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Thoughts on Buying an E-Book Reader (and Tips for Buying Gadgets)

Nate Dobbins

Lately I’ve been considering buying an e-ink tablet for reading books and my RSS feed. I wasn’t exactly excited by the prospect of an e-reader until a friend said this to me in an email conversation:

“It comes down to this – authors are putting words out there and everyone is doing it exactly the same way for every book ever made. You hardly even get any size variation – paperbacks are this big. Hardcovers are that big. Uniformity. Inanity. Forever and ever amen.

So when you talk about the “physicality” and “individual nature” of the book, I reply “what physicality? What individual nature?” They’re all the same font on the same paper in the same size and if it’s a paperback, if they don’t sell it they only want the covers back.

On the other hand, my Kindle with its casing is beautiful. It smells amazing. I love the suppleness of that thing. So to you, a book is a magical paper thing of nostalgia and memories and a Kindle is a technological trifle that runs out of juice. But to me, a book is a static assembly-line component of mass production and a Kindle is a lovely-smelling, durable piece of technology.”

This conversation really made me reconsider my previous position on real paper books. Prior to this conversation, I had perhaps been somewhat of a “book purist.” It took me awhile to make the move away from physical music to digital music; perhaps it’s just taken me a bit longer to move on to a digital medium for reading.

Now, the question remains: is using an e-reader more “green” than regular old paper books? The obvious advantage is that e-books don’t use paper. This argument doesn’t hold quite as much weight for me, because I get most of my books from the library anyways. One potential issue with e-readers is that many people feel the need to upgrade their gadgets often, since newer versions of these types of technologies come out at such a rapid pace. This is an important point for me: if I’m going to get an e-reader, I want to know that it’ll be sufficient for me for a long time to come, so I never feel the need to upgrade.

To that end, I’m making sure to do plenty of research before I take the plunge into e-readers. One of the main benefits of these e-readers – as I see it – are the e-ink screens; this rules out newer tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nook HD. I like the e-ink screens because they’re very easy on the eyes compared to LCD screens, and they consume much less battery (another potential point for sustainability). One such device that I’ve had my eye on is a crowdfunded e-reader that’s coming out next month called the Earl. It’s being billed as a “survivalist tablet,” meaning it’s got built-in navigation, weather, radios, a solar panel for charging, and it’s supposedly completely water- and mud-proof. I’m a sucker for gadgets that can combine the functionality of many different devices into one. Additionally, the Earl will be running Android 4.1, meaning it’ll be compatible with any Android apps that can run on a e-ink screen.

I’ll cut myself off before I get too carried away with my hype for certain gadgets. The important thing is to always be stringent about reading reviews from many sources and, if you want to be green, make sure it’s a device that’ll last you for a long time.

For other thoughts on sustainable reading, see Eva’s previous blog post. If you have any tips for me about buying an e-reader, let me know in the comment sections below!

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