This week, I’ve been thinking about one of the most recent technological crazes ... the eBook reader.
A great number of people I have spoken to have been reluctant to embrace this new technology, despite the fact that many of them own MP3 players. The reason they cite is that they simply love books too much to give them up. They love the feel of them in their hands, the smell of fresh pages, the nostalgia of a remembered childhood story.
Many seem to think they could never feel the same way about a technological device. How many of us have as fond a relationship with our computers as we do with our books?
Books are such a significant and much-loved part of our history and culture. We’ve been on a journey with them; from calfskin-bound books, which contained knowledge so valuable they often had jewels set into the covers, to the modern paperback, a cheap but accessible item.
We’ve moved far away from that medieval grandeur, but does that mean we no longer value knowledge, or simply that it is so important to us that we want to be able to access it all the time?
My new Kindle e-reader enables me to access a wealth of information at the touch of a button. The thing that excites me most about my first e-reader is the “e-ink”. The screen has been engineered to look exactly like a page in a book. It is not backlit, and so not harmful to your eyes.
The battery life is good and I can easily go without charging it for several weeks. If you have a Kindle, downloading eBooks from Amazon is simple. They are saved on your account, so if your Kindle gets lost or broken, you won’t lose all your downloads. So far I am impressed with its gadget credentials, but what advantages does it have over a traditional book?
It is easy to use. If you take a busy commuter train, you may see people standing, holding themselves upright with one hand, while holding their e-reader in the other. It is very difficult to do this with a book. I’ve tried. Many times.
It is convenient. With the ability to store thousands of eBooks, you will always have a story to suit your mood. I am currently enjoying the benefits of a newspaper subscription, with my newspaper of choice downloaded daily to the device.
There are lots of cheap or free titles available for download. Within an hour of opening my Kindle, I had located the “free” section on the Amazon website, and downloaded over a hundred classic texts. Having said that, brand new releases tend to be pricier than their paperback equivalents.
For all its good points, I feel the e-reader lacks the magic of a traditional book. The pictures are lacking or non-existent in most of the purchases I have made – a particular issue with my newspaper subscription – and I feel the technology could be better manipulated. It seems to have been employed to mimic the book, but with added convenience.
For me, this is not enough of an added benefit to make me an eBook convert just yet. The e-reader lacks the interactivity, which would set it apart from traditional books and give it its own kind of magic.
It’s fun to use and I look forward to seeing how this technology will develop in the future, but the device has a long way to go before it can comfortably assume a place in our hearts beside that most beloved cornerstone of modern civilisation: the book.