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Is It Just Me?

  • Posted on September 15, 2014 at 8:56 PM

eBooks are the way of the present and will, I’m told, become more prevalent in the future. There are a lot of reasons why authors are particularly eager for the acceptance of the ebook. It allows them to reach out directly to their readers. As a writer, I share their enthusiasm—until I have to read one.

A friend of mine wrote a novel and published it as an ebook. I bought the ebook and began to read it, got frustrated, and then distracted. There was nothing wrong with the story. For as long as I could forget the screen, I could get into the story. Then it would be time to “turn” the page. It made it all-too-easy to put it down.

That was before my diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which means it was before I started to have to really think about what encourages my own productivity. Recently, I had two ebooks I was supposed to read for my course work. I tried and failed. I literally could not get past the first page.

One of the reasons for my failure is that the system wasn’t user friendly. The publisher who made the book available as an ebook clearly cared more about protecting copyright than they did about the readability of their ebooks. For example, I couldn’t access the ebook via my Kindle. I had to zoom in to see an eighth of the page at a time to read the thin, gray text. Every time I tried to scroll to a different part of the page, it reset me to the top of the page. It was a “horrid unpleasant” experience.

Another reason for my failure was that, inconvenience aside, I couldn’t concentrate on the text in this format. This is kind of peculiar, because I read text online all the time. I realized, however, that my brain has different modes for reading different things. The mode for reading novels is different than the mode for reading text books. The mode for reading online is different from either of them.

As I considered this issue in more depth, I realized that there are lots of things I have avoided reading online. If I get a short PDF, I will waste the paper and print it out. If, however, it is a lengthy blog post I’m fine reading, then it’s fine for me to read it online. I can read online news article just fine, but I can’t get in the right reading mode to really enjoy an online short story. This has been true for a long time and it’s become more pronounced since the onset of my fibromyalgia.

I broke down and bought the text books, because I realized that was the only way I was going to get through this class. I’ve realized that the mode I get into when reading course materials and fiction, while different, both involves being unaware of my surroundings and becoming immersed in the material. This is not possible when I’m online, accessing the material via my computer. I assumed my discomfort would change with increased exposure, particularly on the Kindle, but I’m beginning to wonder if this is just one of the quirks of being me.

I can’t help but wonder: Is it just me?