Today I turn 48. And my family has given me a Kobo, an e-reader, as a gift. I have been fiddling around with it for 3 hours. Now, I'm not a technophobe and neither am I a technophile. I've been wondering about an e-reader for about a year, since every book-related event I go to seems to be all about e-books. Fans are also starting to ask me if my books are available as e-books. I'm a writer, I should probably experience the e-book thing, anyway, so here it sits.
The electronic device is sitting beside me in a handsome leather case (which is very book-like, btw, since it opens into a book-shaped front cover and back cover, which holds the device. It now looks like a book, instead of a tablet).
So, the very first thing I notice is that it comes in a lot of packaging, but has no instructions. So I can't just open it and start reading.
One point for the paper version. Other than the fact that one must know how to read (which is the same for a Kobo), a paper book needs little to no instruction to interface with it. You open it and turn pages.
I turn the Kobo on, and get a prompt about how to download the software to load it up on the Kobo site and start buying books.
Two points for the paper version. No software is required to open the pages of a book and start reading.
I download the required software, and am then at the Kobo store! It's taken about 10 minutes to get there. Still, it's wonderful to see so many books at my fingertips. One point for the Kobo - it's going to be really easy to get books!
But I now have a dilemma. WHAT am I going to choose as my first e-book? I browse for a while, which is great, very handy and easy, but am struck by two things.
One, Sophie Kinsella is considered literature, which is worrisome. And two, there is no e-book version of Charlotte's Web.
Since Charlotte's Web was the first book I ever read in print form, I decide it's only fitting that it be my first e-book also. But there isn't a copy for sale in the Kobo children's section, which is also worrisome.
Three points for the traditional paper version of books -- I can find what I'm looking for in most stores, right now. Certainly, a copy of one of the best selling children's books of all time would be available in most bookstores, anywhere in the english-speaking world. Presumably, this will be fixed as more and more books are made available as e-books. A small disappointment I decide, that I can't purchase E.B. White, it would've been SO cool, a nice circularity. Oh well.
So what is my first e-book purchase? Terry Pratchett, I shall Wear Midnight (loads of fun and I love Tiffany Aching), and to balance the hilarity, the latest Ondaatje novel, The Cat's Table.
Intrepid. I download my two books, eject the Kobo from the computer (they seem quite fixed on this, that one must eject the device before reading it. I wonder briefly what will happen if I forget this step at some point, which I am sure to do? My paper edition doesn't need ejecting, just saying.) And I start to read. I have some trouble at first, because I haven't found the instructions yet. I understand through watching others and from listening at various seminars, that one sweeps a finger to turn the pages, which I do. I figure out how to change the font size, which is cool (a begrudging second point to the Kobo, this will come in handy with older people and young children, too), plus I figure out how to bring up the tool bar across the bottom.
There is some trial and error. After 80 pages I close the book I'm reading and find the Kobo menu with the instructions tab, which does come in handy, although it's a tad after the fact.
Jury is out. Paper books 3, Kobo 2. I can see that the Kobo will be great for fast reads, but there is the battery issue. Paper books don't need a battery boost, ever. I can read a paper book in the bath, wouldn't dare with a Kobo in case I drop it. I can eat cheesies and read a paper book, but the Kobo would get all greasy every time I have to swipe the screen. Still, Terry Pratchett won't be collecting dust on a shelf, nor will I have to store I Shall Wear Midnight in a milk carton when I move.
But if I ever meet Mr. Pratchett in person at a reading, how will he sign my copy of his book? Just sayin'.