I’ll admit it: I don’t like to do what everyone else does. I waited forever to join online social networks (by the time I got on MySpace, the rest of the world was on Facebook); I scoffed at the cost of the first iPods while happily polishing my scratched CDs; and I was known to hug and pet books in my book collection even while my friends were raving about e-readers. I certainly never thought I’d be excited to hear that the Harry Potter series is (finally!) being released as e-books–but I let out a “squee!” along with everyone else. How was I, a confirmed lover of paper, ink, and the smell of books, converted to The Dark Side, you may wonder? Well, it all began with a long Russian novel.
Right around the time I got a brand-new Kindle (2nd generation) as a birthday gift, I was attempting to read The Brothers Karamazov. “Attempting” is the operative word, because I balked every time I saw its hulking mass on my nightstand (or tried to hold it up while reclining in bed). I decided to try it on the Kindle. Which brought me quickly to…
Reason #1 to love e-reading: a small, light device
Take that, Dostoevsky! You’ll never cause me carpal tunnel again! And once I was liberated from needing a pillow prop for a big book, I realized that there were all kinds of advantages to reading on a single surface that didn’t require a special angle to stay visible. I’d quickly stumbled upon…
Reason #2 to love e-reading: look Ma, no hands!
Suddenly, I found myself with way more reading time. I’d never liked wrangling a book while eating, but setting down the Kindle and turning pages with one poke made it easy. I’d also been taking ages to finish a book due to my compulsive note-taking. Unable to let a favorite quote or thought go unrecorded, I lost a lot of time with pens and post-its. But the Kindle had me covered: I could highlight and store favorite quotes with barely a second lost. I also saved a lot of time not having to look up words, which brings me to…
Reason #3 to love e-reading: the built-in functions of a mini computer
Can I just stop here and nerdily gush about having a built-in dictionary? Just point the cursor at an unknown word and the definition will appear. Words that I would have skipped over are now added to my vocabulary, because, again, it only takes seconds. Want to know the passages referenced in the discussion questions of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (nominated for a 2011 Alex Award)? No worries–each question includes a hyperlink back to the appropriate page. What about how much coffee Mikael consumed in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? There’s a search function: “coffee” appears 117 times. Now, TGWTDT was a natural page-turner, but I still read it much faster than I expected, and that brings me to my final and most nebulous discovery…
Reason #4 to love e-reading: the flow
Without a physical feel for how many pages I’d read and how many were left, I felt like e-books pulled me through the story in a much different, and more powerful, way. I don’t know the science behind this feeling — if it has to do with page size, white space, or just the removal of the book as an object of a certain size or time commitment. It was easier to sink in and read at a nonstop pace, experiencing the story as a flow rather than a series of hops, skips and jumps.
True confession: In spite of all these compelling reasons, I never did finish The Brothers Karamazov. But I zoomed through The Mockingbirds (which made the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults list), Ender’s Game (a book I’d been meaning to read for years and an Outstanding Book for the College Bound), Anna and the French Kiss, and Okay for Now (both Best Fiction for Young Adults nominations). Now that Amazon is (finally!) offering e-books for library lending, I search for those before I head for the library shelves. And don’t even get me started on how many books I can have with me when I travel. Yep, I’ve almost fully converted to the Dark Side, and not even Harry can win me back — though you can bet I’ll be re-reading his adventures via e-book.
— Becky O’Neil, currently reading Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand
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