An E-Book Reader For The Holidays?

I like a new gadget as much as the next guy — when DVD players were first introduced, I had to be the first one on the block to have one (at $300!). So I’ve been watching the development of the e-book readers — Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Reader and now Nook from Barnes & Noble — with eager anticipation.

The problem is, I don’t want to fall victim  to obsolescence (the $300 DVD player was long ago dropped off at the electronics recycling center). But that’s becoming more and more difficult as electronics vendors rush to get products to market, then update them with 2.0 and 3.0 models a few months later.

So far, I haven’t settled on an e-book reader. I don’t travel all that much, so it’s not like I would need to carry a whole mess of reading material with me wherever I go. I usually have a couple of books and some professional journals with me; the rest I keep either in my office at work or at home, where I spend 95% of my time (the other 5% is spent traveling between the two). Plus, working in and around libraries, I can usually access whatever I want to read quickly anyway, in the old-fashioned paper and ink format. Version 1.0, if you will.

But I have looked, and was intrigued by some of the features of the Barnes & Noble Nook — not the perfect holiday gift, since it won’t be shipping until January, but still. David Pogue, a technology writer at the New York Times, wasn’t too excited about it (see “Not Yet The Season For The Nook“). He lists lag time, unintuitive interface, battery life and the price of content as some of the reasons that he’s not jumping up and down about the device. He also pointed out that one of the Nook’s more appealing features — the ability to share e-books with other Nook owners — is limited to just one loan, ever, which shot down one of the more compelling reasons to favor the Nook in libraries.

The other issue I have is with content availability. As School Library Journal editor Brian Kenney pointed out in his editorial in the October issue of SLJ, many of the young adult books that are considered to be the best of the genre are not yet available in an e-book format (see “The Biggest Loser“). Publishers are also finding that retailer’s e-book sales, discounted far below printed book prices, are eating into their hardcover sales, and are delaying the e-book versions of some their more popular titles (see “Publishers Delay E-Book Releases,” New York Times, 12/9/09).

So, the bottom line…I don’t expect to see an e-book reader under the tree this holiday season. I will, however, continue to envy every person I see that has one.

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