Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reading on the small screen

Although I've started a few different entries since my last published one, I just haven't been able to put anything together--after a good month of Holidailies, I guess I just ran out of steam. Tonight, to start a new week, I'm going to get a blog entry written, however inconsequential it may prove to be.

A friend recently asked for advice about whether to get a Kindle or a Nook--for those who don't know, these are two different eBook readers: the former being Amazon's reader and the latter coming from Barnes and Noble. I didn't have much to tell her, but I have been using the Kindle app for my iPod Touch (and for those who don't know, an "app" is basically a little program for the iPod, iPhone, or iPad that mimics roughly the function of another device (such as a Kindle) or a computer program or website).

Surprisingly, I've rather liked it. Don't get me wrong: I'm staunchly neo-Luddite in my preference for dead-tree books over digital ones. I don't envision myself ever snuggling up on the couch or a comfy chair or in bed with my iPod Touch to read a book. However, I have found that an e-reader on my new favorite portable device is a nice thing to have.

First, it should be noted that in the past when I've carried a dead-tree book around to anywhere, whether she's expressed it or not, my wife has been vaguely embarrassed by me. Somehow, it is less embarrassing of me to be engrossed in a small electronic device, presumably because many other people are doing it too. So the first thing the e-reader on my iPod has going for it is that it fosters marital bliss (or its rough equivalent), because I do like to have something to read when time might otherwise be "wasted" while waiting.

And those are precisely the times when I pull up an e-book to read--stolen moments. It's not unusual for me to read a bit of a book that way while taking the dog for a walk or any number of other such occasions. And while I've looked a bit eccentric when I've done the same thing with an actual book, no one bats an eye at someone engrossed in an electronic screen. Added bonus: not only can I still read after if would be too dark to read an actual book, it's actually easier at that point than when it's sunny.

Not surprisingly, you can't fit a lot of words onto a 2-inch-by-3-inch (or whatever it is) screen, but that's actually a positive thing, the way I'm using it, because with a normal book I more or less have to stop at the top of a left-hand page if I'm not at a chapter break. I finish the paragraph that's carried over the the previous page and then stop--it's how I've done it since elementary school, so I always know where to look to start up again. With the Kindle app on my iPod, a "page" is a couple short paragraphs, one modest paragraph, or a portion of a longer paragraph, which means, practically speaking, that it's a lot easier for me to stop and start.

I like the fact that anywhere there's wi-fi, I can download a new book, either paying for something I want enough to pay for (haven't done it yet) or getting public domain books for free. I recently read A Christmas Carol that way and have started War and Peace. I also got through the preview of a book that I have since acquired in dead-tree form (for most every book Amazon sells in e-format, they let you download a sample before you buy).

And that, my friends, is my limited experience with an e-reader of any sort. What experience do you have (or lack)? How do you feel about e-readers?


  1. War and Peace on your iPod. The mind boggles.

    I have a kindle and I love it. I have shelves of books, and I love them. I see them in two different categories. The kindle books are the ones I'll read once, but never again. Also the ones with short stories or episodic in a way that I can stop/start without losing the thread.

    The dead tree books are old friends, or orphans picked up at yard sales, or gifts from my book club (we pass around books like friends toking). Some of them I will keep, to read again, or because they were pivotal in some way; others will move on to other homes, other hands.

    Kindle and hard copy books. Both are good.

  2. Sarah, that's exactly right: different books for different formats. I'm not sure how War and Peace will work this way--the mind boggles in many ways on this one, I should think.

    One thing that came up in my friend's friends' discussion of Kindle vs. Nook is that, apparently, some libraries have e-books that you can check out, but only on the Nook, not the Kindle. I thought that was a neat idea--I would imagine that Kindle will get it figured out so that they don't miss out on that, because I'm sure that could be a deciding factor for some people (and I've heard about that being the case at multiple libraries). I thought this was pretty neat--right up there with being able to "check out" the library's audio books from home and downloading them.