the editing stage

eBooks and digital immigrants

Apparently, today is Scottish eBook Day. Did you know this was a thing? No, me neither. But why shouldn’t there be a day to celebrate eBooks? The ease of reading and publishing in digital formats has shaken up the world of books, largely for the better. eBooks are arguably greener than their paper sisters, and the format is certainly more accessible for anyone with a visual impairment.

I was a fairly late adopter of eBook technology, but by the time my brothers, my sister and my 70-something parents had all fallen for their Kindles, I decided it was time to make the jump.

Pretty soon I was a convert, won over by price promotions and the instant availability of any title that might catch your eye. I remember running out of books halfway to the Outer Hebrides and downloading fresh sustenance on the deck of the CalMac ferry. I was reading more than ever before, racing through free classics, out-of-print gems and 99p daily deals.

Gradually, though, I noticed something odd about my reading. I kept forgetting things I’d usually remember – characters’ names, important plot points, even whether I’d read a book or not. Every book, every page looks alike on an eReader, and without the visual cues I was accustomed to – the jacket design that helps you remember a title; the typography that subtly contributes to the overall feeling of the book; the placement of a sentence on the left or the right-hand page, top or bottom, near the start of the book or close to the end – my recollections were hazy. I still enjoyed what I was reading, but once I’d moved a book to my ‘read’ collection it slid too easily out of my mind.

My reading these days is 95% hard copy. Library books are even cheaper (and greener) than eBook promotions – and since I’m studying for a PhD, paper allows me to flip quickly to indexes and footnotes, and to annotate with pencil scribbles and sticky tabs. I still use my eReader for travelling, and for reading completed manuscripts; I’ve found it’s helpful in creating the distance you need in order to approach your own work, as far as possible, as a reader rather than an author. But if the digital world is divided into natives and immigrants, I’m in the latter camp: even at the editing stage, sometimes you can’t beat a print-out, a pair of scissors and some sellotape, sticky notes and a trusty red pen.