We hear the future belongs to e-books. Paper will vanish. The next generation will look at us oldsters and ask sheepishly, “You really remember what it was like read from paper?”
Although I love e-books, I increasingly doubt that will happen, though. I think about how I read mechanically. I’m sure I’m not unique.Paper allows the ability to flip around easier. That’s more appealing to me for non-fiction, in which I find I am likely to jump between pages and even chapters. “Page flipping” is clumsier on an e-reader.
That said, the Kindle “search” facility is far better for non-fiction than paper. Just type in anything and where it appears pops up on screen. In a paper book, naturally we need to fumble through an index, and indexes are often confusing.
We are less likely to flip pages, or jump around, in a fiction book. But fiction also may have its drawbacks on an e-reader. I discovered that as I focused “microscopically” on my book.
As writers, we compose text on a PC or some other electronic screen (unless we write long-hand, or use a typewriter, or – if a real traditionalist – a quill and parchment). Yes, we may print out pages at times as we proceed. (I do.) But I didn’t read Passports in its entirety on printed pages until I received the printed “proof” copy.
After all, who wants to print out 400 pages if you don’t have to do so? Printers, which appear in two decades barely to have moved on technically in reliability terms, still unexpectedly crunch paper and jam at the drop of a hat like it is indeed still “1994.” And the ink is probably more expensive than blood.
When I compared my book on the two platforms, I found that subconsciously I “scoped” the entire page down, so in that sense print and e-book read pretty much the same. However, when reading the print book’s left hand page, my gaze drifted subtly to the right hand one while I simultaneously read the line I was actually reading. The “eye” cannot manage that with a “one page at a time” e-reader.
I found that impacts how the story seemed “to flow.” The best analogy that jumps to my mind here is with driving. We look at the road directly in front of us, but our mind also “sees” and “prepares us for” what’s in the distance beyond our immediate road focus.
We all know the Kindle stores hoards of books and makes packing for travel ridiculously simple. It is a great device. But, overall, books just seem to read “differently” on a Kindle compared to a print version.
Eh, maybe it’s just me? We all have our own peculiarities and tastes, of course.
Happy Friday! Have a good weekend….