I suppose I should say, “Ereaders disguised as tablet computers, hah …” because what I actually have is a cast-off Kobo Vox. (You know how when young, you’re always dressed in older siblings’/counsins’/neighbours’ outgrown clothes … well, being on the somewhat poor side of getting by, that’s how I get my technology, too.) An in-law moved up to the latest device, so I inherited his old one. I’d decided that switching to buying ebooks for much of my fiction reading would be a good move, now that so much is published for trade paperback rather than mass. Gave him a good excuse to buy a new toy while doing me a favour! I loathe trade paperbacks. They take up too much room, yet are less durable than a mass market, more prone to splitting spines if read more than once. Non-fiction trade size is different; it’s usually better bound and printed on better paper, but the soft mass-market quality paper used for much trade fiction gets its corners beaten up so quickly just in day-to-day living, and if you actually carry them around with you … anyway, my study is becoming filled with teetering heaps of trade-size sf. (My ideal physical book is a nice little hardcover, the sort in which Everyman is currently reissuing all the Wodehouse. However, the publishing industry does not, apparently, exist to gratify my library format desires.)
So … for a week now, I have been wrestling with the Vox. First I needed to remove my relative from it, as I really didn’t want to read his email. Then, well, you know how it is when you move into a new space or whatever, you have to sort of scurry around and put your own mark on it, make it yours. Change the wallpaper, re-arrange the furniture, scatter your things around. Or in this case, remove a number of Gutenberg Jack London works. Can’t stand Jack London. (Sorry. But I can’t.) Then I discovered a cache of every cover of the Economist from the past year, which were apparently automatically saved every time he read an issue of the magazine. Eek! My device is full of photos of smug fat rich men! Got rid of that. Deleted the multiple browsers and reader-programmes and settled on one of each, plus an anti-virus, in addition to the hardwired-in Kobo stuff. I wonder how you do all that hunting in the depths and deleting of memory-devouring rubbish on the next generation of “Let us do your thinking for you” tablets, which you can’t connect to a computer at all in order to actually see their insides? The Fisher-Price navigation method (randomly hit big colourful buttons and hope something happens) incites tooth-gnashing very quickly. Then assorted collections of emailed photos. Ah, that’s where all the memory went.
After several days of that, it was time to buy an ebook. Diana Wynne Jones’s posthumous essay collection Reflections was my first purchase from Kobo, and to my surprise, it all went very simply and efficiently, without any trouble at all. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised; that’s what the thing is for, after all. (Since the ebook of Blackdog is available from Kobo for all ereaders that handle epub files, it’s good to know first-hand that purchasing it is so straightforward! Come to think of it, The Storyteller, which has a ‘foretale’ to Blackdog in it, has been out as an epub through Kobo for a while too.) Then it was time to consider the actual reading experience. More hunting around and randomly hitting buttons — well, not that random, as I have in fact read the pdf manual. Twice. All ninety pages of it. Yay! I can make the reading programme look like my old preferred writing programme, WS 4.0 — well, with a nicer font and everything, but … white text on black screen, and the brightness turned quite far down. Lovely! I find it soothing. I don’t know why. Maybe it evokes days long ago, working on my first books, pre-Windows. Actually, I went on running Wordstar in a DOS-shell for years after Windows computers came along. I like MS-DOS, which, I suppose, is why I don’t like Fisher-Price buttons on grown-up machines. Maybe the Vox isn’t a grown-up machine?
So there I am, reading my book. But I bought the edition of Diplomatic Immunity that came with the disc of ebooks of earlier Bujold in it, so I decided to put those on too, and there the tooth-gnashing commenced again. Since it couldn’t see the micro SD-card (I think I’ve since figured out how to do that …) I ended up going through long processes of finding directories, putting files into directories, as epubs, zipped, unpacked … nothing worked. Gah! And then I found this little bit of instruction on how to put such epub files onto the Kobo Vox. Victory! So simple. If someone tells you about it. So essential, as old travel books on Gutenberg have in the past been frequent research reading for me, back in the days they were all text files.
Now, I thought, I can sit down to read.
That’s when it crashed and the screen froze. Couldn’t turn it off. Couldn’t turn it on. It was frozen halfway through entering my password to open it. ARGH! This was not, I thought, going to solve the great stacks of trade paperbacks problem after all. Much consultation of the web disheartened me. There appear to be many forums devoted to the Kobo Vox’s tendency to drop irreparabley dead of a frozen screen. Where is a ^/alt/del when you need one? And finally I found it, on the actual Kobo website. Hold the power button down for six seconds. Not more, not less. Finally it will shut down. Then, turn it back on. Hey presto, a reboot!
Finally, I could sit down to read Jones’s essays.
Heavy muzzle laid on ereader. “Hey,” said Mister Wicked. “There’s a blizzard out there. I’m getting in touch with my Inner Husky. Let’s go for a walk!”
“What are we having for supper?” asked the Spouse.