I'm forty pages into a battered copy of "Complicity" by Iain Banks. I picked this copy up for the princely sum of 90p at Barter Books last weekend. For the uninitiated, Barter Books is a grand old bookshop situated in a disused train station in Alnwick, Northumberland. It has the dubious pleasure of being the originator of the "keep calm and carry on" fad.

At the time that I bought it, I wasn't sure whether it was already in my swollen reading pile, but 90p wasn't a great loss if so. I could leave it in the book pile at my next hotel. (it was, and that's a sorry indictment of the state of my reading pile.)

This gnarled paperback has character. There's a faded price sticker on the back revealing a first-hand price in Australian Dollars. The book started its post-sale life on the other side of the world. Where else has it been? I take some small pleasure in planning the next step in its future.

To imagine this book with a long tail of readers having a free market value of 90p, or roughly the price of a posh chocolate bar, I'm struck by both wondering how publishers and writers like Mr Banks make a living (and yet they do) but also how the pricing of ebooks, completely lacking in this character I've written about and non-transferable, seems over inflated to the end user.

I've been struggling to short list a selection of books to take on holiday. Most of my friends have responded "buy a kindle", with a complete lack of sympathy for my predicament. I'm borrowing one which means I can finally find out whether I'll "take" to it. I'm concerned I'll not be able to get sucked into a story in the same way I can with a paper book. I certainly won't rely on just the kindle for my reading needs.

I don't want to prejudge my experiment too much but I suspect I won't be convinced. Where I can see technology supporting my reading is in addition to the paper book: particularly for non fiction, technical books, academic papers, more graphical-oriented things (photo books, graphic novels). I do have a small but growing collection of old, rare-in-print texts that I've only been able to source as PDFs. I think something like the Google Nexus 7 would do the job for these and fit into my life more readily than the kindle.


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Hi Jon,

I bought an ebook reader with some of those same intentions: reading technical articles formatted as A4 PDF documents. If you're going to go that route, I wouldn't suggest an e-ink screen. Why: the device reads PDF files just fine, but with such a small screen you inevitably need to scroll around pages quite a bit. It's not hard, but a lot more work than turning a page, and inevitably with technical documents you'll want to flip back and forth quite a bit, which just takes frustratingly long on an e-ink screen. You can just about read whole A4 pages at once when they're in the spacey default TeX layout, but it's not comfortable.

As to the device itself, I actually quite like it, but for precisely the opposite you intend: reading fiction (or non-fiction, where the article is ePub formatted and something you can read linearly). It's a lot lighter than a big fiction paperback and easy to hold. It can also be used to view 4:3 slides quite nicely, again if you don't need to flick through quickly.

If you want a daylight-readable device I personally would be quite interested in trying a mirasol reader/tablet (they were available on ebay, but a quick search just now didn't find any).

Comment by Diggory,
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I came here to comment on this post, and find that someone else as written almost exactly what I wanted to say.

For reference, I would say an e-book reader is less good than a 'real' book. I think I'd find it a lot easier looking something up in an index and then thumbing to the correct page, than trying to do something similar with a Kindle.

Only thing I would say, is that I don't think I could read for any length of time from a 'traditional' display. E-ink really is as good as everything I read about it before getting one. It works in all lighting conditions, and is very easy on the eye.

It's also just so convenient to be able to carry umpteen works of fiction in something smaller than even one book, that for my fiction reading I can't see me ever going back to 'real' books (except for things that I really want a physical copy of). Also, since gifting bookshelves worth of books to charity to make room for a nursey a few years back, not having to store the physical books is also something of a bonus.

Interested to hear what decision you come to.


Comment by Andy Hawkins,
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I donated the book to the reading shelf at the Agios Gordios Hotel, Corfu, Greece. Let's hope it has a long and widely-travelled life!