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Nook: a new kind of book

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July 21, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- Kris Norlin is an avid reader and a fan of author Stephen King, but it was difficult for her to hold his massive books without feeling pain in her wrists.

Not anymore. The township resident recently finished "The Stand," and enjoyed every minute of it as she read the 1,000-plus page tome on her new Nook, an e-reader.

"I decided to buy an e-reader because it's the neatest cool tool for reading," said Norlin, who bought her new toy in April for $260. "I have carpal tunnel in both hands and when I hold a thick book like Stephen King writes, I couldn't hold it for a long time before my hands fell asleep. The Nook I can hold with one hand, I can flip pages with my left hand or right hand (by the push of a button) and it's easy to hold."

The Nook, not much larger in size than a thin paperback, joins Kindle, the Sony E-Reader, and the I-Pad in a digital book market that is growing in popularity and replacing traditional print books for many people.

Diana Bertapelle, also a township resident, bought a Nook in February as a birthday present to herself and estimates she has read close to 30 books on the device since.

A self-described technology geek and instant gratification person, Bertapelle likes that if there is something she wants to read, she can get it right away with the click of a few buttons, without having to drive to the bookstore by Great Lakes Crossing or having to wait for it to be shipped to her.

Owners of e-reader devices can download books, magazines, newspapers and music to read on their lightweight computer-like hardware. Bertapelle chose the Nook over other e-readers based on price and other factors including size (the Kindle is larger) and ability to load most common formats (e-pub, pdf, etc.) without have to convert them.

Norlin chose the Nook because she can download library books using the Overdrive program. With the Kindle, she explains, books can only be purchased, not borrowed from the library. The Nook also allows her to lend books to friends.

Jeanette Marks, adult services/teen librarian, said the library has offered downloadable books for years, but she has noticed that in the last year-and-a-half, the downloading of books is really catching on and the library is ready to help patrons switching from traditional print to digital devices. The Overdrive system allows township residents access to digital titles for two weeks. Staff members can give patrons tutorials and show e-reader users how to download books and transfer them to their device.

Marks adds that e-books are not a threat to brick-and-mortar libraries, noting that the cost of digitizing every title in a library's collection alone is cost-prohibitive, among many other reasons.

"There will always be people who want to physically have their hands on a book," she said. "Also, you need libraries for the programs, too. Children love to choose their own books and cuddle with a parent and read... We welcome e-books. They are not competition and there is no concern that they will replace a brick-and-mortar library."

While some people enjoy the technology of e-readers, others prefer the simplicity of a paper book and browsing the shelves of a library or bookstore, she noted.

Norlin and Bertapelle now shop for books on their Nooks. New releases are typically $10-$13 to download, they say, and then you own them. Older books cost as little as $4 or $5. Nook users can download the first few chapters of a book for free to see if they like it. Norlin said she has broadened her reading having the Nook, even though Barnes & Noble, distributor of the Nook, chooses which books to showcase on their site, unlike when she walks into a bookstore and can go to whatever draws her interest.

"I don't spend as much now because I don't go into the bookstore," she said. "I don't feel like I'm missing out at all. I'm a captive audience because they say, 'Hey, look what we've got for you,' but I'm free to ignore it and move on."

Even as a Nook owner, Bertapelle said she still buys paper books on occasion, particularly if she really like a specific book and will reread it someday.

"I don't think this will ever replace paper books," she said. "It's kind of like the battle with cameras when digital came out. A lot of people still stick with film, because it's the best."

Gail Carpenter, head of circulation at the library, said she will stick with traditional books, not because she loves having the feel of a book in her hands, but because she is frugal.

"I can check out books for free without making a huge investment," she said. "Plus, I just hear a horror story from a patron who bought the device and loaded it with several books to take on vacation. She then dropped it and lost all ability to read on vacation."

Marks said while many libraries offer Nook and Sony E-Readers for circulation, the Brandon Library does not, due to budget restraints.

"We would like to when the budget allows," she said. "The library is here to help those who want to enter the digital book era and we're always here for those who want to stay with traditional books."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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