Tag Archives: e-books

My E-reader Died!

It started so innocently. Multnomah County Library ran an online ad encouraging people to check out an e-book. I decided to try it out, as I had never attempted to use the e-reader I had gotten for free from the breakroom at my office for anything other than free, public domain titles.

Halfway through Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, my e-reader wasn’t sparking very much joy. It had randomly died, then apparently forgot I had loaded any books on it at all! When I tried to connect wirelessly to sync up with my Kobo account, the device was stymied.

I had gotten this device for free about a year and a half earlier. It was sitting on a table in the breakroom of my office, and I was drawn in by the cheery red case. In MPub e-books were a hot topic (some of my colleagues even did some actual real-life work with them!) but I was solidly unconvinced that they’d ever be a part of my life. After all, users had already started learning about the down-side of digital rights management when Amazon digitally yanked 1984 from e-readers without notice to their customers. When the e-reader hadn’t been claimed by my next visit to the breakroom, I nabbed it, thinking I could experiment with creating ePUB files of my own. Kobo, after all, was a Canadian company and I knew they didn’t require a proprietary file type like Amazon devices did.

I read one whole book on the device—Anne of Green Gables—long before loading the library book.

Once I started having issues it wasn’t long before I was in an epic back-and-forth with Kobo support techs—one of whom eventually became far more helpful than the others. It took a while, but the helpful tech ultimately decided that the device was done for. Which is what I had suspected weeks before.

Thus ended my e-reader experiment. I did put some effort into procuring another Kobo but it wasn’t too long before I figured out the newer models were far too fancy for my liking. These devices had color screens, some played video, and the cost was far above the budget I was willing to spend on such a thing.

Ultimately I decided that it wasn’t worth the modest utility I got from it—being able to stir a pot and read, or go on a trip and have a variety of titles to read, from Northanger Abbey to the gargantuan Ulysses. Paper will still be my go-to…for now, anyway.

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The E-book as DVD

Deleted scenes are one of my favorite parts of watching movies on DVD. After the feature I see material that was cut for time or pacing, according to the accompanying introduction or director commentary. The cut footage often lends additional information to one of the film’s subplots or a character’s relationship. It’s tough to leave this material out, but including it on the DVD probably provides some solace to the creators.

One of the more intriguing ideas that has stuck with me from MPub lectures is the idea of marketing electronic books like DVDs. In the early 1990s (approximately), consumers were happy to re-purchase all their old VHS movies on the newer technology, despite the added cost, because of “bonus features.” Now, publishers are looking for ways to pay the technological costs of e-book production (and dwindling print sales). In a couple of MPub classes the possibility of similar value-adds were discussed, like short “behind the scenes” films, author interviews, book trailers, and the like.

How do you think an e-book would deal with a deleted scene?

David Sedaris already tests his pieces out on several audiences before they get published in book form. They may appear in The New Yorker, or excerpts may be read at his speaking engagements and notes about audience reaction taken into account as he continues working on the piece. Surely he has taken that feedback and made cuts from time to time.

Writers vary in their process, but it’s also pretty common to edit as you go along, realizing at the end of a paragraph you’ve gone off on a tangent. Writing on computers means these “deleted scenes” could be lost with just a couple mouse clicks, as many writers self-edit as they work.

Would you be more likely to buy a book that had material that had been edited out? If you think you would, consider the case of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver. One could argue that the “Raymond Carver-ness” of the story is mostly absent in its original form: as seen in the linked reprint, editor Gordon Lish had a lot to do with creating the writing style Carver is known for.

I might be interested in marked-up versions of stories like that only occasionally—mostly for the education to improve my writing, and maybe to remind myself that the best writers are human too.

The value-add that I could see working on me is annotated texts. Great ones exist: my favorite is The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll, with notes by Martin Gardner. Considered a classic, the notes explore various mentions in the text. For example, an offhand comment by Alice about walking into a mirror-world yields a discussion of matter (the real world) coming into contact with anti-matter (the molecules in the mirror-world) and why they would spontaneously combust. A particularly specific illustration points out the historical royal the caricature is based on. The poem “Jabberwocky” yields four full pages of information.

In addition to The Annotated Alice, I also own The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It was my first time reading the novel, but I suspect my appreciation for the work is directly related to additional information illuminated by the notes. And while I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I discovered the existence of The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin last year while doing research for an MPub paper, and look forward to diving into that novel one of these days.

Folding annotation in as an “added feature” to ebooks may result in that format looking like an average hyperlinked web page, interrupting the reading experience when one is required to click back and forth from original text to notes. Notes in The Annotated Alice stylishly lie in the margins of the book next to the relevant text. Readers could choose to absorb the note, or not, without much more than a movement of the eye.

What sort of “bonus features” would you like to see in the books of the future? Would the inclusion of “bonus features” influence how quickly you embrace ebook technology?

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