The Case Against E-Readers

By Alexandra Ley
Beware. They’re coming. You can’t escape them.
The world is becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. It’s cool to be “green” nowadays, and in an increasingly paperless world, that includes receiving electronic information as often as possible. This trend has resulted in a market for a variety of e-readers, including Barnes and Noble’s nook,’s Kindle, and Apple’s iPad.
Primarily, I don’t feel that I would use one enough to make it worth the price of purchase. As a sophomore in college, I do very little recreational reading, and I hate doing intense reading assignments without annotations, so I would never use it for non-recreational reading.

Also, even if I did read that much or that often, would the price really be advantageous for a college student’s bank account? The cheapest nook is $149, the cheapest Kindle is $114, and the cheapest iPad is $499.  So let’s say I can buy a paperback book under copyright for about $12.  How many books would I need to buy to make this e-reader worth the same amount as buying the paperbacks? (Note: I took an AP class in high school, but I am in no way a math genius, so just go with me here.)
The books on the nook have a price range of about $5-$10. Therefore, with the price of the e-reader, I would need to download about 38 books to make a nook worth the same price as buying those 38 books. Hmmm…
Most of the books on the Kindle cost $10. So the price of the cheapest Kindle + 57 books = 57 paperback books. I mean, I don’t think I’ve read that many books in the past five years.
Most of the books from the Apple store cost around $11. So…that’s really no difference in cost from buying a novel in the store. Where is my $499 going? To a big iPhone that doesn’t make calls and can only connect to wi-fi? That’s what it looks like to me…
Also, for a worrier like me, an extra electronic device would cause unnecessary stress! I freak out about having my phone and iPod with me on the subway, let alone something the size of a book that could easily be snatched away. It could fall out of my bag and break at any moment, and then where would my money be?
I understand the appeal for someone who travels a lot, but since I don’t, when would I use it? Sitting in my room where I have bookshelves of books anyway? On the train to and from home when I like to focus on homework? It doesn’t make sense to me.
All die-hard readers can relate to me on this one, whether they own an e-reader or not: there is nothing like reading a physical book. Books smell great. They feel great. There is satisfaction in dog-earring the corners, skimming through the pages to find a great line, and ending the final chapter of a novel. I grew up reading books- I discovered my favorite book of all time, Little Women, on the shelf of the Burlington Public Library, not a website. I want to keep reading books.
I realize that a number of factors could prompt me to purchase an e-reader in the future: an extended period of travel, lack of bookshelf room in a stereotypical post-college New York City apartment, etc. But I’m hoping to hold out until I actually see a necessity for one of these in my daily life.
Alexandra is a sophomore at Barnard College and Contributing Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing. She would rather be reading.

Tomorrow, Samantha Plotner will make the case for e-readers.

One thought on “The Case Against E-Readers

  1. My biggest issue is that I can not give away an e-book. I can't loan an e-book, I can't get a used e-book.

    For recreational reading I find my paper books at a used book store, Goodwill, book exchange at a laundromat.

    There has to be a better way of sharing an e-book. The authors need to make money, I know that, so give them a buck when I loan a book, or a couple of bucks when I give it to the used e-book store.

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