The eReader equation.

I’ve had my eReader for about 2 years now, and I still have mixed feelings about it.

During the closure of Borders stores in Australia, I was left with $150 of vouchers I had gotten for Christmas the previous year and hadn’t spent because I was waiting for books which were due to be released later in the year. Big mistake.

I’m not going to go over my frustrations with the way the administrators handled the voucher use again, but to make a long story short, to use those vouchers I needed to spend $300 in store. So I bought a Kobo eReader (which was the only sort they had left in stock) among other things.

It’s a really easy device to use and I really enjoy it, but there are just some issues which bug me about it, which I will outline below in a pro and con list.

eReader pros

  1. You can carry around as many books as you like and the device will never get any heavier in your bag. related to this, you can read large books without having to relegate them to bedside table reading (As I have done with Lord of the Rings, and A Song of Ice and Fire etc). I also like being able to carry whole series around in my bag; like a boy scout I come prepared.
  2. Also related to size is the fact that there’s only so much space in a room or house for books before you have to ge rid of some, whereas presumably with e-books you can just keep buying more usbs or hard drive space, or store your files in the Cloud without the clutter in your house. Which is brilliant – as long as you make sure to keep up with formating changes and moving things if tech becomes obsolete (VHS tapes anyone?).
  3. You can change the size of the text, which is a huge plus for me as even though I wear glasses, when my eyes get tired the larger print is really useful to stop me bringing the device up inches away from my face. Not a good look.
  4. eBooks are somewhat cheaper than paper-books, and can be purchased and delivered in moments. However,  this relates to one of the cons as well (see below).
  5. You don’t have to worry about bookmarks! Don’t get me wrong, I like a nice bookmark, but more often than not I end up marking my place in a book with a receipt, a metcard (soon to be a thing of the past), a scrap of torn paper, or indeed nothing at all – relying on my memory to help me flip to the right page. I would never turn down a page corner, for what it’s worth.
  6. Granted, I’ve never really had a problem with this issue, but eReaders provide a great amount of privacy when reading in a public place. Books that maybe might have been relegated to home-only reading due to embarrassment can now be enjoyed on the train without a cover noisily advertising to the world what is being read.

eReader cons

  1. A paperback will never cut you off mid chapter by telling you to ‘please connect to a charger’ when you go to turn a page in the middle of a climactic scene, however this has happened to me several times with my eReader. First problem on the list because it is the most annoying!
  2. Footnotes! Other eReaders may perform better in this function, but mine just puts all footnotes at the end of the text as a whole – and it’s not easy to navigate back and forth. I’m trying to read Discworld at the moment – this is making me sad.
  3. Navigation. I’m the kind of person who will get caught up in a story and when reading something later in a story will think ‘hang on, didn’t…’ and want to flip back to see if the clue or character observation was correct. Unless you know exactly where you want to navigate to in an e-book, flipping pages back individually takes forever.
  4. Ownership is a huge issue for me with ebooks. I’ve never really been comfortable with the idea of spending money for digital items (which can often be nearly on par with the price of buying a physical copy) and especially so with ebooks, which you are paying for a license to view in many cases, not for outright ownership. this may never become an actual problem, but it makes me nervous.
  5. A problem I have with my model of eReader in particular is that I cannot sort books the way I want to. The default is to list books by title, and you have the option to list by author (which of the two I would prefer as it makes viewing series a lot easier). However, whenever I set the sorting option to ‘author’ and turn off my eReader, the next time I have turned it on it has reset to the default title sorting. So frustrating! Ideally I would prefer to be able to group books or genres together as well, however I understand this could get messy.
  6. Another individual problem for the Kobo is the power button. The same one button turns the reader on, off, to sleep and restarts it, all depending on how long or how firmly the button is pushed. Most of the time this is only an issue when turning off the reader. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to take serval turns because each time the device has gone to sleep instead of turning off. It doesn’t use any extra power, but it still frustrates me every time it happens.

Generally, I think I can put up with the quirks of my eReader for the sheer convenience it provides – it is after all, about the content of the books in the end, not in their appearance. I don’t think I’ll ever be cured of buying physical copies of books though. I like looking over and seeing them on my bookshelf, and flipping through the pages. I love the colour on the shelf, and being able to run my hand along and slide something out, lend it to a friend.

I am, and shall remain, a mixed format fiction reader.

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