Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The ebook debate again...

Yep, it's on the TrekBBS again. And certain folks (folks who, I hasten to point out, I like and respect, though I've only met one in person) are being a little dismissive of the concerns of people who aren't crazy about reading ebooks by saying Gotcha! You're reading this online, so what's the difference, ya big hypocrite?

Here's what I said in response to one post along those lines:

Well, I sit in front of two PCs all day. When I get home I'll occasionally spend a little while on the PC, especially when I'm trying to get a few things done for the website, obviously, but in general when I want an immersive reading experience (one not interrupted by emails and software update announcements, one that doesn't involve following hyperlinks, switching from Word to Outlook to Dreamweaver to SydneyPlus, etc), I want a comfortable place (usually with Laura and Spencer nearby), a light source or two, and a printed book.

Warning: this is not logical. It is entirely subjective. But for me, at least, it is completely true. When I do something on a computer, even though it may involve reading words, I'm dealing with something outside myself. When I read a book, I'm not. It's a much more internalized process, thanks to the need for visualizing the events of the story. When I'm getting a Dun & Bradstreet business information report on a potential customer or tracking down technical papers on a new development in satellite communications technology, I'm looking at words on a screen but I am not having the kind of experience I have when I'm following Richard Sharpe and Patrick Harper through a battlefield.

Some of the ebook proponents seem to suggest that dead tree loyalists are hypocrites for reading BBS posts on a computer. Reading BBSes and emails and such and reading novels on a screen are, for some of us, the same in much the same way that hearing polyphonic ringtones is the same as listening to CDs. Different attention span, different purpose, different experience.

Not that we need to go through all this again. And once I catch up with reading the print SCE books, I think I may well start downloading the SCE ebooks... and printing them out and reading them, and then buying the paperbacks when they come out for a better and more permanent copy to keep. (And yes, there are ways to print out ebooks, fortunately.)
And because I never wrote a post I couldn't make longer (though I've trimmed a paragraph or two from this one)...

I see a pretty clear dividing line between what I do when I'm reading online and what I do when I'm reading a book. Online is more like reading a relatively lightweight print magazine like Entertainment Weekly. I can flip back and forth, I can have any kind of music blaring in the background, I can go for a walk, grab a Coke and a snack, pick up the magazine again and munch away while being just as engaged in that magazine as I was before I went for the Coke.

It doesn't work that way with books, for me, anyway. Whole different level of concentration involved. With fiction in particular, more of my mental processing is called on, to generate images based on the textual descriptions. I need to get into it deeply enough that I can be sure to remember the setting, the characters, their personalities, the events that have already happened, and I'm going to need that information for a longer period of time.

Not apples and oranges. Apples and airplanes, maybe.

(Now playing: The Lisa Marr Experience, "Niagara, Niagara," American Jitters.)


At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said in my response to your post on my LiveJournal, I have no problem with the legitimate reasons why some folks don't like eBooks. I have a HUGE problem with the knee-jerk bashing of eBooks that takes a high-handed and superior tone about it -- and feel the need to post these rants =over and over=.

This latest example got on my last remaining nerve on the subject.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

^ That was me. Forgot to sign it.

Keith R.A. DeCandido |

At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I were the one who started the thread on and it was NOT intented to become a eBook vs. paper book war. It was just an idea to keep the specialness of the S.C.E. eBooks without falling behind to much with the paperback reprints. But sadly it became the usual "discussion" within minutes. And after coming back on track for a short time, thanks to Christopher and Baerbel, it's now off-topic again.

While I have problem with reading on screens for too long, my main problem ist how I have to aquire them. I explained why somewhere in the above mentionted thread. So I'm a member of the Dead-Tree-Format society, too, but I can understand why KRAD is annoyed by the constant eBook bashing.


At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

I posted in a comment on Keith's blog, where he expressed his annoyance at the fact that discussions of SCE invariably become discussions about why ebooks aren't real and so on:

I can understand that, though I know I've been part of the problem myself occasionally. Some topics just seem to have a predetermined cyclical flow, unfortunately. I'll have to work on not acting like a bot myself...

In other words, though I have my issues with ebooks in general and the current formats of ebooks in particular, that shouldn't have to come up in every discussion of SCE as storytelling. Because what I've read of SCE is pretty darn good, actually.


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