To E-read or not to E-read…

Are you hoping to find an e-reader under the Christmas tree this year?

With the proliferation of devices such as the Kindle, Sony E-Reader, Nook and Nook color, iPad, iPhone, and Android phones, more and more of us who once swore we’d never give up our print books are jumping on the bandwagon. That’s not to say we’re giving up on books in their traditional form; it simply says that we’re willing to read in all sorts of different ways.

E-books were the topic Tuesday on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Lynn Neary, who covers books for NPR, was one of the guests along with Peter Osnos, former VP at Random House, and founder of Public Affairs Books.

Neary made the point that with the advent of embedded pictures and videos in some of the content one can download, she no longer has reservations about reading children’s picture books in e-format.

But the main point, made by Peter Osnos, was that e-readers, and the content providers (Amazon, Google’s E-Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, etc.) are giving readers a choice. They get to decide when, where, and how to read a book. And he was generous with kudos to Len Riggio, B&N CEO, for offering books via their brick-and-mortar stores, online, and now through the Nook.

Amidst all this enthusiasm, not much mention was made of the fact that many people who might want one can’t afford an e-reader. Will libraries some day be in the business of lending e-readers? No one knew the answer to that question.

Personally, I’m with Peter Osnos. I check a ton of books out of the library, purchase many, and download others. I once downloaded a book onto my Kindle while waiting in line for a flu shot; another time I downloaded one I’d been listening to, because it was taking me too long to get through the audio (this being yet another way in which to consume a book). I guess there’s a subtext of obsessive behavior there!

If you’re doing historical research, the number of books in the public domain available for download is a gift. Often these are rare volumes you’d have to request through inter-library loan. Now you can get them immediately, and for free.

While I love my Kindle, I’m miffed with Amazon for their proprietary arrangement for the device. I’d love to be able to download library books to my Kindle, as you can with the Nook and other e-readers. And the book sharing option they announced has yet to materialize. (UPDATE: As of Dec. 30, Amazon put Kindle lending into effect.) In the long run, I’d say Amazon is going to lose the very customers they want to attract if they don’t change with the times.

From what I’ve been reading recently, the jury is still out on the royalty rates for e-books. As a writer, I certainly want my book to be available in e-format, but I know I’d be seriously disappointed if it didn’t debut in print!

So what do you think? What are your reading preferences?

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