Friday, February 17, 2012

Liking E-Books or Not

I have written once or twice about my reaction to e-books, specifically Kindle books, which I now read mainly on my iPad Kindle app. I just read a very satisfying summary of objections I have overcome or problems I have learned to live with. Tim Parks, in a New York Review of Books article titled "E-books Can't Burn," asks why should we dislike e-books? His possible reasons why are insightful:
"Could it be the fact that the e-book thwarts our ability to find particular lines by remembering their position on the page? Or our love of scribbling comments (of praise and disgust) in the margin? ... We can’t so easily flick through the pages to see where the present chapter ends, or whether so and so is going to die now or later. In general, the e-book discourages browsing, and though the bar at the bottom of the screen showing the percentage of the book we’ve completed lets us know more or less where we’re up to, we don’t have the reassuring sense of the physical weight of the thing (how proud children are when they get through their first long tome!), nor the computational pleasures of page numbers (Dad, I read 50 pages today). This can be a problem for academics: it’s hard to give a proper reference if you don’t have page numbers."
And the author then asks: "But are these old habits essential?" I think it's a really good question, and for me the answer is, I can do without these old habits and expectations. I make those complaints from time to time, but I've really learned to live with e-books and even to mark up the passages that I want to come back to. Anyway, I never wrote in books, just left sticky notes to myself on the pages.


Tracy Feldman, painter said...

It's actually not so easy to see when a chapter ends in a regular book, either, and it's pretty easy to learn to go back to the table of contents in an ebook and figure out where the next chapter begins (after temporarily bookmarking the page). The Kindle Fire hurts your nose less than the iPad 1 when you fall asleep reading, but both are more solid than a typical book. Some apps now do report page numbers rather than just location numbers. And finding out who the obscure character just mentioned is by searching for the name is quite helpful, as is the built-in dictionary. I particularly enjoy it when the dictionary doesn't know the word that I don't know, but it's also easy to search the internet for the word on some apps.

Jeanie said...

The point about being essential is excellent. Although I must confess, I love it when I pick up a book, used and find a note in the margin, or even a bookmark that was never removed. It takes me on the journey with the previous reader, which I somehow enjoy so much!