Evaluating e-readers

BY: Chelsea Shank

Gone are the days of lugging around piles of textbooks, and here come the days of delighted students following along on their e-readers as professors ease through class teaching from an e-reader as well. Except for one pesky little detail that anyone who has worked with technology in a time of transition knows – transition does not always occur smoothly.
While some students can afford to trade their textbooks for cheaper downloads onto their e-readers, whether they have an Apple iPad, Nook, Kindle, or another device, other students cannot yet manage to pay for this. These students are left to follow along in the printed version. Some books can be purchased in a Kindle format and accessed on any computer with a bit of finagling; however, this is not nearly as convenient as having all of your textbooks in one portable device.
Professors who opt to teach from an electronic format may have trouble holding the attention of their students. An inability to operate e-readers, or any form of technology, for that matter, will cause the audience to zone out almost immediately.
These grievances will occur with the transition process for any forms of technology and, in a year or two, these minor bugs will most likely become obsolete as using an e-reader will become second nature to the majority of students and faculty.
Whether or not the ease of operation or costs of e-readers remains an issue, there is an important question that one must ask regarding any form of technology: Just because we can do something, does that mean we should?
As technology continues to progress and define our generation, do we ever take a moment to acknowledge our dependence upon it and consider the repercussions of our growing addiction? Are we even aware anymore of how much time we spend in front of a computer screen? Even when we are not glued to the computer screens, our fingers are fixed on our phones texting away. Teasing someone for being “Tammy Texter” is out of the question when everyone on campus seems to use their phones almost 24/7.
While e-readers may make everything more convenient, are they a product that you really need in your life? Are they as “green” as their manufacturers claim? Were printed books really damaging the environment to such a degree that e-readers are necessary to save the planet?
I am not saying that e-readers are a bad product or a consumer mistake; I would merely like to encourage readers to think before they buy, and to think before they consume technology.
Convenience is the main selling point for e-readers, and they really are an advantageous device when it comes to classrooms and traveling – plus they reduce clutter.
Those who purchase e-readers in attempt to “go green” may want to reconsider their logic. A 2010 article in The New York Times by Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris asks, “How Green Is My IPad?” Goleman and Norris conclude that the best way to be environmentally friendly is to walk to your local library. They evaluated the ecological impact of e-readers versus print books at every stage of existence, from the trees chopped down for books to the days e-readers gather in landfills.
They found that one e-reader uses 33 pounds of minerals while one paper book uses two-thirds of a pound of minerals. E-readers need 79 gallons of water to be made and a book uses just two gallons of water to create the pulp for its paper. They estimate that the health effects from manufacturing an e-reader are 77 times greater than producing a paper book. All of these differences and more led to their conclusion that while e-readers may seem more efficient, their environmental impacts are sizeable.
Technology today is as much a part of our lives as the family we are born into. We could easily end up spending more time with technology than with our family.