E-readers vs. print books, revisited

March 31, 2014 Uncategorized 12

In a recent post on the Huffington Post blog, Alice Carey bemoans the loss of bookstores and celebrates the opening of a new bookstore in Brooklyn. Along the way, though, she belittles owners of e-readers, asserting 

“I doubt the owner of the Kindle will really read any of these books. But they’ll own them. They’ll possess them, all five of them stashed away in a little gizmo in a tote bag. Literary happiness, insured by flicking through one book, then another and forgetting what they’ve read, because all words on a screen look alike.”

This is my response.

I love bookstores. I worked in several, before and after I graduated from college;  I even managed one for several years. I love browsing the books, being surrounded by them. I love the the smell, the beautiful covers, the sound of turning pages. Like many other readers, I’m deeply saddened by the loss of bookstores.

But I also like my e-reader, and regardless of some critics’ disdain, I doread on it. A lot. I read books I’ve wanted to read for ages, books I’ve read before and loved, advance review copies. Books recommended by friends or other bloggers, and books I’ve just stumbled across, browsing (yes, browsing) on various e-retailer sites. I read, and I don’t forget what I’ve read unless the book itself is unmemorable.

I like the convenience of an e-reader. I can take 100 books on vacation, and read 8 or 15 of them, whichever ones fit my mood. If the book I’m reading before going to sleep is too suspenseful, I can switch to another without getting out of bed. If I need a calming comfort book in the doctor’s waiting room, it’s there. And when my middle-aged eyes are straining to read the too-small print, I can resize it instantly.

Do I miss the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of the pages? Of course. So I haven’t given up reading print books, and I won’t stop collecting my favorites. I live surrounded by books; there are bookcases in every room in my house. My books give me joy as well as comfort. 

But I’ll also continue to read on my e-reader — without guilt. Because in the long run, what really matters are the author’s words. The rest is merely packaging – sometimes convenient, sometimes beautiful or elegant, but irrelevant once the story carries me into its own world.

12 Responses to “E-readers vs. print books, revisited”

  1. Rita_h

    I also worked in a bookstore as manager of the children/YA department. I loved everything about it, recommending books, talking to book customers, just handling the books. I also love libraries and when my children were younger we went every single week for most of their childhood and we made it a fun outing. So, where am I going with this?
    #1 I am an older female now and money is tighter for us. E-books are usually (not always but a lot of the time) a less expensive choice for me.
    #2 We move around the country a lot. Maybe a half dozen times in almost 30 years. So it is not practical for me to start a huge collection of print books. I wind up donating/gifting out all the books I have collected between moves.
    #3 To say that a book is not memorable because I didn’t handle it is silly. I have read some incredible e-books that have stayed with me for years after.
    #4 I have a wide choice available to read when I go on vacation or to the doctor’s (which we do more often nowadays).
    In conclusion: I do read print books: ones I get from winning a giveaway, used paperbacks, or ones from relatives. 99% of my books are now e-books, but that doesn’t keep me from loving the infrequent trip to Barnes and Noble and browsing for ideas and coming home with the one book I limit myself to. It’s still a wonderful experience.
    Sorry for rambling but that writer for HuffPost got on my nerves I guess. Curious to hear other people’s ideas.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      All of your points are excellent ones, Rita. Lack of space, lots of moves, the cost of books (especially hardcovers), a wide choice in a small package — all of those are among the reasons ebooks are growing in popularity.

      And that HuffPo writer irritated me, too. I wanted to point her to this post, but I’d have to sign up with HuffPost to leave a comment, and signing up requires me to give them access to aspects of my Facebook account I don’t share with those who aren’t my friends — like my friends list, my birthday, and my likes. So she probably has no idea I wrote this.

  2. Herding Cats - Burning Soup

    Hmm I always opt for print if cost is similar. But I do use my e-reader as well. I’ve never felt guilty about it but I do enjoy the experience more with a print book in hand. I just like the feel of the pages. But really it’s the same here.In the end it’s more about the story. Not the way I’m getting it.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      “If cost is similar” is one of the reasons I’ve been gravitating to ebooks, except for certain mass market paperbacks. I can still buy some romances cheaper at Walmart or Target, but for many titles, the ebook is cheaper, and my book budget is limited. Of course, if I can get the print book used, I’ll often go with that, because I do love my print books. And I still do buy print books new — but only if I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a keep-and-re-read book.

  3. kimbacaffeinate

    I love physical books, especially hardcover. Until about a year and half ago I preferred them, but my eyes have been giving my trouble..particularly small font. So unless it is available in Hardcover I chose eBooks since I can adjust font size. I read 3 hrs a day and having those reading glasses perched on my nose isn’t always comfortable. I love being able to carry books around on my smartphone and eReader.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Yes, indeedy! I have to wear glasses all the time – bifocals. (And computer glasses for working on the ‘puter, because the bifocals are too near and too far; my screen is in the middle.) But even with the reading portion of my bifocals, I’ve begun having trouble with smaller print. So I do enjoy the font scalability of my e-reader! And, as you say, the convenience for carrying the books around, as well.

  4. Mark Baker

    I don’t have an e-reader and I’m not super interested in getting one. But you know what? I am with you 100% on this post.

    • Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

      Thanks, Mark! I felt the same way for a long time… until I was facing a 3-week road trip to Nova Scotia, and didn’t think I could bring enough books to keep me going. I tend to read at least one a day on vacation, which meant I was going to need around 20 of them — and space in the van was limited. So I bought a used Sony Reader and loaded it up with freebies, bargains, and free classics. Good thing, too; not only did I use it, but my teenage daughter started borrowing it after she plowed through her 8 books in (I kid you not) the first 4 days of the trip. Even though we stopped at two different used bookstores to get her some more, she kept using my ereader, because she was in the middle of a series. So we got her an ereader of her own when we got home!

  5. Jan @ Notes from a Readerholic

    Very good post, Lark. I love to browse for books, but I do almost all of it online now. I love libraries and go to bookstores occasionally, but I do all my reading of fiction books on my Kindle. Once I got a Kindle I fell in love with it for all the reasons you talk about plus I just like reading with it better.

    I don’t mind people reading paper books and they shouldn’t mind me reading my e-books. The important thing for all of us–reading books in whatever format works for us.