Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fruhlinger on Breaking Up with E-books

In the August 25-26, 2012, edition of The Wall Street Journal, Joshua Fruhlinger discusses why he finally decided to give e-books the boot. Excerpt:
I broke up with e-books last year after a flight from Los Angeles to New York. My first-generation Kindle and I had been together for five years, but I knew we'd have to go our separate ways when, an hour into the journey, it completely shut me out. Or rather, it shut down. I'd forgotten to charge the device before I left.

Upon arrival in New York, I coolly walked into a bookstore and bought a paperback version of the book my Kindle wouldn't let me read in the air. It felt good to be back on paper, turning real pages. I realized then: E-readers are needy, but a paperback will always be there for you.

I used to swear by my Kindle. I bought the original model the day it came out. But over the years, we grew apart. Ultimately, our needs were different. It's difficult to think back, but I see now how a match seemingly made in heaven turned sour.
Read the whole thing (and if the Journal's Web site wants you to subscribe, remember that Google is your friend). Contrary to this post's downbeat introduction and the article's equally pessimistic title, Fruhlinger actually provides a fair-minded list of the pros and cons of e-books in their current state. The good? Being able to stuff more titles than you could ever hope to read on a tiny tablet. The bad? Devices' constant carping for electricity and how DRM shackles sharing. That last point always vexes me, because I get most of my fiction from the library. Sure, one can technically check out electronic copies online, but the interface is so convoluted that it makes more sense to snag a hardcover. I still read e-books when I travel, and I hope that the disadvantages that so frustrate Fruhlinger will one day disappear.

(Picture: CC 2010 by meddygarnet)


Chestertonian Rambler said...

Public library ebooks vary greatly depending on your location. Both Austin and Round Rock have fantastic setups. Sure e-books are slower to arrive, and the ebook selection is more limited than the hardbacks, but in both cases it is far easier than we'd expected.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

My concern with ebooks is kinda snobbish and antidemocratic. That is, there is a temptation to read lots of free or super-cheap self-published books, even if they are of inferior quality.

There are a few gems that get published on ebook only; even major authors such as fantasy superstar Brandon Sanderson choose to go that route when a work is too generically awkward to fit into traditional categories. So I'm not purely against ebooks or even ebook self-publishing....

...but I am very suspicious of books bought *just because* they are cheap. Books feed our imaginations, allowing us to mentally rehearse who we might want to be, envision worlds better (or worse) than our own, and understand experiences profoundly different than the ones we encounter. For this service, $10 a paperback (or $20 a hardback, or $0 at the local library) is already a bargain, yet I see a number of people subsist on inferior stories just because ebooks allow them to do so at a bargain.

YA Sleuth said...

I find the e-reader I own just hinders basic habits I like--flipping between pages, telling by where my bookmark is how far into the book I am, etc. Plus there's something nice about being away from electronics when you spend the better part of your day with tech stuff.

I still love the simplicity of a book. So old-fashioned :-)

Loren Eaton said...


You're lucky: The system down here works off of this really unwieldy client. It's no fun at all.

What I like about super-cheap e-books is that they allow lesser-know (but still excellent) authors to get their works out into the world. But you do really have to pick and choose to pluck the wheat from the chaff.

Loren Eaton said...


Flipping pages drives me nuts on e-readers! Seriously, it's so hard to find an earlier place in the title if you've forgotten to digitally bookmark it. Not to mention the terribly typography issues that scaleable text introduces. Still, I'll use e-readers from time to time, especially when I'm travelling.