Our series of the e-book vs. real book debate continues with a train of thought I had a few months ago, while staying up late reading A Game of Thrones, Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire. A little background first: this is not my first attempt at starting the dauntingly lengthy series, and I pray to the reading-in-my-spare-time gods that I finish what I’ve finally started - I’ve currently finished Book Three. My brother, a fan of the series since the first novels were first published (a shocking 18 years ago), supplied me with the first two novels, which sat dusty and rejected on my shelf for too long. Oh, I tried. I picked up the books. I read a few chapters. Every time, the only thing running through my brain was how small a dent I was making in this goliath of a novel—I could never get past holding 800 pages in my right hand, and a paltry 35 in my left.
Then of course, the HBO series came out. Friends raved about the characters and the world Martin created—they also cringed and saw more than they wanted to see, but that’s HBO for you. I took the bait and was floored by the sheer scope of the series, characters, and world development. After finishing the entire series in a month and a half last fall, I needed more. I picked up Kip, my trusty Kindle, and searched for the e-books on the Kindle store. On that fateful day, A Game of Thrones, the first foray into the epic series, was on sale for $1.99. I made the purchase and began reading immediately.
You’re probably wondering why this relates to the Kindle or Kindling debate series, as it just seems like some girl’s late-in-the-game obsession with an epic series. I’ve been reading it for a few weeks, in my not-so-spare time, and I’m 74% done with it. There are two possible schools of thought as to why I’m suddenly devouring this book like it’s my last meal before orthodontic surgery: 1) I’ve watched the TV series, and am so interested in the world and the characters that I simply crave more, or 2) the Kindle has given me the chance to read a novel without constantly being aware of how many pages I have yet to read.
I will not deny the first school of thought: I love the Seven Kingdoms: it’s been an introduction made by the HBO series, but a relationship sustained by the novels themselves. It’s been agony watching the current season one paltry, cliff-hanging episode at a time, so I’ve survived the withdrawals by clinging to the written word. But it’s the second school of thought that is, I believe, the true reason why I’m finally able to absorb these novels. In the genre of the epic fantasy novel, an author needs appropriate time to build a world, so that readers can truly escape to it, even if it’s only for a few hours. That’s the beauty of the fantasy novel: the escape. Time, in this sense, can be directly translated as pages. Most fantasy novels, or certainly the ones with the largest reader base, come in at anywhere from 400 to 900 pages, give or take. If you’re someone like me, that’s a daunting prospect. It’s not exactly the unabridged Les Misérables (which clocks in at just over 1500 pages), but it’s in the same ballpark. One of the strange and beautiful aspects of the Kindle (or any e-reader) is that the reader is somewhat blind to the actual pages of the book. You’re given progress updates when you open and close the e-book (typically a percentage), and you can choose whether or not to be aware of that. All you see is the page in front of you—not the three-inch thick ream of paper you have yet to read. It’s similar to the concept of horse blinders, if you think about it: you’re no longer distracted by the size of the novel, but instead, you get to relish in the moment you’re reading.
This is an opinion piece—and all opinions deserve a little spotlight. So what are your thoughts on this aspect of the e-reader? Is it easier for you to finish a novel because you can stay delightfully ignorant of its size, or do you prefer to stay aware at all times of your progress? Do your hands get tired holding up a 900-page novel, or does the fantasy keep your mind off your physical discomfort? My hands get tired. Not so with Kip, as I can easily prop him up anywhere. So. Let’s hear your thoughts. When you are reading a lengthy book, do you prefer Kindle or Kindling?