Marja-Leena Rathje
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eBook readers


This Bizarro cartoon is especially for Joe who just wrote about his new eBook reader. It's also for blog friends Barrett and Hattie and other proud owners of eBook readers. The first time I saw and held one was when we met Barrett in London last year and he proudly showed us his brand new Sony Reader. I've had this now-yellowed clipping on our fridge for quite some time and was about to throw it away in a cleaning spree. I knew it was waiting for an opportunity to share smiles. Enjoy!

Marja-Leena | 07/10/2010 | 19 comments
themes: Books, Neat stuff


Yes, I want my books as heavy or light as they fall on my lap or on table.

At least as long as I see to read them. That trouble doesn't change miraculously with any reader!

Ripsa, I prefer books too but can see the benefit of these eReaders for holding many many books, really useful for travellers. My husband loves his iPod Touch and reads a lot on it, mostly shorter stuff, and you can enlarge the text. I find it too small for my eyes but the eReaders do have bigger screens. The iPad sounds cool in that you can also draw on it.

That's a wonderful cartoon. All our cd's were transferred to digital and my husband says he'd do the same with our collection of movies if he only could but I draw the line at books. I like their feel and smell. I like that I can have a stack next to me with bookmarks in the sections I'm reading and in the backs where the notes are.

Susan, I love books for those same reasons, especially art books. We have bookshelves stuffed full in almost every room including books from our late parents. I dread ever downsizing to a smaller place. How did you manage with your move across continent and countries?

Ebook readers continue to be misunderstood. Almost everyone who hasn't got one sees them as a threat - as if they fear being forced to adopt this system and no other. Here, Chez Bonden, they co-exist with Caxtonian books. I've read copiously all my life and I respond to print just as strongly as those who write tremblingly about smell, turning pages, links with childhood, etc. Nobody's asking anyone to throw away their treasures. However I must confess when I re-read Proust those three fat Penguins, already tatterdemalion, may not survive the exercise. But let's posit a single example derived from Plutarch's post about acquiring a Kindle. Let's suppose you were going on holiday and wanted to write an essay about Shakespeare and might need reference to all his plays. The ideal solution would be to take all 37 paperbacks in the Oxford University series. Which would cost about £400 and take up a lot of suitcase space. For a mere £8 you could load up your Kindle with all the plays, plus all Dickens, plus the King James version, plus two complete dictionaries and much more. In fact Kindle has room for 3500 titles. However there is one danger. The comprehensiveness of an ebook reader may result in your preferring this method. Faced with what may be seen as a betrayal of the Caxtonian format the only solution may be to get thee to a nunnery.

Marja-Leena, it looks like one has to stay put, with the library of one's own. Luckily, we also have very good libraries in this country, where one can get books from anywhere in Finland.

I find it hard to think that I would move anymore anywhere, with or without books. Before the final stop.

I think that there is room for both books and the magic of the latest technology. I do not have a Kindle or whatever yet not only because of expense, but most of the books I read are not yet available digitally. For travelling the e-readers seem like a great boon.

However, I cannot imagine replacing any of my art books unless perhaps the screen was as large as the printed illustrations, and video was included ...

Olga brings up something I've often thought of ... what about the artwork/pictures? Magnification would be a nice feature.

I am saving many a tree by downloading the New York Times into my Kindle.
I also figured out how to convert long articles on the web and PDFs into Kindle format and mail them to myself. Much nicer than squinting at a computer screen or printing out 130 pages, and I can underline, bookmark, and use the built in dictionary.
I'm reading a long study right now with lots of graphs, which get all scrambled up, but that's OK: I can look at them later in the regular PDF format.
With all the reading I have to do, this is great help.
And as Barrett says, it's great to have everything in one handy device and not have to cart huge tomes around.

You asked about our books and how we managed the cross countries move... Many had been in storage since we never completely inhabited the last place so what we did was donate many to Goodwill and carried the rest home in their boxes for the trip. Now we have 15 boxes of books stored in a very large closet while we decide whether or not this will be the place we stay. Our plan is to go through all of them this winter and shelve the ones we want access to and catalog the rest so we know which ones are where. I have a feeling new bookcases are in our future :-)

Thank you all for your excellent comments. Sorry for being late in replying. We've had house guests and this afternoon some Japanese visitors are coming for tea. And it's the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Interestingly, we had a little discussion about eBook readers with our guests yesterday. Elaine belongs to a reading club and one of her friends had an eReader which really impressed her in many ways, and she's not a huge fan of computer gadgets.

Barrett, thanks for chiming in. I remember our meeting and your blog posts about all these advantages, and the savings, especially if you need a lot of research and reading material when away from home, as you do. And how clever to send your Reader to Joe (Plutarch) as an easier way for him to edit your manuscript!

Ripsa, yes, libraries are a great resource if they are available. I tend to not buy fiction much but rather borrow though not everything is available. FInland has an excellent national lending system I know. Vancouver does have something of a city-wide system.

Olga, that's a good reminder, that we can have both! With our larger and better desktop monitors these days, one can really read some art books well, if and when they are available. I'm interested in seeing the iPad, whether it's large enough for us art book readers. As a former editor and publisher, what do you think of the voices of doom that books will no longer be printed and libraries burned down? I don't believe that though probably less printing of newspapers and magazines is already happening. Also there has to be a huge amount of scanning done of historical collections, which costs time and money in enacting and storing digitally.

Rouchswalwe, I believe that magnification is a feature with eBook readers, certainly the iPad. It all depends on the producer of the text and images for the readers, I would think.

Hattie, yes, to saving trees and all that! I find it most alarming when I hear many excess unsold books are returned to publishers and destroyed. I have a large sharp monitor on which I can do all that you say, but granted it's not as comfortable as lounging on a divan. I love reading lying down, especially at bedtime and tend to choose a light paperback or magazine then. Is your Kindle that light?

If I were to spend the money, and I certainly don't feel the need for it yet if ever, not being a great traveller, I'm most interested in the iPad which has a larger screen and one can draw on it, and they now have a lovely leather case for it so it looks like a leather bound book.

Susan, it must be hard to not have your books easily available for a long period, but when you do have them again, it would be like Christmas again, eh?! We've certainly run out of bookcase space, now stacking them here and there as well.

Whew, this has gotten long.... must get ready for our afternoon visitors now.

As a lover of the physical book I would hate to see the total demise of the book in my lifetime. As an editor I would have loved to have worked in more digital times when I could have taken more advantage of online communication and less of the actual blue pencil.

As a publisher I would embrace ebooks: the perennial problems of distribution would be wiped out for a start. The complexities of art books with their fold-out pages, double page spreads, etc. could eventually be dealt with on multiple screens. (I saw that the author Terry Pratchett seems to have a bank of about nine monitors to help him keep control of characters and plotlines as he writes, and I have been longing to be able to have at least two monitors ever since.)

Cost of course is an issue now, but for my own reading I would be more than happy to have digital copies of all the whodunnits I read and then promptly pass on to Oxfam. Future generations will not have the physical memory of the sensations of handling, smelling, hearing the delicious qualities of a printed book: the heft of it, the crisp turn of the page, the frrrrt of leafing through, the joy of reading a considered font, ....

But in a blink I and my generation will be the past and after all it is the content of the book that is of value, not the ephemeral pleasure of its wrapping.

Olga, thanks for coming back and giving us more of your views from the different perspectives of reader, editor and publisher! The costs for the publisher are something I've read about elsewhere and along with that the growth of self-publishing and print-on-demand. Yes, the world is changing rapidly now with the book industry. Look what's happened in the music industry! I feel some concern with the digital storage methods for those can become obsolete or corrupted... but that's a subject for another discussion!

The thing is that the e-paper technology is designed for reading and the computer screen really isn't. It's a different technology that is as easy on the eyes as paper print. It uses ambient light, not a backlight, and you can read it in full sun. Just like paper.
My husband informs me that color e-paper technology is just around the corner. He should know, since display technology is his field.
I just weighed my Kindle. With its leather cover it is 430 grams or about 15 oz, a little less than one pound. Not very heavy.

The one thing that I do worry about as far as the demise of the book is concerned is that knowledge might once more be whisked beyond the financial reach of the poorer. The paperback, especially in the form of Penguins, Peregrines, Pelicans, Puffins all brought so much within the easy financial grasp of so many. I just hope that libraries will not disappear completely before they are needed for their mass access to ereaders.

Hattie, yes, I did read about that screen technology but forgot so thanks for pointing that out! What an interesting field of work your husband is in, I didn't know. The weight of the Kindle sounds reasonable, though maybe a bit heavier than a cheap paperback (where's one when I need to weigh it?), thanks for letting me know.

I really should have been doing my own research on all this but was caught by surprise by this in-depth discussion on eReaders.

Olga, good point! I too hope libraries do not all disappear, even if they do digitize everything.

I can see the usefulness of a Kindle as a reference tool and for travelling, not having to carry a lot of books, but personally I like the physical shape and presence of a real book, be it paperback or hard. Also, you can write notes in the margins, if so inclined, and if someone dedicates and signs a book for you, that's an object no digital tool can replace.

Natalie, hi! More pros and cons for both, especially for treasuring signed books, yes! Let's hope both choices will be with us for a long time.

I just learned something else - most of the eReaders are monochrome while the iPad has colour - guess which one you want for reading art books? And it is a computer too so one doesn't need a laptop when traveling, great to download one's photos and do emails and blogs. Hmmmm.....