Monday, March 22, 2010

Easing into Ebooks by Shawna Williams (part 1)

Easing into Ebooks
Part One
by Shawna Williams

It seems to be human nature to greet something new with a certain amount of skepticism, 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:
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.
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. Excellent post, Shawna! My husband surprised me with a Kindle last summer when I was preparing to visit my daughter in Germany, where she serves as a missionary. Up until then, I wasn't at all interested in an eReader, but now I love the concept. E-ink is easy on the eyes and I love being able to change font sizes, as mass-market paperback print is too small for me to comfortably read, yet I'm not ready for large print. I also use the dictionary, highlighting and search features frequently.

    Regarding the "feel of a real book," it's the content that's important to me, not the container. A book in electronic form is not an inferior book. And I don't miss holding a book in my hands at all; in fact, it's much easier to hold my Kindle with one hand and lightly click to turn pages.

    Thank you for posting about this, Shawna.

  2. Thanks Carole! My dad has parkinson's, and reading a book is challenge due to his tremors. He borrowed my Kindle while we were visiting, and found that if he enlarged the font, and laid the Kindle on the table in front of him, it made it far easier to read. The main benefit was that he didn't have to hold it. A book won't stay open without holding it, and his hands shake too much for him to focus for very long, so beyond one to two page excerpts (read with great difficulty)he'd stopped reading several years ago.