The e-Reader Debate – Instant Gratification!

Instant Gratification!
by Catherine H. Armstrong


I love books.  I love the words on a page.  I love the smell of books, the feel and the weight of a book in my hands, and even the sound of the crisp pages between my fingers as they crinkle slightly as I turn each page.  I love immersing myself in a story and becoming one with the main character, and I love being transported to another time and place where all of the worries of my real life are left behind until such time as I choose to refocus my energies on them again.  I love books so much that I can even remember exactly what it felt like to learn to read; when the words were no longer just a big jumble on a page and suddenly they took on a life of their own.  I remember those first “Dick and Jane” books in the first few weeks of first grade, when it was still warm outside and I could sit in the swing in my back yard and immerse myself in the simple antics of Dick, Jane and their dog, Spot.  And I remember being so deeply focused on whatever I was reading that my teacher once had to call my name several times before I realized she was speaking to me.  I guess it’s fair to say that, aside from my family, books are my greatest love.
Those who know me know this about me.  Reading is such an integral part of who I am that it would be nearly impossible to know me well at all and not know that I love reading and I love books.  And so it’s been a normal part of my life for many years that my friends and acquaintances have directed questions about books in my direction.  What am I reading?  Do I have a book recommendation for a 13 year old girl?  What’s my favorite book?  What do I think about the latest book by…(insert name of pretty much any author here).  But, with the introduction of e-readers in the last several years, the biggest question I get these days is “What do you think about e-readers?”  Wow…that’s a loaded question!
When e-readers first came out, I was adamantly opposed to them.  As I’ve already stated, there’s just nothing quite like the actual feel of a book in your hands.  I swore I’d never buy one.  They just seemed like such a silly investment.  And then the iPad came out.  Now, in fairness, I bought an iPad because I wanted something small I could carry around with me that would do most of the same functions as a regular computer without the size and weight.  The last thing on my mind was the fact that it would double as an e-reader.  However, as with any new “toy,” I had to at least give the e-reader function a try, and so I downloaded the apps for the Nook and Kindle.  I have only one word for how I feel about e-readers now:  WOW!
Nothing can ever entirely replace a “real” book in my heart, but I have to admit that the ease and flexibility of an e-reader has earned a place in my heart and is giving the traditional book some rather stiff competition with me.  I never imagined the flexibility it would provide.  I still buy, read and borrow traditional books from the library, but I have to admit that the e-reader has also earned the hype it’s received.
What could be better than hearing about a book on TV or in a newspaper article and having the ability to read it immediately?  That’s truly the genius behind e-readers; the simple ability to download pretty much any title within seconds.  Instant gratification!
Some people might argue that they cost money and that e-readers get expensive with so many downloaded purchases from the big book stores. This can be true, but it doesn’t need to be.  Rochester Public Library, for instance, has thousands of titles available for immediate download for e-book readers.  Just go to the webpage, type in the title of the book you’re searching, and you’ll often not only find the book, but you’ll find a variety of formats to choose from.  And the best part is not having to worry about returning them and those nasty fines when you forget!  When your loan expires at the end of 14 or 21 days, it just “disappears.”  But don’t despair!  If you haven’t finished reading, you can always check it out again!
The ability to change the font of the text is a big plus with me.  For years, I chose not to read when exercising at the gym because the print on the page is too small to focus on while I’m trying to accomplish my workout.  But, with the e-reader, I can enlarge the text on a whim so that I can see the words more easily as the sweat drips into my eyes!  And I can only begin to imagine what a gift the ability to change the font size has been for my 81 year old mother!  Her reading had been mostly on hold these last few years due to macular degeneration, which is an age-related disease that causes the eye to be unable to see fine detail, and frequently makes tasks like reading impossible.  But with the new e-reader she bought, she can set the font as large as she needs and she’s now back to enjoying books by the dozens.
Another benefit is the ability to immediately look up the definition of an unknown word.  This is especially beneficial for kids whose vocabulary is always increasing.  With an e-reader, you can just touch on a word and it will bring up the definition in seconds.  No more erroneous  guessing because there’s not a dictionary within immediate reaching distance.  Just tap on the word and the meaning will pop up.  Awesome!
Probably my favorite feature of an e-reader is the ability to read in bed in the middle of the night without having to turn on the lights!  What an incredible idea!  Absolutely brilliant!  No longer do I need to leave the warmth and coziness of my bed in the middle of the night when insomnia overtakes me.  I can just reach over and pick up my e-book and begin reading without ever disturbing my husband by flipping on the lights.  I’m sure he appreciates that, and I certainly appreciate not having to go to a different room to read!
Nothing will (for me) ever completely replace a traditional book; but there are so many advantages to an e-reader that it’s difficult to ignore their potential.  I feel strongly about traditional books, but I have to admit that my reading time has been equally split this last year as I’ve discovered the wonderful options available through an e-reader. My only regret is that I didn’t open my mind to the idea much sooner.  All of those books out there that I’ve missed!
If you’re interested in purchasing an e-reader, your first step – presuming you desire to download books from the library –  should be to determine which e-readers are compatible with the library’s e-book selection.  For a comprehensive cheat sheet of those devices, follow this link:  http://overdrive.com/files/ebook-cheat-sheet.pdf.
If you already have an e-reader, then you’ve taken the most important step.  The next question would be:  Do you know how to use it?  If your answer to that question isn’t a firm and confident “Yes!”, then the library is here to help you.  Beginning in February, drop-in classes are being offered by the library to help you!  Just select a date from the dates listed below, bring your e-reader and the cord it came with, as well as your laptop computer if you have one.  These classes will meet in Meeting Room B at the Rochester Public Library and are on a walk-in basis.  No advanced registration is required.
Happy Reading and Welcome to the 21st Century!


Bring Your Own e-Reader (BYOE) Days
at the Rochester Public Library


Wednesday, February 1st
9:30 am – 12:30 pm
Monday, February 6th
11 am – 2 pm
Thursday, February 16th
11 am – 2 pm
Wednesday, February 22nd
3 pm – 6 pm

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