E-readers and other devices

E-Readers and other devices.

In addition to the well-publicized Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Consumer Electronics Show last week featured products from Samsung, Sony, and others.  Following the progression from print to the world wide web, these readers provide a dedicated device for reading books, magazines, and now some newspapers with a better readability than you get from a computer screen.

I won’t comment on the reviews of pros and cons of these various devices—you can get that from http://www.cnet.comCnet. I will offer my personal experience with the sofware that I downloaded for free to my laptop.


You download the books from their web site at about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of a printed book.  They don’t have as big a selection, but then you don’t have to fork out $300+ for yet another device to haul around.  I use it primarily when I’m traveling and carrying my laptop anyway and don’t want to have to carry even a paperback book (that is hard to read) on the plane.  I can just fire up my laptop in the airport waiting area or in my hotel room, and it has bookmarked my place so that I can just continue reading where I left off.  I found the readability to be good.

I also have downloaded books from e-book web sites to acquire a self-published book of an acquaintance that is not available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble through Smashwords.


It is a web site that publishes books from independent publishers.  I even have the Kindle software on my iPhone and have tried some of their free titles just to see how it works.  Well, you can enlarge the type so that it is readable, but you have to scroll a lot if you’re a fast reader.

Some of the devices announced at CES will include audio thereby combining electronic books with graphics with audio books.  Maybe that would keep me from internally verbalizing as I read (a no-no according to Evelyn Woods speed reading techniques), but it still would slow me down.  I still have a few audio books on cassette and/or CD and subscribed to the Audible web site for about a year.


I just found it very tedious to listen for 4 – 5 hours to a complete book that had not been condensed.  I used that on my iPod while walking, and I found that my attention wandered so now I just use that device for Podcasts.  Audible is about the cheapest medium because they offer a lot of bonus points that allow you to accumulate free books, but they do have an annual fee.

For all this new technology, I still buy a lot of print books from Amazon or pick up from the remainders table at Barnes & Noble.  I guess you would call it impulse buying, but when I’m researching a topic or just browsing at the coffee shop, I “find” something of interest that I will read if I get it then (or very soon) while I won’t if I have to wait for it to appear in my local library.  I’m a “browser” at the library rather than a researcher, and I generally pick up history books or memoirs.

Obviously, I like to read and have the time to read a lot.  As a writer, I find that reading stimulates my thinking in ways beyond my personal experience.  I am after all a stereotypical WASP.  The pundits tell you to read the magazines you want to pitch before you make your query, but I say you need to read more broadly than that.  I have 280 cable channels on my TV, but I still watch primarily PBS’ Bill Moyers, Masterpiece Theater and Charlie Rose.  I occasionally will venture onto the History, Discovery, and National Geographic channels, and they often provide a lead to a book to read more than any reviews in the newspaper.  I used to subscribe to the New York Review of Books both in print and online because it has such excellent articles in addition to reviews, but it became for too expensive for my limited budget.

So how do you read, and what do you read?


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