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.

It’s not a Competition

In many years I have opted out of joining reading goals.  I had erroneously believed them to be competitions, where people read anything and everything they can get their hands on and not care what it is, as long as they can tick off as “done” for a number. If that were true, I likely wouldn’t join. I am not often into zeitgeist, or with mindlessly joining trends for attention.

But at the end of many years, I realized that it would have been nice to have a written record of my reading life for the year, to reflect on it.

The irony of this particular year, is that I am now starting book #7. Last year I wasn’t on book #7 until July or August.  The first week I had a power outage and read because there was nothing else to do, and I had a few really good books that I just couldn’t put down.

This has inspired me to try to read more books. I see it as an interesting challenge, not a race, not a competition, but something I will do to improve my own reading life.

My favorite read this past week was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  I had previously read another book by that author, so was skeptical after I purchased it. (I had an e-mail alert that it was $1.99 for a limited time, a few months ago).  However I found myself magnetically glued to my Kindle the entire 5 days or so it took me to read. It was about the plight of two sisters in France during WWII and was heartbreaking and thrilling to read.

I also really enjoyed a light, fluffy read called “Twelve Days of Christmas” by Debbie Macomber.  It was about a woman who is hoping to get a social media job, and the criteria being, can she make a blog that generates the most hits? She is a sunny extrovert with a positive attitude who lives across the hall from a man who is the opposite. Her good friend encourages her to “experiment” on this man by being kind to him no matter what, and to blog about it and see what happens.  I like easy to read romances, and this fit the bill after the heavy emotional read of The Nightingale.

 

I will continue to post more about my reading this year. I don’t think I have any readers. but it will be fun to look back on this year to reflect on my reading choices and what I thought. It is making time fly a little faster.