Saturday, March 23, 2013

My (Our?) Changing Reading Habits

Scott D. Parker

I always find it interesting when one of my own odd habits is shared by another.

I've made no secret of my embrace of e-reading. I started with my Palm Pilot III and then onto my then-color Palm Zire. I still have both devices and I somewhat easily made the transition to small-screen reading over a decade. Granted, it was not my go-to reading device but, when a spare few minutes showed up in the workday, it was nice to pull out the device and read some lines.

Thus, when I got my iPod Touch and it's brilliant screen and fantastic fonts, I was already primed. The apps--all of them: Nook, iBook, Kindle, Stanza--were filled with reading material, both fiction and non-fiction. Not only did I still find those spare minutes in the workday, I also found myself reading on the iPod at night. It was a fantastic reading companion.

In the years since, I have acquired a Nook Simple Touch e-reader and an iPad. I like the iPad, of course, and do read a lot of material on it, but I find myself gravitating towards the Nook for straightforward fiction reading. I tend to think of the iPad as the nice hardback book and the Nook and the light, rugged paperback.

With all of the fantastic ebooks out there, and, truth be told, with their lesser cover price, I have increased the number of books I purchase electronically over traditionally. Now, I love the feel, the smell, and the pleasure of turing pages like any traditionalist, but I also love the economy (both price and size--i.e., no need for physical storage) of e-reading. And the samples you can download and read are fantastic. I have branched out and tried things and bought things I might not have.

I can do all of these things from the comfort of my house, my office, or wherever I have a Wifi connection. Consequentially, I don't always go into bookstores, much less than I used to. When I do, however, I've developed a strange little pattern. My favorite tables at Barnes and Noble are the trade paperbacks. I love their size and feel. More often than not, I'll browse the covers--you cannot truly browse online--and when I see something I think looks interesting, I'll read the back cover. If that hooks me and I have my iPod with me, I'll download the sample onto the Nook app. That way, I get to avoid the impulse buy--I'm a veteran of impulse book buying, a recovering one, you might say--but still get to give the book another chance.

More and more, however, I'm leaving the Ipod at home, preferring my simple phone for communication and pen and paper for any note taking I need to do. Additionally, I get to get my nose out of a little screen of glass and actually see the world. In these cases, I'll still browse the tables and shelves in Barnes and Noble, but I'll have to write down authors and books.

And, lo and behold, last Sunday, I was doing just that. Two science books had caught my eye--Space Chronicles by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and The King of Infinite Space: Euclid and His Elements by David Berlinski [can't, for the life of me, prompted me not only to pick up that book but download and read the sample]--and I was busily writing the authors and titles when a gentleman said to me, "You have a Nook?"

I looked up, confused. How in the world did he know? I had neither Nook, iPad, or iPod on me. I said yes, and he nodded with a knowing look. "I do the same thing," he said. That is, he comes to the bookstore to browse, find books he likes, and then downloads them.

It was a nice little event, knowing that I'm not the only one with odd habits, but it was his age. He was slightly older than me. That, to me, was key. It told that e-reading is not limited solely for the young. We middle aged folks do it as well as the older folks.

On another tangent of e-reading, I happened to read this passage from Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, a SF book set far in the future when mankind has colonized the solar system:

The OPA man,, Anderson Dawes, was sitting on a cloth folding chair outside Miller's hole, reading a book. It was a real book--onionskin pages bound in what might have been actual leather. Miller had seen pictures of them before; the iead of that much weight for a single megabyte of data struck him a decadent.

Interesting, no? A throwaway line from a SF book about something that, in 2013, seems so natural. Traditional paper books will never die. Of that, I'm convinced. I will almost always still purchase them--I'm reading one now: Alan Dean Foster's Icerigger--but I really do love the convenience and portability of ebooks. And I'm glad that I'm not alone in the odd idiosyncrasy of changing reading habits.

For those of y'all who do read ebooks, how do you find your titles other than reading book reviews?

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