As a humanities scholar I am constantly reading. I read books about science, history and of course literature (I even sneak light novels in now and again). I’ve got books all over the house, including the bathroom (don’t ask). But for the last few months I have had my choice of reading medium, yes I have joined the digital age; I have an iPad.
For a long time I resisted the urge to buy an e-reader, mostly because I am not a huge fan of plastic throw-away items but the iPad tempted me with its apps and portability. I love to read in bed and often wished I had a small laptop like devise to look up dates or word definitions. Oh, to have something in my hand that would allow me to research as I read without firing up a computer or squinting my eyes as I tried to read on my iPhone. Finally, around Christmas, my fantasy came true when I was given an iPad as a gift.
The first thing I downloaded to my new toy was the e-book The Elements by Theodore Gray. Yes it is a book, oh but what a book! It is an interactive look at the periodic table, complete with narrative and includes the Element Song. How cool is that?! Oh, I did the usual, Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter, etc, but I also discovered the British Museum app, NPR’s Science Friday and TED. I had so much fun finding educational apps it took about a month before I decided to sit down and read a book. So now that I have, here are my thoughts about e-readers.
The first book I read was the novel Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Rason Riggs. I downloaded this from Amazon and found it to be way too easy. With one click, I bought and had the book on my iPad. I went to be that night and fired up the pad. I enjoyed being able to sit up in bed without having to worry about the comforter getting in the way of pages. I read late into the night, just as I would as a real book, but at some point I realized I had no idea how far into the book I was. Yes, there is a bar on the bottom of the Amazon screen, but it did not satisfy my need to know how much I read, or how far I had to go. There is nothing like looking at actual pages to tell you how much you read.
Once I finished the book, I felt a little hollow. You can’t shelve an e-book or give it away. I often give the library my used books if they are not going to be a part of my resource material. So, I sat there, now what? Do I delete it, archive it? What the hell do I do with an unwanted e-book? It seemed to be a waste of money to delete it, but then again, if I am not going to read it again, do I want to keep it, letting it take up gigabytes. I am still not sure how I feel about having “archived” books.
The next book I read was Medieval Lives by Terry Jones. I bought this because it was so much cheap than the print edition and I wanted to see I would do with a reference type book. Again, I enjoyed reading it in bed, and being able to take it to work for lunch time reading. The feature I found most exciting about this was note taking. See, I am one who is forever writing notes in a journal (no margin notes for me, I never write in my books). I have two journals, one for general notes, and one for a detailed list of passages or ideas I come up with while reading. With my Amazon reading app, I am able to write notes on my pad as I read! The app allows readers to highlight words, sentences or whole pages then write notes about the highlighted text. No more looking for a pen or losing my place as I write my thoughts. I was thrilled to be able to take notes while having the text in front of me. I noticed my note taking doubled with this easy to use feature. But again, when I was done, I felt let down. I was not able to shelve this book along side of my other history books. Since books are an important feature of my house (again I have them all over) I am not sure how I feel about having one sit on my pad.
So over all, I don’t feel electronic books will become my read of choice, one factor not mentioned before is price. I refuse to pay as much for an e-book that I would a print book. I cannot picture myself paying more than $9.00 for an e-book. The biggest drawback to reading on my iPad, is where I love to read. I am a huge fan of sinking into a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book. I am not brave enough to take my iPad into the bathroom. So for me, print is still King! In fact, after I finish this post, I am heading to the bath for a nice long read.