Ebook experience : Task 1
The book : 1001 Arabian Nights [Volume 1 of 16], Richard Burton, Fictionwise
I will point out here that the database of content provided by Microsoft is out of date – the first two ‘free ebooks’ I tried to get to from the MS ‘shop’ (which pointed to their host non-microsoft sites) were no longer available (neither free, nor to buy).
Reading from a screen, instead of reading from print, is – to me – not particularly different. I spend so much of my day reading on screen, albeit usually short articles, emails and other documents, that the actual reading does not bother me at all. However, the portability – in this case, on my desktop PC – leaves a lot to be desired. I contemplated going outside to continue reading and realised I’d have to transfer the software and the ebook to a laptop in order to do that, and then have to contend with screen glare.
The software: Microsoft Reader
I have *.lit files on my computer already, so I selected Microsoft Reader as my test software. Reader did not automatically locate the book, I had to go and find the file – no scan function. Software functioned quickly, no lag time on actions, but I found the absence of keyboard shortcuts frustrating. Page turns are only possible by
clicking the next page icon, scrolling down or dragging a bar across the bottom of the page. Features include text-to-speech, bookmarks that can be renamed and coloured, the ability to add annotations or draw images on the page, highlight passages and use a dictionary while reading (which is not provided, but available free from the website).
The interface was very stark, and the ‘options’ available were limited to changing font display and read-aloud features.
The particular ebook I’d like to see the book have better ‘front matter’ – the copyright notice is unclear, as is the status of Burton as translator, not author. The table of contents and footnotes are not hyperlinked, thus eliminating one of the major benefits inherent in a true e-book. In fact, the footnotes are not contained within this volume – another economy resulting from it being produced as a free e-book. It functions, and has all the MS Reader features available, but it doesn’t excel.
Why choose an e-book?
If I were possessed of an appropriate mobile device, I would use e-books when travelling or at lunchtime, and use physical books when necessary and at home – because I still believe in the romanticism of curling up in bed with a good book, and because – lacking such a mobile device – I am as yet uncomfortable with the idea of letting the rest of the world invade my pre-sleep routine. However, availability is a huge issue: I buy very few books, and use libraries extensively.E-books and libraries are still hugely problematic.