So, ereaders and ebooks. People have been asking me why I would consider some gimmicky electronic alternative than tried and tested paper and ink. Well, actually, that's a lie, nobody's asked me. But I have been thinking about this for a while. Partially due to not having a lot to do with my time but mostly because I like gadgets.
There are a few advantages to ereaders over books that I see. Firstly is the weight, a pocket sized ereader is a lot smaller than a shelf of books, and is lighter even than one novel. The Sony e-reader is about the size of a novella. The storage on even the smallest Sony ereader is large enough to store over 300 books. That's probably more books than I own. Lastly, ebooks seem to be on average cheaper than paperback and significantly cheaper than hardback books, and classic books are available for free through Google Books.
While there aren't a lot of benefits to an ereader, the few benefits that I have found are arguably significant. There aren't all that many negatives to it either. The e-ink display is as natural to read as paper and it draws so little power that the battery lasts up to two weeks. Unfortunately, it does have a battery, and will eventually need to be recharged. Also, because of the nature of e-ink, the pages take a moment to refresh. Problems you won't encounter with a real book.
In the end, the matter is one of gadget novelty and utility versus the utility and nostalgia factor of a traditional book. Certainly, I love books. I have shelves full of cheap paperback novels at home and I've picked up a few in my stay here. I enjoy reading books, and I'm not sure that an electronic device will ever have the same tactile feedback as turning a page. Nor will a harddrive of files give the same sense of pride of ownership as a shelf of volumes.
However, I have at times found books weighty and cumbersome, mainly as I read large books. The idea of a small, light, tablet like device that I can read easily on and store many books in appeals to me. Certainly, it would be a help with weighty technical manuals and textbooks, particularly as O'Reilly tend to discount a random ebook to $10 every day.
An ereader is certainly a device I'd like to have, and one I'd find use for. The only real issue is cost. The Sony PRS-300 Pocket Reader is a small high-quality ereader, and about the cheapest that I can see. It has virtually no features aside from its small size and high contrast screen. However even this is about €150. While it may eventually pay for itself in the hands of a voracious reader, the initial investment isn't exactly a pittance.