why I don’t like buying Apple (or Amazon)

My husband recently bought me a Nook.  He bought me a Nook because I’m a huge reader — I signed up for Goodreads.com in May 2008, and I’ve read 138 books since then.  Well, probably more like 130 — a few of those books are retro-actively reviewed, like Johnny Tremain or Calico Captive.

The thing is, to me, 130+ books in two years seems like a paltry amount.  I was actually disappointed in myself for not reading as much as I thought I did when I saw that number.  It was the reaction of my husband and other friends that caused me to realize that to most people, 130+ books in 24 months is quite a lot.

I’ve wanted an e-reader for ages.  I can’t say since the Kindle first debuted, because that’s not true — I was ambivalent and slightly negative toward e-readers back then.  I said things like, “I just love the feel of a book in my hands,” or “I’d miss the smell of a brand-new book so much.”

I read reviews, though, that pointed out the reason behind the long-term success of a book format:  A book disappears when you read it.  Think about it — the last time you were engrossed in a book, did you really notice the feel of the paper against your fingers, the quality of the cover?  No, you probably were too caught up in the plot to notice those minor physical sensations.

The reason e-book haven’t previously caught on is because computers and laptops are intrusive.  The screen is bright, the battery hums, you need to scroll with the mouse, they get hot in your lap when you’re trying to relax on the couch.  Minor things, but things that do make a difference.

E-readers have the e-ink technology that looks like a printed word on paper.  They utilize front-lit screens, rather than the eye-straining back-lit screens.  The batteries are quiet, undetectable.  They don’t overheat in your hands.  In other words, they disappear as you read.

More than that, they have capabilities (or, in the Nook’s case, potential for certain capabilities) books simply don’t.  Both the Nook and the Kindle can hold thousands of books in their on-board library, and both allow external storage.  Both have audio-book format, so you can use the device to either listen to a book or read it.  They allow font enlargement, the ability to search words and phrases (or look up the meanings of words right from the page).  They have some small on-board music storage.  Best of all, both the Nook and the Kindle allow you to buy e-books wherever you are, with the provided 3G connection at no extra cost.

Additionally, in the case of the Kindle, if I understand the specs correctly, you can actually switch from visual to audio if you don’t want to put the book down but need to get in the car and run an errand.

So why did I choose the Nook over the Kindle?  It’s all about open-source and choice.  With the Kindle’s locked DRM, I can’t upload any content but what Amazon approves.  In other words, if I bought a Kindle, I could only have books from Amazon.com on my device — a fairly limited library, comparatively.  At the time I was doing all my research on the two devices, customers were unable to read google books on the Kindle.  That may have changed.

Furthermore, Amazon has a bit of an unsavory history with their Kindles.  One or two incidents, to be sure, but incidents that are indicative of a larger disconcern about the privacy of their customers.

So I asked for the Nook for Christmas.  Unfortunately, it sold out immediately and wasn’t available until mid-February.  I ended up getting one for my anniversary in April.  I love it.  Since we bought it, I’ve only purchased one book for it, but I’ve read dozens.  Books I’ve uploaded from google books (the ones with expired copyrights).  Books from authors like Cory Doctorow, who adhere to the “sharing is good” philosophy.  Books from my local library system, which has a e-book section on their website.

Recently, the iPad came out.  People keep pushing it at me, saying I wasted my money on the Nook and I should get an iPad.  I just laugh, because the iPad isn’t a dedicated e-reader.  It’s not really a dedicated anything — it’s useless as a full time computer (at least to me, who loves to write and prefers a keyboard for said activity).  It’s too cluttered with distracting stuff (not to mention the back-lit screen) for proper honed-in reading time.

Honestly, I look at it and see a gimmick.  A shiny, pretty gimmick, no doubt — but a useless gimmick.  It’s an ungainly portable web-browser.  As portable web-browsers go, a smartphone seems the better choice — same speedy web-browsing capability (plus the ability to send text messages and receive calls!) in a nice little handheld package.

The other reason I shy away from Apple is, well, for the same reason I avoided the Kindle.  Any platform that prohibitively tries to limit what content I can and cannot access isn’t the platform for me.

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