Mastering the art of reading e-books

From what I’ve read on here and elsewhere, it seems that most people, given the choice, prefer the sensory experience of a real, honest-to-goodness, paper book. And I should ‘fess up straight off and say that I don’t, in fact use an e-reader or any other electronic reading device for pleasure. So if my technical facts are wrong here, please feel free to set me right.

However, more and more people do read on Kindles and other e-readers, and as someone about to release an e-book, I’m pretty happy about that. I understand the convenience of downloading new books, and also the ability to carry around what wold be a back breaking pile of paper in one slim device is pretty attractive.

But what about tablets? This article from The Age talks about the trend of reading on devices such as iPads and their competitors.

Mastering the art of reading e-books.

There seem to be two major issues to me with using a tablet for reading.

1) Hope I’m not going to make a fool of myself here, but as I understand it, they still have a computer like screen – a backlit screen. The toned down, black-and-white Kindle screen seems much more relaxing on the eye, and would I think allow you to become fully immersed in your book without risking eye strain and headaches.

2) Crucially, tablets are full of distractions. When you sit down with a book, the words in front of you should be enough to engage your interest. But with a tablet, you could be reading, and then just pop off to check your email, look up a word or concept on Google, or heaven forbid, write a blog post. The temptation to whizz off and do something else when you come to a slow part of the text must be overwhelming for poor attention- deficit people like me.

I would be very interested to hear if this is your experience with e-readers and tablets. Is the distraction too strong, or are you focused enough to resist the temptation?

EDIT: A fascinating related post on how e-readers can affect your reading patterns, from Tech Information and News for the Rest of Us.

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24 thoughts on “Mastering the art of reading e-books

  1. I’ve never been one to pick up an e-book and read it, particularly because of the distractions involved in reading a computer screen. I’d try to get a Kindle, but it seems more of a luxury than a handy tool at this point.

    It’s funny that I say this, considering that I plan to sell e-books of my work at some point.

  2. I find reading on my Nook Tablet a joy, the screen, though “backlit” is very easy on the eyes, in fact its nice and crisp with almost the feel of a paperback.

    E-ink I don’t think I would have found to be as pleasurable, the grey scale would have distracted me and reminded me I was not reading a “real book”.

    Reading off a monitor is another issue, mostly because I like to read in bed, and even with a laptop there’s no comfortable way to do that. An e-reader, or tablet makes the experience much more enjoyable.

    My reading has actually increased once I got an e-reader. Right now I’m tackling “A Princess of Mars” which I’ve had in “real book form” in an omnibus edition, but every time I started it in hard copy I would never get back to it. Not having that issue in ebook format.

    OK that’s longer than I had intended.

    • That’s very interesting. Not having an e-reader myself, it’s good to hear that it is a genuinely comfortable and pleasurable experience, and most wonderful of all, you’re reading things you wouldn’t have in hard copy!
      Ah – I must get with the times I think! πŸ™‚

  3. I have an ipad and a nook and I use them both to read. I prefer the nook because of the e-ink screen. I read outside alot so I don’t have to deal with the glare across the screen and it honestly does not stress out my eyes.

    While I do love holding a book in my hands, e-books are cheaper and the authors get more money when they publish electronically. I read alot and my room became a fire hazard because of all my books. Having a nook is a space saver. I still buy physical books if it is something I really love, but for the most part I buy digitally.

    I work in a bookstore and as much as I want to keep my job, I’m a digital girl now.

    • That makes a lot of sense – especially about buying hard copies of just the books you really love. I sometimes wonder if bookshops will become more like show rooms in the future: so that you can still physically browse?

      • I feel that there will always be a need for physical books (or maybe it is a hope). As for browsing, browsing can be done on the devices or on the internet. Bookstores are losing their purpose, especially since schools are providing kindles, nooks, and ipads on loan to students. Soon Summer Reading (the bread and butter of Bookstores) will all be read digitally.

        It might take ten years, maybe twenty but bookstores will probably disappear. All that will remain are used bookstores, like antique shops, selling old things that once had a purpose but was replaced with something better.

      • It seems rather a sad outlook – but you’re probably right. I guess on the bright side, we will save a lot of trees, printing all those unwanted ‘bestsellers’. πŸ™‚

  4. First, I love print books, but that doesn’t preclude loving ebooks as well. I use both a Nook and a Xoom tablet. The nook is great. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to download a book immediately if I want. I highly recommend an eReader.

    While I agree that the back light on the tablet puts a little more stress on the eyes, it has one awesome capability, in that I can run both kindle and nook apps on it. So I’m not restricted to amazon or Barnes and Noble. I read using both apps. In short, I read more because no matter where I am, I have my books near me so long as I have at least one of these devices with me.

    • Ah – I didn’t realise that the formats were restricted to each kind of reader! I’m really learning a lot about the whole thing from everyone. I can see the attraction of being to download a book immediately. Out of interest, do you miss browsing in bookshops?
      By the way, I see your new ebook ‘The Prince of Graves‘ has just been released. Well done! Hope it is going well.

    • OK – so I did photoshop in the e-reader (very poorly and quickly as I was at work)! And yes, I am releasing an e-book. So much easier than releasing hard copy, and then it goes out to the world. Maybe one day, when millions of copies have sold, I’ll go to hard copy….sigh. Well, a girl can dream. πŸ˜‰
      Actually, thinking about also going out to Lulu so that people can order a hard copy if they wish.

  5. I was anti-eBooks for the longest time. Then I got one for my birhtday in September and I am converted. As somebody who generally reads a novel a week, I’ve increased my reading almost three-fold because of the ease that the eBook brings (a Kobo Touch, in my case). It’s less awkward on the subway when I have to stand, it’s much lighter and easier than toting around books in a bag because this fits easily into my suit-jacket pocket, and it’s convenient to read anywhere, at any time. Bonus: If there’s a book I want to get, I don’t have to go to the store – I just have to search it through my Kobo and then click on BUY NOW, and voila!

    That said, I will always buy books. I almost consider my Kobo to be my ‘tester’ for what gets to take up a space on my already wildly overcrowded bookshelves. If I like it, I’ll buy it in paper. If it was only okay and not one I’ll ever read again, then who cares? Let it disappear into cyberspace.

    As for distractions, it’s no more distracting than reading in my living room while the TV is on. If I want to read, then reading is what I will do. If I want to jerk around on the internet, eBook or laptop, I will do that instead.

    PS I’m really loving your blog. It’s nice to connect with somebody who loves thinking about this stuff as much as I do!

    • To be honest, after the comments I’ve received on this post, I’ve asked for an e-reader for my birthday coming up in April! There are quite a few books which you read, are OK, but you know you’re never going to read again, as you say. The charity shop does quite well from these – but of course that can be a great source of eclectic reading material too. Can make it a little difficult to move around the house though.
      So glad you’re enjoying the blog! I’ll try to keep it up.:)

  6. I have an a kobo touch and I love it. I got it two weeks ago! I actually have a bit of rsi from using it too much as the moment, damnit! I bought it mostly for uni readings because there are a lot of them and its so much easier reading on the kobo then on a laptop and saves me a lot of money on printing. It doesn’t have a backlit so it doesn’t hurt your eyes at all. Its very basic and just focuses on the texts but there is an inbuilt dictionary which is handy for looking up tricky words, like virginia woolf i was reading last week.
    I recommend you get a kobo! Its so much easier taking it on the train then lugging three different books around. I have actually been reading more then ever with my kobo, but i have been missing the physicalness of the book so i would never give up the book. You can get a huge amount of free books online as well, long dead writers and such. Which is a win if you’re into the classics!
    I know a guy in my novel class has released his novel on amazon as an ebook. It must be hard to make any money from it. But it is the way technology is going.

    • Hi! Yes, it does seem like that’s the way it’s going.Good to hear the the kobo doesn’t cause eye-strain – it’s sounding like the non-backlit version is the way to go.
      To be honest, I’m really not expecting to make any money from my book, when it does come out in this format. It would just be nice to have it out there, and have people (hopefully) enjoy it, rather than it mouldering away on my hard drive. That said – it is quite a lot of work to do those final stages of proofreading, editting, cover design & formatting! Still, they say that anything worth doing takes work.
      Thanks for dropping by!

  7. I’ve been using an iPad with the Kindle App for reading books now for the better part of a year and it has been an outstanding experience. The only issue I have is it is difficult to see the screen if I want to read outside, but can’t find any shade. As long as I can find a place to read that has some shade I am fine.

    One thing I really like about the iPad/Kindle App combination is the ability to electronically highlight passages, add annotations, and then view them all later on kindle.amazon.com. To me that has been an outstanding feature that I hope they continue to improve in the future.

    Regarding the temptation to do something else on the iPad, surf the net, or whatever, I do the most reading at the gym, where this is not a temptation. I work out on an elliptical machine with the iPad sitting there over the machine’s display. My hands aren’t really very free so I’m somewhat constrained and there’s no temptation to do anything other than dive into a book. It can be kind of a pain to slow down my workout when I want to highlight a passage, but that is a very minor issue. For me it has been an outstanding combination of physical and mental exercise.

    • Now that’s what I call multi-tasking! Working out while reading.
      As for the shade issue – I suppose it is generally pleasanter to read in the shade anyway, but it does highlight one of the advantages of real books. You can read thoes whatever the light conditions, and of course, they never run out of batteries.
      Glad to hear that it’s been good for you though. After everyones comments, I am thinking of getting some kind of e-reader now.
      Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

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