Saturday, May 30, 2009

Books, Bits, or both?

"Heh, I've been working thru the PDF for a while. Now that the book is here, I'm digging a little deeper."

Jim Weirich

This is a pattern I've seen in myself too. I love ebooks because I can carry a bunch of them around on my laptop, search them easily, and grab the occasional snippet from them.

On the other hand, I find myself not reading them as seriously as 'real' books. There's something about turning pages that keeps me involved. I'm just glad that most publishers are selling paper and ebook combos.

What do you think? Paper, bits, or both?


This post is part of a collection of articles about Publishing, Growing Markets, and Books.

7 comments:

objo said...

I'm totally in the 'both' category. If I'm using it as a reference (supplementing something I'm doing) I love having the bits. They are searchable, etc. But I hate reading off of a screen for long periods.

For straight reading, or for the first time I'm learning something (following along on a tutorial) then I prefer to have the paper. It's the feeling I get.

I wonder if I would feel the same if I had a kindle though. I don't know if its the light and screen portion of 'bits' that I do not like, or the paper of a book that I do like.

Charlie said...

I'm looking forward to the kindle DX (and any similar/better thing that comes out).

A lot of ebooks, especially technical ones, are published as PDFs, which don't necessarily reflow well to screens much smaller than 8.5x11. Even the ones that now publish in kindle-friendly formats (like the pragprog books) don't necessarily make for a good experience on that screen size.

The issues, I think, are images that are too big for the smaller screens. It is also nice to just have a lot in front of you at once. And of course, code doesn't usually wrap well.

I hope other eReaders give amazon some competition there, and that apple does something in the next month or so that steps into that area somehow :)

pate said...

Joe and Charlie,

I think an e-reader (I really don't like the kindle) might be a good solution. I do worry that books don't/won't flow well though.

I wonder if there will be a market for e-reader specific books at some point?

Anonymous said...

I am experimenting with getting books in electronic format only. I think the big thing that sold me on electronic books is my unibody MacBook. The screen is head-and-shoulders above anything else I have used for readability. There are few displays that I could stand to sit and read for hours like the MacBook. I think the glossy finish is a large part of why I can read for so long.

I also think having a laptop that you can sit down with and move around makes a big difference also. I would have a tough time sitting at a desk and reading the screen for hours.

On the paper side, it is easier and less annoying to have a book next to the computer when trying to apply the wisdom therein. Sometimes switching back and forth between the book on-screen and the tools you are using to explore the subject matter can impede progress. It is also hard to put a group of sticky-notes on an e-book (no, electronic bookmarks are not the same.) Sometimes you can tell where the good information is by how the page edges are worn.

I'll just have to try it for a while and see if I can adapt.

Jim said...

The PDF was beta and not complete when I started reading it. The digging deeper was caused more by having the final version than having the physical book. At least for me.

pate said...

Jim,
Maybe I should have asked for clarification on your statement first, but the way you said it resonated with my experiences lately.

blowmage said...

I've found myself enjoying reading books on my iphone more and more. Much more than reading a PDF on my laptop.