Reading on Electrons
It’s probably safe to say that my view on ebooks have changed throughout the years. Like with a lot of new technology, I have been a slow adopter. I didn’t get my first CD player until I was in college (everyone else already had one when they entered high school). My first mp3 player was in grad school. So was my first iPod, but I would have never gotten that had not a more trendy relative given it to me as a gift. I also got my first cell phone in grad school. I still don’t have a smartphone. But mostly because I don’t feel like I can justify the expense on a post-doc’s salary (and I almost never get calls anyway).
My first exposure to ebooks was through Project Gutenberg. This was probably around the time that I first started browsing the web seriously. My first impression was that this was awesome. I could read all these books from the comfort of my own home without going to the library or a bookstore. Perfect for a lazy bookworm. Quite a bit later, I discovered all the digitized books on archive.org. Subsequently, I got my mom hooked on that site because there are several Chinese universities that have put up their digitized texts. As a consequence, my mom could download one of those classic Chinese texts with a click of button rather than go through the hassle of ordering those books from halfway around the world.
Anyways, it took me a while before I started to convert entirely to ereading. I only started seriously doing this about a year ago. For me, reading on a screen never deterred me. I had gotten used to reading pdf files of research papers in grad school. (I am one of the few people who does not have huge stacks of papers at my lab desk because everything is on the computer.) The biggest obstacle was the price of ereaders. It would have to be low enough that I wouldn’t have to buy too many books to make it worthwhile.
At this point, I think ereaders have gotten cheap enough to make buying one a practical matter. Now, I can have a whole bunch of books on a device that could fit in a purse to read wherever I happen to be. This saves on space and would definitely ease the stress of moving (depending on how my job hunting goes, I could move in as early as two months from now–and I do not look forward to boxing up all the physical books that I already have). This does not mean I’m abandoning print altogether. I’m still buying print for reference books and favorite authors. But it does make me think a bit more before buying a physical book. Because I care more about the content of the book than its physical presence.
And one more thing: ebooks make organization a hell of a lot easier. Searching on the computer is easy. Searching through the stacks of physical texts that somehow get mixed up no matter how hard I try to keep them straight is another matter entirely.