Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I want electronic books!

I have started to look at electronic book readers, as I am one of those who like to write outside of the office, but the office is where my library is. Now, if I had a nice electronic book reader, that wouldn't be a problem, because I could just bring my books with me. Even if the limitation on the book reader was, let's say, 100 books, that meant I could empty it into an electronic library on a hard drive, and just bring the books I wanted. Or have them in an online bookshelf. It would really change my life. Why have nobody thought about this before?


Perhaps the best supported electronic book reader is the Amazon Kindle, . It can contain about 200 titles, is wireless on the satelite band and so is always connected if you want to update newspapers or download books, and there are 230 000 books available. The weight? 300 grams. It sounds like a dream come true! The price? Well, not as cheap as a book, but 260$ I'd definitely pay to have all the books I need available all the time. Now, just as I was getting exited, I checked if I could get this in Norway, and use it in Norway. No. I can't. Bummer.

Sony has a lovely reader though, and although it's a little bit more expensive than the Kindle, it looks very interesting. It's not as proprietary as the Kindle, reads more formats, which makes it a lot more available. My electronic journal access suddenly means I can download the relevant articles to the reader, and drag with me whole years of relevant publications to places where I'd never take a computer. What's that but major cool?

From the webpage: "You can also create annotations with a virtual keyboard, highlight text with a stylus pen, search for text in your digital book, and easily adjust the font size." Oh yes, I'll happily shell out 300$, even now that the Norwegian krone has dropped, for the opportunity to carry 2-300 texts with me in the backpack when I am off to work elsewhere. This has to have a downside. "Note: Use of companion eBook Store limited to U.S. and Canadian residents. Certain titles may not be available for download based on place of residence." Lovely. This is probably why this item doesn't show up at all on the Norwegian Sony site.

One should think that these days, with the tight economy, the enormous number of free hands and the need for cash flowing into the United States, buying things from abroad should be a tad easier. What are they afraid I'll read? Benjamin Franklin's autobiography?

That I could read, if I want to, though. contains 22,900 free e-books, many of the same as Project Gutenberg. If I mainly wanted the reader in order to always have a great novel available, I wouldn't worry about the restrictions, and just buy one. Come to think of it, that's a great thing to have. Thousands of books available to be packed into a tiny space. Would save a world of searching for English book-stores when we're on vacations.

However, what I really want is the books we use, regularly, the ones standing in our bookshelves. The ones I have already shelled out thousands and thousands for, so I can have them close, and the ones I will pay as much for in the future. They are the books that stop me, when my colleague talks enthusiastically about a month in a remote village in Greece, to write articles. I would love the village, sure, but I'd not write much. This is why when I travel, I go somewhere with bookstores and libraries. I don't know exactly which books I'll need before I go, and the nature of my work makes it hard to write without a reference library. And it isn't available online.

Our books, the ones we want, the ones we read and use and cite and think about, they haven't been put online. No matter how savvy we feel, how updated on the cutting edge of net use - we publish on paper only. Yeah, dinosaurs. Lovable, useful, reassuring dinosaurs, which I don't want to be without, but still...

So, dear scholars, dear scholarly publishing houses: How about those electronic books? Wouldn't that be a great idea?


Thomas Brevik said...

I use the Illiad iRex ebpok reader. About the same size and weight as the Sony reader. It reads PDF, but are crap at images and other illustrations. For plain text it is great. I have read both novels and professional reading with great pleasure. My back loves it when travelling:-) It can be extended with memory cards, and can even access from a memorystick. And you can buy and use it in Norway!

Saffista said...

You can use the Kindle in Norway if you download the books to your PC first and then move them to the Kindle. The release of the Kindle 2 is enough to make me seriously consider giving my Kindle away and getting v. 2!

Torill said...

Thanks both.

Thomas, I think something like the Illiad or the Sony reader is what I'll be going for. I like the fact that it's not proprietary (at least not as much) technology, the way the Kindle is.

Saffista, that was interesting - however, can I download to my computer while in Norway? Amazon only sells ebooks to buyers in USA and Canada - and it would really be rather useless if I have to go to the US to download so I can go back home and use the Kindle...

Neither reader can solve the other problem though. Is, for instance, Taylor's Play between worlds or Consalvo's Cheating available as ebooks? Of course, both Gamestudies and Games and Culture are available electronically, which is a great help, as well as a lot of conference proceedings.

Thomas Brevik said...

You are completely right in that the greatest problem is that important titles are unavailable as e-books. This will of course change with time as Amazons model prevails, but in the meantime, prepare to shoulder the paper burden...

Thomas Brevik said...

It could be worth it to wait for this reader:

Torill said...

Yes, the Plastic Logic reader looks fabulous! Now we're talking! I can absolutely see myself loading a stack of electronic novels and the backlog of journal articles into it, and stuff it in the bag as I make for the wide, wide world. Torill at a cafe table, looking cool with her drink and her sheet of plastic... I'd have to revise all my accessories to keep up with it.

I like Kung-Fu Movies! said...

Hey, I found your article by googling "buy Kindle in Norway".
Spending a month here and really want one.

Is it worth going for the Sony instead? I don't think I'll need the 3G network as much anyway. Mainly wondering about the screen glare, how well it handles pictures, the battery life (compared to Kindle 3's supposed 1 month battery life) and if books I buy online (amazon etc) will work on it.

Seems like a lot of important titles are available in ebook version now.

Torill said...

Kung-Fu - I went with the Kindle reader (birthday present), and I have loved it ever since. I did already shop most of my English language books on Amazon, and with the reader I eliminated the books I carry with me on flights and the ones I pick up at the airport or rail-way stations. I just spend the time on the airport as I am leaving doing way too much last-minute shopping, and then I am off.

But I will be looking for other shops and formats for the future: I have the cheapo kindle version because I expect this format to evolve quite a bit in the next few years, and when there's a more flexible, less proprietary reader, I am going for it.

As for the kindle: No glare from the screen, almost like reading on paper, and the page-changes are quick enough for me. And when it failed a few months ago, still within the warranty period, I just called Amazon and had a new one within 4 days. I am throughly impressed with their amazingly polite and helpful service. Also, I have Kindle software on two computers (apple and windows) and an android phone. None of the nasty aggressive "never touch another gadget than this or you will lose your library" I get with the apple products, talking about proprietary.