I just polished reading “The Goldfinch”. It’s a great novel by Donna Tartt, traversing fourteen crucial years in the life of a teenage boy, and it grazes down in certain distinct locations and events that are all accurately characterized by author Donna Tartt. Last year it conquered the Pulitzer Prize, along with rave reviews from diverse book reviewers (including Stephen King). But I speculated if reading it on the Kindle bartered my experience of the book.
It’s not just that it’s difficult to pitch ahead to the starting of the book. (Although I was astonished at how many keystrokes it captures my older Kindle just to snoop back at the first third of the book. It enforced five distinct actions like pressing the Menu, selecting Go to option, pressing the Keyboard keys, typing in ‘4210 done’, and then typing ‘Location’ again and again. And it’s not just that I was missing that emptive illustration on the cover of the 1654 painting by Carel Fabritius.
The book club meeting was there on Sunday so I’d been trusting myself to cover up the eBook by trying to read 3% of the book every night. “I’m 94% done,” I blustered to my girlfriend one night, and then the next night told her “Now I’m 97% done!” The percentages appeared senseless. But it also tempted me into finding there was more to the eBook than there actually was but since it actually ended at the moment of 98%.
It turns out that the last 2% of the Kindle eBook was restrained for a better section titled “Outstanding compliment for Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch“, listing all the publications that choose it as one of the best books of the year.
Detractors are already protesting about the “overwrought message tacked on at the end as a plea for seriousness”. But imagine my experience reading the eBook and waiting for the grand message that makes sense of the pile of plot and characters that filled the starting of 775 pages, only to clear that the book has ended fantastically, at the 98% mark. After weeks of reading and waiting for that thrilling literary pay-off! This novel has already completed.
So I’d like to advise that Amazon uses the last page of a story as the “100%” mark when showing percentages in a Kindle eBook. It is a technical challenge and these additional pages might be recorded as 101% and 102%. But I think that’s desirable to the substitute. These final pages are really just broadcasting, and they’re much more important for people who are scanning a hard copy in a bookstore.
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