The Great E-Book Experiment

I was sitting in a staff meeting at the Newton Free Library when I saw a collection of librarians embrace the e-book. This was in the late ’90s and handheld readers were an emerging technology.  The library director proposed that three be purchased for patron use.  Her idea was met with stony silence –  everyone bristle. Here was yet another assault on books.  And then, the light bulb went off.  Everyone one realized that now when they went on vacation instead of packing a stack of books that looked like this –

they could carry the same content and more in something that looked like this

And everyone saw immediately how really, really cool e-books would be.  For some of us, the e-book has been a long time coming.

Crossing Over.
OK. So I got it – e-books are highly portable.  My problem was finding a point to make the shift – how to find the right alignment of easy of use,  portability, sustainability,  access to content, product costs and functionality.  The intersection for me came with the Kindle app on the iPhone. Amazon provides the content; Apple provides the platform.  Then  it became a question of what would be the first book read, cover-to-cover as it were, as an e-book. And, because I love getting stuff for free, I was drawn to books in the public domain and took several stabs at A Tale of  Two Cities while laying in the hammock over the summer.  I didn’t make it past chapter 5 – The Shoemaker. About a week ago, I tried again.  This time I ponied up and spent $5.21 for access.  And it worked – I read the whole thing.  A perfect potboiler – a story that I could take up and put down without losing interest.  And because it was on my phone, I had it with me almost all of the time and could read in the odd, spare minutes of my day.

I did notice that when I opened the Kindle edition I was on the first page of chapter 1.  I wonder if something is lost by skipping over the front matter; as if author’s dedication and the name of  the copyright holder and year of publication are merely incidental.  Another curious feature was finding passages highlighted by people I don’t know.  Turned that feature right off – it’s hard to focus on the story with all those other voices in the room.

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