Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let's start an Evolution

A few weeks ago I bought my first eBook. Yep, FIRST.

I've been purchasing eBooks for my academic library for two years now and I've used some of the ones we own. But these books until very recently were only available to be read at a computer. So, I've never found them particularly useful unless I was already chained to my desk and computer. Who wants an ebook they can only use when at their PC?

And I never really understood the lure of having hundreds of books on an eReader. I mean, I don't carry around hundreds of books in the trunk of my car. I carry the one book I'm currently reading in my purse or handbag when I think I might end up waiting somewhere. Add to that the cost of an eReader on top of the cost of individual books, and for someone who makes more frequent use of the public library than Barnes & Nobel for reading material, making the investment just didn't make sense.

So, you're asking why I made the leap? What changed?  Was there a solar flare? or a Fringe event that has replaced the regular Tattooed Librarian with her alter ego from another universe?

Nope, it was simply a matter of convenience and impatience. I was looking at a recently released non-fiction book that I could not find at any of my local libraries. I knew requesting that it were ordered, or inter-library loaned would take a few weeks. The print copy of the book from Amazon cost $13.99 plus shipping, if I could find it a local book store it would have been similarly priced. The eBook cost only $9.99 and would be magically (a.k.a. wirelessly) sent to my android phone if I downloaded the FREE Kindle app. This was a no brainer. I went for the eBook. While I was buying it online, my phone was downloading the app.

The big question I get, considering I was a dyed in the wool physical book reader, is how do I like it? Well, lets face it. Reading book on screen is never going to be like reading a book on paper no matter how many tweaks they make from eInk to simulating the turn of a page. So lets stop trying to make them similar. Let me break down what I do and don't like about using my new ebook:

Like #1: it's always with me. I always have my phone so I always have my kindle app and always have my book. I don't have to guess if I'm going to stuck waiting at the vet's office or in line at the post office. I never have to fear that I'll decide to sit down for a coffee and have forgotten my reading material at home. 
But, dislike #1: My phone's screen is small. And getting a real kindle or bigger tablet kind of defeats the whole "I have it with me all the time" purpose. Having said that, I'm half way through the book and I'm still reading the electronic version, so it can't be that bad.

Like #2: I can "write" in it! and highlight, and fold down the pages and take notes. If you haven't noticed by now, I am pretty geeky, but I hate to deface books. The most annotating I can do with a book (even my own) that isn't for a class is to add post it flags to the margins. They stick out of the book, but on the shelf nobody can see. But write in an anthology of poetry? No way! Now I can though. I can highlight particularly interesting quotes. I can mark the mention of another book or author and add a note of the library call number so I can pick it up the next time I'm out (yep, I already said, Geeky). Bookmarking is folding down the corner page (which you can also undo).
Dislike #2: I can't say this is a dislike of the ebook format so much as a fault with my app. At some point it did not register that I had a book to read, despite having already read many chapters on my kindle app. So, I had Amazon resend the book to my phone. Only then, I had TWO of the same book, and every time I opened the app it would open the "wrong" copy which had a book mark around chapter 7 though I was now well past that. The fix was to remove that copy from my device.

Like #3: Page turning or rather the lack there of. I read on my lunch hour and at dinner if I am by myself. Have you ever tried to keep a paperback open on a table while eating? Or turn the page while your hands are full? It's a pain. But now with a tap of my finger on the right side of the screen the page turns and there is no keeping a book open. And no, I don't need it to mimic the turning of a page. I just want an uninterupted flow of text. Which leads me to...
Dislike #3: There is no eBook design. The book in your hot little hands right now, went through design process to choose fonts, and headings and text sizes so that everything was nicely laid out on the page. A proofreader checked over all of this to make sure everything was consistent. The ebook on your Kindle or Nook right now, probably did not, it probably didn't even see as many editors as your print copy did. So, why is that a problem? The text adjusts to the size of the screen. Which means the words of headings get cut off in really random spots and I often have to read them many times to figure out what exactly it is supposed to be.

Long story short - despite a few minor issues with using the ebooks on my kindle app, I am enjoying the experience and will probably continue to use them when I can get affordable books (like free classics that are now in the public domain), or books not at my public library.

How about you? Do you use ebooks on an ereader, your phone or computer? How do you like them and why did you switch?