If you do a little Googling or blog trawling, you’ll likely find people lamenting how e-books do not have the look, feel, and even smell of traditional paper books, suggesting that this somehow diminishes the reading experience for them. You will, of course, also find e-book fanatics who don’t understand this apparent, to them, Luddite-like reaction. While I can empathize with the paper-lovers to some extent (not the smell part, though), I recently found myself with a sort of reverse reaction.
I have been reading books primarily via my Kindle for over a year and a half now. Recently I decided to reread my trade paperback copy of Charles Stross’s The Atrocity Archives (a fun mish-mash of horror, espionage, and techno-geek). While reading it, I noticed some things were lacking in my reading experience:
- A couple times I came across words which I was not sure about (meaning or usage). I wanted to look them up, but it would have been too much of an effort, as I would have had to get out of bed, go to another room, and either grab my dead-tree dictionary or go on line. With my Kindle, on the other hand, a few tweaks of the 5-way controller, and I would have had my definitions in seconds.
- In a similar vein, there were some references to people and organizations in the story which piqued my interest, wanting to know how much Stross was or was not taking liberty with history, or simply wanting to know more about the subjects in order to better understand the references. Once again, with my Kindle it would have taken only few toggles and clicks along with a wee bit of typing to be reading up on the subjects on Wikipedia.
- Whenever it was time to put the book down (e.g. to go to sleep), I had to fold down a corner of the page to keep my place (no dust jacket to use as a bookmark, and I’ve never gotten into the habit of using real bookmarks). With my Kindle, I can just set it aside and let it go to sleep — or put it to sleep immediately — and know that it will “remember” where I was and take me back there immediately when I’m next ready to read.
- Lastly, for my less than perfect eyes, I missed the ability to increase both font size and line-spacing. My vision is not so bad that I cannot enjoy reading my “dead tree” books, but it is a bit of a strain that I don’t feel while reading on my Kindle.
- Oh, and where’s that reassuring “click” when I go to the next page. <grin>
I am not trying to start an e-book versus paper book “flame war” here. But I do think that those who denigrate e-books as being deficient when compared to the paper experience should consider that it might be a two-way street. Each format has its strengths and weaknesses. How you prioritize those may well differ from how I do, but if you have not tried reading on a Kindle, I really don’t care that you think it will not be as good of an experience if you cannot smell the ink and paper.