To test whether e-readers and tablets change reading culture, I took myself as a testcase. November 2012 was my first month as an owner of an e-reader. I enjoyed it and i seemed more adventurous in my choice of books. I have read more and different books than expected. My conclusion: ebooks are there to stay.
First experiences are important. So when I bought an e-reader last month, I decided to write a post on my first experiences. I mean, when testing a vacuum cleaner, you would ask yourself: what dust did it eat? So to test your e-reader, you would ask yourself: what stuff did I e-read?
Before I present my results, I must admit I was reluctant to buy an extra machine for reading. I mean, how many machines can you carry around with you? (I am not talking about the vacuum cleaner now;). Until I bought the e-reader, I was happy to read my e-books on my notebook. I use an excellent reader software, Calibre, to organize my digital bookshelves. But now I have this red Sony E-reader PRS-T2 (bought this at libris.de for 99 Euro). This is not a marketing blogpost, but I must say this thing works uncomplicated and has this main advantage of an E ink display. This means that when you read no light shines on your face or pours into your eyes. Which is great.
One choice I made most of you probably won’t make: I kept the thing off-line. I did not Wifi-connect, though it has Facebook and Evernote applications. This would wire me for distraction. I would somehow be tempted to publish my first thoughts and I know most of my second thoughts are better than my first thoughts. You cannot be a fan of slow journalism and then publish every second sentence on the internet, can you?
But now about the books I read + how (to E- or not-to-E-) I have read them. For who is interested, at the end of this post you will find the titles of the books.*
Conclusion after one month: I have read more, because of my E-reader and the ebooks. I read more classics and I tried out some weired works I would’t have taken the trouble to buy or borrow if they had not been available as ebook. This personal experience nicely fits with larger research on the rise of E-reading My reading score was 5 ebooks to 4.5 books. So in November 2012, ebooks definitely increased my cultural capital.
One small historical detail to recall. In 2002 I read the 1.833 pages of De lotgevallen van Klaasje Zevenster (1865/66) by Jacob van Lennep. Great book! But, I had to read it on an enormous and ugly laptop in PdF. My eyes still hurt when I think of this reading experience. It was very clear that reading badly scanned PdFs on noisy notebooks wasn’t going to be really competitive. I am glad this period lies behind us (though I am happy someone then scanned Klaasje Zevenster).
Now the ebook is there to stay and will conquer Europe as well. It will enrich readers’ reading experiences. And the paper book will survive as well. It is a matter of enjoying both. So let us be adventurous and double read: it’s to read AND to e-read. It’s fun. And we can think of both books and technology as mirrors. I just remembered Stephen Fry saying: “Technology is like a mirror. If an idiot looks in, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.”
*I have read: Ebooks: De kleine Johannes (1887) by Frederik van Eeden. Gutenberg; Morals and Manners (1835) by Harriet Martineau, Gutenberg; Einschlafbuch für Wutbürger (2012) by Dietmar Bittrich (from the library). Ich lasse das Leben auf mich regnen (2010) by Reiner Ruffing (from the library). The Bronte Sisters (2011)by Angela Youngman.
Then I also borrowed an ebook from the public library I did not read, written by T.C. Boyle. This was an interesting experience: it just disappeared from my shelves before I got to reading it. After three weeks, the DRM-code did not function anymore, so you can’t open the book. This also is an advantage: never again too late to return books to the library!
But then, here it comes, I also read, on ordinary paper, the following, non-ebooks: Het rode huis (2012) by Mark Haddon; Photography Theory in historical perspective (2011) by Hilde van Gelder and Helen Westgeest(i read a few, not all articles) and Een kamer op de Himalaya (1990) by Inez van Dullemen. And I read two paper books from the library: Der Hals der Giraffe by Judith Schalansky and Vielen Dank für das Leben by Sybille Berg.
So which book was my favourite?: 1. Martineau; 2. Schalansky (German humour! NL: De lessen van mevrouw Lohmark) AND 3. Haddon (The red house). And if you’d ask me which reading experience was my favourite? I would mention the Wutbürger-book by Bittrich. A crazy book about how revolutionaries – from Simone de Beauvoir to Eminem and Julian Assange – fall asleep.
And not to forget: twelve excellent dictionaries are integrated into the E-reader. You touch a word and immediately read its translation.