I used to devour books. I’d buy them 4-5 at a time, either in a bookstore (new and used) or from Amazon, and I’d read them voraciously. But somewhere along the way, I kind of lost interest in reading for fun. Suddenly I was reading more and more stuff like gadget/technology/media/entertainment blogs instead of anything of substance. Smartphones made this so much easier to do, since I can check those RSS feeds any time I have a spare moment. Oh, look! Gizmodo has 36 unread items, I’d better look into that and clear those out…
Recently I’ve been feeling that I’m spending far too much time reading this crap. The stuff I’m reading is pretty much the information equivalent of iceberg lettuce: it puts something in you, but there’s next to no nutrition. Is that a stupid analogy? I’m just saying that this stuff is interesting in passing, since I’m a geek and all, but it’s not enriching in anyway. It’s not taking me interesting places, making me think about important things, or stretching my imagination like good books can do. It’s just…useless data.
I do still buy books now and then, but once I’m done they just sit on the shelf. We’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff lately, including books, and it’s refreshing to get them out of the way even though I enjoyed them. I’m in a decluttering mood these days, and if I haven’t touched/used/read/enjoyed something in over a year and I likely won’t again, it’s going in the donation box. (I’m saving my absolute favorite books and DVDs, though. There’s just something nice about a shelf or two full of books.)
Which brings me to ebooks. What a great idea: carry your books around with you on one device and read them anywhere, anytime. Not that you can’t do that with real books, but what if you’re reading several at the same time? What if one or more of those is a hardback? Mine usually are. I could also just use the local library, but I don’t like having a time limit on my reading. Sometimes I’ll put a book down for weeks before getting back into it, for whatever reason.
Anyway, I’ve been looking at the whole ebook thing for a couple of years, dabbling in reading them on my phone, but nothing has really grabbed me. Lately I’ve been paying more attention to the popular e-readers and what they have to offer. The Kindle is neat but I don’t like some things about it, and the Nook got a horrible reception when it was released earlier this year because it was buggy and slow. The iPad is pretty, but honestly it’s simply too goddamn expensive for what you get, not to mention extremely heavy! Sony’s got some decent readers, but the features were leaving me feeling a bit “meh” (as commenters love to say on those gadget blogs).
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Barnes & Noble lowered the price of the Nook to $149 (WiFi only model). They also updated it for the fourth time, squashing many bugs and adding new features. Hmmmm, tempting. So this week I walked into one of their stores to play with a Nook. And I fell in love! The e-ink screen literally looks like printed paper, very easy on the eyes — not a harsh backlit screen like the iPad. Good for reading in bed, which is where I read most. The touchscreen at the bottom lets you get around the device easily, albeit with the occasional hiccup. The ebooks are also reasonably priced, though it pays to shop around a little since the Nook will take ebooks from more than just the Barnes & Noble bookstore. (It will also display books you didn’t even buy, if you catch my drift.)
So far I’ve purchased one book (Everything You Know About God is Wrong by Russ Kick) and added several more to my books-to-buy-later list. Also added a few other documents which worked great after a little conversion action. I’ve been reading it in bed, on the bus, and around the house, and it will be great for traveling as well!
I realize that a lot of hardcore bookworms tend to either dismiss ebooks as a consumerism-driven fad or accuse them of being evil destroyers of public libraries. (I call bullshit on both.) Many people also simply love the tactile nature of books — they like the smell and feel of the pages, and having a physical thing they can hold and own. To them, it’s not a “real” book unless you’re holding
bound paper. I understand how they feel, having owned and read many, many books over the years. However, I’m not particularly attached to paper books in that way. The words are still arranged the same way to
convey the same ideas, aren’t they? Same book, different format.
Having said all that, being a nerd I have to list some pros and cons of my new gadget, in case anyone’s interested in trying one out. Yeah, I know the Nook has been reviewed to death elsewhere, but dammit this is my blog!
- Beautiful e-ink screen – 16 shades of gray means the text is crisp and non-pixelated, looking remarkably like actual print. The included screensavers are surprisingly elegant.
- Touchscreen – Touch, swipe, and tap to navigate through your library and other areas of the Nook. You can even swipe it left and right to turn the pages, though there are separate buttons for this.
- WiFi – Connects to any AT&T hotspot for free (or your own at home, of course), letting you buy books on a whim.
- Samples – If you want to try before you buy, you can download a free sample of the book.
- Size and feel – Very comfortable to hold, with a contoured back. Not too heavy, which is a plus for reading in bed.
- Battery – It’s removable, which is nice. The charge lasts about 1.5 weeks I believe, though I haven’t had much time to test it out myself. So far I’ve only had to fully charge it once.
- Expandable memory – Filled up that 1GB with books and audio files? Pop in a MicroSD card and you’re good to go. (Ebooks take up very little room, so you may not need to ever use the expansion.)
- Book selection/formats – There are a ton of ebooks to buy on B&N’s site, though they’re missing some I’d like to see. You can also buy ebooks from Borders Books’ website, since the Nook supports the same format. (You may need to use Adobe Digital Editions to enable them on your Nook though.) You can even read Kindle books on it, though it involves some tinkering. PDFs are supported, as well as the standard ePub format.
- Book lending – The Nook lets you electronically “lend” a book to a fellow Nookie (?) for two weeks, one at a time. You can also check out ebooks from your local library if the library supports OverDrive.
- Touchscreen response – The touchscreen could be a little bit snapper, I think, but it’s apparently improving with each firmware update. Occasionally it simply locks up and I have to put the device to sleep and wake it up again to make it work again. Doesn’t happen often, but it happens.
- .TXT format not supported – Why??
- Ebook prices – Not really a Nook issue, but still worth mentioning. Most books tend to be between $6-10, but some new releases are upwards of $12 or $14. I’ve already decided that I won’t pay more than $9.99 for any ebook, which leads me to shopping around more. The trouble is that the big three ebook sellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders/Sony) tend to have the exact same prices. Maybe it’s a publisher thing, not a seller thing.
- If I come up with anything else, I’ll post it.