This weeks writing challenge from Daily Prompts asks “How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?”
I love a paperback. There is nothing nicer than browsing through a bookstore looking at all the covers, picking up the odd book and reading the back cover and inside the front cover before deciding to buy. I also love the feel of a paperback in my hand as I read.
There are also the technical advantages, a paperback doesn’t need power and you can read it in a wider range of light levels such as a sunny beach. I’ve also found a number of e-books with terrible quality control, particularly in fiction. One notable example was one of John Marsden’s novels from the “Tomorrow When The War Began” series where the publisher had obviously produced the e-book by scanning from paper and had done little if any checking of the result — it was full of errors that even a quick scan with a spelling checker would have picked up.
It’s also (currently) much easier to organise a bunch of paperbacks than e-books. I know that the bookcase in my office is the place to go for tech books and that in my lounge room one bookshelf tends to have general fiction and reference and the other has science fiction and non-fiction. When I’m browsing for a book to read that’s handy. On an eReader you can only list by author, title or date last read — they need to allow some sort of tagging or categorisation for those times when you think “I’d like to read some science fiction but I’m not sure what”.
On the other hand there are reasons that I love Kindle on my iPad. The ability when travelling to carry a lot of books in a small package is a dream for an avid reader like me. Before I had the iPad I littered the world with books that I bought cheaply and left behind as I travelled (you can even find an English language second hand bookstore in Rome and Florence if you try).
An eReader is also extremely useful for carrying technical documentation and books. Whenever I get a new gadget I always look on the web to see if I can download the manual in PDF and load it into my reader. As an IT professional I also have a number of tech books I use frequently and a number I am reading for my education and they are much easier to carry in an eReader. An eReader also makes multiple bookmarks and annotations easy and, at the same time, don’t damage the book as it does when you turn down page corners or write in the margins of a paperback.
You might think that e-books are cheaper, and for tech books they often are, but I find it surprising how often Amazon will sell you a mass market paperback of a fiction book for less than they sell you an e-book. I imagine this is because publishers offer Amazon a large margin on mass market paperbacks that allow them to discount steeply while keeping margins on e-books smaller. This is going to have to change.
I’d also like to once again raise the idea of browsing. Browsing at Amazon or in iBooks is still a much less pleasant experience than a good bookstore and the recommendation engines are terrible. When it comes to finding a new author or an interesting new book my favourite bookstore in Newtown is streets ahead of anything online. I even buy books there knowing I could get them cheaper on online just because I value the skill of the people that stock and staff the store (I’d ask you to do the same with your local bookstore).
Then there’s the question of lending, giving away and selling of my old books. I don’t often lend a book, perhaps I treasure my books too much and trust people too little, but I do it. I also give away a lot of books once I’ve read them a few times. This is what makes opportunity shops and second hand bookstores such a nice place to find inexpensive books. This is not just possible with e-books under the current licensing restrictions. Another thing that should change.
So to (finally) answer the question, when it comes to reading, apart from all the other uses I have for books such as reference and education, I prefer an old fashioned collection of dead trees. I do have to admit that for convenience an eReader is becoming much more useful and I expect I’ll be using one more and more over the next few years but I will always prefer a paperback, and I don’t think I’ll be alone.