Friday, January 25, 2013

Reconciling History and E-Reading

Real Books

What do you prefer? A solid book with a nicely used cover binding beautifully textured paper or a sleek, small and highly portable e-reader that can go with you anywhere and allow you to carry all your to-be-read books in the same place?

When e-readers first came out I thought ‘No way! No character in an e-reader, no enjoyment. I’m sticking with books.’ I couldn’t imagine not turning a page or feeling that comforting bulk in the palm of my hand. I’d stand on the subway cradling massive, thousand-page books in my arms, getting angry whenever someone would lean into me because the car was getting too full.

 But then, last spring I received an Amazon Kindle Touch for my birthday. It was a total game-changer for me, the writer/historian who shunned this bit of new technology.

Over the past several months I have been carrying my Kindle everywhere I can. No more awkward page turns on my morning commute in the subway sardine can. Just a quick TAP and I’m on the next page.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t dumped all my books. In fact, I have seven large book cases of dusty tomes I am loath to part with. I am, however, reconsidering my purchases and, when it comes to fiction, opting for e-books for several reasons.

Apart from it being a space-saving option, e-books are far and away better for the environment. It seems to me, and this is my own perception, that environmentalism was going strong in the early nineties but then toward 2000 took a nosedive. Thankfully, there seems to be a resurgence, perhaps due to the urgency of the situation globally but also the availability of new technologies. The message gets out more in the media and, let’s face it, paper seems passé.  

I’m not preaching. In fact, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to poor environmental choices, though I do try.

Amazon Kindle Touch
There are many things we can do to improve and every little helps. So, for fiction books that I am likely to read once, I always opt for the electronic version. When I publish my own work, I always make it available electronically on as many devices as possible. The Eagles and Dragons series is available in print as well but it is printed on demand, no extra paper used that is just going to collect dust.

However, I still prefer full-colour reference books in the traditional format because it is easier to look at and see maps. I can only stare at a screen for so long and despite what companies say, reading for a long period of time on a back-lit screen is terrible for your eyes. I don’t like to read on a computer screen.

If you are still not sure about the whole e-reader thing, a lot of public libraries are now lending e-readers. Why not head on down to your local library, check one out and see if you like it before investing the $100 dollars or so in one?

There are so many places that you can get a wide variety of e-books as well, including the major retailers like Amazon, iTunes, Sony, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. If indie books are your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out Untreed Reads, Smashwords and the numerous other independent, on-line retailers whose lists are growing every day.

If you are still new to the whole world of e-readers but want to learn a bit more about the different models, start by checking out the following article

Before I started reading on my Kindle, I thought that it would just be too weird to be reading historical fiction and fantasy on an e-reader. What about that time-honoured tradition of cracking open a book for the first time, of turning those delicate pages every couple minutes, the smell, the feel, the weight etc. etc.?

You know what? If you are reading a really good story, it doesn’t matter if you are reading it on regular paper or an e-ink screen. Good storytelling will transport you back in time, to another place, and all else about you will simply melt away.

What do you prefer when it comes to reading? Let us know in the Comments box below. 
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