There was a time when spending a quiet evening with a good book meant that you lit the fireplace, sat back in a big, comfortable chair and opened the dog-eared pages of your favorite novel. Today, however, rather than turning the age-worn paper pages, you might click on your “ereader” and lose yourself in the glow of the LCD screen.
For those old-fashioned folks out there, an ereader is a device that allows the user to download an electronic version the complete text of a book, periodicals and other publications. Most are about the size of a pocket novel (though there are various sizes) around half an inch thick with the capacity to hold hundreds if not thousands of titles ready to read at the press of a button.
Virtually every smart phone and computer has ereader software, but dedicated devices are quickly gaining popularity, despite their expense. As demand grows for these machines, however, prices are beginning to fall.
On Monday, CNNMoney.com reported that a price war has broken out between the retailers of the two leading ereader devices, Amazon’s “Kindle” and Barnes & Noble’s “Nook.” Both companies dropped their pricing by nearly 25-percent in response to similar cuts by the makers of the “Kobo” ereader, which sells for around $150.
When ereaders first came out, they had two real downsides. The first problem was battery life. A paper book never has to be recharged but with backlit, adjustable LCD screens, these machines gobbled up energy. Next was the problem of content – not every publisher was releasing digital formats for all published works.
Neither of these is as big of a problem as originally thought because the technology improved – batteries now last up to a week – and virtually every book produced now has an electronic version available and at a significant savings to its hardbound, print counterpart. There are also preferences for different devices based on what you use them to read.
My research shows that the Sony Reader Pocket Edition is the leading choice for books while the Amazon Kindle rates higher for newspapers. It has taken a while to get people comfortable with the idea of reading either on an electronic medium, but lately, even those of us producing the material are warming up to the idea.
I have always preferred a real newspaper or book in my hands. I guess I’m just a traditionalist that way, but when I learned I had a reading problem, caused by the black on white print, the ebook really changed how I read because the color scheme can be adjusted. Now I carry several novels on my smart phone and have them with me whenever I’m stuck in a long line at the grocery store or when I have to fly.
Since adapting the ereader to my own uses, I have had a couple of my own e-books published but the writing process was no different from my point of view. The publishers took care of the formatting and distribution. Since they were business-related books, they don’t really come into the scope of pleasure reading so I doubt anyone really cares about the format.
Still, writers like me are in a sort of limbo when trying to decide the best options for publication, especially if the topics are for small audiences or more reference-based. I think electronic publication is ideal for the writer who wants to go straight to print. Formatting software for ereaders is available for less than $50 and lets you set up chapters and indexes that are compatible with most reading devices.
In the end it comes down to the reader. I don’t think hard-bound paper books will ever disappear completely. It’s more likely that newspapers and magazines will go that way first. But in this age of convenience and with everyone on the go, the ereaders certainly do fill a need.
Do you prefer an ereader or a bound paper book? Join me on Facebook and weigh in. Just go to www.facebook.com/gerydeer and post your thoughts on my wall. Your opinion might help me choose where to publish my next short story series.
Columnist Gery L. Deer is based in Jamestown, Ohio. Visit www.gerydeer.com for more.