Practicality wins: My e-reader review

Well I pondered and you answered. And now I am converted. Yes, it’s official: I love my e-reader. It actually all worked out pretty golden: just when I decided I wanted one, Chapters (Canada’s version of a Barnes & Noble) came out with the new Kobo Touch, thereby removing my last nagging doubt about the e-reader. After getting used to the touch screen on my Nokia cell phone, I wasn’t sure I could still get behind awkwardly navigating menus with silly buttons. Doubly convincing was the realization I had enough points saved up on my Visa to convert into approximately ⅔ of a Kobo Touch (since they come in quanta of 1, I paid the rest out of pocket). Sweet! The final icing on the cake was that Fedex delivered my Kobo on the day I happened to be home sick with a cold. Enter Bossypants + cold medicine and hilarity ensued.

Here is a slightly more objective breakdown of pros and cons for anyone considering taking the plunge. Some of it is Kobo Touch specific, which might not be so helpful to the Kindle-verse, however, I think most should be general enough.

– Con: It is not a book. It does not provide physical cues, such as a cover, that let you rest assured that the page you just turned to is indeed the page you should be reading. With an e-reader you have to just trust the letter-carrying elves (yes, little elves lift up the letters in sync inside the e-reader to make pages appear! technology is so cool!) to deliver you the right content and sometimes they get confused. For example, when I opened up Bossypants, it gave me a couple of options: keep turning pages through the copyright/dedication etc., or just begin reading.” I chose to begin reading. Immediately I felt a little disoriented; the story seemed to start right out of nowhere. I chalked it up to e-reader jitters and persevered. Luckily before I got too far, my attempts to master the controls on the thing landed me back at the beginning where I realized I had in fact missed the prologue. Oh you silly elves and your sheltered little lives! Haven’t you ever heard of a prologue? I had a similar kerfuffle with the footnotes, which are located at the end of the book, before I learned how to jump back and forth using the handy linking asterisks. In summary, the lack of a physical book does present a few additional challenges besides just nostalgia for yellowed pages.

– Pro: It is not a book. Notwithstanding the above, this is in fact the greatest ‘pro’ there ever was. It cannot be over-stated – everything in my life is better with a Kobo compared to a real book. Oh whoops, apparently it can be overstated. Nevertheless, a few things are better. Here are My Favourite Places to Read and How the Kobo Makes Them Better:

Over lunches that require two hands to eat.  Unlike a ‘real’ book that is unruly and has pages that flip all over the place when you take your hands off of it for just a second to collect an escaping piece of cheese (not on my watch!), my e-reader lies nice and flat in front of me and turns pages with a gentle little tap. Extra bonus: if I’m eating a massive sushi box for lunch I can even increase the font size so I can still read it from a distance (we do sushi like we mean it over here).

Huddled in our living room’s designated reading chair with my legs over the arm-rest, while drinking a too-full cup of scalding hot tea. Managing a book in this set-up often results in tea-stained pages and first degree burns, but they are now a thing of the past with my book that does not require hand holding! (And no, I couldn’t just fill the teacup less – what if I got to the end of the not-full-enough cup and really wanted one more sip? I couldn’t have one now could I smartypants? Yeah, I’ll accept your apology.)

In bed. Granted, this is not such a problem with a real book (unless it’s a chunky book), but the e-reader is just way more comfortable to hold. None of that flipping back and forth in order to rest the book comfortably on the bed business. Another bonus for the extra lazy: I’ve discovered that the flap of the holder can sit up tent-like on the bed so I don’t even have to hold it.

When spending my lunch hour in a lineup to buy my husband football tickets. Ok so this may have only happened once and doesn’t strictly count as a ‘Favourite’, but boy was I (and John, even if he didn’t know it) glad that I had my highly portable e-reader in my purse to keep my idle mind away from plotting all the ways he has to make this up to me.

In summary, not being a ‘real’ book turns out to be a fantastic thing. I kind of wish the books I own but have yet to read could be turned into e-books.

This is what my life looks like all the time now.

– Con: the elves need their juice, or they stop working. Quite suddenly and with little warning to boot. Ok, so there is a battery indicator, but I thought it was more like a friendly suggestion than an outright strike notice. Oh well, luckily I was at home when I first learned of this so it wasn’t a big disappointment. I imagine I may have felt differently if I was out somewhere and just about to learn if the man who the female protagonist has been searching for through the entire book is in fact dead (he was – I read depressing books). In summary, charge the thing like once a week-ish to be safe.

– Pro: Being able to go from ‘I want to read that’ to actually reading it in 2 minutes flat. That includes the 90 seconds you spend misspelling the author’s name.

– Minor con: smudges and dust on the screen. I imagine this is a problem restricted to the touch model because, well obviously you touch it a lot, and because the simple act of wiping the screen will cause pages to turn. The lovely ease of using the touch screen more than makes up for this though.

– Pro: guilt-free highlighting. I never could bring myself to physically mark up a book, but I am really enjoying the highlighting function on my Kobo. When a passage strikes me as especially brilliant, I can mark it up, save it, and return to it anytime I want with a few taps.

In conclusion – and this shouldn’t come as a surprise – I’m a big fan. I learned I can pretty quickly re-direct my love away from physical books to this gadget of potentially thousands of books. If you think you might be able to, I highly recommend it.

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Posted on June 27, 2011, in Life. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I love, love, love my e-reader. Will it ever replace the feel and smell of a paper book? Nope, of course not. But I love it for all the reasons you’ve mentioned, plus some.

    On reading it in bed, it has the added bonus of a Night Mode (almost black screen, dimmed back light.) This means no fumbling with a book light, and I can read without disturbing T, who goes to sleep before me.

    Also, no more carrying around multiple books. At any given time I may be reading two or more books at a time. I don’t have to decide which book to bring. Which is great, because if I get irritated or bored with one book, I can switch to another. (See: The last APW book club book. Sometimes I wanted to yell at the book.)

    If you’re having problems with your screen smudging see if you can find a high quality anti-glare screen protector. I payed something like $20 for mine, but it was well worth it. Not only can I read it outside, but the screen never smudges anymore, with is awesome.

    • oooh yours is back lit! Mine doesn’t have that, but I’ve been thinking of getting a little light that attaches to it for traveling.

      I thought about a screen protector but wondered if it might interfere with the touch screen. The smudge thing is really minor so I probably won’t bother – I only notice it in very specific lighting conditions.

      • I have the fancy one with wi-fi that’s more like a small tablet PC in a lo of ways. It was my justification for buying it.

        The screen protector hasn’t hampered the sensitivity at all, happily. It has made me a lot less nervous while using it though. I’m clumsy, so it was necessary for me.

  2. I’ve been so wary of e-readers because of all the things you mentioned – turning the page, smelling books, etc. But you made some excellent points (esp cause I was just lugging around a 600+ page Steven King last year that nearly broke my bag)

    • Find one to play with and just try reading a few pages on it – the first few seem a bit strange but if you find you can still get into the story, you’ll probably enjoy it in the long run. The vehicle carrying the story just didn’t end up being as important as I thought.

  3. I love ereaders and I am never going back to dusty old books. The reason being is the functions it comes with. You can browse the web and read a book on once device. I’m sorry but to me, thats amazing!

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