January 7, 2012

Why So Grumpy? A Response to Travis Jonker

I just finished reading Fine. I Got an Ereader. Now What? A newbie to digital reading gets his first Kindle by Travis Jonker and I have a few things to say about it.  But first, if you haven't yet had the pleasure, go enjoy some time browsing his wonderful blog, 100 Scope Notes.  I've been enjoying his enthusiastic take on the world of school librarians and children's literature for the past few years.  He doesn't just write blog posts.  Well, he does.  But he also does much more, like comimg up with highly engaging activities for his readers.  He has a love of good book covers and I enjoyed it when he had us all designing our own fictional covers.

He doesn't just love talking about the covers of books.  He loves the physical objects themselves.  And what librarian doesn't?  That's one of the greatest perks of becoming a librarian: we get to buy books with other people's money!

But with all these electronic reading devices floating around, we wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't keep track of what's going on with all kinds of different devices and formats.  But the problem with Travis is, he went and bought himself one and he doesn't seem to really want one.

I mean, I know why I bought one.  I'm a gadgety-gadget-head and love the idea of being able to carry around a whole bunch of books around at once.  And with Instapaper or Klip.me I have a ton of free longer articles to read more comfortably than on my laptop screen.  And many librarians I know enjoy the benefits of free publishers galley's on their ereaders.  I love that no matter how many books and articles I stuff into this thing, it's still only around eight ounces!

Many fellow librarians have been doing the whole keeping-an-eye on these ereaders with the thought that some form of these devices might be coming soon to their libraries.  Many of them are getting their hands on one to play with and see what they're all about so they can know what they're dealing with if there is ever an adoption in their district.  Some buy them, some just borrow them.  Is this why Travis got one?  I'm can't be sure.

In the article, he mentions asking around for which device to buy and seems surprised that most people told him to get the one they had gotten for themselves.  It's not really a surprise.  If you spent a few weeks researching which device to buy, you'd probably share your wisdom by recommending the one you finally chose.

I contacted Travis during this time and tried to be more objective.  I don't usually tell someone what to buy.  I tell them the benefits of more than one option for differing uses.  Be aware, this was late last summer so the Nook Simple Touch was out, but what is now known as the Kindle Keyboard was the only Amazon offering.  The raft of new Kindles had yet to come out.  I personally had a Kindle and enjoyed it very much.  But I told him that if he was getting this in anticipation of previewing it's use for his school library then he should go with a Nook.  Many librarians that had gone with a handful of Kindles had subsequently been disappointed with Amazon's policies and had switched over to the Nook.  While the Kindle can now borrow from the library, the Nook always had.  And at the time of this discussion, the Nook Simple Touch didn't have a clunky keyboard like the Kindle.  But I mentioned that I was happy with my Kindle for personal use.

What I don't get is that Travis waited until the new Kindles came out...and still got a Kindle Keyboard! If you look at the photo above, you'll see that both the Kindle Touch and the Nook Simple Touch (both now $99) have touch keyboards.  In the article he says the "buttons could use a redesign."  They clearly have!

He goes on to list the deficits he sees in his ereader.  Not enough free books available at the library.  Not everything published is available on the ereader.  He can't show off his ebooks like trophies on a shelf.  He's worried he might look foolish reading this in public.  Don't worry.  I'm sure no one would give you a second look.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  It's not an either/or proposition.  I like reading on my Kindle.  I like reading physical books.  I like audiobooks.  I still get books at the library.  I still buy physical books.  Different books lend themselves to different formats for me.

On the other hand, I know readers who prefer certain formats.  I know people who almost exclusively listen to audiobooks.  I know others who wouldn't go near an ebook.  They need to have a pencil hovering above the pages, ready to scribble and underline.

It's all good and it's all still available.  Tailor your reading to your own needs.  Don't feel pushed into anything.

I salute Travis and his desire to learn more in an attempt to help his students and staff adopt new formats and expand his knowledge.  But if he's going to feel "wary," and "foolish," and "shame" with his own, then I think he might want to put that puppy on eBay and head down to his nearest favorite bookstore.