|Lifted from Shelf Awareness|
Like many of you, I received an e-reader as a holiday gift. My interest in it came as a huge surprise to me, given that I am such a Luddite that I have no smart phone and no flat-screen television--and no cell phone at all--and no TV at all, not even an old black-and-white. Plug-in gadgets are pretty limited in our household.
What changed my mind? When telling a cousin about my project, he informed me that classic books with dates outside of copyright are free through the Gutenberg Project among other places. So I started looking into e-readers more--and after some exploring, I decided I was game to try one.
There are of course limits to what is provided for free. Translations of old works must be quite old themselves. Some of the translations are classic themselves--but even when they are, I am usually more interested in reading modern translations, especially when I'm reading a book for the first time.
For the myriad books originally written in English, free e-books are an amazing resource. But again, there are some limitations. The copies do not come with scholarly introductions and notes such as those provided in Oxford World Classics editions, Penguin Classics, Norton Criticals, and the like.
Although I am astonished by how comfortable I feel with an e-ink page, I'm not very practiced yet at flipping through a book. Taking notes is somewhere between more convenient and less convenient, although I suspect as I get more used reading e-books I'll become more adept. The dialogue I have with my books feels more personal when I am handwriting messy notes in the margin than when they are so neatly typed and organized.
The feel of the pages flipping under my fingers gives me an idea of where I am in the narrative arc of a story. I know I'm halfway through simply by absorbing the weight and thickness as I read. I don't have to think about it consciously. And I resist the idea of thinking about it consciously. When I look at the little bar at the bottom of the e-reader or check out the percentages, I feel like I'm just figuring out how fast I can finish the book. When I absorb the information texturally, it helps me perceive how the plot is moving along. If I think a book is about to wrap up and it goes on for another 100 pages, I'm likely to be displeased. If I think we have a long way to go and the book ends abruptly, I'm not a happy reader either. But if I can feel where it is going, I settle in for the right-sized ride. I suppose I'll have to decide if that is important enough to me to spend my time consciously looking where I am periodically.
Perhaps the thing that troubles me most is that I feel almost defined by the books that surround me on my shelves. Just a glance at this book or that reminds me of different periods of my life and of different friends. I can't imagine letting go of that. I can easily imagine that as soon as I fall in love with the book I am reading on the e-reader, I'll wind up feeling a need to purchase a physical copy.
The e-reader I received is a Kindle and I am quite pleased with it. I know Amazon has its issues--but its major competition are devices from other massive corporations I'm not sure I want to support either. Right now the low cost of the Kindle, its beautiful e-ink screen, and the device's emphasis on text versus image makes it seem like the best choice for me. I'm one of those weirdos who preferred DOS to Windows, so perhaps you shouldn't take me too seriously on this--but for those of us who want to write extensive notes in the margins and hate touchscreens, the Kindle is a great choice.
What do you think of reading on an e-reader? Did some of you get a Kindle, Nook, Sony, or other e-reader for the holidays? Have you found that particular kinds of books make sense to read on the device?
For an explanation of why another reader--a non-Luddite--has chosen to stick with printed books, please see this beautiful post.