For years I refused to get an e-reader. I refused to read e-books period. I laughed scornfully when people suggested I get a Kindle. No, there was no way I’d ever betray my beloved paperbacks (and my few hardbacks), or in any way contribute to the death of the printed book. E-books weren’t real books, real readers read paper books. Real readers had shelves full of real books. E-readers did nothing for the decor.
Admitted, I still feel that way, more or less. And I still don’t think I could ever give up on printed books. Not only do I love looking at my books and getting new ones to put on the shelves (though it’s a lot of work when it’s all alphabetized), my reading experience is completely different when I read p-books compared to e-books. But I did eventually (because everything’s eventual, right?) succumb to the pressure and got a Kindle Paperwhite a couple of years ago. It’s a nice little gadget and when I first turned it on I was amazed at how much it looked like a framed sheet of paper. Not at all like reading on my phone or an iPad. But still, Kindle books cost almost as much as p-books and given that choice, I will always go with the printed one. Paying for a license to read a book just seems a bit… strange. I know Amazon has started the Kindle Matchbook, where you can get the e-book at a reduced rate when you buy the printed version. But the selection isn’t very wide. Not yet, anyway. So I mostly use my Kindle for different kinds of free books.
A lot of people say that e-readers are great for vacations. People who need to work on those muscles, perhaps? I almost agree a little. But when I’ve been backpacking, I’ve had no trouble lugging 8 or 10 paperback books around with me, since I didn’t do long hikes with all of my stuff. So my Kindle has always been a kind of backup, in case I ran out of books. I always manage to find bookstores, so that hasn’t happened yet. This year, however, my Kindle might just prove its worth. I’m going hiking for almost three weeks in Northern Sweden and Norway. I’ll have to carry all of my stuff around all the time, and given the amount of food needed for that kind of journey, I won’t have room for more than 1 or 2 paperbacks. So I’ve made sure that a lot of the books I’ve recently bought for summer reading, I’ve also gotten as e-books. I feel a bit ambivalent about this. Sure, it won’t wear on my pretty books, but then, the wear is what makes the book…alive? Something like that. I guess I could just leave them open underneath other books to crease the spine…
I’m sure the Kindle will do fine as a temporary substitute. Especially since I don’t have a choice. But overall I do find that I enjoy reading on my Kindle way less than reading a real book. I know this experience is different for everyone, and some people even prefer e-readers to real books (people be cray) but studies have shown that people comprehend less of what they read on an e-reader, compared to when reading a printed book. Not that I’m aware of not remembering what I’ve read – I think I do – but I do lose the sense of progress I have with a print. I’ve sometimes felt almost dizzyingly lost. Another argument for the p-book. A pretty good argument against it would be the whole environmental issue, but let’s not get into that. Or maybe just call it a draw?
No matter what, the Kindle just can’t compete with the p-book when it comes to making my house look all nice and bookwormy.
Every reader has an opinion on this. What’s yours? How do you do the whole e-reader vs printed book balancing? Do you also feel inexplicably guilty towards your real book when reading an e-book?