Aug. 1st, 2008

heron61: (Default)
When I was a child and teen (way back in the 1970s), I read truly vast amounts of SF. Most of these novels were around 150-250 pages long, and I could easily read them in a few hours. Regardless of whether they were by John Brunner, Ursula K. LeGuin, Robert Silverberg, or Andre Norton, I read then exceptionally swiftly, easily reading a book an evening. For the past 15-20 years or so, I haven't been able to read books nearly that fast. For a while I simply thought I read books more slowly, but in the past few years I've been reading more older SF again, including books that I haven't previously read, and I find that I can read books from this era as rapidly now as I could 30 years ago.

Part of the reason is obviously that (in part due to the availability of word processing technology) novels are now significantly longer, with a typical SF novel being more like 300-350 pages now, and some weighty tomes being considerably longer. However, I've also noticed that it often takes me twice as long to read a 300 page modern novel than 250 page novel written in 1970, so length is clearly only part of the issue. Is standard SF writing that much more complex now, are the common fonts or font sizes slightly different now, so that there are more words per page (which doesn't seem at all true from a brief scan of half a dozen novels I have lying around from the 1960s & 70s and a similar number of novels from the late 90s to 00s), or is it simply that I read books of the style and type that I grew up with faster than more recent works?

Has anyone else experienced this difference in reading speed? Does anyone have an explanation for it?

On a vaguely related note, I am once again struck by the fact that up until the early 1980s, it was possible to be a general SF fan, in the sense that you could easily keep up with all major novels being published while also reading enough short stories in the magazines to know who the upcoming new authors were. For at least the past 25 years, SF publishing has grown at a tremendous rate, and has also become separate from fantasy publishing so that now there is no possible way that anyone who did not spend almost all of their time reading could keep up with SF in the same way that a serious but not monomaniacal fan could 35 years ago. The genre has splintered, sub-divided, and separated and so my internal assumptions about SF as a whole have been rendered nothing more than historical curiosities. This is made even more true in my own case, because I have always been interested in speculative fiction from the 1920s & 30s. It was relatively easy for me to read a significant percentage of the non-horrible works written back then and thus gain a very firm grounding in what 1930s SF was like. It's far more difficult to describe what 2000s or 1990s SF is like, since (in comparison) the field is so broad and so large.
heron61: (Default)
Since making this post, I've done more thinking and looking and have decided that (as several of you suggested) there isn't a device that does everything I want. The iphone 3G is the closest, but unlocking it will perpetually remain troublesome and its camera is distinctly substandard. So, my thought is to purchase (in a couple of months, when my finances recover from the move) a mid-range phone with a high quality camera and GPS, with the leading contenders being the Nokia N82 & the Sony Ericsson C702, with the Nokia N82 being by far the most likely choice. That covers having a good portable camera, GPS, and a phone all in one convenient package.

However, I still need an ebook reader, a pda, a convenient media player, and a mobile internet terminal that will fit in my pocket. Given how my Sony Clie is doing, I also need one fairly soon. There are really only two options that I've seen, the ipod Touch and the Nokia n810. I remain undecided. The physical form factor of the n810 wins hands-down. I love the large high-resolution screen, the keyboard looks slightly easier and faster than the ipod Touch on-screen keyboard (although according to all reports, speed and ease of typing for both devices are effectively identical). However, I've tried keyboards similar in size and design to the n810 and I've also tried the keyboard on the ipod Touch, and while neither is anything I'd call good (and both would obviously improve with practice) I still prefer a dubious hardware keyboard to a screen keyboard. Techy discussion and questions continue here )

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