Art Kavanagh

Criticism, fiction and other writing

Printed books and ebooks

Another small reason to prefer the former

The last two issues of my newsletter have discussed the first two novels in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. This has meant that over the past three weeks, I’ve been consulting both books extensively. I have both an ebook and a paperback copy of the first book. I originally read In the Woods in Apple Books (probably when it was still known as iBooks) on my iPad. Then I found a copy of the paperback on sale, so I bought it for future reference. I’ve since read the paperback twice.

When writing the piece for the newsletter, if I wanted to quote or refer to a passage from In the Woods, I’d often search for it in the ebook, note the chapter, and then find the passage in the paperback so that I could refer to the printed page number. In doing this, I noticed another way in which the ebook is different from, and less satisfactory than, the printed version.

At many points, a change of scene or topic is marked by extra space at the start of a paragraph. Such paragraphs don’t have an indent as regular paragraphs do. Here’s an example:

Page from paperback edition

In the ebook, however, these paragraphs don’t have any additional space before them. Since they also don’t have an indent, they seem to follow on directly from the previous paragraph. Instead of marking a break, they seem instead to suggest a false continuity.

Page from the ebook

I’m not suggesting that this makes a huge difference to the reading experience. However, I think it does require a tiny but frequently repeated cognitive adjustment that makes reading the ebook a marginally less pleasant experience.

Anyway, I’m now wholly committed to buying and reading printed books when I can get them, even more than I was when I originally wrote about the inferiority (as I see it) of ebooks to print.

Posted by Art on 16-Feb-2021.