Not that it’s hard on the eyes. Not that you can’t really curl up with a laptop in the same way as you do a book. Not that if you’re iPad battery dies you’re up the creek unless you specially buy an elongated charging cable. Nope, none of those are the real problems. The real problem is two-fold…

One real problem is that reading online material can be a freaking treasure hunt to find each piece of a larger opus that has been scattered like pollen in the wind across the whole Internet. Even before the rise of self-published e-books, amateur authors filled websites and online communities with their stories and artwork. A simple search for any topic of your choosing will reward you with page after page of results to browse. Most are crap, but some are interesting with well-developed characters and plot. Sometimes, you get lucky and the piece is presented in its entirety for the reading pleasure of the viewer. Most often, though, the situation is different – the piece is broken into chunks, probably indicating the author published individual sections as they were written. Sometimes all the chunks are on one website, but often the writer changes websites at some point and you have to navigate through different sites to get the whole story. And if you want other tales by the same person, you probably need to hack through the Internet again to find individual stories hosted in different places. And, there are the times that a piece is referenced somewhere but it doesn’t seem to exist anywhere. It can take hours of searching to find a lonely copy stuck in some obscure archive no one tends or reads anymore. And sort of leads to the next real problem…

Online work often winds up unfinished and there is nothing more frustrating than reading through 10 chapters of some piece that interests you to find there isn’t a Chapter 11 and the story just crashes to a halt sans resolution. And you know the story isn’t going to be completed because the publication date of the last chapter was 2 years ago and the writer has been writing other things since then. It was simply abandoned. Maybe they got sick of it, maybe the comments on the story were disheartening (if it was presented in a forum or blog that allowed commenting), maybe they got stuck and couldn’t think of where to take the story next. Regardless, the reader gets a big dose of frustration for their trouble. Some story archives do take the time to state up front whether a piece is complete or incomplete, but most don’t. I’ve been driven batty things too many times to count. Get invested in a piece and wind up staring into the void at the edge of a cliff. This killed me the other night reading an online comic. Read volume 1 and volume 2 and then…. nothing. Volume 2 ended in a heart-shattering place, with unresolved conflicts and the protagonist in a terribly tragic scenario. Needless to say I raced through the vast series of tubes that make up the Internet and find out the story. The author died and the publishers elected not to get someone to complete the work. OK, I guess I can excuse it then. But, I did feel better knowing that the story was supposed to continue and the poor boy at the center of the piece would probably get his happily-ever-after (this type of story classically ends this way and the ever-afterer had already been introduced). But, I still will never get to read how it all turned out, I can only use my own imagination.

Today, I’ll probably spend some time reading through some online comics to unwind after dealing with my painters all day and I hope I hit the jackpot and all the stories are complete and compiled in one spot. If not… well, then it will be normal day just like every other one…

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