The Problem with eBooks

Adventures in wilderness reading

Problem with Ebooks

Later this summer I will join with some friends for a weekend of camping in the mountains. It will be lovely: fresh air by day, star-filled skies by night; no phones, no lights, no motorcars. And no electricity. How will I charge my eBook reader?

I’ve always been a big fan of reading in nature. Many years ago, when I was visiting my wife’s family in Japan, my father-in-law suggested that we take a day trip to a lake located in a national park about an hour’s drive away. I started to pack for the mini vacation-within-a-vacation: swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, and two books. My father-in-law asked, “きみ、何やってるの。” After getting a blank stare from The American, my wife translated: “What are you doing packing all that stuff?” It seems that in Japan (or at least in my family), “going to the lake” is a shortcut for “going to the lake, driving around the entire circumference of said lake, stopping to take pictures at three or four famous picture-taking spots, and then returning home.”

This time, I’m going to read, and since the Well-Read Man Project requires me to consume 42 pages per day of classic content, I can’t avoid it. But I’m reading on an iPad, a device that uses batteries like my father-in-law uses lakes. If I run low on battery life at the campsite, there’s no place to recharge. I blame Congress.

Running short of juice isn’t the only problem with eBook readers. In the two weeks since I started reading on a tablet device, I’ve discovered some other inconveniences with the platform.

  • The various reading apps have limited note-taking and markup capabilities. Drawing a smiley face in the margin of a book is not an option.
  • The iPad is filled with non-reading distractions: YouTube, Angry Birds, the Brightness and Wallpaper panel in the Settings app.
  • Glare from nearby lights and anti-glare from on-screen fingerprints battle for my attention.
  • The constantly shifting page size prevents me from locating a memorable passage “by feel.”
  • If you fall asleep reading, the iPad hurts your face a lot more than a typical paperback.

Despite these problems, I’m glad I opted for an eBook reader. It’s such a convenient way of transporting and reading a sizable collection of great books. While reading at the campfire will be a race against time with the on-board battery, I’m confident I will get in my Recommended Daily Allowance of pages. If not, I’ll just take a few quick pictures and go home.


  1. If you ever you an iPad, I highly suggest the “Goodreader” app. It’s excellent for note-taking and has extensive markup capabilities. It can read everything but the e-book format. Which is great for someone reading classic books as you can find public domain PDF’s and text files very easily for zilch.

    It also has a very handy screen dim feature and can also invert the colors for night reading. I use this all the time when my wife goes to sleep. A quick flip of colors and the white background turns black, with the text turning dark yellow (you can make it any color you want). Instant darkness.

    I would also invest $20 for an anti-glare cover. I purchased one about six months ago, though wary about how well it would work. It’s been awesome! No more fingerprints and excellent anti-glare.

    The app is also updated frequently with ongoing new features. My recent favorites are the built-in browser for downloading straight into the app, and the ability to upload/download from dropbox.

  2. Thanks, Joey. I already own the Goodreader app for the iPhone, and as you said, it is an excellent tool. I haven’t gotten the iPad version yet, but I’ve thought about it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here