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?