• The weirdness of Kindle

    I am, and have always been, an early adopter.  I have a Kindle and absolutely love it.  I use it a bit less now that I also have an iPad, but I use both.  I read more on the iPad when my wife is trying to sleep, since it has a backlight.

    My only complaint, up until this point, is that it’s hard to flip back.  When I can’t remember if I’ve seen a certain character before, or want to check something from the beginning, it’s much easier in a paperback or hardback to quickly scan pages.  It’s not easy on the Kindle or iPad, no matter what anyone else tells you.

    This weekend, however, I stumbled upon a second issue.  I have no idea how long a book is when I’m reading it digitally.

    Sure, there’s some meter at the bottom which tells you you’re 63% done.  Or, Location 6712-6745  – whatever that means.  But there’s no real sense of length.

    I bring this up because, while at my in-laws over Thanksgiving, I chose to read Stephen King’s Under the Dome.  I enjoyed it.  I even stayed up way too late on Saturday night to finish it.  But I had no idea it was freaking 1100 pages until after I got home.  Eleven hundred pages?!?!?!

    I don’t know if it speaks to Mr. King’s skill that I didn’t realize it, or to my skills as a reader how quickly I finished it, but I think the whole thing might have gone down differently if I had any idea how long that book was.  I feel a little bit like Milo.  I don’t know whether this feature is a good thing or a bad thing.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this tech, since my mother’s considering one and it’s gift season. I hadn’t considered this issue, although it can sometimes be hard to judge how “long” a “real” book. Sometimes I’ve kept reading due to the small book size but neglected to take into consideration the smaller print meant more was on one page. Similarly large print and margins can extend a book far “longer” than might otherwise be necessary. Number of pages alone can be a deceiving metric (and even knowing the number, I’ve been guilty of a few all night reads in spite of my exhaustion).

      Plus, I had to come over and comment since you referenced The Phantom Tollbooth. So few people have ever heard of this book that I always smile when I see a reference. It really should be more widely read.

    • Absolutely, 100% agree with both points. Miss the ability to quickly flip back (though the remaining tradeoffs certainly make the kindle worthwhile).

      And I don’t understand why they can’t just apply the percentages to the books’ print lengths (which they list for most kindle books). Voila! Reference points that actually mean something, and a way to discuss progress in a book with people reading the non-eelctric version! It might not be exact, but it’d be close enough for me.

    • this is why you should get a Nook from Barnes & Noble. At the botton of each page it tells you that you are on page “158 of 380” for instance. And to flip back there is this great feature called “go to” which allows you to select a specific page or chapter or you can just drag a little slider on the touch screen of the Nook and scroll through the pages. It is much like a real book. I spent many many hours comparing the Kindle Nook and Sony eReader and the Nook, by far, in many ways, is the best eReader out there. Plus, being a member of Barnes & Noble, I get really great discounted rates on ebooks, free books every week, in store coupons for various things and when in a B&N Store you can read any book in the store through their dedicated in house wi-fi network. best investment i’ve made to date.

    • I was also polishing off a Stephen King book this weekend on my kindle: “The Long Walk” (great read for an ultrarunner, although not actually a very long book). I think soon enough we’ll start internalizing the ‘locations’ the way we now do page numbers. I already have a sense that 3000 is fairly short and 8000 is a long book. I can’t yet place those in the context of pages (which I’m used to), but soon enough I won’t need that step. After all, this is no more or less artificial a number than saying 1100 pages — we’re just more used to the latter.

    • Locations have a direct correspondence to pages. There are about 14-17 locations to a page in a hardcover novel. You still can’t use locations as page references in a book because of unknown amount of front matter, but you can get a good idea of book length by the maximum location.

      Once you get used to thinking in locations, they will be even more useful than book pages, because a location is defined by a number of words, so it is consistent across all books, while the number of words on a physical page is different in every book.

      So in fact this is an advantage of the kindle, not a disadvantage.