book talk / geekery

I love my e-reader, but….

I must confess, I dragged my feet on getting an eReader. I even bought eBooks and read them on my desktop for a good year before hesitantly hinting that I’d welcome an eReader as a gift. Ownership of said eReader transformed my opinions on these wonderful little devices completely. I really do love my eReader (though I hope one day they require less charging), but lately I have noticed something that eReaders don’t do quite as well as print books.

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I was reading a new-adult novel told using several different first person point-of-views. As is custom, the author kindly provided the name of the point-of-view character at the top of each scene.  I didn’t know anything about the book structure before starting the book and it took me a while to figure things out. Admittedly, I don’t generally read books using these techniques, but I was surprised to have the trouble.

This particular book (which I enjoyed enormously despite these problems) also included a phrase at the top of each chapter. Not all that unusual. The phrase was nicely set off in italics. However, this book also featured a character whose dialog was italicized. In this case it represented someone using sign language, but I see this a lot to indicate telepathy so it shouldn’t have thrown me.

All these things together formed a perfect storm of sorts. One that I don’t think would have even his the radar if the book had been in print.

A printed page allows for white-space and page layout to help the reader quickly identify such things. The phrase at the beginning of the chapter would have been centered and indented. The point-of-view labels could have been set-off better with a bit of white-space.

Does this make me want to give up my eReader? No. But I do hope that publishers and eReader manufactures are aware of these issues and are working on ways to improve them. Or is it up to authors to come up with some innovative new way to give readers clues? Or will the technology outpace the problem…haloBooks, neural implants, virtual reality?!

What do you think? Ever had this problem? Or do I just need to break down and get reading glasses? 😉 

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11 thoughts on “I love my e-reader, but….

  1. For a while I had this really ancient book in the house. My cat would do anything to get to it, just to sniff it. I could hide on top of my gigantic armoire and he would find it and scale the mountain to get up there. LOL.

    Neural implants – yay!

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  2. Charlee,

    This isn’t a new problem with e-readers, but it’s much better than even two years ago. There’s better understanding and sharing of knowledge about how to properly upload ebooks to keep the conceptual format. As time goes on, it should get even better.

    I admit, I’ve had an e-reader for about five years. My Kindle Gen 2 has worked through thick and thin and is only now starting to show signs of wear with age (the text-to-speech program is dying).

    But I also bought a table about a year ago, so I’m not limited by one company. So you can have Kindle, Kobo, and Nook apps all on the same device. Just a little bonus. 🙂

    Not sure I’m ready for neural implants yet. LOL

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  3. The formatting will always be a bit tricky…simply because I think publishers have to weigh the time/money investment of getting it perfect. But, likely, writers will start thinking up new ways to distinguish text (like the telepathy example). I have an old style kindle from a few years ago, but I generally use my iPad.
    I don’t want neural implants:) It would be like constant noise in your brain and I have trouble focusing already.

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    • I’m sure it doesn’t help that every device is a little different. I do like being able to customize the reading experience–change font size. So overall it’s worth the trade-off.

      I know what you mean about noise. My iPod serves that function pretty well without being implanted in my brain. LOL

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  4. Print books developed formatting tricks that worked in their medium. Ebooks can learn some new tricks, too. (In the case of your examples, different fonts or font colors might do the trick.) We’re still at an early age of ebook development, and we’ll probably have to go through quite a few years of experimentation before we settle on some new tricks and methods to tell our stories.

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    • It is a little scary, but also a little exciting knowing that storytelling will change along with the technology. Even though I am very pro-eReader now, I still like my black and white display. So much easier on the eyes. Sometimes I am more of an old dog than I like to admit.

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      • In contrast, I adapted to screens as soon as I was able, and now I barely read on paper at all. My mantra has always been: “You get used to… what you WANT to get used to.” Digital display reading will follow the same pattern of slow acceptance that many other technologies have followed, but that’s okay. Eventually, we’ll hardly remember why we thought paper was such a great thing.

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  5. Hi, just letting you know that some ebook producers spend a lot of time and thought in giving readers a pleasant, easy to navigate experience. I know I do. When I produce an ebook, I come at it from the perspective of a heavy reader (I own three Kindles), and first and foremost is using the platform to its best advantage. The mistake many producers make is to try to make an ebook look like a print book. Mistake.

    Ebooks overall are getting better (format-wise) and even the big publishers are getting with the program and improving the quality of their formats.

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