Friday, May 24, 2013

To Nook or not to Nook?

About six months ago I got myself a Samsung tablet. I intended to use it mostly for editing work, because at the time I was editing a lot of PDFs. And the Samsung had this very cool app for marking up PDFs and taking notes by hand.

But I've ended up using it mostly for the Nook app (and surfing the web, but that goes without saying). I realized that with any e-reader, the time lag between reading an interesting book review and owning the book in question goes from approximately a week (if one orders online, and even remembers to buy the book at all) to twenty seconds. After reading Broken Harbor, for instance, I immediately yanked from the ether all the remaining Tana French Dublin Murder Squad novels, the last of which I'm saving for my next long plane trip. I'm now champing at the bit for Suzanne Rindell's The Other Typist.

And yet. On the Samsung, at least, e-books can inject some serious aesthetic problems into the reading experience that you'd never experience with a physical book. As Joe Hill mentioned on Twitter, subtle but necessary formatting cues can go haywire in an e-book.

I'm about to finish Jo Walton's Among Others, which I happen to have in paperback form, and have found myself calmly immersed in a way I haven't achieved with the e-books. Much as I like Among Others, I don't think this is due to the writing alone. Hill goes on to make the point that while most of us don't really notice the formatting of novels (unless they have illustrations or other overt formatting effects), we do notice it when it's off. I now rather dread going back to the e-reader, even though I want The Other Typist asap.

There is also the awkwardness of holding the tablet. The Samsung is too heavy to hold with one hand, so I usually end up folding back the cover and balancing the thing on a pillow on my stomach while lying down. (Not that I wouldn't read lying down anyway, but the balance here is more delicate.) Finally there's the whole business of staring at a screen, which I've already been doing more or less all day, and the kind of cognitive buzzing that the screen creates in the background of the reading experience.

In short, add e-books to the list of Things I Am Ambivalent About. And add me to the list of People Who Are Ambivalent about E-books.

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