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Fragments and Shrapnel – The E-Book Edition

The buzz at Book Expo this year wasn’t about the latest tell-all autobiography or flashy new book from John Grisham. This year publishers were wringing their hands with worry over e-books. According to my unofficial research, publishers are reporting e-book sales are making up about 8% of their books sold. With products like the Kindle, E-Reader and The Nook, it’s no wonder E-book are here to stay.

Last Christmas my step-mom gifted me with an E-Reader and like a magpie to a shiny object, I got excited about my new “shiny”. I played with it and browsed the E-Reader websites and then let it collect dust on my desk. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in downloading book, I just wasn’t sure of its roll in replacing the stack of books next to my bed.

I dusted off my E-Reader a few months later when a friend of mine posted a link to a free public domain electronic book site. I felt like a kid in a candy store downloading old classics and books I wanted re-read. The software that comes with the E-Reader is relatively intuitive and easy to use. It works well with other websites and makes it easy to transfer files from your hard drive to your digital library. I had a few problems finding the library in my E-Reader when I connected it to my computer but a few clicks here and there sorted out the kinks.

I have the Sony Reader Pocket Edition. If I wanted, I could “upgrade” to the Reader Daily Edition or Reader Touch. My pocket edition is perfect for commuting and came with a nice carrying case and fits nicely in my work bag. That and it’s very light. Various accessories are available for purchase including a reader cover with light (I’ll get to the lack of light later) , a charger (it only comes with a USB cord) and variety of different covers to make it feel like you’re actually reading a book.

Using the E-Reader took some time for me to get used to because I kept thinking it was my iPod. The circle on the bottom of the reader does not scroll through the menu like the iPod does and is mostly used for turning pages and pressing enter on the various menus. It has storage for up to 350 books and a long battery life. I used my E-Reader every day for two weeks and I still had one bar left on my battery life at the end of the two weeks. It supports various formats of e-books and documents including pdf files, and ePub files.

The main menu is easy to use to get to the book you are currently reading, pages you have bookmarked or browse the titles in your library. The buttons on the side of the E-Reader can help you navigate through the menu items or you can just hit the iPod-like buttons on the bottom.

The first book I downloaded to see if I really liked the E-Reader was Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I messed around with the settings and found the small print to be too small and settled with the medium print size. This size did not strain my eyes and filled the pages nicely. I didn’t feel like I was reading three words and having to turn the page like I did when I experimented with the large font. I book marked pages and the E-Reader remembered which pages I was on when I shut it off for the day.

It took me about a week of commuting to finish this book and come to the conclusion that I really like the E-Reader. It takes up less room in my bag and isn’t as heavy as a regular book. I can have 5 books with me at all times and it never gets heavier. When I’m reading it on the train or bus people talk to me and ask me how I like it. I didn’t take it on my trip to NYC because I already had too many electronics including my cell phone, iPod and flip camera. I read from the E-Reader a few times before going to bed and at first didn’t like it, but slowly got used to it. My nightstand was very clean those two weeks.

My only problem with the E-Reader is that it doesn’t have a back light so it makes it hard to read in bed. I understand why they did it because it would drain the battery but I would have liked it when I was commuting in the dark or trying read in bed without waking up my husband. The other problem I have is that it doesn’t come with an AC adapter to charge it. My computer recently crashed and I couldn’t hook my E-Reader to the computer and charge it.

Do I think it will replace brick and mortar stores? It’s hard to say. For me, it doesn’t replace the experience of going into a bookstore and browsing the shelves and soaking up the atmosphere of a bookstore. I never got that same feeling from record stores. I hated having CD’s laying around my house. Books, not so much. It’s like the quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero, “A home without books is a body without a soul.” I do like the idea of being able to download books while sitting in my bra and underwear but it takes away the experience of a real live bookstore. Plus, I live near Powell’s books – how could I NOT go there?

Books I downloaded:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Madame Bovary

The War of the Worlds

Various Open Domain Sites:

Gutenberg.Org

Google Books

Feed Books

Open Library

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About Anna Alexander

I am a freelance writer and producer living in the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I live with our cat Grendel who lets us pay his mortgage.

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