I’m an avid reader, have been my entire life. I’ve had stretches where I read less than others, but I would have to say that right now I probably read more than I ever have. I read for entertainment, education and enlightenment. I love the sense of cracking into a new book. I love that closing stretch when I’ve almost finished one. I love the anticipation of jumping into the next one. I like seeing books on my shelves, and I love the stack of books next to my desk downstairs that is my upcoming “queue” to pull from. I enjoy putting books up on my Goodreads page; I love finishing a great book and passing it along to my friends and family. These are all emotions tied very much to the physical manifestation of a book that can be looked at, held in the hand, and shared among readers.
At the same time, I don’t keep a lot of books, and I’m really not a fan of hardbacks. I give books away, or exchange them for credit at the used bookstore, etc. I keep ones I either think I’ll use again as reference, or that I really love and will want to lend or re-read at some point. So even though I keep my collection culled, it still grows. Just not as fast as it would if I were one of those types who never give up a book once it comes into my possession.
My love affair with printed books, even ones I don’t keep, more than justified in my mind why I didn’t think I’d ever buy into the whole ePublishing thing. I’ve said before: if books only become available electronically, I’ll stop buying new books. There are plenty of used books out there that I haven’t read yet, and I’m old enough to be able to draw a line in the sand like that and probably, maybe, stick to it. Theoretically, of course.
So that’s the attitude I approached my first eBook with — doubt. I didn’t expect to enjoy the experience. Didn’t stop me from digging in, though.
It certainly helped that I picked such a great book to start with! This Don Winslow dude can friggin’ write. It only took a few minutes for me to adapt to reading a book in this format, and I quickly learned that a smoking page turner is every bit as compelling on an eReader as it is in book form. Having fewer words on the page may challenge some — at times it feels like reading a book printed on post-it notes, tearing a page off every minute or less — but pushing the “next page” button wasn’t a big deal, and there wasn’t any electronic lag to speak of between pages.
One of the things I’ve always wondered about is knowing how much farther I had to go. In a book, I like feeling the width of pages on the right decline as the end looms closer. On the Nook, there is a little meter at the bottom that slowly moves from left to right, and the page count also increases; page 122 of 415, for example. I enjoyed tracking progress like that. Sometimes I’ll dog ear a page in a book if there is a line or quote I want to refer back to; the Nook allowed me to do that via setting a bookmark. Cool.
I was also unable to cheat and look ahead to the back of the book. I mean, I probably could have, but I would have had to figure out how. I didn’t try. I’ve also wondered what holding an eReader instead of a book would be like. In my case, Mom also bought me a leather case/cover for my Nook, so I was holding it open just like I would a regular book. If there was a difference, I didn’t notice. In fact, it always remained flat when I opened it on the surface of my desk or the kitchen table, which was nice. Hell, the only thing that kept me from knocking Savages out in one sitting was that I had other stuff to do; I still finished it in a day. The upside is I was able to read it while it’s only available in hardback for about half the price. Now, if I decide I want a physical copy, I can pull the trigger anyway or wait for the trade without feeling like I’m behind the curve of everyone else loving this story.
Reading The Nation has been fine too, as that is a “reading” magazine. Other magazines that I appreciate for photography may not be as good, because the reading pane is not in color. Now I like me some black and white photography, but you know what I mean. I downloaded the user manual from the Barnes & Noble website and learned how to do other things, like transfer my PDF of Crimefactory #4 onto the Nook for reading. It was easy, and looks great. In fact, I probably prefer reading it on the Nook to reading it on my computer (I can’t imagine reading Savages on my computer either, for that matter; I just don’t dig reading on the computer beyond blogs and things like that). I also learned how to personalize the Nook; things like using my own images for wallpaper and screensaver. Yeah it turns color images black and white, but I still enjoy seeing what random images comes up based on the ones I transferred onto the thing. It’s fun, and I’m a fan of fun.
There are other features on it too that I haven’t dug into; a couple games (chess and sudoku), some thing called “The Daily,” stuff like that. I can even listen to audio books on it, which is cool. Haven’t done that either, but I might, who knows.
As far as a new way to read books, I think the Nook is great. I’ve had fun with it, and I’m more happy now that my mom got it for me than I was when she first handed it to me.
Of Course it Ain’t All Awesome
There are a few things I don’t like about it, though. For example:
- I still can’t get used to the reading pane not being touchscreen. That’s on me, but I keep stabbing it with my finger trying to make something happen, or select something.
- The instructions say that when using the touchscreen panel, one should only use fingers; no stylus, nothing. I wish it had a stylus, because my fingers are too goddamn fat, not to mention my limited dexterity (probably about a 7), and I struggle navigating. Especially when searching titles in the store, it takes forever because I keep hitting the wrong button, or more than one at a time, things like that. I’m not a fan of this at all.
- One of the things people don’t like about the iPad is that it is backlit, and they feel that staring at the screen will be too much like staring at a computer monitor. Well, the Nook isn’t lit at all. If one is reading in the dark, one needs a lamp. I understand the backlight argument, but it would be nice to have a light option built in. Mom has a clip-on reading light she likes, but I’d rather have the device be self-contained. Of course that would drain battery, so who knows.
- I’m concerned about its durability, especially after reading THIS POST my friend Naomi Johnson wrote about her own bad experience with a Nook. I drop stuff, and I fear this thing will face gravity and go down before it. I don’t know that I will read in bed with it much, because the sound of a book whap!ping to the floor as I doze off with it in my hand has brought me lurching back to wakefulness more than once.
- I hope B&N isn’t being left behind when it comes to what is available for the Nook. For example, three items came up this past week that I looked to see if they were in the B&N eStore: John Scalzi’s The God Engines, the short Bye Bye Baby by Alan Guthrie, and A Policeman’s Lot by Gary M. Dobbs (who also has a great post about eBooks right HERE). Amazon seems to be doing a better job of making it easy to publish books for its Kindle reader. I’ve never messed with a Kindle at all, so I don’t know what it’s like . . . I just know people like them. There really aren’t that many magazines available yet either. I was made more nervous yesterday when it was announced that Barnes & Noble is up for sale, but it seems some see that as a good thing, that they are embracing the whole eThing. Who knows. It still makes me a little nervous.
- Finally, I’d happily buy and read monthly comics electronically, then buy the physical copy trade collections. Nook ain’t something I’m going to read comics on. Too small, too black & white. For that, I’d need an iPad. Magazines would be great on an iPad too. That gadget can do a lot of other cool things as well . . . but it also costs 4x as much. Down the road maybe I’d get one, but do I really need both? Hard to say. It would be nice if the Nook could play in that space, but it’s not going to happen. At least not in a way I would want to see it.
All in all, I like my Nook. I’ll buy and read more eBooks with it. I have such a backlog of printed books on hand that it will be a long time before it threatens the dominance of print in my house, and probably never will, but it’s a nice addition to my arsenal of options. I still prefer regular books, just like I prefer vinyl records to MP3s. As long as compensation for writers and all that entails can be worked out favorably, there’s room in my heart for both.