This past week marked my first ever Cover-to-Cover reading of an eBook. Initial impressions are about as I expected plus one major thing that I didn’t really count on.
First off, the book I read – The Black God’s War by Moses Siregar – was a good book. I enjoyed it so none of what follows should be considered a critique on the novel or the author. They did their job. This is about other things entirely.
Now onto the critique – I did my reading on my iPad2. This worked out well enough. Clear and crisp. The problem was that it was yet another computer screen and after a full day of staring at monitors for the day job, the absolute last thing I wanted to do was pick up another screen for liesure reading. More often than not, I found myself putting off reading because I didn’t want to go through that.
The Black God’s War was a fantasy book and like many in the genre, there is a map available at the front to help get your bearings. In a digital format, there is no ‘front’ of the book. I had to remember what page I was on, skim the pages back, look at the map, then go back to my previous spot. Sure, I could have setup a book mark but why? With a paperback, I could just stick my finger in place and I’d be done with it.
Along those lines, the ability of eReaders to quickly skim back and forth reduces the chance of stumbling across favorite scenes once more. Think about it – when you had to go look at a the map or maybe remind yourself something that happened earlier, how often have you come across a favorite scene and re-read it again? You get to relive all those emotions once again. Now, the pages just go by. Unseen and unread. Quick skim seems to rob the reader of that pleasure.
Of all the differences between eReader and Physical Book, the one that I did not expect was just how important the physical nature of the book was to the story.
When reading on the iPad, there’s a running page count along the bottom. I can tell if I’m at page 301 out of 423 or 172 out of 300. If I rotate the screen from portrait to landscape, those numbers change. So there’s no realness to what they mean. They are just numbers.
However when I’m reading a physical copy, I know that I’m halfway through or three quarters of the way or whatever. Now, all of a sudden, that setback the protagonist just encountered? That means something. The end is rapidly approaching, how is he going to get out of it? The tension builds. Gotta keep turning those pages. I never once, not even in the most climatic of scenes, got that feeling on the eReader.
Your mileage may vary but I suspect it will be a while before I pick up another eBook.