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The footnotes!
October 1, 2011 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Is it actually possible or enjoyable to read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell as an ebook?

I'm headed off on another vacation and, as usual, reading old AskMes for book recommendations. Jonathan Stange and Mr. Norell is an AskMe favorite, and I started reading it in paperback once but didn't finish it. (I was on vacation and the vacation ended and somehow I never got back to it). I'd like to read it in full, but I don't want to pack that humongous paperback in my backpack. Is it worth reading as an ebook? I am worried about all of the footnotes and it being difficult to navigate to them on my iPad.

Bonus points for an ebook reader recommendation that makes it easier - I currently use Kindle, Nook, and iBooks for different things, so tell me if it matters which app I use.

Bonus bonus points for alternate books that are engrossing but won't suffer in the ebook format. I've already read most of the common recommendations such as Pillars of the Earth, Hunger Games trilogy, Stieg Larsson, Naomi Novik, etc.
posted by cabingirl to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Having read it in hardcover when it came out, I will just say that it starts VERY slowly. The first 200 pages are a slog. Then it picks up a lot.

So I dunno if that's the best vacation book.

I recently read The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman and enjoyed them a lot.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:46 PM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been reading it on the kindle app on my iphone and the footnotes are no problem. Clicking on them takes you to the footnote and then hitting the left arrow button takes you back to where you were in the text.
posted by kms at 11:49 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was quite enjoyable as an audiobook, which had a logical but not very organic method of explaining footnotes. I think the ebook method can be enjoyable as well.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:22 AM on October 2, 2011


I found it incredibly boring as a vacation book. Your original impression may never change. My opinion is that it would be grating and boring with moments of mild amusement in any format.
posted by salvia at 12:30 AM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read it both in hardback and again in Kindle format and thought it worked fine as an e-book. The footnotes are not horrendous. You click on the little number and it takes you to that footnote, which as I recall is really one of a series of endnotes at the end of the chapter. Clicking "back" takes you to the point at which you departed from the text to go read the note.

I agree that the book is quite slow-going in the beginning, but it does pick up as it goes along and I actually found it pretty engrossing (as in, didn't want to put it down) by the end.

Give it another shot, says me.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 12:31 AM on October 2, 2011


Thanks, folks. I was enjoying it when I read it before. I think I had gotten through most of the slow bit at the beginning. It's just that I got home and other stuff caught my attention. I might check out the Kindle version.

I am still taking suggestions of other books...I will check out the Lev Grossman books too.
posted by cabingirl at 12:36 AM on October 2, 2011


A few character-driven SF/F page-turners available as e-books with no awkward critical apparatus: the Vorkosigan series (first one's free), A Song of Ice and Fire (i.e. A Game of Thrones), the Liaden Universe series (i.e. Agent of Change), and the Kingkiller series (i.e. The Name of the Wind). See also the SFSite Readers' Choice polls, NPR Top 100 SF/F poll, and Goodreads lists like these.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell isn't so much like the other series you mentioned as these are, but it is like The Magicians. That is, neither JS&MN nor The Magicians have especially likable characters, and they're not what I'd call page-turners (especially not JS&MN). But they're amazing if what you want is strange, haunting imagery featuring magic. For more in that vein, anything by Neil Gaiman.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:16 AM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You might enjoy The Night Circus. Make it a magician-themed vacation! Add the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Carter Beats the Devil.
posted by amarynth at 6:07 AM on October 2, 2011


I read it on a Kindle and the footnotes are very easy to navigate. Funnily enough, I read it because Lev Grossman liked it, so I do recommend his books.
posted by Nattie at 11:02 AM on October 2, 2011


Another option: my library had JS&MN in volumes so it was divided into 3 paperbacks.
posted by entropyiswinning at 5:48 PM on October 2, 2011


Oh, and you can always try the first chapter of the kindle version for free to see how you feel about the way they handle the footnotes!
posted by amarynth at 9:59 AM on October 3, 2011


I strongly felt when I read it in hardback that part of the delicious languor of the book was wading through the footnotes, page by page, in context. My mom is reading it now on Kindle, and seems to be missing a lot since the footnotes are really more like endnotes. Less contextual, and a very different experience.

I'd grab the book instead. It's a doorstop, but I just bought it again today to re-read! (Someone borrowed my first copy.)
posted by mdiskin at 2:01 PM on October 3, 2011


I just finished reading it on my Nook today, and the footnotes worked fine. I was a couple hundred pages in before I realized that, from a footnote, you could touch the footnote number to jump back to the original reference, though. It probably was slightly more awkward than the physical experience would have been, but I think it conveyed most of the intended effect.
posted by gsteff at 10:09 AM on June 17, 2012


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