Bookish Rant or Rave: Reading with an E

Filed in Bookish Rant or Raves , The Needy Lover Posted on August 15, 2012 @ 3:00 pm 9 comments

Commuting on the subway every morning can be quite amusing, if one can take time to notice the little details. I recently had a moment of sudden awareness in which I looked up and down the train platform and noticed that the VAST majority of the countless people waiting for the train were reading from various electronic devices–tablets, phones, e-readers. Of course, there were still many reading the daily (free) newspaper supplement circulated locally, but it was hilarious looking around and seeing how ubiquitous the use of devices was. It really made momma proud.

These days, pointing out that electronic reading (e-reading) is the norm is a boring, unsurprising understatement. However, the fact that it feels like it’s happened in the relative blink of an eye is absolutely fascinating. Not even four years ago (when RIM’s Blackberry was all the rage) was there so much use of portable devices for recreational reading (checking emails sooo doesn’t count). At that time, the Amazon Kindle seemed like a wealthy person’s toy. And the thought of reading long-form material–whole newspapers, novels–felt weird for many. The popular opinion seemed to be that books smelled and felt like magic in one’s hands–and who doesn’t love to sniff a good hardcopy book?

Such a sentiment is heard with much less frequency now. For me, someone who’d worked at libraries for years and did indeed love the tactile qualities of a book, adapted, and fast. And I’d be lying if I said that e-reading methods haven’t drastically changed the way I read. I’ve long been the kind of person to read a book at a time (as it’s never been fun to carry several heavy tomes). Since I began using an e-reader (sometime in 2008), I more frequently read numerous books simultaneously–or at least read them in much quicker succession. I also found that I engaged with a book more, taking notes and (later) highlighting passages or looking up word definitions on the fly (a welcome change from sitting down with the huge dictionary, which I did do). Heaven forbid I EVER marked up a physical book–gasp!

Furthermore, a few years of e-reading on a regular basis have brought on an appreciation the immediacy of consumption that’s afforded a frequent reader. Someone recommends a book, and if it’s interesting enough, you can pop onto your computer (or better yet, an e-reading device) and buy the book straight away. Even for book reviewing…consider the ability to send e-ARCs or give away copies of books without having to distribute as selectively and/or ship books well in advance. We want our books now? So it shall be.

It’s also noteworthy that there’s been a seeming rise in the number of books of atypical length (if “typical” is about 90,000 words). You’ll find so many more shorter stories–novelettes, novellas, and short stories–sold as single titles, as well as 100,000+ books of all stripes that, in print, would’ve traditionally been reserved for certain subgenres like epic fantasy. Unsurprisingly, this seems to be most common with titles that are e-only.

(Another alternative to traditional reading is audiobook “reading.” Yes, yes, it’s not the same as reading visually, but I think it’s at least worth mentioning, seeing as how it’s yet another example of the increasingly common ways of consuming books beyond the paper-paged experience.)

All these things that have been affected by reading electronically, whether it be on a computer, a phone, a tablet, or a dedicated e-reader. From the very personal to the very practical, e-reading has changed so much is so little time. I can only imagine what Gutenberg would think of it all.

What about you?? Do you use electronic devices to read? If so, has e-reading drastically changed the way you read or how you perceive books? How so?

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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  • Marlene August 15, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I started with ereaders for travel. My hubby says it saved his back, because I used to take a whole extra suitcase for my books!
    Ebooks make it so much easier for instant gratification, and to start new books anywhere I want, but two things drive me crazy. They’re difficult to organize, and they’re almost impossible to share. If I just read a great science fiction novel and I want my hubby to read it too, I pretty much have to lend him my iPad, which is just not cool. I bought the book. We live in the same house. But I can’t share it with him the way I can a paperback, even if it cost the same. That’s a problem.
    But I still love my ebooks. A LOT.

  • Sheree August 15, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I started reading Romances on my laptop years ago so I’m okay with reading ebooks. However, I found out that most ereaders don’t work for the way I read (yes, I’ve tried the Kindle, the Sony eReader, the Nook, and the iPad), with the iPad being okay, but if I were to read an ebook, I’d still resort to my laptop or desktop. I remember the books I read by their covers (not surprising, given how much emphasis I put on covers) and ereaders that don’t show at least a picture of the cover don’t work for me. I kept on forgetting which books I had read on my Kindle (yes, I know about the bar that shows where I am in a book) and what it was about. So, I mostly play games on my ereaders and read in paper. Plus, if I were to lose a book, I’d be sad but it’s only $8; an ereader is way more expensive to replace.

    Then there’s the limitations of ebooks, such as the lack of lending as Marlene mentioned, total lack of resell/donate/give away, specific formats for specific ereaders (which is why I prefer pdf which I could convert via Calibre to suit whatever ereader I want to use), and price – since I view an ebook as only a step above a library loan (and I can borrow ebooks from my local library), I refuse to pay the same price as a paper book for it. An ebook doesn’t even have a cover I could touch/drool over.

    I guess that’s my rant. 🙂

  • Ashley Robertson August 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Ereaders are the best. I’ve been using a kindle for years and it’s so easy to bring everywhere with me. Traveling, the gym, or wherever I feel like reading, it’s great knowing my story is just a convenient click away. 🙂

  • Emily August 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I still prefer reading physical books. I stare at the computer for 6 hours a day and would prefer to look at a page and not a screen. That being said, I love them for travel, and I love being to grab my phone out of my back pocket when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store (etc) and read a few pages while standing around.

  • draconismoi August 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I started getting textbooks on my laptop first. Praise the ctrl-f function! It made life so very simple.

    I do read ebooks now – but usually only books that I am not certain about – or books with such hideous covers that the thought of seeing them on my beautiful shelves causes me pain.

    Basically, I use ebooks in lieu of a library. Which is good – because the library in tiny town Alaska is big on westerns and romances, but almost devoid of speculative fiction.

  • Susan August 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    As someone who was indeed in love with the look, feel, and smell of “real” books, I couldn’t begin to imagine ever reading an ebook. I was a holdout for many years until my brother gave me a K2. I was actually annoyed (for about 5 minutes) that I was going to have to deal with this contraption. Then I tried it, and there was no turning back. It literally changed my life. Just some of the advantages:
    –Storage. This is a biggie. I’ve confessed here before that I own a lot of books. Some have been in boxes for years, but I hated the thought of getting rid of them. Now, I’m prepared to pare down and just keep the special, irreplaceable volumes.
    –Convenience. Yep, I can read anything, anywhere. A library can travel with me. And with the added privacy factor. And then I can buy new books anytime/anywhere.
    –Ease of reading. I just read so much faster on my Kindle. And, as soon as I finish one book, I can immediately start the next. (When I was reading a PB the other day, I kept tapping the page and was annoyed when it didn’t automatically turn!)
    –Notes and comprehension. As you mentioned, I can bookmark pages or make notations to my heart’s content. And I look up tons of words, often just because I can. I might know the definition already, but be curious about the root/origin/pronunciation. . . and, voila, there it is!
    –Expanded horizons. Not only do I read more books, but I read different kinds of books. I’m much more open to different genres and new authors.

    Of course, I still buy “real” books. IMO, ereaders aren’t perfect for everything–poetry, cookbooks, fic/non-fic with a bunch of diagrams, pics, maps, etc. And, let’s face it, some (many?) ebooks are just badly formatted and edited–what’s so hard about doublechecking this kind of thing before you release the book? Plus, it’s not easy to share/loan books (big peeve). And I do get ticked that all of the various cover artwork isn’t automatically included in the e-versions. But, for me, the pros vastly outweigh the cons. Thanks, bro!

  • JenM August 16, 2012 at 10:41 am

    My hubs got me my first ereader back in 2004 because he was tired of me bringing 10 books along on every vacation. Back then, the biggest problem was the lack of available ebooks, so I would load it up, then save it for reading only on vacation. I upgraded to a Kindle about 9 mos after they first came out. It is amazing how quickly this technology has been adopted. Back then, people used to come up to me all the time and ask to see my Kindle. I probably sold at least 20 of them myself to skeptical readers and we all used to complain on the Kindleboards forum about being interrupted by curious people while we were reading. Now everyone has some device they are reading on.

    I couldn’t even imagine going back. I do find that I read more (and faster) with my Kindle, although I’m not sure why that is. In order to keep my book budget under control, I do occasionally read used paperbacks, but I hate it. They are so uncomfortable to hold, you can’t prop them on your stomach in bed, or read them while you are eating. Of course, the K has drawbacks – I miss being able to search for something by fanning through the pages and I hate the lack of organization, but overall, the technology is a wonderful thing.

  • Rachel at theJeepDiva August 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I read my ereader all the time because we just don’t have enough room in our house for all my books. However now the company I work for just took a step back into the dark ages and banned all electronic devices. I used to read on my breaks and lunches and now I can not. *sigh* I am scrambling for paperbacks to have something to read because we also do not have a library that has anything remotely new. I always loved paperbacks but needed the ereader.

    • Susan August 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm

      I’m having fun imagining what kind of super-secret organization would feel the need to ban electronic devices! (But I am sorry for your loss.)

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