Friday, September 02, 2011

E-books

I was going to post my review of A Dance with Dragons, but it seems to me that it's not that interesting. As I say in the review, "If you've read the first four, there's very little I could say to affect your decision to continue with this one, and if you haven't, you should start with the first and see how you like it." If you're still interested, you can go to Goodreads to see my review.

Instead, I'm more interested in writing about how I read the book. Despite not owning a Kindle, I bought the Kindle version of the book from Amazon. Why? Well, I could read it on my computer, Christina's iPad, or my phone.

How did it work out? Surprisingly well. First of all, I didn't have to lug around, or keep track of, a hardback book. If one of those pieces of electronics is available (pretty much any time I'm not at work), I can read the book. Even though I know the software behind the synchronization is trivial, I still ended up feeling impressed when it would remember my place even when I switched devices. I would read on the iPad before bed, the PC when I was up late, and the phone whenever I found a few spare moments when I was out and about.

I decided not to read when I only had a minute or two -- say, in a checkout line. I didn't think the book would be well served by that kind of choppiness. But if I had enough time where I expected that I could get through a chapter -- say, walking to lunch, I eagerly dug in, especially when the plot started moving fast enough for me to be eager to find out what happened next.

I've seen various complaints about what the decline in printed books could mean. But after considering most of them, I'm OK with it. I don't have an attraction to the paper and ink -- if anything, an e-book feels like a purer connection with the author's words -- the things I read a book to experience. I don't mind not having a book to put on a shelf when I'm done. I have too many things around my house, and I've taken to selling used books for whatever pittance a secondhand bookstore will take. And since I tend to treat books as one-time experiences -- like a movie -- I am also not concerned about proprietary formats for e-books. As long as the format is supported by wherever I want to read it in the next month or so, I'm OK.

Actually, to solve the clutter problem, I had been reading a lot of books from the library. That also cut down on expenses. With kids, however, I don't always have time to read a book before it's due, and I don't always want to make time to return it when it is due. E-books are more expensive (than free), but I think the convenience makes it worth the expense. That's particularly true since I don't have as much time to read as I used to. I had been looking forward to A Dance with Dragons for years, but it still took me a month and a half to read. My expenses aren't going to go up that much -- as long as I only by e-books I am certain to want to finish. For new authors I'm giving a try-out to, I'll probably stick with the library.

I think what really sold me on the idea of e-books is traveling. In the past, I had to decide how many books to stuff in my suitcase at the expense of clothing and other items. I think I've had about an equal number of trips where I lug around a couple of books I never open and ones where I run through all of the ones I brought and wish I brought more.

With e-books, space is not an issue, so not matter how much I end up reading, I have saved space in my carry-on -- and these days, I try particularly hard to stick to the carry-on to save time in the airport. (Unless I'm traveling with the family, in which case any space I can save for twin-wrangling gear is good.) If I have a long international trip, I can either load up on more e-books than I could need, or just enough to get me through the first flight, and then download more as needed at my destination. On the recent flight back from California (while Jack was sleeping), I discovered another advantage. Since I was reading on my phone, I could switch back and forth between the book and games with quite a bit of ease. (One disadvantage: not being able to read the book during takeoff and landing.)

So I've gone ahead and bought Blackout (the first half of the most recent Nebula novel winner) as an e-book. It's not as good as A Dance with Dragons, but I know I'll finish it as part of my Nebula project. I see a lot of e-books in my future.
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