Thu
Mar 6 2014 1:00pm

A Library In Your Pocket: How Having an E-reader Has Changed My Reading Habits

I bought an e-reader almost two years ago. My son had one first, but he’s a technophilic early adopter. I on the other hand am a panda who likes to stick to my one comfortable grove of bamboo. But when my son came with me my signing tour in January 2011, he took his Kindle and I took eleven books. Then I bought more on the way and had to post some home from San Francisco. Even I could see the advantages of an e-reader for travel. There never was a more reluctant purchaser though.

I love books, the contents, yes, but also the physical objects. I bought my e-reader first for reading friends’ manuscripts, for reading free things on Project Gutenberg, and for reading new books that I’d normally buy in hardcover for $35 (normal Canadian price) for $10 instead, and then buy the book in paperback a year later for $10 (normal Canadian price) thus spending a total of $20 (of which the author gets about $3) instead of $45 (of which the author gets about $3). I prefer paperbacks to hardcovers, I always have—I have small hands and I’m not strong. I’d never buy a hardcover except for not being able to wait. It was apparent that it wouldn’t take many hardcover purchases to cover the cost of the e-reader. I read a whole book on my son’s to make sure I could actually use one, and tentatively, reluctantly, with much hesitation I decided to buy one. Then I decided not to when I saw an ad saying you could read for weeks at half an hour a day, which made me think the thing wasn’t aimed at me at all. And friends kept saying I’d come to like it better than books, which was infuriating and off-putting. But then, while I was still doing the Rothfuss reread weekly, the paperback Wise Man’s Fear came out, and it weighed more than a kilo. I was going to Europe, and that literally tilted the scales. I gritted my teeth and bought one.

Of course I love it. What it is, of course, is a library in your pocket.

In a way, it’s a thing I dreamed of having in Greece in the early eighties—books in English were always expensive and hard to find and I’d read and re-read the ones I had. I imagined having a science fictional device—but the one I have now is better. What I imagined, before I’d ever touched a computer, was essentially a laptop, or an iPad with a bean-bag cushioned underside. Computers came along and turned out to be too heavy and awkward and scrolling and backlit for being pleasant for reading large quantities of text on. But my e-reader has e-ink, and e-ink is just like paper, only better. And as for scrolling, not a bit of it, it has a page turning mechanism on the side that feels like really turning a page. The screen isn’t lit at all. And it’s so light, lighter than I could have imagined something could be and hold a thousand books. It weighs less than a paperback. I can carry it and barely know it’s there.

Oh, and as for battery life they’d do much better to tell you that it stays charged for about eight or nine books—I’ve never let it run completely out, and I don’t worry about it. It isn’t like a laptop battery. Eight books without charging it was at World Fantasy in Toronto last year when I’d put my back out and was in bed in my hotel room reading Vorkosigan books solidly for most of the con. (When I bought the hardcover of Cryoburn it came with a CD with all the other books on it.) And the really great thing about this is that it’s flat, not like a book which you have to read angled. So if you’re in a ton of pain and lying down, you can read on an e-reader at angles where you can’t read a book. You can even use it when lying on your belly with ice on your spine, and I’ve never been able to read in that position before, and believe me I have been quite inventive about trying.

It’s terrible for maps and pictures. I think they should email you the maps and pictures separately when you buy a book so you can see them at a reasonable scale on a big screen. But for reading actual text, and then reading more text, and then more again? Great.

I have indeed used the e-reader to read a lot of out of copyright things—like all of Kathleen Thompson Norris and Elizabeth Von Arnim and Dorothy Canfield Fisher that’s available on Gutenberg. And I’ve used it for new novels as I intended, and certainly manuscripts, which now I am a zillion times more likely to read in a timely fashion. I’ve also bought inexpensive copies of lots of things that are in print and are benefiting the author—some new and only online, like the fourth bit of Walter Jon Williams Dread Empire’s Fall, Investments, and some old books that otherwise I’d have had to hunt out second hand, benefiting nobody, like Barbara Hambly’s Sunwolf books or Ian McDonald’s Scissors Wrap Paper Cut Stone.

But all this is minor. It has changed my reading in two major ways I didn’t expect.

First, the eternal calculus of “what am I going to read, what am I going to read next after it, is there enough of this book left for today or should I take another” is solved—I take it, if I finish the book, I start another. I don’t have to think about it. If I feel like reading something different I can. When I finish a book, I can flick through my options and choose something I feel like then, wherever I am at the time. If I am out of the house, I take the e-reader with me, all the time. I don’t even think about it. I’m not talking about travel, I mean if I am running errands. If I’m on the bus or the metro and reading, it’s what I’m using to read.

I am now usually reading half a dozen things that have short pieces, in between reading long things. Right now I’m reading Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s letters, and Montaigne’s Essays, and Machiavelli’s Florentine History and Joan Aiken’s Armitage Stories, and Nancy Kress’s Future Perfect collection and Algis Budrys’s Benchmarks Continued. and the Selected Poetry of Rilke and Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts and John McPhee’s Annals of the Former World.

That’s a collection of letters, a collection of essays, a history, two short story collections, a book of criticism, a book of poetry, a travel book and a... I don’t even know what you’d call Annals of the Former World, a piece of non-fiction about geology. It’s wonderful, and I’m reading it really slowly because I only read it on Amtrak. Reading it on Amtrak makes me so happy I am saving it for this purpose. Because I can.

You’ll notice none of them are novels. I hate reading novels broken up into little bits. I almost never interrupt reading a novel. I tend to read a novel, which might be on the e-reader or a physical book, and then I read a chunk each of all these things, and then I read another novel. I sometimes do this with non-fiction that reads like a novel too. I could do it with A Time of Gifts, which is the adorable story of how an eighteen year old upper class English boy set off to walk to Constantinople in 1933, but I am enjoying spreading it out and reading one section at a time. It has narrative, but not narrative tension. Travel books always have happy endings.

The second way the e-reader has unexpectedly changed my habits, is that I buy research books for it instead of getting them out of the library. This has the advantage of instant gratification—I can get the book instantly, when I want it—and of being much better for my wrists, because research books tend to be enormous hardbacks. It has the disadvantage of costing money—so sometimes I find myself thinking “$10 now, or wait for weeks...” The thing that really made me realise how much this has changed my reading habits was then I was reading Peter Gay’s awesome two volume history of the Enlightenment in Warsaw last autumn. I’d never have read a book like that there. It would have been a library book, it would have weighed several kilos. I’d never have had both volumes of it at once. But I’d bought it, and there it was on my portable book, and I was really enjoying it.

And of course, if I want to check something in a book I read last summer, why, there is still is. I don’t have to make notes.

When I was in Copenhagen, later on the same epic trip, I went to the Nationalmuseet, where in addition to awesome Viking stuff there’s an excellent exhibition of classical antiquities—many Danish archaeologists went to Greece. There’s a whole room on the Symposium, or drinking party, and there was a passage on the wall from Plato’s Symposium—in Danish, of course. And I realised that I had it in my pocket—in English, and also in the original. I was walking around with all of Plato in Greek and English, not specially, or by chance, but because I always am, now, that’s my new normal.

In Florence there’s an absolutely wonderful library designed by Michaelangelo, which at the time it was built contained pretty much all of surviving Western culture. And then they had to build an extension, and then there was too much, and there wasn’t any one building that could hold that. And now I can just carry it with me all the time and hardly notice the weight of it. It’s my book that contains libraries.


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published three poetry collections and nine novels, including the Hugo and Nebula winning Among Others. She has just published a collection of her Tor.com posts, What Makes This Book So Great. She has a new novel My Real Children coming out in May. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here irregularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

128 comments
vanye
1. vanye
Don't forget to check your local library system for ebook availability. My local system here in Michigan has many ebooks available for loan, for about 3 weeks apiece.
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
Yes to all the things Jo listed. I also love having a library with me at all times. As Jo mentioned, it is very nice not to have to think about "well I've almost finished that one--maybe I should carry two in case."
I've got the Nook Glowlight version. It lights from the sides and is very nice for reading at night or in low lit places.
The one place I don't take the eReader is when, in the summer, I am floating in our pool and reading. Books hold up much better in case of an accidental splash.
I find the highlight function quite useful. No need to write a note (I've never been one to dogear, but hopefully anyone who would have done that doesn't need to anymore).
And, since the ereaders have PC counterparts, it makes quoting sections very easy.
It also makes carrying beta copies on a trip and highlighting sections sections to note when you get back to the computer very easy.
vanye
3. Rancho Unicorno
It is impressive how much a ereader can change a person. I debated between the Kindle and iPad for the missus for a long time and opted for the iPad because she read, but did enough of the other things to make the extra cost worthwhile. Now, I'm debating getting her a supplementary Kindle because she is constantly reading (especially in the evening from kids' bedtime to midnight) - between the library and Kindle store, her reading list is incredible - and that might buy her a little more time between recharging.

As for me? I'm sticking to dead trees for now. I don't know why, but I can't convince myself to make the move. I'd rather drag the tome known as WoK around than an easy to carry device. Maybe someday I'll change.
Meg K
4. KittenSwarm
One of the minor things I love about my ereader is that it can conceal what you're reading. I know I valued that feature when I was eagerly pouring over Dance with Dragons the first week it came out, much of the reading in public or at an airport while I was traveling. I wasn't so much afraid of people intentionally spoiling it as I was people trying to strike up a conversation and accidentally mentioning a part I hadn't gotten to yet!

It also saved me some ergonomic concerns of lugging the hardback copy around in the airport. :)

I still buy physical paperback copies of many books, but the ereader has been great for doorstop fantasies. No more damage to poor book spines!
Deana Whitney
5. Braid_Tug
Another hold out, but now love mine. Use the Kindle, and totally agree that they suck for pictures. Which is why I have to have Sanderson's Stormlight books in both versions.

Hardback at home, but the Kindle can be taken to work.

We were given an iPad as a gift, but were not really Mac users, so it sat around for a bit. Then my toddler took over my Kindle for his stuff. I wanted it back. Got him a kid friendly case for the iPad and reclaimed my Kindle.
Was great on vacation. I was able to take just it, and not 3-4 books. Better on the plane ride too.
vanye
6. JReynolds
What ereader did you wind up with? I've been thinking that I might get one sometime soon.
Merchanter Pride
7. MerchanterPride
I was horrified when I realized I was starting to lean towards ereaders, I love the physical book so much -- its smell, the feel of the paper, how automatic it is for me after many years of obsessive reading to do odd things like pin the pages down with my glass at the table so I can read while eating with both hands, etc -- that losing them seemed like the end of the world. Now I do probably 60% of my reading electronically and it has changed my life.

Everything Jo says is, as always, perfectly correct. But for me the huge difference is that now I never, ever, ever have lost time in my day. I can read in the elevator, on the subway, standing in line at the coffeeshop, waiting for a friend to show up outside his apartment, when I arrive early at a bar and none of my friends are there, when a dinner companion leaves the table for a minute. All those vanished minutes are now fiction minutes. And it is indescribable how much that means. Especially when you work a great deal as I do; unbroken chunks of reading time are rare beyond price, so fitting books into odd corners and slivers has become essential and the ereader makes it possible.

I will say I still miss books themselves. I picked up paperback copies of Spider Robinson's Lady Sally books a few weeks ago and devoured them in a weekend, and it felt a bit like a trip home after a long time away. But my romance with the physical book notwithstanding, I can't imagine giving my ereader life up now. I'd get about 10% as much read and that's horrible to imagine.
Helen Wright
8. arkessian
My Sony Reader (plus Calibre) has completely changed my reading habits.

I still buy 'must-have' hardcovers when I can't wait and they don't ever become e-available in the UK (Foreigner series, I'm looking at you).

But there are other books that are e-available here almost immediately, and I'll always buy the e-book in preference to the paper object. This includes books that are only e-available (Ankaret Wells, anyone?) or which I'm in two minds about but that are cheap enough in e-form for me to try (without cluttering precious shelf-space). I love that I've made new discoveries this way (Walter Jon Williams for example).

Plus, as you point out, I can read with a series of heated wheat-bags up my spine (works better for me than ice-packs). And I can take (most of) my library with me wherever I go.

Only question is: when my Sony e-reader dies, what should I buy next?
vanye
9. Misheru
I live in Norway, and foreign fantasy books are so expensive here, I could never afford to keep up with my own reading speed. And the library selection in english fantasy is... lacking, to say the least.
Before, I used to save up for weeks and weeks to buy books from amazon.co.uk, if I spent 25 pounds I got free shipping. So I'd be able to get 3-4 books usually, and then I read them within two weeks, and I was back to spending weeks saving up money, and in the meantime re-read my bookshelves again.

My Kindle changed my life and reading habits (I got one as a birthday present from my husband). Now, with the kindle, I can pick up a book any time I want. It's so much cheaper, and I get instant access to all the books I want to read. I can carry dozens of books with me at all times. Like you said, I have a library in my kindle. My own personal library with foreign fantasy books that would cost me two months rent if I bought the physical books here. Before, I was really, really selective in what I bought. I only bought books I was 100% sure I would like. Now, I can buy books that I've never heard of, but that strikes my fancy while randomly browsing. To me, my Kindle is freedom.

Now excuse me, I just got Words of Radiance this morning and I'll have to continue reading on my much beloved Kindle :D
vanye
10. Misheru
I should add, I'll never stop buying physical books, I love them soooo much. And when my financial situation get better, I have a list of about 50 books I'm gonna buy the physical copy of.
Kit Case
11. wiredog
I started with the Nook, and recently moved to a Kindle (the Nook has the Stench of Imminent Death about it, sigh. ) Wasn't particularly hard to copy the books over, just google Nook DRM. Oh, and don't lose the credit card you used to buy the books, since the number is part of the crypto key. Our hosts here at TOR, by the way, don't DRM their books, so it's easier to move them acrosss platforms.

"It’s terrible for maps and pictures."
Well, no worse than a paperback. Depending on the publisher anyway. LoTR is amazing as an ebook, the new nte on the text goes into detail on just what they went through to make it so, and why so many other books are awful on that platform. Currently reading "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Rhodes and the pictures and diagrams are, mostly, ok. Why some books that were presumably written in word processors and laid out using software translate so badly is a mystery to me. When I read "The Victorian Internet" I learned that much of the action took place in "Rritain". And that wasn't the worst problem. Slogged through it because the content was interesting, but deleted it after.

Carry my reader everywhere. Have the complete H Beam Piper (from Gutenberg) on it. A bunch of Star Trek, the Thrawn Trilogy, Dune... I really wish they were more, hmm, organizable. That is, it's nice that I can organize books into "shelves" or folders, but I wish I could nest the folders. To have "SF-Star Wars" and "SF-Herbert-Dune Books" as it would make it much easier to go through the library.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
12. Lisamarie
I was a hold out, and then got a Kindle Touch a few years ago (wish I'd waited for the Paperwhite!). And I will say, I love it - I love being able to get free public domain books. I love it for the ease it afforded me when I went on a big Russian Lit kick and was able to tote around Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Brothers Karamazov with ease. I ride the bus to work and occasionaly take trips, and that is pretty awesome. Although, I have a large purse specifically to accomodate taking books anywhere, so not having an e-reader has never prevented me from reading before (with a few exceptions of very large coffee table style books). I pretty much never by hardcover books (Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are the only books I can think of that I have intentionally bought as hardcover) so size/weight isn't as much of an issue. It does mean I have to wait quite a bit to read a new book, sometimes (that's what the library is for ;) though!).

My favorite, and most unanticipated use, so far, is using it to read documents. I like to read Papal encyclicals, exhortations, etc. While you can purchase them in book form, they are all free on the Vatican website (including many other historical council documents I like to read) - but I hate reading on the screen, and since I do most of my reading away from home, it meant having to print them out. Now I put them in documents and put them on my Kindle, where they are all nicely organized by document type, Papacy and year!!! (I love the Collections feature!)

It's also inspired me to read books I might not have otherwise read - since they are sometimes cheaper, and aren't taking up space in my shelves - no problem with just getting it sent to my e-reader for a try! I like the instant gratification - recently a few people recommended a book about introversion to me (Quiet), and so I checked Amazon. The Kindle version was 2.99, so I was able to start reading immediately! Well, after work, at least.

That said, it's not my preferred way to read. It's not JUST the physicality of a book, but I find for favorite books, I want to go and re-read things, or refresh myself on things, etc. Usually I have a good idea of where in the book it is and can open to that point and start flipping around. I find this really hard to do on my Kindle. So, I don't tend to buy books that I intend to be 'favorites' on the Kindle.

I also find reading long books a bit frustrating and disorienting. When I was reading War and Peace, I stayed stuck on that 100% for a LONG time, wondering at what point I was actually going to be on the last 'screen'. (Oh, and never mind trying to flip back through the book to remember what was happening the last time we saw such and such - again, I have a hard time doing that with my Kindle). When the end did come, it seemed kind of abrubt (although that was probably also due to the way it ended). And in general, I just don't find the percentage as useful as seeing, tangibly, how much of the book is left (especially because sometimes the percentage also includes things like indexes, footnotes, etc).

I also find it harder to read books with footnotes - I know some books allow you to click around, but...I just don't like that as much as being able to physically turn to the footnote while keeping your thumb where you were readnig and easily going back, and flipping back and forth quickly if need be.

Also, I'm a big bathtub reader. That's a no no with the Kindle ;)

I haven't found it as cost-effective as I'd hoped, either - I can still find used paperbacks for most things I want to read for cheaper than an e-book. I'm not going to pay more for an e-book when I don't enjoy it as much as a real book, you know?
Kit Case
13. wiredog
If you have an ereader and don't have Calibre, get it:
http://calibre-ebook.com/

Runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's iTunes for e-books, but much better for books than iTunes is for music.
Rob Munnelly
14. RobMRobM
Got a Kindle, loved it, but my wife has taken custody. Need to develop a plan to liberate it. My big use was to download the classics I had never gotten to in college or wanted to re-read. So I read Jane Eyre (enjoyed it), Wuthering Heights (really didn't like it - not a Heathcliff fan), and all of Jane Austens (have loved them for many years, and enjoyed the re-read.) War and Peace and Anna Karenna are next when I recover my device.

Second the recommendation to get e-books from the library. Very user friendly downloads - only issue is availability (i.e,, there are only so many e-books and many interested e-readers in my suburban library system. Also, some author's publishers are not e-book friendly - I'm looking at you, Lois McMaster Bujold).
vanye
15. Akhenertai
For me, as a resident of a non-english speaking country it helps a lot on buying things that I would otherwise have trouble getting my hands on, I still prefer to buy books in Portuguese on the paperback format, but most of my reading these days is done in e-book format...
Merchanter Pride
16. MerchanterPride
Also, people; just put your kindle in a ziploc. Instant waterproofing. It won't work if you want to read while scuba diving but it's more than enough to protect the device from splashes and even accidental, brief immersions. I read in and around water all the time with a ziplocked kindle and I've never had a single problem.
vanye
17. lampwick
I'm enjoying my Kindle, but I worry about the future of bookstores. I love going into physical bookstores and looking at the new books, checking out covers, browsing through pages. Where I live most of these stores are gone, and the ones that remain are all having problems. And they don't seem to have as many books as before, so I miss things and only hear about them much later.

I guess what I'm saying is that whenever I use my Kindle it's with a twinge of guilt, thinking about what I'm doing to the bookstores in my area.
thistle pong
18. thistlepong
I'm pretty sure I always wanted an ereader. After I read The Diamond Age, I desperately wanted one. I'm not exactly proud of the fact that my first Kindle cost more than the second two together, especially since it's no longer supported, but I think it was worth it.

I still have a lot of books that can't be replaced by a digital version, but at this point I find it kinda difficult to commit to paper. I'll find reasons to shuffle a hardcover or paperback further and further down my to-read list in favor of something I can read any time.

And I can read books that I really don't have room for, even at home. Whole libraries of them. Books are heavy and they smell funny and they take up too much space.

I think the truth is that I probably read most books on my phone now 'cause it's even lighter than the ereader.
Kate Nepveu
19. katenepveu
arkessian, when my Sony ereader died I went on eBay and bought the exact same one. => (Someday I'll have to get used to a new eInk-style reader, but not until I can't find the one I know any more, or I suppose if they make a huge breakthrough in battery tech for tablets & smartphones.)
adrian bellis
20. Nilrem
Reading your article I found myself nodding along to most of it :)


I've been a big reader since I was a child (it used to be common for me to visit the library at least twice a week), and when the Sony readers were launched in the UK I was a little hesitant about them, £200 was a lot to drop on one, until I went into Waterstones (I think it was) and tried one out.

I then ordered one about a week later, and since then I've found myself reading classics more than before, buying up the backlog of several new (to me) authors, or getting many of the previous books free (I love the Baen CD's they issue with some hardbacks, as it let me convert some older books to e-format free, and their "free library" let me try out a host more).

One of the best things is, that when I'm ill I can still read comfortably in bed, and can get new books without having to go out :)

My one question, is similar to arkessian's, what reader to replace it with:)
My 505 is about 5 years old (one replacement battery down), and is starting to show it's age a bit, but none of the current crop of readers seem to have the features I want (physical buttons, at least for page turns, the same sort of battery life, a nice build, and easy to do things like collections with). For some reason I just don't like the feel of the current Kindle's.
vanye
21. tigeraid
@lampwick - beat me to it, I was just about to post "doesn't anyone feel guilty about it now?"

My wife got a kobo, way before me, and I was a stickler for staying with paperbacks. But eventually I caved and now I can't live without it.

But one of our favourite pastimes used to be browsing used bookstores and fleamarkets for books. And now we never do. Every time I see a bookstore in town go out business, I'm sure to say "look, there's another business you shuttered!" :/
vanye
22. Misheru
@ 20, Nilren:

I have this kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007HCCNJU/ref=sa_menu_kdptq

It has physical buttons on both sides for pageturning (so it doesn't matter wich hand you hold it in), and I think it's really nice in the hand. I can hold it in one hand quite comfortably and I have small hands.
David Levinson
23. DemetriosX
I, too, was a holdout until I got a Kindle for my 50th a year and a half ago. I agree with just about everything Jo said. Another advantage I find in it is that it makes things a lot easier to read while eating. I can use both hands for a knife and fork or something messy and handheld like a burrito and not have to worry about holding the book open. (I've got a nice cover that lets me stand it up like a freestanding photo frame.)

For me the biggest disadvantage is, as Lisamarie noted, not being able to easily flip back to earlier parts to check on something and also not being able to tell when I'm close to the end of a section or chapter. I can't count the number of times I've finally just decided to put the thing down and go to sleep only to learn that I was maybe two screens from the end of the chapter. The only other "disadvantage" that I can see is that it makes spontaneous book purchases a lot more likely, but that's probably more of a feature than a bug.
Terry Lago
24. dulac3
Yeah, I have been totally converted to e-reading. I still love the look, feel, and esp. smell of books as a physical object, but I almost exclusively read electronically now. "Having an entire library in my pocket" is exactly how I feel about it. Also, the note-making features and ability to move across multiple books if I so choose with perfect ease is great.

I actually use my iPod with the old Stanza app (from what I've seen it's the single best application yet invented for e-reading and it's a bloody shame that Amazon bought out the company that owned it solely so they could kill it).

I've probably read more books in the past 3 or 4 years on my device than I did in the previous 10 with the dead tree variety and I wasn't exactly a reading slouch.
Jo Walton
25. bluejo
JReynolds: I have a straight-up e-ink ordinary Kindle -- in Canada it was definitely the best option. I tried the Kobo after trying Sasha's Kindle and the page-turn mechanism was so clunky in comparison that I couldn't bring myself to buy it. I hear great things about the Nook, but it's not available here.

Arkessian -- I believe that if you inform Amazon.com that you have moved to the US and give them a real US address with a zip code, they'll happily sell you e-books while having no problem keeping your "old" address on file for shipping physiical stuff. Just saying. I don't know if this works with your Sony. Calibre is very good.
Jo Walton
26. bluejo
DemetriosX -- the bar at the bottom shows you how far you are from the end of the chapter -- the next notch. And it tells you what % of the book you have read. I use this in exactly the same way I use the physicality of unread pages left with a solid book -- as in, I barely pay attention to it except if I want to, and then there it is.
JOSEPH HOOPMAN
27. hoopmanjh
I've had my Kindle for about 3 years and I love it -- am toying with getting a Paperwhite not as a replacement, necessarily, but so that I can use it when it seems more appropriate.

I probably read 60-70% of my books on the Kindle these days; the other 30-40% are mostly items that aren't available electronically. Which brings me to my main complaint: What's available is extensive, but it's not everything. There's a lot of material from the 1990s and before that's not available electronically, and may never be available electronically -- rights issues, lack of an existing electronic version, etc. For example, when I heard that Michael Shea had recently died, I knew I had to reread Nifft the Lean, but Nifft isn't available electronically, so it's off to my paperback copy.

Also, region-locking irritates me no end -- Amazon UK has many items (older Michael Moorcock, for example) that aren't available electronically in the US store. I know there are workarounds to allow me to buy directly from Amazon UK, but I haven't bothered yet -- it seems too much like work, especially since I already own hardcopies.

Still, as I said, I love it and don't see myself ever giving it up.
Tom Smith
28. phuzz
Another recommendation for Calibre. It might take you a short while to set it up with some unDRM plugins, but once you do, you can buy books from pretty much any store, and then read them on any device (pretty much).
I started off with a Kindle, and part of my reasoning was so that I could take enough books for a week's holiday without filling my bag full of paper. Last year the Nook was really cheap (£29!), so I picked one up in case my Kindle ever dies, and now I pretty much swap between them. The Nook has a touch screen which makes flipping pages slightly easier, but they're both pretty similar imo.
vanye
29. kid_greg
As much as I love books, I never, ever thought, I'd take an E-reader over a book. But during my last move, I came to realize that I will never have the library room in my house that I've dreamed of and because moving books is so freaking heavy, I caved and got a Kindle.
That was 5 years ago. Now I will pass up books that are not yet available for Kindle.
I think the hard thing to get over or realize is that sense of ownership. Face it, as much as most of us wish a visitor will notice our bookshelf and say "oh I loved that book" or " I would love to read that book" -instead they say "did you really read ALL those books". Nobody else is impressed by our personal library like we ourselves are. So really we just like knowing we own that book to read whenever we want to, if ever again. And guess what, you do own that eb00k, 5 licenses for it for Kindle owners as a matter fact. But know you have your whole library to take with you wherever go. It's right there all warm and cuddely just like a warm blanket. :)
David Levinson
30. DemetriosX
@26 Jo
I don't have a bar at the bottom. Just the loc. number at the left and a percentage at the right (and those numbers are really hard for me to decipher; I may need new glasses). Maybe it's because I have a Touch or this is just a feature newer than my Kindle.
Pamela Adams
31. Pam Adams
I'm probably going to get an eReader soon- as my eyes get older, reading physical text gets harder and harder. The ability to read a book without having to remove my glasses is getting more and more desirable.

I'm leaning towards the Kindle Paperwhite for most contrast.
vanye
32. Arduanne
@bluejo I have a second gen Kindle that has the feature your talking about, but when I got my paperwhite, that feature (the notches) is gone. Because of the built in light, the paperwhite is what I read before going to sleep, so I can sympathize with the poster above.
Emmet O'Brien
33. EmmetAOBrien
MerchanterPride@7: But for me the huge difference is that now I never, ever, ever have lost time in my day. I can read in the elevator, on the subway, standing in line at the coffeeshop, waiting for a friend to show up outside his apartment, when I arrive early at a bar and none of my friends are there, when a dinner companion leaves the table for a minute. All those vanished minutes are now fiction minutes.

I quite regularly read old-fashioned print books in most of those contexts, fwiw (am not really a coffeeshop sort of person). It is cheering to see ebooks making so many people;'s lives eaier; I'm not generally an ebook user myself because the contrast on such of the things as I have seen doesn't work for my specific sight problems, and not in a way where upping the font size helps.
vanye
34. Mike G.
I've been an e-book fan since the days of the Palm III, when I read PeanutPress books on a 160x160 screen.

I DEEPLY love Kinde's cross-device sync. I don't carry my Kindle every day - instead, I read on my phone's kindle app, and Amazon happily keeps track of where I left off on each device so I can switch back to my kindle when I've got a chance for a longer reading session. And also keeps my ipad in sync, etc... Very nice.

Even nicer is the whispersync feature which syncs audiobooks with Kindle books - I'm reading _Way of Kings_ on Kindle, and listening to it in the car. Great to be able to pop back and forth from print to audio like that!

We live in an age of wonders :)
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
35. Lisamarie
@bluejo and others - I don't have a notch feature either. And the percentage feature for the overall book is nice, but I guess I just don't process it the same way as I do the physical book. I still find it a bit hard to adjust to.

I have to say, it makes me excited to see how many people have mentioned reading and eating. I love to read and eat, and reading with dinner used to be one of my favorite pastimes. My husband (who also enjoys reading) thinks it is annoying/rude and doesn't want me to pass the habit to our children (I'd be thrilled if they picked up this habit). I certainly do understand the importance of family dinner and eating together, so I put the book away most nights. But some nights I go ahead and irritate him if I'm in a good book ;) And I agree, reading on the Kindle is MUCH easier!

kid_greg@29, maybe you hang out with the wrong people ;) I am frequently impressed with other peoples' libraries, and other people seem to like mine. That said, that IS one of those 'attachment' things I am trying to break - the need to own every single book I've ever read. I'm trying to be more selective about what is in my library so that it contains things I'm likely to reread or are especially meaningful to me. The Kindle actually helps with this because I can try out a new book, still have the 'satisfaction' of owning it, but it's not taking up space when it's (most likely) a book I won't read again. But, I still want my children to grow up surrounded by books, and not just the digital variety.
David Goldfarb
36. David_Goldfarb
The Kindle app on my new iPad, for many books (not all) has a customizable bottom bar: by tapping on it I can rotate through "scrollbar, location 277 of 5680", "page 13 of 466", "2 hours and 12 minutes left in book", "3 minutes left in chapter", and nothing at all. (I tend to keep it on page numbers or time left in book.)
Lianne Burwell
37. LKBurwell
I started with a Sony Reader (or going back further, the Rocket eBook), and last year went to the Kobo Aura HD (higher resolution and slightly larger screen), and I love ereaders. My Kobo lasts me about three weeks on a single charge, and yes, I can carry a hundred books.

But the main thing for me is that my back can be quite twitchy. I used to have massive back spasms that turned out to be gall bladder disease. But even after having it out, I can be prone to strain easily. Carrying the ereader is so much easier than carrying a heavy hardcover (like the recent Flight of the Silvers, which is 600 pages in hardcover).

I also have a tablet (Google Nexus 7), but I really can't read for any length of time on a backlit screen. I love my eInk ereader, and plan to have it a very long time.
vanye
38. K.Jean
totally scared. I admit it. I am 67 and do not even own a tv, stereo, etc for nearly 20 years. Walls and walls of books. But I still average one a day mostly now from library. But I am HEAVILY into science ie...paleoanthropology, astronomy, earth sciece, mind. Are these things capable of pictures?? Also have several book cases of graphic novels and comics. Again..pictures??? Also of course at my age and reading habits...have read a lot. I looked at some of the books that came with the "library" and sorry I do not want to re-read Shakespere. I own all the classics. So ....the vote is still a no for me so far.
Emily Cartier
39. Torrilin
LisaMarie - pretty much any ebook reader has an option for bookmarks and some form of highlighter/post it note taking. I find bookmarks are handy if I know I want to revisit a particular largeish section. I tend to use the highlighter/notes feature more in nonfiction books or translated works, where the text may be wrong or deeply unclear. (my Greek is terrible, but I am very very very very very sure that Euripedes didn't regularly refer to Dionysios as Bacchus since he kinda had probably never *met* someone from Rome... and in the translation I was reading, that was one of the more minor Latin subbing for Greek issues) This feature can also be a godsend for copy editing.

There's usually a way to get your enraged ranting at translators out of the software too. I haven't looked in detail at whether it's possible to use Calibre to keep annotations current across different devices and software. It seems like it should be possible, but I'm not doing the sort of copy editing or academic work where it's super critical.

RobMRobM - The library issue isn't Baen's fault. Most libraries use a program called Overdrive to lend electronic books and audiobooks. I don't fully understand the ownership details and licensing issues, but the Overdrive software is designed to force libraries into following the absolute most restrictive licensing rules possible. This makes some publishers and audio book makers very happy. But... it's very bad for Baen and Tor and Book View Cafe and any other publisher who is trying hard to let us have DRM free books. Also means your public library can't easily "loan" an electronic Jane Austen, so the poor librarian has to send you to Gutenberg, and scammers have a grand time stuffing Amazon with "cheap" classics. It's a very bad deal for all of us, and I wish there was a good option for libraries to support DRM free materials.
Jonas Schmiddunser
40. Jineapple
I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Paperwhite. While I adore having a bookshelf in a room and wouldn't go completely without physical books, in terms of reading experience the paperwhite trumps a book in almost every aspect. It's lighter and easier to old. You can use it one handed or just let it sit on a table etc. without the pages flipping back. With the lighting, the reading is comparable to normal paper in perfect lighting and way better than paper in bad lighting. With a Zip-Lock Bag, you can use it in the bathroom without a problem, better than a paper book (no worries about getting it wet). You can quickly find a certain section if you need to look up someting (And the newest paperwhite has a feature that lets you do that while remaining on your current page). I'm seriously thinking about getting A song of ice and fire for ebook despite having all the books in paperback already because it would help so much being able to look up anything without minute-long page flipping.

The only part where I still find ereaders to be lacking are pictures (a map for a book is fine, but comics etc. don't work well) and diagrams etc, especially in pdf - so for technical books, a tablet or physical book is still better.
vanye
41. Sanne
Yes to all of this. I have a Kobo Glo and I lovelovelove it. :-)

Why is there a Dutch library on the picture? Dutch libraries and ereading do _not_ go well together. :-(
vanye
42. Ed Grove
My kindle lets me read more conveniently and cheaply. I love physical books, but at a certain point I realised (when I did still buy the occasional physical book) I was paying an unnecesary premium in money, time and inconvenience just so I would have something physical to add the piles already crowding my house. And then I realised I felt no regret about the hundred's of books I had only read on e-reader and had no physical copies of. I now never buy new books other than in electronic format. Lack of a comprehensive back-catalog is a nuisance, but it has also forced me to embrace the "slush pile" of authors whose works are now only being publised for e-readers, many of whom may not have made it under the traditional publishing model. There's plenty of rubbish, but also great talent emerging. Finally, the "recommended for you" feature does, eventually, start to generate some useful recommendations. Finally, authors/publishers who do not make material available for e-readers, or charge the same for an ebook as a physical book in a bricks and morter store, do not get my money.
Fredrik Coulter
43. fcoulter
Thank you for the article. I'm on my second Kindle and agree whole heartedly. (My first Kindle went to the happy library in the sky when my wife and daughters stacked books on it. Eventually the screen cracked.)

My one nit with the article is the comment about the royalty rate. Books published directly to the Kindle (and prices in the $3-$10 range) pay a 70% royalty. Authors have found that their older book contracts did not include electronic rights and have published them to the Kindle, making a nice chunk of change (by passing the publisher).
vanye
44. bookworm1398
I bought a Kindle the week after my local library announced they would start lending books on Kindle - since 95% of what I read were books from the library. But having the Kindle changed that, now I end up buying 95% of what I read - the convenience makes it hard to resist. Just finished book 1 at eleven at night? No problem, buy book 2 right now and keep reading till two in the morning. The British authors that never made it in the US, the books have been off the shelfs for years, all available at a click.

I also really like the annoymity, no more book recomendations from total strangers.
Emily Cartier
45. Torrilin
General plug: if you think electronic reference material sounds like a terrible idea, please go talk to a librarian. Please oh please. Chances are your local library has subscriptions to at least a few academic databases, and you can get access to things like birth records, tax records and a whole host of other public materials electronically. Some newspapers and magazines make back issues available electronically, sometimes to all comers, sometimes to subscribers. No more battles with a microfiche or microfilm reader if you're doing historical research. No more trudging to the city clerk or the clerk of courts or an obscure state or province office building to get your hands on a document from 15 or 200 years ago.

Getting your hands on primary source reference material is much easier than it was even 10 years ago. And depending on what kind of secondary sources you need, those also are more available, both in the form of museum catalogs and electronic books.

Depending on your interests, an e-reader may or may not be useful if you devour a lot of nonfiction. But for sure, your local librarian can help you use your regular computer to get at things that used to take an interlibrary loan or a special trip to get to the library or museum that holds the actual object. Go forth! Ask for help! The future is AWESOME, and your local library is really amazing.
Bruce Arthurs
46. Bruce-Arthurs
I find myself reading more books on my smartphone (have both Nook and Kindle apps installed, plus the Overdrive app mentioned by several people to borrow books and audiobooks from the library) than I do in hardcopy nowadays.

What I'd like to see offered on some (any!) e-readers is the ability to use voice commands. Not for me, for my wife, who's an even heavier reader than me, but who's lost about 95% of the use of her hands over the years. (Decades of degenerative rheumatoid arthritis, coupled with increasing hand tremors over the last decade.) She can still turn pages in actual books, mostly with the side of her palm, but it gets harder every year. But she can't use e-readers as they're currently operated.

I would have thought there'd be enough people in similar straits that some company would have included a voice-activated "Next Page" or similar command ability in their e-reader. But... no. Very frustrating. (There have been some people who apparently were able to jailbreak their e-readers and hack in voice command programming on their own, but that's not something I feel comfortable or competent about trying.)

(Incidentally, for those who've mentioned that Bujold's books are dificult to borrow via Overdrive, I've found the entire Vorkosigan saga available on my local library system's offerings via Overdrive... just in audiobook, not all in print.)
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
47. Lisamarie
My problem with the bookmarking and searching is that I don't necessarily know when I read something that I want to bookmark it. Also, I think it's partly me not being able to interact well with touchscreens, and not enjoying having to jump 'out' of where you are to do it and then navigate back (although apparently the new model of paperwhite keeps you on the same page? That would be a big improvement to me!). I probably should use those features more to get used to them.

I love the ziploc idea some people have suggested :)
Brent Longstaff
48. Brentus
I got the original Kindle and have upgraded almost every generation since then. It blew my mind that I could have a bookshop in my book. The first time I saw an e-paper screen in a store I thought it was a demo model with a fake, paper screen, until I turned the page. I'm a little sad when people just get a tablet and use it for an e-reader. Yes, you can read on an LCD screen, but there's a reason e-readers didn't catch on until the display could be paperlike. Tablets are great for many things, but if you do a lot of reading, do yourself a favor and get a real e-reader. I recommend using a store that supports at least one e-reader. If you buy from B&N, Kobo, or Amazon, you can read your books on an e-reader in addition to having the option to read on your phone or tablet. But since Apple doesn't support any device with e-paper, if you buy from a store like iBooks, your content is locked into devices with blacklit screens optimized for movies and Angry Birds, not reading. The Poe apps on iPad show that some books could be enhanced in ways that use the LCD screen, and those are cool, but there's no reason to read a plain text novel on a backlit screen if you can help it.

I prefer Kindles for novels, but paper is still best for reference books where you need to flip around a lot. Kindles are best for sequential reading.

I hope they get color e-ink working, I'd like to read graphic novels on a non-backlit electronic screen too. Black and white comics like Hikaru no Go and Yotsuba work very well on a Paperwhite, so it's really just the lack of color holding it back now.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
49. AlirozTheConfused
Come back to the good side, Merchanter Pride! It's not too late!

Come back, DemetriosX and Kidgreg and Lisa Marie and Braid Tug!

Remember the fire that once burned in your hearts! Remember the promises you made to yourselves. Remember the fervor and conviction, and the person you used to be.
vanye
50. Vauric
Another person here who's moved to ebooks as their primary reading method. I'd agree with the statement that the main downside to these are with pictures and maps.

However, the recently release Words of Radiance bucked this trend for me. I honestly feel that the ebook version is much better than the physical edition, thanks to some of the interior artwork being in color in the iBooks version, instead of the black/white version on paper. Still love both, but I'm hoping more novels follow this trend.
vanye
51. harmonyfb
I ::triple heart:: my Kindle. It has replaced about 25% of my physical book reading - for travel (no more wondering if my book-bag will fit!), for nights when I've run out of reading material and the stores/libraries are closed, for paperbacks that I wouldn't keep forever, for books that I want right-this-damn-minute, sometimes for out-of-print works, and often for reading ARCS from NetGalley. I also am delighted by novels offered for reduced prices (try it, the first one's only 99 cents...) - I've found all kinds of authors and book series I adore that way. :)

Things I won't read on my Kindle: comics, heavily-illustrated works, cookbooks.

I'll never give up physical books - I love them too much - but there's definitely room in my reading habits for e-reader convenience. :)
vanye
52. Xena Catolica
Nope. I own a Kindle & hardly ever use it. Short stories are about the only good thing for it. Not being able to flip back easily really irritates me, which matters a lot for those of us who love unreliable narrators. BUT I do really wish I'd had one while nursing babies at all hours--that would have been a great improvement.

I was not at all pleased that the last New Release from Tor I bought was electronically released on the official release date, but I couldn't get a hard copy at a local store or arrive from Amazon until 10 days later. I waited and chewed the carpet.
Ursula L
53. Ursula
I had been using a Pandigital Novel, and liked it, but the battery life was getting shorter and shorter, so I upgraded to the new Nook Glo.

I like the higher resolution screen, and the screen light.

But I discovered, to my horror, that a big chunk of the memory is limited to Nook/B&N content. So though the total memory is bigger than my old reader, I can't carry the entire collection of legal/free books I got through Tor, Baen, and others. Plus, it has no expansion slot of any sort.
Does anyone know of a reader with:

1. High resolution e-ink screen
2. Built in light
3. Memory is completely open to any content, not reserved for content from a single source
4. Expandable memory (e.g., mini SD card)
5. Dedicated page turn button, so that you don't randomly give the wrong command if you try to turn the page with the wrong motion, and you aren't constantly smudging the screen.
vanye
54. JohnnyMac
I love my Kindle.

The irony is I got it by mistake. A couple of years ago, I had looked up a book at the library and was annoyed to discover it was only available as an e-book. I grumped to my girlfriend about this; moaning that if this trend kept up I would be forced to buy one of these devilish new e-reader devices.

A few weeks later, it is Christmas morning, we are opening presents and, what do I find: a shiny new Kindle. I was not thrilled with this (though I did my best to look grateful). I am not a natural tech type. My initial reaction to the Kindle was much like that of the apes to the alien monolith at the beginning of "2001": I crouched before this enigmatic device, studying it warily, grunting and hooting until I finally stretched out a trembling hand to touch it. And then, as I slowly learned how to use it...WOW!

I learned I could get classics, rarities or obscure works, many of them free or very cheap, almost instantly and have them with me everywhere. My relationship with my Kindle changed from that of fearful ape confronting alien technology to the child who has discovered the magic door into the hidden garden. Or, as my girlfriend sometimes says now, to one rather like that of Gollum to the Ring: "My preciousss! I must always have you. My preciousss!"

And, yes, for the record, I have told my girlfriend how grateful I am that she mistook my technophobic grumbling for a hint as to what I wanted for Christmas!
Steven Halter
55. stevenhalter
Ursula@53:The Nook Simple touch glowlight has a slot for a microSD
card. It looks like they "improved" it and took away the card slot for some reason. The older model can still be found fairly easily.
Marc Gioglio
56. Fuzzix
"It’s terrible for maps and pictures. I think they should email you the maps and pictures separately when you buy a book so you can see them at a reasonable scale on a big screen."

I don't have an ereader, but I listen to books all the time. I can not sit down to read, but I can listen while doing the dishes, making dinner, etc.

I really wish I could see some of the artwork and maps that are in books. I feel like I miss about 10% of the stormlight archives (and without the reread, I wouldn't even know it) because I don't have any maps, chapter icons, or art...Any of it, no shadesmar, no sketches. And the audiobook cost a heckuva lot more than the e-book.
T Neill
57. Anarra
I had no intention of buying an e-reader. I had a kindle ap on my tablet and that was fine when I used it.

My sister bought me the Kindle-full-of-ads for Christmas over a year ago. I love it. It's waay lighter than my tablet. I can't believe how much I like using it. When I opened the box, I thought it would just gather dust. I downloaded free stuff from Amazon and Project Gutenberg. I found out I could load the bits and pieces of my own writing. I've bought bunches of books from independent publishers and Amazon and Baen. I've downloaded loads of research from archive.org. I won a datastick full of Tor novels and they're all on there, too.

I decided I never wanted my Kindle to synch with Amazon. It's in permanent Airplane mode and I use my computer to load books on it. I didn't want Amazon to mess with all the non-Amazon stuff I had loaded. Surprise bonus! If you never let the full-of-ads Kindle synch with Amazon the ads stop showing up. Win!
Ursula L
58. Ursula
stevenhalter @55:

That was one of the ones I considered - but it had a lower resolution screen, the same as my old Pandigital, and I figured if I was going to replace it, that a higher resolution screen would be better.

And it does make a difference, subtly. My eyes get less tired, as the letters are just enough smoother and sharper to make it a little easier for long reading sessions, or reading in less than ideal conditions.

I suppose my list is a wish-list for the ideal reader. One not tied to a single store or company for content, expandable, pulling together the most flexible technology.

Different readers pull together different aspects of what works best, but all seem to hold back from putting it all together. This is a fairly simple technology, in terms of being a tool for serious readers. It doesn't need to multi-task or balance the needs of different functions. It should be possible to get it perfected.
vanye
59. GrahamStorrs
Since I got my first ebook reader (a Kindle) some years ago, I have not bought a paper book. There doesn't seem any point. I don't use the Kindle any more (although my wife still loves hers and is on her 3rd generation machine now), I use my Android phone with free ereader software. It has a 5" screen which is ample and the resolution is excellent. Now I have just one device to carry arround. So, as well as my book reading habits, ereaders have changed my phone using habits too - reading books is by far the most frequent use I make of my phone these days.
vanye
60. Booksnhorses
I love my Kindle, especially for holidays and travel, but I still buy quite a few books both new and secondhand. I devoured Kate Elliot's backlist when it came out as ebooks. Great tip about the ziplock bag btw, will try that out.

On a different note I'm glad to hear Jo is reading the Armitage stories, collected together as The Serial Garden. Joan Aiken is one of my favourite authors and Harriet and Mark's adventures were always a delight.
Brendon Roberts
61. saunterasmas
What a wonderful article and it is alos great to hear others have made the allowence of ereaders into their lives like myself.

The major setback for the whole argument is people who think that it is either/or. It's a matter of having the best of both world running simultaneously. Kind of like that little girl in the mexican food ads.

I'm an iPad reader and I use Calibre in conjunction with Marvin and they both kick ass. I have also discovered that I do like reading graphic novels on the iPad as .cbr files with the screen horizontal. You only get to see half the page and you just swipe down to see the lower half. You get way less of those eye wandering spoilers. I have scanned in the majority of my graphic novel collection and I'm not looking back at all.
vanye
62. GY
I started to dream about owning an ebook reader in the 1970's, after reading a newspaper article about Ray Kurzweil's efforts in developing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. At the time I thought that an ebook reader might look something like an etch-a-sketch. That is, a device about the size of a normal hardcover book with a slightly smaller display screen inset into one side.

The first electronic device I ever bought to read on was a Hewlet Packard Jornada 565 pocket PC. This would have been about 2002. The Jornada had a tiny screen with a resolution of 240 by 360 pixels, but it could display text books that were saved in Microsoft Reader .Lit format. The tiny on-board memory could be augmented by storing more books on a compact flash card, and loading them into the Jornada when you wanted to read them.

Now, I'm reading on a second generation Nexus 7 tablet, with a 1200 by 1920 pixel display, and a resolution of more than 300 pixels per inch. The memory on the Nexus easily holds all of my books, with room for ten times more.

I have never placed much value on the smell of paper, or the appearance of a book on my shelf. For me, 99.99 percent of the value of a book is in the sequence of words that were chosen by the author. Switching over to the convenience of ebooks, therefore was a no-brainer.

One big convenience of ebooks that hasn't been mentioned here so far is related to the inevitability of aging. If I live long enough to have to move into a retirement home, I will be able to take all of my ebooks with me. I wont't have to 'downsize' my library to what will fit in a couple of cardboard boxes under the bed.
Jill Hayhurst
63. pericat
I do my reading on an iPad and an iPod Touch. Both are late models, and have excellent screens, so the backlighting thing doesn't register as a problem for me. I've never had trouble reading on a monitor, though I know people do and this is a real issue.

One of the reasons I got a Touch in the first place was to load up on ebooks. I was beside myself thinking of having so many books in my pocketses. I learnt to make epubs, and to dig into the books I bought just to clean up OCR crud and questionable CSS decisions. I'm trying now to just let that stuff go as fixing it eats into my reading time.

Tablet (mostly) is just how I read now. One of the things that I can do now is look up words I don't know, or know well. It's so much easier than dragging out the dictionary, which I never did, and more sure than the context method, which I relied on much more than I thought.

I'm also not all that keen on the smell of paper, aside from used book stores. I've been a bit shy of it since that time in undergrad where we were assigned a new textbook (for that course), and they all stank. Do not know what the printer used to treat the paper, but whatever method it was left every book smelling strongly, and persistently, of some poor, sick, woodland creature's waste. In the heat of summer we told each other that it would wear off, it had to, when autumn came on. By Thanksgiving we knew that was a lie, only speculating if the campus bookstore would buy them back at the end of term or nick us extra for having en masse abused them beyond the ordinary.

With ebooks, I never worry about that kind of thing. Or about glue wearing out, or pages yellowing and cracking.

What I miss: specially and lovingly chosen or developed fonts. Typesetting? Really well-designed layout. Presentation is still hit-and-miss with ebooks. Even so, by preference ebooks are what I read.
lake sidey
64. lakesidey
I loved reading paper books, but I was ok with reading ebooks too; not too enamoured but would read them when a physical book was not an option. Held off on a Kindle for a long time, but when the paperwhite came out I was like "I can read this thing at night without disturbing other folks? And still not strain my eyes (much)? Shut up and take my money!"

Nowadays I tend to use the Kindle more on long trips; for daily usage I carry around my Nexus 7. I like Moon+ reader (a headsup to those who like to read while eating, it is the most. Convenient. Thing. Ever. I just set it to scroll at a convenient speed and then can read "handsfree" while I dine. Scrolling for a long time at a stretch is pretty rough on the eyes though, so be judicious....). One more thumbsup for Calibre btw; very handy.

Now I am pretty much converted to the dark side (quite literally, I read a lot in the dark!) and over 80% of my reading is electronic :P

~lakesidey
vanye
65. anon1233312
Nobody mentioned:

1 clean, clear fonts in whatever size I want (for my aging eyes)
2 faster reading (see #1)

Didn't like the look of the old white kindle screens but I bought my wife the original DX model with the high res screen. Looked great but too heavy. When the smaller grey kindle was announced, I preordered it instantly and never looked back. She upgraded to the smaller one soon after.

We're both on paperwhites now and can't imagine using anything else
vanye
66. rraph
I bought one specifically to read books in English. I live in Italy and used to have books shipped from bn.com, then Amazon, then my local international bookshop, which turned out to be too expensive to stay in par with my reading habits.
Moving to ebooks was the best thing I could do. In the last couple of years I've saved a LOT of shelf estate, read more books, kept my English fresh and, most of all, discovered a bunch of amazing novels or authors that I wouldn't have"tried" before due to my tight budget.
One of these authors, by the way, is Jo Walton herself. :)
Anastasia Burina
67. Radda
In my country it's hard to find paper books in English, apart from some bestsellers and classic, so I'm an early convert. So early I've managed to read dozens of books on my 2,5 inch cellphone screen and dozens of books on my desktop computer before that. I still prefer smaller screens and the best e-reader for me is my old Toshiba pocket pc with 4 inch screen and AlReader app. I've even bought another used one for backup.
Kindle et al are too bulky for me. With Toshiba I can hold it and flip through pages one-handed and it's so easy to read while lying on a side or whip it out in a packed bus. Pictures also look better on it despite the small screen.

Still, nothing beats paper for sheer sensory pleasure. I try to buy paper copier of the books I loved and plan to reread.
vanye
68. Ger
I keep telling my friends, that since I have my e-reader I adquired a SuperPower, "to be inmune to waiting" carring it everywhere, everytime I have to wait, I can read, many times I rather take a bus or train instead of driving even on those trips where driving would be much faster, since while I drive I lose reading time.
Francisco Guimaraes
69. franksands
Just one more person to say: I love my Kindle. I was one of those people that said "I will never buy an ereader", because of sensation of the pages, and the smell of the book and etc. I always read: at home, on the bus, waiting for someone, I even read while walking on the street.

However, I was literally running out of space at home, to accomodate all books and comics. So, much like Jo, I reluctantly bought a Kindle Paperwhite and loved it so much that when possible, only buys books through there. I'm totally converted. And the "how many books should I take" torture is over.
Howard Brazee
70. HowardBrazee
I have found the same things as you have. Also, I had to downsize my living spaces and get rid of thousands of books. E-books fit my house.

And looking up words and terms and places is quick and easy. There's room for improvement here. I wish there was another step when looking up words - start with the book's glossary before moving to dictionary then web.
Rob Munnelly
71. RobMRobM
@39 - thanks for the follow up. Knew that there had to be a reason - and, yes, our library system uses Overdrive, so there it is.
vanye
72. SCEtoAUX
I've been using my Ereader for a few years now. The biggest change for me is that I can now read easily while walking for exercise. I live in a rural area and walk a few miles of lonely gravel roads each day and no I can do it while reading a favorite book. I've also added a stand to my treadmill so I can read while treadmilling indoors in days of bad weather.

The second biggest change is that I seldom find new traditional published books worth the money. I've mostly been reading inexpensive self published books for the last few years with the exception of ongoing series. Even those I now find hard to enjoy when I had to pay ten times the money for a story that is not much better then the self published works. I've discovered new authors who I would have never heard of in previous years and its exciting.
alastair chadwin
73. a-j
One thing not yet mentioned, the availability of previously out-of-print books for a reasonable price. For years I had been trying to get hold of the ghost stories of HR Wakefield (one of the few ghost story writers who rivals MR James I reckon) and could only find horribly expensive second hand editions. I look on my kindle and find that a US publisher has all his books out at £5.00 a shot. And then I found that Alfred Duggan (the historical novelist, highly recommended) was being republished at £3 a book and so on. This cancels out a lot of my misgivings though I do agree wholeheartedly about maps etc.
Jo Walton
74. bluejo
I've never, thank goodness, had any problem reading any size print. But I do sometimes increase the point size on the Kindle when I'm reading in bad light -- for instance there's one local restaurant that serves great rotisserie chicken but they seem to think everyone wants to eat it in romantic dimness.
Janice Boyd
75. scaredicat
I love my Kindle.

I now "own" 700 books for it, instantly available, with no need for another bookcase. And all these books have HUGE fonts that I can read without my glasses. Or normal fonts. Or tiny fonts. And none of these book will make my poor wrists ache.

It did change my reading habits. I no longer fear the trilogy (or other ology). So many times, I'd start a trilogy, get left hanging - and never be able to find the middle book. Or notice a great sounding novel, only to discover that I needed the five previous books in the series to understand what was going on. Now I just buy the whole flippin' series. Yes, I admit it - now I binge-read. I have no self-control. My answer to those dreaded cliff-hanger endings is to immediately, that very second, purchase and start reading the next book.

Another thing that I love about ebook reading - the dictionary. I can highlight a word and look it up instantly. Also -- the ereader will attempt translations. Voilà! I now understand ALL of Jane Erye. I could have done this before, of course, with a French-English and German-English dictionary -- but those are books I didn't own.

One downside is maps and pictures. They are not well rendered (at least on my Kindle 2 and Kindle Paperwhite). Also, the Kindle doesn't work well for magazines, even ones that are relatively text-heavy. I enjoy the physical act of paging through magazines, allowing articles to catch my eye. An ebook doesn't lend itself to that sort of browsing.
vanye
76. Ricardo Penteado
Excellent article, thank you.

I made sure to share it in my eReaders BR Facebook group!
Lianne Burwell
77. LKBurwell
Re: 58. Ursula
Take a look at the Kobo Aura HD. I love mine. It's a 6.8" screen, it has a higher resolution/DPI, the lighting is even across the screen, and it has the Micro SD card slot. And I've never noticed any exclusive partitions for book sources. It can take epub, pdf, mobi (non-drm), rtf, etc.

Seriously, it sounds like it has everything you're asking for.
Brian R
78. Mayhem
Has anyone found an e-reader that still remains reasonably zippy after you load more than 250 odd books on it?

I have a kobo touch and an ipad (bluefire), and both are incredibly sluggish in the library sections if there are a large number of books.
Reading is fine, but juggling or changing books is painful.
Paul Howard
79. DrakBibliophile
I started with an off-brand (can't remember it's name) ereader, moved to a Nook but now read from a Tablet. While I enjoyed the ereaders, I love the Tablet because of its screen size. I also like that I can expand the print size. I'm having problems reading the standard print size in paper books.

I've replaced all of my paper books (when possible) with ebooks. Saves space on my shelves for the books that lack e-versions.
vanye
80. Semirose
There were two reasons I bought my nook back in the summer of 2010. The first was because I had graduated from college the year before and was moving around quite a bit and got so sick of lugging my books with me to each new place and the second was because I was working an incredibly boring night shift job and kept getting mad when I would underestimate the amount of free time I had and would end up 5 hours into my shift with nothing else to read. I never looked back.

I also noticed two changes in my reading habits. I started reading far more short story/essay books and my non-fiction reading skyrocketed both of which I think is because of how easy it is to start something on the e-reader and then come back. Have a 30min bus ride? Read a complete story in that time!

I do still like buying physical copies of books but I typically save those for authors I absolutely adore and will probably end up with them signed since even though I'm not bouncing around anymore, I do live in a studio condo so space is limited. What I need to do is buy a new e-reader though, my first gen nook still works great but, well, can't resist the pull of shiny and new.
vanye
81. RW_in_DC
One thing I didn't see mentioned was "sharing": while I know Ms. Walton and other authors would like to have us buy (e-)books, due to DRM, in Kindle land e.g., you can only lend your e-book once (ever!) for a two week period which I believe to be absolutely ludicrous. (Not that any other publisher I know of, with the exception of Baen, has realized the full sized example sells the author/series/opus.) If you want to evangelize an author/work, you'll want to buy the paperback and brandish because I have found the free excerpts to be more tease than real taste.
Jo Walton
82. bluejo
Not being able to lend them is a real disadvantage. But as, if I like the book, I buy the paperback as well, it's only a temporary disadvantage.

The other thing I have noticed is sometimes with a book I already own I will buy an e-copy as well if it's fairly inexpensive. So for instance I picked up Permutation City for $2.99. I have owned a copy for years. But now I have it with me all the time too. But I won't do that if it's $10 unless the copy I have is in bad condition or really heavy -- hello, Baroque Cycle!
Kristen Templet
83. SF_Fangirl
Between a wonderful library system and my kindle (in which I read a lot of short fiction and library eBooks), I have barely made an dent in my to-read shelves for years. The good thing is both of these prevent me from adding to those to-read shelves. That is a bit of a bad thing for bookstores and used book stores, though.
vanye
84. romsfuulynn
@78 Mayhem - you asked "Has anyone found an e-reader that still remains reasonably zippy after you load more than 250 odd books on it?"

I have the newest Nook Glo and find it adequately zippy with my library, which is definitely on the large end. As of today I have 1779 books in the active books (probably about 300 or so downloaded) and 1424 archived. Those are books in the actual B&N ecology (bought from B&N, Fictionwise, or ereader.com). I started buying ebooks very early for my Palm Pilot.

I also have 295 non-BN ebooks on the Nook. Baen mostly, plus some from other publishers. I still have about 1.5 GB of the 2GB available for BN content, and 400 of the 500 MB for non-BN content.

First load of a new device of information on all 3000 does take about an hour with a fast connection. The Nook limitation on non-BN content would be a problem though.
Anastasia Burina
85. Radda
For lending you can download your books on Kindle for PC, strip DRM, if necessary, and just send your friend a file via email. Kindle for PC and similar programs are also useful for backing up your library in another folder on your computer in case Amazon decides to completely wipe out your Kindle, which has happened in the past.
Jo Walton
86. bluejo
My problem with not being able to lend them is much more with wanting to lend them to people who don't have an e-reader. All the stripping off of DRM in the world doesn't help with that! But as I said, it's a temporary problem because I buy the paperback and then I can lend that.
Ursula L
87. Ursula
Jo - even before I had a dedicated e-reader, I read e-books on my desktop and laptop computers, particularly if I got part or all of a book for free. If I liked it, I might start the book on my computer and then buy the paperback to finish it.

And these days, with people able to read books on their phones and tablets as well, there are even more opportunities for sharing.

So it is probably worth it to offer to share ebooks, even with people who don't (yet) have readers. Almost everyone has some way to try out a story. I know I wouldn't have bought an e-reader if I hadn't first had access to a lot of free and legal ebooks (via tor and baen) as it gave me the confidence to know it would be useful and I'd already familiarized myself with reading in e form.

Calibre is really useful for this sort of sharing, as you can convert an epub or mobi book into pdf, which is pretty much universally readable.
vanye
88. I_Sell_Books
But, bookstores going away makes me sad.
Michael Dolbear
89. miketor
@39 Torrilin "Libraries have difficulty lending classics such as Jane Austen"

My public library (Surrey, England), which uses Overdrive and I access on a Kindle Fire. has no problem. Of course these 'loans' just download and never expire.

No one I think has mentioned TTS (Text to speech, ie robot voice) which is available on both my Kindles. The voice(s) aren't much but when I had an eye operation I was able to listen to a whole novel (plug for George Phillies _Mistress of the Seas_ here) that was not otherwise available.
John Massey
90. subwoofer
I'm not a hold out, I'm just cheap. I liken it to Itune schtuff. I have to fork out for content and for the device? Meh. Flog the content, let the interface be affordable. I ended up with a kobo because that is all they sold at Costco, and the Cos has a bomb proof return policy. Reading at night is much easier this way.

I do think about the bookstores though. One of my favorite things to do, even just to kill time, is to go to the local bookstore and browse. I like the physical feel of books, turning pages, etc. I really do worry about the death of print. I would not want what happened to Blockbuster to happen to bookstores. That is a part of our cutlure, our society, that would leave a huge hole. So I do buy books as well. Gotta keep that industry going,

Woof™.
S. L. Casteel
91. castiron
I've been reading ebooks on my iPod Touch for a few years now; I also have a Nook Simple Touch (RIP). I echo the previously posted sentiments -- I have a library with me wherever I am; I can read in odd moments when it wouldn't be as convenient to dig out a pbook. I buy ebooks of favorites I already have in pbook, especially if I'd bought the pbook used (finally I'm giving the author a royalty payment!). Last summer I checked out and read a book from my local public library while I was on the other side of the Atlantic. I love ebooks and ereaders.

My only reservation about ebooks is their longevity. When Alexandria Digital Literature was still a going concern, I bought a few stories; I no longer have access to those stories. Stripping DRM for personal use may not actually be a felony according to the appeals court for the circuit I live in, but.... So if I'm sure I'll want to reread a book over and over, or if it's one I want to share with my kids and theoretical grandkids, I buy a print copy. And of course the books that I buy for aesthetics as well as content I buy in print.
vanye
92. nongrant
I read on my iPhone a lot these days - it's always available, and I have all sorts of books on it for all reading moods. I use iBooks (and Calibre) and the Kindle app. I particularly like picking up booklist ideas from blog posts and being able to start reading immediately. The house is still full of real books, new and old, which I don't think will ever change. Mind you, the bits of our house not crammed with books are full of 78's, LPs and CDs..
Janice Boyd
93. scaredicat
I've thought a lot about the longevity of ebooks, too. I still worry that ebook readers will engage in the sort of arms race that PC manufacturers indulge in, rendering old files (aka all the ebooks I've bought) unavailable because newer tech can't handle them. That's colored my choice of which "ebook-verse" I participate in. I've chosen one that is book-centric and large, because that seems the safest. It's a little disconcerting to realize how dependent my e-library is on the existance of a single company. I'm placing a fairly expensive bet that Amazon won't go out of business in the next 20-30 years. That may be a mistake.

However... physical books do not last forever, either. If they are hardback, on high quality paper, and stored lovingly they can last a very long time. True story -- oldest library book I ever ran across was written in the 1700s. It was available for check-out, too. I have very few books that fit into this category. Most of my book purchases over my lifetime have been paperbacks, printed on low-quality, high-acid paper. They've been tossed in luggage, read in bad, taken to the beach, dropped in the tub, and thrown across the room. Sadly, the oldest of these are so brittle and yellowed that I can't pick them up without damaging the pages. And they are no longer in print. The usable life span of this sort of book, in my house, is around 25 years. For a well-loved and often-read book, the life span is even shorter.

I think -and hope- my ebooks will survive at least as well as my paperbacks.
vanye
94. OtterB
I bought a tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0) about a year ago. I read things on it in a Nook or Kindle or Aldiki (epub) apps and check books out of the library on Overdrive. I also use it for email when I travel and for music (but my main music interest is material downloaded for chorus practice, not commercial music, so I'm not sure how it would stack up there).

I'm too concerned about losing it all to trust most of my library to e-books. The things I have there tend to be (a) ephemera; light reading that I don't expect to reread (though I then feel mildly guilty about not having a paperback to donate), and (b) old favorites that I own in hard copy, but enjoy having right at hand to fall back on if I run out of new stuff or want a comfort read. I also found, when I went on a fanfic binge, that I could download a batch as epub, read it on the plane, and then delete it.

One place where e-books don't work well for me: shared family reading. There are several series that I, my husband, and my daughter all enjoy; those need to be bought in hardcopy.

The other downside of e-reading, for me, ties back to something that I recall horrifying Jo in an older post ... it's harder to skim or skip in an e-book. If I find my interest flagging in a paper book I'm generally enjoying, I'll skip ahead a bit and see if it picks up, then come back to where I left off if I need to. Much harder in e-book, for some reason. I have some e-books I bought recently that I wanted to reread in preparation for a new release. I like the author, and I like the series, but I just don't like these particular books very much and can't slog my way through them in e-form. I could skip my way through them in paper.
Pamela Adams
95. Pam Adams
I think this will make an excellent chapter in Again, What Makes This Book So Great?
Birgit
96. birgit
The idea of having a library in my pocket and not having to carry around 1000-page books sounds great, but the way it is handled in reality has kept me from buying an e-reader. I'm still waiting for a device that can read both Amazon and epub books without having to convert and strip away copy protection. If I need a different device for different shops I'll rather buy paper books where I don't have to worry whether I can still read the book with the next device.
vanye
97. (still) Steve Morrison
The brick-and-mortar bookstores were disappearing well before ebooks became popular. Amazon seems to be what really killed them.
Joyce Crane
98. jyc
I find myself agreeing with a lot of what Jo says. I was born on the cusp of the first "tech" generation (I can't remember what it's actually called), but have been a book reader pretty much since I learned how to read. I'm that person who carries a book in her purse at all times.

I was very reluctant to buy an eReader for a very long time because, while I don't smell my books, I do love the physical act of reading: holding the book in my hands, the heft as I read etc. But I moved to Australia almost 7 years ago, and the cost of buying my books in Australia (seriously, the markup attached is often quite absurd, new paperbacks are often easily $20+), even in paperback, coupled with sometimes delayed Australian release dates, finally broke me about a year ago and I finally got one.

It certainly wasn't the lifechanging experience that some people seem to have with eReaders, but it does make things easier for me at times, and definitely cheaper as well. If I like a book well enough, I'll end up buying a print copy of it as well to add to my library anyway. What my eReader allows me to do is try before I over-invest, and I don't see that as such a bad thing.

Also, I can run into work now and not worry about having a 1-2kg book in my bag dragging me down. Which is really awesome because I'm a wimp :)
vanye
99. bethjanem
This is a wonderful article, Jo. It's brightened up my very monotonous work day, thank you!
vanye
100. Madelon
I am a gadget person. I like kitchen gadgets and electronic gadgets. I was a PC technician for more than 22 years... a clear case of career mirroring hobby.

When the Kindle first came out, my sister bought one right away. She is a gadget person too. I did not know this, but when I visited her and had a look at this electronic marvel, I knew I had to have one too. I went home from that visit and told my husband that I wanted a Kindle for Christmas. He is not a gadget person and was bemused by the whole idea of ordering this thing for me. I told him, use my Amazaon account and your credit card. Hey that meant he was buying it for me.

He ordered it on December 1, 2008. It was a little disappointing that the delivery data came back for February 2009. Just before the scheduled delivery of my Kindle, I got an email from Amazon saying that my Kindle order was cancelled and being replaced with a Kindle II and I would be among the first to receive shipment. When delivery was attempted, no one was home, so my husband, who is much better at real world stuff, chased down the UPS truck and signed for my Kindle and brought it home. My hero!

I immediately bought UR, by Stephen King since it was a King tale about a Kindle!

I was reading the hardcover edition of CATHEDRAL OF THE SEA, a very heavy book to hold, and me with arthritis in my hands. I went to the Kindle store, found my book for $10. I debated buying it because I had gotten the hardcover at Costco for something like $16. Then I rationalized that my sister had given me an Amazon gift card for Christmas that I was saving for the purpose of buying Kindle editions. I bought the book, found where I had left off reading the real world edition and happily kept reading for at least an hour pretty much pain free. Right then I knew that the Kindle was the only way to read.

I still have my Kindle II, but I did buy the Kindle with Special Offers when it came out because it is even smaller and lighter, This is the one that I can and do carry with me almost everywhere I go. I hate to not be reading something. With this technology, I never have to be.
vanye
101. Digilog
I enjoy reading ebooks and physical books equally, but you can only carry so many physical books in your bag before throwing your back out.

Currently, I have about 200+ epubs on my Nook Touch. It is wonderfully light and the battery charge lasts for a such a long time that I really don't even worry about it that much. I use Calibre to convert PDFs or other documents to epub for tranfer to my device.

Last year, I purchased a Google Nexus 7 tablet. Wow, another versatile device with great battery life. Now I can read even more with it because of the different ebook apps such as, Kindle, Nook, Google Books, Aldiko, and Readmill.

All things considered, I still buy phyiscal books both new and used, but nothing beats the convenience of a good ereader.
vanye
102. Guy W. Thomas
I struggled with e-books/e-book readers because I really love the fiscal nature of a book. Unfortunately, I have a disability that affects my strength and it just got to the point that I couldn't physically deal with the actual book. E-books allow me to read plain and simple. There are other nifty things about e-books though. Some readers allow you to change typefaces, size of type color of backgrounds which can provide a lot of access for people with visual disabilities. I still sort of mourn my books though.
vanye
103. Jean V Dubois
1. I love my Kindle but there are certain authors (Rothfuss, Weber, etc) whose books i must have in hardback because I love to walk by the bookshelf and stop, pull one out, and turn to my favorite passage and immerse for a few minutes. It is far easier to "thumb through" a physical book looking for a remembered spot than it is the e-reader.
2. For those who fill all their "dead time (the bus, waiting for appointments, the light to turn green...) by pulling out the e-reader where is the time and opportunity for unscheduled human contact and serendipitious discovery? The fellow rider on the bus with a tear trickling down her cheek who could use a sympathetic smile, the patch of flowers growing improbably in concrete rubble? Waiting at the bus stop everyone is looking at their phones or e-readers. Unplanned and accidental meeting and contact can be frightening, enraging, joyous, brilliant....but always a learning experience. Are we hding from them?
vanye
104. Randeth
Great summation of switching to an ereader. I've been exclusively ebook for a few years and love it. I have a 10" Asus tablet for large format things like RPG PDFs, and a Kobo Aura for reading epubs. I absolutly love the Kobo, but I go through the extra step of stripping off DRM where ever I buy my books from and use Calibre to manage my collection. I just hate the idea of being tied to one bookstore ecosystem.
vanye
105. Laraine
From where I'm sitting it took absolutely AGES for e-books to take on. What's the matter with people? I kept asking myself. Particularly what is the matter with publishers? Why are they stuck so resolutely in the first half of the 20th century? Ebooks didn't really take off until Apple brought out the iPad.
vanye
106. Malatroid
In my previous job, I spent about 2/3rds of any given year away from home, usually in a foreign country in which English books weren't a mainstay of the economy. I started out packing a library of paperbacks wherever I went, but the weight alone killed me when I travelled. Then I got a Sony Reader, and absolutely loved it. I could bring as many books with me as I wanted and didn't have to worry about the weight.

Now, however, I have an office job that keeps me within 20 miles of home 11/12ths of the year, and I haven't started up that Sony Reader in about two years. I love books, my house is full of them, and given the option, I stick with paper.
vanye
107. mrklingon
I first used my Palm pilot as an ereader - it convinced me, and I got Kindle, and was lucky to get one when they still had the text-to-speech (not in any current, except the Fire).

No holds barred - it's the best gadget I ever bought. If/when it breaks, I'll be online buying another immediately.
vanye
108. Laraine
PS: I don't have a lot of books (maybe about a thousand) but I'd gladly let someone have them all if they could give me epub versions (or Kindle; it doesn't matter what format) instead. My bookcases are two-deep in books and I have no more room for any more bookcases (not to mention bookcases cost a fortune). Then there's the messy look. I have my books arranged alphabetically so I can find them and few of them are the same size. They look awful!
vanye
109. Megs
I was an inadvertant early adopted - my dad bought me a Kindle 2 for my birthday several years ago. I used it occasionally at first, but it really came in handy when I went to law school. I'd load a case or law review article onto it and save myself hauling those brick casebooks around.

I have a fire now but still use the eink device (I upgraded to a Kindle Touch when the 2 died) for extended reading sessions. I'm prone to eyestrain and wrist pain, so ebooks really are the best. I've also found that the eink is easier to read than paper in bright sunlight. I'm starting to experiment with using the sych function so that I can read on the fire when I'm out and about, then pick up where I left off at night on the eink.

My fiancee was recently talking about how reading on backlit devices before bed can mess with your sleep patterns, so we'll probably be buying him an eink reader soon to supplement his ipad. I've been wondering if the paperwhite would cause the same problems, though. It's disapointing that Kindle doesn't have a basic touch device available anymore - that's why we bought his sister a nook instead.
vanye
110. MontanaH
I was an early adopter of the Palm Pilot, and started out reading ebooks on that back in the 1990s, so it wasn't much of a jump to switch to reading on my iPhone and, later, on my iPad. Lately I've started replacing my paper library with ebooks (and donating the dead-tree versions to my local public library), because even after paring down my collection in preparation for moving about ten years ago, I still had 13 six-foot bookcases full of books.

@wiredog - Weird typos in Kindle editions are likely a result of Amazon's patented copy protection scheme, where they insert specific "alternative misspellings for selected words" (e.g., rn instead of m, etc.) into each book purchased, so that if it gets pirated, they can identify who the original purchaser was.

@dulac3 - I was a die-hard Stanza user for years, until it finally started crashing more often than it worked. After lots of trial and error, I found Marvin, which I think is the best Stanza replacement out there. The developer is really responsive to user requests, too.
gary jordan
111. jordan
I just turned 63, and I've owned the least expensive Kindle and Nook for over a year. I bought them at the same time, to compare them. The Nook was easier to register, but once the Kindle was registered, there was no contest. I haven't picked up the Nook after the first two weeks.

It makes a difference that I keep my library on my laptop (and have copies on CDs and thumbdrives), and don't park more than a hundred or so books on the Kindle itself. Also, there's an old MobiReader program running on a desktop that I use for its interface. When you have a thousand titles on a Kindle, browsing becomes downright painful. What makes it worse is that some publishers don't sort by lastnamefirst, firstname, or the plethora of books starting with "A " or "The ".

I love my ereader.
Donia L
112. Donia
I'm a very similar reader to Jo Walton (although I HAVE figured out how to read laying on my stomach when my wrists are tired from propping up a 500 page tome for hours on end: prop the book up vertically on the wall/headboard and stuff a pillow or two under your upper chest/shoulder/chin area -- granted, you can't read that way for really long without your neck tiring, but it does give your wrists a needed break.

oh, and BONUS - a second way! (obviously for hardcore marathon-session readers) - lay at the edge of your bed and put the book on the floor (doesn't work for high beds, clearly, though you could put your book on a stack of other books) then drape your arm over the side to hold the book open and let your head hang partially over the side. Ahh... the joys of doing what it takes to read a fat book in one sitting :-)

Anyway, I also have held out on getting an e-reader despite its obvious capacity/convenience advantages for several reasons:

I (like apparently @lisamarie ) like to flip back to parts of the book I want to check for various reasons (confused on a name; unsure whether the author is being consistent; re-read a detail relevant to current goings-on hundreds of pages later) and I have a *very* good visual memory -- meaning, I can usually remember where in the book something was by the way it *looked* (e.g. if it was 1/6th or 2/5ths of the way into the book, what part of the page it was on, etc) and I can find things within seconds that way. So I am suspicious of how frustrating an e-reader will be for me in that regard (especially for reading series: if I want to go back to a previous book to check something relevant to the current book).

Also, I do most of my reading from library books (if I know I'm going to breeze through a series, I wait until they're almost all published (there are so many things to read in the meantime!) and then will check out as many as possible so I can read them in a continuous stream (so satisfying!!).

Maybe it's just because I live in Hawaii (which has an awesome physical book system -- you can request books from ANY library in the entire STATE and they send them for free!!!), but I'm dubious about their stock of e-books and have wondered how those "proprietary" systems work which block you from reading other types of files...

I hope that my belly-reading tips help some other hardcore readers, and if anyone has a suggestion for a type of e-reader that allows more cross-platform reading than another, and has a solution for the "flipping back" problem (it's not a matter of bookmarking something: these are just spur of the moment re-checks) I would LOVE to know as I too would love to solve the "is there enough of this book left?" question mark when I'm out and about with my nose buried in a book. :-)

Mahalo!
vanye
113. Andrew M
I agree with all of the reasons laid out here and I would have left it at nodding my head in silent agreement but...so many people mentioned The Stormlight Archive I had to say something. Love those books and I also get the hardcovers and the ebook because of all the beautiful artwork and maps.
Janice Boyd
114. scaredicat
@110 -

Those weird typos are something called OCR (optical character reader) errors. No big conspiracy, just an artifact of scanning technology used to create the ebook.

@wiredog - "The Victorian Internet" was originally published in 1998, so I am not suprised that the ebook conversion involved scanning (and those inevitable OCR errors); the original was probably typeset.
Cynthia Cheney
115. goldfinch
@K.Jean
Some libraries have ereaders to lend and will instruct you on the basics, so that you could try one out.

I have a Nook Color, and enjoy it but am unsatisfied with the options for "active reading" : notes can be made, and passages highlighted, but getting the notes back to my laptop is tedious, and if too many notes/highlights are made it overtaxes the memory of the device. Also these features pretty much are confined to purchased Nook books, not Project Gutenberg texts and others. I have never been entirely comfortable with writing in books so have usually used either index cards as combination bookmarks/note bearers or tiny post-its. It really seems to me that an electronic reading device ought to include all the facilities that electronic devices offer. So for what I consider serious reading, my Nook gets low grades. And as others have observed flipping back and forth is quite difficult. I have no doubt that looking things up in a field guide or other nonfiction text is far faster using a physical book than with an e-version, if >1 page contains related information and you need to look to see.

I can often get a lightly used hardback from Amazon for less than the price of a Nook Book, postage and all, and that is what I prefer, although wall space for book shelves is growing scarce!
Cynthia Cheney
116. goldfinch
Oh, and I had a question about locating classical Greek texts *in Greek* for Kindle or Nook. Jo mentioned having "all of Plato in Greek and English" on her Kindle. My searching of each source hasn't turned up any other than when I searched specifically for 'Loeb Classical Library' finding a dozen odd in the Nook collection. (LCL volumes have Greek on one page (or Latin), English on the facing page.)
Jo Walton
117. bluejo
Goldfinch -- you can't get the Loebs, and you can't get facing page text, but I suggest you look at the Delphi Ancient Classics series. Also Perseus.edu has pretty much everything downloadable -- the translations are often awful, but for originals it's priceless.
vanye
118. mef613
Donia: The Kindle Paperwhite 2nd edition (late 2013 version) shipped with a new "Page Flip" feature, and there is a new firmware update for the original Paperwhite (late 2012) that added the same feature. (Much to my surprise and gratification, since I have the original version...)

Basically, you can pop up a window with a view into the book, and skim forward or back, a page or chapter at a time; then either tap on the "skim view" to go there, or tap outside it to return to the original location. The text is slightly smaller in the popup window, but still legible. The experience feels very much like holding your place in a paper book with a finger while flipping elsewhere for reference.

This review at Techhive does a pretty good job of explaining the feature, and has a screenshot as well.
vanye
119. kimu
I bought an iPad when it first came out. I expected to use it for browsing the web, reading academic papers, and playing games. I never expected that I'd start using it as an eBook reader. At the time, I was fairly firmly anti-eBook. I love the feel of books, the experience of turning pages, the weight of a book. But I was home with a newborn, I had a lot of oddly timed free time, and I decided to give eBooks on the iPad a try. I was hooked, almost instantly. Finished reading a book? Nothing else to read on hand? An entire universe of books just a few clicks away. Fantastic.

As a confirmed Apple fanatic, I also never expected to switch from the iPad to another type of eReader - but when the Kindle Paperwhite came out last fall, I bought one. Lots of reasons, but mostly the fact that having access to the internet and games on the iPad was throwing off my reading time. The flexibility of the iPad was disturbing my pre-sleep habit of reading before falling asleep. I love the Paperwhite, so lightweight, unbelievable battery life, fantastic readability/easy on the eyes.

A couple of things overall have changed for me because of eBooks. I read much more than I ever did before, and I read a lot before eBooks. Have downtime? Waiting for something? I've always got a book along now - even if I've forgot one of my primary eReaders, I've got the Kindle app on my phone. I read some genre works I probably wouldn't have touched before - an occasional romance, some YA books, that kind of thing. I also use the library much more than I did before. My library has a great eBook collection and it always seems to be expanding - not necessarily true of my local library branch. I also listen to more audiobooks, because of Kindle WhisperSync for Voice (silly name, good product). Being able to switch back and forth seamlessly between audiobook and eBook is handy. I truly never expected to be a convert to eBooks, but I totally am.
David Levinson
120. DemetriosX
@goldfinch/Jo
Perseus is an excellent source and it's not so much that the translations are terrible as it is that they are from the 19th century. No different than you'd get from Project Gutenberg or Google books. But it's Perseus.tufts.edu.
vanye
121. Michael D'Auben
I was an early, early adopter of ereading. I started around 15 years ago with a freeware ereader that ran on my old PalmOS device. Over the years I moved through Palm, Windows, Apple, Android and finally Kindle and over that time I've accumulated literally hundreds and hundreds of ebooks.

As the author said, the ability to carry a library in your pocket is life changing for a compulsive reader like myself. One of the big changes for me is how much more time I spend reading now. Waiting in line at the grocery store? Stopping for lunch? Taking the train to work? Sitting in the doctor's office? Just pull out my ereader and start reading. Its always with me, 24/7 if I have a few minutes to spare.

I do still buy and love paper books, but these days I mostly buy history and science books that rely on photos, maps and diagrams in hard copy. Almost all of the text novels I read are strictly ebooks.
vanye
122. hankroberts
All the things Jo said plus -- I can read late at night without ruining my night vision or bothering my spouse. That's because I use a Sony Clie (Palm OS) TH55, with Mobi Reader so I can have a black screen with orange text, and with Preuss's app to extend the low end of the brightness range. It's a shame Amazon bought and scrapped Mobi Reader. It's a shame Sony dumped the Clie. Palm, sigh.

And when I'm camping in below freezing weather, I pull out the old Palm that uses Energizer AAA lithium batteries that don't go flat when they get cold, unlike the newer power sources.

Yes, I carry libraries with me now, all the time. This is one of the few things about the future that worked out as I hoped it would, fifty years ago, when I was dreaming about what it might be like.

Oh, and there are a variety of tools available to turn anything to text, and text to Palm-readable files.

Someone should build something as good as the old devices that work so well, instead of fancy new e-readers dedicated to siphoning money out of your bank account.
vanye
123. Ipomoea
I was so terribly snobbish and grad-schoolish about e-readers until I had a ten-pound newborn baby the week before A Dance with Dragons came out. That hardcover weighs over three pounds, and it took me two months to read it, because the kid always came first. A friend loaned me her kindle for 24 hours, and I ended up buying one for myself almost immediately. It's made my GoT re-read SO much easier, and I've stocked up on old SF and Georgette Heyers in preparation for kid #2 coming this summer.
vanye
124. sunil kunnoth
I just loved reading your article. I am a good reader and also love writing. I wish to buy one e-reader soon. Thank you for sharing your experience here.
vanye
125. Ashbet
*waves* Hi, Jo! (It's Ashbet from LiveJournal.)

I feel similarly about my Kindle -- didn't think I needed/wanted one, now am utterly addicted to it. My back similarly thanks me -- I used to carry at least two, sometimes three paperbacks with me at all times, because I had a long train commute and RUNNING OUT OF BOOK was an ever-present danger.

I get restless/anxious/fidgety waiting in line or in doctor's waiting rooms (I see far too much of the latter, these days), and I've always carried books to read during those times (as well as every other chance I get, I'm a voracious reader.) The Kindle has completely revolutionized my book-carrying habits -- now, I only carry a physical book with me when I have a plane ride ahead, to read during the parts where I have to turn off all electronic devices.

Not that I don't still read from my immense library of paper books (for one thing, not everything is out as an e-book -- any chance of "Lifelode" coming out electronically, one of these days?), but that tends to be something I do at home, versus the Kindle being carried with me all the time.

It's also a huge blessing for those of us with health issues -- like you said, it is kind to people with back problems. As my genetic connective-tissue disorder has worsened, holding open a book and flipping pages has become more painful -- but propping the Kindle up on a pillow, and switching hands periodically in terms of which one is pressing the "next" button, I reduce the wear and tear on my abused and arthritic hands.

I've also been able to reduce some of the number of books that I keep at home with the Kindle -- while I love having a large paper library, I only have a certain amount of room. There are certain series that I've followed for years (like Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books), where I never owned every single volume (I'd checked some out of the library), but I'd owned most of them, and all of the new ones. When I moved into my current place, I gave away the physical copies of that series and a few others, and bought the complete series as e-books -- that way, I can read them start to finish if I want, without having to try to track down an older missing volume . . . and I'm not paying library fines when I inevitably am late making a return.

(I do think there's a discussion to be had about the necessity of increasing investment in libraries to offset the business they're losing from people who are making fewer library visits, but the discussion should also include how e-readers are making books more accessible to disabled patrons, because you don't necessarily have to find a local branch or a large-print version, and you don't need transportation if you can't drive yourself. I personally would not be able to go to the library often, in my current state of health, so I very much appreciate that my Kindle allows me to access books that I'd otherwise miss out on.)

I *would* love to see more authors/publishers go the Bujold route -- I've bought all of her books in hardback or paperback, but I admit that I'm reluctant to pay twice to purchase an e-book when I already own the physical version (for Bujold, I'd do it, because she's so loved and so often re-read in my household, but in general, I can't afford to buy the same books twice) . . . so it would be awesome if, for example, buying a new hardback would provide a download code for the e-book version. I was delighted when Bujold chose to include that CD in "CryoBurn" -- it felt like a reward for her loyal longtime readers.

I also have some strong feelings about DRM (I'd rather buy a book from a publisher like Baen than from Amazon, because my daughter and I pass books back and forth all the time, and Amazon DRM means that I can't just give her a book I've finished, which I would be able to do with a physical copy. Yes, they have a limited "lending" program, but the two-week limit and mandatory device syncing doesn't work well for us.) I'd like to see more publishers selling DRM-free e-books, and I think that it actually would increase author sales -- yes, some people would buy books and then give/lend them to others, but frankly, the same thing happens with paper books . . . and I think that the loyalty of repeat readers/purchasers would offset the minor losses in sales (particularly since, as noted, libraries exist -- so, a reader giving an e-book to a friend or family member is fairly similar to a library lending out a copy, since AFAIK, the author doesn't get revenue from libraries after the initial purchase.)

I'd love to see more out-of-print books converted to e-books (and perhaps some kind of legal arrangement that would allow authors to buy back the electronic rights at a reasonable cost if a publisher didn't wish to issue an electronic version.)

I was recommending several books to a reviewer for a site (the Lesbrary) that focuses on fiction with lesbian or bisexual female protagonists, and four of my recs (which included "Lifelode," actually, as well as Tanya Huff's "Sing the Four Quarters," Gael Baudino's "Gossamer Axe," and Richard Adams' "Maia") were unavailable in e-book version -- I was actually quite surprised that a couple of those had never been released electronically.

*laughs* Sorry, longest comment ever -- but as an avid reader, I think that there are a lot of conversations to have about electronic publishing, and you hit on some very important points regarding ease of access, reference materials, travel, and physical comfort that have also been significant to me. :)
Jo Walton
126. bluejo
Ashbet: Yes, there will be an e-version of Lifelode coming fairly soon from Tor. And you do know that Tor ebooks are DRM free, don't you?

What I think re e-copies of books I already own, is that I will rebuy something if it's not expensive. So the other day I bought the e-books of the three Alexander books by Mary Renault, for $15 for the three, even though I totally have paper copies. Around $5 is the most I'll pay for something I already own. I think that publishers should be thinking about this potentially huge market and pricing for it. Say you could get all of Bujold's backlist -- how much would you pay? Not $10 a book -- $1? $2? $5? Or maybe they could give you a code with a hardback that lets you have half off buying the ebook too -- or the other way around, one when you buy the ebook that gives you half off the paperback next year. Just throwing ideas in the air here.
Brian R
127. Mayhem
Back again.

Just wanted to say based on the comments above, I'm now using Marvin on the iPad mini and it is a great piece of software, especially in library management. I have 900 odd books on there, and it loads like a dream. Only downside it has is it won't sort by author and then series, but it does read series tags from Calibre, so that's a great change. It also shows the last dozen or so books you've read in a bar along the bottom, which is handy if you open another book and want to go back.

The only negatives are those associated with all ebooks - footnotes are horrible (especially the Pratchett epubs which puts them at the end of the text) and you can't zoom on pictures which would help a lot for the maps. And my battery life is somewhat affected, but that's my issue :D
vanye
128. shayray
I have the kindle app on all of my devices. I love it, and I dont know what the world did without it, but... there is something about picking up the physical book and getting lost in a weighty tome, like a Sanderson book or the ENTIRE Dresden Files series. The book gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you have finished it.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment