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E-book Reader Blues

I’m not really a gadget geek.  Really, I like to keep things simple.  I like the simplicity of picking up a book and leafing through its pages.  Still, several years ago, I became smitten by e-book readers.

I don’t remember how the love affair began.  It was the early 2000s and discussions about ebooks and ebook readers were slowly making their way into the mainstream.  Somewhere, somehow I got wind of a Gemstar eBook reader that I could purchase online for roughly $99 (or $149 for a color version).  I opted for the black and white version, wanting to keep things simple.  And thus the affair began.

Gemstar GEB 1150

Gemstar GEB 1150

My Gemstar is a solid 22 ounces, about the size of a paperback, with a grip on the left side that makes it easy to hold with one hand.  It has a touch screen, a stylus specifically for navigating the “Bookshelf” and two buttons on the left side for paging through books.  It has about 8 MB of memory and I also use a smart media disk of 128 MB.  On my Gemstar, I have contemporary books such as Newjack by Ted Conover, classics such as Les Miserables by Hugo, and lesser-known works such as The Amateur by Richard Harding Davis.  I must have purchased the Gemstar around 2003 because I also have a few articles from the New York Review of Books saved there from that year.

Alas, within a few short years, support for the Gemstar evaporated entirely:  no technical support, no online bookstores dedicated to the Gemstar.  The flame had gone out of the affair.

And, yet there was still a spark.  A few years later, on a camping trip, my husband and I huddled together in our small tent, on a dark windy night.  I pulled out my Gemstar and read parts of Newjack to him until he was ready for sleep.  I often said then and I’ll say it again now that the portability of an ebook reader is its greatest advantage.  I had a long list of books for my husband to choose from that night, and I could not have backpacked all those books into camp.  While the Gemstar was my first love, it may also be my last.  I have since bought a 3rd-Gen Kindle (right before Amazon came out with the Fire and substantially dropped the price … damn you, Amazon!)  But I missed the expanded memory that I had with my Gemstar, the touch screen, the ability to add books and articles of various formats.  I liked the Kindle at first but now it’s primarily an overpriced word game player.

Then I got an iPad 2 which I bought with some hard-earned second job money and found (oh, crap!) that I could have just put the Kindle app on my iPad and been done with it.  I love the touch screen and would read books or catch up with news on the iPad during my lunch hour.  But still, I wasn’t satisfied.  I was itching for something simpler, something more ebook dedicated, something I could read in bed without the lights on, without an LCD burning my eyes out.  I have read review after review after review comparing the Kindle with the Nook with the Kobo with the iPad.  Although we have a Barnes & Noble in town, I was hesitate to buy a Nook.  B&N may not be as big as Amazon, but, bleeding heart liberal that I am, I wanted something more “indie.”

In April I purchased a Kobo Glo.  I had found good reviews of the device, it’s capacity for storage, various ebook formats, and its “night light.”  Unfortunately I had to buy it online since the one independent bookstore in my town didn’t carry it.  Here’s where the blues comes in:  I can’t get the wireless to work, no matter what we do (reset, factory reset, unsecure our network, secure our network).  The device doesn’t always recognize the memory card, and the touch screen can be a little quirky.  I’m using Calibre to download and add books outside the Kobo BookStore, but that can be a little squirrelly too.  And even though I thought I had thoroughly vetted the Kobo, I’ve since learned from Calibre that “The Kobo has very buggy firmware” (from their manual).

Sigh.  When my Kobo works, it’s wonderful, and I have enjoyed using it to read at night.  Nobody is disturbed by the gentle light around the edges of the screen, and my eyes don’t get fried.  Yet, today it took several attempts to transfer a bundle of new books from Calibre to my Kobo.  Admittedly, I may have not been syncing correctly.  All these gadgets seem so sensitive to how they are handled.  Even some of the apps on my iPad are having hiccups following the latest system update.

My Gemstar and I never had such problems.  To remind myself of how advanced technology was, I’m recharging my Gemstar and recharging our affair.

Categories: Books Ebook Readers Ebooks

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Marie A Bailey

Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.

13 replies

  1. I really enjoy reading and writing e-books and for me the Kindle Fire was the way to go. Have you thought about trying the Kindle Fire as an e-book reader?


    1. Hey, thanks for the follow and for liking my post. No, I hadn’t thought about the Kindle Fire. I actually didn’t even know you could use a Kindle to write and publish ebooks. A fellow blogger in Romania has written that the Kindle is the only affordable way for him to write and publish. Guess I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for the tip 🙂


        1. Thanks, that’s very kind of you. I find your blog interesting but I have to admit, I have a visceral aversion to guns. Seriously, and it’s ironic because I grew up in the country where most of my family members hunt (deer mostly). Every boy I knew as a kid had a BB gun. My grandnephews are not even double-digits in age, but they’ve been out hunting with their dads. Yet for some reason, I get all shaky when I even see a gun, like I do when I see a wolf spider. If our country ever gets to the point where I’ll need a gun to survive, I’ll be toast 😉


          1. I believe strongly in the right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed under the 2nd amendment and my blog tends to focus on home defense and self defense if your life or your families life is in danger. I believe a properly trained individual is there own, first, best line of self defense 🙂


    1. Kobo is not promoted strongly in the US. I think it was originally a Japanese company that developed the Kobo and now it’s owned by a company in Canada. Kobo uses open-source software and the company policy is to affiliate with independent bookstores: two reasons why I chose it. In spite of my complaints about my Kobo, I was up reading on it until the wee hours this morning and my eyes are no worse than if I had been reading a paperback with a bedside lamp 😉


      1. When ever I’m at the used record store in Princeton, and i see all that cool vinyl, I think about getting a turntable. You can absolutely still buy them. I saw one in a catalog for $300K. Yes, that is not a typo. A record player for the price of a Ferrari.


        1. Good grief … All our gadgets combined would not come to 300k … Actually, all my possessions combined wouldn’t come to that … Sigh.


  2. Although I prefer a “real book” I use only eBook format now. As I live in Brazil now, it is faster and much less expensive to download books from the Internet. I have an earlier version of Kindle and need (want) to upgrade it. It was good to read of your experiences with the different readers. I have been a faithful customer of and love their service and many types of reading materials. I do not have gadgets, not even a tv as I live on an ecological project and we live as simply as possible. I am unable to get books in English easily as I live in a remote area so the ereaders are a blessing for me. hugs, pat


    1. Hi, Pat. Thank you for your comment. I’ve learned from friends in other countries that ebooks are much more affordable and accessible for them compared to printed books. I might have held out longer if the support for my Gemstar had continued since it can do almost everything that the Amazon Kindle can. I actually don’t like having three ebook readers (four if you count my iPad) … Makes me feel kind of wasteful 😦


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