Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ebooks and Me

In my continued effort to keep a keen eye on the matter of the ebook and its infiltration of bookly culture, I have made a small foray into the electronic book world, when I read a couple of Jane Austen* novels on vacation.

I will say that it is absolutely easier to carry an iPod Touch on planes and trains and around airports than a couple of physical books (even paperbacks). You can slip it in and out of a bag, where it takes up very little room, or even carry it in your pocket.

There was a faintly disorienting feeling of never knowing how far into the book I was (you make different kinds of half-conscious deductions about plot points and story when you know there's half the book left, than you do if you've only got 30 pages to go). I think this is based both on the small amount of text that fits on an iPod 'page'--I might have flipped to the next page 200 times, but who knows what that means?--and on not having physical pages in my hand to judge by.

I know that the screen will tell you how much of the book you've read if you check, but this was never something that rose to the level of a thing I needed to check on, just a sort of nagging uncertainty that sometimes came to the back of my mind, and that is not usually part of my experience of reading a book.

Other than that, it really wasn't a different thing to read on a tiny screen than to read on a small page. You can enjoy the prose and get absorbed in the story the same way.

So I'll definitely be all about carrying a bunch of public domain titles around with me on trips where I don't feel like taking up space in my carry-on bags with physical books. Ebooks are a wonderful thing for travel.

As long as your battery holds up, and also as long as you don't mind putting away the book during the first and last several minutes of the flight, when they tell you to turn off electronic devices. You don't worry about that with paper. And remember, if you're traveling to Europe, you'll need an adapter so you can plug your device in and recharge it there, which is also something you don't worry about with paper.

These are small details, and easily overcome. I think I will not be making any kind of wholehearted plunge into this format, however. I like to check out books at the library, because there are all kinds of titles I don't really feel I have to own. (Also, one downside of ebooks from my selfish perspective?--if people who used to lend me their books start buying everything on Kindle or the like, where am I then, I ask you?)

I love the library, good people. And since paper books work so perfectly well for day-to-day running around where you don't worry about taking up space in your bag, why switch to something that needs a regular battery charge?

I've got nothin' against it, but I don't find it generally necessary at this time. Such is my considered opinion.

*I'd never read Jane Austen before, and as an English major I was naturally filled with shame.

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