May 17, 2011

E-readers, note-taking, and why I'm still a non-adopter

Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight discusses a report of a University of Washington study regarding e-readers and higher education. One of the big results of the study is basically to show that an e-reader like a Kindle as some setbacks for study and learning. I found this article enlightening because it more or less reinforces my main reluctance to make the transition to e-books. I love to underline and mark up book as I read, and in fact that's one of the key ways I learn. Being able to flip through a chapter I'm in the middle of and scan the underlined or annotated sections helps me pick up an argument when I come back to a book, and being able to review all of these markings when I'm done reading helps me to review a book adequately. That's not even to mention the usefulness of these markings and annotations months or years later when I'm looking for an citation or a thought from a past reading. And I know that there are some bookmarking and notetaking capabilities built into most e-readers. But they can't replace underlining, marginal notes, arrows, etc. So, so far, I'm a non-adopter. And there are other reasons I'm not adopting on top of the mark-up reasons. One, my life doesn't need any more screen time, it needs less. Two, I love books, the feel of the binding, the turn of the pages, the movement of the bookmark through the book. And I love libraries! A kindle or nook on a shelf doesn't call to mind great ideas, exciting stories, or unexplored countries like a room full of beautiful bindings. And last, there is cost. I'm not interested in shelling out a rather sizable sum just for a reader, before paying for books, which I then only license instead of own. Instead I pinch pennies and buy used books.

The one way I can see using an e-reader is basically like a mass-market paperback, a way to read fiction that is purely for fun. But it's a pretty expensive vehicle for that. I'm still intrigued by e-readers, and watch the technology and its effect on the publishing industry with interest, but I'm not much closer to making the leap myself.

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