Nonfiction Research and the Ebook Advantage

I read a lot of ebooks. Since I don’t have an ereader, I spend a lot of time at the computer. Depending on the individual book, I may read it on the author’s site or some other place on the web. If it’s downloadable, I read it either in Calibre or the desktop Kindle app. Mostly, I read fiction, so the possible benefits of an ereader over print hadn’t made themselves known — until today.

In the course of doing research about historical and contemporary slavery, I’m currently reading Kevin Bales’ Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy. It’s an excellent book, but has very little about slavery in the United States. What? You didn’t know there’s slavery here in our very own shining example of freedom? Right now, in the 21st century? Time to get educated. I’ll have a link or two at the bottom of this post.

Anyway — I decided to put another of Bales’ books on my buying/reading list. The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in American Today is in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle. I’ve become a big fan of Amazon’s downloadable samples, which have helped me avoid some real dogs. But The Slave Next Door is the first nonfiction sample I’ve downloaded. And even though it’s only 27 pages, most of which is taken up with the introductory material and TOC, there’s a lot of meat. The note taker and underliner in me was rubbing its hands, so I got to work. And what I suddenly realized is that highlighting and making notes in an ebook beats doing the same in a print book — by a very large margin.

Have you ever gone through a print book, looking for the exact quote or fact you want to use? You’ve underlined it, maybe made a note in the margin, even dog-eared the page. But you still have to go through the entire book to find it. In the Kindle app, and I assume, other software and physical ereaders, all the notes and highlights are grouped together. Click on the bookmark icon, and there are my notes and highlights, along with the links to the pages they’re on. Nonfiction print just took a step into obsolescence, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s still early days, though. I’m not going to find everything I want in ebook format. And used print books may be easier on my tight budget. But it’s the wave of the future. Disposable People is an older book, and it isn’t available as an ebook. I really wish it was, because it’s a bit on the heavy side, and it’s sometimes awkward trying to underline and make notes. Kind of quaint and old-fashioned, really.

Free the Slaves

Modern Slavery: People for Sale (good intro to the subject)

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5 thoughts on “Nonfiction Research and the Ebook Advantage

  1. Marvelous, aren’t they? I just got mine a couple of weeks ago. They also have built in dictionaries, but not all ebooks let you highlight. I haven’t gone through all the specs yet, but there is a way to recieve email thru amazon with a kindle, and they will convert files to format on an ebook.

    Don’t quote me on anything yet.

    I never thought anything could replace a good, old fashioned book. In fact, I would have went to war with anyone who tried to take them away from me.

    When it rains it pours: After I got my kindle, non-color with epaper–that means no back-light–a friend, in a tight spot, sold me another one with an LED screen or whatever they call it. I didn’t like that at all. Much harder on the eyes.

    End of commercial break.

  2. I doubt that I’ll ever buy a Kindle, but the desktop app is wonderful. Used to be, when I had a choice of formats to download a book to my computer, it would be as an ePub and it would go to Calibre. But Calibre doesn’t offer easy bookmarking or notes, and certainly no dictionary. Calibre is great for conversions, though. If you have an ebook that you’d like to mark up, Calibre can convert it to .mobi (the Kindle format) and you can open it with the Kindle app. I assume you can also read it on the Kindle.

  3. The ability to bookmark and write comments is the feature I love best about my Kindle, which I have had since September 2009 (before the drastic price reduction). Regarding slave trade, I am reading Roberto Bolano’s 2666 and in it, he refers to Hugh Thomas’ book The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870. I looked it up to verify it was an actual book. Have you looked at that one yet?

  4. I think I ran across Thomas’s book when I was browsing Amazon for books on slavery. There are so many, it’s hard to know where to start. But mostly, at least for the time being, I’m concentrating on the enslavement of whites, which is much less known about than black slavery, and on current forms of slavery. I have three or four books on my Amazon shopping list, but have to budget carefully, so it’s slow going. And then there’s time budgeting, which drives me crazy. So much to read, and I can’t let the reading take over from the writing.

    I just looked up 2666, but it doesn’t look like my cup of tea. I love long novels, but the little I’ve seen of magic realism (at least that’s what one reviewer called it) doesn’t interest me.

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