I recently read the post on Okazu regarding the unavoidable rise, viability, and availability of anime and manga in legally downloadable formats and the reasons people give to dismiss them. The comment I decided to leave had gotten a bit long; longer than I like my comments on other sites to be and then turned into a celebration of my ereader. So I decided to cut the fat for my comment there, and then post my complete thoughts in a more appropriate place: here.
Looking back to mid December 2011, my acceptance or conversion was a split second decision, but ultimately my hand was forced. I was very much against digital content–I refused to fall for the tricks of this mysterious new world and I was doubtful that anything could match the 5-sense experience that is reading a physical book. BUT, I am nothing if not curious and I am a big fan of convenience as well. So, just to see, just to test the waters, I bought 2 titles to read on the Kindle for PC and I didn’t like it. I’ll talk a bit about that in a second.
It took a title that I really wanted in English to push me beyond my fondness for flipping pages, smelling ink, and comparing and contrasting the thought behind the bindings of different editions. Several titles before X_manga_title were digital-only as well, but I could not stand not having this particular title, so I purchased it to read on a digital content site. The interface wasn’t terrible, but it was just completely wrong. This, along with the Kindle for PC, was probably the worst reading experience I’ve ever had. Mind you, I have viewed serial images using my laptop’s native no-frills gallery image viewer and only minded that I had to be plugged in.
Bookmarking was the only thing the PC ereaders and digital content sites had over viewing serial images on my no-frills image viewer. I went in thinking that the PC ereaders were not only “the free version,” but also meant to be seen as stepping stones towards buying an actual device; sadly, they were merely shadows of the devices they represented. It’s possible that if the device vendors saw them as a gateway they may have put more thought into the user experience, but even if they have since I last looked or have plans to do so in the future, I don’t believe I’ll be able to look at them with fresh eyes. The Kindle for PC, in particular, had the poorest quality for digitized (legally scanned print/not initially made for digital) manga titles. I found myself suffering in the same way I would if I were reading with an old glasses prescription–they served their purpose, but I was uncomfortable the entire time.
The other thing about these tools is that they aren’t totally portable. The PC ereaders are, well, on my PC. It is a sight to see me try to curl up with one of my laptops in bed. Not only is that awkward it’s also dangerous; those suckers get hot. I like to feel all toasty in bed, but not that way. The digital content sites, in addition to also being on my PC (or phone, which is ridiculous), require that I be connected to the internet to read. I don’t like that one bit. This is why, as much as I’m intrigued by what JManga has to offer, I just cannot buy into it. It’s only because I’m fairly forgiving and a bit adventurous (and was unable to be without that one particular title) that I dared to invest in the $250 Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet even after acknowledging the reservations brought on by the free or included-with-subscription platforms. I loved the NOOK from go. I like to unplug every once in a while and the NOOK lets me get very close to the sensation of curling up with a good book. It also provides the added benefits of not having to leave the bed or the chair to switch titles or to find a pen and paper to take notes (I could never write in a book, not even text books) and not having to turn on the light when daylight starts to fade. Also, since I can’t prop my laptop up anywhere safe in the kitchen, it has really come in handy. The NOOK commercial has become a reality in my place. Two other noteworthy things are free reading and lending. If you own a NOOK, you can read a title for an hour for free when you’re in the store. Cool, right? It’s really awesome, because I can make it through a typical volume of manga in that time. The NOOK’s lending feature allows you to “lend” your titles to your NOOK friends; they don’t even need a NOOK, just the PC/Mobile app installed and setup (if that’s their bag).
One major future benefit of trading some of my physical titles for digital copies is: moving will be easier. I have a lot of books and I move every 3 years or so. Thankfully I have great friends, but the move would go so much quicker if I didn’t have so many books and the furniture needed to house them. I can hold out when I really want to, but I’m glad that I was able to accept this change. At some point I’ll be travelling full time instead of just jumping around every 3 years, so it will probably be a good thing that I started training for travelling light. The only thing I’ll probably miss is my sofa.
For me, the NOOK only has 1 strike against it: I have to have Wi-fi to download new titles. I wish I could download them to my laptop and sideload them via USB like I do with EPUBs and PDFs, but I can’t. It’s not that bad, though. I usually buy books long before I’m ready to read them, so I end up accumulating 7 or 8 titles. When I am ready to read, I can just drive over to a B&N store (the closest is less than 10 minutes away) or any store that has free AT&T Wi-fi and download them.
I thought I was going to have a difficult period of adjustment, but I coped far better with not being able to smell the new books than I thought I would. I am still filling my bookshelves with Bleach, NANA(?), and many other titles by mangaka whose work I feel compelled to own to completion in print. I can’t imagine trading in my copies of Sanctuary, Eagle: The Making of a Japanese-American President, Kare Kano, or After School Nightmare; but by starting new collections in digital format, I think my grip on the need for physical proof or a physical connection to the worlds created between the covers will loosen more and more, though I doubt ever completely.
Thanx for reading. I’d be delighted if you could let me know about your experience here, but be sure to jump over to Okazu and participate in the original conversation.
Notes: As many of you know, I’ve gone so far beyond this. I still have reservations and I’m still shelving print titles, but digital is my preference now. Since I do most of my reading at bedtime, reading on my tablet is much more convenient. And it’s because of that convenience that my digital library gets read many times over; for some titles, this is the only reason I’ve been able to reread them 25+ times.