Reading Reflections: An EBook Tricked Me

This past summer, I got in the habit of reading Victorian classics on my HD2 phone1 But this is not a story about ebook readers being wonderful2. It’s about how one of the books I read tricked me. Or maybe I’m just really dense or ridiculous or …. what does the following story say about me?

I got free copies of a number of Trollope books from Oxford World Classics this past spring, but when it came time to read one, I ended up reading all of Can You Forgive Her? on my handheld. Before I began reading, I flipped through the hard copy to see how many pages. I always do that. I often read the entire last page first. I like it. I don’t believe in spoilers. Don’t get mad at me: I’m not the only one.

At any rate, Can You Forgive Her? was 420 pages, which is much less than a few other novels I read this summer. Wow, that must be really thick paper! I thought.I didn’t reference the hard copy again. (Sorry, Oxford World Classics. It’s a very pretty book on my shelf!)

I read the book on my handheld. It took forever. I didn’t really like it. (Read my rambling afterthoughts.) I was very frustrated. But I persevered! I was not going to be conquered by a book that was less than 500 pages! The “percent completed” on the bottom of the Freda screen got higher and finally, finally, finally. I was finished.

I wrote up my thoughts on it and moved on. Then I started thinking about reading another Trollope book for the upcoming Trollope Classics Circuit tour (Sign up before November 3!) and did some page count comparisons online (i.e., I look at how many pages each book was in the product descriptions). The next one in the Palliser series is 700+ pages according to Amazon! But it looks smaller than Can You Forgive Her? on my shelf? I was confused.

That’s when I realized: Can You Forgive Her? was more than 900 page. In the Oxford edition, the volumes restarted the page numbering. Are you serious? Did I really read a 900-page novel?!

I didn’t notice because it was an ebook.

I have a new appreciation for ebooks. I have a new appreciation for not reading the number of pages first. I think I would have been scared off from it. True, I didn’t like that particular book, but it wasn’t one to be intimidated by at all! It makes me wish I had a particular huge book in digital format so I wouldn’t be quite so intimated. Before I began book blogging, I didn’t notice page numbers! I kind of wish I could go back to the blissful ignorance of how few books I’ll get read in a lifetime if every book is over 900 pages.

So what does this tell about me? Has anyone else been “tricked” into reading a very very long book? Or am I just a weird reader?

  1. As it is a Windows Mobile operating system, I use a free ereader called Freda to access .pub files. I’m very satisfied with it, but I wouldn’t mind trying a Kindle app if they ever choose to make one! The Barnes and Noble nook app that came installed on the phone did not allow me to import my own free ebooks from Project Gutenberg; a nook account and B&N purchase were required to use it, and I was not interested in that. It also was very annoying to use and I could not sort books into folders.
  2. Although it is wonderful! I really enjoyed the flexibility. Since I always have my phone with me, I could read anywhere I went, from walks to the park to the doctor’s office, to the library where my son did puzzles and I read. I also enjoyed being able to read after my husband was asleep: I didn’t need a light since it is backlit!

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I’ve started to read e-books (or i-books, to be specific) on both iPhone and iPad and I like to be deceived by the number of pages! Of course, in the former it makes it look as if I am reading far more pages than I actually am… I was struck last night by how clever it is to be told at the bottom of the page how many pages remain in the chapter; when I read a physical book I am forever flicking ahead to see how many pages are left in the chapter and loathe long ones!

    1. Claire (Paperback Reader), mine just says “percent completed” which I think helps me NOT keep flipping back and forth! But yes, in the physical copy, I’m always checking. Interesting to me how different the reading experience is on a digital reader!

  2. I haven’t actually been tricked by an ebook yet, but I do find it difficult to picture how thick the books would be in physical book format. I have a Sony PRS-300 Pocket Edition which has a small screen meaning less words on each page, so it looks as if the books are a lot longer than they actually are.

    I’m signing up for the Trollope tour, by the way. I loved my first Trollope book (The Warden) and it’s time I read another one!

    1. Helen, Even though it looks longer on a small screen, I still like the fact that I don’t have to see how thick the physical book is! It is intimidating. I’m glad you like the Warden and hope you enjoy whatever second book you pick!

  3. Rebecca, you have just pinpointed one of the reasons why I love my ereader. I find it makes huge books (which I normally find really intimidating) that much more approachable, in part because I can’t really focus on how much of the hulking tome lies before me and am less caught up in page counts, which I tend to overly obsess over. I also like ereaders because they simply make larger books that much easier to read physically… I can’t imagine holding a 900 page book comfortably in my bed, but with an ereader, there’s no bulk to deal with. When I attempt Trollope, I’m definitely doing so on my ereader!

    1. Steph, I am a bit worried about reading War and Peace with my beautiful new doorstop edition! Your thoughts are just why I like reading on my handheld too.

  4. That’s one reason why I don’t think I could ever use an e-reader. I need pages to turn, and a bookmark, and I need to be able to gauge my progress easily. But I just started Orley Farm and it’s the same, it was published in two volumes so it goes up to about 400 pages then starts over! When I try and track my progress on Goodreads it’s only numbered up to p. 415. I wonder if I should correct this with my librarian status. I guess that’s the way the book was originally published. I do find it annoying though.

    And how lucky you were to get all those free copies of Trollope! Sorry you didn’t like the first one. My first Trollope was The Way We Live Now and I just loved it.

    1. Karenlibrarian, I am often the same way and never thought I’d like an ereader. But to my surprise, I’ve found it’s quite freeing to NOT know how much is left.

  5. Oh, that happened to me, although not exactly the same. I had a paperback copy of Daniel Deronda waiting for me at home, but the sheer sixe of the book kept me from reading it. On my eReader, it is just a file next to a lot of other files. It does say 700 pages at the start, but still it doesn’t seem to have as much weight for me as the size of a book. And so I started reading, and I was finished before I knew it!

  6. I don’t have an eReader and really can’t stand reading on a backlit screen, so I’ve not yet had this problem. How interesting, though–it never would have occurred to me that in eBook form, no book is physically larger than any other. That’s so odd to consider! I have a copy of Vikram Seth’s 1500-page A Suitable Boy awaiting me. Maybe I should get an eReader just so I don’t feel so intimidated!

    1. Erin, interesting that the backlit screen is uncomfortable for you. I love it! I can’t imagine using a Kindle or other kind of ereader without a backlit screen. I will never buy a digital reader that requires a light on to read! But isn’t it fun how there is something for everyone? It’s fun to see the books all become the same size on the ereader. You should try one sometime — although find one without a backlight!

  7. I was tricked by my Project Gutenberg version of Turn of the Screw recently. I thought the book was longer than it turned out to be. I was so into the book and my progress bar said I was at 93% and then I turned the page and it was over! The rest of the “book” was all PG stuff about licensing and digitization and the project itself. So I was expecting the book to be longer than it turned out to be.

  8. I have never thought of this aspect of ebooks, although I have thought a lot about how sad it would be not to be easily able to flip to read the end of ebooks. :p But actually, that is kind of a good thing. And I imagine it would also be easier to abandon a book for the same reason – if I carried on reading it for a while and wasn’t enjoying it, I wouldn’t have to feel like I was hitting a mandatory minimum of pages to read before abandoning it. Huh.

    1. Jenny, I guess that’s why it was nice having a hard copy too, so I could go read the last page, lol. But I do like the ebooks. I’m finding some books just don’t work in e format though. EMMA was one. I had to have a hard copy. Maybe because I knew I HAD to finish it and I wasn’t enjoying it.

  9. Ha, I appreciate e-books for that very reason! During the first semester of this year I read A LOT of classics as e-books, and it was much easier than if I had picked up physical copies. Sadly I don’t own an e-reader and my current routine doesn’t allow me to read for very long on the computer – I kind of really miss it!

    1. Nymeth, I don’t think I could read on a computer. I like the portability of my phone/ereader. I’m sorry you don’t have access to an ereader right now, but at least you have a great library now, right!?

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