E-readers: The good and the bad

I’ve had my Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 for over six months now and thought it would be interesting to put together my thoughts on it and how it has affected my reading. I had resisted buying an e-reader for a long time because I felt guilty about doing anything that might contribute to the decline of the physical book. However, I certainly don’t seem to have acquired or read less ‘real’ books since I got my e-reader. I see it as another way to read books in addition to reading physical books, rather than instead of.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of owning an e-reader. Can you think of any more?


* They help you to save space on your bookshelves. You can store hundreds of books on an e-reader. Imagine how much shelf space they would take up!

* You can carry an ereader around with you very easily. They’re small (particularly the pocket version that I have) and weigh very little. This makes them perfect to take to work or on holiday or just in case an unexpected opportunity to read arises (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up sitting in the car waiting for somebody, for example, and wishing I’d brought a book with me. Now I just take my reader with me when I go out in the car). And with hundreds of books stored on your reader you’ll always have plenty of choice.

* There are literally thousands of free classics and out of print books available to download online from sites such as Project Gutenberg and Girlebooks. This was one of the main reasons I originally wanted an e-reader. Having an e-reader suddenly opens up a whole world of obscure and hard to find books and the choice is overwhelming. I actually haven’t downloaded as many free classics as I thought I would simply because there’s so much choice, if that makes any sense!

* You can use Netgalley to request review copies from publishers in ebook format. I haven’t used this very often as I’m very selective about requesting books for review. It’s nice to know the option is there though, and I’ve enjoyed the few books that I have read though Netgalley.

* My local library has started offering ebooks for download. I’d be interested to know what librarians think about this service. Are we facing a future where everyone sits at home downloading library books and never actually visits the library in person? I can see good and bad points about this system, but so far it seems to be a very popular service. You have to keep the book on loan for a fixed period (you can choose either 7, 14, 21 or 28 days). After the loan period is up, the book automatically expires and can no longer be read. This is good in one way as it means you’ll never ‘forget to take the book back to the library’ and accrue an overdue fine, but it also means that you can’t return the book any sooner if you don’t like it or finish it earlier than expected.

* Most ereaders have some extra features. Mine doesn’t have many (it wasn’t really something that concerned me when I was choosing my reader as I just wanted something basic and easy to use). It is useful sometimes to be able to change the text size, though, and I like being able to bookmark pages with memorable quotes on them.

* Having an e-reader gives you instant access to books, without even having to wait for delivery. Find a book that you want online and you can start reading it in just a few minutes.


* Although e-readers themselves have come down in price recently and are much more affordable now, in general the prices of ebooks are still usually more expensive than paper books. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth paying more for the same book or not.

* I find it hard to tell how long the ebook is going to be. Yes, it tells you how many pages there are, but the page count is usually different to the physical book and I find it difficult to visualise just from a page number how thick the book would be.

* You can’t flip back and forth in the book easily. Sometimes I like to be able to skip back a few pages, to remind myself of who a character is, for example, or to skip forwards to see how many more pages there are in the chapter. Then there are the books that have family trees or maps at the beginning or a glossary at the end. It is possible to move backwards and forwards through the book with my Sony Reader but it’s not very convenient and you really need to know the page number you’re looking for. Maybe this is easier with a different type of e-reader?

* The battery needs to be recharged regularly and once or twice the whole thing has frozen and I had to press the reset button. At least with a paper book there’s no chance of malfunctions, battery running down etc.

* Finally, in my opinion nothing beats reading and owning a real, physical book. With the e-reader you don’t get the beautiful front covers and spines to display on your shelves. You don’t get the feel of the book in your hands. And you don’t get the memories. I’m sure most of us have a favourite torn, battered old book that reminds us of our childhood!

Do you have an e-reader? What do you like and dislike about it? If you don’t have one, would you ever consider buying one?

17 thoughts on “E-readers: The good and the bad

  1. Annie says:

    I have a kindle, the choice being made for me because originally the sony would work with my mac system. I wouldn’t be without it now, mainly because I have a back problem and being able to carry all the books I need for work as well as getting rid of files because I can transfer my lectures onto it, has made a tremendous difference. The disadvantage is the difference in formats. If my library service does start to allow downloads I won’t be able to get them on kindle. Eventually, one format will win out as it did with Betamax and VHS, but at the moment it’s a real nuisance.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I noticed that the library downloads weren’t available for the Kindle. It seems there are less restrictions on what you can and can’t do with the Sony Reader, though obviously the Kindle has a lot of other advantages.

  2. Kath says:

    I don’t have an e-reader and I’m not particularly interested in buying one. It’s not that I have anything against them, I’m just perfectly content with my printed books. Although I certainly see the benefits of them, like yourself I’m kind of addicted to the aesthetics of the printed book, love having overstuffed shelves and, most importantly, I love loaning my books to other people. I just can’t do that with an e-reader. And oh! The battered childhood books – yes. Nothing quite like it is there? 🙂

  3. Amanda says:

    I have a Kindle and I rarely ever buy books for it. I got it specifically for all those free classics off Gutenberg and have read quite a few that way. My husband also used to buy Kindle versions of his textbooks when he was in school and read them that way. Much cheaper and much easier to carry around! He actually likes the Kindle more than me because I tend to flip around a lot. Since I learned how to listen to audiobooks, though, I’ve found reading on the kindle is actually much easier than it used to be because i don’t need to flip so much anymore.

    Sadly, my library doesn’t offer Kindle downloads. 😦

    On the plus side, the Kindle doesn’t need to be recharged often as long as I keep the wireless off. It can go for months without recharging, but if we keep the wireless on, it drains every couple days.

    Oh, and the Kindle, for whatever reason, doesn’t go by page number. It goes by number of sentences in a book, which is just odd…

    • Helen says:

      I’m finding I have to recharge my Sony Reader quite often, so maybe that’s one area where the Kindle is better. And I didn’t know the Kindle doesn’t have page numbers. That must be confusing!

  4. Karenlibrarian says:

    I’m still resisting the lure of the e-reader. I guess I’m just old-school, but I like physical books — I like to see how many pages I’ve read, and I like to turn the pages — I can’t imagine reading an entire book on a screen. I’ve read short stories and chapters of books online, and I just don’t like it. Besides, I would download tons of books because they’re free, which would add even more books to my TBR shelf, which is already pretty unmanageable.

    The only advantage I can see is that there are books which are out of print and difficult to find, but may be easier to get online since they’re in the public domain. And of course it would be so much easier while traveling — I tend to carry a selection of books because I live in mortal fear of being stuck on a plane with a book I don’t like.

    Of course if I had an ipad I could also play Angry Birds when I need a break from reading. . . it would be dangerous.

    • Helen says:

      It’s easier to read with an ereader rather than on a computer screen, because the ereader screen isn’t backlit – it looks similar to paper. I still prefer the whole experience of reading a physical book though.

  5. cousinsread says:

    I really like my Kindle and don’t have any problems reading on it, but I do find myself reading and buying just as many print books as I did before I had it.
    What I’ve seen at the library this year is a lot of people coming in with their new e reader (that they got for Christmas) with absolutely no idea how to use it or download books onto it. Since libraries now offer downloads, they think that we all know the ins and outs of their specific reader and can walk them through downloading. For the most part we can, but it sometimes feels like I’ve become more of a tech support person than a librarian.

  6. Ash says:

    I have a nook and I really enjoy it. Like you said, it’s just a different way for me to read books. I actually use mine mostly at the gym. I set it on this tray on the elliptical machine and I can read YA books easily on it. I finish an extra book every 1-2 weeks this way. One of my favorite things about my ereader is that I can read it in the car. I get carsick very easily, but for some reason when I’m reading my ereader I do not. This is a definite perk for me!

  7. Jo says:

    I have a kindle and I resisted for a long while. I did my research on it and I am glad I have bought it. For me it really was for all those books that I should have read but haven’t! Hence why I am reading Little Women on there.

    It also has allowed me to download samples of books to see if I really want to go out and buy it. Something I have found useful and has turned into a bit of a project on my blog!

    Having it with me all the time, means I now stop and read at lunchtime instead of working through! Which just means more reading time, lovely.

    However, I still love buying books and that is why I have a few recent acquisitions in the physical book department!

    The answer is I just love books.

    • Helen says:

      I like using mine at lunchtime too, whereas I didn’t often take physical books to work with me. The only problem is tearing myself away from it when it’s time to start working again!

  8. Josh's mom says:

    I bought a Nook in April of last year and wasn’t too sure about it as I love to dog ear, underline and write in my books. I find the Nook’s highlight/note taking feature has a lot to be desired. BUT I did download 100 classic books (2 volumes) the other night for only $6. Can’t beat that. I just finished Emma by Jane Austen and now have 99 more to go! Also, I am going on a trip to New Zealand (from Washington DC) in April so the Nook will really come in handy. Especially with airlines charging for extra bags or weight.

  9. Katherine Cox says:

    I have a Nook, and bought mine for one of the same reasons: access to hundreds of classics (have you visited manybooks.net?) that are available. I love using it and being able to change the font size but printed books are still my favorites. If anything I appreciate them more now. I wonder if my opinion would change if I read on the iPad though, as you can turn in horizontal and have two pages showing as you would in a book and it animates the page turns… not to mention it would be great for reading blogs. 😉

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