What Exactly IS an E-Reader?
I was privileged to be a member of a panel of librarians on Friday at a Michigan Library Association conference on “Print to Digital.” Four out of five on the panel were public librarians, with one voice from the academic arena. Each of us shared our experiences with patrons using digital products in our respective libraries and then answered questions from a list we were given ahead of time. The first question was “What is an e-reader?” That seems like a pretty straight-forward sort of question and should have an equally simple answer, right? Well, not so fast….. The first librarian, a respected and knowledgeable speaker on e-formats defined it as a device that displays e-books using e-ink technology. She immediately indicated to our audience that I had a differing view of this matter… and I did!
To me, it is very narrow to insist that only devices that display digital writings using e-ink technology can be a true e-reader. I own both a Nook Color and an iPad and neither of them use e-ink. Rather, they display book content in beautiful full color (when appropriate) as well as black text on a white page with a back-lit screen. Are these not really e-readers? I contend that they are – and can be used to offer not only the traditional text contained in a book, but also enhanced features such as embedded animation, or touching an item on the page and having it pronounced out loud. None of these “added features” take away from the original content of the book, but rather make it appealing in new ways to a variety of users. I used my own iPad to demo the interactive book, Cat in the Hat, for other librarians during our break. They were all very curious to see how technology worked on this traditional children’s book, and I think they were happily impressed. Could you imagine a travel book with embedded videos of the places you wanted to visit, or a cookbook with video actually showing you how to carve a turkey? I see these things as very realistic goals for our e-readers in the next year or so.
So I’m curious – – How do you define e-readers? Think about it and let me know!