This is the second of a series of posts about the iPhone/iPod Touch.
With the recent announcement of the Kindle 2 from Amazon, I thought it was a good time to talk about e-books.
Despite being a librarian with an interest in technology, I still haven’t actually seen an e-book reader in the flesh. I’d like to see a Kindle (and particularly the new version) but sadly it is still only available across the pond in USA. Sony’s e-book reader is available via Waterstones in the UK, which I recently read a great review of from Ian at Thoughts of a [wannabe] librarian. I have to admit, the review really did make me want to go and at least take a look at the Sony e-reader, if not buy one. (As an aside, I wish we had some of these types of things at our library, a while ago I heard about the “Techie Toybox” available to the library staff at Topeka & Shawnee Public County Library and thought what a great idea that was – as librarians we ought to be at the forefront of these information developments, particularly those of the e-book).
Academic libraries have gradually introduced more and more e-books (personally, I always buy an e-book version if there is one available for any reading list texts), and some public libraries have also started to purchase e-books for their users. It’s been quite a gradual process so far but I can really see e-books become very popular as the technology improves.
My own experience as an e-book user has, until recently, been limited to academic texts which i have either read online on a PC or downloaded sections as a pdf. Although this has a great advantage in terms of access (particularly useful when you are studying from a distance), it’s not as portable as a book, even if I use my netbook to read them. I read a lot on my daily travel to and from work (it take me about 90mins each way now) so I’m usually seen carrying around some form of reading, whether it be a fiction book, a non-fiction book, journal articles, magazines etc etc. – I quite often have all of the above! I have to admit, it would be nice to not have to lug so much around with me.
In order to give e-book reading for leisure a go, I recently downloaded Stanza, an e-book reader application for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Stanza is also available as a desktop reader which you can then sync with your iPhone/iPod Touch. It also has the ability to sync with the Kindle for anyone lucky enough to own one, although it can only sync by USB with the Kindle.
I’ve only tried the iPod Touch version which I have to say, I’m really impressed by. The application itself is free and there are a number of free books, newspapers and magazines – or you can purchase them using a number of different services. The screenshot below shows the first half of those services which are already listed in the online catalog, and you can also add more to the list.
Once you’ve chosen to download a book (I’m using the term book for ease but of course it could be a newspaper, blog etc), it is added to your Library. You can browse your library by Title, Author, Subjects, or Latest Reads. By turning the screen landscape you can also use coverflow to flick through your library (see screenshot).
Once you’ve chosen what you would like to read, the book opens ready for you to read. You can adjust the visual settings to suit you (you can change the font face (style), size, colour, background colour, line spacing, margin width and text alignment), as well as the effects (e.g. I have the page transition set to curl the page when I press the right hand side of the screen). I downloaded the Obnoxious Librarian from Hades to read for a bit of light entertainment. Whilst reading, you xan also tap the screen to bring up further options such as skipping to certain sections, searching within the chapter, or moving to a different chapter (see grey bars on screenshot).
At first, I thought I would find the screen too small to read for any period of time, but I’ve used it for 40 minutes and found that the size didn’t bother me. It may well do if you are reading for a few hours, but the portability is certainly a big bonus. What I really like about it is that the application opens wherever you were last reading and even if you skip between books, when you re-open the book it will always take you back to the point where you last left it. I haven’t actually chosen to buy a book on my iPod yet, but I definitely see potential, especially when you’re travelling and don’t want to carry lots of books. At the moment I am still preferring to read on paper but I think that is probably just due to convenience of having books in paper that I want to read. Who knows, in a few year time I might do almost all of my reading on a portable device.
I think e-books are definitely something that is going to grow, and I can see portable e-book readers becoming popular for those who travel a lot, and potantially students/academics who can carry one device instead of numerous hefty textbooks. I don’t think we’re going to see traditional paper books disappear any time soon but I do think we may well see a change in both academic and public library services as more and more users adopt e-books in favour of print books.
What do you think? Are you an avid e-book reader or do you love the emotional side of sitting down and curling up with a good book? Do you think this could change the way libraries work in the future or is it just a passing trend?