While I am hardly a luddite I wouldn’t claim to be up with the all the latest technology. Things are changing for me however, and the cause is easy to identify. I bought an Iphone at the end of last year.
I’m not going to trumpet the virtues of the phone. I’m not an Apple fanboy, I just jumped on the consumer band wagon with so many others. My actual point is that the Iphone represents the first portable ebook reader I have owned and, slightly more pathetically, the first portable audio player I have owned since the days of cassette tapes.
Podcasts – the gateway to ‘reading’ technology
Having an MP3 player opened the gateway to podcasts, many of which I enjoy regularly (and will discuss in a future post). A substantial number of my favourite casts are sponsored by Audible and I was being regularly encouraged to enjoy a free trial. Writing Excuses in particular advertises a particular audiobook each week, and hearing that I could listen to Stephen King’s On Writing narrated by King himself pushed me over the edge and I signed up (of course, it turns out that On Writing is not available to Australian subscribers).
I have listened to several audiobooks now. I started by using my Audible credits to purchase the books from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time so that I could ‘read’ my way through the series again before the final volume arrives (up to 6 of 12 at this stage). I have since begun to diversify my listening. Some highlights include The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett, The Alchemist and The Executioness by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias Buckell (review), and Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis.
While I am still scratching the surface I find myself a massive fan of audiobooks. I have managed to experience so many more books than ever before. Car trips, walks, shopping expeditions, doing chores – no time feels wasted when I am able to ‘read’ as I go. Driving by myself from
Sydney to for Aussiecon4 would have been incredibly painful without a good story. Melbourne
Of course, I still listen to podcasts and tend to go for audiobooks when I know I have a substantial window of listening time. The length of some books can be pretty intimidating (a couple of the Wheel of Time books are over 40 hours) and make you wonder when you will ever have time to listen, but the small chunks add up. I’ve probably worked through 300 hours worth of audiobooks in the last six months.
Ebooks – the future of reading, at least for me
Aside from bringing me into contact with Audible, since many of the podcasts I enjoy are about writing and often touch on the publishing industry the issue of ebooks is frequently raised. The boys over at The Dragon Page are massive advocates of epublishing and the opportunities it offers authors and readers. At this stage I am simply engaging with ebooks as a consumer.
I have not yet purchased an ebook from an online store, or purchased a dedicated ebook reader for that matter. I’m using my Iphone. I have read Makers by Cory Doctorow (offered free on his website) and a few items from the electronic Hugo voters packet, including some short stories and novellas (ideal length for ebook format in my opinion, given the way I use ebooks) and China Mieville’s The City and the City. Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, which I have just started, is the longest story I have attempted on the phone screen.
The Iphone is far from an ideal platform for reading ebooks, given the relatively small size of the screen, but it is functional. It has been to my advantage that the stories/books that I have read so far have been relatively short. I couldn’t see myself sitting down on the couch with my phone at this stage, not when I have so many paper books, but it is fantastic to have available when out and about. My limited experiences with it have also convinced me that I will be a very dedicated user of ebooks when I have a better reading device (probably a year or so away, realistically).