Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bring on the ebooks!

Ebooks are coming to Hussey-Mayfield, and I'm glad. Many people prefer the characteristics of a physical book over reading text on a screen, but not I. For years, nearly all my reading has been on a laptop computer. Fiction has been the only exception.

Even that started to change after I made two discoveries. The first was that I could buy a lot of ebook titles on the Web for about $10 each. The second was that Amazon would give me for free a PC version of their Kindle e-reader software. Now I can read ebooks on my laptop computer – which is with me most of every day -- without having to buy a piece of hardware that can be used only to read ebooks. It was just a matter of downloading the Kindle for PC software from Amazon. (By the way, Hussey-Mayfield's coming download service will use different software, not Kindle. The library will provide complete information about what you will need to use the new download service.)

Since reaching a certain age (you youngsters will know it when you get there), the size and legibility of text have become more important to me. With an ebook, I can adjust the size of the typeface and the width of the text to whatever is easiest to read. There’s no such adjustment on a physical book.

When I started grad school last January, I began looking for ebook versions of the assigned textbooks. I succeeded with about half the books that I needed.

Those e-textbooks are much easier to read than a physical book when you want to take notes on what you're reading. I just launch the ebook in one window and open a new document in my word processing program in another window. I size the window of the ebook to fit in half or two-thirds of my computer screen, and I size the document window to take up the rest of the screen. Now I can read and type notes without moving my eyes from my screen, or even from the text I’m reading if I don’t care about typos in my note-taking. When I have to take notes while reading a physical book, I’m constantly shifting my attention from the book to my pen and paper and back again.

I’m sold on ebooks. What has been your experience with them? Like me, are you looking forward to borrowing an ebook online from your favorite library?

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