E-readers vs. print books, revisited
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.