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By: Andrea Lhotka
For: Red Rock News
Date: October 8
, 2010

A Look at the World of E-Readers

Most librarians in the state of Arizona and across the country are sensibly concerned about money, focused on saving wherever possible.  Try to imagine my surprise at the opportunity to attend a free E-Reader Summit & Technology Showcase in Phoenix at the Carnegie Center.  Every library in Arizona was eligible, but only 50 could attend, so Sedona Public Library and several others in Yavapai County were lucky to get a seat.  We carpooled down to Phoenix together and at the end of the day walked away with bundles of e-reader devices as well as $50 gift certificates for each device.  Sedona Public Library selected devices on the basis of their compatibility with our own e-book and downloadable audio book collections. 

Trends in information consumption, how to use the e-reader device and e-reader comparisons and review were just a few of the exciting presentations at the E-Reader Summit & Technology Showcase.  In the afternoon we got hands-on experience operating our new devices.  But the purpose of the summit was not recreational although reading for pleasure is enormously valuable.  Educating librarians and the readers they love on new ways of reading books was the mission.  Maintaining library relevance was priority number one.

From the reference desk I have observed the inquiries about e-books multiply in the last two months.  Likewise and possibly as a consequence of increased consumer interest, scattered throughout the media are articles with optimistic predictions about the ultimate acceptance of e-books into the reading sphere, not as a replacement of books but as a delightful supplement.  What accounts for this heightened appeal of e-books?  According to Wade Roush of “Technology Review” the answer is two-fold:  improvements in mobile computing technology and the increase in buy-in of industry leaders in publishing and online booksellers with an interest in seeing e-books prosper.  E-readers appear ready to break through the small subgroup of early adopters and are headed for the wider audience of users.  E-readers will have a transformative impact on the troubled book, magazine and newspaper industries.  By leveraging technology in surprising ways, this can be a great opportunity for innovation.  

When choosing an e-reader device, one should consider these attributes:  interoperability, mode of e-book transfer (Wi-Fi, 3G, or cable), readability, navigation, refresh speed, and even weight.  Some devices are dedicated e-readers meaning they are intended solely for reading e-books, while others are venturing into the territory of portable electronic devices and smartphones, offering  with Internet access, email, music, games and apps.  In most cases weight increases as the number of features increases.  Interoperability refers to a device's compatibility with a variety of e-book documents.  Some e-readers are completely proprietary, while others allow the use of multiple e-book formats.

The benefits of Internet access go unsaid; however, not all devices include easy navigation, high readability or the processor speed needed to support such a feature.  Be sure to test an e-reader device or do your research before choosing your next toy.  Transferring e-books via the Internet by Wi-Fi or 3G is very convenient - especially 3G, which is considerably faster and enables access beyond the confines of a Wi-Fi hotspot.  However, there are some very handy, simple e-readers that do not access the Internet except by a USB port.  These devices are delightful in their simplicity, and the benefits should not to be underestimated.

Readability is of huge interest in the world of e-reader devices.  All allow you to alter the presentation of text according to your individual preference, some more than others.    E-readers thus have some collateral benefits for people with impaired sight.  With such flexibility in text size, shape and color, they may open worlds to the sight impaired.

Some concern has been raised about the price of e-books.  For e-books to continue on their trajectory towards relevancy, these prices will need to go down, but there are recent developments at your local library which may be of interest to you.  Now that we have cut our teeth on a few e-readers, we are better equipped to respond to the growing allure of e-books.  The Yavapai Library Network and Sedona Public Library will soon invest in a contemporary e-book collection through Overdrive.  We will keep you posted on details in the future.

For a more thorough comparison of e-reader devices, stop by the reference desk.  We would be happy to answer any questions you might have, do a demonstration of our three e-reader devices or allow you to read a sample e-book.  Be on the alert for announcements about the e-reader show and tell coming up as well.  You can bring your e-reader and take a look at ours! 

Andrea Lhotka
Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News and is also presented on:  Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.
Andrea Lhotka is Public Services Librarian of the Sedona Public Library.