Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I Think Books Will Last

Whenever I meet someone new and tell them I'm a librarian, it seems they always ask the same thing-"what do you think of ebooks?" It's like they think I'm going to tell them ebooks are evil and going to be the end of the world and we should stick to paper. When I mention that I own an ereader (I own three actually) they seem a little surprised, like a librarian can't embrace new technology. Which really, is the silliest thing-ebooks are not an enemy to the library, but another service the library offers.

I like my ereader. (Ok, mostly I like reading on an ereader because it makes me feel like I'm on Star Trek and I'll admit that that's the real reason I wanted one.) But there are things I've noticed about ereaders that make me stop and say "this is why books will last!" I can like ereaders, but I still see lots of problems with them. Granted, these might be somewhat device specific, but I think most ereaders have the same problems. Most of my ereader experience has been with the Sony Pocket Reader (in pink of course), but I've also read on the Kobo (the discounted Borders price appealed to me under the guise of "it's a gift for Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan!), and most recently the Nook Simple Touch.
  • I like to end reading on a chapter. I also like to flip and see how many pages I have left in a chapter to see how much I can keep reading before I really need to go to bed (or go to work, clean the house, make dinner-all that stuff that I have to do instead of read). But with an ereader, I can't do this. I have no way of knowing how many pages are left in a chapter. I know how many pages are left in the book, but that doesn't help when I say "just one more chapter" and the chapter ends up being 50 pages longer than I wanted to read!
  • I can't flip between pages easily. I like to go back and look at things as I'm reading-was that the character mentioned earlier, how old was that person, what was the name of that thing again, etc. You can do this with ereaders but it makes it harder to flip pages. I can't as easily flip several pages to check something and flip back. Instead, I have to press buttons and it takes me a much longer time. I could go back to the table of contents (if there is one for that book, which many times on the egalleys I've read are not offered) and possibly search by chapter, but it's still a multi-step process. It's a lot more time intensive. Same thing if you're a reader who likes to flip to the end of the book to make sure things will turn out OK. I'm not a reader who does this, but I know readers who do, and this becomes much more difficult to do with a ebook.

  • When I was reading on my Sony one day my dog jumped onto my lap and somehow pressed a button with his paw that sent my book back to page one. That book was one of the aforementioned egalleys with no chapters. Since I had been knocked back the beginning and my ereader bookmarks the last page I was on, I had to slowly page my way page by page back to page 283. This was very annoying and time consuming!

  • Formatting can be off. This is a problem with reading with different text sizes. I really love having the option to change the text size, but it can be annoying when I read a full page of text and then turn to page only to find one or two words or lines left because my text size didn't leave enough room. I noticed that with the Kobo when I was trying to read egalleys I had to page left and right (that didn't last long-I gave up and read a print book instead). I've also noticed that words will be formatted strangely. This might be more in egalleys, so if anyone's noticed it in ebooks too, I'd love to know. I was reading an egalley the other day and noticed that words would be broken up like: fan tastic or be cause. Or the word would start on one line and be spaced down to the next with no hyphen. And this happened a lot! It slowed down my reading because I would have to stop and rethink the words.

  • I'll admit it-I'm a book eavesdropper. If you're reading a book around me, I'm going to try and figure out what you're reading. I can't help it-I love sharing books and there's nothing better than seeing someone read a book you loved and saying "isn't that book great!" You loose that with ereaders and instead reading become a more solitary act. By hiding what you're reading, you loose the camaraderie that comes with finding other readers who enjoy what you do. Ereaders make reading a lone act that others can't share in as easily.

  • Along with that, I loved what Elizabeth Bluemie talks about in her post "Is the Personal Library Doomed?" How many times do you go to friends houses and check out their bookcases? We were recently at a Halloween party of some newer acquaintances that hopefully will become closer friends.  After seeing their bookshelf full of similar reading tastes, Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan turned to me and said, "I think we will be great friends!" to which I wholeheartdly agreed. Anyone who owns Harry Potter and Neil Gaiman's books are sure to be good friends of ours!

  • Similarly, you don't get to see what books are loved and what books are favorites. Sure, you can browse through someone's ereader and see what books they own or have been reading, but you can't see the wear and tear, notes, dog-eared (gasp!) pages, and worn covers that show the book has been read and loved over and over. There's nothing better than reading an old friend who shows the signs of being an old friend. I also love sharing books with my friends and I love when they browse my bookshelves and ask if they can borrow a book. You can still lend people books on ereaders, but I think it looses some of the magic when it's done electronically.

  • You can't read ebooks in the bathtub. OK, you could, but it's not as easy you probably wouldn't want to risk it. Ereaders can break-and somewhat easily too! My Sony started freezing up on me and I'd have to reset the whole thing just to get back to the book I was reading. When I was trying to fix it one day after it froze yet again, it dropped off my desk and the screen cracked, distorting the text-so goodbye ereader. My Nook so far is good, but it's had some freezing problems to with the page turning as well. Ereaders aren't designed to last long and this can make them very frustrating to read on when they are dying.
Don't get me wrong-I do enjoy my ereader. They are handy to have, especially when traveling since I'm the type of person that can't travel with just one book. But I think they are a nice accessory to reading and not the forever future of reading. For that I'll always take a printed book.


  1. I LOVE being able to look at people's book shelves. It's one of my favorite things about meeting new friends. I would be sad indeed if ereaders spelled the doom for the personal library. But, I know I won't stop buying print any time soon and I think a lot of my reading friends are of the same mind. Sneaking a peek at new book shelves is too good a thing to lose!

  2. I get that question tons working in libraries too! It makes me nuts. Librarians do other things besides keep the books. I have similar thoughts on ereaders that you do. I like my ereader just fine, but it forces me to read in a different style. I'm a page flipper. I go forward, I go back. I like looking at a closed book and seeing where my book mark falls.

    Also, I can't read during take off and landing on planes with an e-reader. And I'm horrible about charging electronic devices, so sometimes I'll go pick up my e-reader and won't be able to read because my battery is dead.

    If given the choice I still use print and paper books, but I certainly enjoy having an ereader on vacation (makes packing much easier).

    Megan @ Read It, See It

  3. I hate not being able to flip back when I want to look at a detail I read and didn't remember very well! But I do like being able to read when I wake up at 1:00 without waking up my husband or having to get out of bed!

  4. To me, books are art and bookshelves are personal (if often dusty) sculptural elements of a home. No disrespect to ereaders--I have one and enjoy its convenience but I cannot call it art :)

  5. I totally hate the formatting issues I've experienced (entirely with e-galleys). They can make me stop reading a book I'd otherwise really like and wait for the print.

    Also, reading in the tub is a serious concern for me - I'm too terrified I'd drop my e-reader and ruin it. At least with wet books they can still be read (usually).

  6. Sarah-I love it too. If I couldn't browse others shelves it would be very sad. It's not the same as browsing an ereader.

    Megan-I know-it's like people think we'll say we hate technology. I hadn't thought about the fact that you can't have ereaders on during takeoff/landing-good point! That is very frustrating and I usually have an additional book or magazine to read then. But ereaders are good for packing, so I like that.

    Jana-I really like flipping pages too. I had a really good booklight and case attached to my Sony Reader that made reading in bed great!

    Stasia-Yes! Books are art-they are part of my home decor. I can't imagine my house without books.

    Melissa-Yep, it scares me too-it's too much of a risk. Like you said, paper books can still be read (for the most part) even if wet.

  7. E-readers have so many pros and cons! I find myself going in spurts, reading 10 e-books in a short amount of time then barely touching my e-reader as I read paper books for a bit. I do miss lending my books to family and friends, one of the best parts of reading is sharing it with others, right? For me the re-charging thing is also an issue. My Nook color only lasts for about 5 hours on its current settings. Sometimes, on a weekend, or late at night, I might read for a 5 hour stretch!

  8. For some reason, I can't STAND ereaders. I grew up with books, and they are a huge part of my life. I love the feel of the spine and the smell of the pages. Also, with ereaders, you don't get to enjoy the beautiful covers of today's literature as much! And I agree about the chapter thing. I always look ahead to see how much longer a chapter is. I read a few books on an ereader and tried to convince myself that I didn't mind it, but it bothered me way too much.

  9. Teacher-I read for long periods too and the battery life can be a problem (I forget to charge mine as well).

    Amber-Agreed about the covers! They just don't look as pretty in eink!

  10. I love this post!!! I agree with all the points you made, and will always prefer ink and paper.
    But also, after reading this I would like to get an e-reader because I realised that I too would like to take several books around with me when I travel or commute to uni - something I didn't really notice before.
    Thanks for the post!


  11. Arielle-The A when you leave your blog signature made me think of Pretty Little Liars and creeped me just a bit!:) The ease of taking a lot of books when you travel was my main reason for getting an ereader. I have family that live far from me and I attend conferences several times a year, so having a portable device that carried lots of books has been great. I usually end up packing a book or two as well because you need something to read during takeoff/landing as others have said or while it's charging!

  12. Such excellent (and very true) points! I agree with it all. I love everything about books and was very anti-ereader for a long time. Then I became more curious and started to realize it was additional technology, not a replacement for printed books. I finally decided to give it a try and bought myself a refurbished Nook Color a few months ago. We were going to Florida and I wanted to take it with me. I got that model for the extra features and it worked out great because I had books to read, had apps to play different games and could also check email and use the internet.

    I'm glad I got my Nook and I still have a lot to learn. It's fun and handy but it will never replace the experience of reading a "real" book. The feel, smell, weight, will always be enjoyable and will always bring back wonderful memories from childhood.

    Thanks for your post! :)


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