Since I put a review of a book I read on my new Kindle up on my book reviews blog, a few people have asked me what I think of e-book readers; whether they herald The End Of The Book, how I’m finding mine, etc. I did mull over whether to write about it on here or the reviews blog, but a couple of the points I want to make are pertinent to my craft and the way I work, so I thought it fitted here.
I’ve settled down to using the Kindle in a particular way, for a particular kind of book. Firstly, I’ve downloaded a number of books from free e-book sites such as manybooks, which offers Project Gutenberg and other texts in a format suitable for the Kindle. They are all free, all legally so, and, as I have a particular fondness for 19th century travel narratives, these are, on the main, what I’ve downloaded. These are books I hardly ever find in bookshops. If I do, they are often very expensive. So this is a new book to have, not a replacement for one I’d buy in print. And I’m fairly sure that I’ll still buy copies in print, if I find them. Secondly, in this category still, though, are e-only books, and those published recently but with Creative Commons licenses to allow them to be downloaded in this way. Just a couple of these at the moment, but I know that LibraryThing Early Reviewers give away e-only books, because I read one before I had the Kindle. Thirdly, I’m picking up free or cheap copies of classics. Classics I already own – but this is for that situation when I’m on holiday, and run out of books. It’s happened twice in the last couple of years, necessitating the purchase of very expensive British magazines or the borrowing of terrible books from the hotel library. So having complete sets of Hardy and Austen on there is very reassuring!
So that’s how I’m using it. No replacement of paper books, no loss of sales. Quite a few people I know are using their e-book readers to access books they just wouldn’t find in print – do I just know people who like obscure texts, or is that common?
A couple of other thoughts …
– It’s very comfortable to use, light and easy to hold (now I have it in a book-shaped leather case!)
– I could just use the Kindle app on the PC, but at the end of a hard day’s proof-reading, I just don’t want to gaze at a PC monitor!
– I think it makes the proper and full proof-reading and copy-editing of books and texts even more important. I’m going to return to the topic, “why bother proof-reading” in another post. But for now – the amount of text you see on the screen is smaller than that on a standard book page. So you don’t see as much context. Context is often how we make sense of what we’re reading, and how we establish what the author meant if there is any doubt. If there’s an error in spelling, grammar or punctuation, I think it’s easier for it to derail the reader, the smaller the amount of text they can use as context.
So – the Kindle. A good thing, in my case. It isn’t stopping me buying print books. It’s convenient, easy and gives me a few things to think about along the way!