A Dead Tree Traditionalist Among E-Readers

The big story this week is the price war among the various e-readers. Barnes & Noble cut the price on their current Nook 3G + WiFi e-reader to $199 from $259 USD, and introducing a new WiFi-only version for $149 USD. Then Amazon followed with a similar price reduction for the Kindle, dropping the price to $189 USD. That leaves Apple iPad at the high-end price range. Will I go out and get one? Nope. I’m a dead tree traditionalist still sitting on the fence when it comes to e-readers.

My reluctance to jump on the e-reader bandwagon has nothing to do with the technology.

I was a contractor at Sony in 2005 when I led a group of ten QA testers to test what eventually became the Sony Reader in the United States. The hardware was Japanese with Kanji characters on the buttons, the Linux-based software was in English, and the English-language book files converted to HTML were on memory sticks. We glanced at three books a day for three weeks, looking for formatting issues with the conversion process and the display hardware. The e-ink display technology was fantastic. I very much wanted one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the price when released the following year.

I’m still price sensitive today. The new Nook is tempting at $149 USD. However, I’m not yet sold that I need a dedicated e-reader. I have the Kindle app on my iPod Touch (a first generation that doesn’t support Apple’s iBooks) for reading ancient texts—”The Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire (six volumes)” by Edward Gibbon—and out of print books—”Shakespeare (PBS Companion Book)” by Michael Woods—that are hard to find elsewhere. E-readers are excellent for these kinds of books.

But for brand new books, I prefer holding the dead tree edition in my hand. Especially if the author does something stupid that makes me mad enough to throw the book against the wall. I did that with the paperback copy of “Cell” by Stephen King when my favorite character got killed off. The book stayed on the floor for a whole week before I picked it up again to finish reading. A good book can provoke powerful emotions in the reader. E-readers aren’t built for hurling across the room against the wall.

I’m a dead tree traditionalist who hasn’t converted over to the paperless office. My short story manuscripts often start off as handwritten with ink or on the typewriter before being entered into the computer. Revisions are done with multiple printouts and red ink spilling everywhere. Every draft is kept in the filing cabinet or storage boxes. I have numerous shelves of dead tree books in my personal library.

If the price was right and I have a good enough reason, I’ll get a dedicated e-reader. Until then, I’ll keep flipping my dead tree pages.

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