My husband and I (as the Queen likes to say) are both keen readers. My husband devours books, and although I don’t read as voraciously now as I used to, always have at least one on the go. Just shy of a year ago, I got my first e-reader, a Kobo. I gave my first impressions here after reading my first e-book. Shortly afterwards, my husband couldn’t resist taking a bite of the Apple, and we got our first iPad.
I was always a bit of a purist. I have always loved books for their aesthetics as well as their content. There is nothing like the feel and smell of a new book. The smooth cover, the pristine, unspoiled pages, the promise of a new world, exciting discoveries, wrenching emotions and new friends all waiting for me between the covers. So I really wasn’t sure what I would think about using an e-reader. I was prepared to try though – I’m always open to new technology.
These days at least 50% of the books I read are probably e-books, and I’ve read a number of books on both our e-readers. I see others debate the value of e-readers versus books, so thought I’d wade in. (I’ll compare the Kobo and iPad in another post if anyone is interested).
What I prefer about e-readers:
The Kobo (very similar to a Kindle) is very light. It’s brilliant to take when we are travelling. And you know we like travelling. I just load it with a bunch of books, and my bag is several kilos lighter. It’s also lighter in my handbag, and I don’t have to worry about the pages getting bent. An iPad is heavier, but takes the place of a paper diary, notebook for meetings, laptop etc, so does double duty.
An e-reader (Kobo or iPad) is much easier to read when eating or drinking. I do a bit of reading in coffee shops, with a nice cup of coffee. The other day I was having breakfast in a cafe, and was keen to start a Hilary Mantel book a friend had loaned me. After two pages, my coffee and toast had arrived, and I put the book away, and pulled out my iPad. I couldn’t keep it open to read, AND eat or drink at the same time. An e-reader just sits there, and the page turns with either a press of a button or the swipe of a finger.
Shopping is so much easier. I keep a list of books I want to read, as recommended by friends or when I hear reviews on National Radio. When I shop for books, I’d either write down a few titles, or print out my whole list (from Goodreads), and go find them at my favourite bookstores. Buying a book was a deliberate act. I rarely bought books on impulse. Now though, I can (and have) bought books on impulse. I can buy books when I’m in bed, using my iPad and connecting to Amazon or another site. If I run out of books, I don’t have to wait till I can get to a bookstore. I have them all at my fingertips.
E-books are cheaper. Yes, I miss the cover art, and the reviews on the back. But I’m prepared to sacrifice that if it means my books are about 30-50% cheaper (often more), and I can buy more of them. Books that were published some time ago are actually very reasonably priced as e-books, and so I tend to buy books I wouldn’t purchase otherwise. It actually widens my reading experience.
Holding an e-reader is actually easier, whether it’s in bed, at the breakfast table, or on the couch. I don’t have to keep the pages apart. I have arthritic tendencies in my hands (a genetic issue for me), and recently found reading a paper book to be quite uncomfortable.
I can change the font and font size on an e-reader. As I age, and my eyesight changes, this is a real advantage. It means I can read and watch TV at the same time, and not need to take my glasses off.
I can highlight phrases (on Kindle/iPad) or passages that I love, and want to go back to, and they’re really easy to find again.
On Kindle e-books, I can just select a word and look up its meaning instantly. This is particularly helpful when reading anything written by Stephen Fry. Though he even manages to defeat – quite frequently – the Kindle dictionary.
I don’t need the light on if I’m reading on the iPad in bed late at night.
What I prefer about books:
I can see them on a bookshelf. I like bookshelves. Once archived, I could forget I owned an e-book. But it’s hard to forget I own a paper book when it’s on the shelf.
I can loan out books, but not e-books (much to the chagrin of a friend of mine), although there may be a way to do this if we both had e-readers. I’d have to figure that out.
They’re more attractive – if it’s a good cover. But then, our bookclub always gives an annual Best and Worst Cover award. We frequently find there are a lot of ugly covers out there. And we rarely agree on the best. To each their own. Still, I miss the artwork in an e-book.
The proof-reading seems better. I’ve found a few formatting and even spelling errors in some e-books. Annoying! This rarely occurs in a paper book, though occasionally you come across pages that haven’t been cut properly.
A book doesn’t need to be re-charged, and you don’t have to wait on a plane until they say you can switch on electrical devices to be able to read a paper book.
I know when I’m coming to the end of a paper book. I recently read Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel – A Pale View of Hills – as an e-book. I forgot to look at the gauge that shows how far through the book I am. (It is easily over-looked). And suddenly, I found myself on the last page. I gasped. I had been completely absorbed in the story, and felt as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown over me. The abrupt ending was a rude shock; it would have been much kinder in a paper book. (I found myself tempted to say “real” book, but that’s not fair to e-books, even if it shows a bias).
E-books are much more practical and convenient. I love my e-readers, and would totally recommend them. Yes, there is a degree of romance and nostalgia about an old-fashioned, paper book. But don’t dismiss e-readers just because you are attached to the smell and feel of your books. After all, the important elements of a book – the story, the characters, the landscape and the language – are the same in both. Give an e-reader a try. You might like it.