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E-Reader Test Drives, and Test Cases

June 19, 2011

It’s official: I have powered up a Kindle (borrowed) and downloaded my very own first e-book. It’s shockingly easy. I’m going to have to be quite wary of impulse purchases.

It took a few moments to get the hang of the Kindle’s buttons and settings, but I think I’m sorted out.

The first book I have grabbed is The Complete Sherlock Holmes collection, available for 99 cents. Somehow, I feel like reading 19th century literature on the Kindle is the way to go. Most notably because I’d been daunted in the past by the bigness of this particular collection. And the tiny, tiny print. Short stories will also likely be good, to test what I think of the format.

There’s also this essay by Ursula K. LeGuin, urging more careful thought about the ramifications of e-publishing, in terms of copyright, readership, and ownership.

Riding the Avalanche.

LeGuin’s points about copyright and creative integrity give me pause, for the first time, in my giddy contemplation of owning an e-reader. Is an e-book metamorphosis really the best thing for book culture?

As for copyright, I am very worried. At this point the Web crawls with pirates offering copyrighted work for sale as e-publications, usually in badly degraded form; threatening them with copyright violation is just playing Whack-a-Mole, and nobody’s even trying to invoke the law on them.

I share her notion of an e-reader utopia, of all the books, ever, being digitally possible.

I welcome e-publication, so long as it works like an immense new-and-used bookstore network including bookstores selling both paper and e-books—and so long as it is fully and freely hooked up with the public libraries.

I have been thinking about e-readers only in terms of usability. And finding the results not entirely perfect, not as intuitive or as easy as I want. I want an e-reader that suits me nicely, as fluidly as the rest of the gadgets I’ve chosen.

I wonder, after reading LeGuin’s essay, whether an e-reader choice has larger consequences in regard to the community of readers, writers and booksellers, and how to act most responsibly on those concerns.





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