July/August 2009 issue
Books On the Go: An
Overview of eBook
by Sue Sirkis,
Over the past few months, I
have done several group
and one-on-one demonstrations of ebook readers,
using my personal Sony Reader PRS-505, Kindle
2, and iTouch, along with the library’s recent
arrival, the Kindle DX.
There is a lot of interest in these devices in the
Judiciary, both for personal and business use.
Even with the press that ebook readers have
received lately, many people have never seen an
ebook reader in person, and are confused about
how they work and what they can do.
Why is there so much interest in ebook readers?
More and more material is created in electroniconly
format. The main problem with this is that
most people do not enjoy reading lengthy
documents on a computer screen. Many ebook
readers use eInk displays, which closely resemble
ink on paper and are readable in bright sunlight,
making it much easier on the eyes than a backlit,
flickering computer screen. To make things
even better, ebook readers generally have
several font sizes available, allowing any ebook
to become large print. The Kindle even comes
with a text-to-voice converter, which actually
reads the book to you.
As our lifestyles become more mobile, the
ability to carry literally hundreds of books and
documents in a device the size of a paperback is
very enticing. The ability to download a book
24/7 and begin reading right away is another
advantage of ebooks. Some libraries offer
ebooks for checkout which may be read on the
Sony Reader, with no worries about late fees
since they check themselves back in! Many
readers have the ability to highlight text, add
your own notes, and make multiple bookmarks,
all of which can be easily removed when no
There are several negatives to ebook readers,
however. As with most other electronic media,
ebooks come in multiple formats which may
become obsolete over time and which may not
work with all readers. Only a limited number of
devices may access one account, making it
difficult to share books. At this point in time,
reselling ebooks is not possible, although some
publishers are experimenting with renting
books, primarily textbooks for students. Format
is also a concern for some, since the ability to
resize text also means that spacing changes, and
the end results are not always pretty. This is
especially true with documents whose original
format was larger than the screen size and for
The number of ebooks available is growing
daily, however there is still far more available in
print. The only legal publisher that has a
significant amount of material available for
ebook readers is Practicing Law Institute (PLI).
So far West, Lexis, and most of the other legal
publishers do not have any plans to publish
books for these devices.
I am often asked which is my favorite, but as
with most electronic gadgets, there is no onesize-
fits-all solution. The industry is in a state of
rapid development, and many people are opting
to wait and see what the future has to offer.
Others dive right in and are hooked on the many
conveniences that ebook readers have to offer.