Sunday, November 25, 2012

Physical Books versus E-Books

If you're anything like me, you have an ereader of some kind.  Whether it be a Kindle, Nook, or something else, you have a device that you've got lots and lots of digital books stored inside of that is easily portable and holds more than your bookshelves at home do(that's saying a lot in my case).  Perhaps you have a neat protector for yours so it resembles more of a "book feel," or, like I have on occasion, maybe you've enjoyed reading on it without the protector and pretend that you're Captain Picard reading a data card on the USS Enterprise.

Too much dork-like data there?  Okay...moving on...

Let me caveat this by saying I prefer physical books - that's just a given.  There is little that beats holding the latest hard bound work from your favorite author in your hands.  It's almost like you can connect with this tiny instrument of wold pulp and ink.  I wish I could have a pill that I could apply water to, and voila - there's be a regular book for me to peruse.

Unfortunately, we don't live in Should Land.  Time stops for no one, and I moved into the 21st century last year when I got a Kindle for my birthday.  Of course, this is your basic no-frills Kindle, and I like it that way.  To show you what a primitive I am, I still have a flip phone from 2006, and it works just fine.

My Kindle, just as with other e-readers, gives me all kinds of advantages that traditional books don't.  For starters, I can carry hundreds of books with me without taking up space.  I don't have to worry about choosing which book or two to bring along on a long trip.  This greatly reduces the weight of my carry on and provides me variety in the event that one book isn't doing it for me.  Also, it saves me from figuring out what to keep and put on my shelves, and what I need to take to Book Off so that I'm not featured on an episode of Hoarders.  I can keep on my shelves only those I know I will want to go back to again and again, and it reminds me of a collection of fine wines.  After all, no one keeps a bottle of Southern Comfort next to a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Going to depending more on e-books has also opened up what I'm willing to take a chance on reading, and for several reasons.  First and foremost, e-books are cheaper than physical books(although some traditional publishers could stand to have this lesson sink in a bit more).  Since I'm an absolute cheapskate, I like that stuff I might enjoy reading is cheaper.  Second, I'm more willing to buy something that I don't have to worry about cluttering up my house.  Books spilling off shelves isn't terribly appealing, but they don't spill out of a Kindle, so there's greater incentive to open up my selection.

This isn't to say everything on e-readers is all sunshine and rainbows.  One of the best things about physical books is that I can flip back and forth.  It's easy to go back and re-read a part I maybe didn't understand, or to go back and re-live those parts I liked the best.  With an e-reader, it's a lot more of a laborious process, almost to the point of not being worth it.  Sure, I still do it on occasion, but not near as often as I do with physical books.

Then there's electricity.  Yes, a minor thing for the moment, but I don't have to worry about a power outage or an EMP with my paperback version of The Shining.  I also don't have to plug in Bloody Roads South every few days just to make sure I can read it.  I've left my Kindle on my table for too long a couple of times with a low battery and returned to find I can't pick up where I left off because my Kindle is out of charge.  My copy of Way of the Pilgrim doesn't stare blankly back at me if I didn't plug it into the wall, and waiting for such things to be finished can be maddening when you want to get back into a story.

There's also something about looking at a shelf full of books.  It can be invigorating as you decide what to select(some call it intimidating, but those guys are wimps).  With my Kindle, I can't flip through potential selections, and I can't enjoy them staring back at me.  Basically, it generates all the arousal of Sunday brunch at mom's.

I know I sound like a wheezened old man shouting for his next can of prunes.  Don't get me wrong - I love my e-reader, but I'd be lying if I pretended it fit me perfectly.  Best to say it's an imperfect solution to a problem of liking to read.  To paraphrase Reverend Oates in Coming to America, "If loving reading is wrong, I don't want to be right."  Sappy, but true.


  1. I have to agree that I like my book cases full of books (and bins and boxes!)I will highlight the best lines, or something that makes me say "Hmmm, I could use something like this..."

    So, being that I love my Rowling hardbounds, there's nothing in the world that could make me part company with them. I like to hold the book in my lap. I can pick it up a year or two or three later and read it again if I choose. Not sure if that's true with the ereader (don't care actually)
    However, it's good from the standpoint of being a writer that people do like them, and can grab my ebook for at least half or more the price of the physical book and begin reading them right away.

    I think technology has gotten beyond the scope of what we actually "need", and I'm just waiting for it to bite everyone in the butt.

    Good post, and enjoyed as always.

    1. Sorry for taking so long to respond - no Internet on my business trip to California left me behind.

      I agree with your both your points. I like that e-readers have brought more potential readers into the proverbial fold. It makes getting our work out much easier.

      As to technology, I think we sometimes advance simply for the sake of advancement rather than true need. It can be like a garden that grows out of control - sometimes, the plants grow just to grow and have no sense of purpose.

  2. Ah yes, my flip phone died a tragic death during our Labor Day vacation. I have since "upgraded" to the smart phone (Android) and I must admit that I love it.

    The same holds true for eBooks. I never know when I'll have an unexpected five or thirty minutes free. If my tablet is with me--and it almost always is--so are a slew of books. The device knows exactly where I last read in each and every book. I can highlight and embed comments. I can look up definitions. Everything is right there without me having to plan ahead and carry an assortment of books.

    But yes, I do still love the feel of printed paper in my hands. The way I see it, I have "the best of both worlds" (since you mentioned Picard.)

    1. Strange thing happened as I was returning today - the front side video on my flip phone works again(no idea why). Maybe that means it'll go a few more years. :-D

      BTW, "The Best of Both Worlds" was far and away the best TNG set of episodes. I'll never forget the sense of both dread and anticipation when the camera circles Riker and he ends the season with, "Mr."