Tradreaders and ereaders: A personal odyssey
A few years ago I wrote often about my experiences with electronic books. I totally embraced ebooks shortly after Amazon announced the first Kindle and I now never buy physical books, other than the odd photographic tome. In fact, I now find the experience of handling and reading newspapers (inky fingers.....) and books positively abhorrent. Now I know that many of you will disagree on this, so let’s agree to differ. There will probably always be a place for physical books, but I suspect that the vast majority of novels and general fodder will eventually be consumed in ebook form. It's only a matter of time now.
Kindle, I’ve mentioned, but this is only the most well-known of reading systems. I’ve tried others, including Apple’s iBooks, but I just find the Amazon system to be generally more satisfactory. It’s important, I think, to choose one platform which, eventually, becomes the digital equivalent of the home bookcase. And on more than one occasion the Kindle bookstore has prevented me from buying something I’d already read years ago. It happens, but I wouldn't be able to rely on this if I used several different platforms.
Despite my fondness for the Amazon ebook ecosystem, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the various Kindle devices, even the current Kindle Paperwhite which is a superb stand-alone book reader. I much prefer reading on my smartphone (the iPhone 7 Plus, in particular, is perfectly adequate for reading) or tablet. And I insist that all my reading platforms have cellular connection so that Kindle's Whispersync can work as intended. I find that this works much more efficiently between the phone, tablet and Mac (I often enjoy reading a book in double-page spread format on my 27in iMac) than when trying to combine Kindles and other devices.
Effective and seamless synchronisation between is vital if you are going to really enjoy the reading experience.
Perhaps one of the biggest attractions of ebooks for me is the system’s minimalism. From my phone I have access to every book I have purchased in the past seven or eight years. I have my full library in my pocket at all times. This is especially handy when travelling. In the old days I would pack my current book, perhaps half read, plus a few more to keep me busy during the vacation. All of this means weight, weight which I am now spared.
About the only place ebook readers are not in their element is on the beach or by the pool. iPhones and iPads don’t mix with water or sand. The Kindle Paperwhite is somewhat better, less likely to be invaded, but it is still vulnerable.
So the latest Kindle, the Oasis, which is waterproof, could be worth the money if you love reading on the beach sunbed. It has a larger 7in display, featuring the crisp black on white liquid crystal technology which requires little power and ensures a long battery life of days rather than hours as on a smartphone or tablet. It’s the most advanced Kindle reader yet. I must say, however, that I was surprised at the £229 price tag for Kindle's latest — this is getting into smartphone and tablet territory and the Kindle is no longer the cheap option. Since I'm not a beach fan I think I'll miss on this one.
I’ve also dabbled with Audible talking books (now also an Amazon company) which work in sync with many Kindle books, on the new Oasis but also on most smartphones and tablets. I have never been a big fan of audio books, certainly not when they came in cassette format, but the latest electronic format is very convenient. In conjunction with a device such as the Oasis or iPhone, the audio books run alongside the written text and you can switch from one to the other instantly. This is very convenient on many occasions — when you want to rest your eyes and just listen, or when travelling by car. The important thing is that you never lose your place in the book whether reading or listening.
If they were free, I’d have an audio version of all my books. But, sadly, they aren’t. I was tempted by a Kindle offer to buy an Audible version of a book I’d purchased for an additional £2.99. This sounded like good value, so I added an audio book to the next few purchases from Amazon. I was drawn in, just as Amazon intended.
Then the special offer went up to £3.99 but I still bought. Then it was a £1 extra every time. I stopped at £4.99 and am back to reading without the convenient audio supplement. It’s a pity, but audio books are expensive, I suppose necessarily so because of the effort involved. Buying books at full price from Audible can cost over £20 and that’s more than I am willing to pay as long as I am still able to read. If I couldn’t it would be a different matter. While I like the ability to switch back and forth between the written and spoken word, there are limits.
Nothing raises the hackles as much as a discussion on the merits of electronic versus traditional books. You are either in one camp or the other and few readers can accept that it is a matter of choice and nothing more. Stick to your physical books if you wish, there’s nothing to stop you, not even price when ebooks are subject to tax while printed books are not. But the ebook genie is now well and truly out of the bottle. For more and more people it is now becoming the normal way to read a book. It is certainly more convenient, as I can attest.