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Friday, August 19, 2011

Reading Books

Now that I've finished writing my book, I'm back into reading. I have a pile of books that I have to get through before classes start. It's going to be difficult 'cause I'm off to Brussels next week to visit my granddaughter Zoë.

I mostly read non-fiction with an emphasis on science, philosophy, history, theology, and creationism. When I'm finished with a book it's usually full of highlighted text and margin notes and many of the pages have sticky tags for quick reference. Every single one of my books becomes part of my reference library and I almost always consult them again after reading.

I can't imagine how anyone like me could ever make use of an electronic reader. I've got exactly three books on my iPad (Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, and Aesop's Fables) and that's only because they came with the kindle app. I will never read them.

A couple of days ago I discovered another thing you can do with a real book (paperback) that you can't do with a kindle or other reader—especially an expensive iPad. It was a horrible book that I had just finished and it felt really, really, good to throw it across the room into the waste basket. I retrieved it later on for future reference but the gesture was immensely satisfying.

[Photo credit: My daughter flew in from Brussels a few days ago on her way to Newark. She had to take care of some business in Toronto so she stayed the night in her old room. I discovered this little scene on her bed after she had left.]


  1. Kindle's allow you to write notes (albeit with a rudimentary keypad) and highlight text. Each book has its own repository for notes and highlighted text, both of which are linked to their original location in the book.

    This is quicker than leaving tabs in pages and/or flipping through a book trying to remember where that highlighted section was.

  2. "I can't imagine how anyone like me could ever make use of an electronic reader. I've got exactly three books on my iPad..."

    A wacom based tablet is so much more versatile and natural to use. It gives infinite annotation space while keeping a similar felling, using a pen to write/mark/doodle/draw.

    TC1100 sell so cheap now on ebay that you could even afford throwing one to the basket. Although, they are so nicely finished, I don't think anyone might do that...

  3. iBooks allow you to make bookmarks and margin notes, and highlight text. I grant you they fail the tossing-across-the-room-to-the-trashcan test, but in most other respects they are the equal or superior of paper books. I love the feel of a physical book in my hands; paper is a fabulous technology, all the more so for being ancient. But I also love the fact that 10, or 100, books on my iPad weigh just the same as, and take up just as much space as, my iPad.

  4. In the summer of 2009, copies of “1984” and “Animal Farm,” both by George Orwell, disappeared from Kindles across America. MobileReference, the digital publisher who had been selling these ebooks, did not have the rights to them. When this came out, Amazon deleted the books off Kindles. Other Kindle owners complain of similar deletions surrounding various editions of other books, including Harry Potter. The biggest problem with this is most clearly demonstrated in a New York Times' article:

    Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old from the Detroit area, was reading “1984” on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” he said.

  5. Since I develop iOS apps, how big do you think the market is for an app that allows you to simulate hurling a book into a trash bin, Angry Birds style?

  6. I literally just purchased a Kindle this week, so this post is quite ironically timed. I do like reading real books, though I have already grown quite fond of the Kindle! I don't tend to make notes in my books (not even my paperbacks!) so it doesn't really affect me.

  7. I mark up my books too and I know that e-readers are /trying/ to get make that work, but so far its nothing like it is with a real book.

    HOWEVER, if they can make is work really well, imagine being able to /share/ marginalia with people and have it display on your screen, maybe even right alongside your own mariginal notes.