Still Undecided About E-Books?
A couple of days ago the author Jake Arnott and I hung out for the day, to talk about books in more depth; most of us bump into each other at events in the UK and don’t get a chance to properly chew the fat. He surprised me by mentioning that he doesn’t read e-books. I think his last novel, a rollicking take on the London lowlife depicted in John Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, which comes complete with a language glossary, would benefit from being on an electronic device.
I’d tried a couple of non-Kindle brands, both of which were ugly and terrible to use. I switched to Kindle which, although it would never win any design awards, had good functionality. I’ve stayed with Kindle over the years (I’m now on the Oasis). They’ve come a long way – they now feel like specialist devices for serious readers – and have massively improved:
Price – you save a fortune, especially when you read an awful lot, and even bestsellers are wildly discounted for short periods of time. Keep an eye on what’s being offered and you’ll find yourself with some real bargains (this week for a brief time ‘London’s Glory’ is on sale in the US for $1.99! Wow!).
Choice – a huge number of rare books have turned up as exclusive e-reads, priced according to demand. Many of these have been digitised by volunteers. As I’d rather read ‘Greek Postage Stamps and their Cancellation Numbers’ than ‘The Girl on the Train’, I end up paying very little for books which I wouldn’t be able to afford as rare hardbacks.
Reading range – because the books are priced according to demand, I end up buy a far wider range of books than I would have done through a shop. What I demand isn’t, it seems, what Joe Public demands.
Combination reading – I mix purchased print books with Kindle copies for a fuller reading experience. I usually buy print books with illustrations, maps and photos but e-purchase certain novels. I’ll sometimes buy both, the cheaper e-book to read while travelling, the print book as a keeper.
Cloud storage – I’m terrible at losing devices, but the books remain ready to download again, along with all my notes.
I’m an inveterate note-taker and annotator, so I either use little notebooks (I collect ones from around the world) or mark up the Kindle copies, and those notes transfer themselves automatically to my laptop.
Look-up features – I love being able to reading a demanding work and highlighting any words I don’t understand. Kindle’s vocabulary is far ahead of, say, Apple, so you get accurate explanations for even the most obscure terms.
Simultaneous reading – I usually read 2 or 3 books at once on the Kindle because you can flip so easily between them.
Battery life – the new models last well over a week between charges. The Oasis is waterproof and ergonomically weighted to fit your hand. The ambient light is lower than that of a laptop, and less harmful to the eyes. Type is changeable in style, point-size and spacing to make a more pleasurable experience.
Of course, a Kindle will never replace a print book, but as a brilliant ancillary to them it is now indispensable.