How big is an ebook?

How big is an ebook?

How do you know how big an ebook is? It’s obvious for a physical book, you can look at it, see it size, pick it up and feel its weight. Flick through the pages and in an instant know if it is all text, alive with photos and drawings, big or small writing and how many pages. I did not truly realise how an ebook can grow and shrink in size like Alice in Wonderland. In fact an Ebook sounds like one of Alice’s strange creatures, lurking undercover, ready to pounce, gobble and hook any book.

It was not until I wrote Yellow Earth that I fully realised an ebook’s size is an illusion. In draft, it varied between five and six hundred pages. In iBooks it is listed as 517 pages and is 517 pages on my computer.  On my iPad it is 574,  an increase of 57 pages. But on my phone it is a whopping 1983 pages. Almost quadrupled in size, yet counter-intuitively, still the same size. Many weight-watchers would love to do that. Dieting abandoned with one sharp intake of breath.

I appreciate font and device size do have an impact but the certainty of physicality has been stolen. Our 3D world of touch, sight, sound, taste and feel is evaporating. Replaced by dimensionless worlds within worlds. Several hundred years ago a metaphysical question was how many angels can dance on the head of a needle? The question now is how many angels can read an ebook on the head of a needle? The answer is the same as us. Our focus and associated space is as dimensionless as an angel. Which in one sense is reassuring, our world may have changed over the centuries but its dimensions have not. We thought virtual reality was modern and new – surprise!

So the answer to the original question, I now realise, comes down to a simple answer – depends how you devise it.

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