Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Why I want an ebook reader for Christmas

There are no shortage of websites touting the advantages of ebooks over regular print books.  It's a personal choice and opinions vary in expected ways.  When I was in my twenties I loved to get a first edition hard copy of my favourite authors' latest book, carefully wrap it in plastic, and hoped that it would last forever.  If I was really fortunate, I might catch the author on a book tour and snag that cherished autograph as an added bonus for my treasure.  (I remember the shocked look on Carol Shields' face when I approached her at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver many years ago with an armload of her books to sign.) Ah, youth!

Over the years, I have lost this penchant for preserved treasures; the plastic wrap has been removed and all have been unearthed from storage and placed on the bookshelf alongside secondhand paperback versions of the classics.  I retained my love of the printed word, and can not imagine putting a pen or pencil mark in a book - throughout my university days even my textbooks remained in pristine condition as I would place notes and page references in my personal journal, rather than in a book.

As I do not own an ebook reader, not a day goes by without a book in hand at some point.  So would I even use an ereader if I had one?  I think that my reading habits would quickly adapt.  Unprejudiced by a need for the feeling of paper on my fingers, or the desire to hold onto the traditional book experience, I think that I am ready.  I also see many advantages to the ebook experience in my life.

I already spend a lot of time on the computer, and love the convenience of reading in one window, looking up unfamiliar words immediately in another window and checking references using wikipedia and google in another window.  So in many ways my reading habits have evolved to the point where I would not find the experience of reading full novels on a screen unfamiliar.  It should be a fairly painless transition.  I also read numerous books simultaneously - currently I am reading Tom Jones and Emma, though usually I have four or five on the go at once.  Having all of these at my fingertips on one device would be a lot more convenient than searching the house for the location of one that I put down...somewhere.

I also love to travel.  Weight considerations on airlines are always a concern, one that restricts the number of books, especially hard cover books, that can be taken aboard.  I noticed a lot of people this summer while in Mexico reading on iPads and Kindles, on the beach and next to the pool without a problem.  I wouldn't take a computer to Mexico, fearing theft.  I wouldn't even take an iPad, actually for the same reason.  But a cheap ereader, like a kindle or kobo I wouldn't worry about.  It could hold hundreds of books, it's small and light and would easily fit in the in-room safe when not in use.  Best of all, if it did get stolen, I could replace it when I get home and instantly load all of my books back on it, without having to buy the books again.

It's an economical gift too.  Many are around $100, which isn't too bad for a major gift.  The best part is that in subsequent years, gifting ebooks would save my family a lot of money since electronic versions of books are less expensive than printed versions.   The books that I have published, for example, range from free (for "Bees to Benny") to 3.99 - very reasonable for a novel when you think about the cost of printed books.  Most ebook retailers have a "Gift Book" option on the purchase page to facilitate this process. I wouldn't even have to re-buy most of the classics in my library as many of them (from Dickens to Hemingway...) are freely available as ebooks.

The only other consideration is: which ereader?  Amazon offers the Kindle, Chapters and many European stores are affiliated with the Kobo, Barnes and Noble has the Nook, Sony has its own store (I wouldn't get a Sony or a Nook as I found that Canadian authors can not self publish to those stores without using an intermediary like Smashwords).  Then of course there is the cream of the crop, iPad.  All of these offer an excellent, multi-functional reading experience with bookmarking, dictionaries and many other bells and whistles.

My preference, as I said is inexpensive.  That would rule out the iPad, Kindle Fire and Kobo Vox - these are cool, but too elaborate for my needs.  I just want a simple black and white reader that stores lots of books, allows access to lots of books and is easy to use.  So that means an older version of Kobo or Kindle would be great.

I am sure that I will still buy some printed versions of books - spontaneous book store browsing habits can't be unlearned overnight.  But an ereader would be a welcome addition to my electronic arsenal.


  1. But which would you prefer between the Kobo and Kindle? I like that the Kindle lets you access Amazon books, but I don't like that it can't read epubs, as I have a large (LARGE) collection of epubs. Which model(s) would you go for?

  2. That's a personal consideration that depends, among other things on where you live. I have heard that US residents are better served by Amazon - many of their services are inaccessible to resident of other countries. The Kobo, on the other hand is affiliated with Canadian Chapter/Indigo stores - they have a similar selection to Amazon. If you have lots of epubs, its not too hard to convert them to .mobi files - I'll do a post on how to do this in a few days for those people who are interested.

  3. How about for the kids? Would they use Kobos or Kindles? If so, which one would they prefer?

  4. I think my kids are planning on getting me a kobo - they have their iPods that they use to read books. Also their school is considering providing kids with ereaders for textbooks - which will reduce costs for the district, be a lot lighter for their knapsacks and be really cool!

  5. That would be amazing (re: school-sponsored e-readers). I started reading .txts on my Palm Pilot back in 2000. I'm currently reading Socialite Book 2 on my iPhone. I'm enjoying the evolution of the electronic mobile reading experience. I hope you get your Kobo!


Thank you for your comments.