Monday, March 21, 2011

e-books (or are they now ebooks?)

With my new "Bob's Big Boy" library card hot in hand, and my new pin # ready to give me access to that great big wonderful world of public library e-books, I ventured over the digital divide into the great unknown vastness of the unexplored e-book world. 

So far, I am, of course, Bemused.

I quickly discovered several things:

A)  Why I quit going to the public library and went on Amazon instead:  It's because Amazon actually has what I want, when I want it (well, with only a few days wait for delivery).  The public library has what they have, which is not all that much to start with, and the books I really want are wanted by everyone else too, and so are already checked out and on a waiting list.  Get in line and take a number.

B)  What I didn't count on is that e-books get "checked out" just like paper ones.  Weird.  It's just a file on a server somewhere.  That file is still on the server.  Why can't I read it whenever I want to?  Oh, yeah, it's that copyright thing.  The library only owns the right to one copy, so only one person at a time is allowed to read it.  So, all the books I really want have waiting lists.

C) That I tend to write in lists.  I'm never going to become a novelist writing in lists.  Computer programmer, maybe, but novelist, not so much.

D) That reading a novel on my i-phone (or is that iphone) is not nearly as pleasant as reading a real book.  Among other things, it's a lot like trying to read a novel written by a kindergartner on that paper with the big wide lines:  You get about ten words on a page, and have to keep turning pages constantly.

OK, forget the list format.  Let's talk (or write).

The really funny thing is that after going through the few novels the public library site had available, looking for one that was not checked out that I actually want to read, the one I ended up with is "Innocent" by Scott Turow, from his (wait for it) . . .   "Kindle County" series.  e-book. Kindle County. Get it?  That just can't be coincidence, can it?  Was the Amazon Kindle named after his novels?  Did he promise to publish his books digitally if Amazon named their Kindle after his series?  Did he publish his books on the competing e-pub format for revenge because they stole his word?  A brief googling of that subject did not turn up the answer.

Getting back to the main subject, the other irritating thing about reading a book in digital format, which became particularly evident with this particular novel, is trying to flip back and forth to check something earlier in the book.  The first chapter starts off with a date, which is not very memorable.  When each future chapter starts with other dates, I need to check back on the date on the previous chapters to understand the sequence of events.  Paging back and forth, one page at a time, is painful. 

On the other hand, it is certainly handy to have a novel in my pocket any time I have my cell phone on me and a little time to kill (was that a Grisham novel?  No, not quite).

And as for this new e-dict (oops edict) by some style manual, that e-mail is now spelled email, I'm not so sure that's a good ide-a.  More likely it should be "e mail" (two words).  Or at least e'mail, like a contraction.  Is the old slow paper alternative to email now spelled "smail"?

I have long noticed that reading anything on a computer screen longer than what fits on one page is not pleasant.  In fact, I notice that any e-mail longer than one page just doesn't get read.  I start it, then set it aside to finish later, and never do.  I think it has something to do with TV induced attention deficit disorder.  Except, it's not nearly as true of things printed on paper.  There's something about a digital screen that makes it hard to turn the page.  To read a longer e-mail, I print it out, then I can read it - just not on the screen.

Maybe if I had an actual Kindle instead of an i-phone, reading an e-book might be more pleasant, but I'm thinking that so far, I still prefer hard copy books.  Maybe books aren't yet obsolete after all.

And by the way, those notes at the bottom of e-mails saying to consider the environment before printing the message:  I don't buy the theory that printing it out is more harmful to the environment than the energy wasted running your computer when you could have turned it off and read it on paper instead.  And paper is actually a "sequestered" form of carbon.  Trees take carbon out of the atmosphere to make cellulose.  The tree gets turned into paper, and the paper gets stored (on my desk) for decades.  To save the earth, print out this blog and turn off your computer.  Oops, too late, you already read it on screen.


  1. I almost didn't finish reading this post because I had to scroll down a page to read the rest and I could barely muster the e-nergy to scroll instead of click the back button...

  2. ebooks get checked out? Really? Who would have known...

    And I have found that reading books on my kindle is much easier than on my phone. so...THANKS!

  3. Loved this -- but it was a bit difficult to read something this long on the computer!--Inger