Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Easing into Ebooks, Part 1 by Shawna Williams

It seems to be human nature to greet something new with a certain amount of skeptism, and I can't claim to be totally immune. When I first became aware of ebooks, I turned up my nose, thinking they were a passing fad in which I had no interest. But when an author I like published a book in ebook format, I decided I would give it a try. Reading on my computer wasn't my preferred choice, as I like to recline on the sofa and get cozy, but since the book was interesting, it was worth snuggling up with my laptop instead.

Of course, now with the influx of ereaders and ereading apps there are plenty of options that make reading ebooks a more enjoyable experience. There's also a lot of misconceptions, and today I'd like to address the top three as they pertain to ereaders.

Anytime I see an article on ebooks/ereaders I always scroll down to the comments section, and it never fails, someone has made this statement. "I don't want an ereader because reading off a screen hurts my eyes." Sometimes the complainant ventures further. "In ten years, when all of today's youth are blind from staring at screens for countless hours, then what are we gonna do!" Occasionally, they're downright belligerent. "Ereaders! No thanks! If I wanted to fry my eyeballs I'd stare directly at the sun!" (You may think I'm joking, but I'm not.)

Let me explain the technology behind today's ereader. It's called e-ink, and it actually is ink. The particles are rearranged with every turn of the page through an electronic charge. It looks like paper, with non-reflective surface and a contrast that is pleasant to the eyes -- no blurring or smudging of words either. The font is also adjustable. In short, there is less eye strain than what you will encounter with a traditional book.

For more on e-ink: http://www.biblio-tech.com/BTR901/January_2001/e-ink_for_e-books__.html

Probably the second most common complaint is that the cold ereader can never match the comfort of holding a "real" book. Now, before I fully address this, I want to tell readers to please reconsider before saying this aloud, or typing it in a comment. It is offensive to authors, who have put countless hours into writing, researching and editing a book; then to have gone through the submissions process, being rejected numerous times, most likely; finally being accepted (brief celebration) more edits, formatting, promotion and so forth, to be told that theirs isn't a "real" book.

There. Since that's off my chest, I'll continue. For some people, this is true. Reading from an ereader is a slightly different experience than reading from a print book. But "different" isn't the same as not being cozy or comfortable. I have a Kindle. I keep it in a book-like cover made especially for Kindles. When you open it, you can either hold it like a book, or fold the cover behind the Kindle so that the soft felt surface rests in your hands.

I'm prone to muscle cramps and stiff fingers, so for me, holding a book causes discomfort over time, since constant tension is needed to keep it open. I also like the fact that if I read at night, I'm not continually having pages get caught on a book light and having to readjust it. So while reading from an ereader is different than reading from print, I wouldn't go so far as to say the experience is any less satisfying.

The last most common objection I want to address, though not the last I've heard, is this: "What if the power goes out. Then my ereader is useless." Thanks to e-ink, and the minimal amount of power it requires, your ereader's battery should last from two to four weeks, if you remember to turn off the wireless feature. This is a reasonable amount of time for your power to be restored. http://ireaderreview.com/2010/01/14/the-opposite-approach-making-ereader-batteries-better/

These are just a few of the concerns consumers have, and often voice. But not all concerns are related to ereader. Some are related to ebooks, and in my next post I talk about the top three of these.


  1. I have to say that the people complaining about the screen most likely have not seen a Kindle in real life. The screen is nothing like a computer screen! It mimics a book page so well--I was AMAZED the first time I saw one!

    I think the point you make about how comfortable it is to hold is a great one. I had never considered that before, but you're right. Much easier than holding a book open.

    Granted, I still love the feel of a real book, but the more I've seen of ebooks and Kindles and such, the more I'm feeling myself open up to them.

    Oh, and do people really comment that often about the power being out? I mean, I'd think that battery life aside, how often does the power go out where they live? A few days, even a few times a year, seems negligible in the argument against Kindles and ebooks. If the power is going out that often, though--yeah, don't waste your money on an ereader, go buy a generator!

    Great post, Shawna!!!

  2. Great post, Shawna! So many wonderful points. I seldom have to charge my Kindle. If you have the wireless turned off, it lasts even longer so glad you also included that in your post, too. I think people are judging ereaders before they actually experience reading from one.

  3. I agree Diane. My first thought whenever I read a comment like those above is that the poster has never seen an ereader.

    Kat, I've seen the comment about power outages at least five times. lol!

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  5. Shawna,
    Thanks so much for this post. I enjoy the feel of the Kindle while I read it because it's very similiar to holding a 6x9 book. I've never had a problem keeping my Kindle charged. In that regard it reminds me of my Ipod and Iphone. Gotta keep them charged - I charge them more frequently than I do my Kindle. Looking forward to part two, Shawna.