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Confession: I’m Not Such a Reluctant e-Reader Adopter (Anymore)

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Okay, love is too strong a strong word. I’ve never quite gotten over the smell of paper and the comforting heft of a much-loved tome, but I’m not quite the reluctant adopter I was a year ago. Still, it seems I’m not alone in making this shift: According to a report from the Pew research Center, the number of readers using e-books increased seven percent in 2012, while the number of readers reading actual print books dropped about five percent.

There are more e-Readers in the wild these days. They’re affordable and convenient. Pew has classified the typical e-book reader (the people, not the devices) as a college graduate between the ages of 40 and 49 who lives in a household with an income of more than $75,000. While that may be the way the data pans our currently, the increasing popularity of these devices suggests that they may spill out of this bracket relatively quickly. As they infiltrate schools in particular, tablets and e-readers are establishing a foothold in American literacy.

So how did I come around on my thinking? There were a few reasons:

  • Convenience. Instead of carrying two or three books and magazines with me for my commute, I use my e-Reader. It has about five books ready for reading at the moment, and it has a stash of my favorites in case I want something tried and true.
  • Privacy. I can read just about anything on my e-Reader without inviting comment or criticism. Of course, this is also a bit of a drawback too because I lose the basic interaction readers sometimes have with one another: “Oh, hey that looks like a good book” or “I read that too!”
  • An awesome cover. This is probably the most important reason, though the one that is superfluous: My cover makes the device look like an old leather-bound volume. It changes the initial experience of the device, which helped soften some of my initial resistance.

Still, I’m likely not going to be a spokesperson for these things anytime soon―I’m just more likely to admit they have their uses. Why is this important to acknowledge? Well, it’s a sign that overall tendencies are shifting, but also a sign that the divisions (print or digital) are blurring. And belonging in one camp over another isn’t necessarily regarding the degree of your intelligence or preferences for technology.

Have you also changed your perception of these devices recently? What swayed you?

Krystal D'Costa About the Author: Krystal D'Costa is an anthropologist working in digital media in New York City. You can follow AiP on Facebook. Follow on Twitter @krystaldcosta.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. supertoyg 7:46 am 01/28/2013

    I’ve been on the fence for a few years, took the plunge two years ago and have been pretty happy since. It’s so much easier to travel with a Kindle full of hundreds of books than to carry around two or three heavy paperbacks you may or may not actually want to read on your flight.

    However, the whole DRM experience is terrifying. I live in fear than Amazon could, at any time, “ban” a book I bought and wipe it from my device, or that I could lose the original file and be unable to download it again. DRM should just be abandoned.

    Also, once you get used to digital formats, any time you are forced to buy a fairly-recent (i.e. less than 10-years-old) book that does not have a digital equivalent, you end up hating the publisher. Same goes for PDF-only, it’s just not the right format for e-Readers.

    Also, it gets a bit too easy to buy loads of book you’ll never actually read. It was bad enough when I did that after a trip to the bookshop, now I can do it at any time without even leaving the house!

    Link to this
  2. 2. OgreMk5 10:36 am 01/28/2013


    After some experiments with my First Gen Kindle (I now have a 1st gen Fire), you can do some thing to help mitigate a few of your concerns.

    If you copy the books from your kindle to your PC, then you can keep a backup of all the books. If, for some reason, Amazon removes one, then you still have it and can just turn off the wireless on the Kindle to prevent it being removed again.

    PDFs work well on the Fire.

    Amazon has also introduced a Firefox browser plugin that allows you to dump a webpage to a PDF (I think) on the Fire so you can read it later.

    Like I said, I had a 1st gen Kindle, with all it’s issues and never looked back. I rarely buy physical books now, it’s just way more convenient and it’s much easier to move.

    Link to this
  3. 3. janand712 3:15 pm 01/28/2013

    I’ve been reading e-books since my first Pocket PC came with Microsoft Reader, and have gone through three Pocket PCs, and iPhone and now a Kindle Fire. I also am an avid fan of Audible books. And yet, I still buy books from the world-famous Powell’s Bookstore, where used copies are often available. It’s an addiction.
    When traveling with paperbacks, just leave them at your hotel for the staff.

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  4. 4. IncredibleMouse 8:25 pm 01/28/2013

    I was gifted a Nook a couple years ago. It is surprisingly and slowly growing on me as well. Though I would rather purchase a hardcover book if it’s something I plan to read, treasure, and probably re-read or reference in the future. In fact, I’ve gone out and bought books I’ve read digitally. However, I’m fully aware the reader/author relationship I have, with the actual book in my hands, is a bit manic – for better or worse it’s a feeling I can’t shake.

    Link to this
  5. 5. OgreMk5 12:23 pm 01/29/2013

    I knew I was hooked on e-readers when I reached up to turn the page on my first Kindle.

    Link to this

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