Why E-Books? A Personal Experience.

A page from Anne of Green GablesIn spite of so much progress in technology, I have sometimes seen folks shudder when the issue of reading a novel/book, from any other format than print, is brought up. Some people seemingly dismiss all technology out of hand without understanding it, simply because it’s something new.

My children are mostly grown. We brought our children up to love reading and visited libraries almost weekly.

Up until about 6 or 7 years ago, reading had fallen off my radar as a hobby. I had other interests: music, knitting, spinning, but reading, not so much.  I occasionally borrowed books, but didn’t actively pursue reading.

I had heard about stand alone e-readers but still was not piqued. My previous experience with e-reading a few years before had been enjoying the unlimited access to online reading at Project Gutenberg. I had fun revisiting my favorite public domain books, Anne of Green Gables, (a page of that is in the photo above)  Pride and Prejudice, etc.

One day, my husband and I were riding transit, and we noticed an acquaintance holding and reading her new Kobo.  I had never seen one in person before, and I asked her if I could see it. She was reading a classic, Anna Karenina, I believe.  She showed me how the text looked on the page, and how to turn a page, look things up in the supplied dictionary with the touch of a word, and I was very intrigued. So intrigued that I immediately set about finding a budget to buy one.

Around the same time, I discovered Calibre, an e-book library manager. Calibre had a direct link to Project Gutenberg, and Mobileread’s public domain library. (The two aforementioned sites have thousands of public domain literature, formatted into e-book formats, for just about any e-reader imaginable). Well, I was like a kid in a candy store! I happily downloaded my old favorites, plus a few I had wanted to read before but had never bought them. I think the first book I read cover to cover via calibre was Ethan Frome, and the experience was so wonderful. I could hardly wait to get an e-reader.

Fast forward to today. I now have my favorite reader which is a Kindle Paperwhite, while borrowing e-books and audio-books, via Overdrive, on my phone.

Here is what I like about it the most. First of all, the lightness of the device, and the smooth feel of the device. Adherents to printed books report enjoying the feel and smell of the paper, whereas I am the opposite. I’m quite fussy about how a book is put together, to the degree where I’ve often returned books to the library where I disliked the binding, font or other things. However, the smooth feel of the Kindle was comforting.

I also enjoy being able to have a choice of dozens, to hundreds of books in my purse! All the while satisfying my minimalist aspirations of reducing clutter. And yes, call me a heretic, but I do consider hundreds of unread books just sitting on the shelf collecting dust, with the responsibility left to me to maintain, to be clutter!

Then there is the reading interface. I get control over the font and margins, and can configure any book to read precisely the way I like it! I’ve discovered that my reading preferences are a large font, big margins, exposing only a digestible amount of text at a time per screen.  Something like this:

A sample of my favorite font and margin settings on my Kindle

This has increased my comprehension of reading a hundredfold. It has enabled me to read far more than I would have, were printed books to be my sole source!

I’m over 50, and my eyes are aging a little bit, I like the gentleness of the screen (e-ink does not tire my eyes out like my phone, tablet or computer screen tends to if looking for long periods), and being able to read without the aid of my reading glasses. I can read at night with my Kindle propped up at my bedside table, and just tap to the next page until I fall asleep. Then the Kindle falls asleep after a short amount of idle time.

I also am not fond of extroverted forms of shopping. So it is with gratitude that I am able to enjoy borrowing from the library, or buying books, from the comfort of my own chair in my house.

In conclusion, e-readers and the accompanying technology have converted me from someone who was rather neutral about reading, to someone who now looks forward to reading, buys more books firsthand (supporting authors) and who is never without a book. We never know when an available segment of time will present itself.

Not Really New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve started my year of dedicated reading.  I’ve been enjoying Watership Down by the late Richard Adams. This book had, until now, always eluded my TBR (“To Be Read”) list in spite of it’s standing of a well-loved classic. When the author passed away on Christmas Eve I decided to make that first on my list for 2017.

I’d never really been attracted to novels featuring talking animals. I suppose years of having A.A. Milne read to me as a child, whether or not I liked it, kind of turned me off.  As I’ve grown older I’ve been more variable in my tastes.

At Christmas I had decided to have reading goals for 2017. I had never been attracted to “read as many as you can” type of goals. It seems to me to be more of a stunt than a vehicle for genuinely enjoying literature.

So, for this goal I decided to read a vaguely unspecified number of books (For the benefit of Goodreads I said “12”) but  my goal is mostly to improve my reading habits. My previous “bad habit” was that I would start a book, and whether or not I lost interest, I’d get instantly attracted to starting a new one only a few chapters in. Thus, leading me to have a year of only partially read books.  What’s the fun in that?  I also am not someone who can focus very easily on more than one book at a time.  So this for me, is an adventure in my recreational life.

I will abandon a book, unfinished if I am not enjoying it, though.  That will be my only reason to stop.

So, I have been taking my time since January first, and am 25% of the way through Watership Down. I bought the Kindle version for $5. Which brings me to my next subject in this journal entry, one of the reasons I have chosen e-books over printed books (for the most part), the acquisition of less “stuff”. A journey towards minimalism.

This is also a year of “culling”. Again. Not really a “resolution”, but something I’ve been half-heartedly working on for a while.  Today, I managed to recycle and donate a few bags of things and it is a good feeling.  I have been leaning towards minimalism for a long time. I’ve never felt at home around a giant pile of clutter where I never really “know where it goes”, and as my children have gotten older I’ve gradually been encouraging them, too.

I came across a post in Becoming Minimalist which addresses some of the myths surrounding Minimalism. I agree with the issues raised in that post.  I have no intention of depriving our family of the things that we clearly enjoy, have actual sentimental value for, and or actually use.  But looking around I’ve seen so many items whereby just looking at them makes me exhausted. And yes, I am lazy.  Or am I? I get a lot of energy when taking care of things that mean a lot to me, my knitting, my keyboard, my guitar, but anything extra and I just want to throw it across the room.

My children have actually gone a step ahead of me in the summer. As one of my daughters was getting ready for college and embarking on a new phase of her life, it gave her a chance to reflect on which things she wanted to take with her, keep here at home, and just either pass on to someone else, or throw it out.  She set a very good example and was inspiring to me.   I am looking forward to taking more and more action in having fewer unnecessary things. so I can focus on the possessions that mean more to me.

Happy New Year!