I want to read more-- ebooks edition
September 9, 2020 6:07 AM   Subscribe

I don't like reading ebooks, but I'd like to.

So in these covid times, getting ebooks via the library is way simpler than chasing down physical copies. But I hate ebooks, I end up not reading them. For whatever reason, it's easier for me to see a physical book on my coffee table and read a few pages than it is to open up an ebook and get in the flow of reading.

Has anyone been able to adjust to ebooks? Currently I'm using my phone to read, which causes distractions and I think puts me in a different mindset than picking up a physical book-- do you find that something like a Kindle makes a big difference? Anything else you've done to get yourself to like reading ebooks?
posted by geegollygosh to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Might not be what you want, but I use my Alexa app to read out Kindle books to me. I had imagined the voice would sound robotic and false but it's nearly as good as Audible and theres lots of titles out on Kindle which they never made an audio version of.
posted by AuroraSky at 6:17 AM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

do you find that something like a Kindle makes a big difference?

From my personal experience, absolutely, yes -- as long as it is a dedicated e-ink e-reader (basic Kindle, Paperwhite, or Oasis) and not a Kindle Fire or some other tablet-like thing.

- much easier on the eyes for me. I can read on my Kindle before going to bed and don't feel stimulated in the way that looking at a laptop or phone screen will
- less distraction-inducing: Kindles have web browsing capabilities but it's really not very good (which is good! you won't be tempted to randomly surf onto another website because the browser is so bad by modern standards)
- more like reading a physical book than reading on my phone. When I've read ebooks on my phone, which is usually only when I'm on public transit on the way to a bar or something where I don't really want to bring my e-reader, I feel like I'm basically just reading a long article online. Reading on a Kindle is much more like reading a book and I can and have read for hours on it.

I don't do anything besides read on my Kindle (even shopping for books -- I do that on my laptop) and so when I pick it up it is very much a "reading tool/experience" for me.

It's not absolutely like a physical book of course. The biggest thing is that I think Kindles are best for "one way narrative" reading -- i.e. books like novels or narrative nonfiction that you read once, straight through, in order. If you are trying to jump around a bunch you will really feel the slowness of the e-ink software, and I wouldn't recommend e-ink readers for any book that relies heavily on graphics and illustrations. But if you're just (virtually) "turning the pages" it's really great.
posted by andrewesque at 6:25 AM on September 9, 2020 [24 favorites]

A kindle changed my life, and I am not even exaggerating. It is the single best tech purchase I have ever made. My kindle paperwhite just turned 8 years old last month, and it's still going strong. I pick it up every day. With all of Amazon's faults, this is one thing they got right.

I had to read one ebook via my phone because my library didn't have a kindle copy, and it was a terrible experience. Reading on a purpose-built e-reader with the magic e-ink is a completely different beast, and there is absolutely no comparison.

Get a kindle.
posted by phunniemee at 6:27 AM on September 9, 2020 [11 favorites]

I love books as books and I enjoy the physical act of reading. I started keeping books on my phone for having time to kill, like waiting for car maintenance or whatever. Surprisingly, I've really come to enjoy it. I hate Adobe Cloud Reader - my local libraries use it and finding books is a drag and the whole app is horribly clunky. But books on my phone or kindle tablet have become easy; and the book is always there. Your library might have a good quality e-ink device you could borrow to try.

Books I want to annotate or bookmark a lot, typically non-fiction, don't do nearly as well, though reading on an Internet-enabled device allows me to look stuff up immediately, which is useful.

I hate not having physical possession, not being able to give a book to a friend, that sort of thing.
posted by theora55 at 6:39 AM on September 9, 2020

Reading on a phone and reading on a dedicated e-reader are night and day experiences. I hate hate hate the Kindle app on a phone and I love love love my Kindle paperwhite. It's easier on the eyes, less distracting, and I find it does a better job at replicating that soft-around-the-edges sense of getting lost in a book. Absolutely get an e-reader.
posted by superfluousm at 6:40 AM on September 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have a Kindle Paperwhite and it has meant I read a LOT MORE books (access, price) than when I was buying physical books. I can read on my phone (and I do sometimes) but the distraction thing is definitely part of it. I lay in bed reading at night in the dark with my paperwhite until I fall asleep; it keeps my place (even if I do make some accidental highlights) and turns itself off. I charge it once every week or two during the day while I'm working. I can take an unlimited number of books with me anywhere I go for vacation. I really, really love it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:44 AM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Echoing that reading on an e-ink kindle feels entirely different from reading on a phone. I think putting it in a book-like case also helps improve the experience for me - visually and tactilely. My case is now-worn-out faux leather in my favorite color and it makes the kindle feel more friendly and less sterile.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:48 AM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Seriously, you cannot overstate how much more pleasant it is to read on a proper e-reader than your phone. I use, and love, a Kindle Paperwhite. If it died tomorrow, I'd order another one immediately. It's great, simple, fairly cheap, and slides into any bag and many pockets.

Now, I also am super wary of Amazon, and try to do as much of my actual book-buying through a wonderful local book shop, but at the same time I don't need a physical copy of EVERY book. And when you're traveling, being able to get another book RIGHT NOW is pretty great.

So sure, Amazon's predatory as hell, but the Kindle infrastructure is really a huge boon for voracious readers. (Oh, and you can ALSO get library books on your Kindle through a couple different platforms... I don't do this, but my wife is a huge fan.)
posted by uberchet at 7:04 AM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I recently switched from a Kindle to a Kobo because fuck Amazon and have been very happy with it. It includes the ability to look for library books on the device itself, whereas with Kindle you have to use a phone or web app. Granted, it is otherwise not quite as seamless getting material other than purchases from the Kobo store onto the device, but I find that a small price to pay.
posted by sinfony at 7:09 AM on September 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I resisted eBooks for YEARS. Then a friend lent me his kindle for a few days so I could get a feel for the experience and I loved it.

I always have my kindle in my bag so I’m ready for those stolen reading moments. As others have already said, you really won’t be tempted to browse the web because that’s just not going to be a great experience. Also—it’s so easy to borrow eBooks from my library and getting an eBook when you just want/need to read something “right now!” Is the best. And for traveling—so great!

I do still read physical books and I still buy physical copies of books I love. My full bookshelves are comforting to me. But my kindle is by far my favorite tech item I’ve ever bought.
posted by bookmammal at 7:12 AM on September 9, 2020

Since there's so much praise for the Kindle Paperwhite here, I'm going to tell you that I like mine for traveling, but it's still not nearly as pleasurable as reading a physical book and I don't use it on a day to day basis. The most annoying part is that if I want to go back and look at previous pages, it's a huge pain in the neck - it will go back too many or too few pages and bounce around. Then it's hard to find where I was. It's a better way to read ebooks for sure, but if you just don't like them, I wouldn't count on a Kindle to change that.
posted by FencingGal at 7:15 AM on September 9, 2020

for me the single biggest problem with ebooks was that I like to read in bed, lying on my back, and holding a tablet up in that position gave me all kinds of neck/hand problems.

I have solved this by using an old ipad mini in a hinged case. I got it at first so that I could write on it while traveling, but 99% of the time I use it for reading in bed; the rigid case holds it open to whatever angle I need, and I only need to sort of balance it on a couple fingertips. This, plus a white-on-black reading screen (so much easier on the eyes!) has made reading in bed so comfortable that I do almost all my pleasure reading that way.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:19 AM on September 9, 2020

Just having a case that opens like a book is helpful for me. I get the tactile experience of opening it and that makes a big difference.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:38 AM on September 9, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I'll give an e-reader a try.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:28 AM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I found an e-ink reader (mine is a nook) to be much better than reading on a tablet for primarily text based books. I still read cookbooks, travel books, graphic novels, and comics on my tablet.
posted by soelo at 8:29 AM on September 9, 2020

Oh I'm just jumping on the bandwagon to say I love my Kindle. I have one of the lesser models that really has no functionality beyond being an e-reader, and that's what I love about it. No chance of getting distracted because it is, functionally, merely a book that I'm holding in my hands.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:38 AM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I do like my Paperwhite and it's sometimes the only practical thing for reclined reading. I will say, though, because I'm a fast reader but also need a font size for middle-aged eyes, I consume a screen of text in a couple of seconds, so it's a LOT of swiping (god I hate swiping and GOD I miss the original kindles with pageturn buttons on both sides).

So I tend to use my iPad for bed reading, I have a strap that clips across the back that I can slip my hand through, but I have to swipe with my other hand. I use the sepia settings and don't tend to get eyestrain that way.

If you happen to already have a tablet, it might be worth trying the kindle app there to see how you feel about it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's also worth playing with the settings in the app you use on your phone, and/or trying a couple of different apps. For me, things like a realistic page turn animation and a page number that goes up by 1 every time I turn the page (just like in a real book) make a big difference, and it turns out margin widths and font size also matter to me a lot. I need it to feel as much like reading a paperback as possible, to avoid that "this is just a long-form article" vibe.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2020

If you don't want to commit too much money to this without knowing if you like it, I highly recommend amazon's certified refurbished stuff - you can get a previous gen used kindle for less than $30 depending on what's in stock.

For what it's worth, I read much faster and comprehensively on a kindle. I have no idea why or how this works, but for some reason it just happens. This is coming from someone who loves paper books and the whole visceral feel of a book, but in terms of pure reading, an e-reader can't be beat.
posted by _DB_ at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2020

If you get an e-ink Kindle, I recommend paying extra to remove the ads (“special offers” in Amazon lingo), and buying a case with a cover that turns the Kindle on automatically when opened. Then, the Kindle will always display your current page immediately when you open it. This makes picking it up and setting it down as simple as a paper book.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:41 AM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

for me the single biggest problem with ebooks was that I like to read in bed, lying on my back, and holding a tablet up in that position gave me all kinds of neck/hand problems.
I can absolutely understand how this would be a problem using a tablet, but my Kindle Paperwhite weighs much less than most books. This is another reason to consider a dedicated e-reader vs. a general purpose tablet.
posted by uberchet at 10:42 AM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, the other thing I really love about the Kindle ecosystem is sync.

When I'm reading a Kindle book, I may read it on my phone if I'm stuck in line somewhere (I mean, I would, back when I went places), and then if I'm on the couch and my Paperwhite is upstairs in the bedroom I might opt to pick the book up on my iPad (the iPad also wins for "reading while eating" thanks to the keyboard case I have it in).

Then when we go to bed, I might put the iPad down to charge, and open the book up on my Paperwhite, and it'll be on the same page.

This *sounds* frivolous, but in practice it's pretty neat to have the "same" book available in multiple locations and multiple levels of portability.
posted by uberchet at 10:45 AM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have two Kindles, a Paperwhite and an Oasis, and I love them both. Just like books, I find them more immersive than reading a phone or computer, basically because of the lack of distractions.

I purchase the most expensive version every time.
- As much storage as possible so I can carry a large library with me.
- The cellular option so I can shop for books without Wi-Fi.
- Ad-free because ads suck.
posted by Wilbefort at 11:44 AM on September 9, 2020

do you find that something like a Kindle makes a big difference?

Yes yes a thousand times yes. And it has to be the e-ink variety (for me, at least). The small Paperwhite version fits nicely in my hand and the e-ink doesn't cause eyestrain like a backlit tablet does. You can adjust the font and text size as well, which is very helpful.
posted by lovecrafty at 11:46 AM on September 9, 2020

I was 100% a book snob and now I read almost exclusively on my dedicated e-reader (a Nook, because someone has to do it). E-Ink or nothing.

Things I like about the e-reader

* I carry my library with me
* I can look up words on the device while I'm reading (pity I can't add other dictionaries, but that's not an option for the Nook right now)
* I can make the text bigger if my eyes are tired
* I can read in the dark
* It weighs next to nothing. Reading massive fantasy novels (I'm looking at you, Sanderson) won't give me wrist problems.

Things I don't like

* There's no real substitute for browsing shelves full of books and thinking "Hey, I haven't read you in ages"
* The maps at the beginning of fantasy novels are pretty much unreadable
* The Kindle is well-integrated into my library's e-book checkout system. The Nook, alas, is not.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

A word about the ads on some Kindles -- mine had ads, and Amazon served me a totally inappropriate ad (for a book with major misogynistic themes) and when I complained about it they apologized by discontinuing the ads altogether on my device. Not that I'm suggesting anyone with an ad-supported Kindle should complain about their ads, but...
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:28 PM on September 9, 2020

Not that I'm suggesting anyone with an ad-supported Kindle should complain about their ads, but...

As another data point, I used to post terrible Kindle ads to Instagram to share them with others, but it has been a-g-e-s since I got an actual kindle ad. My theories so far are: 1. Amazon saw me and stole my fun on purpose 2. my kindle is SO OLD that...idk they don't bother to format ads for it? or something? 3. Kindle ads in general aren't really much of a thing anymore.

For a year now, maybe more, I only get two ads on my Kindle. A general ad that the kindle store exists (lady looking through a telescope) and a general ad that I can buy a new kindle (picture of a waterproof kindle).

WHICH REMINDS ME, actually, another reason the kindle is SO GREAT is that my paperwhite fits perfectly inside a quart size ziplock freezer bag, and yes I do take it into the shower with me most days because that's 10 more minutes I can spend reading in the morning.
posted by phunniemee at 1:48 PM on September 9, 2020

I totally forgot about the "Paperwhite in a ziplock" bathtime reading delight, but we both do that, too.
posted by uberchet at 2:11 PM on September 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I was adamantly anti-ebook for a long time. My boyfriend bought me a kindle, and I gotta say, I read 10x as much. It’s like picking up my book at night —small and lightweight and only for my reading books. I almost exclusively download from my library and it is excellent. Get the Libby App if it’s available to use with your library card to better checkout and track books.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:23 PM on September 9, 2020

I read a lot more with my e-reader. It is a much better reading experience than reading on a tablet or phone. I have a Kobo Clara, which I like because I can avoid Amazon, and because it is fully integrated with my library's Overdrive system. I buy the occasional book but I borrow masses of them from my library.

I like the e-reader because my vision is not great and getting worse, and I can make any book a large-print book, which helps my eyes be less tired. The Kobo does have a backlight, but it can be adjusted to be warm light, or it can be turned off and you can just use a regular lamp, which is what I do when possible. It's much less glarey than a tablet, and also smaller and lighter. I have mine in a sleep case that can be folded back and handheld, or made into a little stand so I can prop it up on a surface. I've done both.

To borrow books from my library, I use the Libby app for Overdrive on my tablet or phone to find books/place holds. I check them out on my tablet or phone, then sync my Clara and the books automatically appear on the e-reader.

You can also transfer any epub to the Clara; it's not as seamless but you can connect the e-reader to a computer and transfer them that way.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:13 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I read with equal enjoyment on my my Kindle, my iPad and my iPhone. The Kindle is the most comfortable on my eyes, but I tend to leave it beside my bed for reading before sleep. The iPad is the second favorite, and the phone is always with me. To ensure always being in sync, I always buy Kindles with 3G.

Eink is without a doubt easier on the eyes than LCD, but I find Apple screens more than acceptable.
posted by lhauser at 7:11 PM on September 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Getting a Kindle turned my daily commute from 40 minutes of scrolling through my phone each way, to spending all that time reading. It really gave me back the hunger for reading I thought I'd lost years ago. It's a combination of the e-ink being easy on the eyes, and the lack of distractions - I can't just swipe over to some other app for instant gratification, when I have the Kindle in my hand, I just read.

If you go for a Kindle, do check if your library system specifically supports borrows for e-ink Kindles - in the past I've seen library borrow systems that say they support Kindle, but they mean Kindle Fire (the tablet). My library doesn't let me check out books to my Kindle, only Nook readers. But between 99p book sales (ereaderIQ checks for Kindle store price drops), and free books on Gutenberg and elsewhere, it's only a minor letdown that I can't use my library services.
posted by Glier's Goetta at 3:24 AM on September 10, 2020

Response by poster: Followup: y'all, I love my kindle. Got a super old one (5th gen) off ebay for like $30 (this is the only reason I went Kindle vs some of the other options). I'm reading all the time now. Thanks for the nudge into the digital age.
posted by geegollygosh at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

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