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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    E-readers: Fad of the future?

    I love books. I love the way a new book smells. I love the thin pages and the creases in the spine of a book that’s been read a thousand times. I even love the hassle of holding the pages down with a cell phone while I eat cereal. 

    So when online books emerged onto the literary market, I called BS. You can’t hold it and you’re stuck in front of a computer all day. Similarly, when e-readers came along, I was skeptical.

    The first electronic book reader to hit the market was Amazon’s Kindle. The newest generation of the Kindle 2 is minimalistic: white with a keyboard on the device face. With a sharp black-and-white screen that uses 16 shades of gray, the Kindle is sleek and easy to read. It also has a nifty text-to-speech function that’s convenient for car rides.

    Barnes and Noble’s Nook is definitely flashier than the Kindle. First, it’s in color, which might be a plus if textbooks ever seriously make it to the e-book market. It’s possible to change the font on its touch screen, but the menus and controls are harder to use. The Nook might be more appropriate for the avid reader, with its daily deals and a physical bookstore to enhance the Nook experience.

    Then there’s the Sony Reader with three different versions, ranging from a pocket edition that looks like a frumpy aunt, to a fancy touch edition. In a world without the Kindle or Nook, it’d be the best e-reader available. However, with no wireless capabilities, you have to hook up the device to a computer to download books, which is a huge hassle.

    As is the case with so many electronic devices, Apple might just take the cake on e-readers. The iBook feature on the iPad is pretty spectacular. Other perks include changeable fonts, the ability to easily look up definitions and a vibrant color screen. If you’re unhappy with the books available at the iBookstore, you can buy a Kindle app, which seems rather stupid on Amazon’s part because it takes away any incentive to buy a Kindle. 

    The backlight problem is interesting: The Nook, Kindle and Sony Reader aren’t backlit while the iPad is. The first three claim their electronic ink displays read like real paper and are easy on the eyes, even in sunlight. But I can only snuggle up in bed at night and comfortably read with the iPad. We’re the generation raised on AIM and electronic quizzes — staring at a lit screen for hours doesn’t seem like much of an issue to me.

    Deciding between these e-readers often just comes down to reading habits and the depth of your pockets. Individuals will be drawn to each e-reader’s different bells and whistles and the virtual bookstores behind each product.

    The more important question is: Is the paper book becoming obsolete? It’s been evident for years that reading isn’t quite the ubiquitous pastime it once was. Though I think curling up with a book and a glass of decent wine constitutes a fulfilling evening, many of my friends and classmates haven’t read a book for pleasure in the last year. Tragic. Wherever you place the blame — on technology or maybe our fast-paced lifestyle — it’s impossible to deny the fact that fewer people read for fun. But with books digitized and, well frankly, made cool again, we might see a few TV bums dive into a new novel.

    So are the e-readers going to change the way we read? Definitely. 

    Reading won’t be the sit-down, intense activity that a paper book often requires. No more running back to the bookshelf for a new book or getting paper cuts trying to find where I left off. With an e-reader, I could open my purse and skim through dozens of books in a few minutes. Through wireless bookstores, novels come to me rather than the other way around, perhaps encouraging impulsive buying. The process of acquiring books and casually reading is thus streamlined.

    For students, imagine using a menu to search for a keyword in your textbook on a portable little device while in class. No more lugging around those heavy — not to mention often useless and freaking expensive — textbooks for your classes. While you can already do this on a netbook with Adobe Reader and PDFs, e-readers have better battery life and are smaller, therefore easier to prop up against your binder or calculator. Moreover, it’s important to note that in an increasingly eco-friendly society these devices are more environmentally sustainable than their paper alternatives. Publishing houses often have towers of material waiting to be destroyed — the fate of unprofitable books and unwanted manuscripts.

    How far will this trend continue? As fast as technology changes, who’s to say my electronic book won’t be outdated in a few years? Will an e-reader eventually join the ranks of my Game Boy Advanced and portable DVD player? Just look at how fast music devices evolve — from records to cassettes to CDs to MP3 players in a few short decades.

    I like technology too, don’t get me wrong. Useful, fun and undeniably full of neat features, e-readers definitely have their attractive qualities. But I’m a starving college student not quite ready to shell out hundreds of dollars for one just yet. As a bibliophile, I doubt a Nook, Kindle or even an iPad is going to seriously change the amount I read. I’ll wait until the e-readers grow out of their infancy.

    In the meantime, I’ll be sure to grab an actual book.

     

    — Kathleen Roosa is a finance and creative writing junior. She can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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