I’m intrigued by eBooks and I’m sure I’ll have a reader soon. The debate has clearly started about what the new format for words will do to the culture of the book and I find it all fascinating. Although I don’t, yet, have one of the new generation of readers I have often read from my Palm Pilot and find it very satisfying. I got out of the habit when I got a different Palm and found that having the screen on for prolonged periods drained the battery far quicker than the old one (!).
The great thing for me was that I found I was reading more, grabbing moments of reading when I wouldn’t have read before. Some of this was due to capitalising on unplanned for moments of waiting, a short journey on the tube becoming a delayed long one or a cancelled meeting. Suddenly I had a source for reading that I wouldn’t have before.
I also found some differences in the way I read that I enjoyed. On the Palm it is a scrolling navigation, either line-by-line or by screen-fulls. The text is no longer punctuated by page turns. I found I was continuing to read longer than I might have normally without this measure of how much progress I was making through a physical book.
A similar discovery, and one that I imagine may not apply to new ebook readers, was that there was no indication of how far I was through the book. Unlike a conventional book where the thickness of pages on the right are an obvious and unavoidable indication that the end of the book is approaching fast, the digital version did not. There were a number of occasions when I was shocked to turn the last page and find it was the end. That was great. A whole new reading experience and made me realise that writing a book that went to ebook had a new potential that was more subtle than just the obvious non-linear, hyperlinks and annotated ones. The first book I read on the Palm was Moby Dick (on the theory that if I can read that on the Palm I can read anything) and the experience was made more enjoyable by this factor, no question. When I did an update on the ebook reader and a discovered a little graphic that measured progresss through the book I turned it off immediately.
I don’t need bookshelves full of books. There are paper-and-spine books that I would never be separated from and will want with me as long as I live. But there are many other books that I am happy to read and have hanging around virtually rather physically.
When I do get an ebook reader it will be for work as much as recreation. I download lots of research material and a reader would be a much better reading medium than the computer screen. So I need one that can easily accept notes and those ones are just a bit too expensive at the moment.
I look forward to carrying a few thousands books, PDFs and essays around in my pocket.