Monday, 11 July 2011

What is wrong with e-books?

Right, this is a bit of rant, just so you are pre-warned! Anyone who reads my tweets may have seen this coming...

I am getting a bit naffed off with people slagging off those of us who prefer to read e-books. Lately I have seen various articles where people, who often don't seem to have ever tried one, feel it's perfectly reasonable to be rude about fans of the kindle, nook and their kind. The most recent one I've seen is one in which Penelope Lively (who I used to rate but am now rapidly going off of) has declared we are "bloodless nerds" ( There was another one last week that also got my goat but typically I now can't find it to share. 

I would just like to point out my preference for e-book over tree book does not make me a philistine (or indeed bloodless, or soulless) While I wouldn't deny anyone their opinion belittling a group of people because of their personal preferences seems pretty juvenile to me. By all means state your preference and reasons but less of the name calling please! 

I have no problem with books, or with people that like the smell and feel of them, but personally I have too many of them, and I'm more about the content and the writing than the delivery system. Do I not like the tactile experience a book provides? Yes, absolutely,  and I was concerned at first that I would miss turning the page, but I find the leather and felt cover on my beloved e-reader a far nicer experience than a mass market paperback, and have no problem with pushing a button instead. And why the apparent assumption that you can only read one or the other? I suspect lots of e-book lovers probably still have shelves of books, or will continue to buy the books they really like in a physical format. It doesn't have to be us vs them.

Maybe I am just missing the articles that declare people who still prefer a physical book are Luddites. If anyone wants to provide me with links that pursue that argument, to give me a sense of balance, I'd be delighted. In the meantime I'm thinking that there are a lot of people out there who are afraid of change and feel threatened by it.T hat or it's just an extension of the sort of snobbery that persists in relation to, horror of horrors, the rise of the self-publisher or indie author.

As to why I have, and prefer, a kindle (I haven't tried any other major players but I'm sure some of the arguments are equally applicable)...

1) Storage! I have several book cases, most shelves have two rows of books jammed on, with more books laid on top. I DO love books and have a hard time getting rid of them. By being more selective about what I get in hard copy I can control my storage problem better.

2) Related to 1) is space - but in my handbag, or hand luggage. One the days I work I spend a lot of my time commuting, and there's very little worse than finishing one book and sitting twiddling your thumbs for ages because you don't have another with you. When we're off camping or flying somewhere it's a real boon being able to take more than enough books to keep even me going.

3) Choice. Yes, I will freely admit there is some absolute dross available for the kindle but I've also picked up some stinkers that have won major awards in physical copy. At least I have a huge range to pick from and the great Sample feature to help filter out anything too awful. Another admission, yes there have been books I'd like to read that aren't available, and other that have been "price fixed" by the publishers at a level I'm not prepared to pay,  but I have the choice to go to a bookshop, or a library, or wait until it is available or the price is more palatable.

4) An enhanced experience. There are plenty of added features, but the only one I use regularly is the facility to look up a word in the dictionary. So simple, and I'm expanding my vocab no end. In the past I would have understood an unusual word in context but would never go to the effort of getting a dictionary out. Now it's so quick I'd be a fool not to.

5) An unexpected bonus - it's easier to read lying down than a book, at least if you, like me,hate your books less than pristine and refuse to risk a spine break. And when your days are as busy as mine a lot of reading gets done in bed!

6) Instant gratification. You have one of those moments where you're watching something or talking to a friend and a book is mentioned that you think you'd really like. Downloading takes a matter of seconds and there it is. No having to head into town or wait for the postman. Just so convenient.

7) I may not be a philistine but I am a bit of a cheapskate, so buying books from supermarkets to get a good deal was starting to limit my reading. (As above I'm a bit precious about my books being pristine so charity shops aren't much of an option for me) While Tesco, Asda and co are great for umpteen and one thrillers they're not so hot for anything more literary.While I don't think it's fair to authors to expect them to accept the 99c/72p price model I think it's a useful tool to introduce readers to new authors or new genres, and I've certainly widen the scope of my reading no end.

Now in the interests of balance, the one thing I really do prefer about a physical book is the cover art. Some of them truly deserve to be called art, and a small reproduction in black and white just isn't the same. I think that's about it though. I'm selfish and don't particularly care that I can't lend a copy in the same way. Maybe if books were still leather bound and gilt edged I might be a bit more sentimental about them.

My conclusion? Let the debate rage, but please no name calling children!


Stephen T. Harper said...

Hi TC, Great post today! I wrote something about this issue a while back when I first started seeing the potential in ebooks for authors. You might find this worth a look...

Got Books?

Also, what's you twitter handle?

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I wrote two posts about ereaders. I so agree with you. I love reading on my ereader for so many reasons. Like you pointed out, people can read in both formats. Reading on an ereader is not a betrayal of the printed word. I'm so glad you posted this.

TC said...

Stephen, great post, thanks for linking it. I'm @TCBookedUp.

Alexis, I think I read one of your posts on the topic, will go and peruse the other. It just saddens me that rather than engaging in sensible discussion people have to be sneering and rude.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you - the aesthetics a book offers has little to do with its content, which for me is always the priority. I don't care which format it's in - I'm not the least precious about either, I own water stained paperbacks and poorly formatted e-books and will happily read either.
I think for many, physical books are a form of proof that they read, the books on their shelves offer some sort of status or credibility, whereas a packed e-reader is not an obvious expression of the owner's reading prowess because it's not as visible.
Both formats offer advantages and I think any reader who truly loves reading will (eventually) embrace both.

Thanks for sharing your views!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

WebbieGrrl Writer said...

What a great article, Tracy! I'm so glad we were emailing and I decided to pop on by here earlier in the week than usual. I'm going to have to mention it in a Tuesday Tip!

And since you mentioned it here, I've just followed @TCBookedUp on twitter. I'm @webbiegrrl if you'd like to follow me back. Then we can RT each other's Friday posts (see, I *had* a cunning plan!) ^_^

kim23 said...

great article! I totally agree with you! I also prefer to read e-books for a lot of reasons! First of all, downloading takes few seconds and I don't have to head into town or wait for the postman. For example, I'm always buying my e-books from all you can books because their prices are very affordable.

LRAtRandom said...

Great Post! I understand that everyone has their preferences but I didn't realize people were bashing ebooks and the people who read them. How childish.

Personally, I have a huge love for both formats. I love the ease and convenience of ebooks/ereaders and at the same time I love collecting and reading paper books.

I have also found a lot of new authors that I may have never read otherwise if it weren't for my kindle/nook apps.


Ps. I'm a new follower.

TC said...

Thanks for everyone's replies, some really interesting points I hadn't thought of.

I found another article (Why Selling E-books at 99c is Destroying Minds!) I read not so long ago that took a bit of ploughing through but contains some gems like - "...And this has always been my problem with e-books: they emphasize immediate entertainment — and gratification — over real “reading,” which takes more commitment, patience, attention and time." (from

Who knew that you could read a book in hard copy and that's all fine and dandy but read the same one on an e-reader and it's not longer real reading??? And if a 99c book is the devil incarnate what about all those dreadful free books, like the classics?

Jennifer Lane said...

Thoughtful post. I'm one who reads both print copies and e-books. I find it easier to read from my Nook while on the exercise bike, which is my number one place to read. And it's SO easy to download books, like you said. I'm also enjoying getting books from the library these days. I haven't tried borrowing an ebook yet.

Sarah said...

It seems like reading relating bashing is all the rage lately.

Personally, I love my ereader. I also love reading print books. I will admit a growing preference for ebooks, for some of the reasons you mentioned.

I think it's a personal preference, and as such, neither option is "better" and shouldn't be cause for bashing. Just the fact that people are reading is great, whatever format they choose.

Jenn said...

There are ALWAYS going to be haters out there.
These people should just be glad that we ARE READING at all.
I like both options but with being on the go all the time and having a handsy 13 month old son, my phone is the best place for me to read.
Liked your rant, love your page...This Jenn approves ;)

Mark Boss said...

Good article. I agree with you that some people feel threatened by the new ereader technology. I wish they could focus on the content of the books and not worry about the format and delivery system.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Tracy, you are my new Number One Hero!


TC said...

Why thank you Scott, don't think I've ever been anyone's No 1 hero before!

Jenn, my 21mth old is allowed to play with my phone and my compact camera etc but the kindle is well out of bounds.

I think as long as people are reading it shouldn't matter how.