In defense of the E-Reader

I’ve always been the kind of person who starts to panic without a book or three on their person at all times.  The problem with the volume and speed with which I read is that my bedrooms/apartments have been in danger of the books staging a take over since I was a kid.  I used the library more when I was young, but as an adult I fell into bad return habits, at which point it was often cheaper just to buy the book.  The advent of Amazon was VERY bad for my budget because I was no longer restricted to the books available in nearby brick and mortar stores.

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One of the bookcases in my house.

While I am often an early adopter of technology, I was a bit skeptical of e-readers and the Kindle app.  But two events happened that were key in my conversion from skeptic to devotee.

The first was purchasing a smart phone; the second was the birth of my elder daughter.  While it is easy to do a lot of things while holding a book in one hand, I began to discover that baby care wasn’t necessarily one of them.  Holding a phone, though, was much more manageable.  I began to read the occasional book on my phone.

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In 2010 our family moved from the US to Singapore (read my expat blog here).  The issue with an international move is that there is only so much space to pack your belongings, and there’s always the fear that a move away from your new home may have to happen on your own dime–which would mean abandoning the majority of your possessions.  When it came to furniture, we opted to buy Ikea-no great loss if abandoned.  When it came to books, we brought far too many, but we also brought Kindles.  At that point, neither of us used the kindles very much–it was another electronic you had to carry around with you–and a fairly fragile one at that.  The 2o10 Kindle was huge-it didn’t fit easily into my purse.  Having to take it out of my bag, unzip the giant case, turn it on and find the book was time consuming when compared with pulling a book out of my bag.

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While the physical kindle was a waste of money, I did start using the app on my phone.  I switched from iPhone to Android during the summer when apple and amazon were fighting, and it was up for grabs if ios would even support the kindle app in the future (I want to say 2011).  I even upgraded the size of my phone to get a compromise between a larger screen and something I could still hold in my hand.   At the time of this post, I use a Samsung Galaxy S4, although I’m planning to upgrade my phone soon, once the S5 is out.

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So why use an e-reader?

  • Space in your house.  Space is at a premium in our household.  Something had to give, and the adult’s books were the easy choice.  We have several hundred kid’s books, so room had to be made.  We can also only fit so many bookcases into our house, before it became out of hand.
  • Price.  E books have hit a point where they are as or more cheap than their physical counterparts in the US.  Living abroad, they are significantly cheaper.
  • Capacity.  Just sitting on my phone, I have over 100 books, which means if my current to read (or reads–I usually have several going) isn’t working, I can go reread an old friend.  For someone who devours books at the pace I do (I logged 100 books on goodreads last year, but it was probably just north of that as I sometimes forget to log books there-so I average roughly two books a week), having a large number of books on standby is reassuring.  For example, the entire Harry Potter series take up over 4,000 pages–hard to fit in your bag.
  • Ease of reading.  I generally have my phone in my hand or next to me.  This means I can sneak in a few pages of reading while waiting for an elevator, waiting for my elder daughter to get released from school, waiting in line at the grocery store and so forth.  I wouldn’t get through as many books without that.

Sure I love the feel of a physical book, and I do have those books I’m unwilling to part with.  I have books that just aren’t available on kindle or other e-reader formats.  I have autographed books, which you can pry from my cold, dead fingers (I waited hours to get Maya Angelou’s signature in college).  Then there are those that I’m keeping for sentimental reasons.

The transition can be rough–but once you get used to it, it’s surprising how much you may like it.

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