Saturday, March 12, 2011

To e-read or not to e-read?

I have read a full novel on the iPad. I bought Susan Isaac’s As Husbands Go, a pleasurable page-turner. Did I enjoy reading on the iPad? Yes and no.

Once I got into the e-book, I didn’t notice that I wasn’t reading a physical paper volume. But since I was reading in bed, I had to make the screen a little less bright (lest I screw up my Circadian rhythms and interfere with the production of melatonin, or something like that). I also liked the little tab that serves as a bookmark. Just click it, and a little red ribbon thing comes up. Your page is saved.

But there are some down sides, for me. I usually read in bed, and I’d rather have a paperback book. I like the way a physical book feels. The up side of e-readers is that you can tote a number of books without the extra weight. Good for traveling, although I like to take both when I travel. With a paper book, you can read while the plane is taking off and landing—no electronic device to shut off. My unease with flying dictates that I have something to take my mind off where I am (in an enclosed tube, with no way to escape, except a deadly one), and an engaging book—like a novel by Anita Shreve or Jodi Picoult—works just fine. The e-books are great for those down times in a hotel room or waiting at the airport gate—as long as the battery's been charged. So e-books and paper books can coexist.

Another e-book plus: You can search the pages. Didn’t you ever pick up a novel after a few days of not reading it and come across a statement like, “She wondered where Maxine was.” Then you ask yourself, “Who is Maxine again? Is she the sister or the ex-wife?” With paper, I would be frantically thumbing through the first few chapters hoping to find out where Maxine was introduced.

Another downside: I can’t pass a good book on to my friend, one that usually gives me her books in exchange. If it’s a great book, by one of my favorite authors, I’ll probably want to keep it anyway (but I’m not sure why; I don’t think I’ll reread it, with so many others to choose from). But I’m happy to pass along a good novel, and you can’t do that with an e-book.

I’m sorry to hear that Border’s is in bankruptcy and other stores that sell physical books are hurting, but I can see the need for both types of publications. In fact, maybe I’ll publish an e-novel of my own. As soon as I come up with a plot. And characters. And a setting. And very compelling words. Until such time, I’ll continue writing blog posts.