Open Thinkering


Tag: Amazon Kindle

Your anti-ebook rhetoric is like a broken record.

To be honest, I’m not particularly bothered whether you, on a personal level, decide that you don’t like ebooks and you prefer dead trees.

That’s fine.

actively prefer the former over the latter, so I do mind your Luddite-style arguments attempting to castigate others whilst appealing to some kind of external, objective value. If you’re in a position of influence within an organization, then your reactionary stance on ebooks makes you a barrier.

These are the 3 types arguments I hear most often:

1. I like sharing books

That’s great! Good for you. My liking ebooks obviously makes me A Bad Person.

2. There’s just something about…

…the smell, the cracking of the spine, etc. Erm, that’s a fetish.

3. Ebooks strain my eyes

I completely take onboard your point about reading anything of any length on a backlit screen. But that argument just doesn’t stand up with e-ink screens as featured on the Amazon Kindle.

Got a different anti-ebook argument? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

***Update*** Many thanks to ‘atw’ in the comments below who adds a fourth argument I hear often:

I like paper books because I can stick them in my purse and they never run out of batteries!

10 reasons I like reading ebooks more than paper books.

There’s 5 big reasons and 5 smaller reasons I enjoy reading books on my Amazon Kindle* than standard paper books. Blog posts like this are usually prefaced by claims by the author to have a huge paper book collection/voracious appetite for reading/capability to use big words. Assume all of the above. :-p

5 big reasons

1. I can carry hundreds – if not thousands of books around with me. Which means reference library everywhere I go, and the ability to have several books (e.g. novel/business/academic) on the go at once.

2. Finding out the meaning of an obscure word takes about two seconds.

3. I’ve got instant access to pretty much any book I want.

4. Highlighting is portable, either via the Amazon website (if one of their titles) or a text file (if one you put on the device).

5. Weight. Many of the books I read for work, pleasure and study would be fairly weighty tomes. It’s easier on my arms – and my luggage!

5 small reasons

1. It’s virtually impossible to ‘lose your place’ in an ebook.

2. No-one can see the cover of the book you’re reading (and therefore make implicit judgements)

3. You can change the font size – or even the font type in some cases. Some paper books are set in tiny, horrible fonts.

4. I love 19th-century fiction (especially Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Gogol) which means many books I want to read are completely free.

5. Speed. It’s only anecdotal, but I’m positive I can read faster on my Kindle.

Bonus 11th reason

Audiobooks. I love being able to decide to listen to a book instead of reading it when my eyes are tired from work.

* I’ve got the previous generation, but with a cool, limited-edition Moleskine cover. Awesome.

Some considerations regarding ebook readers for academics.

CC BY edans

I’m at the stage of my thesis where I’m having to spend a lot of time reading lots of journal articles in depth. Of course, in this day-and-age, and researching a topic such as ‘digital literacy’ we’re talking PDFs sourced via Google Scholar rather than dusty tomes.

The trouble is that all this is on top of my usual screen time. I remember reading about a guy a couple of years back – I forget who it was now – who went to the opticians and was asked how much time he spent in front of screens.

Oh, about 13 hours.

Per week?

No, per day

I’m not quite up to those levels yet, but I can empathise.

Given this situation, I’m trying to make sure I don’t go blind in my old-age. I try to remember to take breaks, close my eyes for extended periods, and so on. I’m also using one of the best screens available for a laptop in my Macbook Pro. But it’s still not enough. I’m beginning to suffer from glare and I’m concerned about the strain I’m putting on my eyes.

That’s why I’ve started to look at e-readers. To clarify, an e-reader is “an electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books and periodicals and uses e-ink technology to display content to readers” (Wikipedia). Screens using e-ink use virtually no power when ‘on’, drawing electricity only when ‘turning the page’ or navigating menu functions.

Not only does a TFT screen constantly refresh, but it has a lower pixel density (measured in Pixels Per Inch – or PPI) than a screen using e-ink. As this page on Wikipedia shows, the PPI of my 15.4″ Macbook Pro is 110, whereas e-ink screens are anywhere from 167 up to 200 PPI. A standard 1024×768 monitor could be as low as 75 PPI.

This is what that looks like in practice (courtesy of this blog post on The Reader):

So, given that all e-reader screens that use e-ink have spectacular PPIs the academic looking for the perfect e-reader is left with the following considerations:

  1. PDF support
  2. Large enough screen to prevent having to ‘reflow’ every article manually*
  3. Ability to annotate/make notes
  4. Portability
  5. Cost

Things I (and probably most academics) don’t care about:

  • MP3 playback
  • 3G access to app/ebook stores
  • Secondary colour screen

In the UK we don’t have the luxury of having a multitude of e-readers available to us. In fact, it pretty much comes down to a choice between ordering an Amazon Kindle from Amazon US or walking into somewhere like Waterstone’s or WH Smith and buying either a Sony Reader or an Elonex E-Reader. I did also find the iRiver Story on the and WH Smith websites. The iPad, needless to say, is a non-starter as it has a TFT screen…

But then, from left-field, comes the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO machine. It has an innovative ‘transreflective’ screen with a PPI of over 200. In colour. Whilst this E-Book Reader Matrix is useful (as is this review of the Kindle by an academic), sometimes you need to create your own checklist:

E-Reader comparison

It’s a difficult choice. I love Sony stuff, and iRiver things are usually very innovative. The Kindle’s had rave reviews. However, I’ve very kindly been offered the loan of an OLPC XO for a while. It should arrive soon. I shall post a follow-up when I’ve given it a try! 😀

* “Being able to rearrange the text is called reflowing the document and permits a PDF designed for a full sized piece of paper to be easily read on a small devices.” (