opus When I bought my first eBook reader, an Opus, in December, I felt both like a pioneer – eBook readers are not at all common in Germany yet, and I’d only seen one in the flesh before, on a train in England – and, at the same time, like a dinosaur, because already the media were prophesying instant death for all eBook readers due to the advent of the iPad. (Well, I have only seen one iPad in the flesh so far, on a train in Germany.) I was excited and curious when I got my new gadget: Would I really use it enough to justify handing over a considerable amount of money? Would it be as easy to handle as a paper book? How would I deal buying eBooks online? Would my reading habits change?

Well, after six months I know more.

The verdict is still out on whether I really use it enough to justify the acquisition. I use it quite a lot, but I still read a number of paper books besides. The reader is very kind to my bookshelves, as I buy a lot of books in eBook format now, especially those by new authors, and am thrilled that exciting new publications like those from Carina Press are readily available to me. At the same time, as regards books by favorite authors like Julia Quinn or Linnea Sinclair, I still buy paper copies, partly because this way I can share them with my father and niece, the other romance readers in this family, who don’t own readers. eBooks are almost as expensive as paper books, so I can’t really claim I’ve saved any money by buying them.

The Opus is delightfully easy to handle. I was warned in online forums that it crashes easily, but mine has never done so. It takes a few seconds to boot up, which may displease impatient readers, but then it’s quick. The Opus is also delightful in that you can create folders. By now, I’ve got about 150 books on it, and the folders are very helpful. I can choose between 12 font sizes, so whatever the book’s original format is, I can find a font size to suit me.

Reading is slightly slower than with a paper book, with the very short interruptions that are caused by turning a leaf. However, trying to speed matters up, I catch myself reading only half of the last sentence on a page and already pressing the button, hoping I can conjecture what is going on from what happens next (which means that sometimes, I must go back for relevant information). This mostly works, so using the reader does not slow me down dramatically.

Reading on the Opus can become exhausting on the thumbs. I can turn pages with both my left and right thumb, and I switch while reading as soon as one thumb tires, but I need to take a break after about 1 ½ books (on a single day). So I try to take turn between reading ebooks and paper books, to rest my thumbs.

The manner in which I read has changed quite drastically. Confession time: With paper books, I skim ahead a lot, reading bits and snippets in advance – very often I read the ending early on. Ahem. With eBooks, I never do. I start on page one, and I have never read an ending before I actually got there. My reading is far more disciplined. However, I hardly ever get stuck in a book I just pick up on an impulse and start to browse in. eBooks are also comparatively awkward for rereading favorite scenes, which I love to do with books I really like. When I review an Bbook and have to look up a scene, I use the copies I have on my PC, never the reader.

Accessability of books … well. There are good eBookstores in a number of countries (USA, UK, Canada) that I use consistently, and they offer a wide range of books. Downloading is child’s play, and I have never had the slightest difficulties. On the other hand, I am seriously displeased with all that fuss about formats. Although the Opus can read PDF, it works far better with Epub, and not all eBookstores (I’m looking at you, Fictionwise) have this format available for the majority of books. Another problem is that some recent publications are not available as eBooks at all.

My moment of epiphany with the Opus happened in January, after I’d only owned it for a month or so. I was lying in my bed, reading Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery, when I caught my left hand moving to the bottom right corner of the reader, as if to turn a paper page. If I can get so completely engrossed, it just doesn’t matter what medium I use for reading.

What are your experiences and impressions with eBooks and eBook readers? Have they influenced your reading?

– Rike Horstmann