In response to Jake’s piece on eBooks, I’m taking the opposite stance.
I bought a Kindle with the intention of loving it and using it every day. I was excited to be able to use one hand to do both the holding of the device and the turning of pages so I could read easily while using the other hand to hold a pole in a subway car, and being able to download new books from anywhere that has a wireless internet connection.
But for the most part, my Kindle sits neglected, ever so slowly losing charge under a pile of magazines in a basket in my bedroom. I still use it occasionally, but not for the vast majority of book reading I do. Why? A lot of reasons, I guess.
For one, I already have a sizable collection of unread paper copies of books to go through, so I don’t have much incentive to fill up my Kindle with anything besides free content.
For another, there’s little pleasure to me in using eReaders. If I want to take note of something I read, I want to do it on paper, with a pen. I have never used a stylus that I liked better than a pen. I like the sound of turning pages. I like putting creases in book spines. I like to close the book with my bookmark in it and see how far though the book I am visually. I like that I never ever have to recharge a book. I like that there’s no chance a publisher can decide I’ve looked at my book long enough, and now they’re going to electronically extract my copy.
There are economic reasons. If I want to pay nearly the same amount for something electronic or physical, I’m going to buy the one that’s an actual object. There’s a reason people don’t pay for MP3s like they paid for CDs. There is a basic comfort in having a possession. In knowing that once you have something, you have it permanently, and not just until you upgrade your device or get a virus or crack the screen or a terrorist detonates an electromagnetic blast that makes it so no electronic devices work.
I love the sense of completion I get from finishing a book and then being able to look at the pages and think “I just read all of those,” and looking at the author picture on the back and thinking “I just read your book.” You can stack up books you’ve read and be able to quantify how much book reading you’ve done in inches. Not that I get out a ruler to do that, but I like knowing that I could.
Let’s not forget value to a community that comes from bookstores — places where you can browse and talk to people if you want to. Particularly indie bookstores, where I don’t feel like I’m giving away a small portion of my soul to a corporate behemoth with every purchase. And while some indie bookstores do sell eBooks, why would you bother to buy an eBook from a store if you could purchase and download it to your device in two seconds with the click of one button using Amazon’s whisper sync?
Booksellers make a higher cut of proceeds from physical books, and we all know those places need every penny they can get in. It’s gotten to where people now (people who have a conscience anyway) are buying books in indie shops out of a sense of shame and charity and fear of another losing another bookstore.
Bottom line: I certainly don’t intend to throw away my Kindle, but I’ve come to terms with the knowledge that it’s just not the same experience for me.