An E-Reading Education, Part 1

Yesterday I posted about the amazing time I had at Indigo Tweets, an extravagant tweet-up hosted by Indigo Events to thank some of their fans. Aside from being ridiculously spoiled and walking away with an awesome case study, the experience also bestowed upon me another, perhaps unexpected gift: a renewed interest in reading for fun.

I have always loved reading, but ever since undergrad my zest for savouring a good book just for the sheer joy of reading has, uh, ebbed somewhat. The biggest reason for this was simply a matter of not having enough time (although being constantly inundated with academic reading for four+ years might have played a part somewhere in there as well). These days, time still remains the biggest obstacle between me and a good book. This is not to say that I haven’t made my way through a number of titles since graduation, but I just haven’t been quite ready to dive back into it.

That all changed as we sat around talking books at LUMA. In the wake of the news that Border’s bookstores will be axing 200 locations due to slumping revenue, the subject of e-books and the impact they may be having on the literary economy was broached early in the evening.

Up until that point, I hadn’t given the subject much thought, although if I were to be honest with myself I knew that I was leery of digital reading by default. It was never a matter of having anything against the technology – I am just one of those people that appreciate the whole experience of books. Honestly, of all the age-old mediums we run the risk of losing, the thought of one day losing books seems to scare me the most.

But if I were to continue to be honest with myself I knew that it wasn’t fair of me to jump to any conclusions. After all, I had never actually read an e-book before. That’s right: I was an e-reading virgin (strictly in regards to books that is). I don’t own an e-reader and the idea of pursuing an electronic copy of a book on a different platform simply had never seemed necessary. However, I recently made the switch to iPhone (yes, I know) and when Cammy mentioned the fact that Kobo had an app (an option that seriously had not even cross my mind up until that point. Again, I KNOW) I figured that this was as good an opportunity to educate myself as any.

I downloaded the free app right there at dinner and when I went home that night, I bought my very first e-book: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Guys, I’m not going to lie – the Kobo app may have reignited my reading flame. I quickly understood the convenience factor that my fellow tweet-up attendees had raved about. The fact that I had a book at my disposal at all times without having to carry anything extra around with me was, in a word, liberating. I was never bored; for better or for worse, I was busting that thing out every time I had a minute to spare (and sometimes even when I didn’t).

The experience itself was just as pleasant. I enjoyed the ways that Kobo recreated elements of reading a real book – the action of flipping pages, dog-earing corners and highlighting paragraphs. I even appreciated the dictionary feature and FourSquare-esque badges it awards as incentives to keep reading (Unlocking the “playing hooky” badge was as hilarious as it was embarrassing. I swear I was only reading on my breaks!)

I had the novel finished in no time. I hadn’t devoured a book like that since Harry Potter. The story itself was excellent and I know that helped more than any other factor (a truly enthralling, escapist story. I highly recommend it). But still, I had no sooner “closed” the book and I was back in the virtual store looking for my next read. It was so easy! WHAT HAD THEY DONE TO ME?

I wondered if I was really that hooked already; could I be one of those people that could easily adopt e-reading and never look back? I decided that to be fair, I’d have to give a real book another chance.

I picked a title that satisfied the same needs that Water For Elephants had –something that I had been eyeing for some time but had never gotten around to picking up, a book I had heard amazing reviews about and a story that generally sounded like something I could get lost in. In the end, I chose to go with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

So far I’m only about half-way through but I can honestly say that I’m just as consumed by this title as I was the last. I’m itching to read as much as was on the Kobo and the experience of enjoying the story itself is no different. The only thing I really find myself missing is the convenience of having a book available at any time through my phone.

I’m going to save my final verdict for a follow-up post after I’ve finished the book. In the mean time, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on traditional vs. e-reading. Do you love your e-reader? Do you loathe what the technology is doing to the literary economy? Are you as conflicted as I am or do you just not care?

Weigh-in via the comments section. I’m really interested in what everyone has to say about this!

[Note: I have not been sponsored by Kobo, Borders or Indigo to write this post. This is genuinely a matter of my own interest.]

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3 Comments

  • March 3, 2011 - 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I got a Kobo this Fall and I don’t know that I can ever go back. So far, every paper book I’ve picked up since has been put back down in favour of the e-reader.
    Here are a few reasons I love mine (I was reading paper books voraciously until the moment I got the Kobo btw)
    – it is really easy to read in bed.
    – I love that when I want a new book I can get it right away – I don’t need to go to the store or wait for it to arrive in the mail.
    – I love that I can borrow books from the library on it and not have to worry about late fees (I stopped going to the library because I ALWAYS had late fines, which kind of defeats the purpose of a library, right?)

    My husband refuses to read a book on an e-reader claiming he likes paper books better, but he too has never read an e-book. Considering our house is FULL of books, it’ll be a really hard switchover for him I think, but my goodness I love them! :)

  • Alexandra Roberts
    March 4, 2011 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Water for Elephants is one of my preferred books, so I’m really happy to know that a movie is also coming up! I think that the performers are great chosen for the characters and since the story is really special, I’m sure that it will be a success, just like the book!

  • Pingback: They Call it Gumption · An E-Reading Education, Part 2

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