Home > Uncategorized > Why e-readers suck

Why e-readers suck

Also posted at playtime-magazine.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a semi-novice at many things. Within the past few years, I’ve become more and more of a semi-novice Luddite. I’ll often see some new piece of technology, with buttons and a screen of some sort, and be absolutely smitten. My next instinct will be,  “I want that! I want it baaaaaad.” And spend the next ten minutes rubbing it against my face. If I’m watching a commercial, I’ll rub my face against the TV. This doesn’t sound like very Ludditeish  behavior. You might actually be inclined to believe that I love technology.

My wife, on the other hand is a professional Luddite. I’m not sure there even is such a thing as a professional Luddite, but she could surely be one. Whenever I start my exclaiming and rubbing, my wife will reply, “Well, that’s too bad because you ain’t gonna get it.” She doesn’t usually speak in such terms, but she’s found that adding a little sass to her sentences will  snap me out of argumentative mode.

In order to get over my love lost, I will scorn what I previously coveted.

“Sam, the ‘Droid does’

You can get it, but in order to pay for it you’d have to give up eating

I can do that

AND drinking

… Google is run by a bunch of fascists anyway!”

However, as much as I love reading and coveting technology (especially technology with buttons and a screen of some sort) I never got turned on by e-readers. The first time they showed up on my radar was when Sony announced their 3G touch screen reader. With its $400 price tag, I wondered who could possibly use that device enough to justify the cost. My  recently purchased laptop cost only a hundred dollars more and it could play solitaire and download porn.

I can see some usefulness to e-readers, but only for a very niche group. If you’re constantly traveling or constantly reading it could justify the cost. Buying and reading a book at a moment’s notice doesn’t seem like a necessity or even a convenience. Part of the fun of buying books is browsing through the bookstore. This is, unfortunately, something that online marketplaces just can’t emulate, though some have excelled at trying.

A similar complaint was leveled at digital music when it was first becoming popular; the liner notes of CDs would be missed. While I’m sure that purists miss opening a new CD and looking at the artwork, I’ve never given it a second thought.

Books are different.  I enjoy the tactile nature of picking up a book, looking at the cover art and then reading the blurb on the back. I love riffing through the pages, and picking out books of different sizes. This is something that I’m sure that I wouldn’t be able to forget about if I was reading off of a screen. Even the fragile nature of books adds to my enjoyment of them. The slight yellowing of the pages is a badge of honor that I’ve earned for my books. The cracked spines and feathered pages that come with multiple readings–the books themselves develop character. Cracking open a new, unsoiled book is satisfying, but it’s nowhere near as nice as opening an old book, one that has been handled so much that the pages are softer on the edges than they are on the inside. Then there’s the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a book and closing its cover for the last time. This feeling increases dramatically as the length of the book goes up. I can’t imagine that same self-satisfaction will translate over digitally. “You are on page 329 of 748” just doesn’t seem as alluring as using my finger as a book mark and checking out how many pages I have left, much the same way that checking your ATM balance isn’t nearly as awesome as holding a fat gangsta stack.

With the iPad coming out,  the popularity of e-readers will only grow. According to presales, it’s going to be bigger than Jesus, or, at least the Kindle. This is no small order since the Kindle had the Oprah Effect firmly behind it. The nice thing about the iPad is that it can simply do more. Being an e-reader seems to be thrown in as an afterthought with all of the other things that it can do. Still, there are enough downsides that I think it will only appeal to a niche market. Unlike the niche market for e-readers of constant travelers and the most diligent of bibliophiles , the niche market for iPad will probably made up of people with too much money.
The comics highlight the main problems that I have with e-readers. You can’t lend your ‘books’ out or sell them to a used book store. I’m not sure how many people can relate to this, but I revel in  the fact that I can slowly destroy a book that I  find terrible. It also seems rather ridiculous that someone would need 1,000 books at their disposal. Why this is touted as a “feature” is beyond me. Finally, if you somehow lose or damage your  e-reader, you’re out hundreds of dollars. I recently lost my phone. It’s a $20 go-phone so there’s no chance that someone is out there racking up my bill, but I’m still kicking myself in the ass for losing it. If it was my iPod I would be absolutely furious. In fact, the first time I heard about e-readers was a story told on an episode of TWiT when the host, Leo Laporte, was lamenting leaving his e-reader on a plane. The cost of losing a reader would be increased because of the cost of all the books on it. If you don’t replace the reader, you also lose the books. Losing a $300 e-reader would be bad enough, but losing a copy of Ender’s Game would send me over to the brink of maddening fury. There would be swearing, let me tell you.
The one reason I could see myself buying an e-reader, however,  would be if they started offering class textbooks on it for a reduced cost. I would gladly pay full price for an e-reader if it meant that I could get a sixty dollar book for ten dollars in digital form. This is the path that I can see for the future of the kindle and the nook and the whatever; I only hope that it happens before my educations end.  This way I’ll have not only an excuse to buy it, but also a reason. However, if I actually ever get an e-reader there will be nothing to stop me from running myself into debt while filling it up with books. Well, maybe there will be one thing that can stop me.

“Samantha, I need this for school.

Mmmhmm, and what about this copy of Call of Cthulhu that you bought, did you need that for school too?

Dear, if we don’t learn from the teachings of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, then who will protect us from Yog-Sothoth when his terrible reign begins, ensuring a millennia of darkness and terror?

Well played, D.J.


Also posted at playtime-magazine.
Thanks go to Liles for the comics and the editing
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Woot, Wiggly Guy and Hipster Cricket! Excellent work on this, Lord Tyche.

    • DJ
      April 4, 2010 at 8:16 pm

      I can’t thank you enough for making my comics a reality. Soooooo awesome.

  2. April 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I bow before your superior write-aging. These things call “ideas” and “prose” and most of all “dialog” and “paragraphs” do not happen so easily to those of us who’d rather spend three hours sketching a particular recent astronomical phenomenon for humorous effect. Bring on the Wrath of Khan!

    Not literally, though. I don’t think we’d have enough space to quote it here.

  3. Mason
    December 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    E-readers are awful. Why would I want to pay for a book I may or may not like when I can just go to the library for free? If I like it, then I’ll buy it. Suck it e-readers and all e-reader enthusiasts.

  1. October 9, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: