Old and Busted vs. the New Hotness

I’m a librarian. I read a lot. And I have now had my Nook for a little more than three months, and since people keep asking me about ebooks vs. “real books”, I thought it would be worthwhile to write a bit about how I feel about the whole situation.

I never wanted an ereader. I have been a book lover as long as I can remember. And then the Borders year happened, and I was briefly a book snob, too. (I still haven’t read the Da Vinci Code, and I won’t. Period.) I go through phases with reading, but for the last two years, it has been a very heavy “reading a lot” time for me. And I love it. And ever since the Kindle first became big, I was pretty adamantly against it, and ebooks, too. Books were made to be displayed on shelves. (Rainbow order, optional, of course.) They were meant to have texture and a smell and a pretty cover. Who needs portability? Books are portable, too. I don’t need to carry around my entire library with me. Perhaps it was the preventative cost, but I wasn’t interested.

"real"

I read a lot of articles about ebooks, and I couldn’t argue how much easier traveling would be with an ereader. (Every single time I go away, even for a weekend, I pack a significantly larger number of books than I could ever read. Because the idea of running out of things to read? Is unimaginable.) And they did look kind of cool. But I didn’t want one.

Things changed a little this past fall, when we hosted an ereader expo at the library, and I spent an evening explaining the different models to the library customers, seeing them in person, reading a few pages, imagining what it would be like to have one. And realizing that reading on a screen wasn’t anywhere near as jarring or unnatural as I had always thought. And I guess I started talking about them a LOT, because although I gave Dan a few different ideas for a Christmas present, he knew he wanted to get me a Nook because I wouldn’t stop talking about it.

new hotness

And, well, I never expected to like it this much. The e-ink display feels as natural as reading on paper, and although there is a subtle flash as you turn the page, I stopped noticing that very quickly. I have the black and white (classic) Nook, and although I suppose a color display like the Nook Color or the iPad is where technology is headed, I didn’t want that. I find that even my smartphone’s vivid display hurts my eyes after a while, and I mean, I read real books with the light on, so needing to have the light on while reading my Nook is not exactly a hardship. Plus, I just like the black and white e-ink. (It was a close race between the Kindle and the classic Nook; the tipping point was the ability to download free ebooks from the library – which do not work on the Kindle at all. And since I’m, you know, a librarian, I felt like I should be able to use our services.)

I have read both “real books” and ebooks since owning the Nook, and there’s a big difference. Perhaps it’s because most of my reading is on my lunch hour or in bed, but holding and turning Nook pages while eating or curled up is a lot easier than doing so with a hardcover book. (Those 900 page monstrosities I’ve been reading are not so cuddly, let’s be honest. I have dropped them on my face before.) And what I noticed this week is that having the time displayed on the screen while I’m reading the Nook is kind of convenient, as it means I never get so lost in the story that I’m late going back to work. (First world problems, I’m sure.)

I really do love it.

The issue I don’t know that I’ll ever get past is needing to buy (almost all of) the books I read. I’m inside a library every day. Where the books are free. All of them. Yes, I can get some free ebooks through ListenNJ. (Why do you think I’ve been reading so many Nora Roberts books lately? They have a big selection! And no one can see the cover. Except everyone on the internet. Ahem.) And I can download free classics from Project Gutenberg. But at the rate I go through books, it would get really expensive to have to buy every one. Yes, it’s convenient. Yes, it’s fast. Yes, I still have gift cards from Christmas, and will ask for more at every holiday from now until forever. But. I haven’t ever been and won’t become the type to pay for every book I read.

Nor will I ever stop buying books. I cannot imagine living in a house without a LOT of books inside it.

I guess what I realized (and what changed my mind) was that I can read ebooks, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop being a “real book” lover, either. I can love the technology and still be a book purist. And I love that.

PS. The post’s title is, of course, tongue in cheek. But it is alarming how we have to retrofit our vocabulary to apply to things that have been around for hundreds of years. “Paper” books. “Real” books. As opposed to ebooks. They’re still just books.

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10 thoughts on “Old and Busted vs. the New Hotness

  1. I was sort of anti-e-book too, just because I didn’t want to get computer-eye and gamers-thumb from reading a book and because I want to be able to just stick a bookmark in it and toss it on my nightstand when I’m done reading, not hit an on-off switch. But boy oh boy, they are soooooo convenient. And the e-ink is really nice (although I do love the fact that the ipad lets you choose a sepia background and controlling the brightness is really easy). Really wild, though? I didn’t notice I had been holding my finder down on one word while reading and then all of a sudden it popped up with a definition for the word and an option to link to Wikipedia for it. My book was, like, talking to me! CRAZY!

  2. I don’t have an e-reader but I did download the Kindle app for my phone and the iPad I got from work; I have an ongoing book there (that I bought) that definitely is there for “emergencies” (when I finished my hardcopy book while commuting). I think I would find that I just juggle both all the time, too.

  3. I had been thinking of writing a NOOK review post today – you beat me to it! I haven’t had my NOOK for nearly as long as you have, but I definitely love it much more than I thought I would.

    I also read a lot and my main concern with an e-reader was the fact that I would have to buy all of the books I want to read; this was really a concern because I currently get all of the books I read from the library. The fact that I could borrow books from libraries really sold me on the NOOK. (Although I will cop to buying more books since I’ve had my NOOK – four – than I had in the past year.)

    I am pretty amazed at how much I like reading on the NOOK – it’s light and I like that I can easily read and “turn” the page using one hand. I also love that I can adjust the text size – my dirty secret is that I love large-print books because I can read them faster and with the NOOK, every book can be large print.

    Your feedback on Twitter definitely helped me decide to get a NOOK and I am very happy with it.

    (Also, being a librarian you may already know this but if you don’t, The Free Library of Philadelphia lends e- and audio-books to out-of-state patrons for a $35 membership fee. They have a decent selection and I’ve already sent away for my card.)

  4. I’m really glad that you wrote this entry. I have been torn on the e-reader debate since pretty much the get-go, and you have addressed many of the points of contention. I, too, chronically over-pack reading material, particularly since I tend to have more than one book on the go at once. My main concerns about switching to an e-reader have been stubborn nostalgia (but – the smell! The tactility! Etc…) and a realization that I get eyestrain really easily with most electronic doohickeys. I’ve read about e-ink and how it is actually as legible as real ink, but I’ve not spent a lot of time playing around with any of these things…

    Anyway, I’m babbling. I’ll be succinct and just say that you’ve given me a great deal of food for thought. Maybe I should go play with a Nook and see what it’s like.

  5. I do think you can love both, the smell of a new or old book is wonderful but it is *so* convenient to buy and download a book within minutes without ever leaving your bed!

    I can’t remember the last book I read that wasn’t assigned; it’s probably been years. However, since buying the Kindle last month I’ve begun/began? reading more often. I briefly thought about spending the extra money on an iPad but really would much reading get done on it?

  6. @Pookie that’s crazy! I was impressed with how nice it is to read on the ipad when I finally saw one. If I didn’t already have a Nook… haha. And the fact that it defined a word for you without you realizing it? Is a little spooky.

    @Marianne I totally didn’t know about the Philadelphia library. I’ll have to check that out – talk about awesome! (And I’m so glad you love your Nook, too. It really is pretty fun. And I, too, have bought more books this year than I have in a loooong time.)

    @Julia I’m glad to help! It definitely makes a big difference when you can see them in person, and read a few pages. It’s hard to imagine if you’d like it until you do. I keep offering my Nook to friends in real life so they can just read a book on it to see what they think.

    @Pam I am totally with you. And I totally wouldn’t read much if I had the ipad lol. I can’t decide, though, if I read faster on the Nook, or with regular books. I’ll have to time it one day haha.

  7. This is such a great post. I have been a staunch hold-out on the ebook front so far, even though Adam has a Kindle he loves AND I am a huge consumer of audiobooks. So I can’t make the argument that I always prefer the feel of a book, or that I’m not kind of drawn to his Kindle. I got an iPad for Christmas, but I haven’t tried ebooks on it for the same reasons everyone’s mentioned: I already tend to get headaches when reading, so reading on a screen scares the pants off of me. But maybe I’ll give it a try on my iPad and see how it flies.

    What I would love to see someone do is a subscription ebook service, if there isn’t one already. I use listennj for audiobooks, but I also have an Audible subscription ($25 a month for 2 audiobooks, which considering the time it takes to listen to one and the cost of buying them retail is pretty good). Listennj has a lot of flaws, including refusing to work on my iPod, iPhone, anything that starts with an “i”. But I love it on my home computer, and if my iPad experiments don’t work maybe a Christmas Nook with some listennj reads is in my future.

  8. I didn’t think I would want an ereader, but we just moved and my husband really didn’t like moving all of our books. I offered to get rid of 50 if I could get a Nook color – we’ll see if he takes me up on it…I like that it does other stuff. What I don’t like is that I ordered a book on Amazon the other day for $6, and it came the next day – the ebook would have been $10. I’m ready too for ebooks to offer more interactive features, like Pookie was talking about.

  9. Pingback: Week 17: Nook Case | she likes stripes

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