Friday, November 2, 2012

To read, perchance...

By Russel D McLean

About a year and  half ago I bought a cheap ereader. I wasn’t converted. Savings on epubs were not substantial and the damn thing made this humming noise every time you turned it on. It was a piece of electronic jiggery pokery in my hand.

But I wanted to like it. I have no urge to see the death of paper. In fact I rather like it. Its great to have real, physical books on the shelves, and to surround myself with the clutter of language. I love scanning shelves, finding things I had forgotten were there, flicking through a few pages, using my thumb to land the page page.

All of that is brilliant.

So why even consider an ereader?

Well, there’s the convenience factor. I’m on the road a lot for various reasons and after a while it gets a pain in the arse taking up space in limited travel bags with heavy books. Having all my reading material in one place is a major plus point for me, and it means I no longer have too worry too much about taking the wrong book with me on a long trip.

There’s also the fact that increasingly the kind of writing I enjoy is going digital. The Shell Scott books by Richard Prather are now all digital which means I don’t have too worry about messing up the already damaged pulps I collect for those covers alone. Guys like Blasted Heath  and Snubnose are doing great digital only work that’s right up my alley. And there’s a whole load of other things going on.

But the trouble with digital reading is the cost of the device on which you read it. And as I’ve discovered you do get what you pay for. Luckily for me, a recent series of library gigs has paid for a new Paperwhite (yes, I got one that actually arrived) Kindle. Okay, I get it now why these guys are market leaders: no hum, no fuss, no muss. Aside from a small moment of panic connecting to the wireless, it works brilliantly and the disply feels less fuzzy than my old reader did. Its not paper, but its as close as we’re going to get, I think. Add to that the small extras like the web browser that lets me look at author and publishers websites alongside the massively useful personal documents function and finally I have an ereader fit for purpose.

But will it stop me buying paper books?

No. Not at all. Maybe I’ll buy less mainstream books. But I’ll still support publishers’ physical creations, especially those who create books that I want as much as objects as for a quick read. Guys like Hard Case Crime who create covers and objects to behold. Books that I really want too have and hold. Books that I can get signed (yes, I still like getting signed books from authors I love; I’m still a reader as much as a writer andd I don’t think that part of me’s going anywhere very soon)

The point is, that the medium’s convenient, yes. And I do like my new ereader. But what hasn’t changed is that the words are the thing. Books are books whether we get the words through a direct brain implant, a screen or old fashioned paper. They must retain their power. We can’t get lazy.

Good writing and always will be constant.

And I’ll be there to find it and devour it in whatever medium it happens to come in.

3 comments:

Dana King said...

I was far from an early adopter of e-readers, and only bothered at all because I bought one so my vision-impaired mother could enlarge the fonts. Now i do about half my reading on it. You have summed up my feelings toward both media better than I have been able to so far. I may just link back here the next time someone asks me.

Robin said...

I agree. My Kindle's been good for catching reissued books – I recently downloaded Cogan's Trade from Murderroom.com. Particularly as Waterstone's is only devoted to the latest books they want to market.

But it's not so great for books like To Die For, a series of essays that it's fun to dip in to. Hard to dip in to an ereader.

Scott Parker said...

I own a Nook SimpleTouch reader and an iPad. In my mind, I break them down kind of like this: my Nook is my paperback and my iPad is like my textbook.

That is, I read for fun on my Nook. Battery life is great, it's light, quick, responsive, and I can hold it in one hand, using a thumb to move forward and still hold a beverage. Plus I can sideload files, a nice plus when many of the classics are available via public domain.

The iPad, however, I tend to treat as a textbook. Yes, I have all three apps loaded (iBooks, Kindle, Nook) and have purchased in all 3. The backlight is good for reading at night, in bed, but I so rarely do that so I don't consider it a huge selling feature. The iBooks app, however, has something the other two don't: a way to export my annotations and notes. Thus, if I want to read a larger book to learn about a topic (new The Weird anthology, for example, or a novel I want to pick apart and study), I use the iPad and iBooks. I can also sideload here, too, via iTunes.

Plus, the iPad lets me read COMICS! If I read nothing else via the iPad, I'd keep it for the comics.