Archive for the E-books Category

Fractured Fairy Tales

Posted in Book News, E-books, Media with tags , , , on July 17, 2012 by JE Cornett

According to a recent post on Smart Money‘s blog, nearly 50% of U.K. parents say they now read books to their kids on e-readers or tablets.

Andi Sporkin of the Association of American Publishers tells Smart Money that sales in the juvenile e-book category (books for children 18 and under), grew  233% to $64 million in the first quarter of 2012, and called children’s e-books “the fastest growing category in trade.”

For teens and preteens, who live increasingly digital lives, this news is heartening, as it gives a McLuhanite hope that books and reading will be embraced by the reluctant readers who’d never pick up a dead-tree book by choice. But for younger children, this news is troubling.

Anything that brings children and their parents or caregivers together over a book cannot be all bad, of course, but e-books, for all their positive qualities, may deny young children one of the most wondrous experiences of childhood: discovery.

When I think of my own childhood reading habits, I think automatically of libraries. Of public libraries and school libraries, and browsing in shelves and stacks, looking at books, discarding books, choosing books to take home with me. My parents/caregivers were only tangentially involved in the process of my book selections; for the most part, what I self-selected. Moreover, the books were mine to read when I wanted, where I wanted, once I checked them out.

For the youngest readers and pre-readers, the roadblocks e-books pose to this kind of self-directed reading and browsing are obvious. The transactions required to access e-books are too complex, even with child-centric devices that limit functionality and direct browsing. The number of steps between the child and the book are too many, and selection lies in the hands of parents and caregivers. So too, is the access to the books, once chosen; while many parents may give young children free reign with tablets and other devices, barriers will nevertheless exist to spontaneous reading.

But it is the element of choice, perhaps, that is most disheartening when children’s reading is restricted, even with the best of intentions. Librarians, educators and parents who’ve experienced the Accelerated Reader phenomenon decry the effect on motivation and enjoyment of reading in school-aged children when prescribed reading lists remove choice from the equation. For younger still children, whose choices may be further restricted by well-meaning or time-crunched parents and caregivers, the risk is even higher. No matter what age the reader, when the experience of browse through shelves, be they physical or digital, is removed, the worlds that reading have to offer shrink.

The ways children experience books on devices brings another troubling aspect to the ascendancy of e-books. As the Smart Money article points out, “experts say younger children like the graphics and color of e-readers, as well as the option to hear the book read aloud even when a parent is unavailable.”

Reading with a child creates a vastly different experience for the child than giving the child a device which reads the story to the child. A tablet, no matter how bright, shiny or audio-equipped, cannot automatically pause to allow a concept time to marinate in a child’s mind, nor can it sense when a child needs more or additional information to make sense of a story.

And, unless e-books are used as a way to engage children, rather than occupy them, they may be doing more harm than good to reading skills.  The Guardian recently reported on a study that found that reading enhanced e-books was actually detrimental to children’s reading comprehension:

Children reading enhanced ebooks also “recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story”, said the researchers, speculating that the extra features may be distracting. But while “print books were more advantageous for literacy building co-reading”, ebooks, and particularly enhanced ebooks, were better “for engaging children and prompting physical interaction”.

But my biggest problem with the book-on-a-device idea, when it comes to children, must be seen to be appreciated. Click on the image twice (it should expand to fill your whole screen), as it just can’t be done justice otherwise:

It’s two pages from one of Richard Scarry’s books (What People Do All Day, to be exact). Scarry’s books, almost always oversized and thick, explode with details and information that simply cannot be captured on a screen, including the one you are reading this on. They beg to be looked at again and again and again; a copy of Busy Busy TownCars and Trucks and Things That Go, and Best Word Book Ever is soon smudged and dog-eared, favorite pages blurred with fingerprints where a child just can’t help but point out and touch the things she loves over and over again. That’s an experience no device can replace.

E-Books Won’t Disappear — But The Way We Read Will

Posted in Book News, E-books, Internet, Literature, Media, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by JE Cornett

Don’t worry – they’re not coming for your e-books. Not yet, anyway.

The blogosphere/libraryland/readers everywhere are in a dither over Hugh McGuire’s TEDx talk about the disappearance of e-books within five years or so. There’s much weeping, wailing and wringing of hands, most of it due to a blog post  by Porter Anderson that seems to vaguely extrapolate from this TEDx talk that e-books are going to disappear into the “ego noise” of the Internet.

It’s much ado about nothing. In fact, McGuire’s presentation says no such thing, something he’s quick to point out in the blog post’s comments.  “I never said books (or ebooks) will disappear; I said that “the distinction between books and the internet will disappear”” says McGuire in the comments, and the other commenters, some of which beat McGuire to the punch, wholeheartedly agree.

Whether this TEDx talk/blog post’s viral nature speaks to lovers of print books’ need to disparage e-books, or just a complete misunderstanding of the source material is but one interesting aspect of this story. The more intriguing thing is how McGuire and Anderson both miss the whole point. The difference between e-books and the Internet is already so fine as to be, in many cases, non-existent, as anyone with a Kindle or an iPad knows well. The better question, however, is how reading an e-book, whether on the Internet, a Kindle, an iPad or even a smartphone, changes the way we read.

When you pick up an actual book, your mind may wander, but the information remains the same. Without laying that book aside and seeking out more and different information, there is no way to add value to the information as it is (unless someone has made margin notes, which is a conversation for another day). All you have is what’s before you; the viewpoint of the author is static, as is the information presented, until you manually seek out additional information. There is time, then, to absorb the information without extra-contextualization.

Reading e-books on an Internet-ready device changes the experience completely. Want to know what other readers think of the book? Go straight to the linked reviews. Come across a name you don’t recognize? Google it. Want to know more about the author? Google it. Want to highlight a section? See if anyone else has highlighted it, as well.

The larger question is, how does reading a book that is basically a living thing differ from reading what many laughingly call a “dead tree” book? It’s a question that’s already been asked and answered of the e-book’s next of kin, the Internet.  Way back in 2008, The Atlantic‘s Nicholas Carr began to worry that the Internet was affecting his ability to read and digest text in an article titled “Is Google Making Us Stupid“. While 2008 does not seem to be eons ago, it pre-dates the e-book frenzy that began around 2010-2011, so much so that Carr does not even mention e-books to any degree in the essay. Yet the conclusion he draws from his online reading habits mirrors almost exactly what McGuire forecasts in his TED talk:

When the [Internet]* absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the [Internet’s] image. It injects the medium’s content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed.

This recreation of the e-book in the Internet’s image is what McGuire is extolling as the e-book as Internet’s biggest virtue, and what, as Carr has already discovered, is the biggest difference in the way we read even ten years ago and the way we read now.

But is it indeed a virtue? The examples that McGuire and Anderson use are hardly relevant to most e-book reading; while the majority of Amazon’s e-book sales are fiction and creative non-fiction, McGuire and Anderson cite a YouTube interactive Bible and an online version of  the 1912 journal of Robert Scott’s expedition to the South Pole that’s linked to Google Maps. The best thing about the Google Maps-enabled Scott journal, according to McGuire? It’s “a beautiful web experience.”

Is a beautiful web experience what we want, when we reach for a book? Do we want the same type of added-value, extra-context information that we get from a web page? Is that even good for us?

Carr references developmental pyschologist Maryanne Wolf’s  Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain extensively in making his argument that Google and the Internet are (or already have) changing the way we read:

… the style of reading promoted by the [Internet], a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, [Wolf] says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

The idea that the Internet was changing the way we think so disturbed Carr that he expanded his article into a full-length book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. In the book, Carr states something that is intriguing, if the line between books and the Internet is indeed blurred:

Dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists, and educators point to the same conclusion: When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. Even as the Internet grants us easy access to vast amounts of information, it is turning us into shallower thinkers, literally changing the structure of our brain.

If you’re ready to dismiss Carr and Wolf as hysterical doomsayers, don’t do so just yet.  As a reader, can I learn to recognize symbolism if it’s highlighted and pointed out to me? Can I derive understanding from a chunk of text when it’s diluted by links to ever more information? Or will I, as Carr noted that he already had, simply skim the text, jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink, never actually absorbing what the author is saying?

As someone who’s already noticed the same changes in reading habits as Carr has, I’m not sure I want to read books the way I read the Internet. I want a literal disconnect, when I read. I want to be absorbed by the text, not continually distracted. This is coming from someone who loves to read annotated non-fiction, the original hyper-textualized text; when I read non-fiction, I expect additional information. When I read creative non-fiction or fiction, I find it intrusive.

McGuire’s vision of a world where e-books are the Internet is frightening to me. We’ve already reached a stage where simply choosing to read the print book instead of the hyperlinked, added-value version may be threatened. E-book sales on Amazon have already surpassed the sales of printed books, and Amazon is quickly gobbling up print and e-book publishers, including one that caters to libraries. Many books are being published in e-book format only, leaving a reader no other choice but to read the e-book.

As e-books overtake printed books, and e-books become Internet, our reading becomes Internet reading, as well. Do we want the old way of reading to disappear? And can stop it?

*In each instance where you see [Internet], I’ve substituted for Carr’s quaint use of “the Net,” out of fear that you, reader, are already a victim of the type of reading he and Wolf are concerned about. “The Net” functions as hypertextualization that will have you laughing aloud as you fondly recall the days when the Internet was known as the “World Wide Web” and “Information Superhighway.”

Deathmatch: Paper Vs. E-Readers for Non-Fiction

Posted in E-books, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2012 by JE Cornett

Source: flickr.com via Jeanna on Pinterest

 Ian McShane is paper, his bearded opponent an e-reader. Let’s see who wins!

We’ve all got a friend or an acquaintance who’s great for the good times, but flakes out a little when things get complicated or tough. The one who’s pretty, but a little ditzy, or super-friendly but hard to pin down. Trendy as hell, but not necessarily classy.

That friend, dear readers, is my Kindle. Oh, and my Aluratek, too.

I had suspected all along that my new friends Kindle and Aluratek would prove unreliable and intractable when I asked them to spend time with non-fiction, but I found their company with traditional regencies, 33 1/3 volumes, pulp fiction and essays so pleasurable that I cast my misgivings aside.

But when I recently returned to my first love, non-fiction, I found that my new friends were just too techy. And that is where my e-readers and I had, in Southern parlance, a falling out.

My flaky friends Kindle and Aluratek make reading annotated non-fiction much harder than it needs to be. Footnotes at the bottom of a page ruin pagination, or disappear altogether. Flipping to the back of the book to read a section of the bibliography, then returning to your original location in the book is like playing hide and seek. Same with looking something up in an index, because the pages as listed in the index rarely correspond with the pages as they are displayed. And don’t even get me started on “locations” rather than pages. I’m sure there’s some reason why locations are preferable to pages in the e-book world, but I have yet to discover that reason.

Of course you could always highlight or bookmark the section you want to return to, right? Yes, but that necessitates navigating various menus until you locate the highlight/bookmark.While we’re on the subject of highlights and bookmarks, why are they so difficult to create on a Kindle Touch screen? I accept that this may be operator error, but that makes the task no less a hassle.

These are all tiny problems, but they do not begin to address the biggest advantage an annotated non-fiction book has over the same book on an e-reader: flagging.

I don’t even begin a good non-fiction book without my trusty Post-It Flags . I even have a system for flagging; pink for themes/people/items/ideas I want to research more about. Green for books/movies/music I want to check out.  Yellow for phrases I like or quotes/information I want to look up in the bibliography. For someone who absolutely refuses to mark a book with ink, flags have made it possible for me to read a non-fiction book without keeping a notebook handy to make notations on every single thing I want to find out more about or remember.

While I know that it’s theoretically possible to do this type of flagging or notation in e-readers, the thought of it makes my head numb. I can’t figure out why anyone would want to, when it’s so easy to stick a bright neon flag on a page, or flip back and forth between the bibliography or index and the selection you’re reading. For a device that is dedicated to the idea of making reading easier and more convenient, e-readers simply can’t compare when it comes to annotated non-fiction.

Just to be certain that I was not condemning non-fiction on e-readers due to my own prejudices, I asked someone who is currently reading more non-fiction than he likely wants to–my much younger (and therefore more techy) brother who is in law school.

Textbooks, which are the pinnacle of annotated non-fiction, are becoming increasingly popular in e-book format, so I asked him about whether he used e-texts, and if so, whether he did so using, in his case, the app on his iPhone.

Surprisingly, he said he only used an e-text if there was no paper copy easily available, or if it was something he didn’t foresee using extensively. When he does use an e-text, he almost always does so on his computer. He cited almost to the word the same complaints that I have, especially the difficulty in making and accessing notes in the text.

As someone who reads mostly non-fiction, the conclusion that e-readers just aren’t up to the task of handling annotated non-fiction was a hard one to accept.  Despite coming late to the e-reader party, I’ve grown terribly fond of my e-readers. So naturally I racked my brain, trying to think of ways that the Kindle and Aluratek–nay, all e-readers–could be improved upon to make non-fiction easier to read thereupon. Alas, I came up with nothing that’s preferable to my current method.

So there you have it. As far as I–and my little brother–are concerned, paper wins big over e-readers for non-fiction. But I forgot one of the very best reasons why:

Source: 30.media.tumblr.com via Jeanna on Pinterest

If you, like me, flip to the photograph section before starting any biography or other non-fiction book, then there’s no comparison between paper and e-readers (unless, maybe, you’re reading on a color tablet). Especially when it’s a gorgeous still from the movie Laura featuring my boyfriend Dana Andrews. Sigh…

Rediscovered: Theodora Keogh

Posted in E-books, Literature, Paperbacks, Rediscovered, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 3, 2012 by JE Cornett

The mid-century novelist Theodora Keogh’s disappearance  from the popular consciousness demonstrates the difference between books and literature, best-sellers and perennial favorites. Popular fiction – and nonfiction, for that matter – is rarely classic fiction. For every John Updike or Cormac McCarthy, there are dozens of Taylor Caldwells and Cynthia Freemans whose books, for better or for worse, sell well during their era, but are largely forgotten within just a few years. The fact that these books slowly fade from our literary memory is not necessarily an indictment of their quality (although in many cases, it is). Rather, it’s the confluence of several factors: a style that falls from popularity, an author whose momentum is lost, or a subject that seems dated within several years of publication.

Any combination of these factors have acted on Theodora Keogh’s books over the years. Her writing is elegant and modern, even if the pulpy subjects of her books — adolescent girl’s adventures on the mean streets of New York, bored housewife takes brutal lover…

Never mind — let’s read the publisher’s blurb on the back  of Keogh’s The Other Girl:

“She came to Hollywood looking for the answer to the strange hunger in her blood. But not until she met Betty, the tantalizing, voluptuous slut, could she put a name to the passion that was consuming her. The tragic drama of their encounter unwound against the sordid backdrop of Hollywood’s prostitutes and procurers, misfits and rejects–and then exploded in a shocking, and inevitable, climax. “

Contrast that breathless litany with an excerpt from the book:

Almost everyone wore pompadours that year, especially around Hollywood.  Even the men seemed to have a stiff upward swirl on their front locks in timid but stubborn imitation. It was 1946 and World War II was pronounced over.  The West Coast, the sprawl of suburbs around Los Angeles seemed especially suited to this uneasy peace. The crack of atomic doom was like a ringmaster’s whip, forcing to a prance both young and old alike. But Marge did not feel a part of these frantic posturings. No pompadour for her… looking down now on the scurrying women she felt a wave of contempt for those female bodies…

Ah, you know Marge’s contempt does not bode well. After all, you’ve read Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann, so you know that a hard nut like Marge is never going to coming to any good.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the lurid nature of many of Keogh’s books, the author is going through a renaissance of sorts right now. For some inexplicable reason, all of her books are available on Amazon in ebook format for $1.00 each.

There’s a schizophrenic quality to Keogh’s printed output that makes it easy to see why her best fiction was neglected, while the freak-show pulp books fell by the wayside. Keogh writes with a strange, sometimes uncomfortable intensity; an everyday exchange between two young girls in Meg takes on huge proportions, while in the excerpt above from The Other Girl, Marge establishes herself as a less-than sympathetic narrator within the first chapter through her contempt and coldness toward other women. In the best of Keogh’s books, such as Meg and Street Music, this quality in her writing makes for indelible portraits of ordinary people in bizarre circumstances. But this quality lends itself all too well to the type of pulpy sensationalism that Keogh often wrote, like The Other Girl, The Mistress and The Double Door. Because Keogh was an artist of her type, the line is sometimes so blurred, the veering between ugliness that’s real and ugliness for ugliness’ sake so whiplash-inducing, that she produced a couple books that are either genius or pure trash — The Fascinator is one of these.

Ostensibly the story of a rich New York housewife who falls in love with the Fascinator of the title, a famous sculptor (named Zanic, no less), The Fascinator could almost be a companion piece to The Feminine Mystique, so striking is the similarity between Ellen, the protagonist, and Betty Friedan’s middle class housewives consumed by their ennui. Yet it wouldn’t be a Keogh book if there weren’t disturbing, predatory elements to Zanic that sometimes push the book into pulp territory. In this way, it’s almost an inspiration to The Feminine Mystique, predating that book by ten years (The Fascinator was published in 1954), and unwittingly giving Friedan a cautionary tale for all the bored women whose good educations and bright imaginations have led them into adultery and dissolution rather than careers or creativity.

Keogh authored only a handful of books between the publication of Meg in 1950 and her final book, The Other Girl in 1962. While it’s doubtful that her rediscovery and republication in e-book format will vaunt her books into the American literary canon, Keogh is nonetheless worth reading.

Justice Department Possibly Suing Apple, Publishers Regarding Agency Pricing

Posted in Book News, E-books, Uncategorized on March 8, 2012 by JE Cornett

I’ve grumbled for months about the agency pricing scheme that drove up the price of many e-books, wondering how on earth such a patently disingenuous scheme could not violate anti-trust laws.

Now it would appear that the Justice Department is wondering the same thing. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Justice Department has warned Apple and five major publishers of their intent to sue them for “allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books.”

The five publishers who’ve been warned are Simon & Schuster Inc.; Hachette Book Group;  Penguin Group (USA); Macmillan; and HarperCollins.

The possible litigation stems from Apple’s push to radically alter the way publishers price e-books as the tech company promoted the iPad as a tablet/e-reader in 2010. In the past, publishers had traditionally sold books to retailers for around half of the recommended cover price — i.e. wholesale. Retailers were then free to sell the books for less than cover price if they so desired. However, this wholesale model, originally designed for physical books, was upended by Amazon and the Kindle, when Amazon began routinely selling e-books for less than the suggested retail price as the company worked to promote the Kindle line of e-readers.

Amazon’s strategy did not sit well with publishers or with their biggest competitor in the tablet/e-reader market, Apple. According to the WSJ article, the late Steve Jobs, along with several major publishers, cooked up an “agency model” pricing strategy, under which the publishers would set the price of their e-books, allowing Apple to take a 30% cut of the profits. While that’s hardly egregious, Apple sweetened the deal for themselves with a stipulation demanding that publishers not allow rival retailers to sell the same book at a lower price. The new agency pricing model put rival e-book retailers over the figurative barrel; retailers were required to sign an agency pricing contract, or be denied access to the included publishers’ e-books.

According to WSJ, “the Justice Department believes that Apple and the publishers acted in concert to raise prices across the industry, and is prepared to sue them for violating federal antitrust laws.”

The Justice Department isn’t the only entity concerned about the lopsided agency pricing scheme. The European Union is also investigating the agency pricing scheme, and multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed and consolidated in a New York federal court, questioning the legality of such a scheme. Also not surprisingly, Apple moved to dismiss the class-action case, claiming that it did not collude with publishers to change the pricing structure for e-books. In their motion to dismiss, WSJ reports that Apple argues that their entry into the e-book market simply “created new competition in eBook distribution and a vastly larger pool of eBook consumers.”

WSJ sources say that several of the parties involved have held negotiations to settle the case. This could prevent a court battle that can only make the agency pricing scheme look worse than it already does.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

Agency pricing has artificially inflated the costs of e-books long enough. And as for me, I’m glad to see Apple getting as much of the blame as the agency publishers. While e-book purchasers, retailers, and libraries alike have decried the agency pricing scheme for a year now, most of the ire has been directed at the big bad publishers. I’m not sure if this is due to misinformation, or just the goodwill that Apple has created among the millions of people who love the company’s products.

I believe that Apple fully expected to be given a pass on all fronts for their alleged role in the agency pricing scheme. From other e-book retailers and e-reader manufacturers, to libraries and the law, it seems to me that the prevailing wisdom at Apple was that their rabidly loyal following wouldn’t care about their involvement in the agency pricing scheme. And now, the company would appear to be distancing itself from the whole drama, or at least that ‘s what I take from the company’s argument to dismiss the class action lawsuit in New York.  The company’s claims that it simply created so high a demand for e-books with the iPad and other products that the pricing model had to change is insulting, not only to consumers but to other manufacturers and retailers of e-readers and e-books. Apple’s part in the agency pricing scheme seems clear, at least if you believe the Justice Department’s allegations. And I do.

For me, the best part of the whole WSJ article was this statement in regards to the deal struck between Apple and the publishers:

Contracts such as Apple’s prevent publishers from selling books to other buyers at a cheaper rate. Such terms, known as “most favored nation” clauses, have drawn the scrutiny of the Justice Department in recent years in the health-care industry because they can sometimes be used to hamper competition.

While I’m sure the language is hidebound, comparing Apple to a “most favored nation” is nevertheless succinct. And who has more experience with the favoritism toward Apple than the Justice Department’s employees, whose Blackberrys are being retired in favor of iPhones?

Now, if we can just get something done about the publishers’ blatant discrimination toward libraries

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love E-Readers

Posted in E-books, Uncategorized with tags on January 30, 2012 by JE Cornett

This is as good an argument for an e-reader as any. Disclaimer – I have never read this book, nor do I intend to, but the cover never fails to crack me up.

While I’m far from being a Luddite, I simply couldn’t figure out why anyone would rather read a book in an electronic format than in print.  But that was before I discovered e-readers.

I stubbornly resisted e-readers for longer than I care to recount, mostly because of my experiences with e-books. E-books were emerging as a popular format for textbooks while I was getting my master’s degree in the mid 2000s, and I often found myself slogging through a text on a computer screen, via Adobe Acrobat or the abominable dinosaur which was Microsoft Reader , and found both lacking. Anyone who has attempted to read anything of length in Acrobat or Reader will understand my frustration. Underwhelmed, I gave up on e-books for several years.

But it was more than just the difficulty in reading an e-book on the computer that bothered me — it was something more ephemeral, literally. Even when I’d bought an e-book, downloaded it to my computer and could see its little icon there on the screen, it didn’t feel real. Feel being the operative word. There was a mental, emotional barrier there to cross: I love my bookshelves full of books, the idea of randomly pulling a book from a shelf and exploring it with all sense. E-books, mostly intangible, seemed distant and remote.

Even as I resisted them, the popularity of e-books and the attendant e-readers and tablets began surging. According to the Association of American Publishers, sales of e-books increased 202.3% between February 2010 and February 2011.  Libraries were scrambling to get into the e-book game. Even my 70-some year old father had a Kindle. And still I held out.

But at some point in mid 2011 — likely in response to the statistics the AAP cited — the Internets were flooded with digital re-releases of out-of-print books I’d sought for years.

I was suddenly faced with decisions on several fronts. Pay $20.00 or more for a used Anne Stuart novel in iffy shape, or download the e-book for less than $5.00? Hunt down copies of Regencies I’d likely never read again, pay around $7.00 with shipping to get them, then donate them, or download them for around $3.00? Spend $19.99 plus shipping for a book about the making of Guns-n-Roses Appetite for Destruction that I had been warned was poorly edited and worth it only for a few key interviews, or buy the e-book for about $6.00? A larger question applied to all these books — wait to find the perfect copy of a book, or just read it online?

There was no decision, really. Realizing that I was unlikely to cherish or re-read any of these books, I caved both to e-books and to e-readers.

Enter my first e-reader, an Aluratek Libre Pro. I only bought it because it was an open-format reader — at that point I still refused to wholeheartedly drink the Amazon Kool-Aid — and I was prepared to accept it only as a second choice. If I was offered an e-book deal I couldn’t refuse, I’d read on my Libre.

The problem was, I soon found that I enjoyed my little Libre almost as much as a print book, and for some applications, more. It’s small size and light weight made it easy to carry in my purse. For someone who never likes to be without a book, this was a revelation. At the time that I got the Libre, I’d been toting a trade paperback of Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique around for a week; the change was a pleasant one, and that in no way diminishes Freidan’s book.

I also loved the Libre for long articles or essays I’d been reading online. Moving them to the Libre took only moments, and the reading experience was much more pleasant.

Then there was the purely esthetic experience of the e-reader. Old paperbacks, with their foxed pages and crumbling glue often make for frustrating reading. That, of course, discounts the covers altogether; while we know better than to judge a book by its cover, I am often mortified by my Harlequin Regencies and Anne Stuart Silhouettes, with their luridly posed cover models and eye-roll inducing blurbs. Your guilty pleasures remain your secret, when you’re reading on an e-reader.

Also: it’s easier to read while you eat when you can simply prop an e-reader up in front of you. Seriously.

All these concessions to vanity and convenience aside, my e-reader solved a bigger problem, literally — what to do about books I want to read, but not necessarily to own. While the library is obvious solution, when it comes to books that are hard to find, or not likely to be retained or circulated through interlibrary loan (such as single-run paperbacks), the library is often little help. E-books, on the other hand, at least when inexpensive enough, are the best alternative.

But the fluffy cloud of e-book joy had a dark side, and it’s name is Amazon. The ease with which authors can publish directly to Amazon’s Kindle format means that more and more authors are republishing their backlists exclusively through Amazon. As a reader (and a librarian), this frustrates me to no end. As a book lover, however, it means getting with the program. Before long, I added a Kindle Touch to my e-reader stable.

All that gushing aside, though I love my e-readers, I’ve not stopped buying print books by any means. If I find a book I’ve been looking for in print that’s not available as an e-book yet, there’s no way I’m waiting. Books that I’m likely to re-read or books that I know I will want to share with others, I’ll buy in print. Books that are more attractive in print format — books with lots of pictures or illustrations, a books with an especially well-designed cover or fonts — seem watered down even on tablets, so I buy those in print. And I’m still not crazy about reading most non-fiction on an e-reader.

But I’m nevertheless so in love with a gadget I thought I didn’t need or didn’t want that I never leave home without it. (I’ll let you guess which e-reader holds a place of honor in my purse 😉