On E-Book Readers

01 Feb

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!


Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Reading, Why bother



5 responses to “On E-Book Readers

  1. AnnabelleB

    February 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve not got a Kindle, but I can’t imagine ever NOT wanting to read a real book and being fully absorbed in a screen….probably for reasons of context as you say, Liz.

    Besides, I bet it takes more than a hairdryer to solve the problem if you drop your Kindle in the bath : )


  2. libroediting

    February 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I wouldn’t read it in the bath, but it’s very comfy to read in bed, as the pages don’t flop down and it’s light to hold. I haven’t read any fiction on it yet, so I’ll see how that goes…


  3. Geoff Elliott-Howell

    February 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    You’ve made some good points about the Kindle there. I’ve had mine since September and I’ve tried reading both Fiction and Non-Fiction.

    I have found that I get as involved and absorbed by the fiction as I always have, even to the point that as I near the end of a page, my finger is automatically trying to turn the Kindle over for the next one!

    Non-Fiction is a different matter. I think it depends how it has been converted to go on the Kindle. The reason I say this is that some (paper) books show photos in amoungst the text, while some bunch them together in the centre of the book. When you read the paper version, it is easy to flick to the middle or back to see the picture the text refers to, with the Kindle, it may be (as was the case with Alan Sugar’s book) that all the pictures are at the end, meaning that you have to exit the book and search to the back. Other books, eg the Fry Chronicles, have the photos interspersed with the text. I have to say that I prefer the latter, but that may be because I find Stephen Fry a hell of a lot more intersting than Alan Sugar!

    Good luck with the Kindling!


    • libroediting

      February 2, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Geoff. The one book I read had pictures throughout the text (the other had none). I’ll be interested to see how I get on with fiction…


  4. Bridget Morris

    February 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    I like the open minded comments on this blog. I have bought a Kindle for personal and not professional reasons and somewhat reluctantly. I have recently developed eye problems which have made reading books with small print and poor contrast impossible. Now I have turned into an evangelical Kindle recommender for all the reasons previously mentioned and for its versatility for people who need larger print and better contrast. Reading large print books is unwieldy and also the publishers seem to have a limited view of the tastes of their readers so choice is poor. With Kindle, as Liz points out, the user can download a library which conforms exactly to their own interests.

    I do, however, wish people would stop saying to me ‘Wouldn’t you rather read a proper book?’ The answer is ‘Yes, sometimes’ but Kindle is growing on me and is much better than not reading at all.



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