As an English major at Rutgers, I have met people who both vehemently oppose eReaders and people who passionately purport eReaders, including teachers and students alike. I have observed two general reactions to the question of “What do you think of eReaders?”:
1) Why Weren’t These Invented Sooner?
I enjoy using my eReader for obvious reasons: it’s lightweight, small enough to carry in a purse, and can hold over 1,000 books at a time. It’s easy on the eyes, has no glare in the sun, and it is easier to read in bed/on the bus because you only need to hold it with one hand to “flip” pages. I have only paid for one book because it was a sequel to a book whose author was visiting the university–I wanted to impress her by reading the sequel as soon as possible. Whenever I buy or borrow an e-book, it is delivered to my Kindle within 60 seconds. Not only is this delivery quick and usually free, it also comes with the capability to open documents from my email and turn notes I take on my laptop into text documents fitted to my Kindle screen so I can study without bringing all my notes with me onto a bus every day. It helps me stay a little more organized because all my books and notes can be stored onto one, lightweight device. In high school, I read many of the classics and books in the Western canon of literature and would have to carry all these books with me along with multiple binders, textbooks, and notebooks since we were not allowed to use our backpacks during school hours. Having an eReader would have eliminated the stress of losing school-owned books (in our huge piles of books, it’s easy to let those little literature books escape) and would have kept everything in one place. I love the convenience of being able to pick any book I want to read at anytime with my Kindle, and knowing I didn’t forget it anywhere.
2) There’s No Experience Quite Like Reading a Book
The other side of having so much convenience with an eReader is that a reader also sacrifices an experience. I don’t think there is anything quite like holding a book–each book has its own distinct scent, and different books have pages of unique texture, and it is much easier to interact with physical text via highlighters and pens than it is to interact with eReader text. I always love being able to “talk” to my text easily and kinesthetically manipulate the text with ease. eReaders disrupt the “talking” experience because typing on an eReader keyboard is not as fluid and it takes longer to change the color of highlighting on an eReader (if you even have color at all on your eReader) than it does to just pick up a different colored pen and write. While eReaders have status bars that tell you how far you have read in a book, there is still the satisfaction of staring at a huge book and really seeing that you finished it completely.
While I am a proud owner of the first generation Kindle, I am weary of reading books for class on my Kindle. Authors maintain rights to their books until 70 years after their deaths, and I have noticed that many books which are considered Classics or part of the Western Canon of Literature have been offered free in eBook form for years now, such as the works of Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Charles Dickens. Because I have read many of these works in their “original” book form, I immediately notice formatting, spelling, and grammar inconsistencies between the print form of a book and its electronic form on my Kindle. I love free stuff (especially free literature) just like anyone, but when it comes to needing to read books for academia, I would rather be safe and buy editions of books recommended by my professors. eReaders are convenient, but like I said earlier, there is nothing quite like the experience of being able to feel and smell a book as you read it.