The Annoyances of eBooks


Because we've come to take printed books for granted, we tend to overlook their enormous flexibility as reading instruments. It's easy to flip through the pages of a physical book, forward and backward. It's easy to jump quickly between widely separated sections, marking your place with your thumb or a stray bit of paper or even a hair plucked from your head (yes, I believe I've done that). You can write anywhere and in any form on any page of a book, using pen or pencil or highlighter or the tip of a burnt match (ditto). You can dog-ear pages or fold them in half or rip them out. You can keep many different books open simultaneously, dipping in and out of them to gather related information. And when you just want to read, the tranquility of a printed book provides a natural shield against distraction. Despite being low-tech - or maybe because of it - printed books and other paper documents support all sorts of reading techniques, they make it easy to shift seamlessly between those techniques, and they're amenable to personal idiosyncrasies and eccentricities.

E-books are much more rigid. Refreshing discrete pages of text on a fixed screen is a far different, and far less flexible, process than flipping through pliant pages of fixed text. By necessity, a screen-based, software-powered reading device imposes navigational protocols and routines on the user, allowing certain patterns of use but preventing or hindering others. All sorts of modes of navigation and reading that are easy with printed books become more difficult with electronic books - and even a small degree of added difficulty will quickly frustrate a reader. Whereas a printed book adapts readily to whoever is holding it, an e-book requires the reader to adapt to it
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Follow this link for the full article by Megan McArdle.

17 commentaires:

Angelo said...

If i wanted to do a word search on a physical book, that would be impratical.
If I wanted to read any of my books at any single moment, that would be impossible if I'm not at home.
I can read a huge book with only one hand or even without having to hold it.
If my eyes are having difficulty to read a small text size, I can change that size. And font.

... And so on and on.

Joseph L. Selby said...

Megan McArdle has never used an ereader. But for the "many books open at the same time," you can do everything she says with an ebook.

And technically, every book you've ever read is open to the last page you read to, so even the many books open at the same time is viable with an ebook. You simply back out of one and go into the other. It takes a little bit longer, but then you don't have to have a table covered in books.

I love how she mingles in personal preference and emotional reaction along with (incorrect) facts to justify some anecdotal point. When she starts using ebooks, her "I never thought it would be like this" post will be all the sweeter.

Jessica ( frellathon ) said...

I don't like ebooks if it's not paper in my hands it's just not good enough.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at you, Pat. You quoted the only part in the article that is itself a quote from another article and Megan's article itself takes a very different approach to similar subject matter.

However, not a complete waste of time. For my own opinion, I would hazard that it is a question of numbers. I would think that much of your readership are serious readers. Even quasi-serious readers like myself (I've gone from a increasing number of books a month in my youth to, perhaps, five a month now) still retain their serious reader card in relation to the social majority.

Somewhere in-between us and non-readers, there is a mass of readers whom are simply pandering to a form of intellectual masturbation. I'm not saying we are not guilty of reading simply for entertainment but a number of the serious readers I relate to online and elsewhere are divided the E-reader controversy, thus it can't simply be a question of content, it relates to medium.

I would hazard that the majority who make up "readers" in this world simply view e-readers, in their plethora of product variation, to be the next step in a "naturally" evolving world of technology. So much less a controversy.

Lame. In the Apocalypse, I'll be the one pimping the last print copy of Twilight as the Ordained History of Time. Before the Fall... there was Emo-Vampire Romance. Let's see you do that with an e-reader.

Anonymous said...

In the end, it comes down to comfort when reading for me, and the ebooks will never lose that battle. i am unashamedly selling off and donating all of my paper books. eink for novels, and lcd reader for comics/non-fiction/magazines. i'm set.

Hank said...

I've been deployed to Iraq for the last year and have had the opportunity and pleasure to read about 30 or so books (to include most of the Malazan adventures). Everything I have read during this deployment has been on an e-reader. I will say that I enjoy a real book over the e-reader. The smell, touch, and even physical weight add to the experience of reading a good book. However, carrying around a small library in Iraq was out of the picture. I would recommend an e-reader to anyone who is going on an extended trip or deployment. It saved my sanity for sure!

Todd said...

I see good and bad to both formats. In the end, nothing beats a good old fashioned paper book. It's cheap, takes a beating, easy to loan, and especially in fantasy is very easy to flip back and forth to the maps and appendices. This is crucial to me in the Malazan, ASOIF, etc. And that new book smell....ahhhhhh.....

But my Kindle is small, light, can hold hundreds of books. I can do searches easily, resize fonts, make notes without marking up a precious hardcover I own...etc. My collection is backed up on my PC should anything happen, or can be redownloaded from the original site I purchased or acquired them. I love my little Kindle!

But like I said, especially in epic fantasy, I like a having an extra finger stuck back in the glossary so I can constantly reference the cast of characters...and this is much harder and more time consuming with the Kindle. But that's my only gripe.

I hope both formats stick around for the long haul. I would hate to lose either.

Anonymous said...

I can't read on an e-reader for very long, it feels like a job. I last twenty minutes tops. Same book I can go for hours with a physical copy.

Adam Whitehead said...

For me, I will not 'go ebook' until DRM is removed, forever, if necessary by a change to the law to prohibit it.

I must also admit that the loss factor is also an issue. Losing a £7 paperback on the train is annoying, but not the end of the world. A £110 pound Kindle on the other hand...owch.

Ash said...

Most of the reported annoyances just aren't true with modern e-readers. For example, on my Sony reader I can move a slider on the touch screen to flip the book open to any point I want, or type in a specific page number. I can set permanent bookmarks, or it automatically remembers where I left off (no more losing my page because the bookmark fell out). Plus there are added advantages with really long books (e.g. most epic fantasies) in that the size of the ereader doesn't increase with increasing page length, you can increase the font size to whatever you are comfortable with and you don't have text curving into the binding. With a quality e-ink screen I now prefer reading ebooks to physical books - with the qualification that some older books in particular have poor quality ebooks due to lazy proofreaders and poor formatting.

Morrigan said...

I prefer printed books too. But there's one thing ebooks have that is so completely awesome and that printed books will never have. Two words (or rather, one pseudo-word and one letter): ctrl + F.

:D

Jamie (Mithril Wisdom) said...

I'm a fan of the printed book over the ebook, and will be for a while, though I adore my Kindle and I know it's the way forward. I think with the way ereaders are going, it's only a matter of time before physical books are the ones with very special content in them as opposed to the generic content that is widely distributed electronically.

Anonymous said...

EBook readers have a number of advantages over paper:
1) I can read a review online and purchase, download and start reading the eBook within minutes.
2) I can change the text size for an optimal reading pace depending on how tired I am.
3) EBook stores never run out of copies of Book 3 just as you finish Book 2 and really, really want to know what happens!

Whilst the eBook reader is severely lacking (at the moment) as a reference book reader, when reading novels, it is a perfect tool in my opinion.

Doug said...

I believe that printed books are going to become more and more like collector's items--better design, better quality, more illustrations and other additions. A book you buy because you love it or expect to love it and want to physically see it there on your bookshelf.

The days of mass-market paperbacks are numbered.

Clifford in Calgary said...

I have an eReader and do like it, but I really love the feel of a paper book. There is something about the tactile feel of it that gives me comfort.

There are a lot of benefits of an eBook, searching, the dictionary, the size, changing fonts. All are major positives but there are still drawbacks. It is technology and technology changes. Formats change. For all those people who purchased Beta tapes, then VHS and then DVD. Will we have to keep purchasing the same book over and over?

I foresee a future where you do not purchase a book but a monthly book service and download books as you wish to read them from their library. This way you never have to worry about old technology the service does.

amysrevenge said...

Two years ago I was in the "not in a million years" camp of e-book deniers.

I still don't have one, but now I'm in the "hmmm, maybe I'll get me one of those" camp.

A big factor in assuaging my fears has been my participation with Audible. I was always paranoid about losing e-books (electronic media seemed so ephemeral and impermanent). However, after buying 2 audiobooks a month for going on five years now (and changing computers and portable devices several times) I don't even think about the loss of my purchased materials anymore.

Dovile said...

In addition to all the reasons already mentioned, I'll add two more why I prefer paper books:
i love to read with a nice, handmade or author-signed bookmark in my book
and I love the look of a full bookshelf, with all spines neatly arranged by series and authors.