Sunday, July 19, 2009

eReaders: Pros and Cons

Before BEA, I was not tempted in the least to get an eReader. One of my favorite things about reading is the physical comfort of curling up with a book, looking at its’ cover and turning the pages. And I love the conversations that arise from perusing bookshelves – both mine and others’. I could acknowledge that eReaders were probably a lot more convenient for traveling, but other than that, I didn’t think about them – at all.

Then at BEA, two developments made me actually seriously consider getting an eReader. The first is the new NetGalley service, a way for book reviewers to download galleys (ARCs) in PDF form. The second is the eARC pilot program HarperCollins is trying out for their Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 titles (some of which I am DYING to read).

Now, I still can’t really justify BUYING books for an eReader, but it seems like it could be a great format to read ARCs on.

No or low shipping costs
Worldwide availability (in theory)
Environmentally friendly – less forests felled
No mountains of ARCs to get rid of after reading

High cost of eReader – a $300 investment is a lot
Low current selection – not a lot of publishers are on board
Can’t pass on ARCs in contests or to other reviewers

Based on my Internet research, it seems the amazon Kindle might be the better choice for people who buy eBooks, at least in the US. But for reading ARCs and other PDFs, the Sony eReader seems to have an advantage.

What do you all think? Will we soon be seeing a shift to eARCs? And if you have an eReader preference or experience, please share!


Amy said...

For storage space and traveling I'd like an ereader, but I"ll be waiting until a few things are sorted before fully jumping on board.

E-reviewing makes sense.....after all digital ownership is not the same and it would probably save pubs a lot of money.

Kelly said...

I really think that we going to see a change in the way bloggers receive material from publishers. It just makes fiscal sense to switch to pdf's and downloads.

I don't have a e-reader, and I've been interested in reading about them. I was able to see a Sony e-reader at my local Staples, and thought it was pretty good. Except when I hit the button to turn the page, the screen would flash black and then the words would flash on. I thought that maybe the flashing might be irritating after reading for a while, and I don't know if the reader can override that.

I haven't seen the Kindle, but I'm a little annoyed by the proprietary nature of the machine. Sort of like the Ipod, which also irritates me. I don't like having my choices limited by the manufacturer of the product and it seems that, like Ipod, that's what Amazon does with the Kindle. I know that Ipod's are the end all--be all of mp3 players, but I hate the whole Itunes thing. It seems cumbersome and unnecessarily complicated and I wonder if the Kindle is the same?

I'm very interested in everyone's point of view. Great discussion topic! Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

I have a Sony and will be getting a Kindle before the year is out. Publishers going e-format. Heck, libraries are going e-format too! Each eReader has its own purpose. Sony is for ARCs, libraries, etc. and the Kindle is for the cheaper purchases.

Love eReaders verses having a towering pile of books...or should I say towering piles of! I hate clutter and this fits in very well.

That said, it has been hard to change over. The devices are different. I felt the same way about the MP3 verses CD player. I think younger people can adjust better or easier than the ol' bags like me. Once I did get adjusted to using the MP3 and the Sony, I loved it.

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

I own a Kindle 1. I love it. I'm a huge fan of and don't feel cheated because of propriety or anything like that.

I don't miss real books. I actually think the Kindle is more comfortable. I can use one hand, lay down in bed very comfortably, not so with a real book.

PDFs can be converted but not always perfectly, so eARCs would be able to go on the Kindle just fine.

Plus, the Kindle is wireless. That's the best thing about the Kindle. The cost of ebooks on are good. I'm happy with them. I have noticed that some have been above the $9.99 so I just don't buy them. I wait. I get plenty of ARCs to read so it's not like I don't have other things to read.

There's the issue with DRM and that recently a few titles have been deleted from the Kindle owner's account with a refund. It's going to happen. I'm not upset about it as long as they refund the money.

I can go on and on about my Kindle. Great topic! I'll check back to see other's responses.

It's totally worth the price. I paid the original cost of $399 for mine and I haven't regretted it.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Amy - yeah, I'm not sure if I should jump on board now...or wait.

Kelly - I would like to try out a few for myself before buying as well. I have a hard time imagining if I'd like it or not.

J Kaye - Great to hear that you are loving it. I hadn't heard of libraries switching to eFormat. That seems...strange.

Jessica - So do you find yourself reading "real" books more or eBooks?

Anonymous said...

Lenore ~ There are a number of books I can't check out in paper. The only format offered is in electronic. When our system switched to OverDrive, that's when the conversion started. They are the reason I purchased a MP3 and now, a!

La Coccinelle said...

I've wanted an eReader for years, but geographic location has always gotten in the way. I looked into one a few years back (I think it was a Sony), and it wasn't available in Canada. Now I'm hearing good things about the Kindle, but it's not available in Canada, either. So I guess I'll have to stick to paper books. (If companies like Amazon really want their product to take off, they need to think a little more globally. It's not like there's zero interest in e-books outside the U.S.!)

jessi said...

This article cemented my desire to not own an e-reader. I like knowing that my books will be there for me when I want to read them! :)

Unknown said...

I can see why publishers would love to switch, but they haven't been released here in the UK yet and I can't justify the expense even if they had been.

I'm sure it will happen eventually though.

Lizzy said...

I think the idea is a great one, but I love tangible books too much. I like cover art, and having books scattered all around my house. Plus, it's just too expensive for me to justify buying one right now. 300 is a lot to a college student with a part-time job.

Lenore Appelhans said...

J Kaye - I hadn't really had a reason to switch until the eARC thing.

La C - No one seems to be talking about them much in Germany either.

Jessi - I read that too, and it is one of the reasons I'd be wary to BUY eBooks.

FLB - It will be interesting to watch how this all develops for sure.

Lizzy - I hear you. I use books to decorate my apt. LOL!

Linda said...

This is sure a hot topic! I have no desire to buy a Kindle or e-reader. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the look of books on a book shelf, and, as you, decorating my home with them. I just can't imagine reading without an actual BOOK in my hand.

I don't think this old dog is going to try this new technology. At least not for the foreseeable future.

R Williams said...

I bought a Sony Reader in January and I love it. Electronic format ARCs are the new frontier, and I imagine that most publishers will move to them for at least some titles for one reason: money.

It is a good investment and totally worth it.

Kristen M. said...

The one thing that I always think about is that the book format will never become obsolete. I have old computer disks that I can't get the information off of, LPs but no player, VHS tapes, cassettes ... you get the idea. But even the oldest books on my shelves can always be pulled down, opened up and read.

I think that the electronic ARC makes sense in that you may get more of the ARC recipients to buy a copy later and it's a lower cost option. And I think that magazines and other disposable media would be better on a high-quality e-device (for the environmental reasons).

But for now, I won't be buying an e-reader.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Linda - We better not tell my dad about it. You know how he always has to have the latest gadget ;)

RWJ - Another vote for the Sony Reader - thanks!

Kristen - Very good points. I recorded a bunch of tv on Betamax that I won't be watching again anytime soon...

Rebecca Herman said...

If there's a shift to eARCs I'll be reviewing pretty much finished copies only. I have 1 ebook ARC and it's killing my eyes reading it honestly. So I would never spend the money on an ereader when I can't stand the things and would never purchase an ebook over a regular book.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Rebecca - Honestly, eye strain is a big concern of mine. That's why I'd really like to try out for awhile before purchasing...


I was talking to my hubby about this the other day. He works for HP, and has for 13 years. He said not to buy one right ereader or a kindle....because they aren't very advanced and NEW models are getting ready to come out that are WAY better and for a better value...
so I'm gonna sit on it for just a little bit. My tech savy hubby suggests to be patient!
But then I want one, to get ARC's!!!!!

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I saw some eARCS at ALA too and it got me wondering about getting a Kindle or Sony.

I'm worried about the eye strain too-I already wear glasses to read on the computer, which I do 8 hours a day at work, plus anything I read at home, and most of the time I have to pull those glasses out to read a book for a long time. I guess I have this deep rooted fear the Kindle could make me go blind!:)

The other thing I wouldn't like is not having that book-I love having my shelf full of books that I can re-read or loan out if I need to. If it was an eBook, I wouldn't have that luxury.

But traveling with an e-reader would be great! So I guess I'm still torn...

Melanie said...

I'm not sure how I feel about e-readers. For the publishers, I'm sure it's the option that makes the most sense, though.

I've tried to read a couple books online, and I didn't really like the experience. When I do read online, I usually skim stuff, so I ended up missing parts of the book. Plus, I'm online at least six hours a day already, so it's nice to be able to use my eyes with something that doesn't have anything to do with technology.

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...


I read eBooks more, for pleasure.

BUT I get a ton of paperback ARCs, so I mix it up usually. I read an ARC and then a book I want on the Kindle.

I DO NOT buy physical books any more, however.

I will buy one if I can't live without it. Like I just bought HP7 in paperback because it's not available on the Kindle.

The eye strain on the Kindle is not even remotely an issue. There is NONE! It's just like reading a paperback book. The font can be changed bigger or smaller to fit your comfort level. The clarity is perfect on the Kindle. I've read that others believe the Kindle is clearer than the Sony. I haven't used a Sony other than in passing at Target.

To me ebooks are the cheapest way to go. I already have one, I spent $399 for it! So I'm going with the ebook over the physical book to save, usually $2 - $7 per book, and that doesn't include shipping or gas, which you have to think about in the overall cost of your book.

I have plenty of books in my house. The less I buy the better organized my house will stay.

I will buy a book if it has a great cover or if I want to share it. Yes, I buy books I love and give them away.

You have to hold an ereader to experience how very cool it is. It's JUST like reading a real book, just with out the pages!

Anonymous said...

I think eARCS are the way to go for publishers. It's just more cost-effective. I've read a few books on the computer, and while it's definitely not the same as having a physical copy of the book, I didn't think it was too bad.

I don't have an eReader, and I don't plan on buying one soon because of cost. Having said that, I think it can be a great investment for someone who doesn't want to read books from the computer, has limited storage space, or travels a lot.

Kathleen said...

I have a Kindle and it is good for what it is good for. I was unable to hall all of the books with me that I wanted to read when I was traveling and the Kindle solves that problem for me. For long transatlantic saves my life and lightens my carry on considerably. I looked at the Sony eReader at the LA Times Book Festival a few years ago. I don't have all of the details but the one thing about the Kindle that I find to be superior to the Sony device is that I don't have to hook my Kindle to a computer to download my books. I can download them anywhere (in the US), anytime. For me that convenience alone made the Kindle my choice. There is nothing that can ever replace a "real" book for me. I love the smell, to turn the pages, to look at the cover, etc. But for traveling...I have made peace with my Kindle. Good luck with your decision.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I'm looking at either the Sony or the CoolER eventually. The CoolER is available in the US, Canada, the UK, and the EU for those of you outside the US.

Donna (Bites) said...

I am so not on the technological advancement boat with ereaders. Reading on a screen kills my eyes and I just love the feel of a book. While I agree that they would be good for travel, in my eyes, I'd have to travel a hell of a lot to carry a contraption that stuffs 1000 books in it. It's not the same as an iPod. Then again, I don't do too much reaching while I'm on vacation and I'm not that fast of a reader where if I didn't have an eReader, I'd be carrying around a dozen books.

But for the eARCs, you just download that Adobe program they give you the option of . . . Adobe Reader, and read them in there. I just can't justify spending that much on some kind of iPod book thingy.

Belle said...

I was never big on ebooks but then when I got my netbook, I downloaded both the Sony software and Adobe's digital edition, and discovered that I didn't mind reading PDFs after all, as long as I can lounge in a comfy chair while doing it. I can't get the Kindle because I'm in Canada and Amazon still isn't selling it here yet. My birthday is coming up next month, and I'm torn between asking for a Sony eReader and an overnight stay at the spa!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I think I'm still not convinced. I just get tired of reading screens. Computer and phones and tvs, etc. Books are the one place where I'm not reading a screen and I think I will want it that way until I am forced to change, i.e. books are no longer available in paper.

If ARCs go digital I probably just won't read them.

Reverie said...

I actually like to hold a book too and one thing that is great part of our blogging world is sharing the ARCs. Swapping. Can't really do that with someone who doesn't have an eReader.

Plus with books undergoing cover changes I like to keep those and see the transformation. ARCs are cool and I like to keep mine.

and of course I have ADD when it comes to the internet so there's no way I can sit and read thru a book on the computer much less a smaller screen.

Steve said...

Lenore Re:eye strain - I sat next to a guy on a transatlantic flight and he had the Kindle. Even from the angle I was sitting at, I could easily read the screen and it was customizable in every way a computer screen is. It has virtually NO glare and it looked JUST like looking at a book. I was really surprised and impressed. However, I too hate the iTunes and other DRM copyright rules that prevent sharing and copying, so I hate to support it.

Also, I do like the physical nature of books, but being able to fit one or 100 books into my shirt pocket is pretty nice, even if just going out to the park for lunch.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Mary - Interesting point! It's always so hard to gauge when the RIGHT time is to adopt new technology.

GBTQ - Glad to see I'm not the only one.

Melanie - I am so totally opposed to reading books online or on my computer. But if an eReader really replicates the experience of reading a book, then I might be convinced.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Jessica - Fans like you might just convince me to take the leap!

TOB - I know some publishers are concerned that eARCS will be too widely distributed and could cut into sales. So I'm sure there are some issues to solve before we really see a massive switch.

Kathleen - Kindle does seem like a very convenient choice for readers in the US.

Jen - The CoolER! Right. I saw that at BEA but had forgotten the name. Thanks.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Donna - It would take an awful lot of ARCs to make up for the purchase price.

Belle - A spa visit sounds very tempting!

Nicole - I know what you mean. I get so tired of reading glowing screens too. But if it's true what people say about an eReader looking just like paper (though I find it hard to believe) - I'm willing to give them a try.

Reverie - Swapping is fun, so yeah that's a definite con.

Steve - Did he notice you looking and angle it away? LOL!

Melissa said...

I'd like a reader for traveling and ARCs but I don't really think that those couple of reasons justify the cost...Maybe once more ARCs are available in pdf I'll have to break down and buy one.

Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

Must stress again that eReaders, particularly the Kindle, is JUST like looking at a paperback.

There is no eye strain.

You do not think about it being a screen because it feels natural to read.

I DO NOT read eBooks on my PC. I can't stand to spend any additional time looking at this screen! Reading is my far away place and reading on the PC is not my idea of fun so I don't blame others for feeling that way. But don't be ignorant and say it's just like looking at a PC screen because it's completely not like it at all.

The Social Frog said...

I have been toying with the idea of getting the Amazon Kindle for over a year now. Well, hubby just bought it for me, he is gone overseas on a deployment for 6 months and he wanted to surprise me and it is on it's way to me now :) So I am really excited about it and can't wait. I don't have a huge attraction to covers or holding a book really, I care more about the story :) I'll be writing a post on the Kindle once I get it and use it a little.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Melissa - The cost aspect is a biggie.

Jessica - Happy to hear from someone so passionate on the subject. I have never seen an eReader screen, so I really do have trouble believing that it doesn't have a glare or cause eye strain. I understand that others would have that concern too.

Social frog - Oooh! Do let me know when you post your Kindle review. Hope you like it.

Anonymous said...

Your analysis almost exactly matches mine. Now I need to read the comments :-).

Rebecca Herman said...

I saw an e-reader on display at a bookstore once and it just did NOT feel the same as looking at a book to me. I don't know what brand it was though.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

I will always prefer an actual book in my hands, but NetGalley seems like a great service to make ARCs more available and maintain ecologically friendly standards.

I've seen both the Sony e-reader and the Kindle and I think the Sony is much nicer. I also tried out the new Sony Touch Reader and it's amazing, much better than any other touch screen electronics I've seen.

Another reason I would prefer a Sony is that I have faith in that brand - they are quick on updates and reliable on service or warranty issues.

Serena said...

I want an old fashioned book in my hands. If the publishers prefer to go that route, then so be it. I will review books I buy and from the library.

I work at a computer all day and am not about to read on the computer/e-reader for pleasure.

call me old fashioned.

Unknown said...

When I travel, I love to take with me my e-reader, because I have many eBooks on it downloaded from All you can books. Also, I use a device like this, because I have spare time only on my way to work and I can't carry those printed books with me. So I'm pro about this, even if the feeling is not the same like holding a book in my hands.