So I have read a lot of posts and comments on paper books versus electronic readers. I started on the hate side of the fence but I have to admit, I am coming round to agreeing that an e-reader does have it uses. Let me tell you why.
I love to read. I love books. When I was a child I would keep my books in a neat row on the shelf – Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, tales of Greek mythology and Arthurian legends. If I had a series, they had to be in number order. I enjoyed rearranging my books – sometimes they would be in height order, sometimes they needed to be in alphabetical order by author. I played librarian, except I hated letting other people actually take my books away.
OK, I sound like a really fun child to play with – I know.
I love the feeling of a book in my hands while I read. I feel a kind of reverence when looking through a big fat encyclopaedia, so much knowledge in one place. There is excitement at starting a new book in a series by a favourite author. Anticipation in trying out a new writer. Old books smell of something undefinable. The paper they are made of has a different feel to newly published books – softer, I think.
I always imagined being a grown up and having my very own miniature library in my house, which would have floor to ceiling shelves full of my books. A comfy leather armchair by a fireplace to read by. A lounging sofa in a wide window to lie in the warm sunshine while disappearing into a different world.
Now, in my own home, I have a room I call my study (the rest of the family seem to think of it as the dining room), where I work during the day. I am sneakily turning it into my perfect library by adding a new bookcase here and there and placing my books on display, while pretending to Mr G that it really is still the dining room, in case we ever want to eat a formal meal in there.
The problem I have is that I just don’t have enough room for all of my books. I have 3 large bookshelves proudly displaying all of my favourite authors, from Terry Pratchett to Anne McCaffrey, Ilona Andrews and Rachel Vincent. The majority are fantasy, but along the bottom of each book case are my reference books, the history of the English Language, the origins of myths and folklore, and some favourite historical novels and easy reading.
But – it’s just not enough. Upstairs in a cupboard are 2 more boxes full of books, hidden away when they should be out in the sunshine.
So here are my reasons for liking e-readers.
When one of my main authors brings out a new book, I like to buy the paperback. I want to have the whole series in the same format and be able to take them down off the shelf whenever I need a visit. But when I am trying out a new author, or buying some easy reading, trashy romance, one off novels I have seen recommended, I now buy them on my e-reader.
This way I can start collecting the new series if I like it, all in an e-book. And if I don’t want to read them again or I felt it was ok but not worthy of a place on my beautiful oak shelves, I can keep it without having to lose the space for something better. If it’s good enough, I will go and buy the paperback later.
When I went on holiday before the e-reader came out, I would pack my back with 6 or 7 books. That’s about the justifiable limit weight wise, before I have to consider taking out some clothes. On holiday, relaxing with nothing to do but read all day, 6 or 7 books lasts about a week. Really. I read fast.
And the problem with choosing books at the start of a holiday is that by the time I get there, I might be in the mood for something else. I may have taken a big fat trilogy, but once I am relaxing I may be in the mood for light humour.
Now I take my e-reader, and I have half of my library with me. I have choice.
If someone recommends a book that they really think I will enjoy, or I see a comment whilst browsing that entices me into reading more, I would have to wait until I could get to a shop, or buy online and wait for the postman. I am a very impatient person.
Now I can buy a book online and be reading it within minutes. Happy me.
My e-reader fits in my pocket. When I am travelling by bus or going to sit in a waiting room for an extended time., my e-reader travels with me. It’s smaller than an average book and certainly thinner, so I don’t have to carry a bag.
5. Encouraging new readers
OK – not so much a pro for my own benefit. But I know of 3 children already, friends children and my own nephew, who would never dream of picking up a book. So BORING. But an electronic gadget. Well – that’s cool. My nephew read a book voluntarily for the first time after he got his own e-reader. He is 8. If it gets kids reading, I think it’s worth investing in.
And to be fair – now for some of the reasons not to like e-readers.
It’s always a little worrying taking my reader into the bath with me. If a book gets wet, you can dry it. If an e-reader gets wet, that’s a lot of money just dunked in the bubbles. Annoying as it is when you are lazing by the pool and some random belly flop launches a tidal wave over your page, a book doesn’t break. An e-reader – well I don’t think they are waterproof yet.
My first e-reader was a BeBook. I refused to go for the Sony due to the price, or the Kindle because they only let you buy books from them. I like to shop about on the internet and go for a good price. I don’t want to be told where to buy my books.
But – my Bebook had it’s faults. Downloading updates to the software invariable took many attempts and hours of frustration. I never did work out how to make it display different formats, so I was limited to .prc – whatever that means. And when I bought a book, it was locked to the one reader. What if I broke my Bebook or lost it. Would I have to visit all the online shops and download them again. What if they had no record of my purchase.
What if I updated to a new device – as I have done. Now I have a load of books on one device I cannot transfer over to the other. I don’t want to buy them again, so I have an out of date BeBook I have to keep and charge up if I want to re-visit a story, half the buttons no longer work and every so often it jumps 30 odd pages in one bound.
In the end I caved, I went and got a Kindle. OK – now I have to buy from Amazon. But they keep all of my books ‘in the cloud’ and I can download them all easily if I ever update my machine.
As a child I hated to lend out my books. Now as an adult I don’t mind allowing trusted friends to borrow a copy – as long as I know who has it and make sure I can get it back. But you can’t share an e-book, unless you want to hand over your Kindle to someone else for a while.
Not just the cost of the device! When I buy paperbacks, I can see how much the total in my basket is growing and exercise some self control. Limit my spending. But with my e-reader, it is so easy to just use the ‘one-click buy’ option and have it downloading immediately. One at a time. So I forget how much I have now spent. It just doesn’t feel like real money, if you don’t actually have to enter your card details.
The book versus e-reader discussion is never ending. Some readers love them, some are sure this is the end of the paperback. Did I mention I’m impatient? Change the topic already.
Just let it go people. Technology may move on, gadgets may be the must have item. But a serious book lover will always cherish the feel of a good book in the hand and enjoy browsing through their own shelves on display.
There is a place for both – and I do like my e-reader.