Weekly writing challenge: ebook or real book?

This week’s writing challenge from The Daily Post is a “Mind the Gap” challenge, inviting bloggers to share their opinion on a controversial issue.

This week:

How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?”

Technology
Public domain image: Science And Technology by Petr Kratochvil

I taught myself to read when I was four years old. I have always loved books. If I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I seek out the nearest book store and dive into it; being surrounded by literary tomes is very calming and I will happily spend hours browsing. When I first heard about eReaders, I was emphatically unimpressed. I am not a Luddite. I don’t have a problem with technology. But now that eReaders are ever-increasing in popularity, it is becoming a serious issue.

I would like to skirt around the topic and diplomatically say that both ways of reading have their merits. But I’m not going to sit on the fence bookshelf. I prefer paper-and-ink books: A) With ebooks it is impossible to replicate the wonderful feeling of picking up a brand new book that you have bought, running your finger down its glossy unbroken spine and becoming absorbed in its pages. B) You can’t have chatty conversations with the book store assistant about which books to purchase. C) Looking through the ebook section online is simply not the same as browsing in person. Spending hours on a computer makes my eyes feel like they have run a marathon or the optical equivalent of one. What would that be? A readathon, I presume.

The idea of a world without paper-and-ink books is frankly dystopian. You wouldn’t be able to hunt out a treasure in a preloved book store or go to the library. You wouldn’t be able to flip through the worn pages of your favorite literary treasure so you can find the best quotes. eReader buttons are not an adequate replacement. Furthermore, books have personality! Call me a geek or a nerd or whatever but I love owning different copies of my most loved books. I have around three or four copies of some of my favorite literary classics because they have different illustrations or interesting covers. Personal preference for real paper-and-ink books aside, I am curious about copyright issues related to the popularity of ebooks. Illegal sharing and misuse of files is known to be a common problem in the music and film industries. Will the ebook industry have the same issue?

Have I convinced you about the ebook versus physical book debate yet? Ebooks may be the future, as some people proclaim, but I will not succumb willingly. I will continue browsing in book stores, looking in the library and lending books to friends. Some things are just too sacred to be changed.

Having said all this, I am a hypocrite. The reason for this shocking two-facedness? I am currently thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and buying a Kindle (they are portable and great for traveling), although the mere notion of buying one feels like being unfaithful to my beloved real books.

What do you think about eReaders? Do you think ebooks will overtake paper-and-ink books in terms of popularity or do you think ebooks and physical books can comfortably co-habit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below; I’d love to hear them!

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19 thoughts on “Weekly writing challenge: ebook or real book?

  1. Glad you asked! an you pass your E-Reader device down ten generations? It is important to suggest at this point the idea of creating your own Book Bank along the lines of a Seed Bank. In the event of the implementation of totalitarian government(s) or collapse of civilization globally the E-Reader devices Kindle, Nook, etc. will be rendered useless or subject to major censorship, revisionism of information, history in as much as this was Winston’s position in George Orwell’s 1984.

    Banned Books, Government fears the written word because once it is written they cannot control its content or dissemination. There is an interesting technology push in government-controlled schools, putting a nice face on 1984 for further control of our lives, information, your children’s minds: “A Day Made of Glass” and “A Day Made of Glass 2: Same Day” by Corning.

    http://k2globalcommunicationsllc.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/shadow-warriors-of-the-quill/

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  2. I could never choose. I read both. I never understand the need to think it has to be a or b – for me both a and b are options its all a matter of convenience in the moment.

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  3. I bought an eReader as I live in Japan and it is easy to get books. I thought it would take up less shelf space…but I don’t use my device now at all. One reason is that I love to keep looking at all the pictures in biographies and history books. This is easy with paper. I guess nothing can replace paper for me. And I agree that some books we pass down to other generations and i enjoy reading the comments my father wrote in the margins!

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  4. Like you, I held out for a long time against e-readers until I was gifted an iPad from someone. Once I downloaded the Kindle app, I realized that the ease and mobility of it was probably why so many people love it (or their Kindles). But while I appreciate the convenience of it, I think that holding a physical book and looking at tangible covers is an enjoyment that can’t and shouldn’t be easily replaced. Guess that’s the struggle we have to go through in our ever-modernizing 21st century world. 🙂

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    • Yes, it’s definitely a 21st century, First World problem!

      Convenience is the main reason why I would like a Kindle (or equivalent eReader). I sometimes read more than one book and carrying a few books around – especially when traveling – adds a lot of weight to your bag. But there are many aspects around ebooks that still do not appeal to me, e.g. they are not as tangible as real books. Also, I just love the smell of a brand new book!

      Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

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  5. I love frequenting old book shops. The scent of old crumbling pages and the romance in the wrinkled, lackluster covers of the books, survivors of the battle against time, is too appealing for me, and often in book fairs, I skip visits to the new book stalls in favour of the old book stalls. One other reason I love old books is because in most cases, the books bear a personalized signature line in the inner cover, most often because of the books being gifted to somebody on some occasion. I have found books with proclamations of love, blessings and wishes on birthdays, consolations on loss and congratulations for achievements, carefully inscribed inside. These touches are very personal and increase the value of the books, in my eyes. I believe, however glorious ebooks may sound, nobody can reproduce these very personal touches on them, and therefore, good old paper-and-ink books shall always remain the trusted companion of men, aiding and augmenting the expression of human emotions.

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    • I enjoy browsing old book stores too. There are so many treasures to be found! Books gain their own personalities with time. I have a few old books which have inscriptions inside and that definitely adds something special to them.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

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  6. I tend to like the old fashion method of flipping through a book or if a text book, I can tab or highlight it. I think one of the things that I hate about eText is that if my batteries are not charged or if you can’t charge you batteries, then your eBook is useless. I had that happened to me. With a real book, I can study all I want and it will be there. I think most books should still be in print, while things like magazines should definitely in e format.

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    • That’s a good point: physical books don’t need charging. I can imagine how annoying it would be if you went on a journey and forgot your eReader charger! So that’s another point in favor of good old-fashioned paper and ink.

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  7. As you said, there are many reasons why some people like physical books, and others prefer digital. Most people prefer eReaders because of their convience. However, I agree with you that physical books bring so much more to the reader. Choosing the book, buying it, and opening it again; all of these things have an emotional aspect to the book lover. With an eReader, there is definitely an element of sentimentality that is lost. On paper, when you can physically touch and hold the books, the stories seem much more real.

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    • “With an eReader, there is definitely an element of sentimentality that is lost” – exactly! I completely agree. Reading something on a screen takes away, to some extent, the ‘reality’ of it (if that makes any sense….)

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. 🙂

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  8. This is a great article, I really enjoyed it!I completely agree with you, I love holding a book, feeling the spine and the pages, and the smell of the new or old paper – no electronic method of reading compares to it. I also feel that you touched on something there that is equally as important – talking to the sales assistant in the bookstore.

    Being able to download a book onto an iPad or kindle is such a speedy process, one click and you can immediately dive into the literary imagination of the author and the world they’ve created with their story. However, something really ceremonial is lost in the experience – finding a bookstore you love, spending those minutes or hours reading the description and first few pages, asking the staff for their recommendations. Being physically surrounded on all walls by those literary tomes you talk about, for me has a symbolic relevance – the hours of hard work these published writers have put into writing, researching and toiling away at honing their craft – imposes a presence. There’s a whole world waiting to be discovered in that bookshop; as you leave carrying a bag with your new found treasure you have a sense of anticipation because even though you know where you’re going, and it’s probably not in anyway exciting or surprising, you don’t know where this book will take you.

    I feel that in prioritising speediness and to a certain extent, cost, we are losing out on an experience that has a special meaning…but then again this might just be me!

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    • Thanks for your thought-provoking comment. 🙂

      I think the consensus is that for most of us, reading a paper and ink book can never be replaced by reading a digital file on a screen. But I guess they can live alongside each other.

      Interesting comments about speediness. I agree that speed and the demand to have things when you want them (a completely separate example is fruit and veg in the supermarkets: hardly anybody in a ‘modern’ society eats according to the seasons any more) is becoming so central to modern life. Can’t we all just slow down for a bit?

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