After now having owned and extensively traveled with an eReader (a Nook, to be specific) for over a year, I decided to share my thoughts on the matter.*
So here’s my list of pros and cons, and ultimately why you should get one, but maybe only if you spend time abroad.
Portability. Ok, this is kind of the obvious one, but my god I can’t say how lovely it is to have 50 books in one small easy-to-carry device. I remember vacations early on in life when I’d have 3 Dragonriders of Pern behemoths weighing down my bag. And earlier this year I tackled Infinite Jest in both real and then electronic form…much easier on a Nook, let me tell you. Also, travel-bonus, you can download travel guides!
Access to English books. I read a lot of interesting in books in my two years in Prague…and by interesting I mean mismatched, eclectic leftovers from other expats because buying English books abroad is ex-pen-sive. Soo many 2nd-book-in-the-series options on my Prague shelf. But with an eReader and having the ability to download books from my US library?? That is so awesome! Not to mention buy them if I want via online. And I may have heard tell of people who illegally torrent their books…but of course I would never do that.
Ability to hide what you’re reading. Embarrassed by that teen fantasy series? No problem! No one will know, unless they look reaaaallly closely on the subway. And that’s just intrusive. Not that I ever had this problem, either, of course. … Also, another travel-bonus, less people will know you’re reading a guidebook when it’s on your Nook. 100 points for not looking like a tourist!
You can look up words. I actually found myself going to physically press down on a word on a paper page so I could look it up as if I was using an eReader. It was a weird feeling. But with an eReader you so quickly get used to being able to look up any word, right then and there. And I miss that with real books.
Light built in. Obviously his only works if yours does have light built in, but it is so handy to be able to read in hostels or just in your bed without needing to turn on a light or bother anyone else.
It’s not a real book. (Actually, that’s the entire con list, but at least there’re parts involved.)
You miss your real books. You feel…less wholesome? somehow? reading from something electronic. As if you’re really cheating on good-real-things with this too-slick snake-oil salesman of technology.
It’s not social. One part of reading books that is so cool is that you can spot them on the subway, on a coffee table of a friend’s house, and in someone’s hand and go “oh! Do you like that book? I’ve been meaning to read that” or “Oh man I love that book. Tell me you like it.” I missed that, a lot. Reading from an eReader is kind of isolating. It’s hard to share books (unless your friend also happens to have a Kindle or Nook, etc.), and you never know what other books other people are reading – for those moments of community or just for new ideas. Or if you’re abroad, for what language they speak :) That was always a fun game, “guess the nationality,” and it’s fun to be *possibly* confirmed by their reading language.
It’s expensive. You worry about it. If a book gets stolen, oh well, but if your Nook gets stolen….it’s painful. Plus, while traveling especially (because that’s when I use mine), you have to worry about the elements. In fact, I just tend to bring an extra real book for a beach vacation, because who wants to worry about sand, heat, water, and theft when you’re enjoying the ocean?
You don’t really need one if you’re just at home, but for travel (minus the beach), it’s beyond compare. You never have to worry about balancing the books you’ll go through vs the weight you can pack, and if you get bored with a book? No problem! Just switch to a different book. You have like 50 in there.
Oh, and side note, I do recommend having an actual, separate eReader vs just using a tablet when you travel. You’re less afraid of them being stolen (since they’re cheaper), you can read them in the sun like any other book, and they’re wayyyy easier on the eyes in general.
*because you all realllly care :D