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Reasons to resist eReaders

February 21, 2011

The demise of Borders, a store I vividly recall frequenting in my youth, appears to be one more indicator that the future of the printed word lies with eReaders and not physical books, or at least that’s what the articles describing the reasons for Border’s demise appear to be arguing.  Personally, I don’t get the whole eReader thing.  As with most modern pieces of technology, the eReader doesn’t appear to do anything to actually enhance the reading experience, it simply makes it more convenient.  Of course, with that convenience comes a whole new set of problems that the reader previously did not have to worry about.  Here’s my top five reasons I think eReaders are a scam:

5.  You can carry around your entire library on one device.  Really?  Who cares?  Are you that fast a reader that you are constantly worried you’ll finish a novel halfway through your morning commute and will be stuck without something for your 45 minute trip home?  I can understand if you’re going on vacation and you don’t want to schlep a bunch of books with you, but all in all this seems like a marketing attempt to play off the ability of an mp3 player to store your entire music collection.

4.  You can buy and download a book instantly.  Yay!  Now I don’t have to wait those unbearable three days to get my new book!  I mean, it’s not like you could order your next book when you were on the last hundred pages or so of your current read, thereby assuring it would arrive at your doorstop the moment you were finishing up the previous one.  I think this is an attempt to tap into the impulsive buying nature of Americans – just think, you’re there watching your favorite tv host hawk some new book and you think to yourself, “Hmmm…that sounds interesting…I’ll go ahead and buy that!”  Boom.  Impulse purchase acted on, something that might have been avoided had you known you would have to wait a few days before actually getting the book.  Now you’re stuck with yet another book by Malcom Gladwell that will sit deep in the memory files collecting digital dust.

3.  They enhance the reading experience.  Thank god!  It’s high time someone took those boring old books and made them more interactive!  Honestly, I don’t know how those crummy old books ever became popular, what with being constrained by the limits of people’s imaginations and all.

2. eBooks are cheaper.  No, not really.  Maybe some are, but it costs $10 to buy a digital version of a book and unless you absolutely have to have that brand new Tom Clancy hardcover release, you can probably find the same book used on Amazon for cheaper, and you don’t have to purchase the eReader either.  Plus, this whole idea that the eReader is a one time cost is bogus – when was the last time anyone in American was satisfied with their current generation of flat screen tv/smartphone/computer/any piece of electronics.  We’ve been conditioned to constantly upgrade our hardware, and eReaders are no different.

1.  They’re so much easier to carry around.  I know, I know, books are heavy.  But you know what, just about every single person I see using an eReader on the metro pulls them out of a bag or briefcase.  It’s not like buying an eReader will suddenly free you up from having to carry all that other stuff around with you, such as your lunch, organizer, work papers, etc.  You’re still going to have a bag with you to carry all these things, and unless you’re lugging around the complete works of Shakespeare, your book probably doesn’t take up that much room in your bag.

All of that said, I can still see some value in eReaders.  School textbooks seem like an area that could benefit from a quality eReader.  If you travel a lot, and I mean, a lot, they might proof useful.  But all in all, I don’t like ’em, and my main reason is this:  They can fail.  I have enough stuff in my life that fails more often than not, and the last thing I want to have to worry about when I pick up my book is whether or not it’s going to work.  My digital camera needs fresh batteries, my laptop always needs to be updated and rebooted, the dvds I get from netflix are often scratched, and when I stream them sometimes my router cuts out halfway through.  Hell, even my ice maker doesn’t work half the time!  The point is, this ain’t StarTrek:  Our technology is full of bugs, and the last thing I want is to add one more thing into my life that I can’t guarantee will work when I pick it up.  For the sake of knowing that every time I pick up my book the words will still be on the page, I’m willing to lug around an extra pound or two.

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3 comments

  1. And if you get your books from the library (as I do), books are free versus the $10 I’d be paying if I had a Kindle. Plus, I’d be afraid to take a Kindle to the beach, poolside, etc, or have it dropped/played with by children.

    I sort of want a Kindle in the way that I sort of want any new electronic device that people are making a fuss over. But I really like the aesthetic feel of books–especially hard cover library books with those plastic crinkly covers. Those are awesome. I like the way library books smell too even though someone suggested to me that what I am smelling is other people’s germs.

    Of course, the dog has shown a preference for chewing books. Maybe he would leave a Kindle alone…


  2. eReaders didn’t kill Borders, Amazon.com did. Just in case, I for one welcome our new eReader overlords!


  3. Sorry, but this is one of the rare cases where a product lives up to its marketing hype. I have had one for a couple months now and it is simply the single greatest thing ever invented.



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