Thursday, June 3, 2010

An E-Reader Opinion

Over at his excellent blog, Conversational Reading, Scott Esposito writes about his first experience with Amazon's Kindle: "I recently read my first complete electronic book on an e-reader. (The reader was Amazon’s Kindle, which I did not purchase and nor do I own, though I do have regular access to.) The book was Cesar Aira’s The Literary Conference, and to make the experience a little more complex, it was a book that I was reading for a review. I found the e-reading experience to be genuinely immersive, at least as immersive as I’ve experienced with similarly compelling printed books. (And I would imagine that The Literary Conference is hugely compelling in any format). I didn’t feel any temptation to leave the text and play around with the digital ephemera I added to the Kindle (more on that in a bit). And, in fact, after a very short period of being entirely cognizant of the fact I was reading electronically, I reached the point at which I felt that I’d completely forgotten that I was e-reading: in other words, the mental sensation was entirely akin to what I experience when reading a real book."

There are a huge number of conflicting opinions out there in regards to the experience of an e-reader. Some readers — particularly scholars, critics, and reviewers — swear by the printed book, as most of the panelists from the NBCC did at BEA last week. Books are certainly more durable than any digital format: new versions of programs nullify older file-types, but once a book is printed it should (if it was worth printing at all) last forever. Scott qualified his opinion in "the matter of skimming and reading and flipping back through the book for review," where he found, "printed books unambiguously superior. The PDF format offers a search feature, which is nice if you’re looking for the first appearance of a name or something along those lines, but attempting to skim back through a PDF on a Kindle is quite clearly inferior to flipping through an actual book." Perhaps it's a bit like the wheel? Improvements and advancements sure; but never re-invention.

We would love to hear your thoughts!

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