I’ve had an e-reader for a little over three years now and I’m finally ready to weigh in on the debate: E-Books vs Real Books.
I have always loved reading. Delving into the stories and getting lost in the author’s imaginary world. If someone asked me what a book was about I would describe the plot and the characters struggle. I would mention some of the more unique aspects of the world inside: Gulliver Foyle’s ability to “jaunt” in This Stars My Destination, the resurrection express in To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the real hobbling scene in Misery. It had never occurred to me the describe the binding, paper quality or general heft of the book. I never said, “The Pillars of the Earth is great story but don’t read it, the book is really heavy and a pain to haul around.”
This is why it came as a surprise to me when I encountered such vehement opinions on books vs ebooks. To me it was the story inside that mattered, not how the story got into my head. But, I blow with the wind so I figured I should have an opinion and dig in my heels whenever the topic came up.
In weighing the pros and cons, weight obviously became a factor. If you’ve ever moved an extensive home library, you’ll understand that ebooks have the edge there. However, they lost out when it came to showing off. When someone first walks into my home they have to pass by the bookshelf. Without having to tell them, they can instantly see what a smart person I am. One quick glance and they know that I’m better than them. Forcing them to browse my kindle library is time consuming and has been awkward at best.
When reading a horrible book, real books are clear winners. You can’t slam a kindle, nook or tablet in disgust. Well, I guess you can but it would get expensive. Likewise, using a tablet as a missile isn’t even on the list of options. I guess you could hurl it at an intruder if it was a life or death situation, but you wouldn’t just throw it across the room to make a point. A real book excels at this. The fluttering pages rip through the wind drawing all kinds of attention and, if thrown just right, it slams flat on the ground with a tremendous smack that commands respect. You don’t have to say another word. Throw an iPad like that and the next thing you say is, “Nobody move. Would someone who is wearing shoes go get a broom.”
Also, there is no better place to hide something than in a book. I’m reminded of Henderson the Rain King in which Henderson’s father used cash as bookmarks and Henderson’s habit of going through the books on the shelf looking for the cash. I thought this was a great idea. I had my house broken into before. They didn’t touch the books. They’re heavy. They’re worthless. And, my guess is, the crooks were completely baffled by what all the funny markings on them were. But, if you had a tablet lying around, you can bet it would go in the pillowcase with everything else, because it has Angry Birds on it and criminals love playing Angry Birds.
So physical books are really better at the physical things. But ebooks have some great points, too. I’m basically a child. Also, I’m a big fan of immediate gratification. If I see a book I want to read I can be reading it seconds later. And they’re usually cheaper which is important to me and other people that use money to buy things like food.
I can read anywhere. Even if I don’t have the book with me. If I’m stuck in a long line at the grocery store, I can pull out my phone and read. If I’m on the train for some weird reason I can pull up the book to the page I left it and disappear. If I’m in the middle of a conversation and the person is boring me, I can instantly access someone who is better with words.
True, people can’t see what I’m reading. The ereader doesn’t have a dust jacket to tell them that I’m in the me too club of the latest bestseller. And, as I said, when I’m done it can’t go on a shelf as a another conquest of my staggering intellect. But, it goes one better. Once I’m finished reading I can instantly update to multiple social networks “I’ve read another book and you haven’t. Good luck keeping up with my brilliant mind” and it doesn’t seem braggy because Facebook said it for me. So there’s that.
So after three years I though I had finally come down on the side of ebooks. But then Amazon launched a program where I buy the real book and get the ebook for free. I no longer had to decided. Now I can get the ebook instantly and still have the real book around for throwing across the room, smashing bugs or Jason Bourning anyone that busts through my front door.
So in conclusion, just get the story into my head. Because, that’s what a book is and the delivery doesn’t matter.
As long as it’s not an audio book. Don’t get me started.
All of my print books are available at Amazon and come with a free download of the ebook.