I’ve been rather sceptical about the prospect of e-Readers (or electronic books, or whatever you want to call them) for a while, though I can see the fundamental appeal of being able to take loads of books with you on, say, a lengthy holiday.

My main concern is that they seem to have mutually exclusive operating and formatting systems and the like (what I believe is known as ‘proprietary software’), and I’m always rather concerned that that sort of thing usually leads to dwindling availability of content, no matter how good the actual kit might be (like the shelves of pre-recorded MiniDiscs not taking over your local HMV, if you see what I mean).

Anyway, there seems to have been a surge in development in this area; the frankly nice-looking item pictured here is the unfortunately named Cool-Er, which has the advantage of looking a lot like an iPod. Mind you, it doesn’t have the wireless capability of Amazon’s Kindle device (see John August’s report of buying a book wirelessly here – I can see why this would be a handy thing to have for those spur-of-the-moment purchases, though I can also see why that might leave me broke. I’m a sponzanyous kinda guy).

Magazines and newspapers are often cited as being the key items to get onto these devices to really get them to sell, and I can see why; a lot of the magazines I read aren’t worth me keeping after I’m done (oh, I used to do this, but space considerations and the question will I ever read these again? eventually led to a purge), and so being able to read the thing and then delete it – or keep a copy on the computer or even print off pages of particular note – would be something of a boon.

And the same for a lot of comics I read – I’m much inclined nowadays to buy single issues and then ditch them and buy collected editions (assuming that it’s something I’d see myself reading repeatedly), so being able to buy e-comics of the individual issues and then read them away from the computer would be pretty neat. Though of course, a lot of US comics are printed in colour, and no colour readers are available… yet.

One concern I have, especially with books or comics which might demand a bit of work from the reader, would be the ability to flip back a page or two to re-read a paragraph or panel which has, now you’ve read a little further, come to have a possible double meaning or heightened relevance. If it’s as easy as the manufacturers suggest to turn the page, then that’s fine, but if not… well, I’m going to take a bit more convincing before thinking about shifting to the electronic form, especially as paper never has battery issues or suffers data crashes. Well, apart from dropping it in the bath or a puddle.

All that said, though, I like the look of the Cool-Er. But with my backlog of books in the ‘to be read’ pile (well, on a shelf, but you know what I mean), I doubt I should really be thinking about new ways in which to get hold of books, should I ? Although one might make the argument that holding them electronically would take up less room… hmm.

The photo above is by Jon Snyder from the Wired.com site. No copyright infringement is intended.