Digital Book Readers

From Wayne's Dusty Box of Words

I love books. Nothing is better than cracking open a new volume, especially one recently from the printers. Crisp pages and that smell of ink and glue. Nice.

I have a lot of books. Not as many as I used to have. I have (painfully) purged almost all of my fiction and have thinned some of my non-fiction. The big exceptions are my furniture history and woodworking books where illustrations and photos are key to the book. These books also tend to be rather pricy, so purging isn't something I'd do lightly. Unlike those-mass market paperbacks from the 80s and 90s, I had been accumulating for decades.

At some point in the future, Jess will be able to turn those into a pile of cash by selling them to other, slightly less old, white guys.

For everything else, digital is where it's at for so many reasons. Happily, one of my favorite furniture history/making and woodworking history publishers has taken to offering a "free" non-DRM PDF version of their titles when you pre-order them. It's the best of both worlds since I can read the book at my leisure but can also take it into the shop without fear (on my iPad).

And that's a little weird quirk or our consumerist society, isn't it? I fear for the condition of some $40 woodworking book that's admittedly a limited press run, so I won't take it into the shop, but I will take a digital version on my $400 iPad...there's probably a psychology dissertation or two in the study of that frame of mind

So on to my readers. I've already revealed I have an iPad. But. I love my Kindle Voyage. Sadly that model is discontinued so when the battery finally gets too short, I'll need to decide what to do next.

It's been a game-changer. With it, I can read as late as I like without a light on. Something that's not permitted once Jess is ready for sleep. Me? I can sleep in full daylight if it's time to sleep, but she needs it to be dark. That was a Problem with paper books. The e-ink Kindle is perfect. It's light (more on that in a second), the battery lasts about 2 novels since it only takes energy to change the page, not to display the page (other than the backlight). Obviously, it would hold thousands of books in the 2.5 GB of free space this one comes with. So that's handy, there's always something you're in the mood to read on there. I tend to keep less than 100 books on it otherwise you fall asleep trying to pick a book rather than reading it.

It's best for long-form fiction, something that's basically all text. Pictures on it suck. Not just the resolution, which is "OK", but the size, it's only a 5" screen. For instance, as I write this I'm reading Peter Hart and Nigel Steel's excellent account of the Battle of Jutland. With access to thousands of histories, diaries, and letters, the battle is shown through the eyes of the participants, frequently ordinary seamen. Strung together with narrative context. BUT. It has a bunch of maps to show the progress of the battle in case you can't keep 150+ ship positions in your head. And they are unreadable. Luckily, they aren't that important, and such maps are easily found online.

But it does illustrate my one big complaint with the Kindle: you really need two devices if you have a diverse reading appetite like mine. One for fiction or pure text non-fiction and one for non-fiction where formatting or graphics of any kind are present and important. For that, I fall back on my iPad. The format for most of these books is PDF anyway and the Acrobat Reader on iPadOS is as capable there as it is anywhere else and the controls are familiar. It just can't be my everyday reader, unfortunately.

The iPad doesn't have the legs for a long book. You need to recharge it every couple of days even if you aren't using it. And I find that annoying. I do read a lot, but life is sometimes such that days might go by between picking it up, and if it's at 5%, I will be pissed. The other problem is that it's a lot heavier than the Kindle and it doesn't fit in my vest pocket. Weight it's so much a problem for carrying around, but it is when reading, especially in bed. If I drop my Kindle on my face while reading it's just surprising. If the iPad drops on my face, it's a Thing.


I also listen to audiobooks. Probably 1 or 2 a month. I used to do more of them when I commuted to the office every day since I had about 1.5 hours in the truck between the morning and evening commutes. Now, of course, I don't commute at all. Even when this pandemic thing is "over" I will still be in the office no more than once a week.

Since I listen while driving or doing something mindless around the house, I have found that non-fiction is best. With fiction, the author will expect you to notice clever turns of phrase and subtle hints that they sprinkle through the text. And if during one of those moments some non-qualified operator (aka moron) tried to occupy your lane suddenly, you might miss it.

On the other hand, non-fiction tends to repeat their points several times within a chapter much less a book. So it's not as critical if your attention is spotty.

The other thing I do is listen at 1.25x speed. I find my mind wandering if the pace is too slow and since I am already driving AND listening, I don't really want to also be thinking about whatever as well. That pace forces me to concentrate more and keeps it to just listening and driving. Also, some narrators are just painfully slow. So rather than punting on the book, speed them up!