Opinions are like assh—uh, noses. Everyone has one, and they all, uh, smell. The latest opinion to bring this saying to mind comes courtesy of TheEBookReader.com, whose latest blog post posits that e-ink e-readers need to “go back to replicating the experience of reading on paper.”
My first reaction to this was one of puzzlement: when did e-ink ever stop replicating the experience of reading on paper? As opposed to LCD phones and tablets, which pretty clearly look like reading from a computer screen held in your hand. But the blogger seems to feel that little issues like a glossy plastic screen surface on the latest Paperwhite or the “cold and slick” glass screen and metal back of the latest Oasis make them somehow less paper-book-like than e-ink readers of yore. The blogger waxes eloquent over Sony’s 13.3″ DPT-RP1 e-ink PDF reader, and wishes modern e-ink readers could be more like that. (Of course, Sony doesn’t even make e-ink ebook readers anymore.)
The funniest thing about all this is, I suppose, that this is just another face of the “smell of books” aesthetic argument. Anything that makes the experience more like a paper book is good, and anything that makes it less like it is bad. Also, it focuses only on a limited number of examples, both of them from Amazon. Perhaps if the blogger checked out the Kobo Clara or Kobo Forma, they would find them more to their liking.
Where the argument really falls down is that the blogger is assuming their preferences are universal. The thing is, that seems to be far from the case. As I’ve noted before, e-ink reader sales have been declining dramatically in the last few years. Only the die-hard e-ink fans seem to be buying them anymore. Judging by the sales figures, most people don’t seem to care whether their phone or tablet is terribly paper-book-like at all.
And for someone who first began and loved e-reading back in the ’90s, on a device with barely more resolution than a pocket calculator, and didn’t see any problem with it at the time, the argument is even more ridiculous. Could anything possibly have been less paper-book-like than my old 160×160 pixel Visor Deluxe, on which I read many, many thousands of words? If someone really wants to read, they’ll read on whatever device they have, and like it.
I think if I were in that blogger’s shoes, I’d be less inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth. It surely won’t be too many more years before tablets have taken over the market and e-ink readers are no longer available at all—and how will they have a paper-book-like experience then?