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Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Discussion: Favorite Reading Technology

Pretty much every week, I get at least one question from a friend or colleague about ebook readers, audio books on the iPod, or some other technology questions as it pertains to reading. Even my kids have been asking.

Also, as I have mentioned on this blog before, the RA Department at the BPL is purchasing an ebook reader before the end of the year (probably a Sony reader) and the staff is going to spend some time test driving it and thinking about how it could be used by patrons, if at all.

I realize that until we all take turns using it, with the patron in mind, we will not fully understand all of the advantages and disadvantages of this technology.  For example, I was talking with a staff member at another library about her mother's use of the Kindle.  She said that her mother had all but stopped reading due to eye problems, but now with help from a family member, she has rediscovered her joy of reading on her Kindle. The Kindle is light enough for her to hold it comfortably and she can make the print as big or as little as she wants. Now she is back to her voracious reading.

My problem with the Kindle is that you can only use it with Amazon, and I would have to buy the ebooks. As a librarian, I rarely buy a book, since I have access to all that I want for free at my work.  The Sony reader I could at least use with my library card to "borrow" ebooks.

Technology and reading is nothing new, however.  Technology has effected the ways we read for thousands of years.  In fact, if you want to know my favorite reading technological advance, it is the invention of moveable type.  If you want to move closer to the present, I also really like "print on demand." Both are technologies that have made printing books easier and cheaper.

I am not completely convinced on the ebook reader thing.  In a past Monday Discussion, I listed my opinion on ebooks as opposed to paper ones, here.

So my question today is, what is your favorite technological advance in reading and books... ever? I am just trying to put this whole ebook phenomenon in perspective.

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Anonymous said...

My favorite is a book. But I do see the advantage of a kindle due to medical issues. But there's something about snuggling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a brand new book by your favorite author, smelling the new ink and feeling the turn of paper as you finish a page...

Anonymous said...

Audiobooks! I can get more titles read, and sometimes listen to things I wouldn't sit down and read.

John BPL RA said...

I think that "reading technology" was at a zenith during the late 19th century. Honestly. I've been involved in book restoration as a hobby for years and did it professionally, briefly, when I was in charge of book mending in a library YS Department. Take apart a book from 1890 and you can see right away how much better the construction is than a newer book. Hand-sewn bindings are common as is exquisite leatherwork and tooling. I own a leatherbound Longfellow collection from that time period which I would like to use as an example. It is fully illustrated with etchings and has gilt pages and silk ribbon markers.

It makes an audible creak when you open it.

The scent of 120 year old leather and paper is almost as intoxicating as the poetry it contains. The frontispiece is the best part of all. It is a portrait of Longfellow that he, himself, actually sat for! He glares straight at you with an expression that is equal parts contempt and beauty. He dares the reader with this stare.

Books like that are the reason I am irrevocably in love with literature.

Ebooks and Kindles are not.

Carie said...

I whole heartedly agree that books are here to stay. But the new technologies are an exciting addition to printed material. They provide another way to read the written word not replace it.

One great advantage is the ability to adjust the font size, like Becky mentioned, plus adjust the background and font colors to make it easier for readers. You can look up a word, make a note or bookmark a place with the touch of your finger.

I have heard that the Readers that do not have an internal backlight are difficult to see in low-light situations. And Readers that limit you to purchasing only their ebooks will probably have to change in order to compete with the others out there.

Just think, you can take 300+ books with you on your vacation, including travel guides and it will add less than one pound to your luggage. You can buy or borrow a book at 3am if you’re up and in need of a new read. You can download newspapers and magazines and even comic books in the app world.

Some of these early Readers will soon be as obsolete as a typewriter. I’m sure they will eventually offer illustrations in color along with the text. The Ipad has an amazing ability to utilize color illustrations, I’m sure they will soon offer them in book apps, if they don’t already. These multi tasking devices will probably take over the readers that do little more that download the written word.

You’ll be able to sit with your kids, Ipad in hand, read the story and see the illustrations. Who knows they may even have animated illustrations. There are so many possibilities! Again, just another tool, not a replacement for books.

I’ve used Audiobooks, and a variety of ebook resources thanks to my ipod touch. Though the screen is a bit small, I’ve read comfortably on the ipod. Most of these apps work similarly to each other.

So what’s my favorite… each has it’s place. I can’t comment on the various Readers like Kindle and Nook, I haven’t tried them out. But the Book apps are great on my ipod and I believe that devices like Ipad, with the bigger screen will be the direction they will all be heading. RA, you might wait for the next generation device to come onboard, there could be big improvements.

They are one more tool that can make reading exciting. So stay tuned. The technology is still new and evolving quickly.