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To E-book or Not to E-book?

I love books. I love paperback books. I love hardcover books. And I love e-books. I adore my Kindle. Each one has advantages. Each one has disadvantages.

Physical, dead-tree books use, well, dead trees and that’s a resource that can be expensive. Publishers are also using considerably less rag in their paper these days and that’s why even those $29.95 hardcover books look ratty and yellow after only a few years. Some of those hardcover books are (hello, Stephen King’s “Under the Dome,” I am talking to you) so physically enormous, so heavy, so unwieldy that a disabled person such as, say, myself has quite a bit of difficulty dealing with it. I finally gave up on “Under the Dome,” in fact, and gave it to a stronger-armed friend. Thankfully, she gave me the book in a Kindle version. Win/win.

Likewise, I love George R.R. Martin’s books about Westeros, the ones HBO has made into an excellent series, “The Game of Thrones.” Also giant books, even in paperback format. I bought them for the Kindle. I doubt I could have handled them in any other format.

Another pro-e-book argument: If you are sick and it’s 4 AM and you want something new to read, well, if you are a devotee of the physical-book-only, you’re stuck. If you’ve got a Kindle and an internet connection, however, you’re good to go. You can find, buy, and download something new in minutes. Heck, if you’re lucky, you might even land on a free book. Win/win/win.

Do I really need to mention that I can walk around with 3,500 or so (theoretically at least) books in this one little device? My Kindle makes packing for a trip enormously simpler. And lighter. I used to have to pack an entire small (okay, medium) suitcase with books. Now I take the Kindle. I can carry thousands (again, theoretically) in my shoulder bag. Wow. What a concept!

From the perspective of the author, too, there are advantages. Upload your e-book and then discover (ack!) a glaring, horrible spelling error. Go in, find the file, fix it. If, on the other hand, your book is a print book, well, you’re up That Infamous Creek till the next printing (if there is one) when changes can be made.

Ah, but making notes in the margins is ever so much easier with actual, physical, paper books. There is a note-making function on the Kindle, but it’s awkward for me. I don’t use it. Maybe other people find it usable, but I don’t. And this is my blog and my opinion.

Also if you’re trying to refresh your memory on, say, page 450 about something that happened somewhere around page 100, it’s so much easier with paper pages. You can fan through them and look for something familiar, a word, an event. Something. It’s much more difficult with an e-reader. Not impossible, but more difficult. Yes, there’s a search function on the Kindle (the only e-reader with which I’m familiar, honestly), but if the only words of the passage you’re trying to find are common ones, you’ll come up with 700 locations and that’s just not terribly useful.

Is the e-reader going to be the Death of the “Real” Book? Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know. I do know that over the weekend I bought three hardcover books from a bargain shelf at a bookstore, two new hardcover books from Amazon, and four e-books. Am I a typical reader? Probably not. There are people who don’t buy that many books in a year. And that, my friends, is a rant for another day.

2 Responses to “To E-book or Not to E-book?”

  1. demilo19 says:

    Goodness, you make good arguments for e-readers. Like a smartphone (or even a grown-up cellphone), I am dragging my feet. I will probably get an e-reader before a smart-phone tho.

    However one thing I really do want is something that I can either make comments on/highlight or even dog-ear pages. You don’t understand the intricate system I have devised for dog-earing pages. I often write down quotes from a book and I have a system gosh darnit!

    But the idea of having so many books at my finger tip? I mean I already am reading stories on my iPod – an e-reader will be so nice because I can have so much more on hand.

  2. MAPC says:

    If you ever get an e-reader, you are apt to fall in love.

    All kinds of books, paperbacks, e-books, hardcovers, whatever, I love ’em.

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