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Man with e-reader that says "People who gave up on this book also gave up on..." and shows several other books.

It was the best of tomes, it was the worst of tomes

It was the best of tomes, it was the worst of tomes published on Purchase print

I’ve become a lot more ruthless about giving up on books than I used to be.

Time was when it would take an act of physical coercion to get me to abandon a novel, no matter how tedious or disturbing I was finding it. But somewhere along the line, I closed one too many back covers thinking, “What the hell was that?”

Maybe it was trudging my way through the back half of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS that pushed me over the edge. (It was ambitious as hell, this being Philip K. Dick… but damn, it was a mess.) I do distinctly remember bailing on Tolkein’s The Silmarillion with exactly zero sense of guilt.

Since then, I’ve become a sudden-death reader, tossining books aside for reasons ranging from misogynist writing to an irritating authorial voice. I dumped one highly-recommended book after the first few paragraphs made me realize I was in for two hundred pages of ersatz Neil Gaiman without the insight or wit.

I’ve dropped out of really, really good books because I could feel the clouds of grim foreboding, and wasn’t prepared to follow the narrative down into the depths of despair. Maybe someday I’ll develop the strength of character to return to Mistry’s A Fine Balance, but sweet mother of pearl, was that ever bleak.

Then again, I was wowed by the brilliant Fall On Your Knees, where the plot basically goes “Oh, you thought what just happened was bad? It’s actually so much worse than you think.” And where a novel gives me a perspective I can’t find elsewhere, or explores an idea I’m encountering for the first time, or is otherwise funny and entertaining as hell, I’m a lot more willing to hang in there.

What it comes down to is, in a world filled with terrific books, life’s too damn short for meh.

Okay: your turn. What’s your mid-book deal-breaker? What’ll make you toss a tome, reject a read or spurn a screed? And what books have you given up on?

E-book cartoon shows (kid holding paper book) It's okay, I guess. I just miss the tactile experience of swiping to turn the page.

A real page-turner

A real page-turner published on 2 Comments on A real page-turnerPurchase print

My reading has reached the point now where there are some books I prefer to read on paper (e.g. mystery novels), some on an e-book reader (e.g. science fiction and other novels), and some on a tablet, so I can see the diagrams in glorious colour (e.g. software guides).

And I suspect this may be where we land for quite a while, with our reading spread across several platforms depending on which one does the job we need it to. Print books aren’t dead yet, and won’t be for a long time.

Print newspapers, mind you—I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in Canada at least, the days of the printed local urban daily newspaper are coming to an end. (The economics in the U.S. are a little different, I know; the legacy of CanWest/Postmedia debt casts a long shadow over the whole industry north of the border.) My wild-ass, irresponsible prediction? The costs of printing and distribution are going to sink them within (takes breath, looks to the ceiling) three years, except for maybe the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.

And then in three more years, we’ll all be laughing that we ever thought e-readers and tablets were going to last… and then go back to reading J.K. Rowling’s latest, laser-projected onto our retinal implants.

(woman using mobile device) I keep dialing, but I can't get through to Hachette. (Caption: #1 most-reported issue with the Amazon Fire Phone)

Number one most-reported issue with the Amazon Fire Phone

Number one most-reported issue with the Amazon Fire Phone published on 1 Comment on Number one most-reported issue with the Amazon Fire PhonePurchase print

I’m not going to pretend I’m indifferent to whatever Jeff Bezos unveils at tomorrow’s announcement. There are all sorts of rumours of cool 3-D razzamatazz and drone technology a leap forward in online search.

But market dominance, technological disruption and all that stuff aside, I’d just hate to see the Kindle — yes, proprietary platform, DRM and all — drift once and for all away from its roots as an e-reader. I like the fact that my Paperwhite lets me read and do very little else; there’s no constant temptation while I’m reading to sneak away and check Twitter or play with Draw Something. (I’m looking at you, iPad.)

Great moments of 2011: Rekindled

Great moments of 2011: Rekindled published on 4 Comments on Great moments of 2011: RekindledPurchase print

I think I’ve said this before. But no matter how interesting the book I’m reading is, no matter how important the subject matter, no matter how well-written and absorbing – if I’m reading it on the iPad, I can constantly hear the whispering of all the apps I could be using instead. That said, I read a lot of stuff on the iPad (both iBooks and Kindle), and I imagine the same would be true on the Fire.

On a related note, while we were flying back from our holiday a few days ago, my daughter looked up from her book, past me and my iPad, and over to the device in the hands of a passenger across the aisle. Her eyes went wide: “What’s that?”

“It’s called a Kindle.”

“It looks just like paper! Is it electronic?”

“Yep.”

“Wow.”

One last longing glance, and then back to her book.

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