Query: Are You Reading Jane Austen on your eReader??

This sent from Nili Olay of JASNA-Greater NY Region – the author, Phyllis Fine had attended one of their book discussion gatherings and wrote the following for OMMA [Magazine of Online Media, Marketing & Advertising: http://www.mediapost.com/ – I am appending the whole article here: [and thanks Nili for sharing!]

 “Don’t be Prejudiced: Janeites Aren’t Necessarily Luddites”   by Phyllis Fine

The new member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) looked sheepish. “Um, I know you ladies don’t approve, but I’m thinking of buying a Nook,” she said. Some looked puzzled, and a quick tutorial on ebooks ensued. Then Nili Olay, JASNA’s New York Metro Region cochair, showed she had her heart in both the 19th and 21st centuries. “Why shouldn’t we approve?” she asked. “We want everybody to read as much as they can, any way they can.” 

Olay had a point. If you’re devoted to the classic novels the modern world has arguably messed with the most, why should you scream heresy when you now find them accessible electronically? 

In fact, Austen devotees have already seen her works invaded by the undead (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and the water-logged (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters). Faced with such indignities, some adapted and others complained. 

Not surprisingly, Janeites are also highly sophisticated, knowledgeable readers. They remember the names of minor characters in the Austen oeuvre (Darcy’s cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam in Pride and Prejudice – that’s for amateurs! How about Darcy’s housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds?), and are willing to entertain the theory that the oh-so-reserved Jane Fairfax is secretly pregnant in a shadow version of Emma. So they’re a good test of how the most literate are adapting to the electronic book. 

Polled during a discussion group of roughly 15 JASNA members, only three identified themselves as regular ebook readers. Yet these three were enthusiastic e-cheerleaders, using words like “love” to describe their relationship with the devices. 

Linda Dennery, executive vice president of benefits at Advance Newspaper Group, must keep up with the latest in media professionally, so she has both a Kindle and an iPad. 

Ann Herendeen enjoys her Kindle, “but when I’m reading a book between Austen and escapist trash, it drives me crazy,” she said. If she’s looking for a certain scene that isn’t searchable by an easy keyword, she’d rather flip through physical pages than slowly go through electronic ones. “It’s like reading through a narrow hole, a periscope that illuminates one spot only,” she said. 

Olay is an economical ebook reader: She uses her iPhone rather than a dedicated e-reader, and the volumes she reads are free because they’re in the public domain. She’d just finished reading Daisy’s Aunt by E.F. Benson and was currently in the midst of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend. 

Others in the group were yet-to-be-convinced that ebooks have value – like Marilyn Goldfried, who gave perhaps the most erudite counterpoint possible to Olay’s testimony on the beauty of packing just one small device to fulfill all your literary vacation needs. Goldfried reported that when Noel Coward was on a cruise, he lightened his book burden by throwing pages into the water as he finished reading them. 

Olay, noting another e-advantage, said, “You don’t need a bookmark; it always keeps your place for you automatically.” 

“But let’s not exaggerate the problem of using bookmarks,” Goldfried quickly retorted. 

“Well, I’m always losing bookmarks,” Olay came back. 

June Shapiro was more of a Luddite than many in the group, noting “I don’t trust a computer at all, and I would probably throw a mobile phone across the room.” And yet she said, “Good for anybody who reads Austen, any way.” 

Dennery, perhaps the most tech-savvy, related a story about how quickly habits can change: “I was reading a ‘real’ book a few weeks ago, and when I closed it, I went to turn it off in the back.” 


So, you know that I am a bookseller of fine collectible books, and we in that bookselling world I live in have been discussing this for a good number of years – and we read the daily notices of book sales down, ebook sales up, bookstores closing, and who is buying used books if no one wants new books, etc. – but I have a kindle and an iphone with ebooks on it [great in traffic jams!] and I have been listening to books on tape and cds and now my ipod / iphone for years – and I still buy books and collect books, and read books – I think that we have here just one other way to disseminate and absorb information, and if people are reading Austen on their kindle or nook, we should celebrate that at least they are reading Austen

 What are your thoughts  about reading Austen on kindles and nooks and iphones and ipads and whatever is the next  rage of the moment?? –  and are you still buying BOOKS?  please weigh in!

 [Image from MacWorld.com]

10 thoughts on “Query: Are You Reading Jane Austen on your eReader??

  1. I love my nook. Like you Deb, I have my collector editions that I stare at and take down and dust, but for paperbacks and the oodles of Austen sequels I own, that would drive you nuts, you cannot beat the ebook format. I just wish more publishers were hip and could send ebook ARCS’s instead of traditional paperbacks. They are not quite there yet, so I wait and support the authors with a purchase. It is cheaper than buying new bookshelves or a bigger house.


    • Hi Laurel Ann – yes, a problem with the bookshelves and needing a bigger house! – I agree that we will use the ebook format for those items we might not think of needing on the shelf, the collectible items – it is all these sequels, etc that ARE making my shelves top heavy! – but what about the joy of passing a book on to a friend? I do like your idea of the ARCs being passed out as ebooks – a great idea – you should lobby for that!
      Thanks for commenting,


  2. I love my Kindle and the first books I put on it were Jane’s. How else can you carry all of Jane’s books in one little space. Plus, I love to be able to use the dictionary to see what some of Jane’s words actually mean. The search feature makes it easy to look up passages that I remember a fragment of but can’t find easily. The highlight and note feature make it easy for me to jot things down for a Jane Austen book club. And, if, in the midst of a discussion and one of Jane’s books, someone would suggest a book that I might like – North and South for example, I can use my Kindle to purchase it right then and there and be reading within minutes.


    • Thanks Diane for your comments – great ideas about how the search feature is so helpful and then presto! – you can add even more books with the push of a button – and it is comforting to have all of Austen’s books on there!
      Thanks for visiting…


  3. Finally read The Mysteries of Udolpho – it was the first thing I read on a Kindle, which was easier to lug around on vacation than the MofU book itself. I liked it, especially the % completed progress on the bottom (really especially when I was reading the long effusions on nature), but I did miss the ability to flip through it. Still love “real” books, though, and won’t be trading them in any time soon, even though I lose my bookmarks all the time, too.


    • Thanks Jennifer for your thoughts – and what a good choice for your first kindle book – a real commitment! – I have the bookmark problem too – I am in a book group and anytime any one if us goes anywhere we bring back bookmarks for eveyone – we all have quite a collection after 18 years worth – but I STILL lose my bookmarks!


  4. Being able to carry hundreds of books in a handbag is lovely. I love the ability to change the font style or size. If my eyes are a little tired but I must find out what happens I can make the font very large so I don’t strain my eyes. :) Yes, I love my nook.

    As to how it’s affecting my buying books. I usually went to my local library and if it was a novel I loved would purchase it at the bookstore. Since what I mainly read are the classics my library use has gone more towards media and database research and book purchases are fewer. But they’re also a nicer volume to have on my shelf (and read with my nook) rather than a little paperback which is lighter and more comfortable to read and carry with me.


  5. I like that you use your local library! – I do the same – but buying books is my only vice -so need to now reconsider what I want in print, what to borrow, what to buy or get as an ebook – it looks like you have it figured out – it is nice to carry all those classics around, isn’t it!
    Thanks for visiting Katherine,


  6. I don’t think I LOVE my Kindle, but I like it alot, for most of the reasons mentioned above. I still treasure the feel of a real book in my hands, the smell of paper, the sound of a page being turned. However, I’m reading many of the classics I never read on my Kindle. They are easy to download, and free! One can be a book lover and enjoy all the various media to “read”.


    • Yes, Marcia! – I agree about the smell, the touch, the sound of a book [and whateever would I do with all my bookshelves!] – but like you find the Kindle and its sisters a most welcome addition to one’s book buying and reading habits – as long as people are _reading_ – that is the main point, isn’t it?
      Thanks for visiting,


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