Last month, I stumbled upon a blurb that made Susan Rieger’s newish novel The Divorce Papers sound like the next What Alice Forgot: a book that reads like chick lit, with staying power of serious fiction.
I downloaded the ebook and got to reading.
As in popular novels The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Anne of Windy Poplars, the plot of The Divorce Papers unfolds through letters … and emails, legal briefs, depositions, interoffice memos, financial worksheets, and case summaries.
I enjoyed following the novel’s paper trail, and not just because my background is in the legal field (although, blessedly, not in family law). It wasn’t the next What Alice Forgot, but it was entertaining enough.
And then I finished the book, and forgot about it.
The next time I was in a bookstore, I spied a copy of The Divorce Papers prominently displayed on a “new fiction” shelf. I stopped to page through it, wondering if the hardback rendering of all those legal documents was any different than in my Kindle edition.
Well. I had no idea what I was missing.
When I opened the hardback, I was stunned to see that the depositions were formatted as actual depositions. The cases were formatted as proper legal cases. The emails look like emails; the pleadings look like legal pleadings. In the Kindle edition I’d read the correspondence, but I’d missed out on the fancy letterhead of the U.S. Court of Appeals and the swanky (and scumbag) law firms involved in the divorce proceedings at hand.
Those details changed the experience.
Within 10 seconds, it was clear to me that The Divorce Papers was engineered to be experienced on paper, not on an e-reader. The difference was substantial, even for those who had zero legal background.
I’m not a hardcover snob, even though I still read more hardcover books than ebooks. I think some books are better when experienced digitally.
I remain skeptical of those who say ebooks are taking over the world. In my defense, I present Exhibit A: The Divorce Papers.
Have you read a book that’s clearly superior in hardcover format (or as an ebook)? Tell us about it in comments. (I can only think of one other book that was much, much better as a hardcover, but I didn’t have the stomach to finish it. I’m wondering if one of you will mention it here!)