Ok, let’s start this one with a universal truth: nobody (at least until now – from 2011 on things might be a lot different) has ever started reading e-books on an e-reader.

I’m counting, naturally, PDF files – after all, most e-ARCs these days still come in this time-honored, God-forsaken format (more on that later).

However, you can’t take a desktop computer to bed – and that’s, my dear readers, that’s the precise point where necessity arises, and necessity, as all of us knows (Frank Zappa’s band included) is the mother of invention.

So, after quite a while reading PDFs and .txt files (these last ones classic books from the Gutenberg Project – and, if you still don’t know the Gutenberg, then you’ve been on cryo for more than you should), I decided to purchase a netbook. I already had a notebook, but it was too heavy for me to take to bed. Besides (that was the white lie I told myself), I can always use it to write my stories or to do my translations whenever I’m traveling. I even used it to do those things, but, really?

I. Bought. A. Netbook. To. Read. E-books.

That was two years ago. I found a good model on discount on a DELL store and acquired it, and that was that. (All those justifications don’t make me less of a maniac, but that’s the nature of obsession.) I started reading lots of e-ARCs on it, and I was finally happier than before because now I could read in bed.

Note that I wrote happier, not happy.

Because a netbook is much lighter and better than a notebook, but it’s not a portable device made for reading e-books. (Meaning: it still bonked in my forehead every frakking time I started to fall asleep.)

Then, in the second half of 2009, I purchased an iPhone – and I found out that there was an app called Stanza, just to read e-books in other format, the ePub.

Now, what do I think about the ePub?

It’s a much better format than a .txt file, no question about that. (A .txt file, or whatever format compatible with Microsoft Word, is editable, for crying out loud – it doesn’t make me feel as if I’m reading the manuscript of the author: it make me feel as if I’m reading any possible stuff anyone could have written in the place of the novel I was looking for! How that’s for a comforting thought, huh?)

It’s also better than a PDF, but just because of the fonts it uses in its formatting. A PDF is basically a virtual copy of the physical galley of the book you will have in your hands if you choose to buy it in hardcover or paperback. If said PDF is formatted in, say, Times New Roman, then it’s no big deal to read it in a compatible device (like Kindle, but let’s delve deeper into that on a later column, ok?). But if the PDF file is formatted in a finer font like Garamond, then it becomes virtually unreadable, and it doesn’t matter if you can zoom in 100, 200 or a gazillion per cent.

I read a lot of books on Stanza, and, even though I didn’t find their formatting much to my liking (when you zoom the text in, it blurs slightly in the edges, so the better you can do is to keep it in the fit-to-screen size, which is very readable when the book is converted correctly), but I became quickly used to it. The first book I read on it was Kevin J Anderson’s Hidden Empire, and the best one was Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl.

I currently have 66 books on this format in my iPhone, among which Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War (I read the sequel, Garden of the Sun, in PDF – I read the first novel faster, because at that time I still could only read PDFs in my netbook, and the ePubs could be read anywhere, thanks to my iPhone).

I’m currently reading two books on Stanza – K.W. Jeter’s Morlock Night and Infernal Devices (e-ARCs to review here soon). In the past two years, though, the iPhone has gotten a bunch of apps just to read e-books and e-documents, as PDFReader (yes, and it’s a quite good app – I’m finishing Lavie Tidhar’s Osama on it – expect a review here soon too), iBooks (it was created for the iPad, but there is also an iPhone version), the eReader (which allowed me for a few months to read, via sites like Fictionwise, to buy issues of Analog, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed Magazine) and finally the Kindle for iPhone. But that’s another story, which I’ll tell here in two weeks.

(Just an aside – recently the Gutenberg started to offer e-books for Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android and other portable devices. Way to go!)

Filed under: E-Libris

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