Saturday, July 31, 2010

E-reading, yes or no?

I just finished reading my first book on an e-reader device. (We own the actual book, but I had an opportunity to try out the device and wanted to see how it was to read on it for some lengths of time.)

The device is pretty nifty. I like the color touch screen, I like that I can turn the pages with my finger (a 'la the iPad), I like how portable it is and easy to hold. I like that I can change the font size. It opens exactly to the page I'm on when I turn it on, which is great. And, I'm not sure if this is true, but it seems to me that I read faster on the device.

But it isn't a book.

While the device has all the book's content (plus reviews and overviews and rankings, etc.), there are some things that the device can't give me. I'm missing seeing the cover every time I sit down to read. I miss feeling the heft, feeling the paper...this one is a hardcover, not very big, good picture on the front...see?

One Good Dog

(And yes, I can see the cover on the device if I click to get there, just not every time I pick it up.)

Books have personalities, not just the stories inside, but the overall look and feel, the cover picture/art/style/colors, the weight and heft of the book, the size of the text, the font, the texture of the pages...

On the e-reader device, most of that is missing. Each book feels the same in the hand, because (obviously) they are all loaded onto the one device. The device that feels and looks the same every time I pick it up.

I am enjoying the book I'm reading...hmmm, strange, as I write that it doesn't feel that I'm reading a 'book'. I am reading, it's worthwhile, a good story, likable characters (especially the dog!), I just don't feel as though I'm reading an actual book. strange.

For travel, the device would be great. We usually take lots of books with us when we travel, books that take up space (in luggage with space that is increasingly valuable) and are heavy (though we do take books we want to leave, continuing them on their Bookcrossing journeys). With an e-reader device there would be more options for what we had available to read at any given time.

The device does make the books more accessible. At one point, I was reading The Passage, which is a BIG hardcover. While I was lugging it to and from work to read it on breaks, I thought that an e-reader device might be handy (though I really LIKED the book itself even if it was heavy).

One of my co-workers owns one of the devices. She commented that sometimes she has a hard time telling how close she is to the end of the book she's reading. It does show which page you're on on the screen, and there is a progress bar at the bottom that shows how far through the book you are (which I liked), AND, she still sometimes feels that the ending sneaks up on her.

So do I want to own one of these devices? I like books themselves too much to think that I would use a device exclusively. Does it serve a purpose? Would I use it sometimes? Probably.

I am reading Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart which is set in the not too distant future. However it's distant enough so that most people use digital devices to read. Lenny, the main character, pulls out a regular book to read on a plane...

"I noticed that some of the first-class people were staring me down for having an open book. 'Duder, that thing smells like wet socks,' said the young jock next to me, a senior Credit ape at LandO'LakesGMFord. I quickly sealed the Chekhov in my carry-on, stowing it far int he overhead bin. As the passengers returned to their flickering displays, I took out my apparat and began to thump it loudly with my finger to show how much I loved all things digital, while sneaking nervous glances at the throbbing cavern around me, the wine-dulled business travelers lost to their own electronic lives."

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel

Customers have expressed concern that reading regular books, book books, will end. And maybe it will. Though I hope not for a long long time.

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