I love gadgets as much as the next youngish librarian. I have two different iPods that serve two very different purposes, I check email compulsively, and I feel more comfortable chatting online than I do over the phone. Yet despite my love of electronic fluff, I am an eBook Reader Hater.
I don’t know what it is about the Sony Reader and the Kindle that make me turn into curmudgeon-librarian, angrily shaking my post-it notepad while shushing cell-phone-talkers and extolling the virtues of the printed index. I know several lovely people who are proud ebook reader owners (many of whom are librarians) and I’ve even played around with these offending contraptions and marveled at their ease of use. However I still find myself cringing when I hear people talk about them or see folks ereading in public.
I recognize that ebook readers are a nice alternative to carrying around heavy textbooks and a fantastic way to breathe new life into old public domain works. They make always irritating airline travel a wee bit simpler for bibliophiles whose baggage is always conspicuous and overweight. Omitting the initial purchase price, ebook readers also provide a somewhat cheaper individual book purchase option ($10 for an e-version vs. $25 for a hardcover edition). On paper, ebook readers sound good, much like the “super nice guy” your friends all think would be great for you. In person, they’re just kind of a let down.
This past week I read the ALA 2010 Midwinter Meeting’s Top Tech Trends summary on Library Journal and was pleasantly surprised to read about Jason Griffey and Joe Murphy’s ebook discussion. According to Jason Griffey, “eBook Hardware is dying,” and both he and Murphy cautioned libraries against getting caught up in the “hardware game,” by spending time and money on the latest and greatest ebook readers. I whole-heartedly agree and admit that my real beef isn’t with ebooks; it’s with the readers themselves. If I download a fantastic read and want to share it with a friend, I can’t easily pass it along without parting with my Kindle/Nook/Sony Reader. It’s an isolating piece of technology. Like most bibliophiles, I look forward to any opportunity to share my love of reading and the books that inspire the most love. With an ebook reader I just can’t do that. I can awe onlookers with the coolness of my ebook gadget, but I can’t share what really makes it awesome: the book I’m reading.
eBook Reader, we’ll never be a thing. This time it’s you, not me.