Books vs. E-Books || An In-depth Comparison

Ebook in Stars

Hello everyone, I was asked to compare print books and e-books for a class assignment. It occurred to me that while I’ve seen lots of book bloggers compare the two based on their personal preferences, I’ve never seen a post compare them based on their functionality. I thought reformatting my assignment into a blog post would be a perfect way to change this.

Extra credit if you can figure out what subject this assignment was for. 🙂

Bluejay Feather

Cover Vs. Cover

Paperback books have a spine and cover to tell readers what they’re about before opening the book. This is possible via books’ titles and illustrations. Books’ titles must summarize a book’s content in a single word or phrase. Books’ cover art must further their titles’ goal by conferring elements like a book’s tone and setting.

Spine vs. List

The books’ spines allow for stacking them side-by-side along a bookshelf while still being able to see a books’ title and a small segment of the book’s cover art. This allows many books to be displayed side-by-side at once.

E-books lack spines but their titles are often displayed side-by-side in a long list. This is similar to a bookshelf in that books are organized by titles, like at a library, and the title remains the first thing readers see.

Sometimes, books’ covers accompany their titles to provide the reader further information about a book. This display function is a better metaphor for when someone pulls print books off a shelf to examine their covers than a bookshelf.

Page Vs. Page

Both print books and e-books divide content into sections known as pages. Pages make it possible to read books without being overwhelmed by their length, while, in the case of print books, also providing yet another method of being easily stacked.

E-books don’t need to be stacked. Pages instead provide readers with an experience more similar to reading the print books they’re familiar with. E-books have limited screen space.

They can’t display the whole book at once because that would make the text too small to read. The e-books could have solved this in another manor, like scrolling on a webpage, but instead their designers chose to solve this problem through pages similar to a print book.

E-books often include arrow symbols. These symbols alert users to the need to click to the next page as opposed to the scrolling common in webpages. This might be confusing to someone who had only ever read things on the computer and never used a book.

Customization Vs. Eye Strain

Another feature e-books have added to print books is their customizability. E-books allow users to change aspects like the font, the text size, and the page color. This makes e-books more accessible to readers with accessibility issues like low vision, color-blindness, and dyslexia.

Before these readers would have had to rely upon large print and books with non-conventional page formatting, but now, they can use the same product as other users.

Audiobooks vs. Reading Aloud

E-books are also sometimes bought alongside audiobooks or have functionality that otherwise allows them to be read aloud. This allows greater functionality for both blind readers and those who enjoy multitasking or switching between formats.

Heavy Books Vs. Charging Time

E-books are great for those who would have otherwise needed to carry around large numbers of heavy books too. E-readers and e-book apps allow readers to carry around the equivalent of their entire bookshelf wherever they go.

Then again, print books do not require charging and can be less likely to cause eye strain. They also provide a print representation for avid readers to enjoy and treasure.

Conclusion

Personally, there are some situations I enjoy reading e-books, but print books have a definite appeal. Print books are beautiful, but e-books are great for a busy life where it’s a burden to have too much to carry.

As for functionality, e-books are in many ways more functional than print books. The exception comes when people do not have constant access to electricity. In these cases e-books are completely useless.

In other words, if it’s the apocalypse, print books are superior.

Bluejay Feather

Best assignment ever, am I right? Okay, so I was kidding about the extra credit I mentioned at the beginning, you still won’t guess which class this is from. Print books or e-books? 

Hope this wasn’t too technical. 😉 Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

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Critiquing My Old Writing || Part 1

CritiquingI’m hesitant to share this now because it’s the first fiction I’ve shared on this blog. I don’t want people thinking I’m still this bad at writing. But, I love reading posts like this, so I’m doing it anyway.

In this post, I’m sharing the first chapter of the first book length thing I ever finished, written when I was 15 years old. Needless to say, please do not believe the quality of the chapter below in any way reflects my writing today.

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Some context

This draft was around 65,000 words. I never titled it, but often referred to it as Martian Murder Mystery. This temporary title is a good description of the plot: a murder mystery set on Mars. Not that this is apparent from this prologue. Oh, and there was also time travel. Lots of time travel.

The most embarrassing part is that the draft below is the revised edition. Back then, I though the only editing writers needed to do was fix all their grammatical errors.

I do have some plans to reuse my favorite aspects of this novel in future drafts (e.g. the plot and some world building elements), but have abandoned the idea of publication for this specific project, which is why I’ve posted this prologue.

The Prologue to My First Novel Length Draft Ever

Before this prologue there is a horrible poem. This poem is excluded for the purposes of this post.

Prologue: First Contact

Mars was once a rocky planet, devoid of all life. Before that changed 75 seventy-five years ago, no one on Earth would have thought anyone would ever call it home. When I came upon the planet for the first time, I’d expected a relaxing vacation away from the pressures of life on Earth. What I got instead was something I’d never expected, something that would change my life. It all started one Martian summer day as I was giving a speech.

Ugh, why is this started with summary? Start in scene! There is no need to explain what could be explained through action, especially not at the beginning of the story when I am trying to give readers a reason to continue.

Also, dependent clauses need a comma after them if they come at the beginning of a sentence. 

Despite all of my previous speeches, the sheer number of which would have left the average person in the state of shock, this was the first I’d seen of a stage. Also a first, were the unnerving stares of the live audience. All these factors made the words of my speech more difficult, as though the very air was poisoned. However, the most unnerving thing of all was not any of these facts, but instead the expressions of the audience. Before now, I’d always wondered what viewers thought of my speeches, I’d even seen the stats, but nothing could compare to this. Never before could I so clearly see the boredom, accusations, and jealousy portrayed in the faces of many in my audience. I swallowed hard, but made sure that my disposition continued to appear confident and energetic. Showing any sign of nervousness or hesitation to an audience is to tell them that you’re not worth listening to. Despite all these things, I started this speech as I had many others.:

This paragraph is way too long, especially when surrounded by other paragraphs that are also way too long. Paragraph length should vary.

Another low-level concern is that there is way too much abstract language over language that engages the senses. I should, for example, show how Chess is making herself appear confident and energetic instead of saying she appears that way. The audience, too, should be described.

That’s another thing, Chess, our narrator, probably should have had her name stated by now with a description of herself.

“I was only five the day the world moved backwards. I may have been young, but I can still recall the way everything, every broadcast, and every person seemed to freeze a moment. The invention of the first practical method of time travel should have been a joyous occasion, or so one might think. Instead, the possible implications seemed to suddenly dawn on people. If someone commits a crime, why not go back and prevent that person from existing all together? If someone is about to be murdered, injured, or raped, why not go back in time and prevent it from occurring? Why not even go back and prevent some of the bloodiest wars in history?

So much info-dumping and way too many rhetorical questions. The speech should also be interrupted by action.

“Before the year was out, we had a war on our hands. On one side, we had everyone who believed time should be unaltered and on the other, was everyone who believed that, no matter what the cost to ourselves, we should do whatever we can to assist our ancestors and make time as perfect as possible. The two groups were called the preservationists and the perfectionists. As time machines grew more and more readily available to members of both parties, it became all too apparent that battle tactics needed to be completely revised.

The audience would likely already know most of this, so there would be no reason for Chess to say most of it in her speech. They would also mostly be asleep by now. 

“The inclusion of time travel opened the door to a literal whole other dimension of warfare. No longer could wars be won by fighting in simple battles. The members of each side would continually go back and warn their former selves and both sides would be locked in an endless stalemate. Like a song playing on an endless loop that none of them even realized was repeating. As a result, no one can say exactly how long this war (known today as the 4-D War) actually lasted, but everyone can agree on the event that ended it.

*face palms* so much info-dumping. Even my head is spinning with all this information. I could also probably even make all this info-dumping much easier to understand if I were to just rewrite it at my current skill level.

“It was 199 years ago on this day when that war ended all because one man, my father Robert Tempest, proposed a compromise. This compromise became known as the Retribution Act. It stated that true time travel, which was never properly reproduced after the Zephan Aaron disaster in any case, was outlawed entirely, and the more practical, less dangerous form of time travel known as dream travel would only be used in murder cases to force the person who committed the murder in the first place to experience exactly what their victim had experienced. People who die while dream traveling never come back…” I trailed off as I noticed something, or rather, someone behind the curtain of the stage move. I tried to pass this off as dramatic effect about my previous comment to allow the full meaning to sink in. What I’d seen had been a girl about my age, maybe a little older (or way younger depending on prospective) she had been wearing a “retribution is a crime in and of itself” t-shirt. I hated protesters, but wasn’t about to let them ruin my speech.  Something had felt off about this protester though, as though I knew her from someplace, but at the same time I was entirely positive that I had never seen her face before in my life.

Okay, here is the first interesting thing that happens in this chapter. Chess should have noticed this person sooner and had her unease intermingle with all the info-dumping.

Chess should also be sharing many more of her thoughts on the matter and how she is remaining calm in front of her audience despite this protester’s sudden appearance. That would have made it all much more interesting.

There should have been a new paragraph after the end of the speech.

Also, Martians from the distant future wear t-shirts? Who knew.

“On a happier note, many people often ask me how it is possible for me to be so young, not even sixteen and yet have been seven 199 years ago. The answer, I’m afraid, is not nearly as creative as some of the rumors I’ve heard drifting around. As is understandable, not everyone was happy with my father’s compromise, and so, small rebellions continued. It is not that difficult for someone to make the mental leap and come to realize that my father was at the top of the rebel’s hit lists, meaning that the rest of his family was not all that far behind. In an effort to protect me, I was cryogenically frozen and, as a result, became the first person to awaken from a long term cryogenic sleep lasting longer than twenty years. ”

All this information and Chess’s name hasn’t even been mentioned once?!

Besides, it was not by my choice, I wanted to add, but I didn’t because I knew the comment would be everywhere, and therefore was not worth the potential trouble it would cause: even if it was the truth.

Chess’s emotions should be portrayed in a less telly way.

“This in no way violates the laws of Retribution which only mention time travel, not cryogenics.” I wanted to wrap my speech up quickly now to figure out what the deal was with that protester, but now, as I glance at the area where she had been only seconds before, she is already gone.

Chess really should have been a lot more concerned about this protester.

“I must say that Mars is the perfect change in scenery I needed in order to celebrate this historic event in a whole new way. Even here on this planet, it is important to remember that history still links our two worlds. This is my first experience of interplanetary travel, and I must say that the trip is completely worth it. Thank you all for your time everyone! Wishing you all a happy Retribution Treaty Remembrance Day this is Aubriana Tempest.” After my speech had ended I looked around for someone who had seen the strange protester girl, but no one had noticed her: no one except me.

The most cliche end to a speech ever. There was no need for the entire speech to appear here. I could have included only the lines that were important.

I should mention that Chess is the nickname the main character goes by throughout most of the novel. Aubriana is her legal name. This in and of itself is rather gag worthy.

The last line in this paragraph is probably the most exciting thing that happens so far: that no one notices the protester and the protester doesn’t directly disrupt the speech.

Overall Thoughts

  • Most of the speech should be cut with only relevant lines shared with the reader. Those lines absolutely necessary to understanding events should be shared, the rest should be excluded.
  • Chess needs to interact with more of the characters, even if those characters don’t have speaking roles. She’s in an auditorium full of people. There should be plenty of characters around for her to interact with.
  • Chess needs to be more concerned about this protester and do more to prevent the protester from ruining her speech.
  • I need to do more to show readers why they should care about Chess. I suspect the scene starts a little too late. More about Chess can be established if I show who she speaks to before her important speech and her reaction to the need for the speech to be given.
  • Paragraphs need to be shorter and more varied. This is in part due to ungrammatical lack of spacing after quotation marks.
  • There needs to be more description using language that evokes the senses.
  • There is no reason for this to be a prologue. There is no time jump and Chess narrates the whole novel. This should be chapter one.

This is only a small percentage of what is wrong with this chapter, but there isn’t enough room in this post for me to cover everything.

Bluejay Feather

Anyone want to see chapter one or for me to critique another of my old works? Anyone else have some embarrassing old writing shoved in a drawer somewhere? Do you agree with my critique of this chapter?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Should books make us happy? A Discussion || The Empress (Diabolic #2) Review

The Empress Discussion

Okay everyone, today I’m trying something a little different and writing a discussion post followed by a review. The discussion is spoiler free. Unlike my usual reviews, this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned!

Also note that this discussion is only my personal opinion. Feel free to disagree.

Not too long ago, I finished reading The Empress (The Diabolic #2) by S.J. Kincaid. It left me conflicted.

The root cause of this confliction is this: I regard good books as books that make me feel emotion, but how many of these emotions need to be positive for me to consider a book good?

Discussion

Extreme tragedy is more realistic. People experience constant ups-and-downs. Fiction reflects this reality, but it is not reality. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily need to reflect the level of tragedy experienced in real life.

People in real life don’t often make a single decision that changes everything and leads to action. People in real life repeat themselves, are grammatically incorrect, and speak in run-on sentences.

Try as writers might, words on a page cannot and never will reflect every aspect of the world around us. Good thing too: if it did, novels would bore us all to tears.

And, yet, this makes the reality writers present in fiction no less important. Movements like “#ownvoices,” which promotes books written by someone belonging to an underrepresented group about a character from that same group, show how the reality presented in fiction might shape others perception of our own.

Herein we have the root cause of my dilemma: fiction cannot reflect all aspects of reality but the reality that is presented is of critical importance.

I suppose, then, the answer to my question depends on whether or not the depiction of extreme suffering depicted in a way that the reader feels some of the character’s emotions because they have come to care about this character so much is critical to what people need to experience in fiction to sympathize with the experiences of our fellow humans.

To this, I have no answer.

There is also the question of whether this matters in a work like The Empress, where the characters’ problems are ones we of the 21st century do not experience . . . At least, I hope there are no genetically modified bodyguards out there because if there are, I must be living under a rock.

Conclusion

In the end, it depends on the reason we’re reading. If we’re reading for escapism, books should, most likely, make us happy. If we’re reading for authenticity, then books probably won’t make us happy because life isn’t the most happy of places.

Bluejay Feather

Review

Please check out my spoiler free The Diabolic review or skip to the “Rating” section if you do not want to be spoiled!

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Last warning: spoilers ahead.

As you may have guessed from my discussion, I am still not sure how I feel about this book.

The first half is super awesome and I loved it. One of the things that bothered me about the world building in the last book was that the characters have all of this advanced technology but no one knew anything about science because science was forbidden.

In this book we have an answer. It’s explained so well, and I love the author’s idea for a space-faring society that regressed to the point where a ten-year-old today might know more about physics than the society’s emperor.

It’s the second half that left me conflicted.

It was so heartbreaking to first see Tyrus during the second half, mostly because it was hard to see Nemesis’s heart breaking. It made me realize how much I’d come to care for her, but it also hurt to see her so distraught.

I think the other thing I didn’t like about the way this book ended is that the second half almost seemed to undo the progress made in the first half. The characters made so many discoveries, but those discoveries were invalidated when most of what they discovered got destroyed.

I’m also surprised by how much I disliked the romance ending the way it did. Usually, I would love the female protagonists to have more agency and realize they don’t need a guy or, in some cases, that the guy is essentially abusing them, but seeing such a drastic change in the love interest just hurt too much.

Yet another example of how much I’ve come to care for these characters.

In the end, I suspect much of how I feel about this book will be influenced by the course book three takes.

End of Spoilers

Rating

Despite my misgivings, I will give this book a good rating because a book that can make me experience so many emotions is a well executed one.

4 blue jays

Do you read books that make you unhappy? Have you read The Empress? What is your favorite book that has left you emotionally torn? 

Please remember to flag spoilers in the comments!

I believe this is my first discussion post on my blog. If you would like to see more in the future, let me know in the comments!

 

Reader Confessions || All Readers Have Them

My Reader ConfessionsI told RiverMooseBooks I would share my writer confessions, but I haven’t written enough book related posts lately. So, here are my reader confessions instead.

Bluejay Feather

  1. Sometimes, I read the last page first.
  2. I DNF about as many books as I finish.
  3. I used to hate reading.
  4. I’ve only read one contemporary book this year. (Hoping to change this soon.)
  5. I would never be able to read anywhere near the number of books that I do without audio books.

Bluejay Feather

What are your reader confessions? Should I do my writer confessions next? Should I write more short posts like this in the future or do you prefer long, thought out posts? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Camp NaNoWriMo Day 10: On First Drafts and Imperfection

Camp Nano Graph Day 10I mentioned in my April wrap-up that I am participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. If you don’t know what Camp NaNoWriMo is, but would like to find out I suggest you either read my post about the event, or visit the event’s website. The event is almost exactly a third of the way through so I thought it would be the perfect time to update blog readers on my writing process.

My current word count is 16,685 words which, as shown in my progress graph, is far ahead of my 30K word goal. I’ve thought of raising my word count goal, but decided not to. I’m keeping my original goal because my main project for this session is a rewrite that I expect to be complete at around 70,000 words, but when I started the session 35,000 of those words had already been written.

As my main goal for the month is not to write a certain number of words but to finish this draft, I want to keep my word count goal low enough that I won’t have words remaining towards my goal when the draft is finished. There is also the fact that this is the longest I’ve ever seen the whole cabin meet its overall goal and I enjoy helping to keep it that way.

It seems odd to write a post about first drafts when my focus for the event is a rewrite, but I have much more experience with my own first drafts than I do edited drafts. Like most other aspects of writing there is no wrong way to write a first draft. There are simply ways that work and ways that don’t. Perhaps the most frustrating part of all this is that some ways that work for others do not work for you. I have, however, noticed trends.

This session my Camp “cabin” is made up of twelve participants of which four including myself have finished a novel length first draft before. What I’ve noticed fairly consistently in this session, past events, and in talking with fellow writers is that those who finish something tend to be the ones who come to terms with the fact that their first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. This is not the only factor, of course, other factors include how much enthusiasm someone has for their idea and where writing fits into their priorities, but these aspects are much harder to measure than a persons tendency to go back and rewrite the first chapter fifty times before chapter two is finished.

There are plenty of successful novelists who edit while writing a first draft, and they are not wrong to do so. Most of these writers have managed to find a balance between making their writing the best it can be the first time around and getting words on paper. To finish a first draft finding finding this balance between quality and quantity is a must.

April 2015 Camp Nanowrimo Pep-talk: Mid-month Slump

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It’s now halfway though the month of April. For those participating in Camp National Novel Writing Month this means the mid-event writing slump has come on full force. I see it in my cabin where some of my once active fellow cabin mates are struggling to balance life and writing, and I have seen it during past NaNoWriMo events I’ve participated in. In 2013 I wrote a several thousand words in the first week, only about a thousand words in the two weeks that followed, and several thousand words at the end in an attempt to catch up with my goal.

Those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo as an event or the more relaxed Camp NaNoWriMo events are probably thoroughly confused. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a month long event that takes place every November in which participants try to write the first 50,000 words of a novel in a month. Camp NaNoWriMo is an event in which participants chose their own word goal and write that much in a month because while 50K might not be an attainable goal for everyone 10,000 or 20,000 words very well might be. This event takes place in April and July.

Writing this much takes effort and discipline. The writer needs to be passionate, and dedicated to write. The motivating community factor of these NaNoWriMo events can help, without these events it took me a year and a half to write a first draft, but in November 2013 and 2014 I had a first drafts finished in about two months, and in July 2014 I wrote an entire first draft in a single month. At the same time it is important to remember that an event cannot make a writer write. It’s still up to writers to put their time and energy into putting those words on paper or a screen.

Finding time to write is hard, and sometimes next to impossible. I’m not suggesting anyone abandon a baby, neglect a major school projects, or a job for the sake of their writing. I’m suggesting that those who truly want to get a story written try to plan out their activities to make time when writing whenever possible. According to a 2013 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics 95% of US citizens participate in a leasure activity, and the average American age 15 and older spends more than five hours a day on leisure activities this means that while I can’t speak for people in the rest of the world, most people in the US have a few hours worth of time they could be devoting to writing instead of watching TV, YouTube, or reading Tumblr.

All the time I hear people I know telling me all about how they went to bed at 2 am and have absolutely no time for anything anymore. Then they proceed to tell me about that new episode of The Vampire Diaries or Game of Thrones they watched last night. Could these people have gone to bed earlier? Probably, but they decided they valued TV over sleep. Well, someone could also decide to value writing over sleep if they’re just going to stay up late anyway.

There are extremely good reasons to not have time to write, but for many people I think the main culprit is distraction. We live in the addicting modern world of the internet, and getting distracted by the internet is far easier and more fun than typing in solitude, especially once the initial excitement of the story has died down.

This month I’ve gotten lucky, and am doing much better than I expected, but it is not without sacrifice. This month I expected to only have time for 20,000 words which I surpassed on the 16th. By watching fewer YouTube videos, spending less time daydreaming, and reading fewer books I’ve been able to free up time I never knew I had. Could I maintain the current rate at which I’m writing for the long term? Unless I quit school, and put some other responsibilities permanently on hold probably not. I’ve been sacrificing some sleep as well, and I’m not one of those people who can function well in the long term without a full seven to eight hours of rest, but the point is that right now I’m finding a way to get what I want to do done, and what I want to do is write.

The April event has actually brought me out of a couple month long writing slump. Between the months of January, February, and March I’ve written only a few thousand words. Before the event my enthusiasm was building, and I now realize how much I had been missing getting those words on paper. With the exception of a few short stories I wrote for school assignments the only thing I’d written for the past three months was nonfiction. As much as I love writing nonfiction pieces like book reviews and this post, I like writing fiction even more. It just has this great quality that when I finish writing I feel as if I have created something from nothing whereas with nonfiction I feel as though I have merely complied preexisting information into a way that is easier to understand.

This month I am writing on my third draft of my November 2013 project, that’s right the same one where I suffered such a massive mid-month slump, and I can honestly say that at this time in the month I have gotten much further writing my third draft than I was at the equivalent of this time of the month writing the first draft even though this is my second time almost entirely rewriting it.

I wish everyone participating this month luck in reaching their goal, and regardless of whether you win or not, or even whether you’re participating or not, I wish all the writers reading this post luck in finishing their current project, because that’s what truly matters. If a writer loses for the month, but have still gotten closer to the finished product than it’s still 2K, 10K, or 25K closer to whatever s/he started out with.

This isn’t my usual type of post, and that I probably should have made a post about my participation at the beginning of the month, but between life and Camp NaNo I’ve just never got around to it. Regardless, I hope everyone enjoyed this atypical post and is having a great month.

If you’re participating in this month I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below! What’s your current word count? Are you suffering from a mid-month slump, or have you managed to stay motivated and pull though? If so, what’s your secret?