When I received a Nook tablet for Christmas in 2011, I wondered if the end times were a-comin'. After all, my Luddite tendencies made me into a late- or non-adopter of new technology. Consider how I argued against my employer buying a fax machine back in 1988.
How useful could a fax machine have been?
Well, turns out it was pretty useful. Surprise!
So let's just say my track record with technology adoption hasn't been good. How in the world could binary and pixels replace paper, ink, boards, and glue?
Imagine my surprise when the Nook became my fiction format of choice. I love reading novels on my Nook. I also love playing sudoku, checking email, and surfing the internet a bit on my Nook. Watching movies on a plane...very cool. Enlarging the print size with a few touches of the screen...huge bonus for my aging eyes.
What I don't like about the Nook, however, is significant. It has a battery, and batteries run out, especially on six-hour airplane trips. No juice, no book, big problem. With practice, my battery management skills have improved, though.
Reading books with pictures, maps, or diagrams is deeply annoying on a Nook. When I read David McCullough's book about Paris, what a pain in the tookus it was trying to match pictures to text...and in a book with as many names and places as that one, pictures and maps help. A lot.
George even had a problem reading an Icelandic murder mystery recently. A map appeared at the end of the book, but he didn't know it was there until he finished reading. "This really would have helped early on," he said. The map was oriented on the tablet page incorrectly so it was sideways. When he rotated the Nook to look at the map, the whole page changed orientation so that the map was sideways and chopped off.
Now, he could fix the orientation problem by disabling the setting that turns the screen, but what a pain. A real book in his hands lends itself to thumbing. He might have found the map earlier if he'd read the table of contents (but does anyone do that?), and the map certainly wouldn't have moved around on the page in a print book.
Magazines are another problem. Some have tablet formatting options, but shrinking pages to see the whole, then enlarging to read the type gets annoying.
Finally, I've noticed an extraordinary number of typos in e-books. I try not to let them bother me, but it sure seems that the publishers...even very respected ones...are getting sloppy when it comes to proofreading e-books. This is particularly appalling in older books that were originally published before the digital age. I read one older novel recently where there was an error--quite literally--on almost every other page. Some were punctuation errors (periods after the next-to-last word in the sentence...really?), some were word-replacement errors (clearly they were using electronic edited...what a nightmare!), some were inconsistencies and misspellings in names of characters. I checked the paperback print version of the book, and the errors were not there.
My aunt has also noticed that some e-books have added scenes and material not in the print books. While this isn't a crime, it's sloppy. Publishers should note different editions of books and acknowledge when an e-book isn't the same as its older, print self.
Often, e-books are only slightly less expensive than print books, which makes the plethora of errors more annoying and reflects poorly on the publishers. Some older books are still 7.99 in electronic format, while the paperback version costs only 8.99. The McCullough book, which was a new release when I bought it, was almost 20.00 in electronic format, cheaper than the hard cover of course, but not exactly a deal. When you consider how little the electronic books cost publishers once they are formatted--and how little effort they seem to be putting into that formatting--the cost makes less sense.
Finally, as technology migrates, how will my electronic library hold up? Will I have to back up all my books to a thumb drive or nebulous cloud somewhere when the time comes to upgrade? Will I lose the whole library in a hideous accident? How will I read after the apocalypse when no one has electricity and everyone is taking a break from killing zombies?
These are things I worry about.
So my adoption of e-reading has been enthusiastically partial. I do love buying novels that I wouldn't normally reread (mysteries and popular fiction) on my Nook. This is particularly nice as I can buy fluffy novels or light nonfiction as soon as they are released and feel like I'm getting a deal, rather than wait for the paperback to come out. Books or magazines I read for intellectual stimulation, for interaction between pictures and text, or for repeated reading, I still very much prefer in print.
So imagine my pleasure when I read this article in the Wall Street Journal by Nicholas Carr. He cites the statistics on e-book sales, and draws the conclusion that while paperback reading (mostly light fiction) has migrated well to digital format, serious readers still prefer good ol' books.
For once, I'm right on trend.
How are you using your e-reader or tablet to read? Are you still holding out? Do you still buy print books?