I love books. Here in my rec room/office I have four bookcases, with more shelves in the garage and a couple of piles of books in various spots around the house. Those cases include a bit of a backlog, of books I bought but then didn’t find the time to read before other topics – and other books – earned a higher priority. Over the course of the summer I’ve found myself interested in a few titles, like Chrisopher Hayes’ The Twilight of the Elites, Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal, and Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. But I just can not justify bringing more paper (text) books into the house. I think Pattie would beat me with them.
So I’ve been thinking of getting an e-reader. I’ve heard a lot of good things about e-ink readers like the Kindle and the Nook. While I can tear through popular fiction or a “journalistic” book pretty easily, by grad school I had gotten to a point where 30-60 pages of academic text could lead to headaches, eye strain, or other cases of “boy I don’t feel like reading right now,” and that was with paper. If I read that sort of thing on my computer screen, I got frustrated even sooner. So hearing that e-ink is much more similar to reading on paper than reading on a screen got me interested. The gray screens were still a bit of a turn off for me, though.
Both the Kindle and the Nook have come out with versions that have a built in light that helps illuminate the screen and make reading even easier. I’ve played with the Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight, and it seemed pretty nice. The reviews of Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite have been even better, but that’s a new product that’s in so much demand that if I order one now I might not get it until November. And I don’t know when stores will have it available for me to test out.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to play with Kindle apps on other devices. In once sense, this defeats the purpose, because now I’m back to reading on a monitor or similar screen. But it gives me a sense of how the system works and lets me know how those devices would work as a backup. The fact that Amazon lets me send sample chapters to my devices is nice as well – it lets me check out those books that intrigued me and see if I want to plunk down my money for them. I sent a sample of New New Deal to my PC, and one of Twilight of the Elites to my iPod Touch. I probably should have done it the other way around. I can already tell that Hayes has a much more academic tone than Grunwald and his book will probably be a denser read, so the smaller type on the iPod isn’t super helpful. That said, the reading experience isn’t bad. The electronic versions of the text put a lot more space between the lines of text than a lot of print books, so it doesn’t feel as dense to me. That means each page or screen is relatively small – I’m estimating that there are around 8-10 words per line on my Touch screen right now, with about 22 lines of text. On the PC screen, with much larger type, there’s more like 6-9 words per line. I may give myself an RSI if I try to read anything too long on these devices, but that’s a welcome tradeoff to avoid the headache that would result from denser text.
I have to say, I am really intrigued by the experience. Hearing about an interesting book on the web or from a friend and being able to start reading it right now is really pretty exciting. I think I’ll play around with my existing devices, maybe buy a complete text or two, and see how I do before I go all the way and purchase a dedicated reader. But I definitely expect to move most of my book buying to the digital realm in the very near future.