Community Conversation: About Reading E-books

PW Community ConversationsThank you for your responses to the Community Conversation question about how you feel when you read an e-book.

The comment about being able to read a book in any format bringing joy and happiness is a good one. Reading IS a great pleasure. My partner’s 84 year old mother is experiencing diminished ability to see. She loves to read and is accustomed to reading her newspapers, mail, and any ongoing books daily. She’s gotten help from new magnification technology and generally has a good attitude but it’s a difficult process to watch and the prognosis is not good. But there again, we have huge availability of books on tape – yet another format for reading.

My feelings about digital reading are still forming in large part dependent on the health of my eyes.

I have a long history of working in front of computers. I was given my first computer to use in a law office in the early 80s. I asked, but was told, no, I could not have a typewriter. A little strange but I persevered and learned code (I used WordStar on a Kaypro) needed to produce a reasonable looking letter or brief. As I learned more I dabbled in database work. The 80s were early in the genesis of database apps for commoners. At one point I had been working assiduously with a database app for a project. I was intensely concentrating, focusing on the computer screen for hours at a time resulting in a breakdown of my eyes. They became infected – treatment being ointment and abstinence until recovery. This experience left a lasting impression on me and set the tone for my future computer usage.

Computer screens, along with computers, have been through some very dramatic transformations since the 80s. And today we have programmers cooking up new code to accommodate websites responsive to the many sizes of screens we look at. E-book readers and hand-held devices allow for adjustment of text size, color, and background which I have found very helpful in my digital book reading.

There are all kinds of potential health questions arising from digital reading. These are not the questions I was contemplating in the course of this discussion. I had started to examine how I felt while reading e-books and I wondered what others would have to say on the topic.

I like the idea of e-books. They are one of those modern commodities available almost at will. No waiting. Pay the money and the thing appears. Like the idea of fast food, this ready availability does give me pause. But only a little… and not enough to prevent the growth of my digital library.

How does reviewing a digital book differ from reviewing its hard copy? Reviewing digital books has been very frustrating for me. So much so that I always end up ordering both digital and physical formats, and in some cases, the audio version as well. Is this unusual? I have no idea. My main complaint reviewing an e-book is that my brain dis-connects from location and navigation to anything other than my present bookmarked spot is next to impossible for me. Or is the process just not fast enough? Both. It’s difficult and slow. Ingredients for frustration and very quickly figuring out how to remedy the situation. I have learned to place bookmarks and write notes in e-books. It’s not the same as attaching a stickie note and underlining important text.

I believe there is also a finer distinction at play between digital and physical. You can page through a physical book, gathering all sorts of information about it even before reading. You can tap or swipe your way through a digital book, but where is the delimiter? Where is the end? You can select to navigate through the table of contents, maybe locate included images, but there is an element of trust in that format. Trust that something with virtually no substance is there at all. It’s like Don Juan telling Carlos Castaneda to jump off the cliff. Do I just have to let go when I read an e-book?

I’m a reader profitable to purveyors of all book formats. I’ve been pushed at odds with an action native to me since I learned to read. And it’s added an element of ‘furrowed brow’ to the activity.

Maybe I just need to relax!

Thanks for your participation in this exercise.

Stay tuned for more upcoming Community Conversations.

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