Thursday, January 21, 2010

do ebook readers do poetry any favours?

I've had an ongoing interest in all the discussion around e-book readers for some years now. For obvious reasons. And I'm not sure all the current flurry about the new Apple tablet and the like will be a big advance.

In other words, I've never been convinced by the slight clunkiness of e-book readers and still am not (quite), though I relented late last year and bought one. No, not a Kindle. I didn't like the idea of that enforced connectivity nor do I have endless cash to pay for it. I bought a decent little device, the Ecoreader, that works offline with all the main formats, including pdf and text files.

Mainly, I wanted something that I could use to read poetry books and manuscripts, my own for checking, and works by others. Also for the endless document files I have hanging about. Something lighter and more compact than a computer, that used epaper, that in fact saved endless printing but might also offer some pleasures of reading in a different way.

But what actually happened? I ended up using it to take on my holiday to read old books (meaning free, legal works in the public domain) partly because the price of etexts still seems too high, but mainly because I just wanted to give it a whirl as cheaply and quickly as possible. That included getting hold of a whack of poetry including Emily D, GM Hopkins, HD, Bill S, TS, WB, DHL, etc etc.

And I found a big problem which I wonder if others have overcome. Reading prose works was mostly no problem. There was the odd bit of formatting glitch but it was bearable and the reading experience was something I got used to. But, try as I might, with the various formats, I found that the poetry was either wrongly or oddly formatted as is, and if I tried to enlarge the text (OK, my eyes ain't as good as they used to be) the formatting would go skewiff at best, and beresque at worst - in other words, did not handle line breaks, indents and stanza breaks.

One solution with my own manuscript, which I was actually in the process of finalising, was to format it in a large font size then pdf it. But that really doesn't do the trick. There's a point past which you really cannot go. My screen size is that of a normal kind of book, it's not teeny tiny.

So, I am wondering if anyone has given this issue some thought and has some practical advice. Meanwhile, I will keep pressing on with my library of classic texts, which has been nice anyway.

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