Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The New York Times had a story last week about how Julia Child's pathbreaking Mastering the Art of French Cooking was now available, finally, as an e-book. The article discussed the particular challenges of putting a cookbook onto an e-reader, from the often complicated layout and color photos to the concern about splattering grease onto your Kindle or iPad.

Now apparently technology has advanced enough to have column formats in e-books, and new readers like iPad and Kindle Fire have all sorts of color. As for the grease, I have experimented with downloading a Kindle single by Mark Bittman on grilling and using it. I usually keep the recipe across the kitchen on the table anyway, so the real danger, especially with a touch screen, is having dirty or greasy fingers when I want to consult it.

What would really be cool and would get me to take the plunge immediately is if somehow your entire cookbook collection would be searchable (or even your entire Kindle library because the search terms would be specific enough). The big plus of Epicurious, of course, is that you can search by ingredient or technique. This is virtually impossible to do with the hard copies, because you pick a likely book, check the index, are invariably disappointed, check another index, and so on, and usually end up at Epicurious anyway.

The only way I can navigate my print cookbooks is to pick one arbitrarily at random and leaf through it looking for likely prospects that use seasonal agreements. It would be more satisfying to go to the store or market and simply pick what looks good, then come home and easily find the right recipe.

Nonetheless, I may experiment. Paula Wolfert has a new cookbook out, The Food of Morocco, and it will be available in a Kindle edition on Nov. 15. I love Paula Wolfert's books and we have been on a real Morocco kick, so I will get one edition or the other. The hardcover print edition is just $27 on Amazon, and the Kindle edition, at the insistence of the publisher, will be $20, so it's hardly competitive given the uncertain performance of a cookbook on an e-reader. We'll see what people say.

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