My Wife's Take After a Week With an eReader

Illustration for article titled My Wifes Take After a Week With an eReader

I gave my wife a Sony Reader for Christmas after she'd talked about them for some time (she deemed the Kindle "ugly" btw, which is important as anything else for a gadget that's designed to be looked at for hours on end, I guess). Her verdict on the experience? Good, but there's one thing she's surprised to miss most from real books:

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It's not just the smell, the texture, the page turning or the better contrast ratios of a real hardcover that you'd expect. She feels disoriented without the constant, tactile feedback of the book's thickness—that unconscious reminder of just how much of the story is left to go (are there really enough pages remaining for Mr. Darcy and Lizzie to work things out??). Sure, there are page numbers on the screen, but it's not the same.

I found her reaction simple and somewhat profound. While this small detail is far from a deal breaker for the Reader (or any other similar device), it's not the sort of issue E Ink will ever be able to address. Of course, if/when our generations make way for children who never know paper, the industry will have solved its problem of a homesick readership.

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No one has mentioned just how awkward paper books are. For one thing, it requires totally different manual skills for reading the left and right pages. Sometimes I even have to flip from hand to hand, and when my wrist is acting up, this can be a real pain. Worse, as you progress through the book it gets increasingly unbalanced with either a big pile of pages trying to flop shut ahead of you or behind you. It would be real sweet if someone could develop a paper book that was less of a physical challenge.

I'm not alone in noticing this problem. There are companies that sell page holders for people who are sick of the manual contortions associated with paper books. Some use weights, some use little metal arms. They are all kludges of varying utility, but many people need them. As for me, I bought one of those cookbook holders which holds a cookbook open while I am cooking, and my hands are covered with raw meat or beet juice. It's best feature, it has a flat piece of glass between me and the data, just like a computer screen.

It's high time book manufacturers wised up.