My ‘to read’ pile has grown once again. This time it’s not only a physical pile of books but also a virtual one as my Kindle has acquired new titles clammering for my attention. At least that pile doesn’t create clutter around the house. I tend to read one physical book and one electronic book concurrently, switching between them depending on where I am. More about that here.
I really like my Kindle, but one thing I’ve noticed since using it is that as I approach the climax of a novel, the end doesn’t really feel like the end until, well, The End. When reading a book, you turn the pages as you go, feeling the stack of remaining paper lessen in your hands. This doesn’t happen with an e-reader. All that happens is the percentage goes up every now and again. Those numbers tick by but they don’t imbue a sense of the narrative winding up to a conclusion. In many cases the novel doesn’t end at 99 or 100%, but somewhere around 95% and the remaining pages are acknowledgements, author interviews, or adverts for other books by the publisher. When this happens, I feel like ‘oh right, so that was the end…’. It’s like watching a film where the screen fades to black, you expect it to fade back in and add just a few more details to the story, but it doesn’t. The credits roll instead.
When reading a paperback, I’ll often flick to the last page of the story (being careful not to read any of the text) and make a mental note of the page number. If it’s page 350, I’ll know that I have another 100 pages to go when I get to page 250. This doesn’t really make any rational sense, but I’ll know that the author has roughly 100 pages to develop and wrap up the novel. Then I’m intrigued to know how they do it. When that remaining bunch of paper in your right hand starts to get wafer thin, and the heroine hasn’t wrought terrible vengeance on her childhood tormentor, I’m anxious to know how things will end up. I’ve read books that turn out to be the first of a series, but without me knowing that beforehand. So as the unread portion of the book gets thinner and thinner I’m beginning to think ‘hold on, this novel is about an epic, around-the-world search for mankind’s saviour/some golden hubcaps/magic sex potion, and they haven’t even left Dover yet…’
There’s none of this with an e-reader. I could of course see if the novel ends on or near the 100% mark, but it’s simply not the same. I’d never get the same sense of mini-anxiety as my Kindle novel hurtles to it’s conclusion and think ‘ooh, I’m on 96% now…’. In fact, I bet a lot of Kindle users don’t even notice the numbers as they swipe the pages whilst reading. That might just be me. Tell me there are other readers with this ‘issue’. Maybe we could meet up and talk about it, in between drinking tea and weeping.
In other news, I sold a copy of Unfamiliar Country on Kindle this month. In your face, bank manager!