Reading, Writing, and Technology: Changing Readers and Reading

I think it’s impossible to accurately determine HOW one influence has changed something WHILE that change is still ongoing. So while articles that attempt to determine how ebooks and digital connective technology have or will changed reading are interesting, such as this NPR article about digital reading and how it has changed reading and writing, I tend to read them with a very sizable grain of salt. (Thanks to Christine D. for the link.)

NPR’s article looks at the extra content and links inside digital books (which I don’t often see in the digital books I’m reading) and the phenomenon of cell phone and Twitter novels (which I haven’t read). But Lynn Neary’s article also looks at the way the writing has changed to capture our quick-to-distract reader’s eye:

Grossman thinks that tendency not to linger on the language also affects the way people react to a book when they are deciding whether to buy it: More purchases will be based on brief excerpts.
“It will be incumbent on novelists to hook readers right away,” says Grossman. “You won’t be allowed to do a kind of tone poem overture, you’re going to want to have blood on the wall by the end of the second paragraph. And I think that’s something writers will have to adapt to, and the challenge will be to use this powerfully narrative form, this pulpy kind of mode, to say important things.”

This is absolutely true of me. If a book does not grab me within the first 30 pages or so, or if something is bothering me about a character and there’s not enough else to hold me to the narrative, I have a few hundred other books queued up on the same device waiting to be read. I am not going to read more because I have other options of books to read. This is very different from the time when I did not have a digital reader with a few hundred books with me. I would keep reading because otherwise, I didn’t have much else to do on the bus, and commuting without reading is miserable for me.

(’s examination comes also with a close up of Jeff Bezos’ Manic Monster Eye Expression [MMEE], which freaks me the hell out like damn and jack so don’t look at the picture at the top. Just look at Jane, there. Not at Jeff. Eep.)


Earlier this month, Carin sent me a link to an article on CNN from Pete Cashmore of Mashable fame in which he makes predictions about 2010 and web trends. His comments about how the devices on which we read are changing were interesting:

Paradoxically, the e-book reader is seeing traction as a single-use device. With hard-to-read, power-hungry laptop screens proving impractical for reading, and smartphone screens proving too small, the Kindle and its competitors are gaining buzz.
However, I’d argue that the e-book reader is a fad: Carrying an extra device is never desirable, and the major factor preventing convergence is the lack of superior screen technology. Flexible, expanding low-power screens on cell phones might tip the balance.
The real power of Amazon’s Kindle is its ease of use: a virtual bookstore so simple that it does for books what Apple’s iTunes did for music. The devices will converge, but the “app store” model for books will persist across all devices. The technology won’t be with us in 2010, however.

So in addition to digital readers being evaluated on the basis of whether they can dominate the Kindle and therefore be “the Kindle- Killer,” we digital readers also need to ask which digital bookstore will be the App Store for books. 2010 will likely, as Cashmore said, bring a device or devices that converge many of the features readers and non-readers use onto one portable unit. He’s absolutely right that we don’t want to carry more than one device. I surely don’t – the only reason I’m considering an iPod touch and a separate cell phone is because AT&T cellphone service sucks so almighty goddam bad in the New York metro area, and I pay for service that I literally cannot use.

If Cashmore is correct in his predictions for multifunction devices, and if, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – and Flannery O’Connor – insist, everything that rises must converge, the possibility of more functional programs targeted at diverse activities meant for a single device means that readers will have a lot to choose from when they actually sit down to read.  As new multi-function devices are appearing in the realm of nearly possible and almost on sale like ships on the horizon line, I find myself looking again and again at how I read, what I read, and whether it’s changed at all.

The following aspect of my reading habits has not changed: reading is one of the very few times I do Only One Thing. Anyone with a uterus knows what I’m talking about: I multitask. Most of the time, I’m researching, writing, using Twitter, writing email, and listening to music. Or, I’m washing bottles and plates, making lunches, serving and preparing dinner, talking to Hubby, refereeing fights over Lego Sir Topham Hat, and possibly also snacking. I never do just one thing at a time. My heroine is Christina Dodd’s three armed lady from Castles in the Sky – she’s my avatar. Do you know how much I could accomplish with one extra arm!?

But when I’m reading, I do one thing and one thing only because I can’t read and focus on anything else.

For that reason, I adore the comfort and simplicity of a dedicated electronic reading device. I don’t want to have things beeping and alerting me and tempting me to Google whether the price has dropped on that giant thing I wanted. I want to do the one thing that restores my mental batteries and gives me the utter mental isolation and thoughtful peace I crave when I’m exhausted: just reading, nothing but reading, and only, exceptionally reading.

But if I am honest with myself, I admit to being lured by the following:

1. Twitter: I do like to chat idly with people about what I’m reading while I’m reading it. I am beginning to crave that connection and keep my iPhone or my laptop near me when I read. I fear this distraction and yet indulge it.

2. Note taking: I like having the ability to take notes on what I’m reading for review purposes, and have moved away from taking notes within the device on which I read. The very best for me is Google Docs or a text file saved to my Dropbox, which I can access from anywhere when I’m writing. My needs on that are relatively unique, but I know many people annotate while reading, so I may not be as alone in that one as I suspect.

3. Reminders: I always remember Crap I Should Be Doing when I sit down to read. So I tend to keep my phone near by to put a reminder on it to do something – later. I have to get more aggressive about my own reading/relaxation time, but I tend to get all anxious about forgetting whatever it is that I remembered while reading to the point that I can’t lose myself in the story again. (Neuroses: there’s an app for that).

As the multi-feature devices seem imminent, I find myself resisting the idea outright and thinking that I’ll remain with the e-Ink reader and a nearby laptop or iPhone, because no, no, no, I cannot tolerate any more distractions. But as I list all the things that have changed about my reading style and process, I think I need to tell myself to get over it and move forward – a multifunction device might work better for me. Even though I fear the loss of reading time because of the distraction of other functions and programs, I admit the allure of efficient convergence of my favorite reading program and the ancillary features I use.

The biggest problem remains my eyesight. If I read for too long on my iPhone, my left eyeball literally begins to throb and feels like someone has skewered it with a chopstick. I jack up the text size but the small reading space itself is terrible for me. The e-Ink, which I crank up to YES YOU CAN READ OVER MY SHOULDER… FROM SPACE text size, is so wonderful, I can’t even tell you. I can read without my glasses. I can’t brush my teeth without my eyeglasses, but e-Ink, oh, you wonderful retro beautiful thing, you. I can’t see myself embracing an LCD screen unless I have some serious control over the text size, layout, contrast, and foreground/background colors.

So maybe folks looking at the future of reading and reading devices aren’t throwing around predictions like a drunken fortune teller as much as I thought. The advanced connectivity to other readers has changed the way I sit and read, the way I read books when others are so easily available, and the way I think about reading. I read with a mind on reviewing, and reviewing for me is a conversation, so I converse while reading – and perhaps I will prefer having one device that converges everything I do so I don’t ever have to rise up from the couch.

Has anything changed about the way you read? Do you want a device that allows you to do multiple things? Or would you prefer to isolate your reading experience with a dedicated device like a Kindle, a Nook, or a Sony, or the original dedicated device, a paperback?



Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. Niveau says:

    I’m with the original dedicated devicers. Dead tree books and I get along just fine, and no matter how much we may love to read about a ménage together, we’re into monogamy in real life.

    But if I were to start seriously e-reading, I’d want a dedicated device for it, too. I read some books on my computer right now—I’m lucky enough to have perfectly perfect eyesight, so the screen doesn’t bother me—and I find that I get really distracted. Ooh, a new email! Ooh, my feed just updated itself! and whatnot tends to get in the way of actually reading. I still finish the books, but they take longer, and I end up frustrated with myself over that. And frustration, I find, tends to take away from my post-HEA high.

    Also, I eat more when I’m using a screen, and my waistline has a hard enough time of it as it is. As does my wallet. I really can’t afford to go up a size right now. So huzzah for dead tree books!

  2. Evamaria says:

    I’m one of those people that always, always carry a paperback (handbags don’t get bought unless they are roomy enough for this purpose), so I have no problem carrying a dedicated e-Reader. Reading on my iPhone is exhausting, and although my laptop screen is a decent size, it’s a) tiring as well and b) not something I can stick in my handbag.

  3. SKapusniak says:

    I’m multifunction all the way and always have been.  I’m simply not going to casually carry around more than one device, and if I’m going to actually use it whilst I’m in the supermarket checkout queue or on the bus or wherever, it’s going to have to fit in my shirt pocket rather than my bag.

    The biggest change that the Kindle has done to my reading is that it made the ebook market big enough that it kicked up into the publishers’ legal departments radar coverage and caused them to enforce all the geographical restrictions written into the contracts that ebook sellers got away with not bothering with before.

    The second biggest change from the Kindle is that it’s persuaded Adobe that there’s money to be had off of all the manufacturers desperately trying to make all those single function ebook readers, so it makes financial sense for them to studiously avoid bringing out generic software that will read their formats on any windows mobile/symbian/android/whatever device, and instead charge each individual manufacturer for a license to make the software work on their specific machine.  And since epub + Adobe DRM is what all the mainstream publisher in my ‘geographic region’ are standardising on…

    The upshot of al that is I’m now reading a lot more small press, online ebook only stuff, and a lot less from mainstream publishers, simply because I’m on the wrong side of the transatlantic rights split, and shirt pocket multifunction devices can’t generally read epub+Adobe DRM (well not without employing ‘cirumvention measures’ and that’s just plain work).

    Since the online only guys and gals don’t write their contracts with their authors to split the english language rights, and will generally give it to me in a format I can actually use, I end up buying ebooks by their authors when I’m not just too ticked off with the situation to bother at all.

    And no, I’m not going back to buying physical paper books, I just don’t have the room.

    So, in general, the whole ‘ebook revolution’ thus far has heavily hampered my ability to buy and read books, especially by authors with mainstream publishers 🙂 😛

  4. Terry Odell says:

    When I read, I like to dedicate myself to the experience, so a dedicated reader, be it a book or a ‘device’ doesn’t bother me at all. I suppose for those times when I don’t happen to have either on hand, a multi-tasker would be convenient, but I’ve tried reading on a phone sized screen, and it’s not for me.  I don’t want distractions or interruptions. I want to be lost in the story.

  5. DianaQ says:

    As a former librarian, I was always a die-hard dead tree reading.
    But, living in a home with very limited storage has led me down the path to e-reading more and more. I will be moving again in about 3-4 years to another little space (gotta love military transfers), where the amount of things I take from here will be plenty limited.

    At first, I wanted a dedicated e-reader. Lack of funds kept me from getting one and gave me the chance to review readers out there (yay!).

    I agree with those who don’t want to carry one more device around. It goes hand in hand with the lack of space and the need to reduce the amount of crud I carry from base to base.

    Anyway, I’m leaning heavily towards getting an HP Ipaq in the next couple of months. I’ll have mobile versions of Office for note-taking, will be able to install Mobipocket Reader on it (I’m still investigating other pda-friendly e-book software) and they have wireless connection.

    So, if it turns out ok, I’ll be able to carry contacts, books, grocery lists, download stuff, check my email, read the aforementioined books and if I get bored, play pc games.

    We’ll see how that goes >_>

  6. joanneL says:

    I didn’t know it but I do best with a paper book.
    Obviously it is easy to lure me away from almost any task including getting my butt in gear for a Monday.

    I just spent an irretrievable half hour watching Space Missions and Toy Story on the Lego site after I googled Lego Sir Topham Hat.

    Gah. I blame you Sarah.

  7. I read ebooks on my iPod Touch, with the Kindle or Stanza apps. I don’t mind the small screen (I prop in on a pillow on my stomach in bed and dim the backlighting) or the constant flipping (since pages are only about ten lines long in that format). My reading hasn’t sped up so much that I can’t tell a horrible book from a great one, and I still read good ones the whole way through, and flip to the dirty bits of the lousy ones before calling them done, just like paper books.

    My main complaint with e-reading on my Pod is the file format standards, or lackthereof. I’d prefer to read on the Kindle app, as the formatting is nicest. I wish my own publisher, Ellora’s Cave, would offer a Stanza- or Kindle-compatible formats aside from HTML (apologies if they do and I’m thick) because getting the HTML version wonks up some of the typesetting, and as a designer that just makes my teeth grind.

    But on the whole, I like e-reading, and it feels like a similar experience to dead tree reading… Though I have discovered a couple authors I wouldn’t have if we didn’t have ebooks, like Lissa Matthews and K.A. Mitchell, since they simply never would have made it to most bookstores or libraries, and they’re definitely on my automatic-buy list.

  8. Oh and weirdly, I’ve discovered the joys of the short story and novella formats since I started e-readiing. I don’t think I’d ever pick up a sixty- or 150- page book at the library—it wouldn’t seem substantial enough. But with e-reading I’m happy to load up with short stories and compile my own portable anthology.

  9. Kat Sheridan says:

    I’ve been reading e-books on an old Dell PDA for years, mostly with Mobipocket software (long before Amazon acquired them).

    The screen is plenty big enough, the font/colors are adjustable, I can highlight, annotate, etc., If I don’t know a word, I can highlight it and immediately look it up in the dictionary I also have loaded on the PDA.

    At the same time, I can listen to the music I have loaded on there, flip over to pint sized versions of MS Office products to make notes, or just jot them into the cool handwriting recognition page that would prolly work way better if I had better handwriting.

    When I get bored with all that, I can also play any one of the dozens of games I have loaded. My PDA is too old to connect to the internet, but my SO has one that does (he always has the cool toys; I’m a Luddite). So he has that email stuff and I don’t.

    And I don’t miss having a phone on it. It allows me to actually get away from people. And it’s small. Shirt pocket small. So, PDA in my pocket, and the phone at the bottom of the purse where its annoying ring can’t be heard.

  10. Monica Burns says:

    I’d prefer a dedicated eReader if I could afford one. So I’m stuck with the computer screen at the moment. The PDA’s screen is way to small because I have to bump up the text, and then I only get a couple of lines at a time to read. Irritating. What I know I would love about a dedicated eReader is the enlarged text AND the luxury of not having my hand ached trying to hold the paperback open.

    As for the other things, my phone works well for everything else, so two devices wouldn’t be a burden. What would be a burden is having a phone the size of an eReader. I’d look ridiculous with a 5X7 phone attached to my ear!

  11. Kerensa says:

    I know I’m in the minority, but I prefer reading on my smart phone, whose screen isn’t even as big as an iPhone’s/iPod Touch’s. But for me, I just can’t carry yet one more “techie thing” around with me, and the screen/fonts, etc., truly don’t bother me.

    Plus, if I’m in a group setting somewhere, getting bored, but I want to appear industrious, whipping out my phone and pretending to check messages, or Important Data, or whatever, looks better than whipping out an ereader.  😉

    P.S. You had me at “anyone with a uterus….” Even my 7-yr-old daughter knows how to do 29 things at once, and has since she could first move on her own.

  12. Missy Ann says:

    I am going to bitch slap into next week the next window licking moran who refers to e-book readers with the word EXTRA.

    If it were EXTRA I would own the e-book reader & a paper copy of the SAME book. If it were EXTRA I would be carrying both my reader & paper book in my purse instead of just my reader.

  13. Silver James says:

    I received a Kindle for Christmas. As it was a surprise from a close friend, I had no input as I was leaning toward the Sony since being tied to Amazon is not my idea of fun. However, gift horse and all that. It’s so much easier to read than a paper book. I’m old. And a technophobe. But the dedicated e-reader is a dream. No more cramped hands or arthritic flare-ups after a marathon reading session. I also have an iPhone. I do NOT have the Kindle app on it. Like Sarah, I like BIG TEXT. I always carried a book in my shoulder bag, tossing in the Kindle in its snazzy leather cover is actually lighter than a paperback and positively space-saving compared to a hardback. I look at the 70+ paperbacks on my TBR shelf and cringe. I’ve already downloaded (and read) the hardback I had on that shelf. It’s a series I’ll buy the hardbacks anyway because I have them all. Any new books will be Kindle editions, unless it’s a book I truly love and/or is autographed. It’s hard not to order at lease some of those on the shelf in Kindle, too!

    I keep a journal close to hand for odd thoughts, OHSHIT moments, and other things I don’t want to forget. That won’t change. I do use the iPhone for scheduling and calendar functions to the point I picked my wall calendar for it’s ascetic value, not datekeeping. Some of my habits have changed, but not all. Heck, I didn’t get an iPod until last summer. And it took me 6 months to figure out how to sync with the iPhone and use it for tunes. Still easier to use the iPod. LOL

    For me? Simpler is better, even if it means dedicated devices for each function. I’m old. I’m slow. I’m set in my ways. However, you’ll have to pry my computer and/or laptop from my cold dead hands! LOLOL

  14. Kerrie says:

    I’m still paperbacks all the way, and will hunt for a PB version of a hardcover. I do have an ebook reader but I couldn’t tell you the brand because I haven’t used it in so long. I’m averse to paying for digital books, so I just stick to downloading .txt files from Gutenberg. There are a ton of classics I want to read anyway. With huge doorstops like Les Miserables or David Copperfield, I can see the digital version being much more practical.

  15. gwen hayes says:

    I loved my ebookwise until the hassle of converting formats got to be too much for me. Now I love reading on my Droid. At first, it was hard to get used to, but now I sink right in—just like a paper book.

    The thing that still rankles is that not all publishers put books out in format for every device. I could get behind DRM …IF… they put the book out is all secure formats. Is it that much trouble?

    I’ve also started really enjoying audiobooks lately. The kind I can download to my phone are best—but still running into DRM format issues there. Big surprise.

  16. One thing it seems to have brought us is the delight of readers who are willing to call other people morans and bitch slap them into next week for the crime of … I dunno what.

    I wish so much emotionalism hadn’t been injected into the whole topic, but that seems to come along with anything that has to do with the internet. 

    I’ve been writing on a screen longer than a lot of current readers have been alive, so I figure my brain is highly trained to deal with a screen.  I have never wanted to read for relaxation on a screen because it is not relaxing.  Ebooks and ereaders have been around for more than a decade, but it took Amazon’s creation of a sales point for books for them that made them take off.  It’s my feeling that the immediate gratification/convenience is strongly offset by their intrinsic production of tension.  On average (not by individual) I am not sure people really enjoy books as much in e format.  Ergo the idea that the lizard brain emotions must be engaged immediately by the author or else the reader will skip to something else that matches the level of tension that the technology itself produces.  I think this is true, but I think it’s a real loss to books and readers.

    I still find that when I open a print book, my whole body relaxes a degree.  I would love to see some further direct studies of how the brain reacts to viewing words on a screen, any screen, vs on paper.

  17. You can substitute the word “arousal” for “tension” in my comment above, as in biological arousal, the activation of the nervous system.  Might be a better term than tension though I personally experience as tension.

  18. My eReader is my iPhone—mostly because I can’t afford a Kindle. Then again, I bought a Kindle for my mom for Christmas—her arthritis makes it hard for her to hold books for very long, and big thick hardbacks not at all.  I can def. see the attraction of the larger screen and longer battery life. I like that the screen is bigger and yet, at the very same time, I really like the convenience of having everything on just my iPhone.

    I have terrible eyesight, but I don’t mind reading on the iPhone. It’s pretty clear. My only wish is that the battery lasted longer. I don’t usually read on the iPhone in bed because then I’d have to either get out of bed to put the phone and charger back in my purse or else remember in the morning which I think would not happen.

    I probably buy more books now because of the Kindle App. Free Kindle books have proven a gateway to buying more—both in print and via the Kindle App. When I hear about a great book, I can essentially have it RIGHT NOW and that is an awesome experience. If I love a book in digital format, I’ll buy it in paper, too. I want to lend the book and read it in bed, too.

    I do wish publishers would stop with the full justification for eBooks. For me, that’s a major fail. It’s just not suited to the display.

  19. Tina C. says:

    Has anything changed about the way you read?

    I read more ebooks now that I have a Reader.  I don’t like reading on my computer because I hate being tied to it.  I want to be able to carry my book or reader from room to room or in my purse and finish the book as time permits, not when I can get on the computer again.

    reading is one of the very few times I do Only One Thing.

    I often watch tv while I read or cook while I read or read at stoplights in traffic or while standing in line.  The only time I do Only One Thing is when I write.  (Not email/remark write—review, paper, story write.)

    Do you want a device that allows you to do multiple things? Or would you prefer to isolate your reading experience with a dedicated device like a Kindle, a Nook, or a Sony, or the original dedicated device, a paperback?

    I don’t have a cell phone because, when I have had one, I hardly ever used it and therefore, couldn’t justify the monthly cost.  For that matter, even with a pre-pay and buying minutes, I felt like I was just wasting money because the minutes expired after a certain amount of time.  I don’t have an iPod or any other mp3 player because I don’t know when I’d use it.  I can’t wear earphones at work because I need to hear the phone.  I don’t need it in the car because I have a radio.  I don’t need it at home because I hardly listen to music at home.  Finally, I get tired of hearing the same songs over and over and I don’t need something else that I need to feed dollar bills just so that I can hear something different.  In other words, while I’m not opposed to multi-function devices, I don’t really know that I’d need one.  Something that checked my email?  Sure.  Something that I had to pay extra for that has a lot of bells and whistles I hardly use?  Not so much.

  20. liz m says:

    @ Laura Kinsale – having been in romance forums for longer than many of your readers have been alive (shout out to the BBS being run in someone’s basement) I can reassure you that the emotionalism and simmering violence of the fanbase isn’t new. At all. Even a little. So don’t blame the rise of the e-book for that one. Plague, the economic collapse, Tiger Woods being a cheater pants, sure – but not squabbling computer users.

    @ Sarah – One thing I’ve noticed about e-reader articles is that they are pretty shallow. Sony doesn’t get a lot of love, often not even a mention, and I think they offer some seriously solid advantages. I was reading one that went off on a tangent about the death of Virgin Megastores being due to the end of the music market without mentioning that they’d been acquired for their real estate value and then ‘cashed out’ as so many otherwise profitable enterprises are. So right here I was like dude, step out of the puddle once in a while.

    As you know, e-reading has completely changed reading for me in a way that is allowing me to buy more books and enjoy them far more. I completely disagree that it is a different experience or that it’s more difficult to get into the story. I’m now reading things I would have deemed ‘too heavy’ to carry around or ‘too old’ to hold my interest, because in the e-reader world all books are equal, and the time and place for the book will appear, since it’s already with you. I disagree with the ‘hook’ premise and think Grossman might kick small puppies when no one is watching.

  21. @ Laura Kinsale—Although I like your comment, I disagree with:

    I am not sure people really enjoy books as much in e format.

    I do! It all depends on the setting. I definitely don’t enjoy reading fiction sitting at my computer—that’s where work and internet skimming happens and you’re right, it’s not relaxing at all. But I can read ebooks in bed or in a waiting room, and as best I can tell, I enjoy it just as much as I would a paper book.

    And actually, I’m thrilled that I can finally read while I’m donating platelets at the Red Cross! My Pod only requires one finger to read, which is a boon if you’ve got a needle jammed benevolently into one arm for two long hours.

  22. Kalen Hughes says:

    “It will be incumbent on novelists to hook readers right away,” says Grossman. “You won’t be allowed to do a kind of tone poem overture, you’re going to want to have blood on the wall by the end of the second paragraph.

    I’ll admit to being lazy and not linking over to the original, but Duh! Who is this person giving us these ancient and moldy pearls of wisdom?

    This has been “the rule” in romance for years now: “open with a hook”. *rolls eyes* It’s hardly new or revolutionary advice.

  23. Monica Burns says:

    I’m thrilled that I can finally read while I’m donating platelets at the Red Cross! My Pod only requires one finger to read, which is a boon if you’ve got a needle jammed benevolently into one arm for two long hours.

    Bless you and thank you. I know the Red Cross provides TV/DVD players for donors. Maybe they need to be coaxed into getting a few eReaders with the latest books on them.

  24. SB Sarah says:

    Maybe they’d be amenable to an author donating a few copies of her latest book to them for donors to read?

  25. darlynne says:

    I never thought I’d go “e.” Captain Picard and I both loved the feel, smell and experience of holding a physical book and I had a “cold, dead hands” mentality about changing to something less substantial.

    Well, the Jeep averaged only 15 mpg and the sight of so many books in so little space began to chafe. I’ve divested myself of both and never looked back.

    My reading device, for now, is a netbook, and except for the fact that my thumb continues to press the Page Down key long after the rest of me has fallen asleep, I love ebooks. I’m reading more and other authors, taking literary chances with more success than failure. I feel like Olive Oyl after snatching the spinach away from whats-his-name.

  26. Monica Burns says:

    *banging head on desk* why didn’t I suggest that! EXCELLENT idea. I’d willingly BUY a couple of copies to go on a loaner eReader for donor’s reading pleasure.

  27. I know the Red Cross provides TV/DVD players for donors. Maybe they need to be coaxed into getting a few eReaders with the latest books on them.

    Sorry, so off topic now, but that’s a great idea, Monica! The RC in Boston still offers TV for its apheresis donors, but budget cuts meant they had to lose the Pay-Per-View movies (and the V8 and sodas.) I have no patience for commercials, so I switched to ebooks and ad-less TV shows purchased on iTunes to keep myself distracted.

  28. Henofthewoods says:

    1. How is it new that books need to capture your interest in the first few pages? I have seen that as advice for writers since I was little.
    2. I think I am more likely to give something a try on an ebook. I will download anything free that looks vaguely interesting and try to read it. I will get pretty far into it before I give up. I would not be as likely to pick up a free chapter of a book at a store and cart it home with me – it is just more junk-to-be. Even in a library, I have to think about how many books I really want to carry home. But my reading device is with me everywhere.
    3. I focus on individual paragraphs more because I can’t skim back and forth on a page. My page size is very small so I have to read the whole thing and then turn the page. With hardcopies, I speed read even when I don’t want to. 
    4. Still using my Palm TX. It is not as nice and shiny as the nw readers with electronic ink, but it is easy and it has other functions and I can save to a memory card and back up my books on my card. I like the backlighting possible in poor light especially since I read everywhere.

  29. Maybe they’d be amenable to an author donating a few copies of her latest book to them for donors to read?

    Actually, if they offered really filthy ebooks, low-blood-pressured slow pokes like me might pump a bit faster and get out there way quicker! Maybe I wouldn’t get “chilled” so often and make the machine bleep, and the techs would tease me less for my “ghost pulse.”

  30. I think most hard-core readers will either prefer a dedicated device—one that doesn’t compromise on readability to serve other purposes—or at least not mind carrying one. I mean, these are people who would have been carrying a book and a cell phone or blackberry in their purse or briefcase. Not a huge leap to carry a reader and a cell phone or blackberry—except that you’re now carrying dozens of books instead of just one.

    Since I got my reader, I don’t tend to drop a book completely just because it didn’t grab me right away. I will set it down and read something else, but I usually go back to the first book eventually and give it another shot, because I know my mood affects the kind of writing that appeals to me and I hate the idea of wasting money.

    I just hope that the “blood on the wall” in the second paragraph trend doesn’t mean the end of truly beautiful and skilful prose—because I don’t think one has to come at the expense of the other. And I love language too much to read books where the narrative is flat and uninteresting—no matter how exciting the plot is. Doesn’t mean I need a lot of big words, but an author has to put them together with a certain grace and flair. It’s what I adore about Sherry Thomas…her use of metaphor is…well, I only wish I’ll be that good someday.

  31. joykenn says:

    I drank the Kindleaid a while ago and won’t go back to reading on my PDA (though I use it to listen to music and audiobooks a lot)!  As my eyes get older and more tired and my hands get stiffer, a light device with large type is really, really great.  AND, I find myself trying new authors with the giveaways on Kindle.  AND, that marketing ploy has worked since I’ve almost always picked up one or two other books by those authors.  Sigh!  Call me easy but liking the first book in a series and reading it free is a sure way to get me to buy the second one at least.  Now I find myself going online to Amazon to check out older books by more of my favorite authors since I do tend to re-read books.  Now if Kindle will just solve their organization problem and allow me to put them into categories or retrieve them in multiple ways, I’d do more buying to my pocketbooks dismay.

  32. Interesting – I was reading an article on the rumored upcoming release of the tablet computer from Apple (iPad? iCan’tBelieveWeRuleTheWorld?) and one of the anticipated features was an e-reader of amazing fabulosity.  iPod/iPhone function with big screen legibility.  Apparently they’ve rented convention space in January for a top-secret *something* so it will be interesting to see what happens.

  33. StacieH4 says:

    My hubby must have decided the paperbacks overflowing our office have reached a maximum so he bought me a Sony Reader for Christmas. I’ve read one book on it so far and…I LOVED it!  It was very much like reading a paper novel.  I curled up on the couch just like always and sank into the story.  I have read a few ebooks on my laptop and it just isn’t the same.  I don’t feel comfortable or relaxed using my laptop. 

    My concerns lie with price/format/availability of ebooks.  I love a bargain and often buy discounted or used books and trade them in.  I guess I will learn to live with paying higher prices and getting zero trade-in value.  I may buy fewer books though.  Our library system has about 5000 ebooks but only self-help and cliffs notes type of things, no fiction. 

    My cell phone is very basic and lives in my purse for emergencies but, if I was an active smartphone user (texting/tweeting/emailing/surfing internet) I can see where one multifunction device that included a decent ereader and mp3 player would be nice.  Left to me, I would have waited to buy an ereader for a couple of years to see how my needs change and how technology evolves and format/DRM issues get resolved.  I am happy to have a dedicated reader now though and I’ll enjoy using it. 

    And, bonus, nobody can tell what I am reading—I am one of those who doesn’t like to flash tacky covers around.  I might actually be more willing to try something new (especially if it is free) or give a book a second chance. I may drop something that bores me for another selection in my ereader library, but I am also likely to come back to it later since it is easy to keep on-hand.  I disagree that there has to be “blood on the wall” by the second paragraph.  Good writing is good writing.

  34. TaraL says:

    It’s interesting to read all the reasons pro and con. We have a pretty diverse group here with a variety of lives and lifestyles that influence their reading. I think this is what so many articles on e-books don’t really get. They only scratch the surface of the problem or consider one segment of the reading population.

    For me, I can’t see ever giving up my paperbacks completely. Sure, I’d like to get an e-reader. If I did, it’d be a dedicated device because, like so many others, with my eyes I’ll need the larger page size and the contrast of the eInk. Having an extra device wouldn’t be a consideration because I’ve tried, and discarded as unnecessary, most all the devices mentioned. At this time, my only with-me-at-all-times thing is my phone and it goes in a pocket. I rarely carry a purse. And I’ve even stopped the email and texting capability on it because I got tired of paying for things I never used. When I’m out and about, I’m mostly a point A to point B person and I’m driving, so I don’t need anything to help me pass the time except the radio. When I know I’m going to be doing a lot of waiting, which is rare, then I take along the purse with the paperback, sudoku book, mp3 player, gum, Tylenol, hairbrush, etc. in it. It wouldn’t be much of a change to throw an e-reader into the bag instead of the paperback. Because I’m still going to have the bag in that situation. I can see getting one device that might handle the PB, sudoku and music, but I don’t see them making a gum, Tylenol or hairbrush app.

    Probably the main reasons I’ll never give up my paper books is that I’m too proprietary and I’m too sentimental.

    Proprietary – I’ve bitched on here before about buying my favorite music over and over and over again in different formats during the last 40 years. I absolutely refuse to do the same thing with all the books on my keeper shelf. When I buy a paperback, it’s mine forever and It’s always going to work. Well, almost always. I’ve lost a few to chewing puppies and spilled Kool-Aid over the years, but not many.

    Sentimental – I love so many of my books. Some are important because of where I got them or who I got them from. Some are precious because of where I was in my life when I first read them, how they made me feel, the problems that they helped me solve. I still have the first two romances I ever read (even though I don’t really like the stories much anymore). One of my sisters gave them to me. I carried them all around the world with me during the 20 years that we never spoke to each other. I have the last book my grandfather ever read. Most of the family is convinced that, even though he was in so much pain and so very tired, he stayed alive an extra week just to finish that book. He died a few hours later. I have the first naughty book I ever read (again, no longer terribly interesting anymore). I can still remember the shock when I first pulled it off of the very top shelf in the study, which I’m sure I wasn’t supposed to be able to reach, and saw that scandalous cover. I have the bible that my father carried with him during WWII. It’s stuffed full of newspaper articles, cartoons and photos that were sent to him in letters from home. It doesn’t mean the same thing to me that it did to him, but I think I get a similar comfort from holding it.

    Somehow I can’t see getting the same feelings from a pdf file, and they’re feelings I don’t really want to give up.

  35. Cathy says:

    I bought my Kindle back in February, and absolutely love it.  In January of last year my reading goal for 2009 was 60 books.  I read 108, and I credit a lot of that to my Kindle.  I don’t miss paper, and have actually caught myself lifting my hand to the upper right corner to “turn the page” more than once.  I like having a dedicated device – even though I have a smart phone, I don’t want my book beeping, blinking, and singing at me.  I can ignore the phone in my pocket, but not so much if the message that my mom is calling pops up in the middle of the chapter.

    I also disagree that it’s somehow a function of e-reading that writers need to hook readers within the first few chapters.  If a book doesn’t hook me within the first 50 or so pages, I’m not going to keep reading just because it’s paper.  I will agree that sample e-chapters may have shortened the preview window for books, but let’s be honest – if a book is a going to knock my socks off, 20 pages should be plenty to start to demonstrate that.

  36. Tamara Hogan says:

    Kalen Hughes said:

    I’ll admit to being lazy and not linking over to the original, but Duh! Who is this person giving us these ancient and moldy pearls of wisdom?

    My first thought is that he’s a reader of (nose in air) lit-ra-chur – who wouldn’t be caught dead reading genre fiction.  😉

  37. Check out this article from the Huffington Post about the future of publishing vs. epublishing – very interesting.  He got some nasty comments which I think were uncalled for.

  38. Wendy says:

    I will never not love print books, but I absolutely love the compactness of e-books, the immediacy of purchase-to-read time, the tweakability of the fonts and colours (I use Stanza and e-Reader on my iPhone), etc. I also like that both the apps I now use tell me, on the ‘library’ page, whether I’ve read a book or not, and how far I am into it. (I would like to be able to differentiate my “read” pile from my “to-read” pile in the application, though!)

    Since I carry around a device that can do Books and So Much More, I can’t quite see myself carrying a separate dedicated device. I do need to turn off notifications, though, because the “boing” that announces new email pulls me right out of a story.

  39. Kathleen O'Reilly says:

    I’ve had my Kindle 1.0 for awhile now, and have definite opinions.  I do not want a multi-function device, because it doesn’t suit my reading habits.  I read for several hours at a sitting, and I want the long battery life and low eye strain.  I think if I was more prone to read in fits and spurts, a multi-function device that is small and compact would work well.  I just don’t read that way anymore. 

    Also, I’m in the midst of rereading the complete unabridged works of Harry Potter, and OH, GEEZ, JK, GO DIGITAL!!!  I have never noticed how reading print could be such a PAIN in the WRIST!  There was a note from Seth Godin (I think that’s who it was), who noted that Kindles were specific to hard-core readers, as opposed to those who casually read.  I think that’s a correct statement.  Every Kindle owner I know is a voracious reader and they love them.  I respectfully disagree with Ms. Kinsale on the emotional experience, and I find myself hammering the NEXT PAGE button when I’m in the midst of something tense and I can’t wait to see what’s next.  Rather like a compulsive texter.

  40. Deb says:

    I’ve had a Kindle since April of 2009. I purchased a Sony Pocket ereader in Sept. for books not available in Amazon’s Kindle store and for reading pdf documents. I haven’t purchased a print book since. Both ereaders are easier on my eyes than print. Can’t say that I’m reading more, as I gave up TV viewing a long time ago (except for watching Craig Ferguson on You Tube). I need the quiet after work.

    I work in the Ophthalmology dept. of a major metro medical center and medical school. The Retina docs have Kindle DXs for the patients to tryout and they also use them for simple vision tests. They seemed to be convinced the eink technology is a saving grace for those with low vision. I hate to think of the upswing in vision problems due to extended use of lcd screen reading.

    I’m just as attached to the ebooks I’ve read as those I have had in print. I find the words not the technology that hook me. I see no difference in at all in my love of reading.

    Alesia, yeah it looks like Apple has finally done it. But I’d bet those iPod Touch on steroids tablets are going to be pretty expensive, and will likely be LCD displays. But if you are really interested, check out They .have the Modbook. for a cool $650, they will turn your MacBook into a tablet.

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