Fantasy Literature: E-books vs. Print Books: A New Dilemma

The following thoughts don’t apply to just fantasy books alone, but probably to all forms of literature. While ruminating about what to write for this post today, I had an odd thought, one that was inspired by an e-book I read recently. I’ve read about four or five such books using the kindle app on my smart phone. So far, I have enjoyed the experiences with the e-reader. I had misgivings at first, but they were soon put to rest. Now, however, I have developed something of a new misgiving, one based on my experience with the e-book, not just pre-use prejudice.

The books I’ve read on the e-reader have been either very short, or just of average length (probably no more than four hundred double-spaced pages). The last book I read seemed almost to be written in an “abbreviated” fashion. That is, the action moved very quickly, was described at the barest level of detail, and still amounted to a semi-decent read (not 5-star, but perhaps 3ish). I was wondering if the medium, namely the e-book, affects the whole nature of the book. I don’t just mean in terms of formatting and technical use. I mean, does a print book become a whole different book if it is transferred to an e-reader? Does the different medium affect the quality of the reading experience even though the exact same words are read?

With the print book, you have the book opened to your page, but you actually read two full pages before you have to turn a single page. The e-book (at least on the smart phone) only allows about half as much information to be displayed on a single page. It is broken up into easily manageable chunks that you flick through with a simple finger motion. Also, the pages can only be read one at a time; they appear sequentially; so, at any given time, you have about one-fourth the information in your field of vision that you would find in a print book. The result is that you are flicking through pages at a much accelerated rate compared to the print book. Does this affect your reading experience? Does it favor, say, action-packed books with a marked brevity of description, that spur you on e-page after e-page? Are long, elegant descriptions inhibited because they won’t fit in an easily manageable chunk?

I don’t know. But as a writer, I am very interested, particularly, because, at least for the moment, I am only writing e-books. The “abbreviated” e-book I mentioned above is what started this train of thought. The writing was such, that I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it in a print book. On the flip side, does a classic like “Lord of the Rings” make an effective transition to an e-book? That is something I intend to investigate… eventually (when I get caught up on all my reading).

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Fantasy Literature: E-books vs. Print Books: A New Dilemma

  1. debyfredericks

    If the writer is doing their job properly, they will write their best story — not one word more or less — regardless of format. I’m curious if book that felt “abbreviated” was by an established author or a newcomer?

    Reply
    1. atoasttodragons

      I’m thinking it was a newcomer… it certainly wasn’t a big name by any means. But my point was that I kind of had the sense that the “abbreviated” form seemed to fit the e-book better. I don’t think I would have enjoyed the book as much had I been reading a regular manuscript (but I’m not sure: I never read a print version). It might have been the difference of about a single “star” or so. Commas, semi-colons, colons, and periods all indicate pauses as you read; they coordinate the flow of the story. I’m just wondering if the e-books’ shorter pages do something similar, perhaps unintentially. Anyway, it was just an odd feeling I got after I finished the book. Was wondering if anyone else had a similar experience.

      Reply
      1. debyfredericks

        Sometimes I wonder if, because of the format, writers assume things about the reader. That they may be reading faster, for instance, and so wouldn’t notice the difference?

        Reply
        1. atoasttodragons

          That’s possible. But it still may be a real difference. Reading lots of text that sprawls all the way across a computer screen is more difficult than reading text arranged in columns… at least, that’s been my experience.

          Reply
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