WHENEVER I mention to my writer friends that I enjoy reading both electronic and paper books and, moreover, that I find myself turning more frequently to my e-reader, they inevitably wrinkle their noses and — with the tone of an upper-crust British aristocrat speaking to a country peasant — say, “Oh, I much prefer paper books. I need to feel the paper. And the smell … Well! Don’t you miss the smell of real books?
Once upon a time, I would have said the same thing, superior tone and all. But now that I’ve discovered the many conveniences of e-books, I find that I’m much more likely to cozy up on the couch with my Kindle than I am with one of the many paperbacks still stacked on my “to read” pile. What happened?
The subject came to mind again recently when I read Sharon Lippincott’s blog post, Hooked on eBooks. In her defense of ebook reading, Sharon lists the following benefits, to which I found myself nodding in agreement:
- You can change text sizes whenever you want. Check.
- You can highlight as much as you want. Check.
- You can attach notes, as many and as wordy as you want — the notes don’t have to fit into the narrow margins. Check.
- You can search for passages or words. Check.
- You can share passages without having to retype them. Check.
- Ebooks save space. Check.
If you saw my overflowing bookshelves, you’d understand why I think this is such a huge benefit. When I buy a new ebook, I don’t have to find a space for it. Like Sharon, I have put myself on a paper book diet — one in, one out. With ebooks, I can store as many as I want. And if I watch the promotions and sales, I can get almost any book in electronic form for free or super cheap. Book gluttony, here I come!
Here are a few more advantages:
- I can read in any light.
- If a come across a word I don’t know, all I have to do is select the word and I have immediate access to digital dictionaries.
- My Kindle and Kindle apps allow me to store and retrieve all my notes online, which means that when I’m looking for a quote, preparing material for a new class, or wanting to re-read a favorite passage, I can perform a simple search and then copy and paste it elsewhere.
- Because I carry my smart phone around, I always have the book I’m currently reading at hand. For this reason, I’ve sometimes bought the ebook version of a print book I’m reading but forgot to bring with me.
The disadvantages of ebooks? For me, there are only three: I can’t give or loan (without limitation) my used book to a friend to read; the e-readers have to be charged, and therefore would not good to rely on if I were, say, stranded on a desert island; and ebooks don’t announce their presence by taking up space on my shelves and tables, so I tend to forget which books I own. The first problem could be solved with a different kind of licensing arrangement, the second can be mitigated with extra battery power, and the third by future technologies … for example, holographic images of book spines.
Do I read paper books? Yes, of course. Because a book in any form, and by any name, is still a book and smells just as sweet to me.
Journaling Prompt: Write about your views on ebooks and print books and explore the emotions behind your views and reactions.
Creative Writing Prompt: Write about a world in which e-books are the norm when a new technology — print — is invented. What happens?