My timing is right on with James Ritchey today. He just wrote about the staggering numbers of iPads out there and how many people he’s noticed using the Kindle app (and other digital book readers) to read, purchase, and discuss digital texts.
This past weekend I downloaded the free Kindle app for the iPad and bought my first digital book from Amazon. I took James’ advice and got the free trial version of the book first to make sure I really wanted to shell out the $7 for the full version, which was a good bit less than the paperback version of the same title.
As I began to read, I noticed what James also mentioned, the underlining of some lines of text. I also searched the app to determine the lines were other folks highlights of the text. Though I haven’t figured out how to highlight the text myself on my iPad, the concept is interesting. I’m not entirely sure I enjoy seeing the highlights that other people have made. For me it feels a bit like buying a used textbook that has someone else’s highlights in it. My brain tends to want to if those words are actually the most important ideas. Truthfully, I love a clean book and the chance to make and take meaning for myself.
My reflections on actually reading a digital book so far are that it feels a bit strange to me. While I am quite comfortable reading websites, email, and other digital texts – somehow digital books feel strange to me. There is something about the kinesthetic experience of a paper book for me. I may be the feel, it may be the smell – and yes, I do have a peculiar physical response to the smell of a library or bookstore that I’ve come to recognize over the years!
I experimented with the 3 different color variations you can set the book to: black text on white paper, sepia text on white paper, and white text on black paper. Here, it seems to be mainly a choice of the personal preference, or the lighting in the reading situation. The only purpose I found for the white on black so far was that it made for great for reading in the dark on my porch and not having the whole world see my face lit up in the techno-glow of the iPad!
I ran across an interesting article in my Diigo tags today and there was one about how Amazon’s Kindle is bombing in some university campus pilots. It appears that even young students prefer to be able to write in the margins of textbooks, to flip between pages, to use a book as a resource versus a linear, front-to-back type of tool that we tend to do with fiction versus non-fiction texts. Both the Kindle and the iPad Kindle app have the ability to let you mark text and to jump from page to page – but it just isn’t the same as it is with a paper book. Its one of those things that’s hard to wrap the head around. There is no “feel” to a digital page and for me, the “feel” is one of the things that make books so enjoyable.
So it may not surprise you to learn that the book I bought for my Kindle app is also on its way in paper version too. I decided to get a used copy which, when added to the cost of the digital version, equaled the total cost I would have spent on a buying a single new book. Until there is a way for me to hand a beloved digital book to a friend whom I think might enjoy the book I’ve just read (or at least be able to send a link to a copy), I think I will still continue to stock my personal library with paper versions of the books I find the most meaning in. That way I can write in the book to my hearts content, jump around the book whenever and wherever I want to, and hand the book off to someone I think may enjoy having it when I am done. To each their own! I think it will be interesting to see how new generations interact with paper and digital books!