Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Uma Gets an E-Book Reader

"Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again, off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy...." Homer just felt out of place; trapped in circuit and screen, wrapped in anodised aluminium. The text just seemed to prattle. It felt atopic, not in its substance, but in its presentation. It felt like it was just floating above the surface. It lacked texture. It lacked opacity. It lacked the flatness of print.

The device itself felt unfamiliar in my hands; its frigid metal made my fingers numb. I had only been using it for a few days and I already missed the warmth of paper. I missed its yellowish tinge, its redolence.

If this is indeed the future of literature, then allow me to state my objections. You see, the pleasure of text goes beyond its mere consumption. The pleasure of text exists in its experience. The pleasure of text lies in its linearity. Already I miss that sense of accomplishment of having one side thicken as the other side thins. I miss being able to feel that gradual progression in my hands.

I miss the weight of it all. Ulysses should feel heavier than Jonathan Livingston Seagull. To carry Proust around in your pocket steals from its stature. For it should be as toilsome a task to lift it as it is to read it.

I miss the paper cuts.
Umapagan Ampikaipakan in the New Straits Times (and one of the most enthusiastic and clued up readers I know) succumbs to curiosity and buys himself an e-book reader, but reckons physical books will actually undergo a resurgence :
Because after swimming for so long in online data streams, we will need to seek out the the stationary words that only a page can offer. We will need to disconnect. To go offline. And the book will forever be our haven.
I think that is very true!


gnute said...

"Ulysses should feel heavier than Jonathan Livingston Seagull." - that's a winning line, Uma :)

This week's edition of New York Times Book Reviews has Motoko Rich talking about the soft vs hardcopy books. You can listen here (hope the link works): or click on the Dec 26 issue here:

Just a public service announcement from me :)

Chet said...

Yes, but which ebook reader did he get? Or did I miss it in the article?

I would call my Palm TX an ebook reader, too, altho it's not a dedicated ebook reader.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks gnute. i will put that link atop. i haven't had time to read any papers yet as i have a dinner for about 60 people to cook for tonight (HIS old schoolmates all celebrating 60 years on this planet).

chet - he doesn't say! he did tell me but i forgot so will give him a poke via facebook

Chet said...

Sharon - I hope for dessert, you're feeding them some of that wonderful home-made yogurt. Happy New Year, Ms Bakar!

bibliobibuli said...

no lah cheesecake from uncle miki

you can probably smell the lamb cooking from your place!

umapagan said...


I am currently using Sony's PRS-505 (they really need to come up with more creative names) and I was using the Kindle for a while. I didn't mention a specific model in the piece because my experiences with all of them have been somewhat similar. Don't get me wrong, both are undoubtedly fantastic devices - and I could wax lyrical about how far the dedicated reader has come since the late 90s - but they just don't do it for me.

Of course the problem with reading ebooks on a Palm, or an iPhone, or anything with essentially a backlit LCD, is that its just murder on the eyes. I find them entirely unsuited for long periods of reading.

What's funny is that I'm usually the first to jump aboard any technology bandwagon. When it comes to books, however, my inner Luddite just seems to take over.


Anonymous said...

Hi Pagan (couldn't resist that one :) )

Why didn't you get a mini-notebook instead? it would have been cheaperm unless for you money is really no object (oh wai... :))

donny said...

Portability trumps heft, smell or paper cuts for me. Also, I can't remember how many times I've been frustrated trying to find an exact turn of phrase or information in a book.

And a tip: when reading on backlit LCDs (esp at night), invert the colours of the display (i.e. use white/lightblue/lightgreen/whatever text on black background).

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I still don't see why a book reader would be better than a mini-notebook. How long does the battery last?

Chet said...

They say a picture paints a thousand words, so here are three pictures that will hopefully show why a dedicated ebook reader would be better than a mini notebook, especially in terms of comfort. (Note - you need to click on each link to view the picture.)

Sony Digital Book Reader

Amazon Kindle

Example of mini notebook

Anonymous said...

See, that's the problem. With a mini-notebook, there's some good space on the edges, where you can put your thumbs without blocking out the text.

With a reader, your thumbs block out part the text :P

Chet said...


Thanks for the tip about inverting the colours of the display. I'll give it a try, altho I've never had problems reading the black on white display of my Palm TX, even at night. I also like that I can often finish a book on one battery charge, provided I don't have anything else running on the TX.

donny said...

Neither do I, Chet, but I do find that having the colours inverted is a little easier on the eyes - I tend to read in the dark when my little boy is already asleep.