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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I’m in the process of reading C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen. More on that later, when I finish it. That’s not what I’m writing about today.

What’s interesting about my copy of Cyteen, to me, is it’s the first novel I’ve read on paper in at least a year.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve acquired a number of physical books I’ve yet to read. I have a shelf for them, and it is quite full. There are only so many more years in my life, so I’m starting to whittle away at these before buying new books (for the most part).

In a somewhat perverse twist I have bought ebook versions of several physical titles on the shelf. I have done this because of a deep desire to read a particular book while traveling. Since I no longer travel with physical books1, I have had to purchase a copy for my Kindle. On the upside, it moves some books off my “to read” shelf. On the downside, it’s wasteful and silly.

So, I’m going to end up reading a number of physical books just because I own them, and because buying an electronic copy is dumb. I wish for a medium translation service. I would send my book to the service, they would recycle it (or, better yet, sell it used to somebody who wants it) and extend me an ebook version of my book for my preferred reading device.

There’s also the far more obvious problem that there are a number of physical books that just plain don’t exist in electronic form.

Then there’s a class of books I will not purchase on a Kindle even if they do exist:

  • Cookbooks: I am going to put a cookbook in the kitchen. It’s going to get ingredients on it. I might put it in a cookbook stand, I might dump a cup of flour on it. I need to be able to look at it quickly or flip to something else, and the workflow with a digital reader just doesn’t work for me.
  • Programming and technical books: I don’t enjoy reading code or diagrams on an electronic device; I’d rather have a physical copy for these things. This is probably the area where I’m most likely to accept defeat.
  • Books on design or art: Viewing art on the Kindle is horrible. Viewing anything that deals with typography, design, layout, or illustration is also horrible. It’s not useful to examine something that depends on accurate color, layout, and high (600 dpi+) resolution on anything but paper.

Otherwise, I no longer have any foolish notions about ebooks. Paper books may be more romantic, but I don’t get more enjoyment out of what I’m reading because of the medium. I’m not saying anything original here, as this point has been made far more eloquently already.

What has been interesting for me while reading a paper novel is how much I have become accustomed to the Kindle. It’s not clear how much the Kindle has become an intelligence amplification device for me until I am reading without it. The ability to easily define a word, search for something in a book, or to shell out to Wikipedia is amazing and addictive. I did not realize how much I depended upon these tools until I found myself reading Cyteen.

traveled with small travel guides or pocket language dictionaries. These are not books I’m going to read per se. In theory these could be replaced by an iPhone application though I’ve been unable to achieve this yet. I see it unlikely that these will be replaced by the Kindle versions of these booklets. I would sooner carry a small guidebook around than a Kindle.

  1. This is not, perhaps, strictly accurate. On several occasions I have