Monday, January 16, 2012

When Murakami becomes too heavy.

I came across this very interesting article here about ebook readers and I couldn't help reflect on my own experience. Though it's an old debate and there isn't much new that can be said on it, since I was just recently informed by Kobo that I got my ebook reader a year ago, I can write about it from a personal point of view.

Not a good thing?
I like how easy it is to carry around an ebook reader, I must say. For my birthday this year, some friends gave me a copy of Murakami's new one (hardcover) and while I'm not a huge fan of Murakami necessarily, I'm enjoying it immensely so far. The bit that gets on my nerves though is the fact that it's so big and heavy. I'm certainly not bringing it to work every day to read on the metro or on my lunch hour because it's just unwieldy. So Kobo definitely wins on that score. It's also slightly on my mind that once I'm done reading it, I have to DO something with it: add it to the shelves of books I already have which just collect dust in my office, lug it downtown to The Word to resell (though I've never actually done this and in fact doubt they will be interested in it since it's probably a book they get thrown at them weekly).  I've been trying to get rid of some of my books the last few months (never an easy task) and having another big book is slightly disheartening.

But I can think of few other benefits to having the ereader. When I'm into a book, the fact that it's being read on a reader or being read on a paper page is irrelevant. I feel that I am more likely to finish a book on a reader, too, at least for now, because I have less competing for my attention on the virtual shelves of my reader.

I think, too, that one of the joys of reading is sensing how far you've read and how far you still have to go. A sense of accomplishment comes with finishing a big 900 page novel that just isn't part of the experience of reading a book on a reader. Yes, the little screen indicates how far you've read and how far you have to go but it lacks the physical sense of accomplishment. But I imagine that this sensation isn't really a key part of reading: it's just incidental to reading a physical book. I'm also not sure how I will "incorporate" ebooks into my reading history in the same way. Since I do have so many shelves of books, I find I re-read certain books over and over (just before and during the Christmas break I was re-reading all of Eileen Chang's books which were really enjoyable). That hasn't happened yet on the ereader. Maybe that will change once I have more books on it?

Searching on the Kobo is a HASSLE. Maybe the new Kobo Touch is easier (I haven't seen one yet) but the version I have makes searching or browsing for books absolutely arduous. The selection of Kobo is lousy, too. They have one book by Yukio Mishima (probably the best known Japanese writer after Murakami) and very little by any contemporary Japanese or Chinese writers and very few by contemporary Latin writers (or even European writers). Most of what they promote is shlock. I definitely associate crap with the Kobo catalog. Maybe this will change (the single Mishima book they have was added in the past couple of months) but if all they are hawking is garbage, they won't ever be taken seriously by the establishment (critics, literary magazines, etc.).

I've been using an iPad, too, though not for reading. I just can't: I'm hard on books and I read them in the bathtub and knock them off my nightstand in the middle of the night. I treat the iPad too gingerly, it's too expensive and reading on the sofa on the weekend when you might nod off and drop a $800 device on the floor is not really do-able. The Kobo is sturdy and small and if I drop it, it wouldn't be the end of the world (it cost $99 to buy it). Not true for the iPad. Certainly true for the book (I've "broken" a few book bindings through the years and once even dropped a book into the tub: still readable!)

The final point, I guess, is that for now, I have a place and a role for both physical books and ebooks in my life and I can imagine using both into the future.

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