First, let me set the scene . . .
When I finished Divergent earlier this month, I was a bit underwhelmed by it, but not so underwhelmed that I wasn’t interested in starting the second book in the Veronica Roth series, Insurgent, immediately after, which put me into something of a conundrum.
1) I wanted to start reading it soon, a factor that eliminated trying to find time to get to a book store.
2) I didn’t want to pay a lot for it, as is no more than $8 or $9 (which also eliminated a book store purchase).
3) My usual avenue for getting free books (paperbackswap.com) didn’t have this book available.
4) On Amazon, used copies, with tax and shipping, would still come out to more than $10.
Basically, I wanted the book now and cheap.
The answer, of course, was obvious and staring me in the face, literally and figuratively. The mobile devices I keep my nose buried in (ask my husband) both have the capacity to work as e-readers, and in the iBooks store, Insurgent was a mere $7. If I wanted the book now and cheap, I had to buy an electronic version of it. This would not be a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, except that I’ve been resisting the e-book since the first generation of Kindles came out however long ago that was.
Why? Because I love books. Not just the stories they contain, but the actual objects. I love holding them, flipping through them, smelling them when they are brand new and even sometimes when they are old and musty. I love seeing them on my shelves. I love looking at other people holding books. (Do they hold them with two hands or one? Do they read while they try to do something else like eat?) Large hardcover, coffee table books, worn paperbacks. I love them all. As much time as I spend on my iPhone or iPad, when I am holding one of them, I never feel what I feel when I have a book in my hands. So it seemed wrong and sort of lazy to want to read an e-book. It felt a little bit like a betrayal. But still, I wanted Insurgent now and cheap.
So I bought the e-book, and who would I be if I didn’t blog about it? Here are five things about my e-book experience in no particular order.
1) Reading an e-book was less different than I was expecting—and better—probably because I waited to do so.
E-readers are now on their umpteenth generation, so having waited so long to take this plunge meant that I was doing so with a device that is much more sofisticated than e-readers of old. On iBooks, for example, I can still highlight and write notes the way I would on a paper book, a feature that was probably not available in early e-readers (or maybe it was and I’ve just been wrong about e-readers all this time).
The page-turning motion of swiping my finger on the touch screen—different from early Kindles, on which one “turned the page” by clicking a button—approximates the “real life” action of turning a page in the actual book. I liked this because when I read, I have this habit of grabbing the corner of the page I’m about to turn a couple of paragraphs before I actually need to turn it. On iBooks, I could do this by putting my finger on the corner of the screen—and the iPad went as far as curling the corner of the page on the screen when I did so. For someone like me, who likes their electronic things to look like the non-electronic things being mimmicked, this was nice.
2) There’s a built-in lamp.
The layout of our bedroom is such that the reading lamp is on my husband’s side, so when I want to stay up reading, he has to try to go to sleep with a big bright light on him. The iPad, of course, is self-lit. This was one of those things that I didn’t realize was a thing until I started reading my e-book.
*Hubby asks if he may turn off lamp.*
Oh . . . hey, will, you look at that!?! I don’t need a lamp! I have FREEDOM from lamps!
You remember that “Itty-Bitty Book Light” they used to sell at book stores? Not as good as this.
3) My e-book goes where my phone goes.
I take public transit to my job and enjoy reading during my 20-minute commute. I don’t usually take my iPad on the bus with me, but my phone also has iBooks, and every morning it magically knew where I’d left off on my iPad the night before (provided I remembered to bookmark). Obviously, an actual book and bookmark do this very thing, but depending on what you are reading, a book is not nearly so small or light as my phone. And, there is something exciting and empowering about having a full library in the palm of your hand.
4) Nobody knows what I’m reading.
Maybe it’s because I’m nosy, but when I see someone reading in public, I always try to get a peek at the cover. Conversely, I like showing off what I’m reading to the people around me. That’s part of the fun of books. With e-readers, however, such spying is out of the question. What’s worse, when I’m reading on my phone people may assume that I’m just texting or playing Angry Birds or whatever else people assume when they look judgmentally as someone fidgeting with a mobile device.
What’s the point of downloading Moby Dick or Ulysses if nobody’s going to know your reading them? (I haven’t downloaded either of these books, but they are the kind of books people read/buy either because it’s homework and you have to or because you want other people to know you read them. Just saying.)
5) I can’t feel how much I have left.
Inability to be a book show-off aside, my single biggest complaint about e-books is this: I can’t tell how much of the book is left. I mean sure, you can set it so that at the bottom of the page, it tells you how many pages are left in each chapter and in the whole book, but that’s not really the same and being able to feel the stack of pages in your left hand getting thicker and the stack of pages in your right hand getting thinner. As I was reading, Insurgent, in fact, at one point late in the book as the action escalated and neared its climax, I remember turning the page for the next chapter and—to my utter shock—landing in the acknowledgements. I wasn’t able to properly anticipate the book’s ending because on the iPad, I couldn’t feel the ending coming. This effect as made worse by the fact that, just as with Divergent, Insurgent didn’t end, it just stopped.
It probably seems like a silly thing to harp on, but I am a firm believer that how you interact with a book has an effect on how you absorb the words within it. There is writing out there that’s so good it makes you forget the thing you’re holding (indeed, makes you forget yourself completely), but that’s rare. To me, reading the book is part of the experience of reading the words, and the e-book still misses some of the things that for me are essential to that experience. I won’t knock its conveniences, but the e-book hasn’t quite won me over yet. I’ll probably download Allegiant (the last book in the series), but I’ll only be doing so, because I don’t feel strongly enough about the story or the writing to take the time or money to buy it in book form. So I guess that’s what the e-book is for me, a cheap and convenient alternative when I know what I’m getting is really nothing special.