Sunday, January 23, 2011

At Least Someone Does Her Homework

So I came across a post about e-readers by Karen Coombs, self-described librarian and geek coder, over on her blog, Library Web Chic.  It was interesting to read about someone else taking the plunge into the world of e-readers.  Unlike me, however, Karen both knows what she is talking about when it comes to technology (and the library) and is willing to do some serious homework. She limits her field to the big three:  iPad, Nook, and Kindle.  But, after playing with an iPad for a while and getting a headache from the computer glare, she quickly is down to the Nook vs. Kindle main event.

Image courtesy of DigitalTrends

This is where something interesting happens.  She visits a Barnes & Noble, plays with the Nook in person, and that, coupled with her research, convinces her to go the way of the Nook.  I say this is interesting because of the way that direct exposure and familiarity works in this situation.  We don't have a B&N up on the mountain; in fact, much to my pleasure, our two big bookstores here are the non-chain-affiliated campus bookstore (how many of those are left?) and an independent bookstore.  Not having a B&N nearby meant no fondling the sample Nooks when making my Christmas list.  On the other hand, even though I couldn't touch a Kindle through the website, I'm very familiar and comfortable with Amazon, and that is probably what tilted me in that direction.  It makes me think about how initiatives to introduce lendable e-books at libraries might be heavily influenced--particularly in smaller systems--by the personal experiences and predilections of the staff at that library. 

Anyway, back to Karen.  She loves her Nook, in large part because of two things it does that Kindle does not.  It allows her to "check out" library books and to lend books to friends with Nooks.  *sigh*  As much as I've enjoyed using my Kindle, I'm beginning to regret my hasty decision.  Even if the Kindle editions are much cheaper than real books, I have a very small book budget these days and would love to be able to borrow books, both from friends and the library.  The inability of the Kindle to lend books seems like a major flaw.  Lending is a reciprocal activity and generates interest in the product, so I think they may be missing out on some easy marketing.  Furthermore, and more to my point, the inability to borrow books from either friends or the library casts the book in the most proprietary of ways and works against the current Net culture, which emphasizes collaboration and sharing.  I think Kindle might be putting itself in danger of ideological isolation. 

Since I already own a Kindle, I guess what I have to hope is that they smarten up and fix these issues.  And soon. 

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