Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reading experiences: ebooks (Nook Simple Touch)

In the past few years, my reading experiences have broadened to regularly include graphic novels, ebooks, and audiobooks. As someone who can't even remember not knowing how to read, and who gets twitchy when I don't have a book in hand, this feels like a substantial shift. How did it come about? Can stories in different formats have the same effect on me? And how might these new formats change my reading habits?


Last week I shared my thoughts on audiobooks. Today I've tried to corral my complex emotions regarding ebooks, specifically my latest toy, Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch.


Steve Kovach, Business Insider
In many ways I am the demographic for ereaders. I'm young(ish), I read a lot, travel a lot, and my living situation is temporary, so I try to avoid accumulating too many physical books. However, for many years I put off buying an ereader. Not for the usual reasons. I don't believe ebooks herald a society of impermanence or the end of storytelling as we know it. Rather it was about accessibility and money. I borrow most of my books from the library, so I wasn't sure I'd use an ereader enough to justify its purchase. And until just a few years ago, all but the most popular children's books weren't available as ebooks. 


But the tipping point struck last summer, when I hauled five books overseas for a vacation, and yet still ran out. An ereader had to be more convenient.


Indeed, my Nook has definitely added a richness to my reading life. For example, for my recent diversity series (Anne Reads Books By & About People Different from Her), a majority of the books I've read are American, and as yet unpublished in the UK (I was able to purchase them through my Nook, as it's connected to an American bookstore (Barnes & Noble). Of course this opens a whole other can of worms about copyright and regions. While I have strong opinions on the topic, I'm not exactly knowledgable, so I'll leave those discussions to the experts). For years I've relied on infrequent trips back to the US and the Book Depository to access American books, so book availability alone has been a huge plus for me.


As an avid reader, I'm also happy to report that my Nook is comfortable. It's thinner than a book, so not only does it fit into even my smallest purse (barely!), it's also easier to hold (some of those hefty hardcovers can get awfully tiring to prop up!). And it's true what everyone says about e-Ink. My Nook doesn't feel like a computer screen, it doesn't tax my eyes. 


So I love it, right? Well... this is where things get a little complex. While there's a lot of things I love about it, and while I'll certainly use it regularly, it hasn't yet won my heart over.


Part of the problem is that I've grown up with books, and my love for books is definitely in part physical and sensory. I love the smell of books, touching pages, even a hardback's unwieldy heft. So while my Nook is comfortable, and easy to read (I can even change the font and type-size), it doesn't yet have the same magic as book reading for me. And there's things I can do with a book that aren't as easily accomplished with my Nook. For example, flipping pages. How many pages until the end of the chapter? Wait, how did Part I end again? Let me check that glossary in the back... The Nook has a search feature, and I can bring up the Table of Contents with a single click. Yet, going back to my original place gets tricky. I suppose I could bookmark my spot anytime I want to flip, then un-bookmark the spot when I return... it all seems much more tedious than just sticking a finger in my current spot, though.


Also, there's something about the Nook books that makes them feel less accessible. Perhaps because all my titles are hidden away on a hard drive, and can't been seen at a glance at my (real life) bookshelf, I keep forgetting I own all the books I've bought, and that I can consult them and outline them just as I do the "real" books on my shelves. 


But of course, these are little things... in time I'll figure out better tricks, and become more accustomed to my Nook. And of course the technology will get better. Just last week I figured out how to check the time on my Nook while in the midst of reading. And already I wish that feature were available in paperbacks! Not to mention the single-touch dictionary feature!


Speaking of technology, I'd love a way to share ebooks, just as I share paperbacks (I understand that's in the works, although with much dispute between publishers and booksellers). I'd love a way to mark-up pdfs (for critiquing others' writing, or analyzing my own). And the black and white, grainy covers are depressing! I know I bought the cheapest Nook possible, in black and white, but surely the publishing industry can figure out a way to still let readers enjoy beautiful cover art. Likewise, I've already encountered one ebook, by a small but well-known publisher, that was incorrectly formatted. Shameful and embarrassing! Especially considering I paid $10 for the book.


I realize I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said many times before about ereaders. But it's definitely been interesting experiencing all of this for myself. And I'm eager to hear from you. How much do you love your ereader? How long did it take for you to get used to it? Or, if you haven't taken the plunge yet, what's holding you back?

22 comments:

  1. I've had e-readers for 3 years now. My first was a sony, which I liked, but I eventually caved and bought a Kindle, because it was so hard to purchase books for the Sony (cf. your comments about regions, copyrights, availability). With the Kindle, Amazon knows where I live, and sells me the books licensed for my region. And I love, after finishing a book, being able to buy another book, while riding a train in the middle of the alps :-). Instant reader gratification.

    I love notating what I read - I haven't tried it with pdfs, but when I am reading a book and analyzing it for structure, etc., I love being able to footnote as I go along, as well as highlighting quotes (I use this a lot with books I read for my book club, because then I pull up my notes and highlights page and everything I marked is right there in one place.

    I have the same thoughts about navigation, but I've learned to note the location number I'm at before I start searching or referencing other things, so I know right where to come back to.

    Now I am so used to my ereader that it is my preferred way to read a book. I love it!

    [ps I owe you an email :-]

    Elisabeth

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    1. Yes, there's DEFINITELY a plus to that instant reader gratification, I must say! ;)

      Really interesting to hear your thoughts on notating. I haven't tried it with a book yet, but it's a great idea for keeping track of my thoughts while reading. And I imagine a bit more accessible than getting up to track down a pencil.

      Thanks so much for sharing how you've adapted your ereader to your experience. Really interesting to hear! And no worries about the email!

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  2. Personally, I recently bought an eReader, because it's a great way to read a book this way and I can take it with me everywhere I go. I have on it so many great and interesting eBooks downloaded from All you can books, a very useful site for me, because I love to read whenever I have time :D

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts, Diana.

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  3. You are ahead of me. I haven't taken the plunge. But my dear friend who reads voraciously told me that her EBook-reader (I think she uses 'the other one') is strictly for travelling. And not being able to lend your copy? That alone would stop me.

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    1. So interesting to read all these responses! I thought everyone else LOVED theirs, so nice to see that plenty of people just use it as a tool, and save the love for real books. Thanks!

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  4. I was just like you. I held off for so long on an e-reader. But once I got it, I LOVED it. If anything, it made me buy more books. But I still love the feel of books and I do have this sort of sanctification of seeing my favorite books on my shelves.

    But it's perfect for travel or during lag times. I pull that sucker out in the grocery line, doctor's office, red light (don't judge me LOL).

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    1. hehehe. Those stop lights must be REALLY long in Georgia... or maybe the book is just that good?! No judgement, I'm heading down that route, too! My problem is that I'm a total monogamous reader, so I have to time my Nook reads for times when I'm going to be traveling. Which doesn't really work.

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  5. FWIW - I haven't tried it so I'm not up on all the details, but some books can be lent with the Kindle, to other Kindle users.

    And I believe you can "check out" ebooks from libraries with a Nook? My friend in the US has one and that's what tipped her decision to the Nook vs. the Kindle. Again not sure of the practical details but good to know.

    Anne - you should definitely try the notation! I love it! I find it so useful...

    Elisabeth

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    1. Yes, I've heard rumblings about the Kindle's lending program, too. Nathan Bransford had a great suggestion on his blog a while back about letting you share a book with five people. That seems reasonable.

      And yes, you CAN check out books from libraries via the Nook (actually, I believe it works with most devices EXCEPT the Kindle). Unfortunately at the moment my library's selection is pretty sparse.

      Next book will be notated, promise! ;)

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  6. I have a Kindle, but I only use it to read my manuscripts and beta read.

    My Kindle was pushed to the side by my iPad. I love the color aspect. Also, it's easier to scroll through my books to see what I have (with the Kindle I had to move from page to page, which wasn't easy considering all the books I have).

    And I do love both for traveling. I used to carry so many books with me and would run out.

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    1. Interesting, Medeia. My big fear with the iPod was that it would be hard to read with a back-lit screen (is it?), but I can see how the color would be wonderful.

      God forbid we run out of books! ;)

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    2. I have no problem with the lit-up screen. I know others might, though.

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    3. Good to know. My mom has one. I may have to borrow it one of these days and just see for myself!

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  7. I have a Nook Touch, too, and I really like it. The deciding factor for me was discovering that I could download ebooks through my library's website. I still read a lot of print books, but now I can hoard even more books. :-)

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    1. hehehe. That's exactly the best part, Anna, hoarding more books! ;)

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  8. I have the same feelings about the Kindle. Fine for reading a book you don't need to jump around in, but aggravating for figuring out how much is left if a given chapter. Can't beat the "enlarge print" function, though!

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    1. Seems like a few modifications could help ereaders a lot. But YES, the clock, the dictionary, and ESPECIALLY enlarge print definitely improve my reading experience!

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  9. I"ve been on the fence about buying one. Your comments are helpful. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome, Ali. So glad to have been helpful to you!

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  10. I haven't made the plunge, Anne, so reading your post and the comments has been very helpful. I want to buy a Kindle just for the travel option, but I just haven't. I've started getting some books online (kindle cloud) and have been lukewarm about that experience. I end up scanning more than reading. Is that a problem with you? Do you read your hardbacks more carefully than you read your ebooks?

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    1. Actually, I think I read the books on my Nook more carefully than paperbacks, because the text is bigger, and the pages are smaller, so each word feels like it has more space, hence importance. But my Nook isn't back-lit, so it doesn't feel like a computer screen (as I believe the iPad and Kindle Fire are). I do skim when I'm reading things on my computer. I was worried about this before I got the Nook, as goodness knows I spend enough time on my computer! But the experience feels very different.

      Hope this helps!

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