Critical Mass

Adventures in E-Reading: Guest Post from Laurie Gold

By Laurie Gold

Over the next month or so we're going to be offering a new series of guest posts (read the first series,”The Next Decade in Book Culture here). Our question: How are you handling the rise of the e-book? Are you reading on Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Vook, have you reserved an iPad?  Are you buying e-books? Reading e-galleys? And how's it working out for you? Let us know your quibbles, quirks, happy and not so happy adventures in e-reading.This post is from NBCC member and PW reviewer Laurie Gold.


I embraced reading from a dedicated device several years ago; my first e-book reader was the e-Bookwise, which I used quite happily for a few years. My husband bought me a Kindle for mother's day almost two years ago, and since then I've rarely looked back. In the past 18 months or so I can probably count the number of books I've read in print (outside of those assigned for my PW reviews) on two hands. I love the ease and portability of having an entire library in one small, self-contained unit that allows me to download whenever and wherever, and have only bought print versions when electronic versions were unavailable. I used to be one of those people who thought, “I must hold a real book in my hands.” I'm not one of them anymore.


As for the iPad, not for me, thanks, and it's a matter of philosophy. I've had a bone to pick with Steve Jobs since he declared, a couple of years ago, that “reading is dead.” The bigger issue, though, is that while he helped push the music industry into the 21st century, he is enabling publishers to remain stuck in their fears…and their ways. The end result is higher prices for those of us who like to read books electronically.


Just last week I realized I paid almost the same amount for a new release in e-book form as did hardcover customers at Amazon. I would have preferred to wait for a few months and been charged $9.99. Which means I am all for staggered releases so that publishers can profit from hardcover releases, just as I accept the year it takes in-between hardcover and mass market releases. But what I'm seeing since the iPad was announced is both a delay in e-book releases AND higher prices. I noticed two hardcovers already on sale that will not be available in electronic form until June, and the pre-sale price for both is the post-iPad price.


As for reviewing books in electronic format, I've only done that once, when one of my PW editors had a rush review and sent me a PDF file. The only difference for me was that rather than writing in the book, I took notes on a pad of paper. I definitely prefer e-book format to manuscripts, and since I'm trying to convert my print library into an electronic one, I wish  more of the books I was assigned came to me as e-books rather than print ARCs.


I do love my Kindle, but as technology improves, I wish the devices weren't so expensive. B&N's Nook, for instance, offers a navigation wheel that is far superior to the “next” and “previous” buttons available on my Kindle. While I can sort my library in a few different ways, because I have so many books on the device, it can be very tedious to page down, page down, page down, etc., to find a certain book. On the other hand, using Nook's nav wheel makes that process much less cumbersome.


Then there are issues of DRM and format, about which I have no control. I remember owning a Betamax when the world chose VHS – and then the DVD rendered both obsolete. But I try not to focus on the negative and, at the moment, am simply enjoying my Kindle. Speaking of which, it's time to get to that new book I downloaded last night…