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Old 04-01-2010, 08:15 AM   #1
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I don't care how books smell either

Linda Holmes over on the NPR blogs has posted a well written missive about why reading is reading and how something smells isn't what defines an experience:

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Physical ownership of smelly old books is not important to me, and based on my experience, it's not important to a lot of people who read a lot. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be important to anyone, but it does mean there are no points to be scored for seriousness of purpose as a reader by demonstrating the intensity of the passion with which you rub your cheek against the ancient binding and sense yourself growing wiser.
Full article can be read at NPR Blogs
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:35 AM   #2
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I enjoyed reading the full article and found it interesting, thanks Croptop.
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Old 04-01-2010, 09:58 AM   #3
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On the other hand, I have a cold right now. Maybe if I smell them next week.


I enjoyed reading the article, some good points on this tired "smell" subject. Thanks.

Pity I couldn't smell the article though
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Old 04-01-2010, 10:08 AM   #4
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I always thought I was the sort of person who "loves books". I could spend hours in second-hand bookshops, was always was thrilled when I got book tokens as gifts because I could indulge in buying a stack of books that I couldn't justify splurging cash on and just liked to have books around. A couple of months ago I got my first ebook reader and, whilst I still like second-hand bookshops I reckon there is as much pleasure to be gained from a well-formatted ebook as there is from most pbooks.

It makes me wonder how many book aficionados would really enjoy the transition to ebooks if they just tried it.
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:15 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TGS View Post
I always thought I was the sort of person who "loves books". I could spend hours in second-hand bookshops, was always was thrilled when I got book tokens as gifts because I could indulge in buying a stack of books that I couldn't justify splurging cash on and just liked to have books around. A couple of months ago I got my first ebook reader and, whilst I still like second-hand bookshops I reckon there is as much pleasure to be gained from a well-formatted ebook as there is from most pbooks.

It makes me wonder how many book aficionados would really enjoy the transition to ebooks if they just tried it.
What do you mean well-formatted? The only well-crafted ebooks I've seen have been PDFs, and most of the retailers I've seen on the net don't offer an appropriately-sized PDF version for ebook reading devices.
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:47 AM   #6
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That was funny! Thanks, Croptop

I've never been much of a book buyer myself, partly because they're so expensive here - I always bought books on sale or used - so I've always used the library heavily. I'm actually spending a great deal more money on books now than I used to.

On the other hand, I've recently also bought a few hard-back books of titles I really like, because there's enough of a collector in me to feel it's nice to own the physical books too. But I'd still read them as e-books if I can - I hate cracked spines
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Old 04-02-2010, 03:58 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TGS View Post
I always thought I was the sort of person who "loves books". I could spend hours in second-hand bookshops, was always was thrilled when I got book tokens as gifts because I could indulge in buying a stack of books that I couldn't justify splurging cash on and just liked to have books around. A couple of months ago I got my first ebook reader and, whilst I still like second-hand bookshops I reckon there is as much pleasure to be gained from a well-formatted ebook as there is from most pbooks.

It makes me wonder how many book aficionados would really enjoy the transition to ebooks if they just tried it.
Whenever I talk to friends who have never tried ebooks/ereaders, I get that same answer "I just love books, paper books" the smell, the feel, the whatever. I try to tell them that I always felt that way too, until my husband bought me an ereader. And itʻs amazing how quickly the ereader becomes the favorite little pet. The smell of the cover, the feel of the metal, the ease of reading.... books are books. Some books smell really bad anyway (mildew, anyone?). So there.
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Old 04-02-2010, 06:31 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by LDBoblo View Post
What do you mean well-formatted? The only well-crafted ebooks I've seen have been PDFs, and most of the retailers I've seen on the net don't offer an appropriately-sized PDF version for ebook reading devices.
Have you seen the ePub Zen Garden? (Although I suspect that a number of the styles wouldn't work on some portable devices; they may not support all the coding options.)

Setting aside *good* formatting--for a lot of people, basic text is sufficient, and "well-formatted" means
  • The line breaks are in the right places,
  • Extra line between paragraphs *or* indented paragraphs,
  • Lines don't wrap between double hyphens,
  • No long gaps between words,
  • Punctuation is accurate enough that it's not consciously noticed,
  • New chapters start on a new page.
I read ebooks for two years on a Sony Clie 320x320 pixel screen, and would've been happy to continue; I had screen problems & battery problems.
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:34 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post

Setting aside *good* formatting--for a lot of people, basic text is sufficient, and "well-formatted" means
  • The line breaks are in the right places,
  • Extra line between paragraphs *or* indented paragraphs,
  • Lines don't wrap between double hyphens,
  • No long gaps between words,
  • Punctuation is accurate enough that it's not consciously noticed,
  • New chapters start on a new page.
I read ebooks for two years on a Sony Clie 320x320 pixel screen, and would've been happy to continue; I had screen problems & battery problems.
Yeah, that. I just don't want to notice the formatting because it is interrupting the flow of my reading. That's all. For years I read eReader books on my ancient Palm (IIIX, Handera 330). I was perfectly happy with it until I got old and my eyes couldn't deal with the size anymore. All those eReader books now reside on my new cheapo 5" Libre, and I'm thrilled.
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Old 04-02-2010, 09:33 PM   #10
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There are certain aspects of books I "love" and, I suppose, smell might be one of them. Good typography is near the top of the list. Still, with rare exceptions, it's the content, not the physical book, that matters. Some books are works of art in themselves; some books are signed by the author; some books have personal attachments like the copy of The Wasteland I carried to Moscow and back.

But most books are words -- and on an e-ink screen or on paper, they ring as true and as powerful. Nothing is lost in e-ink sans dead tree: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ...".

It's not unlike the relationship to music to LPs. Some album covers are works of art in their own right; some specific LPs hold a special place in one's heart; yet most LPs are carriers of sound, like paper is for words, and the MP3 version is as good (or better) than the traditional delivery.

Bring on the e-books!
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Old 04-03-2010, 06:53 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by LDBoblo View Post
What do you mean well-formatted?
I guess I don't mean anything more than when the formatting doesn't get in the way of the reading.
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Old 04-03-2010, 10:30 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
Have you seen the ePub Zen Garden? (Although I suspect that a number of the styles wouldn't work on some portable devices; they may not support all the coding options.)

Setting aside *good* formatting--for a lot of people, basic text is sufficient, and "well-formatted" means
  • The line breaks are in the right places,
  • Extra line between paragraphs *or* indented paragraphs,
  • Lines don't wrap between double hyphens,
  • No long gaps between words,
  • Punctuation is accurate enough that it's not consciously noticed,
  • New chapters start on a new page.
I read ebooks for two years on a Sony Clie 320x320 pixel screen, and would've been happy to continue; I had screen problems & battery problems.
I've seen ePub Zen Garden, and yes it shows that decent markup is possible. I think when I made my post, I was reading too much into "formatting" and including typography in my judgment. If formatting is simply the markup, then it's fine. The samples on Zen Garden still look pretty mediocre though, and some of them are humorously bad. ePub champions defend it saying it's the problem of the viewing software and not the code itself, which is more or less true, but when there's no good viewing software, it's a bit of a bottleneck.

And yes I agree that the average Joe has low standards, but that's why I think it's usually a good idea to leave book typesetting to people who aren't the average Joe. Books that look like they were made by toddlers might be fine for average ebook users, but not everyone can handle paying for such things.

It's fine and good to take the "high road" and say that it's all about content and that presentation doesn't matter beyond legibility. I don't find that to be true, but my background has biased me in favor of good design. Reading straight text for me, just like reading a poorly-made book (electronic or otherwise), is a struggle. I notice the problems and they destroy the flow of reading for me...and I'm not anywhere near perfectionist. For me, it's like listening to a badly and inconsistently out-of-tune piano. Many won't consciously notice it, and some will even defend it as having "character", but for some, it's just a chore to tolerate.
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Old 04-03-2010, 10:50 PM   #13
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It's fine and good to take the "high road" and say that it's all about content and that presentation doesn't matter beyond legibility. I don't find that to be true, but my background has biased me in favor of good design. Reading straight text for me, just like reading a poorly-made book (electronic or otherwise), is a struggle. I notice the problems and they destroy the flow of reading for me...and I'm not anywhere near perfectionist. For me, it's like listening to a badly and inconsistently out-of-tune piano. Many won't consciously notice it, and some will even defend it as having "character", but for some, it's just a chore to tolerate.
I agree! I used to work as a production artist for an ad agency. My job was to actually make the ideas look good. Ligatures, spacing, H&J, all made the difference. These are the subtle things that add character and professionalism.

That having been said, InDesign does all this automatically these days. I wish the eBook readers took this stuff seriously. Ligatures and proper H&J would make all the difference!

Of course, so would 300 DPI ePaper displays.
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Old 04-04-2010, 09:29 AM   #14
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I'm an ignoramus about e-book readers as I don't own one. But I do have three e-books 'out there' and I'm curious to know how they appear on (or in) an e-reader. When I look at the pdf versions on my computer screen there's absolutely nothing about them that is different to their paper counterparts. Am I being naive, but aren't all books published in both forms identical? Could this only be true for books that are published with the intention of their appearing in both forms? Also, is it possible for unwanted errors to creep in during conversion from one format to another? If this is so, surely the publisher should subject the final pdf version to a proof-read before he sells it.

MJ
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Old 04-04-2010, 01:38 PM   #15
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I'm an ignoramus about e-book readers as I don't own one. But I do have three e-books 'out there' and I'm curious to know how they appear on (or in) an e-reader. When I look at the pdf versions on my computer screen there's absolutely nothing about them that is different to their paper counterparts. Am I being naive, but aren't all books published in both forms identical? Could this only be true for books that are published with the intention of their appearing in both forms? Also, is it possible for unwanted errors to creep in during conversion from one format to another? If this is so, surely the publisher should subject the final pdf version to a proof-read before he sells it.

MJ
PDFs are basically the only ebook format that is faithful to content layout as it was created. Most of the portable ebook reader devices though are a bit clumsy at best with PDFs unless specially laid out for the screen, and many users prefer formats that allow dynamic resizing of the text. The main contestant in this arena is ePUB, but it and most of its competitors are pretty much just HTML. Now if you can imagine what some websites looked like in different web browsers some years back (it still happens today, though to a much smaller extent), you can probably imagine how ePUB support looks.

With most such files, hyphenation is lost, and in some more deprecated readers like the Sony PRS-505, there isn't even full-width justification. For defaults in a few readers, italics, small caps, and bolds are simulated and not real, and when I tried a Kindle, all the books were crammed into the same typeface (though ePUB allows font embedding, like PDF does, but the Kindle doesn't support ePUB if I recall correctly). Basic details of formatting are handled in CSS like web pages, while more subtle things like kerning, ligatures, and H&J, and things dependent on pagination (orphan/widow control in particular), would probably need to be part of a viewing program. Current viewing programs are pretty much still in the dark ages though.
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