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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Impressions of my eReader


So I said that I was going to talk a little about my eReader I got for Christmas. Normally, I wouldn't find it an interesting topic, except that I've spoken out so much about eBooks in the negative. Has finally getting one changed my tune?

Yes, it has.

The biggest factor has been that it's now so much more convenient and efficient to read. Want a book? Just buy it and download it. No book store needed. No need to go the library anymore, just put download the book on your eReader. All of the sudden, just about all the books I want are at my fingertips.

Of course, books are still backwards about the eBook thing. For some reason, you still have to get put on a waiting list to "check the book out", which is totally dumb. The point of checking something out is that you want everyone to have a fair turn at reading it, because there are only so many physical copies around. That's no longer the case. And libraries don't get any money from overdue fees because the book automatically checks itself back in. So what's the point of making me wait on hold? Stupid. Plus, they only have Kindle editions, not Nook -- so I have to read the EPub version or PDF -- the quality of which is not always great (John Green's An Abundance of Katherines has several screwed up footnotes and stupid typos that make it look like it wasn't proofread).

But as last month will attest to, I got so many books read, it's ridiculous. Part of that was that I got a new job, and I was reading at work instead of writing (before I sussed out a new writing spot). But still, no more fat mass market paperbacks I have no place to put. No more feeling guilty about the to-read list getting too big, I can just download them and keep them. Plus it can play videos, so I can have a larger screen to watch when I exercise.

I can change sizes when I want. This makes it great if I want to exercise and read, I can make the font big and set it down, without having to worry about dripping sweat on the pages. I can look up words (although sometimes it's hard to get the Nook to highlight the word I want - more on that later). Looking at appendices or footnotes is a snap (although I've read books where it seemed like there was no proofing of the product, which made me sad).

There are disadvantages. One is that I get sick of staring at the same thing each time. I never appreciated this before -- how each book is its own person. Each has its own cover, size, weight, texture, style, color scheme, font, spacing -- all little things that make up a personality. Not so in the Nook. I've been purposefully changing from the publisher defaults just so each book feels a little different. In a way, the Nook feels like book prison, each one lined up on my Nook's desktop, in the same uniform, waiting to be read.

Along the same lines, the Nook bookstore for kids books is not great. Many of them are quite short and quite expensive and the smallness of the screen is a bit of a drive. I guess you've substituted large, color pages for programming little crappy animations, but still, I think $11.99 for Go Dog, Go is a bit much when the paper book costs as much and is larger. Some of them claim to be enhanced but aren't enhanced enough, like Puff the Magic Dragon which just sings the song at the back. Plus, I have to deal with my kid being more interested in pressing the stars than the story.

Finally, the biggest problem is that the interface is damn finicky. Touchscreens can be trialsome, but the Nook's should be simple -- I have trouble just turning pages. If I wipe on the right side, which should scroll forward, it can sometimes go backwards. Sometimes, it'll scroll 2-3 pages backwards. Even wiping the screen makes it go scroll-crazy. Sometimes if I lie on my side, reading in landscape, it'll go back and forth as if it had an accelerometer. This makes reading difficult when my book is scrolling by myself. Sometimes, going to standby and back helps. Sometimes off and on helps -- but the startup time is really slow -- my work laptop starts faster. So I usually leave my Nook on all the time.

But, the advantages are better than the disadvantages. So yes, I recommend getting an eReader. My wife got a B&W one -- she claims to like it better since it has longer battery life. I like my Nook Color because of the video playing features, web browsing (it is NOT a tablet, make no mistake), and I don't need a book light to read in the dark anymore.
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