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Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.

E-Readers & The Modern-Day Fahrenheit 451?

Gadets gadgets everywhere!Photo Credit: triplexpresso

Gadets, Gadgets – Everywhere!
Photo Credit: triplexpresso

For far too long, I vehemently resisted purchasing an e-Reader and insisted on lugging actual books (shock!) with me on planes, up and down the NYC subway system, etc. (And, in a profession like mine where you fly 100,000 miles a year…that amounts to a lot of reading – and lugging). I would not go so far as to call myself a gadget queen, but yes I do appreciate and own more tech gadgetry than your average-Jane: two smartphones (iPhone for work, Android for personal use), two laptops, multiple generation iPods, etc.

The idea of adding yet another device seemed excessive, not to mention I truly enjoyed physical books – the act of turning pages, the smells of printing, the bookmark to track your progress. Replacing all of that with a singular digital device almost equated to sentencing books off to extinction, a modern-day Fahrenheit 451.

After much conflict and deliberation, I ended up giving in to the eminent technology trends and personal desire to read more. I opted for a Kindle Paperwhite over other devices for a few reasons:

1) E-Ink display:  If I was going to spend hours-upon-hours reading in addition to my hours-upon-hours of staring at computer and phone screens, I needed something that would give my eyes a break. (Note: the latest Kindle device, the Kindle Fire, has an HD screen and allows for web surfing and color images among other things – but in the end if that’s what you’re looking for you are better off with an iPad and the Kindle app downloaded)

2) Backlight: unlike the earlier Kindle models, the Kindle Paperwhite’s backlight technology makes ease of reading in any environment’s lighting considerably better.

3) Battery Life: at multiple weeks of daily use on a single charge, this is a traveler’s best friend! Especially for those long cross-continent flights.

4) Amazon Prime Kindle Lending Library: boasted that Amazon Prime subscribers would have access to over 150,000 books to borrow. At roughly $6/month for the Prime subscription, this was enough to tempt me to try a 30-day trial of Prime. I figured with the Kindle books I was interested in costing upwards of $10/each this would be a steal for my voracious monthly reading. As I later found out, you are only allowed to borrow 1 book a month on Prime — which essentially means you get a discount on a single book (if you pick a book originally priced over $6) a month on Prime — not as impressive and enough to make me feel gipped. No thank you – I will stick to my lending with the public library system in the future.

5) Reviews: Far better reviews online for the Kindle over the Nook. And, if you’re more interested in ease of reading over browsing and other tablet-like features, there really is no need to opt for Apple iPads.

All in all, I am blown away by the Kindle: light, portable, easy on the eyes, storage space, connection with the cloud – this is clearly a great product. But…what does this mean for the future of books and publishing?

I cannot help but wonder what happens to the value of tangible books as a result of the growth of digital book readers. One thing that considerably bothers me is the cost of purchasing e-books. When I was purchasing a physical book – I could understand my money going towards paying for the production, the binding, the paper, the ink, the transportation to get to my hands, the author, etc. and then the overhead profit that remained. But, let’s be serious here: $6 or $11 or $15 or what not is what I expect my paperback books to cost, not digitized text appearing on my Kindle. The markup and profit-margin there, I imagine, is astounding especially for the little physical gain I see in return.

I would not be surprised if in the upcoming years schools shifted entirely from requiring students to have tangible textbooks to instead opting for e-Readers/tablets. Students would then always be learning out of the most recent and up-to-date versions and would not have to pay a small fortune every year teachers/professors decided to upgrade to the latest textbook edition. This, at least, is an added gain – at least in the student’s perspective.

But, if all books become digitized – what happens to all the libraries? Already, a great number of public libraries are offering an e-Book borrowers program (though nowhere as expansive as the actual book collection itself from what I have seen). My hope is that the libraries continue to grow their e-Book selections and volume, so knowledge (or fictional pleasure) can be transferred to library patrons for no cost to the individual (and without any wear or damage on physical books!). The library system, no doubt, will be where I will be getting most of my e-Reading material — unless the costs of Kindle books come down significantly to something more justifiable.

In the meantime I dearly hope that at least in my lifetime, no matter the digital shift, I do not have to witness thousands of libraries all over the world discarding (or in true Fahrenheit 451 fashion – burning) any books.

One comment on “E-Readers & The Modern-Day Fahrenheit 451?

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This entry was posted on January 21, 2013 by in Technology and tagged , , , , .

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