Friday, August 20, 2010

E is for Electronic-

E-mail, e-statements, e-books... What next? E-carwash? Okay, okay, so that's a bit ridiculous, but it does make you think...where will technology take us next? And is it really better?

Electronic (e-) mail has all but completely replaced hand-written (or typed, printed, and sent) mail. Even junk mail (now referred to as spam) has infiltrated its ranks. I remember growing up before e-mail was standard—when you had to ask, "Do you have an e-mail?" instead of, "What's your e-mail?".

Personally, I love e-mail. It's fast, it's efficient, and it rarely gets lost. I have 6 different e-mails which I can direct different sorts of mail to (professional to one, personal to another, subscriptions to a third, etc.), and all I have to do is type in a quick password. And spellcheck is a major plus, even if it never likes my last name.

However, I can still find some ticks against it. Some people take the speediness of e-mail to heart and don't edit it as much as one might a letter. While it might be alright for short notes back and forth, with longer conversations it makes it all but impossible to read (everything in one huge paragraph). Also, though it (thankfully) hasn't happened to me yet, if your e-mail is somehow hacked not only is your personal privacy compromised, but your friends and associates (contacts) may also be susceptible to similar invasions or scams, with your reputation being the conduit.

To sum things up, e-mails can be fast, but speed doesn't guarantee quality, nor personality—sometimes it's nice to get a letter you know it took some time to write. Moral of story: with everything connected, it may take less effort to use, but it also takes less effort to abuse.

Electronic (also called paperless) statements are the latest trend with credit companies and banks. They're hopping on the Green Bandwagon by not printing and mailing out your statements anymore, and instead e-mail you with links to their websites where you can access your account. Right now, this is only if you sign up for it, but I can definitely see these becoming the norm in the future.

Once again, these are susceptible to hacking, though I believe they have stricter security than e-mail (so it's best not to keep a copy of your passwords in your least not labeled PASSWORDS). But even with hacking taken out of the equation, I haven't found them to be 100% reliable. Some company mailings are automatically labeled as spam, and don't ever make it into your inbox unless you add them to your contacts.

Or (and I have had this happen) you simply don't receive that month's statement! Now, this might not be a problem if you're used to the payment dates (1st of the month, or something like that), but if, say, it's your first payment coming out of deferment...then you're stuck explaining to the collections caller (on your birthday) that you swear you never received anything, and yes, you've been checking the spam folder, thank you very much for waiving the fees, it shouldn't happen again.

So, to sum things up, e-statements aren't 100% flawless, but they can make things a little more convenient than paper-statements. Moral of story: set your payments due-date on your own calendar.

Electronic (e-) books are the wave of the future. Or at least, that's what Kindle/Nook/iPads would have you believe. Why carry around a bulky, heavy, paper-cut-threatening book around when instead you can hold thousands of e-books on your sleek and lightweight e-reader?

Well, a lot of people are vehemently resisting this change for a few (in my opinion) good reasons. Some authors are reluctant to authorize digital copies because of the obvious piracy issues (Pirate Bay, anyone?). Others seem content to tell digital reader companies to "go to hell" without expounding.

As far as buyers/readers go, the general consensus against e-books is the nostalgic quality of physical books. The art, the feel, the smell...the experience of reading a book has been one we've grown up with, and we're not about to give that up. Of course, you also have the technical side of things, and having glitchy e-readers, whereas books never have glitches (apart from lack of light).

Personally, I've yet to read an entire book on a screen—be it computer or e-reader. I've received 2 e-ARCs which I've yet to crack (a phrase only fitting physical books) more than the first pages, as well as a full PDF book as a prize. Perhaps when I fully commit to them (probably next week) I'll be able to give a better commentary on the experience.

Well, what do you think? Are electronics better for us, or are we merely aiding to the impending machine revolution? Any electronic horror stories? And what about e-books?

Some E Books I've Read:

An Electrifying E Group:

The E Font: