When I first heard about ebooks, I thought, ‘no, I’ll stick with paper and ink’. Like many readers, I couldn’t imagine snuggling up on the couch or in bed with a piece of electronic equipment. But now, I have an ebook reader and I do snuggle up with it. I also carry it in my handbag where the print sized copy just wouldn’t fit. Not only that, but I also buy a lot more books than I did before.
What are the things we love about printed books?
Books feel good to hold. Each one is a unique and tangible entity with a different weight, size, smell and texture. You can have them signed by the authors and look at their lovely covers. You can easily write notes on them ( in pencil of course) They show how much you love them by their dog ears and tatty covers.
What’s the down side of print books?
They cost quite a lot, fall apart, take up space ( do you ever have enough shelf space for your ever growing collection?), are heavy, ( have you tried traveling with a book or shifting house with boxes of them?) and few of them fit in your purse. Their physical size means that your local shop can’t stock as many of your genre as you’d like because they don’t have the shelf space, and if you order from overseas, postage is expensive.
So what’s so great about ebooks?
They’re cheaper than print copies and can be bought instantly on the internet with no postage costs. The only space they take up is on a hard-drive. You can carry hundreds of books in your handbag. (I know you don’t need 100 books in your handbag but you get the point. It means I never have to be without a book) A holiday’s worth of books won’t put your suitcase over the twenty kilo limit. They’re also lighter to hold. They bookmark automatically, so when you open it up, it’s set where you left off.
What’s not so great about ebooks?
You can’t look at the cover on your shelf. You don’t have a tangible book to hold, just the reader. It’s not so easy to flip through to find a section you want unless you already know the page numbers. You have to charge it. It can freeze up or otherwise stop working, (even a tatty book can still be read). It’s not so easy to make notes (okay once you get used to doing it, but cheaper models don’t have that option at all).
Things that aren’t good at the moment, but will improve.
- The contrast in the screens could be greater.
- The price of most good ereaders is still not cheap, though comparable to a good sized ipod. The ony reason the prices of Kindles have come down is because Amazon is trying to overtake the market. Consider whether you want to have options other than Amazon before buying a kindle and consider whether you want to contribute to market monopolisation by one company.
- You have to be aware of different file formats and have confidence in buying via the net.
- At present, not every book is easy to buy in ebook form;
- There are geographical restrictions and some stores’ systems are tricky to negotiate. I’ll do another post on this too.
Some questions people often ask about ebooks.
- Can you read them outside in the sun? Yes. They’re great in the sun.
- Are they hard on your eyes? Not if you get an e-ink one (most are e-ink but some of the cheap ones aren’t) Reading on these ones isn’t like reading on a computer, because they aren’t back lit.
- Don’t they feel hard in your hand? Compared to a paper book, yes, but some designs are better than others. Look for curved edges. Some even have padding where you hold it.
- How do I know which kind to buy? I’ll do another post on this. It’s certainly important not to rush into it.
Once you have an ebook reader does it mean you won’t buy print books anymore? Not necessarily. Some won’t, some will. You’re not going to buy an art book for your coffee table on ebook, or a picture book for your child.
For the kind of novels that I regularly consume, I’ve decided that I’ll buy the ebook first because it’s cheaper, and if I like it so much that I know I’ll read it many times and it has a really great cover, then I’ll buy the print copy as well. I’ll also buy the print copy of books in a series that I know I’m going to love. For example, I bought Iron King in print, then got my ereader and bought Iron Daughter on ebook ( The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa). I loved the second book so much, that I’m going to get it in print as well as any others in the series.
My print books will be real treasures. I suspect that you’ll always find Cassandra Clare’s books in print in my house. Compare it to movies and live theatre, recorded and live music. We still have both.
How do you feel about reading electronic books? Is it a matter of choosing one or the other, or will the future have a place for both in your life?
Sue Guiney says
This is a great post. Clear and concise and very helpful especially since my own novel will soon be coming out in ebook form and I keep wondering who will buy it and why and what does that mean for my paperback version. But I guess writing is always about taking great leaps of faith – this is just one more. Thanks.
Must admit, the idea of e-books does not appeal to me one bit. However, I was exactly the same with MP3 files (I don’t do Apple products, so no iPod for me ever) – Anyway, it took me years before I finally tried downloading music instead of buying the CD. Thing is, I still buy CDs even now and transfer them to MP3 files so I can listen on my MP3 player. Will I ever give e-books a try? Maybe in a few years. I’ll wait for the technology to improve and perhaps become something that appeals to me.
jennifer janes says
Being a bit of a bibliophile, I have been very vocal in my opposition to e-books.
However, coming to retreat every year with a backpack full of essential books, and then flying on to the USA to visit the kids, with more reading material, has given me pause to think. I am now seriously considering an Ipad. Do you know if I can download to it thro’ Zam?
Plus, it won’t bug my retreat room-mates if I read in bed as it has it’s own light source (far more stable & less disrupting than a torch),
How funny you should post this. I wandered into my daughter’s old room, now the spare room since she’s become an adult. I store all the books I’ve read but don’t want to throw away and wish I could donate somewhere in there. They’re taking over the room. If I’d bought them on an ereader, I could lovingly look back at them, bookmark favorite parts.
But, what keeps me from buying an ereader is you can’t share books on them. I’d have to give someone my entire ereader. In my family, we pass a book through 2-4 people before it ends up in that spare room. When they allow sharing, I’ll buy one.
Epub files should be able to be shared. I can slide the files onto my memory stick and put them onto another computer, so I don’t see why I can’t import them into the reader libraries attached to that computer too. I can also read them on different readers on my computer.
I don’t know about kindle files though. we’re talking here about sharing with close friends of course.
Hunh. I didn’t know that. What kind of reader do you have?
OK. I don’t know much about a Sony, but that’s a big plus in my book.