One of the gadgets that I am seeing advertised a lot this Christmas is the e-book reader, like this one from Amazon. It sounds like an interesting concept, to be able to store so many books on one little device. The thing works like a cell phone, without the access charges (yet) for browsing and downloading books.
I'm not sold yet. I love the feel of a real book in my hands, the smell of the paper. I still much prefer to browse a real bookstore to an online one. It takes so long to click on all the links to get a good feel for an unknown book, and browsing online takes so much longer than scanning a shelf at the store. Plus, Amazon doesn't have a coffee shop, and most bookstores these days do. Besides the physical difference between paper and e-books, I have a few questions on their usage:
Why is it so expensive? Amazon is charging nearly $400 for theirs, before the cost of books, most of which run $9.99. I think I average spending $10-12 on a book, maybe less (I love the bargain book section)--that's going to take a long time to recoup my costs.
Can you create your own e-books to read and pass around? I didn't see technical specs on file formats. Is this going to cost several hundred $ for special software, or will the things accept a pdf file or a word document.
What do you do when you're done with a book? Can you loan them to a friend? Sell them to a used book store? Hide them from your parents? Will libraries be able to offer e-books? Amazon's website talks all about getting books *on* to the device, not how to get them back off again.
Can you really dog-ear pages? Sure, you can bookmark a page. But can you really really bookmark one so that the next person to pick it up knows immediately where the juicy scenes are?
If you plan on becoming a serial killer, is there a way to completely disable the built-in cell-phone like wireless? After all, we're all familiar with the police tracking cell phone signals. It would be terribly embarrassing to be caught because you stopped to download the latest Stephen King after burying the bodies.
How will we ever hold a decent book burning? Somehow, the image of a circle of right-wing activists holding book readers, thumbs poised as the leader says "On the count of 3, everyone click Delete together" just doesn't hold the same appeal as a massive bonfire.