On E-Books

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I have a love/hate relationship with e-books. I don’t have an e-reader and having one might change my perspective. As it is, my laptop is too big and clunky to carry around especially compared to a paperback.

I love e-books because they’re generally available on demand. My local library offers a wide selection and so far most of the books I’ve recommended they buy have been bought in a reasonable amount of time. However, the catalog my library uses isn’t very good at recommending books and many series don’t have the first book (and there may not be a physical book available immediately).

I hate ebooks (at least while I’m using my laptop) because I forget that they exist. Currently I am reading 2 books: the hardback General Sherman’s Christmas: Savannah 1864 and the digital A Bear Called Paddington. Guess which one will take me longer to read? The problem is that the two main times I read are at lunch while at work and before bed. At lunch, I’ll have a solid 20 minutes when I’m not preoccupied by eating. In bed, I may be lucky to read 3 pages.

But, my laptop does has it’s advantages for nighttime reading. You see, the lamp is on my boyfriend’s side of the bed. With my laptop and a digital book, I don’t have to struggle to turn the light out after I’ve started falling asleep. I also have the advantage of making the print very, Very, VERY large because I’m quite blind with my glasses off.

However, when I’m connected to the internet, I tend to research whatever pops into my head, which pulls me away from the book I’m reading.

So…maybe it’s the laptop’s fault that I dislike e-books. A lightweight, durable e-reader with great battery life would be as easy to carry around as a paperback and if it were my primary source of reading material only, I wouldn’t forget about the books on it. Sounds great!

Except, I really am an old fashioned girl. I’m addicted to the feel of a good quality hardbound book (though getting my hands on these is rare for financial reasons). A brand new paperback is a good enough compromise. I love just finding a comfortable place to sit near a window or outside and curling up with a physical book with pages to actually turn, not tapping a screen to flip the page. I definitely don’t want a continuous scroll book! That turns even a children’s book into epic length!

The pictures in Paddington just don’t look right on the screen, especially when I’ve got it set at 120 pt type! When a book is being edited, careful thought goes into where the pictures are placed, especially when the images are in line with the text. My eye is drawn the the image as soon as it appears and they lose some of their nostalgic value when you read 3/4ths of the page before even knowing an image exists. Imagine reading this book to a child, who would otherwise be looking at the image while you read. ‘Course, this is only a serious problem when the type size is greatly increased, but even a modest increase can double number of pages and move images around. Heck, just reading a book one page up instead of two changes the feel!

So, I think that even if I could afford a nice e-reader, I’ll leave it at the store. I don’t mind waiting a few days for the books I order through the library to become available. I had the opportunity to read a book I’ve been dying for (Instinct) online rather than waiting for the library to get their physical copy and I wasn’t happy with the result. It just didn’t feel right. This won’t stop me from doing this again because there are some series that I just cannot wait for, but the experience is still disappointing.

I’ll leave you with the Splintered series, which has the most amazing “mouth-feel” (for lack of a better word) of any book I’ve read. The cover art is  amazing! I could spend hours just looking at the details of the cover. The words aren’t printed in black ink and I love the subtle pull into the direction of “am I going crazy–these words look funny”. It just makes sense for the series :-). Jim Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars also comes to mind for it’s beautiful artwork. And for another difficult thing with e-books: flipping back to the supplied map.

I was trying to figure out if I’d read all the short stories in an anthology last night and found it jarring to get back to the table of contents. In that case, I really just wanted to flip to the middle of each story to get a glimpse (the first page doesn’t help). This wasn’t possible. At least there was a button to take me directly to the table of contents, but I highly doubt that there’s an equal button for finding the map or a really awesome picture in your average e-reader programming.

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