fourteen-year-old is excited to try it out. I know that I will continue to borrow regular books from the library and buy books from the bookstore occasionally. I see myself making use of this new device from time to time – when a terrible snowstorm hits, I’m on the last chapter of a book, and I can’t get out to the library. With just a click, I’ll be able to purchase and download a book at the online store – as long as there is no power outage.
What are your thoughts on eReaders? Love them? Hate them?


  1. Sheri - I see from the picture that you have a Kobo. I haven't tried a Kobo before but from reviews I've read, there are good reasons they are behind the market leaders Nook and Kindle.

    Personally, I've used a Kindle and an iPod touch extensively, and you can see my detailed comparison here:


    Here's a response to all 6 of your points that keeps you liking hardback books better:

    1) Good software lets you see how far you are in a book. With books that are properly formatted for the Kindle (which is unfortunately less than 50%), you see tiny dots at the bottom of the screen. The more dots, the further along you are in the book. iPod touch will depend on which reading software you use. Stanza is my favorite and does a thin bar at the bottom. With a tap on the center of the screen, Stanza brings up more detailed information (Name of book, Page 4/12 of current chapter, 9% into book) as well as access to settings.

    2) In my readings, I've heard that Kobo software is not as reliable as Nook and Kindle software. My Kindle never froze while reading a book (though it did freeze when using its browser). Stanza on the iPod touch has occasionally crashed while reading but the crash happens in half a second, and it takes 1 second to bring the book back up.

    3) Battery life is very long on both the Kindle and the Nook - can go weeks unless you're reading very heavily (then just days). The trick is to keep WiFi and 3G turned off most of the time. iPod touch is only 8-10 hours so does have to be charged daily if you're using it intensively.

    4) Most e-readers can flag pages. On iPod touch, Stanza and other reading software usually does it by tapping screen on upper right hand corner. On Kindle you need to access the menu.

    5) There are many covers available for Kindle, Nook, and iPod touch. Kobo has smaller market share so not sure what the choice is like. Just get a cover you like the feel of. Kindle seems to be the preferred device for heavy readers of novels and therefore has some which are very book-like.

    6) The page number thing is tricky but Amazon made software changes recently to the Kindle that make this possible. Only a few thousand books have page numbers so far but presumably this will roll out to most of them eventually: the ability to show both the real page number as well as where you are in the e-book.

    Some time in the next month I'll be posting to FilterJoe a comparison of many different types of e-readers. One thing I'll mention right off - the market leaders are leaders for good reason. Currently, they are:

    E-ink (B&W): Kindle leads with Nook close behind.

    LCD Color: The Color Nook - only reasonable option for Children's books at the moment.

    Pocket Computer: iPod touch

    All that being said, there are some types of reading material that don't yet work very well on any hand held device smaller than an iPad. But for text-only reading material like novels, I'm guessing you'd be happier with a Kindle 3 than the Kobo, especially if you purchase a cover for it.

  2. Hi Sheri I am Lovepreet, a student of Ramon Llull's high school, from Mallorca. I have just read, this article about the e-book.
    I think that it is very interesant.
    I am agree with you, it is a good device you can download the books, when you want, independently the time or the weather... But I think that it have some desadvantages, as you have said, the problem of batery, of the smell of the plastic...etc
    Well I have enjoyed reading the article. Thanks.

  3. Thanks, Joe! You gave me lots to think about.
    I do have a cover but it has little straps for each corner of the Kobo which for some reason bothers me when I am trying to read - it's probably just something I need to get used to.
    I'm excited to think that I 'might' be able to flag pages - I'll have to look into this further.
    Oh, and I may not have made it clear that the Kobo does say what percentage of the book has been read, and notes what page you are on (7 of 14 pages, Chapter 4).
    Thanks again!

  4. Lovepreet - thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hello! I'm Tatiana, from Spain. I'm from the Ramon Llull High School too! Well, I wanted to tell you that you're lucky because I have a Nook, and I would like to have an eReader, I think it's more modern!
    If you have charging problems you could try to read near an electrical plug, so if you run out of battery, you always can plug it and continue reading!
    It's strange... When I read with my Nook my hands smell of leather... Probably is because it has a leather protection cover, but I love it!
    I liked very much your article, and congratulations for your new eReader!

  6. I'm curious to see how an eReader works, and at the same time, I must also say that being able to turn a book's pages and see something I read and enjoyed sitting on my shelf, that comes with a certain amount of satisfaction too.

  7. Sheri - I just bought the Nook Simple Touch a few days ago. Based on some of the things you didn't like about the Kobo Reader, I suspect you'd like it better. It tells you real page numbers (you might therefore read 2-3 epages on the same real page number). Reliable while reading, and very long battery life. Can flag, and highlight (with notes) pages. Next time you're in a Barnes and Noble, try playing with one.

    I'm personally liking it better than the Kindle form factor. Dispensing with the keyboard means less weight and bulk.

  8. I agree there is something about tactile memory, the turning of the pages, the feel of the paper, that really helps me to enjoy reading. I don't have an ereader (yet). One thing I heard a lot of at the Bologna Book Fair was that instant coffee didn't kill peoples love for real coffee, and TV didn't kill radio (as everyone feared long ago), so ereaders won't eradicate books. Something to think about.

    THanks for your article, really informative.

  9. JaneA - Love the comparison to instant coffee! Since reading your comment, I've repeated this idea to a few friends. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  10. Thank you, Joe! Those are great improvements and I'll be sure to check out the Nook Simple Touch.

  11. I'm totally with you on the ereader thing! I WANT to like them, but I have many of the same issues you do - especially the looking back for information one. So sad... what is the solution to the book clutter in my office if not an ereader? :)