Daily Archives: 08/01/2010

The weight of books

Published Post author

I'm an avid reader.

I haven't been moved to get a Kindle or a nook or any one of those other e-Reader deals, but I do have an iPod Touch (like an iPhone without the phone [or the camera]), and there is a free Kindle application (as there is for a PC, apparently).

I got invited to a book-club-among-friends. We were to read The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

Now, this was mid-December. I had a couple of choices. I first got online and checked the library catalog. I could have run out to grab the last copy locally (one of the other attendees grabbed the other copy), but I get renewal guilt, so I probably would have returned it before we discuss it. The other, equally obvious option, was to run to a bookstore and get a copy – it's a pretty famous book, it wouldn't be hard to find.

Except it was mid-December, and I wasn't going to a retail outlet. No way, no how.

And then I remembered I had an email gift certificate to Amazon.com. And it was for a penny more than the Kindle version of the book. Hmm, convenient. I commenced to downloading it.

I read the whole thing on my iPod. Here are my thoughts.

Things I Liked

Readability: Awesome. The default font was a comfortable size and face, although I did have the option to change to several other fonts and to make the font larger or smaller. Navigating through was easy; you just push the current page to the left, and you were at the next page. You could make notes and add bookmarks, and as long as you were online, you could sync those to your PC version (and, I'm guessing, to your actual Kindle).

Scanning: Decent, not amazing. There were some obvious errors. Aslan (you'll recognize the name if you're a CS Lewis fan) frequently shows up as "Asian" and there are a few others. Fortunately, the scanning wasn't so bad that it was unreadable, it just wasn't perfect. And since publishing companies actually put these pages in an electronic format before they send books to be printed; why not just pay for that version?

Price: Amazon prices the Kindle version of books about $1 to $3 less expensive than the paperback versions. Of course, when you sync your Kindle (or Kindle app), you may have to worry about your book getting taken away – apparently there was a little rights issue with some authors' works.

Portability: I love being able to have this in my pocket. That alone might be worth the price of admission.

Things I Didn't Like

Pagination: I'm going to be discussing this book with other people, and I'm going to have no idea how to tell them where to look. The Kindle version put things in units, and I don't know what those units were. The Corrections came in at 9,971 of these units. So if I want to refer people to something that happens at, say, unit 4,156, I have to tell everybody else, what, go about 41% of the way into the book? I still have no concept of how long the book is, and now when I get there I'm going to have to ask how long it is and do the math on the fly.

Weight: For me, one of the joys of reading a book is the weight. It feels like something substantial. And as you make progress, the weight begins to shift from right to left. That's worth a lot to me. Apple says the Touch weighs 4.05 ounces (that's a smidge over a quarter pound). That's nothing like substantial, and the weight only shifts from right to left if you change hands.

Would I Do It Again?

Yes. In fact, I'm just jumping into Trust Agents.

Wait! Wait! Aren't you going to tell us what you thought of the book? Nah. I haven't fully formulated an opinion. Maybe we can actually sit down and talk about it, you and I.