the Little Red Reviewer

baby’s first e-book

Posted on: October 20, 2012

as a surprise, a very good friend of mine lent me her kindle, preloaded with a few anthologies I’m interested in, and two Neal Asher novels, which I was very interested in. She certainly knew how to tease me.

Change, to mis-quote Agent Smith, is inevitable.

After a few days of staring at the thing, I decided I better pick it up and start using it. What if I couldn’t figure out how it worked?  what if I broke it (Don’t worry E, it’s perfectly safe!)?  GULP, what if I liked it, and had all this time been a super-hypocrite of e-readers??

Here’s goes nuthin’, right?

Granted, I have read PDFs of books before, but they were usually exactly that – a PDF of the printed version, complete with page numbers at the bottom, identifiers at the top, chapter page breaks, etc. On the screen it looked exactly like the page of a book, and if I printed it out, it looked like I’d photocopied a page out of the printed book.

but these true e-books? these are  interesting beasts.  I feel like a scifi character on a mission of first contact. Will I be able to communicate with the alien? will their technology dwarf mine? how does their language and syntax compare to what I’m used to?
Some nice surprises that I liked about the Kindle, and the e-book experience:

The skinnyness of the thing is very nice. It nestles perfectly in my purse, and I feel very sophisticated reading from it during lunchtime at work. It also has a super durable leather cover, offering a little bit of tactile interaction, and a lot of protection.  I’m not a klutz, but a little extra protection on an expensive electronic gizmo is always a plus.

The buttons and menus are very intuitive. it holds a battery charge a long time, and even better it uses the same universal charger as my cell phone. It took me less than 5 minutes of messing with the thing to figure out the basic menu options, how to tell how much battery was left, etc. Intuitiveness is a big plus for non-techies like me.

And the things that shouldn’t have been a surprise, but were:

How long is this book?  for 30 years I’ve used page count, and the visual of where my bookmark is to get a feel for how far I’ve gotten into a book, and how far I have to go.  The Kindle doesn’t use page numbers, it uses sections, and I’ve yet to figure out exactly how long a section is. There’s also a progress bar at the bottom of the screen. If I’m 40% thru a book, what page am I on? does it matter?

This isn’t the page format I’m used to:  six to nine words per line, 20 or so lines per page.  Visually, this makes paragraph breaks show up rarer. When I turn the page in a physical book, I will often visually scan the new pages for paragraph breaks, gives me a quick preview of what I’m in for: dialog, exposition, infodump, etc. I don’t get that kind of visual with the e-book, but I sure am hitting “next page” more often than I expected, which makes me feel like a speed reader!

But I don’t wanna read this anthology in the order of the table of contents!  I’m sure it’s just a menu option I haven’t figured out yet, but I want to jump around in the anthology, without having to hit “next page” 300 times.

What the heck am I reading again? This one comes down to the programming of the software and formatting of the e-book itself, but the headers mostly suck. It tells me the title of the book or maybe the short story, but not the name of the author. There isn’t that “right/left” thing you often get in a print book, where the title is on the top of one page and the author is on the top of the other, because there is no right/left.

how do I take notes?  I’ll often have a scrap of paper or a notecard or something tucked into the book that I’m reading so I can take notes, jot down important events, conversations, page #’s, etc.  I haven’t figured out how to do that on this puppy.

So, there you have it. I’ve now read an e-book. there’s a second Neal Asher on there, and a few more short stories I’d love to read, now I just need to get used to the actual doing of the reading.  I’m slowly admitting the future is here. very, very, very slowly.

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12 Responses to "baby’s first e-book"

E introduced me to the world of the Kindle in 2010. I tend to read like 5-10 ebooks on it and then back to paper for a dozen books and then back to the ebooks. It took me some time to figure out most of the options and the menu settings – like I can turn it sideways, I can highlight, I can go to a certain page, etc.

I’m glad you’re giving it a try. I love carrying a library around with me.

I do prefer to have books but I can see the benefit. Great for holiday, you have a choice of thousands of books just at your fingertips, they are light to carry around so the bigger books would be easier to read. But I hope that they never completely take over!
Lynn :D

With my kindle you can just start typing to create a note, but I know there are differences in the different kindle/ebook readers.

I’m still on the fence about e-Books myself, but I have had a very good experience with the Kobo Touch e-reader. I don’t seem to have the same issues with it that you have.

The on-screen information is very helpful – book, chapter, author, how far
you’re away from the end of the chapter in pages, which are automatically updated based on text-size. The e-ink screen is often much brighter to look at than a real book and especially so when you get the right angle of light on it, and the screen almost seems to glow. (no, its not one of the new glow ones, though, it just looks luminous!)

But the big thing I like about e-books/e-readers is that it helps me concentrate and my reading speed is increased. With regular books, I often “lose my place” on a page and I spend time “re-acquiring” it, or getting distracted by what’s happening on the facing page, etc. With an e-reader, my focus is fully on a paragraph or two and I can just read what I’m looking at, and I get a lot of positive reinforcement by tapping next page every minute or so. Gets me in a reading rhythm. I think that now, I’ve read about 8 novels on a variety of readers: ipad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPhone, desktop (Calibre, Kindle and Kobo), and my Kobo Touch, but the e-ink is the best experience.

Don’t count it out, but don’t leave the paper hills just yet, the e-book doesn’t have as much sensory interest as a good, used book, IMO.

One last thing, the note thing. There’s a few e-reader cases that mimic books, allowing you to slide the reader in, while having a “cover” with a flap so you can tuck notes inside. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. :)

If you can get a keyboard up you can annotate an ebook. That depends on which version Kindle you’ve got.

If you press Menu then for a lot of books a page number pops up as well (though not for all which can be annoying).

By selecting “Go To” “Table of Contents” if a book’s been made into an ebook any more than flippantly then you can probably jump about through the book.

I got mine a year and a bit ago. Love the thing. It’s great for having in my bag as it doesn’t get dog-eared and without the leather cover it’s more comfortable to hold than a standard book. I do still buy a decent number of physical books, particularly when I want to finish a series or they have nice covers.

Oh, and it’s great for A Song of Ice and Fire. You don’t have to split any books.

I second that notion. I read Storm of Swords and Feast of Crows back to back on an e-reader, which I probably wouldn’t have done with the hardcopies. By split, do you mean actually physically cut them in two, thereby making them easier to, er, manipulate and carry around?

If you’re using a touch screen kindle you can swip from bottom to top to jump to the next chapter/story. Top to bottom does the same in reverse. Also on touch screen, you can touch a word, wait a split second and drag to highlight what you want, then it gives you the option to add a note to go with the text.

It’s also pretty simple to change the font size if you want to see more than a paragraph at a time.

I don’t think this is a touchscreen. :(

I’m still convinced – old fogey that I am – that ebooks are (mostly already have) killed the book store business, and I won’t have one in my possession. My wife feels the same way. So for me, it’s print or nothing. Yes, I’ve seen them, looked at them, held them, heard people, even friends, rave them up a bit, but nope, not for me.

i think ebooks are working on killing barnes and noble, because barnes and noble wants it that way. But independent bookstores who have a strong following? i don’t think ebooks are touching folks like that. if an indie bookstore has a strong customer base, people like you and me, we’d rather buy books there than order something on amazon, or electronic. I’m very spoiled by some very good bookstores, and I make sure I give them lots of business so I can help them stay open. If my options to purchase a book (print, of course!) are indie bookstore, amazon, or to buy and e-book, 99% of the time I’m going to buy through the Indie bookstore.

The kindle is fun to play with, but I haven’t any plans to purchase one. we can be old fogeys together.

I won a Kindle earlier this year and several weeks…months…later finally read an e-book on it that I downloaded from the library. It has a nice screen, fantastic battery life, and was convenient to take to work to read on breaks. But it didn’t do anything for me. I haven’t turned it on since. I would much rather pick up a “true” book and read the ol’ fashioned way. I think to be truly won over I’ll need to get one of the color ones and actually be able to read magazines like Lightspeed and Clarkesworld before I become convinced that it will do anything for me.

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