Christmas. A time for worrying about just how you are going to get any assignments done amongst all the revelry (note to self – you’re not so deal with it). Just the thought of doing the xmas shop, writing out the obligatory cards, wrapping presents, arranging the whole family thing etc etc, brings me out in a cold sweat. How can I cope with all this and still get any studying done? I have visions of spending Boxing Day sitting at my desk reading yet another journal article about ‘controlled vocabularies’ and what a depressing vision that is. But still, ’tis the season to be jolly and all that, so best get festive and get on with it.
Of course, there are the inevitable benefits to the xmas period. Gifts mainly (yes, I am that shallow). One of the things that I have been looking at is the new Sony e-book reader (the Sony Reader Digital Book PRS505S). I have been quite positive about ebooks for sometime now. Although I am not convinced that they will make the old fashioned paperback obsolete (they won’t), I think they will become a useful alternative. Certainly the technology seems to be improving all the time and it is a matter of when, not if, they produce a popular piece of kit that will really fly off the shelves (the Amazon Kindle seems to have had that reaction in the US – when is a UK release likely?).
Luckily, I had a chance to have a look at one in my nearest Waterstones (which used to be an Ottakar’s – ah the good old days) and I was quite impressed. Although there was a bit of a delay between page turns, it was relatively easy to read (it isn’t backlit, the main cause of eye strain when reading from electrical devices) and was simple to navigate. The biggest drawback? No wi-fi connection. Consequently, you need to hook it up to your PC and then transfer the files across. A bit of a shame in these wi-fi times, but not entirely inconvenient. However, wi-fi functionality will surely become standard. The ability to download books direct to your e-reader (as well as the ability to add RSS feeds) would surely make any e-reader a desirable piece of kit. As the Sony reader does not have this capability, I think it is likely to be obsolete relatively quickly. This does not mean that it is not worth purchasing.
For me, an e-reader would be a very useful piece of equipment. I frequently travel (my wife is Spanish) and this creates a number of problems with my studies. It is simply not practical for me to take my module pack, plus my core texts, plus any useful e-journals I have found, on a plane. I would barely have enough room for my clothes! An e-book reader, however, would eliminate that problem. With the ability to download hundreds of titles onto one machine, I could simply send any e-journals to the reader and take it away with me. Thus ensuring that, even when I am away on holiday, I can still read those articles that would otherwise be waiting for me on my return (causing me no end of stress by forcing me to confront the amount of study time I have lost). Whether this is entirely a good thing is, I guess, a bit of a moot point. After all, shouldn’t I be relaxing on holiday?
I think there is some reluctance in public libraries to take the plunge and make ebooks available to the public (understandable given the fact that it would rely on tax payers money), but I think the time is drawing nearer for e-books to really take-off. We are edging ever closer to affordable, practical, readable e-book readers and it is essential that public libraries are ready to meet the demand. Public libraries are already facing challenges in a digital world, the failure to prepare for the inevitable will see their relevance challenged to an ever greater degree.