Friday, January 22, 2010

I've Gone To The Dark Side (I've Got A Nook)

There was a time, not so long ago, that I voted in a poll on Nathan Bransford's blog about e-readers, voting squarely in the "You'll have to pry my paper books from my cold dead hands."

Then four of my writing group members finished their WIPs and sent them to me and I spent a few blurry-eyed months reading manuscripts on the computer, 400 pages at a time. It took ten times longer than it should have because it was just hard to read that much on the computer. And I started thinking... maybe. Maybe I could do this e-reader thing.

Then I saw an advertisement for the new Barnes & Noble Nook and I fell in love. It's hard to admit this... I have a tiny problem with technology. An obsessive love affair type problem.

I thought books were the one area I would remain faithful to the original. I love paper books. I love the smell of them, the feel of the smooth cover and the sound of the rustle as you turn the page. I love seeing them lined up on my shelves. The colors! The fonts! The photos!

And then along came the Nook.

I can't explain why I fell for the Nook. It's a visceral thing. A combination of that mac-white shell, the covers all lined neatly at the bottom to scroll through, the thought of being able to take with me my writer peep's books as I'm waiting for the dentist to call me back to the torture chamber.
It might have somethimg to do with the name. I like the name Nook. It's cozy. It conjures images so much warmer than the bonfire-induced, book burning images I get with the other one.

This isn't a post about why you should buy a Nook, though, or why a Nook is better than a Kindle, or vice versa. There are lots of great websites that do that in depth. Here is just one of them. (And sorry Sony, but you sort of got left out of all the comparisons all over the internet... I think it's because you couldn't come up with a better name than Sony e-reader. We want originality. Creativity. We really do judge a book by it's title, and an e-reader by it's name. We are just that shallow.)

I'm pretty fair, and I will say in all honesty that the Kindle probably does outperform in some areas. It's all about what you're looking for, or – in my case – what swings you from paper books over to the dark side.

But to start with, let's be clear. I have not given up my love of paper books. I can't even begin to fathom a future in which I don't walk around dizzy with lust in a book store and walk out with a stack, nose stuck in them to smell the heady smell of printer's ink and paper.

But my Nook has it's own stack of merits.

For one, it's head and shoulders above reading on a computer screen. It's not just the scrolling effect that drove my eyes nuts, but the light. At first, the e-ink screen on the Nook bugged me a little. I hunted around trying to see if I could increase the light behind it because it felt dark. Then I realized there really wasn't any light. Like a book, it is what it is. And the contrast was just fine. Not readable in the dark, but perfectly readable in daylight. And after hours with it, my eyes didn't hurt. Not even a little bit.  Once I got used to the idea that it was meant to be read like a book rather than an electronic device, I loved that aspect of it.

Secondly, my fears that one couldn't get lost in an e-book the same as a paper book were completely unfounded. That fear persisted until about two pages into my first book. Ask my family. I've been utterly unavailable the last five days. Sucked in. Consumed. It turns out, a good story is a good story, no matter how it comes. This is the one that surprised me the most.

The Nook, unlike the Kindle, can utilize an SD card, which means it's nearly limitless in how many books you can read on it. And it can read several formats of books, including ePub and PDF, which opens the range of books to the entire Google library of public domain books (which download for free) as well as any .doc files that I can convert to PDF. I can't type on them, the way I use Word Tracker when I typically critique, but for larger pieces, it definitely helps the reading go faster.

The Nook doesn't have internet browsing, which I've heard the Kindle does. This wasn't a big deal to me for two reasons. One, most people have phones that do that now, so I imagine if you really want to browse the internet anywhere, you probably already can.  I don't. I don't because I don't need to be sucked into web browsing and email checking 24 hours a day. And if it was available to me, I would. It's an addiction I definitely don't need to feed. When I leave the house, I leave internet behind. I'm a better mom and wife for that.

I do have the mental block that it's electronic technology rather than a book, which adds a level of guilt to the reading I don't have with paper books. This is probably just me, but I'm on technology all day. If I'm not on the computer, I'm on my itouch. And I feel guilty about this around my family. And where I'd feel perfectly fine reading a book while my kids play Wii next to me, I feel less social interacting with my own electronics instead of playing with them. I find myself telling them all the time, "I'm reading a book... I'm not catching up on emails." I think this will fade as time passes and we all get used to it. (I've also downloaded a bunch of books for my kids... free books like Treasure Island and Anne of Green Gables).

I like, to some degree, that I can read a book privately. That is to say, without someone judging me by what book I'm holding. I say this because this week I started reading a book I probably wouldn't have been dragging along to dentist appointments and basketball games. I finally succumbed to the phenomenon that is Twilight. Hey - don't judge. I got tired of being the only one on the planet that hadn't read it, and didn't have the foggiest idea of whether or not I belonged squarely in Team Jacob or Team Edward camp. And yet... I didn't really want to admit to anyone I was reading it, either. (Don't ask why. I have no idea. Because I'm not a vampire kind of gal? Because it's seen as a teen girl thing? Because it's so controversial? I have no idea...) And the Nook gave me that anonymity.

I like the fact that the Nook allows you to bookmark your place, and if you aren't fooling around on it, every time you wake it up, it remembers where you were. Unfortunately, and I learned this the hard way, you have to physically put the bookmark in if you plan on turning off the device, update it, add new books, or in any other way deviate from the page you were on. Or you start at the beginning again. So twice I ended up pushing the turn-the-page button 218 times to get to where I left off.

The one thing I can say that does really bug me is that I tend to be a page flipper, and I can't do that with e-books. I read, and as I read, I'll flip back to what I've read before to catch something I might have missed, or double check what happened. For instance, in reading Twilight I totally missed the details of the car careening into Bella in the school parking lot. Fifteen pages later there was a discussion about it that confused me (because I had my facts all screwed up), and I tried to flip back to find the scene and reread it, and to do that you have to turn the pages one at a time. Really, really annoying.

The balance is this, though: I left for DC today and all I carried was my purse, the Nook tucked inside. In the midst of the day, I finished the book and was bummed I was done. Until I realized I had the next one on my Nook as well. Or 25 other books I could start. All at my fingertips. All tucked inside my purse.

While I can't imagine taking this to the beach, where I love to read but can imagine would be a hostile environment to the electronics of an e-reader, I can imagine taking it on a train, or plane. Or up to bed to read while tucked under electric blankets on a cold, cold night.

And on that note... I think I'll do just that.


  1. awesome post! I've been thinking of buying an e-reader. The Nook sounds pretty cool!! My stumbling block is the price. Although, Kindles are outrageous!!

  2. The price is definitely a draw-back, I think. I would never have bought one for myself, no matter how much I wanted it, just because.. well... I could buy a lot of paper books for that price!! Or a new dryer... which I'm going to have to do since the motor on mine blew up this week. Sigh.

    I'm mostly only scrounging free books at this point, or books people can lend me. I know you can borrow ebooks from a lot of libraries, then they magically disappear on the due date. Our library doesn't lend fiction yet, so I'm trying to find other ways.

    Paper books I want to keep forever. E-books... I just want to read and give em back. :)

  3. I have the Sony Reader. It's very nice. The Nook looks nice too. The Kindle still looks crappy to me.

    I mostly read old books (common domain stuff) on the Reader, or free book downloads such as stuff from Cory Doctorow on there. It's so much better than reading on the computer.

  4. Paul - I'm doing mostly free domain stuff too... which is cool because it's getting me back to reading some of the classics I missed during my educational years. :)

    I have a really hard time, at this point, buying a file. I'm still waiting for my library to go ebook crazy so I can borrow them!

  5. Oh my gosh, I love that you're reading Twilight on the Nook. My first purchase on the Kindle was Lauren Condrad's LA Candy. Don't judge.

    I love that you can loan books using the Nook too. That is a HUGE advantage over the Kindle in my opinion.

  6. Lisa and laura - no judgments here. :)

    The loaning is great if you know other people who also have one... otherwise i guess it's a bit useless. I am looking forward to "borrowing" ebooks from libraries, though. You can get them online without going to the library, and then they automatically return themselves on the due date. how awesome is that??

  7. I saw your "Virginia" state comment over at Joanne's and decided to visit. :)
    Thanks for all the info on the electronic books. When I first heard of the Kindle, my eyes lit up with excitement, but then I thought of all my "old children," my antiquated books, and decided that I'm not ready to leave them yet.
    Eventually, I'm sure that I will join the younger generation and jump on the bandwagon. :)

  8. Anita - welcome! I loved your comment about Virginia! We do have it all!

    There's no way I'm getting rid of my books, either. I'm still just dipping my toes in the e-water.

  9. I've been thinking about this for a while now as well. Considering all of the running around I have to do, it would be nice just to have something handy to pull out. Especially when it comes to reading other's work.

  10. Thank you for this post. I did a little poll on my blog not long ago, wondering about e-readers. This answered many of my questions. :)

  11. Join Team Jacob! No, no, no, join Team Edward...I can't make up my mind and I've read all of the Twilight books.

    I don't have a Nook or a Kindle...I'm a paper person...unless they put in a backlight so you can read with the lights out. ;)

  12. Sharon - that's too funny! Is there really a choice? I've only read the first one, but I can't imagine how Jacob even comes into play in Bella's mind!

    The point of the ebook is that it ISN'T backlit. It's easier on the eyes. It was hard to get used to... it's psychological I think. We think technology should be backlit. But man, I used to try to read manuscripts in the dark and it killed my eyes! I'm getting the light for the nook. That way I can still read in the dark. :)

  13. Heidi--You will see why people have switched teams once you read New Moon... (See the movie after you read it.)

    I think the only reason I would buy a Nook (or similar product) would be so I didn't have to have the light on when I'm reading in bed. Then I wouldn't disturb my husband with page turning and the light being on.

  14. I like the sounds of bn's reader too, a book "nook," very smart of them. It seems like the readers will eventually be a gadget most of us might have, switching back and forth between books and the reader, depending on what suits us. It's great to have another avenue for delivering those books :)

  15. Good post! I like your reasoning about why you are using it--I think if you are reading a lot of manuscripts--this would be ideal:)

  16. Sharon - I'm starting to read it today, so we'll see. :) I also started thinking of an ebook only so I could read in bed without having the lights on. Now, I think that's the whole reason my eyes hurt. Still, if you have an iphone, itouch, blackberry, etc, you can download free e-reader apps on them and read that way. The screen is just a lot smaller.

    joanne - I think the book nook name is great, too. :) And I'm all for different ways of reading. Paper books will always be my main choice, but I love having options.

    Teri - I think the new Kindle reads PDFs now, too, and .doc, so it's got the same advantage. I can definitely see why agents and editors use them!! For me, it's a mixed bag.

  17. this is agreat post! I was just thinking about this the other day when I bought a book....I will SO miss books. I love the smell, the feel of the paper, the illustration on the cover...I will just miss them if they ever go. Then I saw someone on the bus with one of those...thingys. They fit so easily in a purse and you can adjust the type I'm all conflicted!

  18. I just got my nook. I have migraines; I am not sure I can get used to the screen flashing to black with white letters when I 'turn the page'.

    Also, one of the main reasons I got it was to read in bed without holding a heavy book. My husband reads on his iphone. If I doze off the light of his iphone doesn't bother me, but, with the nook, I still have to have on a light!