Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Readerly Shift, or E-Books Saved My Life

Ever since I was a wee lass, I've loved a good book. The heft of it in my hands, the swish of the pages, a pretty cover or a delightful turn of phrase. This love of books hasn't morphed too much in my lifetime. I delight in seeing them on my shelves, rearranging and reordering them, shuffling and placing them just so, and of course sucking up the content like a slurpy.

As a pre-teen, I was super into supernatural teeny bopper books--and this is before Twilight. Way way before. But my mom used to buy a stack of books for me over my Christmas break, give them to me early, and watch as I devoured them before the break was over.

Even as an adult in my early 20s, I could spend hours holed up in the Writing Center or some other boring job pouring gobs of classics into my head. Pure bliss!

As I've inched (and squarely landed) on toward 30, my attention span has shortened. I'm sad to say it. It doesn't make me feel terribly satisfied that I have the focus of a cocktail peanut, but it's true. As the squeeze of work and family increase, I have a harder time tackling chunky books. A big door stopper of a tome will send me reeling. I'm as likely as anything to lose interest and start something else...something slimmer.

Since I received Homer, my Nook, in January of 2010 I've noticed a shift in my reading. One of the biggest shifts in my reading life, perhaps. While I've always taken a dive into my shelves when it's time to pick new reading, now I take a dive into my e-book archives. I lay hands on the screen instead of the pages.

That's right folks, I think I prefer e-books to print.  And I'm saying (writing?) it out loud!

BEFORE YOU SHUN ME...check this out.

It's not that I don't enjoy printed books anymore. It's not that at all. But I have noticed some distinct trends since I had a baby:
  • Short attention
  • Limited time
  • A distinct sense of flightiness
  • Lack of sleep
All of those make for decreased reading. But what I find e-reading offers me is a quicker reading experience. I'm not even shitting you, people. I read faster on my Nook, and I'm not sacrificing any comprehension. In fact, it may even be up UP UP. I've decided the Nook makes me a faster reader for a few simple reasons:
  • I'm not flipping to and fro to see how many pages are in a chapter, or a section, or the rest of the book. It's a little number in the bottom of the screen, and all of a sudden it's abstract and I don't care as much about length.
  • I'm looking at smaller chunks of text and whipping through them like LIGHTNING
  • I'm not intimidated by even the largest book. I started War and Peace on my Nook, for God's sake. I'm like a horse with blinders on!
I know some of you are poo-pooing me in your heads right now. Go ahead! Certainly the Nook doesn't feel like a book in my hands, and it doesn't swish, but I don't think I mind. Ever since I had Greyson I've CRAVED reading like never before. With a stressful job and kiddos to look after, I've lost a great deal of focus (and sanity). I couldn't be more pleased with my family, but I do have to carve out time and the right mindset to read: in the mornings when the house is quiet, in bed before I conk out, at work on lunch break.

What e-books offer me right now is a more focused, uninterrupted, less distracted version of my old reading life, and I could not be more thankful for it. It may still take me two weeks to finish a book, but it's better than four weeks! And I'm tackling books that I wouldn't have tackled before.

Thank you, Homer! Thank you, e-books! You saved my reading life!


  1. It saves me from my bad habit of skipping large sections of the book (accidently because I lost my page number) or of reading the last page first ;)

  2. I don't think I would ever have finished The Woman in White without switching to my ebook! so I do understand what you're saying here.

  3. Fascinating. My e-reader is brand new and I'm having a little trouble adjusting to the difference in the reading experience. But I'm thrilled to see that a little time might make the difference. Lots to think about.

  4. I got an eReader (Kindle) for Christmas and I'm enjoying reading on it a lot more than I thought I would. I can't yet say I like reader on the Kindle better than actual books, but as I read more on it we'll see if that changes.

  5. I've had the same experience when it comes to loooong books. When I'm holding the actual book, I feel like I'm constantly being reminded of how much I have left to read-- that's never an issue with Edgar, my nook. I also love being able to adjust the font size. I first started reading an old paperback version of War and Peace but the print was so small, I never felt like I was making progress. I switched to the ebook and now I'm racing through!

  6. *GASP*



    Really, couldn't be happier for you. I've said it before and I'll say it again; A story is a story, no matter how you get it inside your brain. I've never understood why some people don't count audio books, same with ebooks. What does it matter?!

  7. I don't know if it's a permanant shift, but right now I've gotten to a point where I prefer audiobooks to print...

  8. I'm a massive lover of my nook, but I doubt that I'll ever like it better than print... It seems like the last 3-4 books I've read on there I haven't really massively loved. Of course, that could just be the selection that is on there, but I'm just saying. :) I do love that it is SO easy to sit and read it!

  9. I can just picture Homer sitting there, smirking.

    I love my nook but I still buy lots of books in print because I just love the whole bookstore experience...I can't seem to tear myself away from them.

  10. I am intrigued but still waiting for an e-reader report from someone with the same end-reading habits I've got. It's just that without the ability to flip through, I'm afraid I will lose my best enjoyment. :(

  11. Whatever keeps you reading. I think that's the most important thing.

  12. I'm not ready to admit that I might like e-reading better than print...BUT...I LOVE that I can adjust the font (42 yr. old eyes can't see nuttin'); I can grab a snippet whenever and wherever I want to; I had a incorrigible habit of reading the end...now I don't; I've downloaded War and Peace as well and don't feel overwhelmed at the sheer size of the book and how many pages are left.
    I actually tend to read classics better on my Kindle...wonder what's up with that?

  13. Isn't it wonderful that we have the choice these days?

  14. Ah, I wish I felt like that. My first DNF of the year was Mansfield Park, which also happened to be my first ebook. Well, really sort of my second but I went back to the book-book on the first one, so I'm not sure it counts. I think it would help if I got a cover of some sort for my iPad, Petunia. It's like holding a huge ice cube. Petunia is frigid. Ahem. I think she'll be great for travel, though, if I ever get out of the house.

    For the moment, I still can't part from my books.

  15. I checked out my friends kindle a couple weeks. I have to admit it was pretty cool so I'm warming to the idea... maybe next year i'll be ready.

  16. I tend to read faster on my Kindle too...something about not being about to see how many pages are left maybe? I still read mostly print books, but Kindle is great for travel, classics, and new books (sooo much easier to read than a hardcover book!)

  17. I loved this post Andi! :) So fun. I was never super-opposed to ebooks, although I'd prefer them not take over the universe (LOL). Now that I have a Nook, I'm enjoying it quite a bit: I like that it cuts down on my compulsive page number counting, as you mention! AND, while I've always loved huge books, it's SO much easier to read a book without having to prop it open.

  18. I also have a Nook and got it over a Kindle because I could borrow and download library books. That feature was great because often the print book had a long waiting list. But I don't use it as much as I should. Maybe in 2011 I will try to be better about it.
    I still love print books though.

  19. A book is a book is a book. I don't care what format it's in, I just hope you enjoy it. :)

  20. I second you! E-books have made me more apt to pick up a really long book that I might have passed over otherwise. "Horse blinders" is a perfect description!


  21. I'm really surprised how much I love reading on my Nook. I agree with pretty much everything you've said here.

  22. Oh I know what you mean! I'm currently reading George Gissing's The Odd Women on the Kindle app on my iPhone and iPad (I actually switched from Stanza to Kindle thanks to the Kindle being able to sync different devices), and am really finding that the pages go by pretty quickly. That was my experience reading Les Miserables last year too (I was always daunted by the size of that book!). Plus it's great for reading in dim lighting!

  23. With the exception of the why part, I could pretty much write this post too. I am reading a paper book right now and I find it going slow, where as with my eReader I am flying! And, it's the same. I do check to see how many pages there are left and things. I hate little print, but with the screen and font options I am reading stuff I probably would continue to put off in paper form! So, yes, I think I am finding myself a lover of eReaders, too!

  24. Well, I totally understand losing interesting in chunky books. I used to not really care about the size of some books but now it's like, oh dear, how many pages is that?! I don't know if it's just because I feel like I've got so many other things going on in my life or what.

    And, I still haven't tried ebooks but I say girlfriend, if they are helping you get back into reading then there is no shunning here! Good for you! You are reading so that's what counts :)

  25. You are hilarious! Just too funny.

  26. Surprisingly enough, I, too, enjoy my Nook. Perhaps not as much as you, but I love that I can enlarge the font when my contacts are in (having landed squarely post 45), that it's easy to hold a tome like War and Peace (Bleak House), and that I can take it to Florida at the end of the month with all 132 books in one pencil thin tablet. Awesome, eh? Although, I don't know if I'm an faster at reading as you say you are.

    p.s. Small annoyance: my less than six month old Nook has developed a hair thin line in the center. When I take it back to Barnes and Noble where I bought the thing they tell me to go online to get it replaced. Wait a minute...I like personal service. If you're going to sell it to my face, replace it to my face, d'ya know what I mean? None of this talking to people who can't even speak my language on the phone...

  27. I'm smiling right now because I can definitely relate to what you are saying. My Kindle has saved my reading life since so often I am fitting in reading only 5 or 10 minutes at a time. On the Kindle I also worry less about what page I am on or how big the book is. I can just whip it out and read a few minutes and put it down without feeling bad. With a printed book I have the tendency to feel bad if I only have time to read a few pages. It's a nice surprise to find that eBooks can be our "friends"! Ha!

  28. Lenore, same here! I'm a chronic flipper, though I don't read the end ever ever ever!

    Care, I'm reading that one in e-book, too, as a matter of fact. :)

    LifetimeReader, what kind of reader did you get?? I had a hard time with the changeover until I read a book that really grabbed me by the hair. Then I didn't see the device anymore. In particular, the book was The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen, and then Justin Cronin's The Passage threw me right over the edge into Nook-love.

    Glad you're enjoying your Kindle, Red! I keep seeing more and more people (at my school, specifically) who have them. My Academic Dean has a Nook and one of my adjunct English faculty has a Kindle. A student even whipped one out the other day!

    I hear ya, Mindy. If I don't feel like I'm making progress, it's a real problem for me. Maybe I'm just a victim of our "plugged in" society, but with all the pressures on my time as of late, I give up very easily on books in which I'm not making much headway.

    Amen, sister! A story's a story.

    Amanda, I've never gotten to that point myself because, well, I have a tendency to fall asleep if I'm not listening in the car! But I can definitely see how one could prefer them. I was thinking of starting to listen to more when Greyson was smaller and less independent.

    Hi, Jessi! I think I've just had freakishly good luck as far as the books I read on my Nook. I've only laid one aside, and that's The Woman in White. I got bogged down, but I do plan to go back to it.

    Hey Jill! We're a little cash strapped lately, so I'm definitely buying more e-books. Coupons are my buddies! I do still love the bookstore experience, though. Typically I just take Homer to B&N these days, download the free content, and maybe read a book in-store.

    I totally get that Jenny. I was trying to minimize my flipping, though. If I need to flip back to find a particular page, I can typically remember enough to search for that bit. Otherwise I put bookmarks in on pages I want to come back to or I highlight passages I like.

    Thanks, Nicole! I agree!

  29. Peppermint PhD, for me it's a great device for classics, too. AGain, for me personally, I think it's just the added focus. I'm not looking forward, fretting, flipping.

    Amen, Kathy!

    Nancy, Chuck has an iPad, and while I love it, I don't enjoy reading on it nearly as much as my Nook. The Nook is more book-sized and manageable. However, I do think the iPad cover helps soften it up a bit. How are you liking it for things other than reading? By the way, Chuck has the Nook app downloaded and had me buy a couple of books for him. Namely, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now we'll see if he ever reads it.

    Chris, a good friend of mine bought a Kindle years ago--first generation. I was intrigued and wanted one back then, but I am glad I waited for the Nook. More downloading options.

    Melody, I've never been a fan of hardcovers, so I'm right there with you. I used to travel a lot, but I can't use that excuse anymore, but just sticking it in my purse and taking it to work or out on errands is great!

    Eva, I'm finding out what it's like to read on a treadmill or workout bike! lol I always wanted to, but at the end of the day I'm just not talented enough to use workout equipment and hold a book comfortably. Nook fixed that problem!

    Hi, Alex! I was looking forward to using it to borrow library e-books, but so far I haven't had much luck with that: my library's issue, not the Nook. I did overhear someone say the other day that the NY Public Library has the biggest e-book collection in the country and that it's easy/inexpensive to subscribe. Definitely checking that out!

  30. Oh Andi, I honestly can't tell you how unbelievably happy this post made me!!! I don't have an e-reader yet, but the hubby is getting me one for my birthday. And I have to admit I've had such mixed feelings about it. I'm definitely excited, and yet at the same time I sort of feel this guilt, like I'm somehow betraying all those wonderful physical books that I love so much. But you just really put things in perspective--anything that will allow me to get more read is a GOOD thing! And as sounds like with you, it's a damn close race between which is smaller--my attention span or the amount of free time I have.

  31. My problem would be the expense of books. Right now all my new books are tbr or library books and I don't think I could stand a diet of classics.

  32. Right on, Sassy!

    Thanks, Lezlie! What have you been e-reading behind the scenes? I miss you!

    It's surprising isn't it, Jen?! I have a B&N trip planned today and I'm gonna find a comfy chair and kick back.

    Olduvai, I have the Nook app on my iPhone and I NEVER thought I'd read on my phone of all places. However, when I'm getting tired at night and Greyson is asleep in his crib, I'll lie down in our bed and read on the phone for a few minutes so I don't have to turn the light on and wake him up. Perfect fix! :)

    Glad to hear it, Kailana! And I have to admit, I bought another e-book yesterday for cheap. Addiction!

    Thanks, Iliana! For me the shoving off of big books is definitely because of other life pressures. I used to see myself making headway in books, and now it just feels like it takes FOREVER!

    *taking a bow*, Trisha!

    Bellezza, I'm so glad you like your Nook! I actually scratched the screen of mine a while back when it got into the cover with my car keys. It was a tiny little scratch but I knew it would drive me stark raving mad. I did do the online support thing and was quite thrilled that it was easy and pleasant. I expected a huge headache. But I do understand about the in-person service. I would prefer that at the end of the day.

    Kathleen, I'm in that boat myself. I also read in little snatches and the Nook takes my mind off the fact that I'm not blowing through like I might've before. I need to feel the progress! :)

    Right on, Debi!!!! I hope you enjoy your e-reader as much as I do and I hope it benefits your reading. :) Hugs!

    I hear ya, Lisa. Kobo.com has allowed me to buy more. It offers more decent sales, coupons, and $5 and under books.

    Thanks, Marie!

  33. While I won't go so far as to say I prefer ebooks, I definitely see where you're coming from. I love that large books don't intimidate me because I can't see how fat they are, and I love carrying around so many books at one time in case my mood changes.

  34. Hooray! I felt like the lone voice for e-readers at Wendy's blog. I much prefer reading on my Kindle (and would do so exclusively if I could afford to) for so many reasons. I'm working on a post on why it makes me a better reader:-). Really: it's personal preference and what works for you!

  35. You forgot the one handed reading experience, which I can imagine when you are dealing with a baby could come in very handy some times! I have had my reader for a few months now and I love it!

  36. Am curious about which version of War and Peace you're reading on your Nook. I was thinking that might be my first ebook experience but then I was lost as to which to download.

    I'm still a paper gal, but you make some great points about not having to think about size/pages and smaller chunks. Huh.

  37. This is the perfect post for me since I just bought a Kobo today. I don't read chunksters but I think ereaders do help with those since readers can easily forget that they're reading such a huge book. I avoid chunskters because of the number of pages. I think there's a chance that I might be more willing to read one on my Kobo. As long as you're reading, I don't care how you're doing it. :-)

  38. Amen, Sojourness! Good to see you, by the way. :)

    Carrie! I can't wait to read your post my e-reading sista! I'm beginning to think that part of my prefernece is also having fewer books to choose from on my Nook. There's something to be said for getting away from HUGE amounts of book choices.

    Right on, Marg! The one-handed reading is especially helpful on a treadmill or workout bike!

    Trish, I did look for a particular set of translators, and I can't remember who I ended up with. Ack!

    Yayyyy! I can't wait to find out what you think of your Kobo. I love buying books from Kobo.com but I haven't used one of the readers.

  39. *gasp!* I named my Nook after an author too. Mine is named Hawthorne, and I love it, yes. I don't know if I necessarily love reading eBooks more than regular as there are benefits to both. I mostly use it to access free content (NetGalley, library, and classics). I'm just so pleased with how easy it is to use and I always look forward to when I get to read one of my eBooks.

  40. Seriously, you should become the official Barnes & Noble spokesperson for NOOK! I'm so glad you're enjoying it. My hubster is reading the new Twain bio on his iPad. I bought the "real" book but he had me return it so he could buy the ebook. Much easier to read than that huge tome!

    Bellezza, if you had bought your NOOK from my B&N, we would have exchanged it for you without any trouble. Not sure why they wouldn't do that for you at your location. But if you do have to contact 1800THEBOOK, it should be pretty smooth with regards to a exchange. Good luck!


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