Thoughts on E-Reading

Please note: this is not a post about e publishing.

So I’ve owned an e-reader (a Kindle) for a year now. To be honest, I haven’t used it much, but I contribute that to the fact that, last August, I got a smartphone (a DroidX) and promptly downloaded the Kindle app. Now I do all my kindling (Kindle-ing?) on my DroidX, who is named HALey.

The Kindle was great because I could read my critique partner’s manuscripts on it, which was a lot more convenient than either reading them on my computer or printing them out. The Kindle phone app does not have this feature. I can only read things I’ve downloaded from the Kindle store on it. HOWEVER, I cannot read on my Kindle or from a paper book in a darkened nursery while holding a baby in my arms at 2 am feedings, and that’s where I’ve been doing most of my reading for the past 9 months, so Kindle app on my phone totally wins.(Yes, I know there are backlit e-readers out there.)

And it’s not like I’ve been doing a ton of reading, either. I’ve read a bunch of baby books (baby care, baby sleep, baby brain development, baby eating, baby scheduling — half on an e-reading device, and half on paper) and a few parenting-adjacent non-fiction books (I loved The Panic Virus, by Seth Mnookin, and Unstrange Minds by Roy Richard Grinker, which I bought after meeting both authors at the Annapolis Book Festival). And I’ve read or started reading maybe half a dozen novels, all on my phone app.

That last part is important. Because of the snippety nature my reading time has taken recently, I’ve been more keen on reading non-fiction rather than fiction. You don’t have to worry about wrecking the mood when you read your non-fiction book in one page snippets. If you come back to the story after a week of not reading or at 2 am when your brain is mush, it’s much easier to follow two pages of non-fiction than it is to remember all the intricacies of a fiction plot.

When I pick up a novel after being away from it, I like to flip back a few pages to refresh my memory — a sort of internal, “Last time, in this novel…” But the kindle app on my phone makes that a major hassle to do, since it oh-so-conveniently saves my last place for me. And though flipping back a few pages to reacquaint myself isn’t a major hassle, any other flipping I might need to do to remind me of something that happened before IS. It’s a major hassle to me because none of the “markers” I may remember from whenever I learned this piece of book information is there to help me find it.

For example, say I’m reading on Tuesday night and I come across a passage that mentions that the main character’s aunt was a famous opera singer. Then, on Friday, I am reading and I read that the main character’s love interest has a colelction of opera music. I want to see if the aunt is in that collection, but I can’t remember the name.

In a paper books, I might have remembered that the information was at the top of the left hand page, or that it was about 1/4 of the way into the book (by thickness of the book in my hands). I can easily flip back to the general area and scan the tops of the left hand pages to try to pick up on that info.

However, in an ebook, all I can know is that it’s at the top or bottom of the screen, and it might not even be in the same spot anymore because of the way e-readers render their text. So instead I have to remember the scene it’s in and scan the pages until I find that particular scene, which is MUCH harder to do than with a paper book because you have to turn pages one at a time. Yes, e-readers have a “go to section x” function, but if you don’t know what section you were reading (and I don’t know about you, but I don’t look up how far I am every page) then that won’t help.

I’m not sure if this is an idiosyncrasy due to the way that I, as an individual, read things or what. When I was in high school, I wold often remember information for quizzes based on where the information appeared in our textbooks. In fact, I once got in trouble in biology class because my answers on a quiz were verbatim what it said in the textbook (the question was something like “describe mitosis”). So it’s possible that this only bothers me because I’m a weirdo who remembers information based on where it appears on the page.

(In passing, this is why it has always worked for me when editing my own work to change the font/spacing on my manuscript because it means I can trick myself into looking at stuff with “new eyes” and ALSO why I’m more likely to (unfortunately) catch errors in proof stage than in copyedits.

But that’s the big annoyance I’ve found regarding reading novels on e-readers. Right now, I have 29 novels loaded on my Kindle. I’ve read 3 of them completely: The Secret Garden, Beautiful Creatures, and Anna and the French Kiss. Two of these, it should be noted, were BQ (Before Queenie). And only two others were downloaded BQ. Which means I buy and download a LOT of novels I haven’t read. Now, granted, a few of them I’m not ever going to read, because I’ve read enough of them to know they’re DNF for me.

I’ve also bought several novels in paper since Q, and I haven’t read any of those, because they are never at hand when I have a few spare moments to read, unlike my Kindle books. Though I did break my streak a few days ago with an ARC of Stephanie Perkins’s Lola and the Boy Next Door that Jessica Spotswood was kind enough to lend me. (It was great, and very fitting that the first paper book I read After Queenie was the companion novel to the first novel I read AQ.) Perhaps this signifies a whole new world of paper book reading. I hope so, since i have a bunch that I’m dying to read, including Erica Ridley’s latest, Too Sinful to Deny, an ARC of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Jo Treggiari’s Ashes, Ashes. Maybe now that Q is pretty regularly sleeping through the night (she gets a pass tonight, poor little teething thing) I can go back to my bedtime reading habit.

But, to be honest, I’m guessing I’ll also go back to paper. I’m not being a Luddite (I don’t think I’ll EVER be able to type that word without giggling again, and, next summer, you’ll all know why) but I do prefer paper, and after almost nine months of being forced to read only on e-format, I think I’ve given it a pretty fair shot.

However, since there are now a whole bunch of books that are ONLY available as ebooks, I’m glad I have a viable option. Before I had my phone (and Kindle), I could only read ebooks as PDFs on my computer, which meant if a book was only E, I never got around to reading it.Now I know I would.

How do you feel about ebooks? Do you have a dedicated e reader or a phone app that you use?

Posted in bookaholic

9 Responses to Thoughts on E-Reading

  1. Lenore says:

    I’m like that too! I remember passages based on where they were on a page. It’s not quite photographic memory, but almost …

  2. Jen says:

    I remember text just like that as well. During tests, if I could remember where the answer was on a page, I could quote it exactly word for word. On the other hand, if the professor rattled it off, I couldn’t for the life of me remember unless I’d jotted it down in my notebook. And then I’d remember exactly where I’d written it down.

  3. The Mrs says:

    I’m exactly the same – I can remember sort of where something is in a book only visually.

    I came across your blog through BlogHer – maybe? Not that long ago, anyway, and am really enjoying it.

  4. JoLee says:

    You are definitely not alone on the whole page-memory thing. That is exactly how my memory functions too. From the previous comments, it looks like we are in good company.

  5. Virginia says:

    It took my hubby almost year to convince me to get a Kindle. It wasn’t until I had to pack up my 3 overflowing bookcases to move 1500 miles after our wedding that I began to think maybe a Kindle would be a good idea.

    I’m still in the trying it out stage. I like it okay. I’m not a fan of how difficult it is to flip the pages. While I’m not typically a reader who flips back to find information, I do often flip forward to see how much longer the chapter is. It feels unnatural to me to stop reading in the middle of a chapter. The little bar at the bottom of the screen telling me how far along I am in the story drives me crazy. Nothing makes me feel more unproductive than seeing I’ve been at 18% for the last six page turns. I also miss my physical bookmarks. I always use postcards or pictures that never made it into scrapbooks/photo albums. Those little mementos always made reading that much warmer and cozier.

    Having said all that, there are a few things I really like about it. I like that I can easily change books if I’m not feeling the one I started reading. With that is how when I travel I no longer have to carry the three or four books I plan on reading during vacation. That’s a big plus for me. I like that the price of new release hardbacks are the price of trade paperbacks. I came to quite a few series late and started buying them in paperback. Because I need to have my series match, I can’t bring myself to buy the hardback and was completely dependent on the library for them. Now I buy the Kindle version as I wait the year for the paperback to come out. At the end of the year my series still matches, I have two versions of the book, the book gets more sales, and I paid only slightly more than the price of the original hardback. I could be wrong, but it feels like a win win to me.

    And I really really like that I can play minesweeper on it. 🙂

  6. Feliza says:

    I love the convenience of e-readers. It’s nice to get a book immediately and since my library offers e-lending (one of the reasons I switched from Kindle to Nook), I’ve got access to even more books.

    However, it’s always going to be easier to flip between pages with paper books. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it’s one reason that I’ll never completely abandon paper books. Also, some ebooks don’t include illustrations or, if they do, the rendering isn’t always great. I read Scott Westerfeld’s LEVIATHAN on my Kindle, but the image rendering was so poor that I got the physical book from my local library so I could properly appreciate the gorgeous artwork.

    But then, I do have several overstuffed bookshelves, so e-reading is probably going to be it for me until I can part with some of my physical collection.

  7. Megan says:

    Ditto on memory based on placement on a page. I used to do the same thing in school. As for e-readers, I have a Kindle, and it’s convenient, especially for travel, but I still prefer paper 🙂

  8. Rhiannon says:

    I never thought I would want a Kindle, until I got my Droid X and it came with the Kindle App. Not thinking I would like it, I downloaded Sherlock holmes from the free library, and the next thing I knew I had read the whole book.
    So I downloaded more, staying in the free library.
    Then, along comes YOU offering a 99 cent download of Errant, so I bought my first e-book, to see if for some reason my interest level changed with the fact that I paid money. It didn’t, so I bought Ascendant next.
    At that point I asked for a Kindle for my birthday, and I have been a reading machine ever since. I love that the two are synced, so I leave my Kindle at home most of the time, and when I have a few moments while waiting at the Dr.’s office, or when I’m bored in a meeting, I can pull up a book on my phone, sync to my most recent place, an keep going.
    I am reading SO much more than before, this way.

    I even took it to a wedding a week ago where other backpackers were talking about how heavy a certain guidebook is. I explained how I plan to backpack with my Kindle this fall, so that I can take as many guidebooks as I want. We ended up standing around looking at my Kindle (and, of course, weighing it), and of course, as soon as I got home I downloaded both the book that one of the people I was talking to wrote, and a few guidebooks for my hike this fall.

    I will miss not randomly reopening a book to a random page for re-reading – I think that if I really love a book and want to pass it around to all my friends, I’ll end up buying a paper copy. But for general everyday reading, it has transformed my approach entirely!

  9. Tiff says:

    Echoing the others…that is EXACTLY how I read and remember scenes. I’m big on going back and reading a few pages to get into the mood, as well.

    Honestly, I would love to get an eReader just because, like everyone else, I like the compact approach it has to reading, and the fact that I don’t have to carry a lot of books around. Also, I’m always switching purses and it would be nice to just toss an eReader in instead of finding a book that fits in a certain purse.

    The honest reason I don’t have an eReader right now is that I am just too poor to get one. It’s not the price of the reader, it’s the price of eBooks. I don’t buy a lot of my books now because I can’t afford to buy every new YA novel I want to read. I borrow everything from the library unless there is a book by an author whose work I know and love, and I know I will read it many times (like you, Diana! I own all of your books =P). If it turns out that the book is amazing (like with Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss), I will end up buying it after borrowing so I can re-read. And even though my library does have eBook lending, the books aren’t usually the new ones that I want to read.

    So basically, I’m sticking to paper and libraries (with some book buying) until every book is available as an eBook, and eBook lending has caught up with new releases.

    Also…I must confess that I am big on the feel of books. I like how they feel in my hands, and I like flipping through and sometimes looking at the cover. I really appreciate creative artwork and packaging (Zombies vs. Unicorns = excellent example – no way I would have wanted that in eBook form).

    And if I end up buying a a book that I don’t like (happens much less often now), I do use BookMooch to send it off to someone else who might want it, and save my points so I can mooch something else. =)