Kindle Eyes

Book CoverFrom the 14 October Publisher’s Lunch:

The biggest growth at this year’s show comes, not surprisingly, in the Digital Market Place in Hall 4.2, which has grown by a third. Boos claims that at the Fair, “about 42 percent of exhibited products are books, while 30 percent are digital.”

This quote, from Frankfurt Book Fair director Juergen Boos, kicked to the front of my brain a thought I’ve been pondering for a few days now, since I put down the Kindle and picked up a paperback. It doesn’t surprise me that the Digital Market Place has increased by a third, because, and this was a surprise, there are a few elements to ebook reading that are a step above paperback reading for me.

I carry the Kindle everywhere. I love how it fits in my bag, I love that it’s lightweight, I love that I have eleventy-twelve-billion books on there, and that with two seconds and a location that’s not underground, I can get more. I love that wireless connection, and the feeling that I’ll never be caught without reading material again. This makes me sound like a melodramatic nutball, but it’s true. The absence of reading material makes me twitchy at the least and full on psychotic at the most.

But I’ve noticed, particularly when I grabbed a paperback and tossed it in the car one afternoon this week when I realized I’d been a slacker about letting the Kindle charge every now and again (BAD SARAH BAD) that the way in which I read paper is noticeably different from the way I read the Kindle.


When I read a digital screen, be it a monitor, a laptop screen, or the Kindle, I read very, very quickly. While the Kindle is very different from the eyestraining LCD screens, I still read the digital words much faster than words on paper. Of the three, the Kindle is far and away the easiest on my eyes – and I’m crosseyed so focusing my eyes is all kind of wonky.

But when reading a paper book, I have to go much more slowly – and I was thinking that the reason I have to slow down and focus much more intently, sometimes even using my finger or a bookmark to mark my place and move it along the page, is because of the weaker contrast between the cream/beige paper in a mass market paperback and the black ink on that page. The Kindle has a much greater constast, which I believe is also adjustable, as is the text size, and for that reason it is far and away easier on my eyes to read, as the words themselves are in focus and larger and clearer.

That increased contrast makes a huge difference to me. When reading the Kindle, even at a reduced text size, I don’t make the mistake of jumping down a line in the middle of a sentence and coming up with descriptions that make no sense. (He placed her shoulders on the table!? What?!) I do that all the time with paperbacks. While I do sometimes think I’m reading too fast on the Kindle at times – usually at times when the text at hand has failed to grab me and I’m scanning and not reading – I am able to read without raising my eyes from the device for much longer periods of time vs. a mass market paperback, where I have to focus on something far away from my lenses every now and again.

So it’s not just the moar-moar-moar that makes me an eager Kindle-ade drinker. It’s the increased comfort and facility with which I can read books, and really, I didn’t expect the ebook reader revolution to change the way and the comfort of my reading as much as it did. And while, no, I won’t give up paper books because not every book that I want is available on the Kindle, I do eagerly look for solutions that allow me to convert and send books to the Kindle, especially from file types that aren’t Mac-friendly (which is why Stanza is rocking my tights. Thanks Teddy Pig!).

I know many, many people have yet to take the ebook plunge, and I didn’t think I’d be such a squeeing fangirl so quickly. But when it comes to the physical limitations of my vision coming up against my desire to keep reading as long as possible, my eyes have it bad for the Kindle.


Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Karen Ranney says:

    I’m 1000% in agreement. 

    I was startled to find how fast I’m reading on a Kindle.  One of the joys of the Kindle, to me, is that after a whole day of computer work, I can adjust the text size, and that really helps my wonky eyes. 

    Plus, what I really like is being able to buy a new hardcover for $9.99. 

    Put me down as a Kindle-aid drinker.

  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    I am with you on the day of computer work – reading the Kindle on the way home on the bus is truly relaxing, especially at large text size.

    Obviously, the ease of digital screen reading isn’t exclusive to the Kindle. I suspect I’d have happy fast-reading eyes if I was on a Sony eReader. But I find it fascinating that I’ve heard more concerns about eyestrain with ebook reading, and yet I find it entirely comfortable and in most instances easier than reading mass market paperback paper & ink.

  3. 3
    Iasmin says:

    I think, to be baldly honest, I’d be afraid of owning a Kindle or any other electronically aided reading machine. I read scary fast as it is on paper. More so electronically. If I read a paperback to relax and slow my brain down, what will happen if I move to an electronic format and speed things up? Will I have destroyed that sense of relaxation and peace that I’m aiming for when I’ve got that lovely little paperback in my hands?

    Two other things concern me as well: my propensity for reading while soaking in the bathtub and the smell of a new book. My concern over the first is self-evident. Simply put, electronics and water do not mix. To be certain, there are ways around this, but in a bathtub installed in the 1940s, are any of those ways really comfortable or practical? I don’t know. The second reason may not be that evident. To me there is a visceral pleasure in the smell of paper and ink that has, since my childhood romps through used bookstores with my father, provided me with many hours of sheer happiness. Am I willing to give that up? Call me a closet luddite despite all my technology-ridden rooms, but perhaps right now I am not.

  4. 4
    Sandia says:

    On reading an ebook device in the tub/in the pool:

    Ziploc bag :)

    I find that I don’t have a problem worry about droppage if I just stick my Kindle in a baggie.

  5. 5
    MoJo says:

    I’m having a problem going back to print, too.  I don’t have an eInk device (and my foray to Target to look at the Sony made me firmly anti-eInk), but the LED doesn’t bother me at all and I love the backlight.

    I wish I’d had that when I was a kid hiding out under my covers in the wee hours of the morning with a flashlight.  It gets cold in the room, I dive under cover with my eBookWise (I’m such a whore for them).

  6. 6
    Wendy says:

    I’m afraid of how quickly I might become an e-book-o-phile.  I’m one of those people who hasn’t purchased a cd…since…well. 2005 maybe?  So much reduction in stuff.  Cds have come into my possession, but I have not purposely picked up non-digitial music in a ridiculously long time.

    I love the instant gratification and the complete lack of clutter allowed by this format.

    This being said, I kind of like book-clutter.  My apartment has four book shelves and four other pieces of furniture with shelf-space full of books.  Most often, when someone’s house doesn’t feel homey to me, it’s because they don’t have book-clutter. 

    I completely understand the eye-strain thing.  I think I would really enjoy the Kindle for that, but I think I would really be sad if this format gained the sort of ascendency that digital music has.
    I think it might be a good format for fiction.  (And it’d be great for those moments when you’re just not getting into a book, but you have nothing else….so there right now.) 

    What about non-fiction…resourcey sort of books? I think this could work if there was a device that allows for writing on the screen so you can margin note. …and then search? (This actually sounds great.  Is there such a device?)  This is the only way that I can really see the digital book reader being as ubiquitous as all our tiny listening devices. 
    I’m beginning to think I could argue both sides of this until my head spins.  Comment fail. 

    All I should have said is: I like books, but I can totally see the advantages of digital.  Do I want to read digitally?  Not yet.

  7. 7

    Agree 100%!
    Love reading on my Kindle. Not only is it easy on the eyes but it’s comfortable to hold. I HATED holding books open with my hands. If I wanted to read with one hand I had to do the old thumb and pinkie hold which just hurts! Now I can easily read with one hand or no hands at all if in the right position.

    As for paperback books, their smell, and the length of time it takes to read. I could care less when I get to do something I love with much more ease. It’s all about comfort for me.

    Reading in the tub with the Kindle? No problem. Throw a big Ziploc bag on and it’s good to go. I’ve never dropped it in the water put of course your hands get wet and the steam can cause things to get wet too. No problems there for me. I also took it to the beach w/ a ziploc. No sand issues and no water issues. Problem solved.

    Love my Kindle. And I usually don’t have an issue of not finding a book I want to read. If it’s something I’m not dying to read ASAP I don’t buy it, keep an eye on it to see if it becomes available in Kindle format.

  8. 8
    MoJo says:

    What about non-fiction…resourcey sort of books?

    I wouldn’t use an ebook reader for reference books.  Textbooks (if I were still in school), yes.  Reference, no.

  9. 9
    MoJo says:

    Oh, and if I liked a book enough digitally, I’d buy it in print (preferably hardback).

  10. 10
    Sarah Frantz says:

    SB Sarah, what about difference between iPhone and Kindle?  I’m still trying to decide what I want to ask for for Christmas and I really really really want an iPhone, but don’t know if it’ll work well for e-book reading, which is the whole point.

  11. 11
    Jenre says:

    I have a cybook and it’s the best money investment I’ve made in ages.  I use it everyday, I take it everywhere.  I love the e-ink screen which is much better on the eyes than computer screens.

    One great thing that has come from having a device such as this is that I can buy books which aren’t available in the UK cheaply and easily.  The most annoying thing is when books aren’t available in ebook format or available in the UK to buy in print.

  12. 12
    mearias says:

    I have the Sony PRS and I love it.  I have arthritis and I find that it’s sooo much easier to hold the ereader than a paperback and especially a hardcover.  I’m able to carry the ereader in my bag without hurting my neck; the fact that I can finish one book and start the next without having to carry 2 books, LOVE.  I was seriously killing my neck carrying the stuff I wanted to read and having them available whenever.  This way I can start/stop books as I’m in the mood for them, and not stuck reading a book I’m just not into at the moment.

  13. 13
    rebyj says:

    I’ve been begging for a kindle FOREVER.
    I’m green eyed jealous of everyone who has one already lol.

    I am however getting a 8gb mp3 player to play audio books in the next few days. YAY!!

    Which brings me to my question…. I’ve been very confused on what I’ve read about using the Kindle for audio books. Some say yes you can , others no you cannot. So can anyone clear that up for me?

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    SB Sarah, what about difference between iPhone and Kindle?

    The difference is in the screen style. The iPhone is a bright screen, and while BookShelf does allow you to change the font size and the font itself, it’s still a lot of light hitting your eyes vs. the Kindle. I have no problem with either, but prefer the Kindle simply because much of the time, the bus is dark (either it’s dark inside and I’m using a reading light or I’m in the Lincoln Tunnel) and the comfort of the visual is better.

    But if you’re only going for one, you’ll probably get more all-around usage out of the iPhone, simply because the connection is faster than the Kindle (You can get gmail on the kindle but it is poky and the keyboard has a delayed response time that is really laughably bad) and you can put ebooks on it with minimal fuss.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    Erica says:

    I absolutely love my kindle.  In fact I love it more than my iPhone.  My reading has increased exponentially and with the ability to convert my PDF’s for school I have saved a ton of trees from not printing them out.  I use MobiPocket eBook Creator to convert pdf’s and Stanza to convert my old MS Reader books and Word documents for school and work.

  17. 17
    ev says:

    I am holding out for the new Sony eReader with the built in booklight. I was going to buy hubby the light for our anniversary but they announced the new one is coming out in Nov so he is going to trade his in and I am going to get the new one.

    One of the reasons I am going for the Sony is because I can get and employee discount on the books through Penquin. And I like that I am not locked into just one place (like amazon) to buy my books from.

    green14. not for much longer!!

  18. 18
    AmandaG says:

    I am thinking about asking for an ereader for Christmas.  I’m not sure which would be best for me.  I am also one who usually gets my books at the library.  Thanks for sharing though, it reminds me I need to look in to these some more.

  19. 19
    GrowlyCub says:

    I’ve been reading e-books on my laptop for about a year and a half now. 

    I find your experiences really intriguing, because I do a lot more fast reading/skipping on screen than in paper books to the point where I’ve suspected that I’m losing out on the emotional intensity of the story and have cut down on reading new books on-screen.

    This might be different if I had a Kindle or other dedicated e-reading device, I don’t know.  The main reason I’ve held back is price.  I don’t want to spend 400 bucks on an e-reader, especially since my laptop goes with me when I travel and that would mean I not only have a laptop in my purse (I have a lovely Sony Vaio 10.7in that fits beautifully and weighs less than 3 pounds) but also another electronic device just for reading.

    So for me, there wouldn’t be any advantage to having this e-reader (for travel purposes). 

    I really need to find somebody to let me borrow a Kindle to see if I would have the same skipping tendencies while reading e-books on there as I do on my laptop.

  20. 20
    Silver James says:

    So…uhm…what about us technophobes? I don’t own an iPod. I can’t even figure out how to export my Delicious Library list to an email so I can print a hard copy to carry with me (mostly for for the 200+ DVDs my DH owns so we don’t repeat – much less my pile of books and his, and the kiddo’s).

    I just…somebody jump on me here and correct me, ‘kay? I’m the first to admit that I’m clueless. But I tend to read in short bursts – in lines, while waiting in the car, etc. It just seems to me that the opportunity is lost while waiting for the eDevice to boot up (or whatever it is they do).  With a book, I whip it out, open to the bookmark and start reading. When time’s up, I mark my spot, close the book and I move on.

    I’m all for easy on the eyes and easy to hold but I’m all about easy access, too. I’ve looked at the sites but they seem full of hype and don’t really answer my questions. How hard is it to find and download books? (DOWNLOAD being the operative word) How long does a book stay on the device? Where does it go once you finish reading? Is it really on the device or do you like…wifi thin air to connect to get the book? How do you bookmark?

    Some of these questions might be answered by the owners manual – provided it’s not on-line, too. But I’m not spending that kind of money only to go WTF!?! later.

    You *bees* are much smarter than me. Some enlightenment? (yeah, color me whining!)

  21. 21
    joykenn says:

    I listen to audiobooks and read ebooks on my PDA that I check out from my public library (Netlibrary and Mymediamall).  I like that I don’t HAVE to buy everything I read.  Frankly my budget can’t afford the amount of books I read! Especially hardcover books before they come out in paperback (like La Nora).  I then buy the paperbacks of the “keepers” when the come out (again La Nora). 

    I don’t think that either the Sony reader OR the Kindle will allow me to read protected files (audio or pdf) that I download from my library.  That’s really a shame and cuts down on their usefulness.  I really wish someone would come up with a way to do this.  I really CAN’T afford to buy everything—that’s why we have public libraries in the first place!

  22. 22
    babz says:

    So the wireless thing.. It doesn’t work in Asia, right?

    specific82 – specifically in Indonesia.

  23. 23
    SB Sarah says:

    It just seems to me that the opportunity is lost while waiting for the eDevice to boot up (or whatever it is they do).  With a book, I whip it out, open to the bookmark and start reading. When time’s up, I mark my spot, close the book and I move on.

    Waking the Kindle up from “sleep” mode takes about a second and involves pressing two buttons. It’s very easy – I read in bursts, too, and it works for me.

    As for putting books on the Kindle, it’s very easy given the wireless connection to the Amazon kindle store. If you download a sample of the book, and like it, there’s a link to buy the rest IN the ebook itself. Takes about 30 seconds or so to download the rest of the file. You can also transfer via USB and that’s easy as well, from both PC and Mac to the Kindle.

    The nice thing about the Kindle is that it is very easy, straightforward and intuitive once you know how to wake it up and how to access the menus.

  24. 24
    SB Sarah says:


    To the best of my knowledge, you are correct. The Kindle wireless is only in the US.

  25. 25
    Sarah says:

    I wouldn’t use an ebook reader for reference books.  Textbooks (if I were still in school), yes.  Reference, no.

    See, I would prefer having electronic reference books, especially if I could select text to copy, annotate, or paste. It makes taking notes and exporting quotes to use in academic papers and so on much easier, and it can be easier to find information if you can use control^F to find something rather than relying on a limited index. All in all, I think I’d rather have ebooks for work and reference, and paper books for pleasure (I read them more slowly, which means I get lost in them more easily).

  26. 26
    MoJo says:

    especially if I could select text to copy, annotate, or paste.

    As far as I know the only thing you can do that on is a laptop, and I don’t read ebooks on my laptop.

    I really like the comfort of battered, highlighted, stickied (i.e., much beloved) reference books and…where am I taking them?

    I had to haul textbooks around and I didn’t mark in them because I wanted to sell them back at the end of the semester.

  27. 27
    Alyssa Day says:

    I can’t WAIT for Kindle or other e-book textbook options for kids.  My poor 65 pound 6th grader often comes home with a backpack of books for homework that seem to weigh more than he does . . . The online textbook option some publishers have has been incredible.

  28. 28
    DLSschmidt says:

    I’ve been a squeeing fangirl for my Kindle since I got it this past May. However, the one thing that drives me nuts is that Amazon will often offer a few of a series’ titles electronically, but not the others.  I was recently starting Kenyon’s Dark Hunters series, then discovered that the Kindle versions jumped from the first book to the third.  Gah! 

    I also read faster on the Kindle, eventually learning how to time clicking the next page button while eyeballing the last sentence on the page so as to still have the words finishing up in my head as the page flashes over.

    For the next generation Kindles, they should consider an optional access password—I prefer to keep my kids’ prying eyes off my M/M erotica, thank you :-) It would also be great if there was a way to annotate within the table of contents so I could remember which of the six identical-sounding books in a series is the one I wanted to read…

  29. 29
    SB Sarah says:

    It would also be great if there was a way to annotate within the table of contents so I could remember which of the six identical-sounding books in a series is the one I wanted to read…

    YES. Agreed. I have a hard time telling the file names apart and it can get very confusing.

    The other thing I want: when you download a sample and then get to the end of the sample, there’s an option to buy the book. Great! But when the file downloads, you have to start at the beginning. If I’m buying from the sample link, shouldn’t there be a bookmark in the file that can jump the reader to the page where the sample ended in the full text file?!

  30. 30
    Bonnie says:

    Sarah, as a member of the Wonky Eyes Club, I couldn’t agree more. 

    I’m reading faster and in more comfort.  The entire reading experience is more enjoyable for me with the Kindle.  I can’t rave enough about this thing.  Really.

    The Kindle is the best present I ever bought myself.  Never without a book.  Ever!

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