• Cait Levin
  • [What's Next?] But Seriously with these E-readers
[What's Next?] But Seriously with these E-readers
Written by
Cait Levin
August 2013
Written by
Cait Levin
August 2013

Hello everybody! Some of you might remember that I did a post awhile back on e-readers and how they don't make any sense to me.  Big news: they still don’t make sense to me, but I wanted to talk about it again this week because something happened that makes me want to further probe this question. I promise to talk about my actual writing next time, and I already have an idea for a post (that’s a big deal for me, people!)!

So what happened was, a few months ago (much to my chagrin and despite a barrage of discouraging comments from me), my sister acquired an e-reader. Not an iPad or a cool tablet or something. An e-reader.

And, fine. I thought it was stupid, but I got over it, rationalizing to myself that she must be downloading all of these books and utilizing the electronic resources at the library and so on and so forth (note: my sister is thirteen).  For the purposes of this story I have changed my sister’s name to Tabitha (haha).

So I’m walking through the mall with Tabitha and we pass a Barnes & Noble. “Oh! I’ve got to go in there to see if they have my magazine!” she shouts. I follow her into the store and find no trace of the magazine, even after we ask someone who works there and try to look it up on the computer.

“But Tabitha,” I say to her, “Why not just download the magazine to your e-reader? Was that not why you purchased said e-reader?” I made myself sound more eloquent, obvi.

“They don’t look as good on that stupid piece of junk thing!” she said. Well, I added the last bit.

And then my brain did something that I can only describe as a cross between a brain freeze and aneurysm. Is not one of the huge selling points of an e-reader the fact that magazines are cooler and more interactive on the screen than on the page? Is it not meant to be an easier way to subscribe to these publications, so you are not left roaming the aisles of stores in search of your favorite ones?

At another point in the trip we had to call the library to extend the due date of a book my sister had checked out. “But I thought you already had the e-book version of that?” I asked her innocently.

“She prefers to read the real book,” my father replied.

Again with the freezing and the aneurysm.

So my question to all of you is this: If you have an e-reader, do you find yourself using it exclusively for your book and magazine reading, or do you still default to the print copies? If you don’t have an e-reader and are thinking or getting one, would it substitute your purchasing of print materials?

You can probably guess that I personally would consider using Nook or Kindle apps on a tablet if I had one, but the e-reader thing just leaves me at a loss. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Cait Levin is the Community Manager at She Writes. You can read more of her blog (when she stops watching so much Dawson’s Creek and actually writes more of a blog) here.

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  • Julie Luek

    Like many here, I use a combination of both. If it's a book I want to "study"-- write in, underline, highlight and otherwise abuse, I prefer an old-fashioned paper and pages kind. However, for most novels, I love my Kindle. I love that I can read it at night when I can't sleep (maybe that's an old broad thing) without turning on a light. Magazines are fun on it, but do take a long time to download and hog space (the drawback). I'd have to say I'm a hybrid reader!

  • RYCJ Revising

    Love this story. So enjoyable *on the eyes*... & relatable. I wasn't a fan of e-too much of anything, especially readers. But guess what? Finally one was sort of forced on me, and I have to admit... I kind of like it.

    Still, having found a big different between print and computer reading, I'll grab a print book first if I haven't read it before. The books I'm reading on this e-thingamajig are my own, so that probably doesn't count as having discovered anything.

    On second (or third) note, that's news to me about the correlation between the pc light and insomnia. No wonder how I've managed staying wide awake weeks at a time! 

  • Caitlyn thank you for this -- I think the topic of format and the explosion of all things e is such an important one, and from these comments obviously something a lot of She Writers think about.  I was also somebody who felt I couldn't relate to, or enjoy, an ereader.  But I discovered that for big door-stopper nonfiction books I love it.  Not just because it's easier to manage, since those books are so heavy (I just finished the first volume of the Robert Caro LBJ biography), but because I can so easily toggle between the book and the internet, searching for photos of the players mentioned, or reading further about things I find interesting.  That is actually really fun and enriches the experience a lot!  But for novels I have to hold it.  And they are definitely better for reading in bed.

  • Cait Levin

    Yehudit -- I had never heard that before, that is so interesting. I'm definitely a before bed reader. Thanks for sharing!

  • Yehudit Reishtein

    Research done by a group in the sleep research center at Harvard measured the light from computers and e readers  and found that most of them give off light that is bright enough and in the right part of the spectrum to stimulate the wakefulness centers in the brain. This means that using the computer or any back lit reader can not only keep you awake while reading, it can mess up your body rhythms, making it harder to sleep the next night  (and the next...) as well.

  • Jane B. Moore

    Oh - and reading on computers can make you stay up at night.  Read that on my HMO somewhere when I was looking up insomnia.  That's a big reason to read only real books in bed.  

    Jane Moore

  • Jane B. Moore

    I have 3 ereaders: a kobo (very small, can put in pocket); a nook and a kindle that only exists now on my mac.  But, I prefer books.  It's easier to write in them, pocketbooks are easier to carry around - no charging, they can get wet, etc. etc.  And, reading on computer hurts my eyes.  so yes, I often read on my ereaders but I also buy books and take books out of the library-as well as downloading them.  Why would you stick to one form when each has its advantages?  and why do you care how other people read?  

  • Barbara Kelly

    I love books - the sound of paper, the feel of a binding, especially a leather one, the varieties of typefaces.  All of the above.  But my cup  [or my bookshelves] runneth over and I can no longer afford the luxury of buying a book I 'might' want to read. So, I use the Kindle for those books that fall into one of two categories - I might want to look something up in the first type, or I don't remember why I thought I  might want the book, so don't want to invest too heavily in hard copy. [My local library is small and geared toward a different readership].  I rarely read the Kindle versions, although since I bought the velvet wedge pillow, it has become more comfortable to do that.

  • Patricia Anne Moomaw

    I have the most basic of Kindle e-readers, and I use it every day. Well, night, actually. I like to read in bed before going to sleep and holding the Kindle while reclining is a lot easier than juggling a book. I read novels and some non-fiction on it; I read hard copies of newspapers, magazines, cookbooks, nonfiction books I want to hang onto, etc. There's room for both in my world.

  • Patricia Lyons Eldred

    I have the newest, large color Nook but I'd still rather read a book. Maybe it's just the Nook but it has a tendency to skip ahead multiple pages and do other weird things. The only time I use the Nook is for travel--and mainly to check email. I thought I'd use it to write as well and even bought a blue tooth keyboard but so far have used it only a  few times. Other good news for book lovers, I asked my 18 y.o. granddauther if she was interested in a Nook and she said no, she liked holding a "real" book in her hands while she reads.

  • Ivana Milakovic

    I have a Prestigio e-reader (the only one reading both .mobi and .epub) and use it often, though I also read print books. Electronic books are cheaper, plus I don't live in the US and local bookstores don't have many English books -- and postage for buying a print book from the US would be a killer. E-reader is also great for travelling, I don't have to decide which books to bring, I just take a few hundred. :D Once I start converting my work to e-books, I imagine my e-reader will help me see whether I did it right. Oh, and there's also the weight issue -- some hard covers are really heavy, especially if I read for hours, and e-reader is much easier to hold. Like the others mentioned, there's the room issue as well: I live in a very small apartment and have no room for all the books I'd love to keep. With my e-reader this problem doesn't exist, so I can focus on keeping the hard copies of the books I need for writing.

  • Yehudit Reishtein

    I read books on an e-reader and in hard copy, and often find myself in the middle of reading an electronic book and a hard copy (or 2 or 3). What are the advantages of the e-reader?

    1. It holds many many books and takes up almost no space (we live in a small apartment, and our bookcases are overstuffed to  he point of buying a new book means I really should get rid of one I already have).

    2. It I want to read when I can't sleep in the middle of the night, I do not have to turn on a bright light. 

    3. I do not  live in the US and even though some bookstorescarry some English books, the selection is extremely limited, and many of my favorite authors are nowhere to be found except in online bookstores--shipping is expensive, but downloading is free.

    Advantages of hard copy?

    1. When I want to go back and reread a particular passage, it is much easier to find (I often remember where is was on the page, which is a help)

    2. I can read a physical book on the Sabbath and other religious holidays when electronic devices are off-limits.

    3. I can have several books open at the same time.

  • Elrita St. Clair

    I love my e reader, but only read novels with it. I prefer the print version for magazines, newspapers, and text books. The thing I like most about it is the ease in buying books. If want a book, I can get it in 60 seconds. Book stores are now scarce in my community and with the e reader I don’t have to drive miles to get to one or worry about finding a place to park. Plus, Barnes and Noble offer a free book every Friday, and I’ve received some great reads.

  • Judith S. Posner

    I love my e reader. Since I live in another country it is the easiest and cheapest way for me to receive English books. But, in fact, that is not the main way I use my Kindle---(oops, is it okay to mention brand) Living abroad, the thing I miss most about America, New York in particular, is being able to walk into a bookstore, and sit down on a comfy couch and cruise an armful of books.( I read mostly non-fiction which is probably relevant here.) Sometimes I don't even buy any. And that's the way I use my K. I download loads of sample chapters every week and always have something to read. I can stay on top of publishing trends in just about any area.  Of course, I buy from time to time, but what is more important to me is the fact that I have access to a huge library, whenever I want, on any topic that I may be into at the time.

  • Aithne Jarretta

    ;D Loved your rant. It took me awhile to come around, too. Then I learned that I could use the Kindle to view my wip and see if there were any formatting glitches. That's what won me over. I graduated to a Table Nexus 7 (Christmas present) and can now use that to write on when away from home. (The writing app is great and I save to Dropbox. Yowza! Easy.)

    As far as the ereader app, I have more ebooks than I can count. When I'm in a mood there's a great selection to choose from for my entertainment. (about 300 I think) ...(carried lightly in my purse)

    BUT I confess to still loving the print book. So far, I prefer print for research books because I can see and flip the pages, mark with postits and make notes on them. Maybe it's still the 'physical' aspect of the book I love and I'm making excuses (lol) but I think I'll stick to this process awhile.

    Each person is different. Perhaps you'll come around for your own reasons. When/if that happens remember it's just the next step and pause to enjoy it.

    ~ Aithne

  • Kaye Munroe

    I always loved reading books & had no interest in getting any kind of e-reader.  Then I won a kindle in a contest (if that isn't the height of irony, I don't know what is!) and discovered that I love it.  For me, the most important feature is the ability to change the font size since I have MS & my vision isn't as good as it once was.  I also find it easier to hold because it's lighter than many traditional books.  I can carry an entire library if I go somewhere--a big plus because I used to pack two bags of books when I went on vacation.  Another plus: I can download a book & read it anytime, anywhere.  Since my little town doesn't have much of a book store, I usually ordered books anyway, and now I don't have to wait for them, don't need to pay s&h, and don't have to worry about them getting lost or arriving torn up.  And many ebooks are cheaper than traditional books, though not all...and I find I now resent paying $8.00 for an ebook, especially if the hard copy is the same price.  I also like knowing that authors usually get a greater percentage of the profits from self-publishing ebooks than they do if they opt for the traditional route with a major publishing house.

    On the downside, many ebooks are poorly formatted.  Also, since literally anyone can publish an ebook, you have to wade through a lot of schlock to find the good stuff.

    I don't like the e-publishing trend toward serials; one of my favorite authors, Iris Johansen, is now releasing her latest Eve Duncan stories as serials, and frankly, I feel cheated that I have to pay for three installments and wait for the end of the story, so I've given up on reading her books after almost 30 years of reading everything she wrote.  I notice that much of her plot is filler now because she's stretching her stories too thin in order to maximize her profits, so not only is the serializing itself a mistake (in my opinion) but the way she's doing it feels even more like a betrayal.  I think I'd be less offended if I felt she was telling a story that actually merited a division into sections, but it seems pretty clear she's just stringing her readers along in order to squeeze more money out of us--which doesn't seem to be going over well with her long-time loyal fans.  I mention this mainly because I think this trend, if not handled properly, is a huge mistake on the part of the author.  A meaty story that would otherwise be edited down would work great as a serial, especially if the reader can buy each installment at a reasonable price, but charging three times the cost for a story that's watered down to make it stretch further is just wrong.

    I turn off many features--for example, I don't want to read the passages 'highlighted' by other readers.  It also makes me a little uncomfortable knowing my reading habits are being monitored by Amazon, though as a writer, it might be helpful to know which parts of a book are being skimmed over, etc.  And studies have shown that the light from e-readers stimulate the brain so they're not a good thing to use for bedtime reading, since they can make it more difficult for people to get to sleep.  I'm also completely uninterested in Twitter or Facebook or any other social media usage.

  • J.Q. Rose Writing

    I include e books and print books in my reading life. I like the smell and the feel of the pages of a print book, and hey, I can get them free at the library. If I like it, I may buy the e-book.(E-books are cheaper and don't take up shelf space or tree lives.) But I really like my old Kindle for reading right before bedtime. It's light and easy to handle (and there's no whoosh of page turning to wake my DH.) I have a Kindle Fire, but it's too heavy compared to the old Kindle for e-reading. So I can conclude by saying I love both print and e-books!