The recent introduction of the much-hyped Kindle, Amazon.com's new e-book, has us asking, "Will book discussions be livelier if one or more of the group's members have an e-book?"
Those that facilitate or lead book discussions on a regular basis might think so, because they may find that the e-book simplifies their preparation. Once they have downloaded the book into the device, they can type in a word or phrase, and the device will find every instance that it occurs within the book. If they have loaded related books onto the device - say books by the same author or on the same topic - the device will search them for the word or phrase as well.
Leaders with an e-book can make notes in the text, highlight and clip key passages, and bookmark pages while they are reading, just as they do in the margins of a book. But unlike a book, they can export their notes. That way, during the discussion, they can refer to all their notes from one document.
Those that wish all books came in large-text editions may have found that the e-book genie has granted their wish. The e-book allows its user to change any book to large type or to various fonts, making reading more pleasurable for those with eye-strain or those who like to read while working out on the treadmill or stationary bike.
If you frequently buy the books you read for your discussions, you may appreciate that e-books are frequently lower-priced than their traditional counterparts. Many titles on the Kindle, for example, are available for $9.99. But that's offset by the initial price tag for the device itself - $399 in the case of Kindle and $299 for the Sony Reader.
While the e-book can make some things easier for reading groups, they also have their disadvantages. Perhaps most significant, reading group members cannot share the books they have purchased with other members or their friends, like they can with a traditional book. And they can't download e-books from their local library for free, as you might expect.
If you are one of those who read many more books than you discuss in your group, you may find that the e-book fits your lifestyle and offers you enough to make the investment worthwhile. New technology has made e-book screens as easy to read as their traditional counterparts. Browsing, buying, and downloading e-books is fast, easy, and inexpensive. The selection of e-books is enormous, but many of the publishers' backlist are still not available in e-book form. And the e-book devices themselves still don't have the ergonomic design and high-tech feel that consumers have come to expect in their electronic hand-held devices.