Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts on: eBooks

Recently, ebooks and ebook readers have begun to intrude on my world. Well, maybe 'intrude' isn't quite the right word. It first started in class, when we were discussing the cost of our books for a literary unit, after discovering that a play we had all paid $20 for was available for free download online (yes, legally!) Our tutor wondered aloud why the university didn't provide ebooks for students, to lessen the sometimes ridiculous costs of texts and readings.

Secondly, a book blogger that I love to read has just bought an ebook reader and is documenting her experience with it. Her reviews are wonderful, completely out of my usual genre (which is good), and she's Australian which I like because it means I know the books she reads will be available to me.

Thirdly, after ogling the Kobo in Borders, I discovered that there's a Kobo app available for the Blackberry!

I promptly downloaded it (it's free) and started browsing. Kobo have a 'free classics' section so I was able to download a few of the titles that have been on my "I need to read these one day" list: Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Phantom of the Opera. I also downloaded some T.S. Elliot, and out of curiosity, Little Vampire Women. Then lo and behold, I stumbled across, in the free classic section, the sequel to one of my beloved op shop finds called The Princess and the Goblin! I couldn't believe it. It's one of my favourite old books, just beautiful and fantastical, and there was the sequel, right there, for free. Truly an amazing moment!

Obviously reading on my Blackberry is very different to reading on an ebook reader or even an iPhone, since my display screen is quite small, but the formatting of the ebooks I have read so far (Little Vampire Women, which I might review later, and about half of The Phantom) makes it actually pretty easy. Paging is quick and efficient, and it's simple to bookmark the page you're on if you need to exit the app to use your phone for anything else. Reading Phantom has been a little challenging because of the footnotes - they all get stuck on a seperate page, so you literally find yourself reading a page of footnotes in between the actual story. It's a bit disconcerting. However most contemporary books don't have footnotes, so I don't think that will be a problem I encounter again.

White version of the Kobo, and no that is not a picture of my Blackberry, I was too lazy to take one! I have that silicone skin though, mine is purple.

I really like that you can still see the covers of the books when you're browsing - in fact, if you like to go against the popular adage and judge a book by it's cover, you can choose to just view covers in Kobo, instead of seeing the title and rating.

For a student working casual hours, the price of ebooks versus print books is a huge factor for me. Buying Little Vampire Women in Borders would have cost me $24.95. The ebook version? Just $5.80!

My one gripe with the Kobo app so far is that it doesn't tell you whether or not an ebook is available to Australians until you're about to purchase it. There were several other titles I was interested in as a 'test run', before I ended up purchasing Little Vampire Women. The only other downside so far is the time factor: I am a very fast and proficient reader; I can tell (roughly) the amount of time it will take for me to read a book just by looking at the page numbers. With ebooks, you can look at the 'contents page', but my sense of time is completely thrown. Also since it's much easier to sneak in a chapter here and there, I can't tell you exactly how long it took me to read Little Vampire Women. It might be less time than the paper version, it may be more. The general consensus by those who have bought ebook readers is that they read faster, though.

What is really winning me over is the fact that I no longer have to worry about books being sold out, or out of print, or needing to be shipped which means A) paying shipping and B) waiting for it to be shipped. I just searched Louisa Alcott (the author of Little Women) and discovered that, besides Jo's Boys (which I was incredibly lucky to have found in an op shop), Alcott wrote several other books about the March family!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to run out and buy a Kobo just yet, though I do reccommend them if you're curious like me, since you can use it (again, for free) on your computer if you don't  have a smartphone. You can share the account/library between your Kobo, phone and computer, which means reading anything, anywhere, any time. I still love paper books and will still buy them, I just think the Kobo and all its software is a great option for people who can't afford to buy books all the time, want more portability. I mean, look at my bookshelf:

That is just my fantasy/scifi section. There's another shelf under that one down the bottom, and then I have a second shelf unit, same dimensions, filled with other genres, and with my comics and encyclopaedias on the doubly-tall bottom shelf! So there's no way I'd give up on paper books. I love them too much. That being said, I'm not completely against ebooks any more, now that I realise how useful they can be.

Have any of you tried ebooks? What do you think of them?


  1. well that is very interesting. i wouldn't think reading on a blackberry is a good idea, might be bad for eye sight. but reading on a computer would certainly work out. but the real thing is always better, it has a sort of functionality that e-anythings have. i guess we are not at stage yet where everything has some sort of electronic means of using it. i mean having computers on walls? no, not yet. and therefore there is less of an everyday functionality of electronic things. sorry if i'm blabbing on. can't seem to explain it well. i think i should go to sleep!

  2. I love reading ebooks, though I'll admit that mine aren't always legal ;] I read ebooks MUCH faster than paper books, though I have no idea why.

    I really want the Kobo reader, it's really affordable considering we get raped on the prices of everything else here! I'm just worried that if I buy it a newer and better version will come out like 0.7 seconds later. D:

    I really don't want the Kindle, the fact that it's tied to Amazon annoys me >_>

  3. I just posted a counterpoint 'essay' to your argument on my own blog.

    Love youuuuu. But also love to argue :P


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