Friday, March 19, 2010

Do you e-read?

Jenn the Greenmom would really love to start reading more again...someday...when there's time...

It's sort of fascinating to me...here we all are, Greenfolk who want to get back to what's real and natural and of the earth, cooking real food and obtaining what will last and not throwing things away, caring for the planet and for ourselves (and realizing we can't do one without the other!), focusing on what's solid and tangible and simple...and yet our medium of conversation and communication is virtual and highly technology-dependent. I have absolutely no difficulty embracing this quasi-paradoxical reality wherein I sit at a computer for hours but won't buy grocery store bread, but I sometimes look at my self and go, "Hmmm. What's this about?" And the book thing seems to be where the two realities sort of clash sometimes; we blogger-types love the technology, love communicating via the written word in real time anywhere we choose, but so many of us--myself included--feel this real connection to books in print, on paper. Solid, tangible, and simple.

This article over at Eco-Salon intrigued me:

E-Readers: Cute as a Button, or a Real Page-Burner?

For the record, I do not yet have a Kindle, or a Nook, or any of the various e-reader formats available out there. I do have an iPhone, for which I did download Kindle for iPhone as well as a few other readers (Stanza is another free reader app with access to a huge number of free books), and I do use it quite a lot. But that's still sort of different from the actual dedicated e-reader gadget.

The Eco-Salon article details a lot of the pros and cons of the machines, so I won't go into that here...but I'm curious if any of you have them, and what you think of them?

I have to admit, I really enjoy having the ability to read novels and stories on my iphone. The little Kindle app is very intuitive and easy to use, and I love the ability to download samples of books before actually buying them. I'm trying to not go crazy on it, or buy too much, but I recently purchased the latest Stephen King short story collection (honestly, I have loved King's short stories since college--there are some real gems of writing in there, amidst the Grossness) and have gotten a couple of other things as well. I'm not a complete convert--my bedside reading usually involves paper and actual typeface, as does my schoolwork and research (though I'm finally getting better at reading articles onscreen and not automatically printing every pdf I run into), but there are enough times when I'm just Out somewhere and need something to read--the dentist's office, the airport, whatever--that I really love having the app.

I love books, real books...but I semi-secretly covet my neighbor's Kindle.

I was intrigued to read this Eco-geek article about LG's solar-powered e-reader, which is not only a plus in terms of carbon footprint in production but doesn't need the grid to charge (unfortunately it's not due for release till 2012 or so, and between now and then the iPad will be appearing and probably doing to/for our expections for e-readers about the same kind of thing the iPhone did for our expections for cell phones)...and this Cleantech Group report about the actual carbon analysis of the units is a good thing to read too...

If the e-readers weren't so bloody expensive, I'd probably go ahead and get one. But at the moment spending $250 on something that will enable me to spend more money on books rather than using my public library is not something I'm prepared to do.

Which brings us to my other area of interest: how public library lending of e-books works, and whether anyone lives someplace where they can take advantage of it. Project Gutenberg is one very cool site where lots of great material is available, and I've downloaded a buttload of material from them. The World Ebook Library has an annual membership fee of $8.95/year (yes, that's per year) for access to their collection; I may go for it to see what it's got, although it looks like what you download from them is in the form of pdf files rather than e-book formats. A number of public library systems seem to have e-book lending in their capabilities, although mine does not yet. Anyone use a library lending e-book kind of system at the moment? How does it work? Are books under copyright actually included as possible downloads, or is it only public domain stuff?

--Jenn the Greenmom


9 comments:

Jessica said...

My public library's database of e-books and audio books is awesome. It doesn't always have the brand-newest stuff, but it has tons of non-public domain books. I read Wally Lamb's newest book online and have listened to pretty much the entire Sue Grafton alphabet series on my iPod. I think they have all of her books, except the most recent one "U is for U . . ." I think you can browse our system without having a card-- WVDeli. That way you can see what kind of stuff is included.

Oh and another thing, our public library has this as part of a consortium with other libraries in the state-- you might look to see if there is one in your state that your library might be able to join.

susanna eve said...

You don't need to buy an e reader. I have read several books on my laptop:) Now that I have a i phone (a hand me down from one of my grown kids) I also read books on that. My public library also has e books and increasingly places like amazon or barnes and noble are offering books in e format as well. They are often cheaper than paper books too.

Billie said...

The best I can do for reading non-printed books is audio books. I go through an average book about every two weeks driving back and forth to work.

Anonymous said...

My public library (and academic library) offer a lot of e-content. For the public library, this includes audiobooks as well as electronic format print books. (You can view their offerings here: http://riezone.lib.overdrive.com. This is one of those programs where the public libraries in the state all chipped in and bought a subscription together.) These programs are NOT restricted to public domain works; most of the material is under copyright. The ebooks works with the Sony Reader, and also can be read on any computer. (Like regular books, there is a checkout period, so the books is not yours forever. Otherwise, the library would have to pay for a copy for every user.)

You might want to ask your library if they are looking into one of these services, and if they are not, find out why not. Is it a budget issue? Could they have a fundraiser if it is? They might not have it because they think there is little interest and that it would receive little use - and if you can prove otherwise, they might give the idea priority in future budget discussions.

Daisy said...

I haven't invested in a Kindle or Nook yet, either. My son (blind) gets audio books from the library. In the summer we go frequently.

PureMothers said...

I don't e-read. I feel like I spend too much time already in front of my computer (blogging, reading blogs, news, research, paying bills, ordering groceries (I live in London). I love the feel of a book in my hands and physically turning the page. I also love seeing my bookshelves overflowing with books. I am reminded of all the great literature available to me and can pluck one off the shelf and peruse a few pages whenever I feel like it. According to Freakonomics, for anyone with children, HAVING books in the home increased a child's success in life. Those children's homes valued reading and passed that love on to their children. For someone who uses an e-reader, they may love books just as much, but will their children be reminded by seeing stacks of books around the house? I personally, don't think so. Just my opinion. I think a little of both worlds wouldn't hurt. But for homes with children, I say keep some books - owned or borrowed in plain view and accessible to kids!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Puremothers--
Yes, that's a lot how I feel about it...and while I'm happy to read from an e-reader, I can't quite picture curling up on the couch with the kids reading to them from one. And if you expect the whole family to read, the cost of an e-reader increased to the full number of people in the family...so yeah, I still stick mostly with books.

Rosa said...

I really worry that e-readers are going to be as disposable as cell phones. I have managed to only buy one cell phone so far, but it's because I know so many people who get a new one every year or two and discard the old one.

If they ever break into the textbook market, someone's going to design a tank of an e-reader. Hopefully all the DRM stuff will be settled by then too, and there will be universal formatting. If that ever happens, I'll convert.

I know there are some analyses that show the ebooks would cause less waste, but since 90% of my reading is already library books or used ones, I don't think that would be true for me.

Brenda Pike said...

I love my Kindle, but I haven't gotten any ebooks from the library yet. I really should investigate that. I'm finding myself reading a lot faster. I think it's because the text is always as large as I want and I only need one hand to hold it and turn pages.

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