I'll admit, flat out, that I don't yet own an Ereader. And really, unless it is an Ipad, I'm not terribly interested in having one. Convenience seems to be the biggest factor for purchasers, and there's no doubt the instant access is pretty cool. And they look cool too! While some owners complain about glare, battery life, and the feel of the plastic, others find that the convenience and ecological interests makes up for these problems.
However, as an avid reader, especially of history books, I can't help but wonder if there's a factor missing in the debate: illustrations and photography. I've talked to a few owners of E-readers of various brands, and asked them if they feel a picture, diagram, or illustration looks the same on an E-reader as it does in a print book. Several were taken back by the question, but most admitted that the impression is not the same as in print. For example, right now I'm reading Angel Island, from Oxford UP, about the immigration of Chinese and other nationalities into San Francisco who were detained on Angel Island. To me, the diagrams of the buildings, the photographs of the people, copies of receipts and intake papers make the story far more personal than had they been omitted. Would that same feeling be possible if I were viewing them in an Ereader? Or would I have just glanced over them?
This isn't about pretty little illustrations that simply beautify a page. I'm more concerned with historical details, as well as the shock value of a photograph (see Susan Casey's The Wave for knockout photos!), that contribute substantially to the facts of the book. They don't embellish, they clarify or expose. In a print book, they can be studied to discover every nuance.
In addition, besides the publishers that are hurt by loss of print books, what about illustrators and format designers that are equally or more impacted by the switch to Ereaders? Will the Ereading experience be all about the convenience so much that we don't appreciate stylistic details? After all, there are those that spend a great deal of time designing the particular layout, font choice and size, and "look" of a print book. Is that lost on an Ereader?
I'd love to hear opinions from those with Ereaders to weigh in with their impression of the way of illustrations or photographs are seen on an Ereader, and any differences they find. Is it a significant consideration?