Thursday, June 26, 2014

Finally connecting with e-books

I've mentioned before, here and in comments on other blogs, that I don't use an e-reader.  I bought a Nook a couple of years ago, in anticipation of downloading all the free classics available through Google Books and Project Gutenberg.  But though I happily crammed it full of books (eight by Charlotte M. Yonge alone), I found it very difficult to read them.  The lines and lines of text don't hold my attention like words on a page do.  I'd quickly lose interest and go off to look for a "real" book.  Two years later, I still haven't read a single book on it.

All that has changed, thanks to my new smart phone.  I got it two weeks ago, in preparation for a trip, so that I could access my work email while I was out of the office.  When I was in the Verizon store, the very helpful salesman told me that they had some Samsung tablets that they were giving away that day.  There were still a couple left, and he asked if I wanted one.  At first, I thought I didn't.  The smart phone was a big step for me, and an expensive one, and I wasn't sure I needed a tablet too.  But it's free, he kept repeating.  And finally I thought, well, if it's free (which it was, but there's a small monthly fee).

I was playing around with the smart phone, feeling a bit dumb as I tried to work things out, when I stumbled into Google Play Books.  And there were a few that I had downloaded, back when I first got the Nook, including Emily Eden's Letters from India and Miss Eden's Letters.  I had found them impossible to read because the e-text was badly garbled, with footnotes randomly appearing in the middle of unrelated pages.  But in Play Books, as you may know, they are scanned texts, so they look like real books, with pages that "turn" as I read.  I immediately started Miss Eden's Letters, though I'd have sworn I'd never read a book on a phone (with a small screen and my bad eyesight).  I was thrilled to discover that they look even better on the tablet, and I've been happily downloading even more "books" to my virtual library.  I've also started Sara Jeannette Duncan's An American Girl in London, another text that was hopelessly garbled on the Nook.  (This book has apparently become so rare that it isn't available through interlibrary loan.)

I've downloaded some of the Gutenberg and Girlebooks books(?files?) as well, but they are the straight lines of text. I think it's the look of actual books in the Google versions, with their margins and pages, not to mention their illustrations, which makes them so easy for me to read.  Perhaps reading them will help me transition to the other kind of e-books.  I hope so, since most of Charlotte Yonge's works are in that format.  But in the meantime, I have a virtual stack to look forward to.  And years after everyone else, I feel like I've finally joined the 21st-century reading revolution.  Just in time, too, because between new reading glasses and a senior discount that I didn't ask for (and don't qualify for), I was definitely feeling a bit of a relic.


  1. Does your library offer ebooks? I've broken my resolution to never ever BUY an ebook, mostly because of not being able to get Christmas at High Rising in print, but that's a great source of ebooks for me. To be honest, if I could get any book without resorting to one, I would. I don't really like reading on my mine.

    PS I'm all for the senior discount!

  2. I find backlighting my biggest hurdle with reading on a tablet, so I prefer to use the kindle even though I agree that a lot of free texts need a good overhaul. Actually, I have just downloaded a freebie of Sara Jeannette Duncan's An American Girl in London (via amazon, but I also saw it on It looked like one of those perfect fish-out-of-water reads, so I hope I don't lose it amid the mass of other free things and forget it (my biggest e-book problem!).

  3. Yay! Glad you're enjoying ebooks! I love my Nook, and I've also recently acquired a work tablet on which -- in my off hours -- I can read comic books and ebooks that are PDFs. It is great.

  4. Interesting! I switched from an e-reader to a tablet (Kobo Arc) last year and have mostly liked the change. The screen is brighter, and the backlight on the Kobo isn't as bothersome as I thought it might be.

    But for formats, I think my experience is sort of the opposite of yours. I find the ebooks that are formatted like print books to be harder to read because they don't let me adjust the type. I like the plain text because I can make it look exactly the way I want it to. Once in a while, I come across one where the file hasn't been cleaned up adequately, but it hasn't been a huge problem. I'm glad you found a format that works for you. Enjoy!

  5. Audrey, I made the same resolution, though I've bought a couple of Laurie R. King's short stories (and managed to read them). Our library does loan e-books, but I've been so unenthusiastic about them that I haven't really investigated.

    vicki, it's so true! I was looking back through my Nook, and I can't remember some of the authors and books. I must have seen recommendations somewhere, sometime, and rushed to download them.

    Jenny, I got the simplest Nook, and I think that's part of the problem. The books are black text on a beige background. With the tablet, there's color - and even the black & white of the scans/PDFs look better.

    Teresa, I'm so happy to have discovered this, because I did feel like I was missing out on some great books. One of the silver linings of the new reading glasses (in lieu of bifocals) is that I can see the text again :) Though I will say, it's much easier on the tablet than the phone.

  6. I have a Nook HD Color, and I do use it now to read eBooks, also magazines and newspapers. Is your nook HD? I didn't think I'd like it, but I do. I still prefer a physical book, but I keep my nook with me and keep a few good books on it at all times. I also play crosswords on it and get online. I also have a smartphone, and I keep some books on it as well, audio and ebooks.

  7. Very interesting, Lisa. I love my Kobo ereader but absolutely cannot stand reading on anything backlit, like a tablet. Like Teresa, I also much prefer plain text rather than PDF documents because you have the option to change around text and margin sizes. I find the PDF books so difficult on an e-reader (they are easier on a computer or tablet, but the eye strain of a backlit screen is a deal-breaker for me) that I don't even attempt them now.

  8. I don't really like reading on a tablet, phone, or eReader, but it is a necessity these days especially as most publishers only send digital review galleys of books now. And then there's also the free classics that are hard to resist! I'm happy that you found a device that works for you and I look forward to seeing what you discover.

  9. Lori, I got the basic Nook, so no HD or color. I really think that's been part of my problem with it. There is a definite comfort feeling in having books on my phone, even if I don't read on it regularly - but now I know I'll never be stranded without something to read.

    Claire, I really do hope that this gets me used to reading on a screen, and I can make the transition to the plain text ebooks. It's interesting that how people react differently to the different types!

    Anbolyn, I think there's a definite division between those who've completely embraced the e-readers, and those who use them because they're the only way we can get to some books. I'm in the second group - and it sounds like you are too (and Audrey above). While I love the convenience & access, at this stage I would always prefer the book itself.

  10. You might also want to check out some of the free ereader apps (ie: Aldiko, Moon Reader, UB Reader)for your tablet and smart phone. These offer quite a wide range of controls and templates to give you the choice of layout and display that best suits your taste and make your e-reading experience all the more enjoyable. :)

  11. Michelle, I haven't heard of any of those apps - so thank you! I do think at least for me the format of the ebooks is critical.


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!