Friday, December 2, 2011

Still Life With Robin: Curl Up With a Good E-book

by Peggy Robin

It seems even those of us who love the look and feel of real, physical paper books are acquiring e-book readers these days. The hottest sellers are the Kindle Fire,, and the basic $79 Kindle,, but there are plenty of other choices, including the Nook, the iPad, and all its non-Apple tablet competitors. (Like the one I have, the Samsung Galaxy Tab,, which I've been happy with.)

Still, I'm not here to make the pitch for e-readers over paper and ink. I know deep down I will never love reading an e-book the way I love reading a book whose pages I can dog-ear or riffle through or mark up with little scribblings.  The books I love the most, I will always want to keep on an actual bookshelf in my house. (How else would visitors know what books I like?) All the same, I find myself an oddly enthusiastic, though unexpected, convert to the e-reader, at least when it comes to three particular circumstances.

When you're on a trip. Has this ever happened to you? You're preparing to spend the next six hours on a plane, and you're so sure you will be caught up in the hot new 800-page novel by one of your favorite authors that you don't bother to bring along a second book. Two chapters in, you suddenly realize you can't stand to read another word. You just can't understand how someone who wrote other books you treasure could have produced such drivel. You also can't understand how you're going to make it through the rest of the flight without something else to read. If only you had an e-reader with you, which you could have pre-loaded with five, six, or a dozen  or a hundred choices! And all without adding another ounce to your carry-on bag.

When you'd just like to browse. To me the surprise bonus to owning an e-reader is that Amazon provides free samples of virtually all books on the market. Often it's the first chapter or more. (Far more than you would be able to read, in most cases, when browsing in a bookstore.) It used to be the case that for every dozen books I bought, I would really like perhaps two of them, and rate another three as more or less worth the time and price, another four or five as mediocre, and the remainder, I wouldn't even finish. So that was a fair bit of change spent on books I didn't really like. Almost always I would get the sense of how much I was going to like the book within the first 25 – 40 pages, just about what you get in a free e-book sample. So now I simply try out any book I think might be of interest, and buy only what makes me want to read beyond the sample. I'm finding I save myself a lot of time and money that way.

When you want to read a classic. Remember, virtually anything that's in the public domain you can get for free. Ever felt you should have tackled Moby Dick by now? Or War and Peace? E-books give you no excuse not to do so, because they're always available and each book takes no more than a minute to download.

So if you've been one of those who swore you'd always stick by your old, beloved hardcovers and paperbacks and keep adding to your collection the old-fashioned way, I say, "good plan!"...but also get yourself an e-reader so that you can enjoy a good read in any of those times when an e-book does have its advantages.

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