15 April 2011

Reading Hither and Yon

I like books. I like newspapers, I like magazines. I like turning pages, and how the magazine doesn't wake you up when it hits the floor, and how you don't need to worry about running out of batteries. I like ripping scraps out of the Times while I'm on the train in the morning; just this week I did that to remind me to put The Coffins of Little Hope on my Amazon wishlist (which I use as one of several "books to read" lists).

But I see the utility in electronic books, really I do. I've had an iPad since Christmas, and I kind of love having the ability to download the beginning of almost any book. Of course, after I read the beginning of The Emperor of All Maladies, I took the book out of the library instead of paying $14.99 to get the rest of the ebook, but that's not really the point. Or is it?

So far, the only ebook I've paid for was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I bought it before I went out to Seattle a few weeks ago, knowing that I'd need something diverting to read, and wanting to keep my baggage at a bare minimum. It's a book that I wasn't sure I'd like - besides my general avoidance of anything that hits the top of the best seller lists, I was expecting to be put off by the myriad acts of violence against women, but it turned out to be an engaging page turner, and the bad guys got taken care of.

It was an interesting experience, reading that book that way. On the one hand, I used the highlight and note features to flag particularly annoying words and phrases. Like "anon" - used three times. Once, okay. But using an archaic word three times, when "soon" would have done? Feh. And "a real smack in the nose" and "moved like a scalded cat" - contextually awkward turns of phrase. I also flagged bits that I liked, like "Norsjö Snickerifabrik", and "here she was, hunting a madman out in the back of beyond". So that was nice - the ability to take notes without scribbling in the book.

But. The book has a family tree right up front, and a couple of other charts within, and you want to be consulting them regularly. (Or is that just me?) And the problem is that it's really cumbersome to page back and forth to the family tree - the electronic "dog ear" just isn't as efficient as a post-it stuck there in a real live book. And maps - it's the kind of mystery where I found myself drawing maps in my head - who lives where, how far away is that - well, it turns out there are maps in some editions of the book - but not in the ebook! I found the maps on line and resorted to printing them out - so much for saving paper.

I still prefer real books.

19 comments:

Harriet M. Welsch said...

I prefer real books too. And I generally don't mind carrying them around. I think the point at which I will purchase an electronic book reader of some kind will be the point when textbooks go electronic. They're heavy. And I have a lot of them and a long way to go. I've been disdainful of the iPad -- I'd rather use my iTouch and be able to keep things small. But when I saw someone reading a paper from one at a conference recently and using it to wirelessly control his visual aids on powerpoint, I could see why it might be useful to leave the laptop at home. Still, you are likely to have to drag me kicking and screaming into this particular technology.

FreshHell said...

I still prefer books. I haven't yet found a pressing need to spend money I don't have on another piece of electronics. I really don't like really long texts on a screen but if I was in college, and could download textbooks, that would be a dream come true! As it stands, I can get free books from the library or pbs or...I can buy them and read them and put them on my shelf or give them to someone else. I like the physical object. Same with magazines and newspapers.

Heide said...

The only thing that got me slightly intrigued about eReaders was the grad student who told me she was getting o/p books for hers.

For free.

Otherwise? Completely uninterested.

Stimey said...

I don't have an e-reader yet. I also really like paper books, but I also really like the idea of having multiple books in a small package for travel or for times when I have a few unexpected free minutes. I'm torn.

InTheFastLane said...

Thought I could only love real books and then it turned out that I also really really love my kindle.

But, I have read the Girl with the whatever books for the very reason that "everyone" seems to have read them. Everyone seems to have liked them too. But, that makes me want to avoid them and not be everyone. But, I am just a non-conformist that way...

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I totally utterly love my iPad. I like to carry it to bed and watch movies on it, curled under the covers as if with a book; and I like to check recipes on it while I'm cooking; and I like being able to look things up in a heartbeat, like tomorrow's weather or the definition of "object pronoun" (for my son's homework).

But I hate reading books on it.

Bibliomama said...

Ditto on seeing the sense of it for travelling light. Or living lighter, since bookshelves are taking over my house, which isn't a huge problem except when you want to paint or move stuff around or have furniture people can actually sit on. But also ditto on not needing to spend more money on electronics. And a fetishistic worship of books as tactile objects of adoration.

Bibliomama said...

...objects of tactile adoration?

bipolarlawyercook said...

I'll admit to being in love with my Nook Color, my one and only Christmas present this year. I can bookmark my cooking magazines and cookbooks and shop from them in the grocery store-- and I sideload bookmarked recipes after I "print" them to pdf files from websites on my computer to do the same thing and use it as a mini-computer when I am out and about.

I also borrow e-books all the time from the library since the B & N app (you can download this and do it on your iPad too, I think) lets you do this with Adobe Digital Editions-- and thus I'm not incurring late fees anymore, something to which I was terribly apt. I finish them in plenty of time. I just never returned them.

I am a huge magazine reader, but I hated "wasting" all of the paper even as I recycle, so the fact that all the ones that I read are available at lower cost and in e-format in the reader makes me very happy. And I read lots of pulp fantasy & sci fi, so the fact that I don't have them cluttering up the apartment does make me happy, especially since most used bookstores won't pay to buy them and not all are re-reads (and my library won't take them all as donations, if you can believe such a thing.)

While I still buy my favorite authors in paper-- I will always give them that extra bit of cash-- I read 2-3 books a week. That's a lot of books to clear out of the house. It's so much easier to store them on the NC, and it's small enough and comfortable in the hand (and I don't know how they did it, but the backlight never gives me a headache) that it's been something I really have fallen in love with, even as I didn't really expect to be drinking the company Kool-Aid so very thoroughly.

The one drawback?

I can't read it in the tub, because I'm afraid if I drop it I'll short it out and then have to wait while they send me a warranty replacement. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

BipolarLawyerCook and I are on the same e-page. What I really love it that a 500 page book is no heavier than a thin paperback AND I love being able to read with no lights on.

I still get a few magazines the old-fashioned way and those are what I read in the bath.

The biggest drawback for me is I can't give books I've enjoyed away.

Antropóloga said...

I don't want an e-reader. I like books. I REALLY like library books. Of course it's trickier to get new releases in English here in Sweden, so I've been going through our personal library a lot while I wait for the library to get me stuff (or refuse my requests!)

I read those Stieg Larsson books in English, and now I'm thinking maybe I should read them in Swedish, see if they're still cutely awkward or if that was just the translation.

Kyla said...

I just read my first Kindle book on the iPad this week, and now I'm on my 3rd so this is timely for me! I think I read more as an eBook, because I take the iPad everywhere and don't always haul a heavy book along (especially when school is involved and my bag is already heavy). My only complaint thus far is that I'd like to pass this particular series off to BubTar when I finish...and the eBook makes that harder to do.

mayberry said...

I still do a combination of e-books, paper books I buy, and paper books I get from the library. They all have their place, at least for now.

painted maypole said...

i can see the attraction of the ebook, and if I had an ipad, could see myself using it for books and such while on vacation. but i have a hard time thinking of giving up books, too. plus, i get most of mine from the library or used book sales, so to get some kind of ereader PLUS paying for the book? that is SO not in my budget.

EarnestGirl said...

books. booky, papery, fold over the corner, take 'em in the tub, books. Books books books. Plus, I read enough on the screen that it is a good and soothing thing to hold a book between my palms, to pat the cover (yes, covers count), to let my eyes fall on the smooth not-glowing surface of the page.

the preview feature would be nice, but then, I wouldn't need to wander the aisles of the bookstore or visit the library picking up & putting down all those lovely, tempting books.

Lady M said...

The only ebook I've read so far is also The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I had similar worries - too violent? I liked it, but haven't dug into the sequels yet. Have you read them?

Anjali said...

I love my Kindle. I do still read paper books, but my Kindle has my heart.

I will say this-- I have read books on my iPhone and an iPad and don't like ebooks on them. It's too much like reading on a computer screen (reflection, glare, etc.). I like the Kindle because it feels more like looking at paper.

The Library Lady said...

Nothing will ever replace the tactile sensation of reading a book.

Libraries are starting to get into ebooks. And I can see an important niche for them--all that big, serious non-fiction that you consult rather than read. The sort of books that my husband has filled our house with. I dream of a day when they could all get neatly stored on a drive somewhere and I could have walls in my house free of bookcases!

But I firmly believe that the picture book will live forever. You can get these lovely apps that make books interactive, but nothing is more interactive than an adult with a child on the lap, reading a picture book with fascinating illustrations!

Kaycee said...

I have an iPad, too, but I haven't d/l'ed any books to it yet. I like turning pages, too. But you're right...it's good for travel. So I keep wondering. I'm going to NYC in a couple of months and might try to take a book with me on my iPad. Thanks for sharing your opinion.