“I like the feel of ‘a proper book’, turning the pages, holding it, smelling it…” This is an argument I often hear from those who reject e-books. Do these people have some kind of paper fetish? Would blank pages or mediocre writing suffice as long as we keep chopping down loads of trees to produce the books?
Well, I don’t consider myself any less of a book lover just because I embrace e-book devices. In the short time that I’ve had one, it has only reinforced my view that it’s the words and writing that make a book precious, not the format.
Another point that appears lost is the question of whether it really has to be one or the other anyway. I am still reading p-books (paper books, not proper!) and expect to continue buying them for many years to come. There are some that are still difficult to get hold of electronically, and sometimes you might want a neat package just as you might want a CD boxset rather than MP3s.
The impending death of the p-book has been greatly exaggerrated. The vast majority of books sold are still paper copies, although the e-book market is eating into that by the year. The p-book probably has at least as long to go as the 35+ age group, and they are the ones that are likely most concerned about its alleged demise. There will still be a place for specialised bookshops and is losing soulless High St. bookshops like Waterstones really such a great loss?
One of the obvious advantages of e-books in general is the space that they save. My bookshelves are already overflowing. If I can reduce the number of paper books that I buy in the coming years by 50% or more, then all well and good. Not to mention being able to go on holiday with just the one “slim volume”.
That slim volume is the Amazon Kindle. After weighing up the options for some time, and waiting for the prices to come down, I decided that overall it was the best option for me. I’ve actually found it easier to carry about than a lot of paperbacks due to its skinniness. I felt at first that I was holding it more carefully and was of course more scared of dropping or losing it than I would be with a paperback.
Part of the cost is immediately paid for with the amount of classics that are available for free or for under a quid. This provides an opportunity to read some books that I might otherwise never have got round to, as well as clearing some more shelf space – some of my less prized classics can go to charity shops and I’ll still own them.
The ‘sample a book’ section is one of my favourite things. I’ve downloaded a few I really wanted to read. So it’s now up to the writer to impress me enough to want to buy their book in the opening 20 pages or so, rather than persisting for a longer time as I have done traditionally. There may be pros and cons to that, as some books you have doubts about take some time to warm up. But a book should be making an impression from the start. This could be a good timesaving device by quickly finding out if something is likely to grab you or not. Perhaps I should’ve been more ruthless a long time ago, but once you’ve bought a book you feel like you should persevere, whether you’re enjoying it or not.
I don’t really care whether or not I’ve persuaded you to buy an e-book reader. The chances are that you are either thinking about it anyway or are dead against them. Do we need them? Perhaps not, but remember that about ten years ago many of us were saying the same thing about mobile phones and before that the shift from records to CD.
Read my e-book The Iberian Horseshoe