To buy or not to buy an e-book reader?
3 January 2012

A while back, I wrote that I was rather sceptical about e-books and electronic book readers, especially for academic or otherwise weighty books, although admitting that I would probably be getting one at some point in the future (Books in the digital age). I haven’t bought a reader yet, but I am increasingly tempted by the various readers in the market, and I am looking more seriously into them as a viable option. It is not that I am a Luddite completely opposed to digitized books. Indeed, I have installed the Amazon Kindle app on my smartphone a long time ago, in order to read out-of-copyright works. It has been a great way to spend bits of time I have while travelling on the tube or while taking a break and drinking coffee. For example, I managed to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I hadn’t done for a number of years. But that’s the limit. The screen resolution of the smartphone is small, and while I am happy to use it for reading something light, it is not suitable for something serious. For something that demands more concentration, I’d need a larger screen like a tablet or a dedicated reader.

Google has entered into the books business with its ebook store, and it has a great advantage in that books can be read by different devices, such on a computer screen or a smartphone, as well as on an electronic book reader or on a tablet. For the past few years, Google Books have been absolutely wonderful, and it is probably my favourite Google product, as many books printed in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have been scanned and made available as PDF documents. There is no more need to trace obscure books by trawling through numerous library catalogues, and seek access to the books via the inter-library loan system. I have many books on my bookshelf, and I have been adding free books. I am considering about purchasing a book or two to read on my computer to see how I like reading digitized books. If I like reading them, then I can see myself reading more and more on some sort of screen, rather than holding physical books. However, that comes with a danger. There is a prospect that I might go on a huge spending spree and buy many books that will share the same fate as physical books I own: bought but unread.