I never in a million years thought I’d get an eBook reader from the current batch of options. They were so not on my radar. I didn’t get all excited and jealous when I saw people with them. I never even thought I’d want to read a book that way. Heck, I hate reading articles on my computer! I’ve printed out every article assigned for ACRL Immersion because there’s no way I’ll retain anything if I read it at my computer. And even if I did want to read eBooks, I’d never want to do it on a device that only does that — like I need another electronic thing to lug around.
And yet, here I am, the owner of a Kindle. No, I didn’t have a total change of heart and buy one for myself. I actually won it in a raffle at a conference I was speaking at. Even if you don’t necessarily want to buy a Kindle, it’s pretty exciting to win one! From my hotel that evening, I registered my Kindle and downloaded a couple of books. I read stories from Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness on the way home the next day and found it to be a pretty good reading experience. It’s nothing like reading on a computer screen — no glare, no backlight. To my surprise, I actually found it to be just as pleasant as reading a print book. A few weeks later I read a 320-page book, Orange is the New Black, on the Kindle (by the pool, in the bathtub, and in bed) and, other than having to plug it in at night, I never thought about the fact that I was reading on an electronic device. The reading experience was just as absorbing. I even fell asleep reading on it! I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it and am actually reading more now that I have it than in the entire year since my son was born.
Knowing what I know now, would I have bought it? Probably not. I don’t travel enough (or read enough, with a toddler in the house) to make it really worthwhile. But there are other reasons why I think the Kindle, and eBook readers like it, are not where it’s at. First of all, while you can annotate a book, it’s extremely cumbersome on a Kindle. When I was in college, I highlighted and underlined the hell out of my books and wrote notes in the margins. When I thought about transferring my Immersion readings to the Kindle, I rejected the idea because I knew I’d want to write notes in the margins and underline important passages and it seemed like a hassle to do that on the Kindle and then refer back to those annotations at Immersion.
Most also don’t take advantage of one of the most exciting things that’s happened in computing in the past decade — the growth of the social web. In addition to easily annotating the things I read, I might want to see what annotations others have added to what I’m reading, if they choose to make them public. If I’m working on a group project, I certainly want to share my annotations with my team members. I want to make it easy for friends to see what I’m reading and what I thought about it and to see what people I trust thought about the book I’m considering downloading. I know the upcoming update to the Kindle firmware will have some social features, but it’s still a long way from what could be possible in the future. I can’t even imagine what reading online is going to look like in the future!
I’ll wait to spend my money on a device that offers all this and is more than just an eBook reader (go convergence devices!). The iPad still isn’t exactly what I want, and at that price it’s just not worth it for me (though I must say that I’ve had fun playing with other people’s iPads). I know so little about the market for eBook readers, but I feel like everything is really in its infancy, is so proprietary, and is so tied only to recreating the print reading experience rather than reimagining the reading experience. I definitely enjoy reading on my Kindle, but I’m much more interested in seeing what comes out in the next several years. I have a feeling it’s going to put what’s available right now to shame.