05 January, 2012

The Kindle Conundrum

I love my Kindle. It gets me books on the fly, wherever I am, and is actually starting to generate some fairly good recommendations. But there is a problem, and its a big one.

Page numbers. When you hold a dusty old paperback, that relic of a previous age, you feel its weight, you fold its pages (I do at least), and you have a very good idea of how close to the end of it you are. You can't help but realize that the story is about to end. The bittersweet sense of ending that comes with those final few chapters always heightens the denouement. Bibliophiles of all sorts manage their expectations and readjust their predictions when entering the homestretch. This hard learned skill, which comes with years of reading, doesn't work with the Kindle.

Case in point, I was reading Leviathan Wakes (at 48% completion on the Kindle when the book ended. That made me mad. To be fair it felt like an ending but I didn't know it was the ending. I wasn't ready for it. I was expecting another 52% of adventure and intrigue. Instead I got a second book I had absolutely no interest in. This made me even more mad.

I don't mind moving from paper to digital. For me it makes a lot of sense. Lower costs and fewer bookshelves are big advantages of the digital revolution. Well, perhaps not costs. If you read spec fic most of the hot items are at a premium, but that is a conversation for another day. After I go buy a pitchfork or two. 

Back to premature endings. I hate them. I hate endings to start with, but with the knowledge that they are coming, I can get myself ready. In the words of a somewhat popular television show, I can "brace for impact". Not so with the Kindle. With the Kindle the ending is thrust upon me without warning or explanation because some industrious publisher thinks that giving me a free book (the first book in a 5 part series I might add) makes good business sense. And maybe it does. But it also destroys the illusion that what I am reading is an old-fashioned book. And I like my illusions.

Hear me o Kindle gods and place dividers in your books so that your endings are no longer premature. No one likes premature endings. 


logankstewart said...

A few things.

1. I see your point at the frustrations of the book ending at 48%, especially if you were expecting a fair bit more plot. But from a casual glance at the Amazon page, there seemed to be ample notices that a FREE FULL TEXT EDITION OF THE DRAGON'S PATH was included. Still, that's neither here nor there.

2. More importantly, I'm kind of intrigued by the possibility of not knowing how large a story is. I think that would be a fun way to convey a story, where the Reader knows only that there is a beginning and an ending, but not how long it will take to get there. Sure, there would be plenty of issues, but handled right, the mystery would be fun, I daresay. "Bracing for impact," as it is, somewhat hinders an emotional effect on the Reader.

3. I do appreciate it when the publishers list page numbers with the Kindle. The % thing is just kind of dull.


wheels209 said...

The Nook does the same thing. Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series is a good example of this. Great story but it will end far sooner than you may want it too.

I remember another book I was reading, I was so into it that I kept pressing the page key to get more story but sadly it was the end. So I feel your pain. Take care,

Unknown said...

I didn't realize the Kindle did the % thing - that would drive me absolutely crazy. Like yourself, I'm used to the shift in weight from pages unread to read in a paperback, and being able to feel how much is remaining.

I have the Sony Reader, and the status bar at the bottom of the page shows the battery life remaining, font size (you can scale Small, Medium or Large), as well as the current & total page # (237 of 590). Mind you, that doesn't help if there's additional content, but at least I can visually gauge my progress.

bloggeratf said...

@ logan

I usually power through the buying process with the new 1-Click buying function. Honestly didn't know I got the whole second book for free but I see your point.

If it is a good book, I tend to get very attached. Hence the endings being bittersweet. It wasn't exactly a bad experience just a new and foreign one, not knowing when the book would end. I am consoled somewhat by the fact that the next book should be out in the near future and it promises to be interesting.

Indeed, pages would be preferred.

@ wheels

Three cheers to endings never ending.

@ Bob

Page numbers wouldn't have helped here as it was two whole books. I am somewhat used to additional content at the end as you get it even in paperbacks but a whole book seemed a bit excessive and commercial in a negative sense.

Rebecca Chapman said...

I got a sony reader for xmas and this is the one thing I have been having trouble with aswell. The reader doesn't even give you a % (not that I have figured out yet anyway). You just have to go off the page numbers, but the book often finishes before the final page number so you are never quite sure where you are up to.

Plus, I am terrible at numbers! I can see "page 73 of pg 193" and I am completely unable to judge how far through the book I am.

When I look at a book, its super easy!

But, I am finding the reader super convenient otherwise I have to admit. I already have nearly 500 new books and don't have to find a single bookshelf to the put them on!

Unknown said...

I don't think it is fair to use Leviathan Wakes and Dragon's Path as an example. Everyone who bought the book should have known that there was another book to come. I even confirmed with Amazon that both book were present and they informed me at what percentage point the second book would start.

That said, the percentage on the bottom works as advertised. Even paperback books have extra pages and advertisements in the back. So do the occasional Kindle additions.

I have owned the Kindle 2, I currently have the Kindle 3 and in the mail is the Kindle Fire. Since I live in Korea and constantly travel, the Kindle is the perfect choice for the constant traveler. While I do miss the smell of a physical book. The portability and ability to take hundreds of books with me and available at the touch of a button makes up for no smell.

The only downside I have to the Kindle is the inability to show off my book collection.

tmso said...

Is that really a Kindle problem or a marketing problem or you-just-have-to get-used-to-it problem?

I haven't had the happen to me, yet. I like the little status bar, it warms be sufficiently when the ending is coming up and, frankly, it seems pretty obvious that the ending is looming from the structure of the book. However, I haven't gotten a free book included with whatever I thought I was buying.

I wonder...why not include the second book as a separate file? That would alleviate that abrupt cut off while still giving the reader more bang for their buck. I guess that's something the Kindle/Nook powers that be have to figure out.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I really do wish that Kindle would introduce page numbers. I think not knowing how much I'm reading on a Kindle is the reason why my digital reading is so much slower than when I read a paperback

ediFanoB said...

I own a Sony reader and as Becky wrote there is no % and to be honest I do not need %. I depend on page numbers. And therefore I'm happy with the xx page of yyy showd in the bottom bar. I would go crazy without numbering!

Regarding the end of a book I know that most of the books will end before the last page. I just read until I find the word end.

I would appreciate when publisher would deliver the number of words per story.

Bryce L. said...

I love page numbers and I'm with you there. I'm even one who wants to know when a chapter is going to end so getting used to the Kindle has been rough.

There's a book I'm going to review soon called Draculas and it had a similar problem. I was about 43% done and reaching a highly climactic moment and the whole time I'm wondering, what are they possibly going to do with this for the other half of the book.

Come to find out, the last 50% was just extras, they actually included 3 short stories and previews from all four authors.

That completely threw me off.

Kevin A. Smith said...

I had the exact same experience except that I had purchased The Dragon's Path. I was really enjoying the book and was thrilled to see that I was still only half way through when it all ended. I just figured that since Daniel Abraham is GRRM's protege that long books was something he picked up from George.

I haven't read Leviathan Wakes yet since I tend to only pick up a SciFi novel once every couple of years but after reading some great reviews its definitely at the top of my "To be read" list and it was free!

I strongly recommend The Dragon's Path. It was the first book I read from Daniel Abraham but one of my favorite books of 2011. Give it a shot, all it will cost you is some of your time.

I just found your blog and am really enjoying it. Keep up the great work, I'll be adding this to my favorites and be back often.