A: “My book, now piss off!” (This is what I say to the offending stranger in my head, when in reality I patiently explain that it is an eReader and try to make it clear by my body language that I’d like to go back to reading my book.)
It seems like every time that I take my Nook out in public to read people ask me what it is, why I have it, how I got started with it, and even why the heck I would want an eReader. The irony, of course, is that eReaders are new to most people in the last year, but I have seen and used them for years. I remember years ago my mom got the first eReader that was put out on the market, which like most technology before it, was practically a brick. She could store up to 10 books on it (unimpressive by today’s standards) and RAVED about what a magical and wonderful device it was. I scoffed, telling her that she didn’t know what she was talking about, that paper books were the only way to go and that nobody, NOBODY, I tell you, would be reading ebooks in the future. I will admit it: I was wrong. Dead wrong. Not only would eReaders take off, I would magically own three of them!
Two years ago, my mom completely surprised me by getting me a Sony eReader for Christmas, second generation, which she also used at the time. It was a pretty cool gadget and I tried hooking it up to my computer right away to download books and start reading. (Yes, I am the nerd who cannot wait to get the newest gadget opened up the exact SECOND that I get out of the store!) At this point, Problem Number One arises –> the Sony eReader will not work with a Mac. Well, all I had was a Mac. Its okay, because I was able to hook it up on my work computer at the time and use it. The frustrating thing though was there weren’t that many books that I wanted to read available in the Sony library (of course, this was 2007….I’m sure their library has expanded by now). By not having the ability to use my Mac with my newest toy, it kind of got set aside and left unused while I plodded away reading unwieldy hardcover books, Colleen McCullough books that even in paperback gave me mild carpel tunnel syndrome, and spending a king’s ransom at Barnes and Noble. Until……drumroll please, I got a Kindle2 for my birthday in 2009!
I opened the Kindle2 and I was like a little girl opening that Cabbage Patch Kid on my birthday in the 4th grade all over again — the Kindle was beautiful, sleek and white, slender, and easy to navigate. I got it out of the box, registered it to my Amazon.com account and had 5 new books downloaded and about 10 newspaper and magazine subscriptions before I cleaned up the wrapping paper. I was so excited to have my very own Kindle and I didn’t have to hook it up to any computer — even better! For over a year I happily read books, select magazines and the local paper on the Kindle…..sure, there were times that there were books that I could not get on the Kindle, and I lived with it…..until the Nook came into my life.
Disclaimer: my beloved just happens to work at Barnes and Noble and just happens to be an excellent Nook salesman (indeed, he has trained many a people on the Nook at his store). However, his employment at the Barn has not influenced me in eventually buying my Nook or selecting it. Patrick came home all excited when they released the information about the Nook and proudly informed me that it was superior to my Kindle and I should immediately purchase one. Scoff at that I did. I had seen the demonstrations they had in the store and read a few preliminary pieces of press on the Nook and I just wasn’t blown away by what I saw. Many thoughts ran through my head every time I saw the Nook…..”more books than Amazon?” Didn’t believe it. “Color screen on the bottom?” Psht, I can do without that. And, let’s face it, the first generation of any technology like this is bound to have bumps in the road that will make it difficult to enjoy.
As fall wore on and it got colder outside (and closer to the release date for the Nook), I remained steadfast in my dedication to the Kindle despite what had become a constant barrage of insults to my beloved eReader at home. And then my mom decided she wanted a Nook for Christmas, which was the beginning of the end. Actually, her exact text message to me was “Have read tons of reviews on the Nook. MUST. HAVE. ONE. NOW.” We pre-ordered Mom’s Nook and got a guarantee for shipping by Christmas Eve. She opened it, we immediately started playing with it and it was pretty darn cool! I was starting to imagine what it would be like to lay in bed reading on a Nook, with that nice little color screen at the bottom, the ability to change my font size, loan my books out to other friends with Nooks, and even more importantly, ACCESSORIZE my new purchase! However, as I already had a Kindle (and a Sony eReader that never got used), I could not justify the purchase of a Nook. Every time I walked into the Barn and saw that gorgeous Nook I wanted one, but continued on my way, remaining loyal to the Kindle and my checkbook.
Then, in early May 2010, Amazon betrayed me. Several of my favorite authors had new books coming out, including local author Jen Lancaster, and I found I could not download Kindle versions of their books. Why? Oh, that’s right, because Amazon was involved in major wars with various prominent publishers regarding the payment of royalties on electronic books. When I asked customer service just when I could expect these tomes to become available, they were ruder than rude and didn’t provide a valuable answer. When I found out that all of the books I had been looking to get electronically were available on the Nook, it was the last straw. I could do without the fancy bells and whistles when I had a perfectly good alternative available, but I could not tolerate my favorite author’s books being unavailable!
Hence, the Nook became a fixture in my life. Please do not get me wrong….although I LOVE my Nook, and avidly read on it, I still love paper books too. I’ve found that having an eReader with multiple books on it is so much more convenient and is a great way for me to get cheaper copies of brand new books that are out in hardback without spending a fortune and having to choose between feeding the pugs and feeding my addiction to reading. When people ask me why I would spend so much money on the Nook, I gladly tell them that the way that I read, the money spent up front results in saved money in the end. Another perk of the Nook that the Kindle does not have is the ability to download ebooks from my local library, read ebooks that are lent to me by friends and family members with Nooks, and to have portability. Case in point, Patrick and I went to Las Vegas on vacation with our good friends Zach and Anne and while everyone else (Patrick included) were carting around hardcover books, I had my Nook, with 17 books on it and light as a feather. I could toss it in my purse and go and I was still able to read when waiting in lines or just relaxing and waiting for everyone else at a restaurant. I didn’t have to worry about running out of reading material, or that I was going to dislocate my shoulder due to the weight of my carry-on being bogged down with heavy books. I love the Nook at home for the same reason. When I leave for the day, I can toss this slim, lightweight product into my purse or briefcase and I’m set if the opportunity to read arises!
All of this led to me sitting in the nail salon last Friday getting my nails done, when the woman next to me turned and asked innocently enough what was I doing? I explained that I was reading my book on the Nook….this woman, who asked me about 500 more questions, was genuinely interested in the Nook and why I had chosen to buy one. I gladly explained to her my history with eReaders, the pros and cons of each one as I had experienced them, and why I had chosen the Nook and found it to be a great product. We had an intelligent discussion that included an exploration of each of our preferences regarding books and reading materials and listened to what we both had to say. This was a pleasant change from the conversations that usually ensue with strangers who find it necessary to interrupt my reading only to tell me that my Nook is a fad that will go by the wayside and that paper books will always be here.
Reading is such a personal experience, that what I find to be the best way to read a book will not be the way that you, dear reader, find to read a book. I’ve been a reader all my life, as has Patrick. My parents and brother Scott are avid readers, and my best friend and I swap books back and forth with the frequency that most people watch episodes of “30 Rock.” My dad does not have any type of eReader, my mom has 3 sitting on her desk right now. I have a Nook, but Patrick does not (the irony of course is that he sells them). Scott is about to inherit my old Kindle2, and my best friend does not have any type of eReader, preferring the feel of paper books.
But as I say to skeptics when approached, eReaders are here to stay, whether they like it or not. Just this week, on June 21, 2010, the eReader “war” between Amazon and the Barn was front page news on the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Consumers do not have to choose to purchase an eReader, but the reality is that these products are going to be around for a long time, and they have already changed the way that the industry views customers and produces its products. A friend of mine, Jennifer, is pursuing her Masters Degree in Library Sciences, and has written a thoughtful paper on eBooks versus paper books that explores these issues and more, and has been the starting point for quite a bit of conversation in our household. Regardless of how you choose to read, I simply hope that eReaders prompt more people to read and explore the world of books, which has always been a wonderful world for me.