11 December 2010

Day 259: Why Did I Get an eReader?

Hello readers,

I have a new toy.  I named it Hawthorne (after Nathaniel Hawthorne).  It's a Nook Wifi + 3G.  It's shiny.  Here look!

this is not MY Nook, image ganked from B&N

But wait, I'm a librarian, eBooks are the death of libraries, why am I buying an eReader instead of decrying them as the death of libraries and books and the publishing industry?!

Uh, probably because I'm more realistic than that.  Ebooks are a good thing.  They are good for literature, for the environment, for the publishing industries, and they have the potential to be good for libraries too.  This is not the end of books, this is just another incarnation.  It gives casual readers and people who don't have the desire to collect books, the ability to obtain them and keep them without cluttering their homes with things they're going to get rid of anyway.  It keeps those books out of the landfill when they fall apart or when bookstores can't get rid of them and libraries don't want them (as donations; that's right, libraries don't want your ratty copy of The Cat Who Wrote a Blogpost).  It allows people to buy more books at cheaper rates because they don't have to pay for shipping and handling or the cost of actually having the book printed and packaged.

People will still buy physical books.  They will.  There are benefits to owning physical books that cannot be replaced by eReaders.  Books can be lent and borrowed.  Books can be sold.  If you buy an eBook, you do not have the opportunity to get even some of your money back when you dispose of it; you have simply bought the data, it has no value once you "own" it.  I put own in quotations, because that data can and has been revoked by eBook companies.  You are simply purchasing access to that data, and do not have the guarantee of keeping it.  If the data gets corrupted, you lose it just as surely as dropping a book in a bathtub... only less so because most novels are still readable, however ugly, when they've been exposed to water. 

So now that that's out of the way, why did I personally want to obtain an eReader?

They are the future, and I'm willing to embrace them.  They are insanely convenient, and there is an amazing amount of free material available that is much more pleasant to read via eReader than on a laptop or computer screen.  A lot of publishers are moving towards eBooks for galleys and this is a way for me to continue to obtain advanced reader copies.  It is necessary for my professional development as a blogger and as a librarian to use the latest technology for reading and accessing information.  Will it replace me using the library for the bulk of my reading material?  No way in hell.  I obtained the reader, I'm not going to go crazy buying books online I'm going to read once, even at the bargain price of $10.

That's right, I'm using it solely to access free materials, at least at the moment.  When I have money to spend, I may be more likely to purchase books that are harder to find or that I want to keep as reference material.  Many libraries also offer access to eBooks through Overdrive and other media lending services.  The collections aren't large yet, but as more people purchase eReaders, iPads, and similar materials, they will be more likely to provide a wider selection.  Ebooks won't replace regular library collections, but I can easily see them supplementing them, both by expanding the collection and reducing wear and tear on physical copies.  If you have more people reading the eBook, that's fewer people covering copies of Twilight in glitter.  Borrowing books from Overdrive and buying from places other than Amazon is probably the number one reason I did not buy a Kindle.  Kindle is proprietary so they don't allow other eFormats on their reader.  This is bullshit, and Amazon needs to get over themselves. 

Why did I choose the Nook 3G?

After looking at a few eReaders I decided the Nook 3G was the way to go.  If there aren't any wireless networks available, it hooks up with the AT&T 3G network free of charge.  For an extra $50 one-time fee, this seemed worth it to me.  I also liked the wireless download.  It means if I somehow get stuck in a place without computer access, I will not be stuck without a book to read.  There are enough free wireless connections out there to hook up to that it's pretty much guaranteed I will have a library at my fingertips wherever I go.

I didn't go for the color, because to me that defeats the purpose.  It uses an LED screen, which is just harder on the eyes.  It has more functionality, but I don't really need more distraction from my reading than I already have.  I like that the Nook does have a small touch screen at the bottom where I can quick view covers of books.  It's a bit finicky, but once you get used to it it's no more difficult to use than an iPhone or a touchscreen ATM.  In fact, the keyboard is surprisingly easy to use, if a bit laggish.  The touchscreen also functions as a page turner when it goes dark, so that you can "flick" pages rather than using the arrow keys on the side.

The Nook has the benefit of having a Notes and Highlight feature that I can access at any time while I'm in the book.  It works right there on the page.  I do wish it had a separate notes section for making general notes to myself (like keeping a running to-read list to plop on Goodreads, but since I can access Goodreads anyway, not as big of a problem).  The only downside is that I can only highlight and notate books or documents that I own, but what the hell, I usually have a notebook on me anyway.

Physically I like that the Nook has a rubber back and fits well in my hand.  I have surprisingly tiny hands for someone of my size (5'8, 220lbs, yes I'm a fatty).  The rubber back makes it less likely for the otherwise slick eReader to jump out of my hands, and does pretty well at replacing the texture of holding a book, although much slimmer.  And omg, accessories.  You can change the appearance of your Nook by buying all sorts of different frames, backs, covers, and carriers.  At some point, I will at least buy a protective cover for my Nook, so if someone still needs to buy me a Christmas/birthday gift... there you go. I also really like how much cordage they saved by combining the USB and AC adaptors.  Here, check it out, it's pretty.  Oh yeah, and I can choose my own background and screensaver, that's kinda awesome.

Then there's also the expandability of the Nook.  I can apparently add up to 16GB via the internal SD slot.  This is insane given that the 1.5GB it comes with (not including the .5ish the software takes up) can supposedly hold up to 1500 books.  Granted, I can also use it as a music player or audiobook player and it DOES have external speakers on top of having a headphone port.  I haven't tested how good the sound is from the external speakers, but I like the idea of being able to bring text and audiobooks with me on roadtrips.  In fact, I should probably borrow a couple from the library to put on there.  Note: I always delete them when I'm finished, so go away Copyright hounds.

Finally, the last reason I decided to go for the Nook: in store service.  I don't have a B&N close by, but I like knowing that if something goes wrong with it, I can drive the 15-20 minutes and have someone take a look at it.  Ideally they'll be able to fix it while I'm in store and I can enjoy some coffee and sit around reading, but I have no problems going back to a bookstore.  If I bought a Kindle I'd probably have to send it off, even for a relatively minor problem or deal with customer service over the phone.  If I'm going to be made to feel stupid because I forgot to plug it in or because I hit the wrong button, I at least want to opportunity to be laughed at in front of my face.  And if I'm in the store I can read any eBook I want for an hour a day free... plus they give me coupons for coffee.  Speaking of, there's still some left in my pot and I need to get back to my reading.

This is not a paid advertisement.  Barnes and Noble has not offered me any compensation to promote their product.  I have had said product since the 4th as an early Christmas present (thank you, Danny!), and my opinion of it may change over time.  At the moment I am thrilled and happy with my gift.  Dear B&N, if you would like to compensate me in anyway for the positive press... gift card?

Final word:  I still like physical books better and this will not prevent me from carrying around a novel everywhere I go, it will just mean I pack fewer when I go on roadtrips and will never again fear having nothing to read.


  1. You bring up a lot of great points in this post. I bought a nook over the summer and I'm glad I have it, even though I still do most of my reading with physical copies of books. As you pointed out, if something happens to it I can go to Barnes and Noble to get it checked out, the storage space is incredible and I'm not tied down to Barnes and Noble, and it's super convenient. Here is one more idea: This past week I needed to purchase a book in order to write a final paper for one of my classes. I needed the book immediately and none of my local bookstores or libraries had it. So I went to the B&N's website, downloaded the book, and today I'm almost finished with it. Now that's convenience!

  2. It's true! Convenience is a major factor. If I happen to get stuck in a snow storm (which happens in Ohio) I never have to worry about not having reading material.

    I also forgot to mention the new LendMe program that B&N is trying out. I approve of this, because you can lend real books, so why wouldn't you be able to lend eBooks? I know they're only doing this on select titles at the moment, but I see this has a very positive thing and I don't think anyone else is doing it.

  3. I bought mine back in February, and have purchased/downloaded maybe 40 books so far. I have found, though, that since I got an iPad in June, I've read many more of my nook books on the nook app for iPad than I do on my actual nook. It is much easier to make notes or highlight passages (something I do a lot) on the iPad than on the nook itself.

    I have used the lend feature several times and found it easy & "painless." last I heard you can only lend a book one time though. I also like the size and feel of the nook.

    Glad to see a librarian who is NOT afraid of e-reading, too. Enjoy your nook!

  4. great post, amy. you break down the "fears" of ebooks more coherently than i ever could (and i have this conversation almost every day of my life!). sounds like the nook is working out awesomely. i bought my kindle for school, so i could convert peer stories and class articles into pdfs and not have to spend money on ink and paper to print them out. it's mostly worked out. a lot of books i want aren't ebooks yet, and my job lets me buy physical books so cheaply, i don't see myself ever going completely ebook. i also bought the hunger games series in ebook format because i was kind of embarrassed, and then they turned out so dang good i just couldn't stop reading (though i haven't finished mockingjay yet; i guess i got burned out after reading nonstop for two days). yay! technology. (and yay! you!)

  5. bibliophilica,

    Hi! I can't afford an iPad, and I don't think I really want one. At the moment I don't have a need for it, and if I'm going to be using it for business it seems a netbook would be a little more productive for me. We'll see about that. I do like my toys.

    I don't see the need to be afraid of eReading. It's an alternative to traditional reading, not a replacement of it. Books still provide the best preservation of information (besides microfilm) and are still the easiest means of reading material. eReaders are certainly easy to use, but I doubt anyone would argue that the book is easier still.

    Thanks for the compliment. I hear all the time about the death of the book and libraries and it makes me roll my eyes every time. Libraries have been around for centuries. No one is saying that sexbots will be the end of prostitution, so we really need to stop freaking out. People will still need libraries, they just might not look like the libraries of today.

  6. I've been toying with the idea of getting an e-reader for awhile, and I particularly like the nook for the aesthetics (and I tend to frequent B&N; it's my 'happy place'). I mostly want it for easy access to e-galleys. Have you tested it with NetGalley?

  7. Julia,

    I _haven't_ yet, but I am really, really looking forward to it. I'm on a borrowed laptop so I can't download the software needed to open and export the galleys from Netgalley. I should maybe try to run it off my flashdrive and see if I can work it that way. NetGalley claims that it's compatible, and I don't see why it wouldn't be. I'll try to keep you updated on this issue and I'll be testing this soon. I will say that the battery life isn't as good as I had hoped, but should still satisfy everyone but the binging-est of readers. And really, how hard is it to find an outlet nowadays?


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