Quick tip for reading fantasy on e-readers

Here’s a quick tip for reading big fat fantasy novels on e-readers. Particularly fantasy books with a MAP (or maps) at the front.

Take a digital photo of the map with your phone. This makes it so much easier to refer to the map while you’re reading the novel.

The lack of navigability of e-readers is their biggest drawback compared with tree-books in my view. I really miss flicking around within the pages of a novel — whether to refer back to specific passages I’ve already read, or forward to see how far it is to the end of the chapter (they’re not always marked). Or flicking forward to see what happens. Ahem.

Yes, you can ‘search’, but I’m rarely after something searchable in my experience. Yes, you can ‘goto’ a particular section, but that is nowhere near as efficient as flicking back through a chunk of pages and finding the place you want to check. And then you have to somehow find your way back to where you started, when you could have just had your thumb stuck in the spot…

Moreover, the buttons on my non-touch screen kindle are really clunky to use.

When it’s a big fat fantasy, and there’s a map you might want to refer to from time to time, it’s all the more frustrating. I know not all readers refer to the maps, but I do, constantly. Once, when I was reading fantasy on my e-reader, I found a copy of the relevant map online and printed it out, then had to carry it around with me while reading the book.

Taking a photo of it is so much easier. (Added 19 Jan: This includes taking a screen photo of the map from within the kindle/e-reader app on your phone — which actually results in a much better quality image.)

Anyone else got any e-reader tips?

20 comments

  1. I don’t usually run into issues because when I read a novel, I just read through without wanting to refer to different parts. That being said, you should be able to create bookmarks on any page you want, so if you see a page or section you want to easily hop back to later, you could bookmark it. You could also bookmark your current page before you jump elsewhere, then use that bookmark to return to where you were at.

    The navigation tricks you can do will depend on the specific device or software you’re using, but most of them have a few neat little things you can do to make getting around easier.

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    1. Hmmm. I have a few thoughts in response to that:
      1) with my clunky kindle it’s MUCH easier to find a photo on my phone than navigate through bookmarks (re the map thing)
      2) when it comes to general navigation, I invariably do not know when there’s a section I may wish to refer back to at the time I’m reading it… 🙂
      3) to be honest I don’t really like the idea of having a bunch of random book marks. It offends my sense of symmetry. Go figure. :-/

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      1. I would think an e-ink screen would be less satisfying to use to look at maps than an LCD or AMOLED display, so the phone thing sounds like a pretty good idea, even if the size is a bit small. I’d maybe try find a map online and print it out if I wanted to refer to one while reading a book.

        And I don’t really use the bookmark feature much myself except to mark my current place in case it gets lost. Whenever I read, I generally just go from beginning to end without doing any flipping. The only problem with that is I have moments where I forget something that happened earlier that later becomes important and I’m all like, “Wait…what?”

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        1. Taking a photo of an e-ink screen is not exactly ideal in terms of resolution, but it does the job. Grabbing one offliine would be better, but I don’t know how often they’re available. I have done that and printed it in the past. Although I would now probably try to save it onto my phone instead!

          As for flipping while reading… I’m a BIG flipper when reading a paperback. Reading on an e-reader is curing me of this to some extent, simply because it’s so inconvenient to flip. But I really like to be able to back to earlier passages to cross-reference. I find on the kindle I don’t need to use bookmarks for marking where I’m up to, because it remembers pretty well — unless of course one goes flipping around. Then I would imagine it getting confused!

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  2. This is exactly why I still carry my huge Song of Ice and Fire books with me in my bag, even though my shoulders ache from it. It’s flickable!
    I really need the family trees at the back of the book…

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    1. Oh, yes, family trees are another essential reference in a lot of fantasy and grand epics. I imagine I would do the same thing in this case — take a photo. Although if the family trees and character lists are stuck at the end, chances are one wouldn’t even be aware they existed until reaching the end. How frustrating would that be?!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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      1. Even in the paper version, I didn’t see them until halfway through the book! I would have never noticed them in an ebook.

        Oh, and they are about 10 pages… Taking pictures could work, but it’s still easier to flick 🙂

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          1. Though ebooks have many more advantages, turning a page still beats swiping for me 🙂 I’m trying to convert myself, but apparently I’m still in favor of destroying those poor trees!

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          2. I really do think there are pros and cons of both… It’s a personal thing. There are still some books I’ll try to get in paperback if I can. But increasingly I’m finding ebooks easier to get hold of.

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          3. I might become a true believer if I get myself a proper ereader(not always easy when living in Denmark) instead of reading ebooks on a phone or a tablet.
            Until then, I’ll continue to drag around my heavy tomes(too bad I went away from hardbacks, they made good weapons!).

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  3. As a fellow lover of Big Fat Fantasy Novels, I think that’s a great idea! Unlike Michelle, I buy my George RR Martin books in ebook format because of the size/weight. I do miss having the ability to flick back to look at clues after a revelation comes out, or to easily check the previous section of whatever POV I’m on.

    The worst, though is travel guides. Last year I travelled through four countries in a row, so I brought all the guidebooks on my e-reader. Again, it saved a lot on weight, but flicking back and forth was a pain, and with travel guides you want to do that a lot. The other problem was that some of the maps were too small to read on the ereader screen (which also applies to fantasy maps).

    Having said all that, since I don’t want to perish under the weight of my own library, I’ll continue to buy ebooks (in addition to paper books…can’t give those up completely!) and take note of tips and tricks like yours. 🙂

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    1. Glad you like my idea, Siri! Like you, I’m buying more and more books for my e-reader — mainly because it’s so much quicker and easier than ordering paperbacks online (and bookshops these days don’t seem to carry much SF). And yes, I know what you mean regarding the size and resolution of fantasy maps…

      As for travel guides… I haven’t resorted to e-books yet. For my trip last year I carried a travel guide and a bunch of highlighters and tabs. That’s just the way I like to travel. Fortunately I was only going to one region — I don’t know what I’d do in the event I needed three or more books to cover a trip. I guess I’ll wait and see…

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  4. On a Kindle, you can bookmark anything you need to refer back to, like a map. Yes, you have to then pull up the menu and use “Go to Notes and Marks,” but it’s no worse than flipping pages. Also, the X-Ray feature is wonderful for sprawling sagas with a huge cast of characters, fantasy or otherwise. You can see all the character and place names, and if the publisher has provided the right info to Amazon, you can get a description of who that person who suddenly reappeared after 10 chapters is.

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    1. Wow, that X-ray feature sounds kinda cool. Pretty sure my old kindle doesn’t have that feature. Of course, as you say, you are dependent on the database info being provided in the first place… But thanks for the tip!

      As for the bookmarking thing. From the discussion here it’s obvious a lot of people do use bookmarking, but I don’t like it. Maybe it’s just because my kindle is old and clunky and the buttons are hard to navigate. I imagine the newer models make that somewhat easier. For me, right now, taking a photo of the map on my phone is easier and more convenient. I look forward to having a more modern device when it may not be necessary! 🙂

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