“It’s a generation thing. I give it another few years and books are going to be a thing of the past,” says Michael Tyrrell, a member of the first generation of people who read almost exclusively on e-readers. The 18-year-old senior at Blyth Academy in Toronto has had a school-issued Sony Reader Touch Edition since October. He loves it and told the Monitor’s Julie Masis why, by phone from his school. Here are excerpts from their conversation.
What are the advantages of an e-reader over a regular book?
The weight could be the biggest thing. I can keep all my textbooks on it instead of carrying 60 pounds of textbooks. I still have back problems from carrying around textbooks. If I don’t understand a word in the textbook, all I have to do is double-click on the word and get a definition. I can take notes as well. Press the options button and you can bookmark the page, you can highlight, and you can actually handwrite on the page. The biggest thing is it’s really easy on your eyes, so you can sit down for four hours and read and get up and your eyes don’t feel pain at all.
What are the disadvantages?
[One] disadvantage would be if I lost it. The books would still be on my computer, I would just have to pay [to replace it] myself. [The school initially provides the e-readers to students. Students pay if they lose them. But because students download the books from the Internet onto their computers before loading them to their e-readers, they wouldn’t lose the books even if they lost the e-reader.]
[Another disadvantage] is the pages aren’t in color.
So how exactly is reading on an e-reader different from a computer monitor?
The backlight is a lot lower than on a computer. A computer will light up a room. This has a slight backlight to it, not enough to hurt the eyes, but just enough that you can read comfortably. In minimal light, this is a lot easier to read than a book.
How long does the battery last?
It has a really long battery life. I’ve had it going for like four days. I haven’t charged it for about a week now.
How many books do you have on it?
Right now I have 60, but it can hold over 500. You can go to the library online and [choose from] 500,000 books. You [borrow] the book for 21 days, and after 21 days the books just disappears from the e-reader.
What are some of the books you have on it?
“Hamlet,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and I have a few philosophy books on it. I can put my calculus and physics textbooks – that’s a really big deal because those two are really heavy.
So did you get rid of your school bag because you don’t have to carry all those books around?
No, I still have the same bag. I still like to take notes the old-fashioned way. I’m one of the few people [at our school] who uses a binder. A lot of people use laptops.
Can you see pictures on it?
Pictures are all black-and-white, but have very high resolution. It can also play music as well, which is pretty cool. It’s like an MP3 player.
Where do you read on your e-reader?
Anywhere I would read a book. You can take it on the subway. I’ve read it at coffee shops and while walking down the street. It’s a lot easier walking down the street reading this than an actual book because you’re never going to lose your page.
Isn’t it kind of dangerous to read while walking down the street?
No. You can also buy a protective case for it. Even if you drop it, it will be fine.