For me, it’s the WORDS

News came out this past week about how, for the first time, e-books on the best seller list outsold their printed counterparts. The reason was known – and kind of obvious when one thinks about it. Many readers found a little something extra under the Christmas tree this year in the form of a Kindle or Nook (or other e-reading device). And lo, what else did Santa bring them but gift cards for, b&, etc. Armed with these weapons in hand, what do you think these readers did? They purchased and downloaded tons of e-books, of course! Well, what would you have done in the same situation? Me too…

In my personal experience, I’ve encountered a lot of resistance (I don’t want to use the word “hostility,” but sometimes it feels that would be more appropriate) to the concept of e-reading from incredulous people who ask, “Don’t you miss the ‘feel’ of a real book in your hands?” Well, maybe sometimes I do, but I find that it’s less and less as time goes on. In fact, now that I’m primarily an e-reader, I also experience the reverse. I miss the feel of my iPad or my Nook in my hand. Or more to the point, I miss being able to quickly highlight a passage, or find a passage I’ve already highlighted, or jot down a quick note.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a distinct aesthetic pleasure (which I also experience) in holding or looking at a well-made book, and one feels a great sense of pride or accomplishment in looking at a shelf full of books that one has read. I don’t think I’ll have the same sense of pride in looking at the “my library” display on my Nook app on my iPad. I’d argue, though, that this pleasure is an entirely different thing than reading the book itself. Anyone can buy a printed edition of On the Road or East of Eden and, yes, it will look good sitting on your bookshelf, but what really makes me feel good is knowing that I have read THE WORDS in those books and that they have left their mark on me. The words (i.e., the ideas) should stand on their own regardless of the medium in which they are delivered to the reader.

I think there is a virulent strain of technophobia involved here as well. I feel that some readers who oppose the e-reading medium and e-books themselves view themselves as “martyrs,” defending the honor of a long-cherished medium (indeed, how long has the printed book held sway? Wasn’t Gutenberg a 15th century printer? And before then there were hand-printed books which, thanks to legions of lonely monks and others, were works of art as well). It’s personal to them, and I guess I can understand that. To me, though, it’s the words that shouldn’t ever change, not the medium. But that is sadly happening too. Also in the recent news..

I know many other book bloggers have already spoken out against this, and I won’t echo their comments here, but I feel this is clearly wrong.

How do you feel about the e-book vs. printed book issue?

Sent from my iPad

Nook “user group” meeting

(written 10/6/10, 5:45pm)
I’m sitting here at Barnes and Noble where there will allegedly be a kind of a Nook user group meeting. I’ve been told they have them the first and third Wednesday of each month. I want to learn more about sharing books since a coworker of mine now has a Nook too, and we have a few candidates in our libraries for which we’d like to test this process out.

I’m also a little curious about synchronizing my various readers I.e., I now have my actual Nook, the Nook app on my iPhone – which I barely use – and my Nook app on my iPad – which I use more than anything now. The big question for me is: if I highlighted passages and made notes on the iPad app (where it is soooo easy), do those get synchronized when I log in to B& so that if I later open the books on my actual nook, will I still get to see my highlights and notes(?)

I’m going to pause here and continue later since it’s almost the appointed time…

(written 10/8/10 7:15am)
Well, I did end up speaking with one of the in-store experts for awhile. I was the only one there at the scheduled start time (although another user did show up about 6:15 just as I was running out of the questions I had wanted to ask). The expert was also an iPad owner and, like me, did most of his nook reading via the Nook app for the iPhone, so that was convenient.

Re: Sharing (lending) e-books:
You can still only lend a book only one time. I asked if he saw that rule ever changing in the future and he was non-committal but offered “it’s possible” but there were no current plans to change that. Once offered to lend, the fellow Nook user you lend it to had seven days to “accept” it. Once they accept it, it transfers to their account for a period of two weeks. During this time it will not show up in the “my library” screen of the Nook/Nook app. I still haven’t tried this yet, but probably will in the next few weeks. I will report back my success or failure on this front. Note: not all the books one buys via the Nook are “lendable” either. E.g., maybe 30% or so of my e-library is.

Re synchronizing highlights & notes: the answers here were disappointing but not surprising. When I download a purchased book to my iPad, that is a separate copy and is not synchronized with the “master copy” of the book on my B&N account. Like many, I have a fear of losing data at some point – though not quite the paranoia of some others in this regard. But my iPad is backed up on my home computer, and maybe someday the b&n account will let you save the highlights there as well.

Re one other item that I haven’t mentioned before: To “turn the pages” while reading the Nook, one “clicks” or presses the side panel of the device. Well, after reading a few thousand pages on my Nook, these side panels began to develop thin cracks where this “pressing” takes place. (I should also mention that it is possible to turn pages by “swiping” the small touch screen from right to left, but it seems easier to me to just click the side of the device) Anyway, he said this was a “known problem” and that if I contact Nook support they will replace my device. This is good to know. And I should say that it still works fine, it’s just that its appearance is slightly marred by these little cracks on the side.

Any other Nook users out there that have experienced this problem?

Below: the Nook reader (no, those are not my hands in the picture 🙂 ) and the Nook app for iPad:

New thoughts on e-reading & e-readers…

There is an interesting article on today about e-readers in general and the Kindle specifically.  (Funny, the nook ® reader from Barnes and Noble – which I hitched my wagon to back in February – is not mentioned by name at all.)

I have to admit it’s pretty tempting just to buy one of the new, “cheap” (at $139) Kindles to add to my arsenal of readers, which currently includes my Nook ®, my iPhone, and my iPad – the latter two of which have apps that will also reader B&N and AMazon content.

I have also been dabbling in reading via the iBooks app on my (relatively) new iPad the past couple weeks.  I have to say it’s a pretty easy reading experience.  I don’t feel like ‘reading with a flashlight shining in my eye’ as Amazon’s boss (and iPad detractor) says, but I also haven’t read for long sittings on my iPad.  You can adjust the brightness of the screen for reading at bedtime, and you can also ‘freeze’ the iPad’s automatic rotation of the screen if its accelerometer senses the device is tilted beyond a certain threshhold.  The ease of note-making and highlighting and bookmarking on the iPad is quite appealing too.  A couple things I don’t like are (1) it is significantly heavier than the nook ®, and (2) the ‘cheesy’ highlight appearance to make it look like a real highlighter has been swiped on the page – it shows a ‘rough’ edge – to make it look more like real highlighting I guess.

I still like my nook ® and have read thousands of pages on it since I bought it in February.  It’s light, and small enough I can slide it into some pockets – depending on what I’m wearing.  It’s my favorite reading method if I’m slouching down into an easy chair in my favorite coffeehouse.

I’ve heard that the Sony e-Reader allows you to check out electronic copies of books from the library.  I haven’t looked into this possibility too much with mine yet, or researched if it’s available in other readers as well.  Does ‘anybody out there’ have any expertise on this issue?

I welcome any comments on your experiences with e-reading and e-readers.