Until very recently, I was a huge opponent of e-readers as a viable form of reading. I was fully devoted to paper and hardback. But that has changed. Have I finally matured? Well that’s debatable. I’ve merely come to accept the convenience of e-books.
Here’s what I like about e-books. Convenience and portability. If you have a large library of books, or you don’t have room in your current residence to store books (which can take up considerable space), an e-reader may be your best bet. But carrying around my entire library was never something that appealed to me, so I don’t really see it as a pro.
Newer e-readers with Wi-Fi capabilities can allow users to download new books on the go without needing to visit a store. Often these books can be downloaded within minutes; even the thickest novels are still relatively small files. Doesn’t get much better than that.
It’s a lot safer and more convenient to read a one-thousand page book on an e-reader than it is to read it physically. Whether it’s more fun is still up for debate.I mean, the looks people give you when you pull a brick out of your bag and start reading from it, are priceless. But in those cases, saving precious bag-space is more of a benefit than naught.
The reading process is (a little) more comfortable. E-books, with back-lit screens, can be read in low light (high light, not so much). It’s more natural holding an e-reader with one hand than it is holding a book with one hand (and you don’t need to worry about pressing the pages down, preventing the wind from ripping pages). Changing a page with a slight tap is also significantly easier than flipping a page, but also takes away from the immersion of reading, in my opinion.
Here’s what I like about books. Practicality, price and appearance. It’s a rare occasion when I’m reading more than one book at a time, and I’ve yet to get the bug to re-read the books in my library (having an endless pile of to-reads will do that), so I never would have a need to carry my entire library around with me. Therefore, I’ll only ever need to have one book on my person at a time.
If we’re talking about price, the favor is often on a physical book’s side. E-books do go on sale, but they remain consistently higher than physical books (especially once you factor in pre-owned books (from used bookstores), and websites like Thriftbooks (and even Amazon) which sell books (even “new” books) well below sticker price.
Real books require only light to read. E-books, no matter how efficient they are, rely on a charge, which during an apocalypse, could be harder to find than food.
Something that’s subjective, but part of the reason why I love books so, is the atmosphere surrounded by books. So many minute things make up books that are lost in the digiverse. As strange as it sounds, the feel of the pages (whether they have torn, uneven edges, or are gold-leaf) helps create atmosphere before the first word reaches your eyes. Is there a thicker page half-way into the book that has a map or a drawing sketched onto it? You can tell just by looking at the profile of the book. Small things like impressed covers also rarely translate over well into e-readers.
If you’ve ever walked into a used book store, the scene can be quite intimidating: dusty shelves and creased spines all around. I love it. A thousand books in a used bookstore might fill all their shelves, where on an e-device, a thousand books might fill the device’s memory. You certainly don’t feel like you’re a time traveler swiping through an e-library where you can by looking through a used bookstore. Also you can tell how loved a book is by its status before you even open it. How creased is the spine? Are there numerous dog-eared pages (for the record, I’m generally against page mutilation). Is the cover faded from years in the sun? All of these things help build the particular book’s character. You simply don’t get character like that from e-books (mostly because they’re often non-returnable).
But more on that in a later blog post.
So why the sudden change of heart? Well. In a word: library. Since moving, I’ve decided to join my local library. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the library has an e-loaning program (in partnership with Amazon) that allows me, in the comfort of my own abode, to download books and install them onto my e-device. I don’t need to ever leave my home, can have ten books taken out at a time, and don’t need to worry about forgetting due-dates and having fines (since they’re automatically removed after two weeks).
My verdict? E-books are not the spawn of all things evil in this world, as I had previously imagined. But ultimately, if I’m going to spend money on a book, I’ll spring for the physical book and save the space on my e-reader for library books.
Photo Credit. Pixabay User: jarmoluk