Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You can get an ebook reader, but why would you want to?

Let me start by saying that I love toys and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I have every small appliance known to woman. I can make you burgers, pasta, bread, stew, ice cream, iced tea, shakes, toast, cole slaw, and waffles. I'm moving from a house with miles of kitchen cabinets and a pantry, and I can't bear to part with any of my toys, so I'm stuffing them into every available corner of my tiny condo.

I also love electronic toys. I have a PC, a laptop, 2 printers, a fax machine, a cell phone, a cordless phone (with 2 handsets), a wireless network, a DVD player, a VCR, a DVR, a digital camera, and an MP3 player with noise cancelling headphones (not to mention a bionic ear). So why don't I want an ebook reader?

Why would I want to pay for what I can get for free? If I can read a book on a tiny screen, I can borrow a book with pages and a cover from the library at no charge. Ebook readers themselves are pricy, and there's a hot new one on the market every month. Every publisher is scrambling to publish electronic versions of their books at a pretty standard $9.99 a pop, but not every ebook format plays on every ebook. Formats differ, and you won't see any standardization until the market shakes out the less-popular devices and a couple of clear leaders emerge (think Microsoft and Apple).

When I want to listen to a book at the gym, on a plane, or while folding laundry, I love my MP3 player. The downloads are free from New Hampshire Dowloadable Audiobooks, with my library card. (Hah!) But when I want to sit and read, I want the tactile pleasure of turning pages. And I don't want to pay for either the ebook reader or the book. Even if I weren't a librarian, I would be borrowing books.

Some people like to think that digital "content" will replace printed books. I think that may be true to some extent, but if there's anything that this recession has taught us, it's how to appreciate a simpler life and find enjoyment in things that cost little or no money. The percentage of my property taxes that supports the library is less than $20. That small sum buys a lot of enjoyment. A free library card buys a lot of bang for the buck. So keep your ebook readers and your pay-per-reads. I'll take the library.

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