Monday, July 9, 2012

Embracing E-Readers

Originally a skeptic, it took me a long time to become convinced that an e-reader was a good idea.  When you buy a paper book, you get to keep it, lend it, and do whatever you want with it.  Because it is an analogue medium, it is readable by the human eye and doesn't require special software to access its content.  There is a romantic feel about an old, luxurious library filled with knowledge contained within its ancient texts.  My fear that one day paper books would become obsolete remains.

My initial distrust was over DRM technology. E-readers that use DRM technology limit what you can see if you change devices, or if you upgrade your equipment.  As an iPod owner, I remember buying music off iTunes and then being unable to transfer my music to another computer or re-load it after my iPod crashed and needed reformatting.  It was hell.  Refusing to pay for the same thing twice, that was my final time buying music from iTunes.  Apparently Apple has done away with its DRM technology, but the bitter taste in my mouth still hasn't gone away.  If I am going to pay for a book, damnit, I expect to be able to read it forever.

When the Cleveland Public Library System started lending out e-books, my curiosity was piqued.  I could get books electronically, eliminating my need to drive to the library.  Plus, there would be no more late charges because the content would simply not be accessible anymore, so there wasn't anything to return.  Another benefit was the access to free books, such as from Project Gutenberg, which provides access to thousands of out of copyright books.  These include everything from classics to art to history.  Not bad.  No more waiting for library materials to arrive through the interlibrary loan system.  The books were available for download immediately.

The final issue was my arthritis.  Heavy books hurt my joints to hold for long periods.  They are also hard on my back to carry.  The other issue was space--I used to have piles and piles of books all over my bedroom and spread all over my bed, making a huge mess and a pain in the back if you accidentally jumped into bed on top of a rock-like hardcover.  The e-reader can hold thousands of books with no mess, little weight, and tons of portability.  So I decided to take the leap when the Kindle Touch arrived.  Originally I liked it.  However, the firmware for the device was garbage.  It would lock up and nothing would undo it.  I looked up the problem online and apparently other Kindle Touches suffered the same fate.  The device would permanently brick itself.  So it went back to the store.  I traded it in for the Nook Simple Touch.  This was the device I was looking for.  The firmware was rock solid.  No crashes whatsoever.  In fact, I have used mine since last November and it has never crashed, not even once.  The pages "turn" quickly with a swipe.  The processor has no problem keeping up with the demands of reading a book comfortably.  It has a micro SDHC slot so one can add extra memory.  I bought a 32 gb card.  This gives me enough space to hold over 64,000 books.  That is essentially the same amount as a medium sized public library.  Not bad.  The text itself is crisp and the device is so lightweight it feels more comfortable to hold for long periods than a regular book.

My non-copyrighted books are in a non-DRM based epub format, which means I won't have DRM problems transferring materials in the future.  The amount of paper saved because of this device is incredible.  Instead of printing long Supreme Court cases while doing legal research, I can download my cases, save them in pdf format and then convert them to epub format and read them on my Nook.  This means reams of paper saved.  The environment is smiling right now, and so am I, thanks to my Nook.

I hate to say it, but I've become so used to the large, crisp text of my Nook that I actually prefer it to my paper books.  I have to admit I've become a full convert to the e-reader revolution.  Now, I get upset when forced to read "regular" books.  I hope the old, beautiful libraries aren't doomed...

Other Places to Get E-Books

Open Library

Internet Archive

Google Books

Clevnet E-Media Library Collection

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