E-reader impressions: hey, who put this library in my pocket?

So, I’ve had my Nook Simple Touch Reader for about a month.  In that time, I’ve read ten books on it and now feel qualified to put my thoughts and impressions about owning an e-reader out into the world.

Overall, the Nook is a pretty big win in my book (no pun intended).  It’s small and easy to use.  It wasn’t too pricey.  The battery lasts forever (a month!).  It holds thousands of books without cluttering my apartment.

Is it exactly the same as reading a real book?  No.  Is it pretty damn close?  Yes.

My biggest fear was that reading from the Nook screen would not be like reading from a page in a print book.  This fear was unfounded.  The e-ink technology is truly amazing.  It looks just like printed ink.  Doesn’t matter what angle or distance you hold the Nook at, it’s still just like reading from a printed book and nothing like reading from a computer screen.  The device itself is also very lightweight, easy to hold in one hand, and has no keypad (there’s a pop-up touchscreen instead).

Downloading e-books takes less than a minute, so it’s great for impatient little me – no waiting to read what I want.  There are plenty of classics you can get for free (either from B & N or from online sources like Project Guttenburg) and transferring files from your computer to the Nook is pretty easy.  Prices on e-books bought directly from B & N are usually a buck or two cheaper than a print version would be and there is an ample selection.  This Nook has no 3G connectivity, which is only a problem if you don’t plan ahead (e.g. I only downloaded one new book for my trip to Boston…big mistake!  I couldn’t get on the wireless at the hotel and thus wasn’t able to download any new books for the journey home).

The Nook is really great for doing Beta reading projects, too.  You just transfer the .pdf over (caveat: I did have to fiddle with formatting those .pdfs to make reading them easier) and you can read through your crit partner’s novels.  It’s vastly preferable to reading on the computer screen or printing them out.  In addition, there are several nifty features, such as the ability to loan books to other Nook readers and to check e-books out from the library on your Nook.

It isn’t all wine and roses, though.  There are a few aspects of using the Nook that I don’t much like.

First, you really lose out on the cover.  The Nook Simple Touch is black and white and the cover art is hard to see and more like a thumbnail image than a real picture.  For me, that does detract from the reading experience.

Second, when reading a novel, I always enjoy that anticipated build towards the final page.  You’re clutching the book in your sweaty mitts, turning pages, and watching the fraction of the remaining pages grow smaller and smaller…until, voila!, you’ve turned the final page.  With the Nook, I never have any idea when the last page is coming.  Yes, yes.  There’s a little page counter at the bottom of the screen.  But, seriously, when you’re in the grip of a good story you don’t look down at the page counter.  Every single time I’ve read a book on the Nook I’ve gotten to the last page and been utterly shocked that there’s nothing more to read.  It feels like a bit of a let-down.

Also, I will admit that something about the instant gratification of being able to download and begin a novel within minutes diminishes a little bit of the anticipation and pleasure (though there’s two sides to this…and sometimes this feature is the best thing about the Nook, as in the case of sequels and series).  As soon as you finish one, you can download another and just keep going.  The specialness of each individual novel fades a bit and they tend to blur together more than if I was reading hard copies.

Finally, there is no meaningful shelf of trophies on which to display your beloved books.  I know.  This is one of the reasons I got a Nook in the first place, but still…I miss the tactile and visual pleasure of reading and shelving, of adding to a collection of books that reflect my tastes for all to see.

Despite these criticisms, I’m happy I’ve purchased the Nook.  It’s a clever, useful device.  I’ll probably still buy the print versions of books I know I want on my bookshelf, but using the Nook should help keep my avaricious book buying to a reasonable level while still letting me tear through five to ten books a month.  Not a shabby compromise, really.

Procrastination, deadlines, and other dilemmas

Update from the front, dear Readers!

I am getting close enough to finishing ABSENT that I can see the hoary light at the end of the tunnel!  I have decided, at virtually the last minute, to go do several weeks of archaeological field work in Honduras!  I am attempting to Beta-read two novels at once!  I have become overly fond of exclamation points (perhaps due to an excess of caffeine coursing through my veins!)

Yes, it is an exclamation point kind of week around the Suri household.  We have celebrated three years of lovely married life, have signed away our life savings on a new apartment, and have lined up so much travel for the month of July (all, of course, at the last minute) that I’m not sure it’s physically possible to accomplish it.  Most notable among our coming adventures is my decision to return to Honduras this summer to continue my archaeological research.

There will be more on this in future posts (and here’s a link to the project blog, for those of you who want to follow our adventures in the field), but in short: I co-direct an archaeological field school in Honduras.  The last time we were down doing work (2009), a coup d’etat happened.  It was not pleasant, and we haven’t been back since.  So, this is a big undertaking, and hopefully one that will go smoothly, as we’re taking 9 undergraduates with us.

On the writing front, I’ve been making happy-fun progress on the first draft of ABSENT, my archaeology time-travel novel.  With my new daily word count goal in place, I’ve cruised through about 8,000 words in the last week or so.  The climax is just a few chapters away, to be followed by another few chapters of denouement.  Is there a chance I could finish this bad boy before I leave for Honduras?  Probably not.  But what the hell, I’m gonna try anyway.  Wish me luck!

Complicating matters is that I’m now Beta-reading two novels at once.  Such is the danger of swapping novel critiques, in which the owed critique may arrive at an unspecified date in the future – you can end up with more than you can handle.  Both critiques are for writing buddies who’ve done me more than their share of favors and are due my best when it comes to payback.  So I’m going to power through.  Fortunately, I just bought an e-reader, the Nook Simple Touch (I’ll be sure to review this after I’ve given it a good work out), so I’m going to try to do one of the crits on the e-reader and see how that goes.

Clearly, I’ve got a busy week or so coming down the pike.  How about you all?

Oh, and this marks the 100th post since I started my blog last November. Nifty!

Taking the e-reader plunge

Well, I’ve decided to buy an e-reader.  Shelf-space is what finally pushed me over the edge, to be honest.  As I begin to think about packing (the hubby and I have bought an apartment and will be moving next month!), all I can think of is how horrible it will be to deal with the mountain of books I’ve accumulated.  There’s so many of them, and they’re so heavy.  Have they been breeding and snacking when I wasn’t looking? And where will we put them all in our lovely new place?

Maybe a tiny electronic device that holds thousands of books ain’t such a bad idea after all.

So, which e-reader do you think I should get?  I don’t want to break the bank (I already spend enough money on books as it is) and want something simple and straightforward that provides the best reading experience.  I’m currently leaning towards the new Nook Simple Touch Reader.  But I humbly request your advice in the comments.  What factors are most important to consider and what have your own e-reading experiences been?


The year of the e-reader?

I saw this article about an expected holiday rush on e-readers in the New York Times and it got me thinking about my Christmas wish list, which includes about 453 million books.  Yet, as I was assembling this list of holiday desires, it never once crossed my mind to ask for an e-reader.

There are a whole big bunch of new e-readers out there this year.  You can get them in black-and-white or in color, in big sizes and small, with snazzy covers or without.  Booksellers all seem focused on how the rise of e-readers will change the publishing landscape and the monetization of the written word.  It’s a must-discussed, much-debated issue on which I have not yet fully formed an opinion (except this simplistic one: the more people read, in whatever format, the better).

Right now, I’m more concerned with deciding what I think (as a consumer) about the devices themselves.  I see these lovely contraptions everywhere – and especially on the subway.  They seem so light and small and useful–cramming all the books you could ever want in one slim device.  Ingenious!

But I’m still not sure I want one.  It’s partly because I resist change just to be willful (ask my husband, he’ll agree), and partly because I really like the feel of a paperback in my hand.  But the biggest reason I’m reluctant to get an e-reader is that I already spend 99% of my time staring at a screen.  I write, research, draft, and revise on the computer.  I watch television on the computer.  I “relax” by playing video games, wasting time on Twitter and Facebook, or reading news and blogs on the computer.  I prepare and present my lectures for class on the computer.  I make most of my phone calls on the computer via Skype.

Reading a book is one of the few ways I take a break from the bleary-eyed consequences of my computer-focused existence.  It’s not just a form of pleasurable relaxation, it’s a literal rest from technology.

Will I someday buy an e-reader?  Most likely.  Would I turn my nose up at one as a gift?  No chance.  Do I worry about what will happen when I’m never more than 2 feet from an electronic device?  Absolutely.