Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

28 March 2012

There's a Lot Missing From a Kindle e-book

There's a lot to be said for Amazon's Kindle e-books. They're cheap and immediately available with tremendous range of titles. The Kindle or iPad reader is convenient to handle and can store books that used to require bookshelves. I have over 5000 real books in my house, I could probably store that many on my iPad - I don't know, I haven't had it long enough.

But having been reading e-books for a little while now, and having had three of my own books published, I am beginning to see some things missing.

For a start, although you can increase or decrease the type size, you're stuck with Georgia, a typeface designed specifically for Microsoft for use on computer screens. It's very legible but, being a typographer from hot metal days, I crave variety. I would so much like to have choice to go with my mood and mood of the book I'm reading. Garamond, Baskerville, Bell, Perpetua, Times...

Next you're stuck with page size. It's the size of the screen you're reading the book on.

Then, there's no 'feel'. Every printed book has its own feel: there's the dust wrapper to start with, or the paper-back cover; then the binding -  leather, buckram, glazed card, fabric; the paper of varying thickness - glossy, art, antique or laid with cut or uncut edges. There's little opportunity to fiddle with 'apparent' paper on an e-book - you can go sepia or white on black (shudder) but not much else.

And the weight, how a book bulks up in the hand. With an e-book it'll weigh the same whether there are 1000 pages or 100.

Having said all that, I've noticed that with the Gutenberg Project books you can choose from a range of typefaces and that's great if you're reading old classics but you won't find John Grisham in Gutenberg.

Lastly, what if you want to give an e-book as a gift? Have you found a way to write a personalized presentation message in it yet?

Not everything changes for the better.


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By Don Donovan