Jane Austen

Kindling thought

I joined the 21st century a couple of weeks ago when I returned from NYC and found I hadn’t spent nearly as much money as I’d anticipated. So, with a couple of gift cards burning a hole in my pocket I made the leap and bought a Kindle.

I wasn’t and still am not particularly comfortable about supporting the Amazon behemoth. My favorite online bookstore is bookdepository.com which offers free shipping worldwide and sells my Little Black Dress books, although, bizarrely, Mr Bishop and the Actress is available on Kindle on Amazon. Ah, those were the days when the digital rights were a paragraph blip that didn’t mean anything in particular in a contract.

But apart from that owning a Kindle has made me think about reading and how and why we read so this is a non-Regency type post. Physically, it’s different, to state the obvious. It’s small, it almost fits comfortably in your hand, and once you’ve stopped waving your fingers in the air to turn the page and decided which digit to use and on which side it’s fairly easy to use. But it’s a small screen and it’s rather like reading a children’s book.

Another objection I have is that the fonts of the books are all the same. I’m one of those typography geeks who enjoys reading at the end of the books something like: This book was set typeset in Dogbreath Seriffe, a font developed in 1657 by Melchior Astrolabe of Sicily … I like having a cover, particularly in any other genre than romance, and reading the credit for the original art on which the cover artwork is based.

I also suspect that reading is different. I’ve discovered I tend to skip the last line as I “turn” the page and frequently have to go back to make sense of the new page. This suggests that the physical act of reading and turning a page is far more ingrained than I thought.

But the major objection I have is that you can’t press the book you’ve just finished into someone’s hands and tell them they MUST read this. Reading is a solitary occupation but a great community of readers exists. Similarly, with the demise of brick and mortar bookstores we’re losing those places which were more than a building in which you could buy books; we all know that buying a cup of expensive joe was a small price to pay for a safe and comfortable environment in which the books may have been secondary, but they were there. Did you know that the average visit to a Borders was two hours? If you’ve lost your local bookstore, where will you meet your friends, or find a place to host a writing or reading group?

But back to the kindle. Do you own an e-reader? Have you found that your reading habits change? We all read a lot anyway, but there are many articles, like this one from the Wall Street Journal in 2010 claims that people are reading more with ereaders.

Here’s a useful free software I came across: Make Your PDF Files More eReader Friendly with Briss.

And finally, a light for your e-reader, the EbookLite. Do you own one or is there another you’d recommend?


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Jane George
11 years ago

I share many of your feelings because I love book design and typefaces too. I’m going to sound like a terrible snob here, but all books don’t require a hard cover. Quick reads, mass paperback books (which are not lesser beings! I LOVE them!) work just fine on my Nook. I DO appreciate eBooks that have been well-formatted. However, well-formatted on an eReader means you can’t think in terms of hardcover book design. The words need to flow.

I foresee the rise of small bookstore cafes that sell a mix of hardcover new, used, and also have an Espresso Book Machine (once prices come down) for POD trade paperback sales. There will be screens for browsing titles and you can upload right to your eReader at the store (store gets a cut) or have the store print out a paper copy while you go order a cappuccino.

And then Hollywood will have to remake You’ve Got Mail, only reversed.

Jane George
11 years ago

PS There will be no more remainder system. It’s gotta go.

Nancy Kelley
11 years ago

The biggest change I’ve seen since I got a Kindle is that I purchase more books. The lower prices combined with the buy now button made books an impulse buy.

I don’t think I’ve read more, but a) I read a lot in the first place, and b) this has been an extraordinarily busy year for me. However, my Kindle has enabled my slightly ADD approach t o reading. I have several half-finished books, but since they’re not actually sitting in front of me, I’m not reminded that I should be reading them. I’ll get to them… eventually.

And I wholeheartedly agree with Jane’s comment that remainders and returns will go. They have no place in the e-market, obviously, and once that becomes the bulk of the book business, R/R will just fade away.

Laura K. Curtis
11 years ago

I love my Kindle and I’ve definitely spent more money on books since buying it. That’s a combination of the immediacy factor (especially lethal in series books–“I just finished this book and I’m not tired yet, I can get through a few chapters of thenext in the series, let me just download it…”) and the “try before you buy” sampling option.

I think that, in time, design will have a place in the digital book world that it doesn’t yet. Makers of ebook devices haven’t figure out how to include typefaces, but I firmly believe they will. I love books, real, solid, hold-em-in-your-hands books, but I foresee them coming to be a niche market.

Let’s say I love John Connolly’s work (because I do) and I love books. I may choose to have all his books printed for me by a specialty press. Wouldn’t that be great? You could have matched sets of your favorite books. All my JC’s in one style, all my John D. MacDonald’s in another style, all my Charles De Lint produced by a different press…

That said, as much as I collect my John Connollys in hardcover, I actually read most of them on Kindle these days. I have tendinitis and arthritis in my hands, and HC is incredibly impractical.

Just a few thoughts.

Jane Lockwood
11 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

Jane, I love your idea of the cafe with the book downloads as well as the new/used titles. I do hope that happens.

11 years ago

Well, there will be returns, because there are eBook returns now. If I buy an eBook from Amazon I have the option to email Amazon and “return” the book. I get my money refunded and — last time I did this for a book I hadn’t ordered. AMZ refunded my and asked me to delete the book from my reader.

It’s a different return system than currently exists because it happens at the consumer level. But there will still be returns to account for on royalty statements, which the publisher should know about pretty much immediately.

That said, I have a iPhone and an iPad and use mostly the Kindle app. I, who was already a massive purchaser of books, am buying and reading even more books.

I LOVE high fantasy which books are often 1000 pages. I am pretty much done buying hardbacks of these books. eBook only for me.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I love reading on my Kindle, which I’ve said here many times before. I buy more books and read more. I love it that I can continue to read the same book on my iPhone and so I have a book at the ready all the time.

I actually like the experience of reading on the Kindle even better than reading a book. I can do it one-handed and the Kindle is light in weight, much lighter than a hard-back book.

Artie Mesia
11 years ago

SMMMMAAAACCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKK! That’s me giving you a HUGE kiss, Janet, for introducing me to the Briss software for PDFs. On my old kindle they read fine, but on the newer version (I had a 2.0 and went to a 3.0) my favorite Allison Lane’s were not showing up well. And now I can read them without going back and paying $5 a piece to get the Word document. You just saved me around $40. So thank you Thank You THANK YOU!

I love my e-reader, but mostly it’s about convenience. There are no books stores near me. To get to a book store I need to drive an hour to and hour and thirty minutes. So being able to download something instantly and without leaving my house is great. Do I love to look at bookstores when I get there: yes. But I don’t always get there.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

I agree with Jane–some book should be book-books (I couldn’t use my research books on Kindle, for instance) but I LOVE my Kindle for reading novels and trying new things. It’s light and easy (and was a blessing when I was in the hospital and desperate for distraction but not strong enough to hold a book), though I do end up buying far too many books. Luckily they don’t end up piled around my house with all the others…

Susanna Fraser
11 years ago

I love my Kindle. My husband gave me mine for our anniversary almost 2 years ago, around the time Diana Gabaldon’s latest came out. I preordered it, and that experience was enough to hook me. No standing in line at the bookstore or waiting for a package to be delivered; I was able to start reading on the bus the morning of release day. No lugging a heavy hardcover tome; on a Kindle War and Peace is just as friendly to a sore back as a novella.

I still read print books, but mostly those I get from the library. The print books I buy are illustrated research books–and I can see a day when even those are better in ebook form. I’d love a book on historical costume that let you zoom in for a closer look at details, or a military history book that let you toggle from bird’s-eye to ground view of a battlefield and let you rotate so you could see it from each commander’s perspective as well as the usual map with north at the top.

I’ve even reached the point where I use my Kindle for iPhone app more than the Kindle itself. I was having a bad hand pain and numbness flareup a couple weeks ago when A Dance With Dragons came out, so I read the whole thing on my iPhone because the small screen and lightweight device were easier on my hands than even the Kindle. And I honestly couldn’t tell any meaningful difference in my reading experience from when I read the first three books in the series in mmpb borrowed from a friend. Once I’m caught in a story, the format doesn’t matter to me–it’s just a window to the world the story is painting.

Isobel Carr
11 years ago

I have a reader (CyBook Opus) and I LOVE it!!! Also love having the Kindle ap on my phone. Never being without a book, or the ability to buy a book, is amazing.

11 years ago

I do not yet have an e-reader, but figure I will break down sooner than later and get one. I have been looking at the NOOK color. My husband keeps hinting that I should get one. The 40 double stacked bookcases and boxes of books all over the house could be the reason. Some are collections, old (1800’s and early 1900’s) books, but most are books I plan to read one of these days and then get rid of them.
I already have several e-books waiting to be downloaded. I have also found several books I would like to read that are available only in e-form. I have downloaded the NOOK app on my computer, but doubt I’ll use it. I do not like sitting and reading a book on the computer. My phone is just a phone with a camera, no other fancy stuff.

Thanks for an interesting post.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

I don’t have an e-reader yet, which is funny since I’m planning to republish electronically. But I will get one; it’s on the list after replacing my poor defunct laptop.

I do still like regular books. But having gone on vacation with two children who are also avid readers (picture three tote bags stuffed with books) I am drawn to the portability.

I like Jane’s idea of the bookstore cafe, too. I believe something like that will happen, just hope we get one in my area.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

I don’t have an e-reader, but I am certain at some point I will be forced to buy one. Technology tends to be something of a juggernaut and those of us who are old fuddy-duddy enough to want to stick to what we grew up with tend to get mowed down by progress eventually.

I have thousands of books in my house and I love having them. Of course, I live alone save for my pets so there isn’t someone lurking through the house saying “Why don’t you get rid of some of these books?” My books are my friends, for lack of a better term, and I love having them around me.

I like the process of reading a print book – the words on the page, the turning of the pages, the physical sensation of holding and reading a book. I love the covers and the typefaces.

AND a physical book has one advantage people don’t often realize. When I am sitting in the lounge at work reading on my break or lunch at least once a day someone looks at the cover and asks me “Is it any good?” or “What’s that you’re reading?” I can’t tell you how many books I have hand-sold like this! And many of those books are by Riskies!

11 years ago

I own a Kindle, as well, a Christmas gift from my husband I really didn’t start using until March, when I went on a trip ‘cross country. I fell in love with it, because it was so convenient. In fact, that’s the hard part for me–buying books is so darn easy, I have to set some boundaries, lest I really screw up our checkbook. LOL

In any case, I still enjoy the feel of a book in my hands (I’m reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon in paperback right now!). And you’re SO right about the sharing part, Janet. Because I certainly don’t intend to just hand over my Kindle.

Great post. Regardless, I’m happy you finally got one of your own. I’m gonna go ahead and venture another thought: I think you’ll be surprised how fast it grows on you. 🙂

11 years ago

I have a Kindle and I loathe reading on it. I suppose it would have been useful when I was commuting to work, and will be useful on long trips, when I will not need to pack a dozen books, but it is certainly not a pleasure.

I use it mainly to read out-of-print and out-of-copyright books—the ones you can get for free. The only thing I have actually purchased is Courtney Milan’s novella. My book-buying money still goes to the real thing.

11 years ago

Me… well, I’m avoiding it as much as possible, any e-reader. I simply want the real thing. Now, mind you, I love gadgets and technology (when they are working, anyway), I have two computers on right now near me, have a pda that I need to remember to charge in a second and even if I get a new computer, I still long for the Best Buy circular the following Sunday to see what is going on. But I hate the idea of ereaders. LOL I do have the programs on my computer like the Kindle for PC and download when something interesting is free, but I still yet have to actually read any of those. And I guess I’ve had that for a few years now.

So, anyway, I’ll get one when I really have to, or preferably, I’ll get something that can do more than one thing for the price. So for me, it’ll probably be a tablet. But even if I were to get one of those today, still won’t actually use it for reading books unless I really have to, in that a book only comes in an e-version.

So, yeah, I’m a big fat contradiction in a way… LOL


Janet Mullany
11 years ago

Artie, thanks to YOU for beta testing the software (and a big smackeroo kiss back at you).

Laura, we could all become our own typesetters, what an exciting thought! (At least Jane G and I would be happy.)

Diane, I absolutely agree that the Kindle is good for one-handed reading.

Amanda, Susanna, I absolutely agree that some books must remain books–when you want to post stickies or look at pics you want the “real” thing.

Lois, I avoided it for the longest time but I’m glad that I have it now. It’s excellent for travel and that’s where I do most of my reading.

Thanks everyone for your comments. This has been such an interesting topic.

11 years ago

I have a Kindle and the leather book cover with the built-in light (the coolest feature as far as I’m concerned).

What I miss is the book covers. I buy books for their covers (I think of them as affordable art), especially if the artist or the cover model is one of my faves (Chris McGrath and Paul Marron respectively, for example). The book covers on the Kindle is in black and white and there’s nothing for me to touch (satin finish versus matte, etc.). 🙁

Also, since I don’t read anything in one sitting, I can only read novellas and short stories on my Kindle otherwise I’d forget the beginning by the time I get to the end of a full-length book.

I hate to think of the day when the Kindle fails and I’d have to load the ebooks on another ereader or my laptop. Technology isn’t dependable like paper. Also, ebooks can’t be lent out, donated to the library, given away, or sold back to the bookstore for credit toward new books. And forget agency pricing.

Now I have yet another gripe about ereaders. I gave a Kindle to my mother and all she can read is Reader’s Digest because there are no legally acquired ebooks in the language of her choice! What can I or my mother do? This sucks so much.

11 years ago

I just came back from Digipalooza which is a digital media (ebooks and audiobooks) conference sponsored by OverDrive. The room was mostly full of librarians grilling OverDrive and publishers about their systems and how to make things better.

Things I learned:
~ Ebooks usage has doubled since last year.
~ Most people read pleasure (AKA not non-fiction) books on their ereaders

So! With your shiny new reader, think about hitting up your local library to see if they have some ebooks and audiobooks you can download and read. If your library has a contract with OverDrive, you’ll be able to download books to your Kindle by the end of the year.

11 years ago

If I needed any more evidence that I’m a dinosaur, e-readers are it. I use a computer every day at work and find it a relief to have an analog device in my hand for reading (otherwise known as a book). I went to a Borders going out of business sale yesterday and spent 4 hours browsing and left with many books (which made me happy) but also slightly depressed (soon the store will be gone). I love the physical act of roaming the aisles, pulling out books, reading the back covers and a chapter or two. This is probably evidence of some sort of syndrome, and whatever it is called I’ve got it bad. My book purchases have declined dramatically since my neighborhood Borders closed.

I noted that many owners of e-readers complain about the weight of HC books. Since 90% of my reading is PB (I rarely read HC other than library books), this is not a problem for me, although I do understand that for some arthritis or other issues make reading a physical book hard. Also, while I recognize that I can take 160 books on a trip with an e-reader, I kind of like the Hansel-and-Gretel feeling of leaving books behind as evidence that I’ve been somewhere. I left Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” in a hotel in Istanbul, an Elizabeth George mystery in a B&B in Derbyshire, and A. Verghese’s “Cutting for Stone” at my sister’s house in Seattle. These are books I most likely won’t read again and they are little presents for those who come after me. I sigh, knowing that I’ll give in someday, although I will more likely buy a Nook or an iPad than a Kindle because I don’t like not having the option for color.

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