As with everything else in our modern lives, technology has taken over books too; with the rise of the eReader: Nooks, Kobos and Lord of the eReaders: Kindles are now ubiquitous on any form of public transport, where mp3 players replaced walkmans, eReaders are fast replacing books. If you don’t have one already, and Amazon’s statistics are anything to go by, you will soon: the year they launched the Kindle in the UK, their eBooks outsold their hardbacks by 50%!
Many fear the rise of the eReader, with the same tired old arguments being thrown around; “that old book smell” they cry, “the cover art” they wail. While others complain that you can no longer read the first few pages before you commit or that reading on a screen will give you square eyes.
Fret not! The original e-Ink eReaders have the ability to show a picture though it will be in greyscale. This is useful across the board; newspapers have made the leap onto eReaders and are able to retain the use of pictures in their articles, while textbooks can still contain diagrams. Pictures can be enlarged, particularly useful when looking at complicated diagrams or detailed maps. This feature has only been improved on the newer colour eReaders-cum-tablets, such as the much-anticipated Kindle Fire.
Most eBook sellers also provide the option to read a sample or first few pages of the book, so there can be no complaint that you cannot try before you buy. As for the problem of “square-eyes”, first off, how long does the modern student spend a day on their laptop, endlessly browsing websites, articles, Wikipedia? And that’s before any serious work gets done. I highly suspect this is an argument made up by the anti-eReader section of society, who are desperately holding onto a somewhat obsolete format, no doubt the same arguments were cited by scroll-enthusiasts when the book was invented. Besides, the traditional eReaders are not “screens” in any real sense of the word. They are more correctly described as electronic-paper or e-Ink displays. Designed to act just like paper, to reflect rather than emit light. As such they have the same problems that books have: You can’t read them in the dark! How traditional!
In the past reading for any degree has meant long hours in the library, sharing a handful of textbooks and other resources with the rest of your course. Thanks to the Kindle’s ability to annotate and highlight passages in eBooks and articles, this may be a thing of the past. These “notes” can then be viewed online at Amazon.co.uk (unfortunately Kobo and Nook do not yet have the ability to sync notes online). This feature is particularly useful when reading articles for seminars or lectures; sections can be annotated and cut so that only the relevant part is shown, these “notes” and “clippings” can be edited further online (where you have access to a larger keyboard) and printed out. Saving students a small fortune in printing costs!
Modern eReaders have passed the viability test and are proving their usefulness across the board. In short, they are here to stay no matter what the traditionalists think. If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.