Reading Infinite Jest on the Kindle versus dead tree pulp

inftjest-1 When I was a younger man sans spouse and kids, I had more time for the more diverting pursuits, pursuits like reading post-post-modern, 1,000-page novels written by genius authors who loved footnotes. Exhibit A: Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace. You can see the beast pictured here to the left. Ah, but those musty days of yesteryear are long gone. When I get time to squeeze in some reading for pleasure, it’s more often than not of the electronic, sans-paper kind. I’ve raved many times before about my Amazon Kindle e-book reader so suffice it to say it’s particularly great for reading gigantic megabooks.

So now perhaps comes the ultimate test. Infinite Jest came out for the Kindle (priced at $9.99, just a hair under the price in trade paperback, by the way). I decided I was up for a re-read, which would also give the Kindle a real challenge. Wallace included hundreds and hundreds of footnotes, well, really the more annoying variety, end notes. When reading the print book, you stumble across this (click on any of the images in this post to jump to a much bigger version of the picture):


And then you pull one of these, as you fumble around to keep your place in the text and locate the end note:


Kind of a pain in the neck, especially after the 217th time. So can the Kindle improve the end note experience? Hmm, kind of, I guess is the best answer I can come up with. Depends on your personal preference for fiddling with buttons versus shuffling pages, I think. On the Kindle, you see a note like this:


So you scroll the cursor to that line and press down on the scroll button to bring up a little menu:

infit-1Then you scroll down to the end note number (three in this case) and when you press the scroll button, the Kindle jumps exactly to that end note. Hit the back button and Kindle jumps right back to your place in the original text.

So what does everybody out in TV land think of end notes on the Kindle versus print? The comments are open.

  • Katharine Leab

    For anybody over the age of 60, the sheer difference in weight is a winner for the Kindle, hands down. For anybody who travels to places whose indigenous language is beyond the fluent reading capacity of the traveler, it's the Kindle again. For anybody who gets tired at the end of the day and wants a slightly larger type size, it's the Kindle a third time. And on and on.

  • The Kindle 2 is a bit easier (but probably no faster) due to the 5-way controller. But at least you don't have to juggle a several pound book while shuffling pages to find the endnotes.

  • Sess

    Don't be so quick to blame the Kindle. It supports a lot of ways of handling this, but it comes down to whether the publisher has done the work to mark up the text properly.

    You need to get a bunch of books under your belt, at various levels of markup and using AZW, Mobi, and Topaz formats, to get a good idea of what's possible, and which publishers are shirking their markup jobs.

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  • WassermanScruggs78

    Hello Mate, I would like to know more on this when is the next post comming

    harsel gibs
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  • Pickles

    Solution: two bookmarks.

    Your welcome.

  • Columbia21701

    I am actually doing the re-read on my Nook, and the endnote thing has been much easier than with the dead tree version. The downside is that no one knows I’m reading such an awesome book, and am therefore an awesome person. (Kidding?)

  • Guest

    I found reading DFW on the kindle infuriating.  A few chapters into Infinite Jest, the obvious solution of two bookmarks made the endnotes easy and fun to flip to.  With the Kindle, every foot note was an infuriating obstacle course AND often when trying to get back, if I hit the direction button slightly off, it would take me to the books’ very end or beginning…and since there are no page numbers on the kindle, I had to remember or guestimate what “percentage” I was at and then go to the chapter numbers, and page my way back to where I had been.  I almost threw the thing out, and then remembered I could just choose not to read DFW on it.