My mother has for many years bought JP completely age-inappropriate gifts. When he was an infant, she got him toys for toddlers that also happened to spike-ridden and flammable; as a toddler, she arrived bearing some sort of computerized reading device that actually doubled as a Taser; when he was in pre-school, she bought him algebra textbooks; and last year she bought him his very first videogame player, complete with seven choices of first-person shooters. (Yes, mother, I exaggerate–but I’ve gotten to the emotional truth.)
None of these toys really made sense for him, although they were bought with love, and I didn’t really mind her buying them. In most cases, JP never used them for the intended purpose, though: most he smashed, with great pleasure.
The most recent purchase in this regard is a Nook e-reader. There’s a few things here: first, JP doesn’t yet read. It’s coming, but we’re not quite there. Also, when he does read–or rather, when I read to him, or he flips through the pages of books, pointing out words he recognizes–it is picture books that he enjoys, and not chapter books.
Whatever you might or might not feel about e-reading, I don’t think it’s visual offerings can (at least yet) equal that of a large-format book. It’s an inferior experience of the thing he likes to do. As for convenience, well, since almost all of his reading is done in his room, the living room, or somewhere else in the house, the portability of his book is not an issue. Charging this new device is. Not only do I have to remember to keep it primed, but I have to do so in a house teeming with plugs for my own devices, and Tomoko’s, while simultaneously keeping Ellie from putting said electrical receptacles in her mouth. Modern problems.
Most ominously, though, is that I am essentially severing JP’s connection to the book before it really had an opportunity to develop. I don’t want to get overly squishy about this: e-readers are the next thing, and the book, in some form of the long run, is likely doomed. It’s just disconcerting to be the agent of its death in my household, particularly as I love books, have worked largely for print publications, and am in the final stretches of completing my own book, Am I a Jew?, which, with any luck, will be published in actual hardcover next year.
And so it goes, I suppose. Morale of the story? Ma, ask before you buy JP stuff.